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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Bible … and The One True Bureaucracy

There is an obnoxious, and absurd, argument - or, perhaps one ought call it merely an assertion - concerning the source, and authority, of the Bible favored by some Catholics and some Orthodox, and (in my experience) especially Catholics of the sort I call “Rah-Rah Catholics” (*), which might as well have come straight from the Dan Brown School of Theology. Essentially, it is the assertion that ‘The Church’ (meaning the hierarchy of The One True Bureaucracy) created the Bible … and, therefore, that the hierarchy of The One True Bureaucracy is the Sole and Dispositive Authority concerning any meaning or teaching of it.

As mentioned, this “argument” (I don’t recall that I’ve ever actually seen an argument, but rather just the mere assertion) is obnoxious and absurd, but I hadn’t yet given any thought to formulating an argument to demonstrate its absurdity. And, now, I don’t need formulate such an argument, as I’ve just read one offered by Alan Roebuck that does the job nicely:

... D. also said what Catholics and Orthodox always say about the Bible: the Church created it, and therefore the Church is a higher authority than the Bible.

If the Bible is solely the work of man, this view would be correct. But if the Bible is God's communication to man then it cannot be correct. A verbal communication from God has a higher authority than a human being or institution simply because God is higher than man.

Also, to say that the Church created the Bible is a serious error. The Church identified the books of the Bible as God's word and rejected other "candidates" as not being God's word, but it did not make the Bible. The church was not analogous to a legislature, it was analogous to a scientist.

What I mean is that a legislature has the authority to make up laws that would not exist otherwise, and the analogy would be the Church making up Scripture that would not exist otherwise. But a scientist only identifies a reality that exists independently of him. The Church did not write the New Testament. The Apostles (or, in the case of Luke, Acts and Mark, their associates) did. The Church only recognized the books of the New Testament to be Scripture. They did not make them Scripture.

Consider: Would it have been possible for the Church to have declared the so-called Gospel of Thomas to be part of Scripture? If the Church is the highest authority, the answer would have to be "yes, if the early Church leaders wanted to." But if the answer is "No, the church could not have declared Thomas to be Scripture, and it could only have declared the actual books of the Bible to be Scripture," then Scripture is higher than the Church. Which it would have to be, if it really is from God.

(*)“Rah-Rah Catholics” are an annoying and obnoxious sub-species of Roman Catholic who quite mirror an equally annoying and obnoxious sub-species of Protestant (for which I haven’t yet a distinctive name). Among other oddities, “Rah-Rah Catholics” believe in their heart of hearts (even if they will not always publicly admit it) that salvation comes via being “in communion” with the Supreme Overseer of the Prime Overseers of the Ruling Overseers of the Overseers of the petty/local bureaucrats of The One True Bureaucracy; whereas the equally annoying and obnoxious sub-species of Protestant which mirrors them believes that that is where damnation comes from.

And, by the way, I came up with that (possibly annoying, especially if you're Catholic) 'The One True Bureaucracy' out of annoyance at a "Rah-Rah Catholic" banging on about the RCC being "The One True Church" ... as though the Body of Christ has anything to do with a human bureaucracy.


Heuristics said...

These people that make this claim, do they not also make the claim that the people that wrote the books were a part of the church and that the church in some sense is its members? If so, according to that view, the church did create the NT at least. If not, would any of them claim that the church created the OT? It appears improbable that they are in fact claiming that the church wrote the OT which means that this interpretation of what they mean when they say that the chuch created the bible is wrong.

Foxfier said...

*shrug* You can find someone who claims to be part of any group saying most anything.

Advantage of the Church is that she actually has solid teachings-- no matter what someone says, just being older doesn't make them right. (Heaven knows I've had to beat this through a lot of formerly Catholic heads when geek friends claim that I can't play D&D and be an observant Catholic, because 'insert usually female family member here' says so.)

The Bible is very important, which is why it was collected.

The King James Bible shows that it's entirely possible to mangle scripture on purpose, and every misprint of the Bible shows it's possible on accident.

Amusingly, the inverse is very popular with obnoxious protestants, in various flavors.

Nate Winchester said...

sub-species of Protestant (for which I haven’t yet a distinctive name).

How about... "pro-pro-Protestant"?

Ilíon said...


Sounds like a stuttering problem.