Category Archives: Bible Study

New Reality Show Idea! “Fact Or Faked: Bible Files”

There are a lot of “reality” shows on TV about people investigating strange or paranormal occurrences.  There are shows about ghosts, monsters, Bigfoot, aliens, UFOs, etc.  One in particular is called “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files.”  The investigators attempt to recreate and debunk alleged paranormal events.  Sometimes they uncover a hoax and other times they label the event “unexplained.”  The viewer can form his or her own opinion based on the “expert” analysis of the investigators.

Sometimes it seems like people take a similar approach with the Bible.  For example, Jesus said a lot of strange and disturbing things like, “If your hand offends you, cut it off,” and “If your eye offends you, pluck it out.”  He called himself a door and a vine.  He said we must be born again of water and of spirit.  He said he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.  He talked about Hell and eternal damnation.  He told his followers that they needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life.  He held up bread and called it his body.  He held up wine and called it his blood.  He said lots of wild stuff, some of which caused his followers to walk away from him.  He also raised the dead, healed the sick, walked on water and controlled nature.  And, of course, he was killed and came back to life.

So, fact or faked?  Which of Jesus’ statements and actions are real and which are hyperbole?  Are any of them real?  Are all of them metaphor?  For example, did Jesus “fake out” his followers and then let them walk away from eternal life in John 6?  What would a panel of “experts” say?  What would your Bible study group conclude and why?  Would your opinion match the others in your study group?  What would your Sunday school teacher conclude?  How does he or she know the answer?  Would your preacher agree with the preacher down the street?

People get together and draw their own conclusions about Scripture.  “Oh, Jesus didn’t really mean that, he was just ‘faking us out’ to test our faith or to prove a point.”  That may be true some of the time.  Parables are designed to have an impact and make a point.  However, some people have actually maimed themselves because Jesus said to cut off their offending body parts.  Were they wrong in doing so, or were they being extremely holy?  When is Jesus being serious and when is he just being metaphorical to make a point?  He wasn’t always metaphorical, was he?  Is it just bread or is it really him?  Fact or faked?

All the confusion demonstrates the need for the Spirit-led, teaching authority of the Church.  When Christ’s Church authority is rejected, we are left with the opinions and conclusions of whoever wants to be an “expert.”  Without the authority that Christ gave to the offices of the pope and the magisterium we are left to our own devices.  Conflicting opinions rule the day.  Not a good situation when eternal life is on the line.  We might as well rely on a television reality show called, “Fact or Faked: Bible Files” to guide us in matters of faith and morals.

A Personal Encounter With Sola Scriptura (Bible Alone)

Not long after my return to Catholicism, a Protestant friend approached me with a question.  He and the other members of his church board were in the process of interviewing pastoral candidates, and there was an issue regarding the divorce and remarriage of one of the candidates.  My friend, knowing I had some theological training, asked me if I could provide any insight into what Scripture teaches about such matters.  There was apparently some confusion among the board members about how to decide the matter according to the Bible.

My friend’s dilemma is a perfect example of why the Bible alone is not sufficient in determining matters of faith and morals.  Eventually, a person has to call the shot.  Ultimately, it is not the Bible we go by, but someone’s interpretation of the Bible.  I don’t know exactly what my friend’s church decided to do.  I gently informed him that the Catholic Church had long ago decided such matters.  Any interpretation I would provide needed to be in agreement with Catholic authority.  In other words, who am I to interpret the Bible for him and his church?  I am not a pope or a bishop with apostolic authority.

Another issue arises when people who oppose the Catholic Church insist that their interpretation of the Bible proves how wrong or bad Catholicism is.  What they have done is listened to preachers and read books that taught them those interpretations.  In some cases, they have listened to former Catholic priests and nuns that say how bad Catholicism is.  Who are those preachers, authors, former nuns and priests?  They are not popes or bishops with apostolic authority.  Why should their interpretation of Scripture be taken seriously?  Even anti-Catholics have their own “popes” and “magisterium” although they won’t admit it.

When the Apostle Philip encountered the Ethiopian sitting in his chariot reading Scripture, Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  “How can I,” answered the Ethiopian, “unless some man teach me?”  Philip then used his apostolic authority to interpret the Scriptures and teach the man about Jesus.  The Ethiopian was subsequently baptized as a Christian. (Acts 8:27-40)  How can we understand the Bible unless we are taught what it means?  How can we receive consistently correct interpretation unless the teacher is teaching according to the apostolic authority given by Christ through the Holy Spirit “who will lead us into all truth?” (Jn 16:13)

Anyone can open a Bible, find some truth and draw conclusions from it.  That’s the danger.  Peter wrote that no prophecy of the Scripture is of individual interpretation and that some things in Scripture are hard to understand.  People can twist Scripture to their own destruction. (2Peter 1:20, 3:16)  That’s why Jesus gave us the Church to call the shots.  Once one abandons the Catholic interpretation, anything goes (and does go).

The real question for the Christian isn’t, “Do you follow the Bible?”  The real question is, “Whose interpretation of the Bible do you follow and why?”  Where did your teacher(s) get the authority to tell you what the Bible means?  Surely, a God that can preserve the Scriptures can also preserve a living, teaching authority for the Scriptures.  That’s what the Catholic Church is.  That’s where the authority has resided for 2000 years.

It Is Written, It Is Written, It Is Written

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt 4:1)  In the wilderness the devil used Scripture to tempt Jesus several times.  Jesus refuted the devil each time, also by using Scripture.  The authoritative nature of Scripture is evident in this account.  But there is more going on here than the mere “verse slinging” which we often see in theological or doctrinal debates.  Those debates end with people still divided, although some may switch sides.  There is seldom any resolution or consensus.  In Matthew’s account there is a clear winner.  The authority of Jesus wins the day.  While the devil mishandles the Scriptures, Jesus preserves the authoritative nature of the Scriptures.

