It seems a popular theory that arguing from the Bible is an effective way to prove a point, prove yourself right, or prove someone else wrong. And that’s very true; the Bible can do all of those things. But not by itself.
A Protestant friend once said to me “The Bible says ‘Call no man father’ so Catholics are wrong for calling priests ‘Father’.” I responded that the passage he was referring to (Mt 23:9, if you’re curious) actually means that we must recognize God as our true creator (father) and respect his supreme authority. Our earthly fathers gave us life, but only through the cooperation of God the father; therefore God is greater than earthly fathers. It goes on to say call no one teacher. Why? Because we must recognize that all wisdom comes from God, not man. Don’t worry; I have a whole post on this topic here!
But what do we do? Here we are; two Christians with the same Bible and two interpretations. What do we do? How do we resolve this impasse?
Protestants believe that each person has the ability to interpret scripture correctly if they pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. That sounds fantastic, but how does it work out? Some denominations believe we’re saved by faith alone (Sola Fide) and some don’t. One is right and one is wrong; they can’t both be right. So how do you know which to follow? What about the other things Christians disagree about? Who do you trust? Who has authority?
What did the early Christians do? If anyone should know what to do, it would be them, right? After all, they knew Jesus and/or had the Apostles to hear directly from.
Did they read the Bible? No, they didn’t have a bible to turn to for one thing. The Bible as we know it today wasn’t put together until about 400 A.D. Did they get together and vote? No, the early Church wasn’t a Democracy.
When an argument happened in the early Church, they asked the Apostles what to do. Look at Acts 15:1-29 for more. What happens here? They have an argument and Peter decides what to do. No vote, no bible, just Peter. Even Paul and James accept Peter’s decision as final!
The early Church looked to the Apostles with Peter at the helm. Why? Because Christ gave Peter the keys to his kingdom in Mt 16:18-19. When they were gone, they looked to the successors of the Apostles. Today, those are the bishops of the Catholic Church headed by the pope; the Bishop of Rome in Peter’s footsteps.
How about Mt 18:15-18? This is a passage that talks specifically about where you go when you have an argument. You go to the Church. Which church? THE Church. The Catholic Church was the only one around at the time. It’s the only church with authority over all Christians; otherwise if you take me to your Lutheran church, I could just become Methodist. The concept of a church having authority is impossible with personal interpretation, so why does Mt 18 say to go to the church if the church has no authority?
Arguments about faith and scripture interpretation are settled by the Church, not by individual interpretations of scripture. This is why we say in the creed “I believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church”. There is only one church that is catholic (universal, note the little “c”), and still holds to the traditions of the Apostles (apostolic). The Catholic Church.