I follow a page on Facebook which regularly identifies the “Six Things that” bedevil and otherwise hamper Protestant Church leaders. Often those things are lack of giving, hurt feelings, and style of worship. Once, it covered the four comedic rules to becoming a better leader. Recently, one caught my eye. It was a list of things that the author thought people mistakenly credited as being in the Bible.
The piece starts with a blurb “I was surprised how many of these I’ve heard in my church” and then attempts to list several unbiblical statements Christians believe. They were a collection of folksy sayings that, fortunately,I’ve never actually heard attributed to the Bible in any church I’ve been to.
Before he gets into mocking those statements, he makes one of his own that made my jaw drop. He writes, “anything and everything that we know about God comes from these Holy Scriptures, and they contain the totality of what we need to know about becoming a Christian and everything we need to know about living the Christian life.”
Where did he get that, I wondered. Certainly a statement so profound and succinct would be found in the Bible. But, of course, it isn’t. It comes from Protestant tradition, all of which is very recent.
I spent 37 years immersed in the Protestant culture. Obviously, it took me way too long but I eventually began to see things in Protestantism that were “man-made” doctrines which didn’t square with Scripture. And, when I could resist no longer, I began to wonder what was going on those first 1500 years where the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church without the help of Protestant doctrine? I went to the Catholic Church near me and signed up for RCIA.
It wasn’t a smooth ride, of course. I’d been indoctrinated over the course of four decades. A pastor friend of mine tried to halt my conversion by asking darkly, “Ross, are you saying that you no longer believe the Five Solas?” I took awhile and finally answered. Yes. I think that actually is what I’m saying. So, the wrestling began in earnest.
In my RCIA classes I learned Catholic doctrine and heard the word “magesterium” for the very first time. I began to get a grasp of what the Church believed when it was founded and really began to see what it meant that the Church began in the first century and not the sixteenth. What I learned made it fairly obvious to me that the Church Fathers, a group that all my Protestant teachers had never mentioned, were the key to understanding the proper position of the Church in history. And, a week or two before my acceptance into the church, I heard my (now) friend Matthew S. Leonard say on a radio show that “the Bible came out of the Church, the Church did not come out of the Bible.”
That was the epiphany for me. After that, I saw the Sacred Tradition argument with stunning clarity. There was no canon at all for centuries after the Resurrection. People did not have access to printed Scripture at all until the advent of the printing press. There is absolutely not a single verse of Scripture that tells us that Scripture itself would be our sole guide. On the contrary. Jesus told us He would send us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. He never said there would be a book coming.
Even in the very Scripture Protestants and Catholics alike love, we are told that “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” So, it is the Church that is the Pillar and Foundation of the truth rather than the Scripture. It is the Church, not the Bible, charged with delivering the deposit of faith unblemished to all future generations.