In Part IV we heard the complaint from some Protestant Christians that Catholics are “spoon-fed” their faith by an authoritative Church. Catholics look to the Church as the final authority on Biblical interpretation. Meanwhile “Bible-only” Christians are free to disagree with their church leaders and pastors whenever they feel that a particular doctrine is unbiblical. According them, every individual is capable of privately interpreting Scripture without turning to the Church for guidance.
So what does the Bible itself have to say about this principle?
The Apostle Paul established several Christian communities during his lengthy travels, and he taught them the faith as it had been passed on to him. He realized that this process of teaching Christian Truth is an ongoing and laborious process. The pupils (that is, we lay Christians in the pews) must be instructed by our pastors as children are taught by parents. Paul writes: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1Corinthians 3:2)
So, as we can see from Paul’s words, not only are Christians sometimes “spoon-fed” the faith, we must first be “bottle-fed” on “milk” if we are to one day digest the solid food of a well developed faith. The Protestant notion that every Christian can pick up the Bible and dispute his pastor is laughable when one examines the facts about the early Church.
We can be sure that Paul knew well what kind of damage could be done to souls when individuals twist the words of Scripture and misunderstand doctrine. His own words were abused by Christians of his day. On this subject of twisting the Bible, 2Peter 3:15-16 attests: “…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
So we know that the Bible can be easily abused and twisted by those who are ungrounded in the faith. The Bible itself admits to this problem. And as Paul describes, there must be some preparatory work, instruction in the faith. We must be fed milk before we eat meat; we must crawl before we walk. Christians must be taught by some authority outside of the Bible, which then can help them make sense of God’s Word.
In the Acts of the Apostles, when the Ethiopian eunuch was asked whether he understood the Scriptures he was reading, he replied: “How can I, unless someone shows me?” (Acts 8:31) We should be humble enough to answer in the same way. Many Bible-only Christians are comfortable disagreeing with their own pastors and denominations. They do not recognize the Biblical concept of an outside teaching authority. And this is the root of many division and schisms. They “distort Scripture to their own destruction.”