Monday, June 10, 2013

Yet another reason Catholics believe the Church can teach infallibly... the example left in the Bible.

Quick Reason:
The first major division recorded in the Christian Church was over gentile converts having to become Jews before becoming Christians. The process for becoming a Jew wasn't an easy one; especially for those needing circumcision as adults. Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles records some of this debate and shows that the Church leaders of the day claimed the authority to make binding decisions upon the Church at large.

Long Reason:
So, you want me to join your new little religion and all I have to do is stop eating pork and non-kosher foods, learn 400+ laws from Leviticus, and take a knife and... what's circumcision again?

Evangelization is hard enough when your religion is illegal and routinely persecuted but having to become a Jew before becoming a Christian wouldn't have made it any easier. In chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles we see St. Paul having great success evangelizing the gentiles (non-Jews) and some of the converts to Christianity from Judaism felt that the gentiles needed to become Jews before becoming Christian (Acts 15:5).

How did the early Christians resolve this issue? They held a council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:6). Both sides of the issue were discussed (argued from what I can gather) and once a consensus of leaders was reached, a letter was written, and it was distributed to the whole Church outlining only four hold-overs from the Jewish law (Acts 15:23-29). You'll notice circumcision isn't among them.

Scripture itself gives us the model for settling disputes on faith and morality; gather representative leaders within the Church, debate the merits of all possible positions, make a decision, and communicate that decision to the rest of the Church. All of this, of course, is done under the loving guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Some say that these were apostles so they had the authority to do this but we don't anymore. That may make sense if the apostles had settled every, single doctrinal disputed that would ever come up; but they didn't. As we've seen before, does the Spirit proceed from the Father only or the Father and the Son? The apostles' records aren't conclusive. When questions of faith and morals come up today we must follow the apostles' example of following the Spirit's guidance and trust in the Spirit's providence in leading us into reliable truth.

That the first Christians claimed the authority to infallibly determine matters of faith and morality is yet another reason the Catholic Church claims the same authority today.

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