This is a deep question to ask yourself and others. No matter what your religion, ask yourself “Who’s the authority in my/your church?” You might say, the pastor, the Synod, the Bible, or a leader who started your church. If someone comes to your door and wants to offer you literature or talk to you about your religion, ask them the question of authority.
If the answer is the Bible, then lets look at the history of the Bible. The Bible was put together in the year 382 at the Council of Rome, in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is still the authority of interpreting Scripture. There is nothing in the Bible that states that the Bible is the only authority and source of truth. The Catholic Bible is the New American Bible. Other translations of the Bible such as the New World Translation or the King James Version have had books and parts of Scripture removed or changed to fit their doctrines. The King James Version has had seven books removed. Most people think that the Catholics have added books but this is not true.
If the answer is a pastor, Synod, or leader of your church, then this can create a pitfall of individual interpretation of the Scriptures. If we all interpret the Scriptures on our own, then we can end up with several different meanings. These people are well-meaning but how can you be certain that you have the right interpretation? I found an exercise in the book, Where Is That in the Bible? by Patrick Madrid. See below:
If someone wrote the words: “I never said you stole money.” Sounds like it would be simple to understand, right? I’ll write all possible interpretations with different emphasis and see what you think.
- I never said you stole money. Meaning someone else said that you stole money.
- I never said you stole money. Meaning he thought it but didn’t say it.
- I never said you stole money. Meaning he said that someone else did.
- I never said you stole money. Meaning he thought you lost it.
- I never said you stole money. Meaning he thought you stole something else but not his money.
See how just a little emphasis on a different word can cause a different interpretation of the small simple sentence. Patrick Madrid asks, “Which would you say is more likely to be open to misinterpretations, this six-word sentence or the Bible?” You can go to 4 different churches on the same street, on the same Sunday and get four different interpretations and sermons on the same Scripture reading.
If your authority is the Catholic Church, then you are following the Bible which says, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16. “I am writing you about these matters, although I hope to visit you soon. But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:14-15. The Catholic Church was given the authority through Jesus when he said, ” I will give you (Peter) the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19. (See below picture for more.)
St. Peter with Keys to the Kingdom
The Protestant churches reject the authority of the Catholic Church but yet declare that the Bible, that the Catholic Church put together 1500-2000 years before their existence, is their sole source of Scripture and authority. The true authority is the Catholic Church, including the magisterium (Apostolic line of Popes, Bishops, Priests) and the Catholic Bible. In rejecting this authority, a person can easily be led to error in their faith because of individual interpretation. When you read the Bible with the understanding of the Church, you see faith in a different light and it makes much more sense. There is a universal understanding of Scripture and Tradition instead of scattered meanings.So when you ask the question, “Who’s your authority?”, be sure you get the answer of “the only church Jesus gave authority to…the Catholic Church”. If not, then it falls flat.
Photo credit: The Vatican