I.C.  God, the World and the Church

Home Page
Outline Page

C.  The Church

1.  Six tests showing Christ founded the Church and what it teaches is free from error.
a.  Did Christ exist as an historical person?

Evidence:  Many references exist written by disinterested non-Christian witnesses.  These tell of the birth, life, mission and death of the person called the Christ.

b.  He claimed to be divine.
Evidence: First, based upon the Gospel accounts which have been shown to be accurate, Christ repeatedly told his followers, "I and the Father are one."  Second, his claim of divinity was recognized on the evening of his trial by the high priest who declared, "You have now heard the blasphemy, . . . He deserves to die!" (Mat 27:65-66)

c.  He proved he was divine.
Evidence:  Numberless miracles (setting aside the laws of nature to cause a healing), restoring sight to the blind (Jn 9:1-41, curing leprosy (Mk 1:40-42), calming the sea (Mk 4:37-40), raising the paralytic (Mt 9:2-6), forgiving sins (Mt 9:2-6), feeding the crowds of his followers (Lk 9:12-17), restoring life to the dead (Lk 7:13-16; Jn 11:38-44), and himself rising from the dead. (Mt 28:1-10)

d.  He gathered an inner circle.
Evidence:  Appointed and named his 12 apostles. (Mk 3:13-19)

e.  He told them to teach all nations.
Evidence:  "Baptize and teach what I have commanded you." (Mt 28:16-20)

f.  He told them he would be with the Church until the end of time.
Evidence:  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures." (Lk 24:45-49)  All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, ... And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt 28:19-20)

Top
Home Page
Outline Page

2.    Evidence which shows the Gospel accounts are accurate

       ۰  Events were witnessed by many people and accepted as true by all.

       ۰  The Christian leaders were convinced of its truth and were martyred for their faith.  Non-Christians
           converted, suffered persecution and even died for their faith.

       ۰  Pagan authorities tried to destroy the original documents.

       ۰  The Apostolic Fathers, (disciples and students of the apostles living between years 70 – 150) often
           quoted from the original Gospel accounts.

       ۰  The content is the same today as when originally written.

3.  Deposit of Faith

The Deposit of Faith contains the religious truths contained in the Old Testament and those given by Christ to the Apostles and passed through their successors.  The Deposit of Faith is composed of three parts.

Part One of the Deposit of Faith - (Scripture)
Scripture is divided into two time periods:  The Old Testament which was in writing at the time of the Apostles, and the New Testament which was written by them.  Both of these parts of Scripture are found in one source called the Bible.

The Bible is. . .

. . . The Catholic Church's official list of sacred writings in the Old and New Testaments.  These writings have been collected into 73 books which reveal God's plan to draw all people to himself in heaven.  While they were written by men in their own styles, the religious messages they contain were inspired by the Holy Spirit and therefore free from religious error.

. . . Not a book of scientific matters.  It never crosses over into the field of science to make statements on scientific aspects relating to the origin of living beings, even of men.  But one thing is clear, man is man because of his mind, not his body.  It was spirit which transformed the living organism into a rational being.  To date, no significant links have been found which bridge the gap between man and animals to give clear evidence that the human body is the last phase in a long evolutionary process.  The human race is clearly begun with Adam, the first formed father of the world, and Eve, the mother of all the living.  Science generally agrees that the human race appeared with uniform characteristics at a specific time and in a definite place, and the Bible makes no reference to pre-Adamites.


a.  Reading and Interpreting the Bible

1)  The Fundamentalist Approach

A popular way to read the Bible today is called the fundamentalist, or word-for-word literalistic approach.  Those who adhere to this view insist on taking every phrase, description and text of the Bible literally; that is, word for word as they appear in the text.  This approach often gains favor when a society increases in complexity; people tend to look for easy solutions to difficult problems.  Possibly, this approach misunderstands the concept of “word of God.”  Certainly, this approach creates more problems than it solves.

Those who read the Bible using the fundamentalist approach often fail to take into account the changes that language undergoes through usage.  For example, the word “nice” has generally pleasant connotations to us today, but in the Middle English usage (the 12th to the 15th centuries) it meant “foolish.”  Besides, the idea to be communicated is more important than the words chosen to express it.  Consider the account in the beginning of the Book of Genesis which describes the creation of the world.  Who was physically present to record all the events if we are to follow the creation account literally?

In the 1940s’, Pope Pius XII condemned fundamentalism as a refusal to understand the Scriptures.  “It is possible,” he said, “that people using this approach will limit rather seriously their depth of understanding of the Scriptures, and may end up with more questions than answers.”

2)  The Historical Approach

Some try to read the Old Testament as they would a book of history, expecting that the historical information can be accurately proven by the science of archeology.  But the Bible deals with oral accounts of creation, and the beginnings of humanity for which the Church takes no binding position outside of the belief in a supreme transcendent God who made something from nothing.  Even some Bible accounts of dates and locations of early battles have been found to conflict with each other.  Still, the accounts should not be dismissed because of these apparent errors since the oral traditions themselves contain religious truths which are to be understood. 

