Sunday, January 21, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - VI

Now for the final installment of my brief series on why Paul was rightfully called a pillar of the Church by St. Clement of Rome (the 4th Pope). The overall aim of this series has not been to disprove the new beliefs which contradict the orthodoxy of the Catholic Church but rather to show how even the writings of St. Paul (which are commonly used against the Catholic Church) are clearly in line with Catholic doctrine.

To recap, Part 1 & Part 2 dealt with the book of Romans. Part 3 carried us through Galatians & Ephesians, Part 4 Philippians, Part 5 Colossians, and we will conclude with Part 6 covering both epistles to my name sake, Saint Timothy.

Celibate Priests?

1 Timothy 3:2
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach
(Again, the word overseer here is traditionally translated as bishop. See also part 4.) Some may argue that this shows that the Church is allowed to have bishops or priests that marry and therefore the Catholic Church is in error by disallowing such a thing.

First, the Catholic Church does not teach that it is intrinsically morally wrong for a priest to have a wife. Stephanie on "La Vie Catholique" did a good job handling this issue with her post "Doctrine and Discipline". Finally, in the Eastern Catholic Rite it is acceptable to marry as a priest and some priests who have been married before (ordained in other religions) when they convert to Catholicism have remained married and been ordained as priests. For new priests in the Latin Rite, part of their discipline usually contains a vow of celibacy.

By What Authority?
1 Timothy 3:15
if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Catholics point to 3:15 in the first epistle to Timothy to show that even as early as the first century, Christians were pointing to the Church as the "foundation of truth". (Not to mention Paul is writing infallibly here).

Protestants point to 3:16 in the second epistle to show that the Bible is the only authority.

Now as for the Protestant idea that the Bible is the only authority, (or as some reformed like to say the only 'infallible' authority - which of course is not what the debate was ever about) Catholics utterly reject this belief. However, we are perfectly fine with saying all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching. We couldn't possibly agree more.
1 Timothy 4:15-16
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Again, over and over again we see the pattern - if you do A then B will happen. If you persevere, you will go to heaven. If you live like the heathen, you will go to hell. It is extremely important to notice that in all of these situations while faith is present and or the precursor, works / obedience are always cited as necessities. The entire argument usually hinges on obedience as we have seen over and over throughout Paul's writings.

Yes there are a few places (particularly in Romans) when Paul mentions faith without mentioning works / obedience and even in one or two places seems to set the two in contrast. But we have dealt with those instances and it is abundantly clear from the remainder of his writings that he never intended to portray the doctrine of 'sola fide' in any of his epistles.

2 Timothy 1:6
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Here is one of several Biblical passages which point to the sacrament of confirmation which is of course, one of the seven practiced in the Catholic Church today. See also Acts 8:17-18, Acts 19:5-6 and Hebrews 6:2. (I'm sure theres more but these are ones I came across recently).

Salvation by Grace
2 Timothy 1:9
who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Ok now again, go back to part 1 if you forgot and read what the Catholic Church teaches (and has always taught) about salvation. If by now you dont see that Paul teaches the exact same thing, then no matter what I say or what verse I pull you will never be convinced.

In plain English, Paul has repeatedly stated the same thing over and over through all his epistles. Its not brain surgery or rocket science. Paul never says that we are saved by "faith alone". He never says that our faith alone justifies us and works are merely evidence of our faith. Now such a system isn't terribly different from what Scripture and the Catholic Church actually teach. But this is a reformed view; a revised view. They are merely re-wording what has always been taught.

Luther's heresy wasnt an over emphasis on the salvific qualities of faith, but on the assertion that mere intellectual assent (faith in the resurrection) was sufficient for salvation (justification by faith alone or: sola fide). Calvin came along and revised Luther's standpoint (and the Lutheran church has since modified it as well) and said that 'wait it takes more than intellectual assent but also obedience which naturally will stem from faith but it is the faith itself which actually justifies us'. (Correct me if I'm misrepresenting the doctrine). Hence, the doctrine is no longer sola fide. Faith + nothing = Faith + nothing.

If you include in the definition of faith, a host of other things (like works, obedience, correct doctrine etc...) it is no longer only faith. So if, when I say by "faith alone" I mean "by a life of faith and obedience alone" (because that obedience stems from faith and is impossible to separate from it) then I don't truly believe in faith alone.

The 'faith alone' which the Catholic Church condemns is the kind which St. James condemns in the 2nd chapter of his epistle. If you dont believe in that kind of faith alone, then you dont truly believe in sola fide. Martin Luther split from the Church on sola fide. He backed it up with sola scriptura. Both beliefs have changed a lot since he invented them but especially sola fide.

Now there are many evangelicals out there today who do still believe in a pure sola fide. The 'altar calls' of so many 'Bible believing' churches come to mind.

But in this final installment, I think we can honestly look back over Paul's writings and say without hesitating that Paul insisted on a gospel which called for obedience. Repeatedly, Paul exhorts his disciples to obey or face the consequences. He reminded them of what would happen if they did not obey. He told them how to live the Christian life.

It can be demonstrated that, with some clever efforts, Paul's writings can be interpreted to fit any view point imaginable. However, I think its very fair to say that the most intuitive readings of his epistles will readily lend themselves to Catholic doctrines.

I will close with a prayer from the second chapter of Thomas Kempis' "Imitation of Christ":
Moderate, O Jesus, my eagerness to know so much, and correct my negligence in doing so little for salvation, since Thou wilt not judge me according to what I have known, but by what I have done, or neglected to do, to obtain it. Can I apply my thoughts to know Thee more thoroughly, and not admire and love Thee? and can I truly know myself, and not despise and hate myself? O life unknown! life hidden in Jesus Christ, in God! what an excellent means art thou practiced amongst Christians! Grant, O Lord, that all may know, esteem, and love it, and be directed by it. Amen.


NotMyOpinion30 said...

I think that one thing to consider as well is this:

It is Catholic teaching, and should be all Christian teaching, that God does not or has not changed... ever.

The true doctrine of "Sola Fide", the parent of every version that exists today, the one introduced by Martin Luther to the Christian world for the first time 1500 years after the first Pentacost, states that we are saved by our faith (i.e. belief) alone.

That seems to hint that God has changed His mind since the Fall. Adam sinned, though he clearly believd in God, and was punished. Cain sinned, though he clearly believed in God, and was punished. The Israelites, who also believed in God, sinned against God, each time they dealt with the consequences of that sin. Even those in God's favor such as Moses. He was restricted from leading the Israelites into Canaan for not trusting in Divine Providence at Meriba (I believe that was the event). David was restricted from building the Temple because he had blood on his hands. He was also punished for the Bathsheeba incident, though he believed in God and was clearly favored by Him.

So, in order for Sola Fide to work, God had to have changed His ways.

I'm just trying to string together a logical thought. Don't know if it works or not. Feel free to shred it to bits... :)

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I think its a valid point you make. I heard Ken Hensley make a similar point in a lecture on Martin Luther.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Good series of posts, Tim.