Please see the last post on the series, “Doctrine of Salvation,” Doctrine of Salvation: Conversion.
As more and more confusion arises concerning the beliefs Roman Catholicism during these dark times, I think that it is important that I interact with Roman Catholicism’s view on salvation. Christianity and Catholicism are not the same and those in the evangelical world that consider the Roman Catholic Church to be a Christian church should be ashamed of themselves. Basically they are undermining the Reformation and ultimately the authority of the Bible.
Roman Catholicism is a religion that is significantly different from Christianity because they do not believe in salvation as the Bible states. But because there are so many differences in regards to Roman Catholicism, we will cover only a few areas that I think has major implications. In order to effectively deal with it, I will cover their view concerning sola Scriptura and sola ecclesia/magisterium. With that said, let’s first cover the Roman Catholic definition of the magisterium.
The Latin word magister for the English word magisterium means, “master.” The meaning master is not only in the sense of “teacher” but it also means in the broader sense, someone who possesses authority or mastery in a particular field. In the contemporary Roman Catholic usage, this term basically means that the teaching is reserved exclusively for the office of the pope and bishops. It is important that we consider the topic of the magisterium, because without it, we would not be debating the subject of tradition versus Scripture in the first place. In regards to the magisterium, the Catholic Church considers themselves the master or the entity that possesses the authority—whether it be the written Word of God or in the form of tradition. The concept of the Roman Catholic Church being the master dates back to the fourth session of the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D. For example, in the first decree of the Council of Trent, it states that the Old and New Testament were not the only inspired source, but the traditions concerning faith and morals are also inspired because the Roman Catholic Church believes it came from the mouth of God; and it believes that it is preserved by the Holy Spirit in continuous succession in the Catholic Church.
When defining their source of authority, the Roman Catholic Church continues by saying, “The totality of the Bishops is infallible, when they, either assembled in general council or scattered (has to be unanimously agreed by the bishops) over the earth, purpose a teaching on morals as one to be held by all the faithful.” That is a dangerous teaching because only God and the Bible is infallible.
Moreover, the pope, who is part of the magisterium and who is the icon of the magisterium is believed to be infallible when he defines doctrines concerning faith and morals. To question the pope in matters of infallibility is to second-guess him. The so-called divine promise given to him through the succession of Apostle Peter, concerning the pope’s definition of doctrine concerning faith and morals cannot be revised or altered. For example, papal infallibility in the area of making saints is final and irrevocable. The pope who is the iconic leader of the magisterium can speak ex-cathedra, which means, that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Pope speaks without error. Next we will cover the Roman Catholic Church so-called proof that the Magisterium has divine authority.
For the Roman Catholic Church, this is more than apostolic succession, but it is the gift of inspiration itself. Here is what the Roman Catholic Church says concerning the very gift of inspiration itself being passed down to them, “But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handling over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.’” Dei Verbum 8 says, “This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything…”
Because apostolic succession is key to this belief of authority, let’s take a look at how the Roman Catholic Church validates this claim. For example, they try validating their claim by using the apostles as an example to validate apostolic succession. They claim that all of the activities such as delegating authority (2 Cor. 3:5-6; 5:18-6:1; Eph. 6:28) in matters such as the proper interpretation of the Gospel (2 Peter 2:20-21), the norm of sound teaching (2 Tim. 1:13) that is to be found with the apostles, the eye-witnesses of Christ and His resurrection (Luke 24:47-48; Acts 1:8-9; Jn 20:31; 1 John 1:3; 4:16), delegated authority to others within the church of God. The leaders appointed by the apostles within the church, that received delegated authority from the apostles (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:22; cf. Titus 1:6-9) would assume the tasks such as teaching and government duties in the church of God. This thinking results in the logic that the Catholic Church too received delegated authority that was passed down to the bishops of the church. The biggest proof they have in order to validate the infallibility of the magisterium is Apostle Peter. They believe that their apostolic succession came from the line of Apostle Peter. Because Christ promised that Hades will not prevail against the church that is founded on the faith of Peter (Matthew 16:18); and that God will remain with the successors of the apostles to the end of time (Matthew 28:20), then the magisterium can be reliable and will never lead the church into doctrinal error. Another major issue is their view of tradition.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that tradition is everything that contributes to the holiness of life and the increase of faith of the people of God. Tradition is key to Catholics because the Bible would not be understood rightly if we limit it to sola Scriptura. They will go on to say that the church’s history and experience cannot be excluded if the Bible is to be rightly understood. According to Vatican II Council, the Catholic Church believes in the unity and consistency of Scripture because tradition and Scripture are closely connected. Scripture and tradition are illustrated as the two streams flowing from the same divine well-spring; and they actually merge together. They say the apostles handed down the traditions to them.
Another category that is important when it comes to the Vatican view of tradition is the context of locations or loci of tradition. There are four loci of tradition: rite of baptisms accompanied with prayers, repetition of the Eucharist, the writings of the church fathers, and the life of the church.
The loci of tradition in the area of liturgy for example such as baptism, imparts a sense of the universal need for redemption and the removal of sin by grace; and the Eucharist, together with the elevation of the consecrated elements impresses a realization of the real presence of God. Church Fathers are also important sources of tradition, because they are believed to be the one’s who established the canon of Scripture, articles of the creed, the basic dogmas of the faith, the basic structures of the church, and also the essential forms of the liturgy. The last location of tradition, which is the life of the church, is key, because the Roman Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit gives inspiration to the church in producing faithful members a sense of what is agreeable and disagreeable when it comes to salvation. Vatican II says this about the faithful members of the church, “The sense of the faithful is not a totally autonomous source of doctrine, since it depends in part on the other bearers of tradition and overlaps with them, but it can often help identify the true content and meaning of tradition, especially when it confirms what is also attested by other sources.”
The Roman Catholic Church also contests that traditions are important. For example, they believe that Paul spoke about tradition when he wrote to the Corinthian Church (1 Cor. 11:2). However, they Roman Catholic Church misinterpreted that passage. The Catholic Church traditions are unbiblical and different from what Paul is referring to.
It is clear that the Roman Catholic Church sees that tradition, the magisterium, and Scripture cannot be without the other. They have a problem with the idea of sola Scripture. They are three reasons why the Catholic Church rejects the doctrine of sola Scriptura: the Bible does not argue for the doctrine, the Bible teaches the authority of tradition, and the Bible cannot be interpreted correctly without tradition. In light of their unbiblical foundation, there are negative implications on salvation. Salvation can only be rightly understood through sola Scriptura.
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