Finally, archeology which studies past human life as revealed by relics and the artifacts used by earlier peoples, often provides new evidence which supports the religious message of the account.    

3)  The Scientific Approach

While this is not really an approach to the study of Scripture at all, the scientific approach tries to understand one’s life and environment by using observable measurable data.  This view says that whenever science and the Bible contradict one another, preference must be given to the scientific explanation.  One obvious problem to this approach is that an investigation into the meaning of the scriptural passage in question is ignored. 

This approach sets up an unfair comparison between two different studies, like comparing apples and oranges.  While someone may reject a biblical view in favor of a scientific approach in order to eliminate some of the biblical problems, it does nothing to solve them.  If someone were to read the creation account from this point of view, he would reject the entire account found in the Bible.
 

4)  The Critical/Literal Approach

This attempts to take the Bible on its own terms instead of those we create for it.    The people who use the critical approach try to get behind the written records in an attempt to study the politics, cultures, and circumstances surrounding the formation of the biblical account.  They try to discern the many oral traditions that predate the written account, and how the various strands of tradition were woven together and edited into a section of a biblical story.

Those who wrote the Bible thought of their readers as people of their own time and culture.  Those who utilize the critical/literal approach try to determine what the biblical authors were saying to the people of their own time.  When we find  what that message was, we will better understand how that message applies to our lives and conditions today.  This is one approach endorsed by the Catholic Church.

The Bible is a book of religious truths, not scientific ones.  It is here that we find God's revelations about himself, and his plan to draw everyone into his presence. 


Top
Home Page
Outline Page


b.  The Old Testament - God's Commandments (Ten Words)
 

The Deposit of Faith contains the religious truths contained in the Old Testament and those given by Christ to the Apostles and passed through their successors.  It is composed of three parts.

The first 46 books of the Old Testament in the Bible records events occurring before the birth of Christ.  These divinely inspired writings record how God gathered the Jewish people through whom his promises were completed.  When seen in the light of Christ's redemption message in the New Testament, the meaning of the Old Testament is fully revealed.

God spoke directly to Moses, and gave his chosen people certain rules for life which were pleasing to him:

I.        I am the Lord your God, you shall not have strange gods before me.
II.       You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
III.      Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day.
IV.      Honor your father and your mother.
V.       You shall not kill.
VI.      You shall not commit adultery.
VII.     You shall not steal.
VIII.    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
IX.      You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
X.       You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.


c.  The  New Testament
 

The first 27 books of the New Testament in the Bible records how God's promises were completed through the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  These divinely inspired books set down the word of God as was revealed to the prophets and apostles by the Holy Spirit.  They preach the Gospel, increase faith in Jesus Christ and gather the Church together.  In the New Testament, the message contained in the Old Testament is made clear.  
 

Top
Home Page
Outline Page
 

4.  Part Two of the Deposit of Faith - Tradition
 

Tradition includes all doctrine revealed in Scripture taught by Christ to the Apostles, passed through their successors and explained in the teaching of the Church.  It may be found in dogmas, declarations, encyclicals, sermons and writings.  Divine revelation is presented in the Bible and is interpreted through Tradition.  Tradition is the sum of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
 

5.  Part Three of The Deposit of Faith - Magisterium

Magisterium is the authority given by Christ to the apostles and their successors to teach and judge orthodoxy free from error.


Church
 

An assembly of people, whom God’s word has called, when nourished with the Body of Christ, becomes the Body of Christ.  It is the primary guardian of the truths revealed by God the Father and Christ.  Using the authority given to it by Christ to teach, it presents to us both the revealed truths found in the Scriptures, and those passed faithfully through the Apostles to their successors.

1.  Authority given to the pope as successor of Peter and head of the Church.

2.  To the bishops as successors of the Apostles acting in conformity with the pope as head of the Church. 

3.  The bishops are assisted in their work by theologians, priests, religious, lay teachers and all Church
     members by their good example.

4.  The Pope speaks infallibly (Unable to error in matters of faith and morals) in four areas.

      ۰  Extra-Ordinary
                a.  Ex Cathedra – pope speaks on his own authority as head of the Church.
                b.  Universal bishops in union with the pope – councils.

      ۰  Ordinary
                a.  Encyclicals – papal letters.
                b.  Frequently repeating the same doctrine – as teacher.

6.  The Marks of the Church
 
a.  One
      
۰  Her source is Divine.
      
۰  Love unites all members.
      
۰  One faith received from the apostles (creed).
      
۰  Common divine worship, especially the sacraments.
      
۰  Apostolic succession through Holy Orders.
  
b.  Holy
      
۰  Her source is holy.
      
۰  Purpose is to make its members holy.
      
۰  Saints are raised up for imitation.
  c.  Catholic
      
۰  Universal
      
۰  Where Christ is present there is the Church.
      
۰  Mission is to the whole human race.
  
d.  Apostolic
      
۰  Founded on the apostles.
      
۰  Was and remains built on apostles.
      
۰  Passes on what the apostles learned (creed).
      
۰  Apostles' successors guide and teach until Christ returns (Magisterium). 

Top
Home Page
Outline Page