The devil clearly knows Scripture.  He also knows that Scripture has authority as God’s Word.  He knows it is “God-breathed.”  Yet, the devil does not use Scripture according to its proper use or interpretation.  Jesus uses Scripture with reverence and sensitivity according to its true meaning and purpose.

Since the devil tried to use Scripture against God himself, what is to prevent him from using Scripture against God’s people?  God is not the author of confusion, but the devil is.  The devil is the father of lies.  Naturally, the devil desires to turn Christians against one another by using Scripture.  What is to prevent him from doing so?  The answer is, “Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Christ is God.  He wrote the Scriptures.  Jesus knows what the Scriptures mean.  He knows how to properly interpret the Scriptures.  Jesus also knows how the devil operates.  He knew that when he left Earth the devil would attack his followers.  He knew that people would become confused and divided about Scripture and doctrine.  So, Jesus established his Church, appointed leaders and gave those leaders his very own authority.  Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom.  Jesus told Peter he would build his Church upon him.  Jesus told his apostles, “He who hears you hears me,” and “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  Now the Church “stands in” for Jesus.  Jesus told his followers to take their disputes to the Church (Matt 18:17), not to the Scriptures.

The Apostles were called, appointed and sent by Christ.  They did not grab authority and send themselves.  Subsequently, those that succeed the Apostles are called, appointed and sent.  They do not grab authority and send themselves.  It is not their own goodness, education, intelligence, experience, charisma, holiness, personal drive, etc. that gives them authority.  They have the authority of Christ because it is given to them by apostolic succession.  One cannot “take” apostolic authority.  It must be given by the proper authority.  Knowing Scripture well and being a sincere Christian does not make one a successor of the Apostles.

Anyone can pick up a Bible and glean some truth from it.  They can also become confused by it and misinterpret it.  They can even use Scripture to oppose the very Church that Jesus established (as many do).  Therefore, having the Bible alone is not enough.  It was not enough in Matthew 4.  Jesus needed more than Scripture to refute the devil.  He also needed the authority given to him by the Father.  It was that same authority that Jesus gave to the hierarchy of the Church.

While the written Word of God is an authority for the Christian, it is not the only authority for the Christian.  It is not a question of the Bible or the Church.  The fullness of the Christian faith requires both.  Catholicism is the great both/and modeled by Jesus.  Christians need the God-given authority of the Church and the Scriptures.  The two do not stand apart from each other.  They are both necessary in confronting the confusion, the divisiveness and the attacks of the devil.  It is not enough to be able to say, “It is written.”

Catholics And Bibles

I’m currently reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It’s a great way to learn what the Church actually teaches rather than what it supposedly teaches (or doesn’t teach).  Too often we hear inaccurate things about Catholicism from people that either misunderstand Church teachings or deliberately distort those teachings.  It is always best to go directly to the source rather than rely on hearsay.  It is particularly dangerous to rely on sources that obviously oppose the Church, since such information is likely to be tainted in favor of the opposition.

As I read through the Catechism, I intend to post thoughts and reflections on certain topics that impress me the most.  Here is my first Catechism reflection about Scripture:

Why am reading the Catechism instead of the Bible?  Actually, I am reading the Bible.  That is one of the things about the Catechism that I find impressive.  It is very rooted in Scripture and refers to it often in support of the Church teachings.  It is, in effect, a Bible study.

One of the things Catholics often get accused of is not studying Scripture.  There are even folks who believe that Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible.  Most Catholics may not be able to quote memorized Scripture chapter and verse.  However, if they are faithfully attending church they will hear nearly the entire Bible read to them over a three year period.  The Mass itself is loaded with Scriptural references.  All it takes is listening.  If you go to Mass and actually pay attention, you will be studying the Bible.  The problem isn’t the Mass.  The problem is people not paying attention.

So, does that mean that the Catholic Church doesn’t want Catholics to read the Bible at home?  No.  The opposite is true.  Paragraph 133 in the Catechism says, “The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.  Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”  That is the teaching of the Catholic Church.  Read and study your Bibles, Catholics!

Now, the fact that many Catholics would rather watch television or play video games than read their Bibles says nothing about Church teaching.  The fact that many Catholics leave Catholicism for other churches out of a desire to study the Bible also says nothing about Church teaching.  What it says is that Catholics need to wake up and learn what their Church actually teaches and then follow the teaching.

Catholics also need to stop letting non-Catholics teach them about their own faith.  Think about it.  How many non-Catholic Christians are going to tell a Catholic to study the Bible because the Catholic Church says they should?  Not likely.  Non-Catholic Christians are typically going to say, “Hey, you Catholics don’t know the Bible and you don’t study the Bible, so come to my church where we study the Bible all the time.”  Imagine what would happen if every Catholic could respond with, “What do you mean?  We hear the Bible at every Mass.  The Church also exhorts us to study the Bible!  I don’t need to leave Catholicism to study the Bible!  I already go to a Bible study!”

Catholics, if your parish doesn’t have a decent Bible study, then either start one or find a parish that has one.  No more excuses.  Just because many non-Catholic churches have thriving Bible studies does not mean that they are teaching what is right and accurate.  Catholics may need to work on developing better Bible studies, but that does not mean the Catholic Church does not have the truth to teach.  It simply means that this is an area where Catholics need some improvement.  So, let’s do it.  It’s time we started inviting non-Catholics to our Bible studies so that they can learn all about the fullness of the Christian Faith found in the Catholic Church.  Of course, it certainly helps if we ourselves know about that fullness and what it means.