Sunday, March 1, 2009


Last night, I went to the Faith Discussion Dinner that my friend JP hosts at his house each month. Here's a link to his new web site for details:

It's a fun night with lots of food and beer. In between the eating, drinking and general merriment, is the discussion. A topic of faith is chosen and the Protestant and Catholic speakers each have eight minutes to present their positions.

After the presentations, it's time for the (charitable) debate or QA session.

The topic was "Who has the authority to interpret Scripture?" Protestants say each believer does, Catholics say the final authority on Biblical interpretation is the Magesterium of the Church.

During the QA session, a woman on the Protesting-side asked a good question. If the Catholic has the Magesterium to interpret for him, why study the Bible at all?

After the debate ended, I went to go talk to her because she seemed very sincere in her question and since I am a "revert" to the Church I figured why not? We started talking. Our faith is not in a book, but in the person of Christ, who left us His Church with the power to "bind" and "loose," etc. etc. And I also quoted from Scripture, "The Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth." Nowhere in the Bible does it say it is the SOLE and FINAL authority. Even if it did, we don't believe it because it says so (for the Koran also says the same thing, but we don't believe in the Koran) but because the Church says so. The Church through her councils is what decided the Biblical canon in the first place. So here I am explaining all this to her and I finally come to the point that the word "Trinity" isn't in the Bible and yet we believe it. Of course, the Trinitarian believer can "find" it in the Bible, implicitly, but it is certainly not obvious, clear-cut, and it took the Church a long time to hash out. And then finally an authoritative council to make official.

She looks at me and says, "Oh, well, I don't believe in the Trinity."

You can imagine my shock as I thought I was speaking to a "Christian" in the Trinitarian-sense and definition.

But you know what? As disturbed as I was, her position is exactly what happens when you embrace what my friend Joe (a recent convert) calls Protestant personalism.

While the Protestant accepts the Church's orthodox teachings on the Trinity, the hypostatic union, Biblical canonicity, etc. he does not accept (or no longer accepts after the 16th C.) what his chosen denomination has decided not to accept.

By accepting the false and un-Biblical (find it for me...) notion of sola scriptura, you make yourself, not the Bible, the final authority and claim it as the Holy Spirit.

Well, then the Holy Spirit is dividing Christendom in 33, 800+ ways.

Obviously not.

As the Bible says, "The gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church."

Are we to gloss over this verse?

If you throw out the Church, eventually, like this woman, you run the risk of throwing out the most basic, fundamental, orthodox tradition of belief: the Holy Trinity.


Marc said...

I would have LOVED to have seen your reaction when she said that!!

Did she ever make the sign of the cross? I wonder what she would have said if she did: "In the name of the Son, the Son, and the Holy Son???"

Joy said...

i just wanted to say that i finally heard the term "hypostatic union" in my theology class this week! it sounds very scientific (and i suppose in a way it is, since God invented science (; now i feel all smart like you theology majors (: and i don't know how people think they can be christian and not believe in the trinity. perhaps the key is "think" -- either it's only what THEY think, as you said, or they haven't thought it through at all. another thought i had during class this week was that God HAD to a trinity to save man and then indwell him.

Simone said...

Without the Church to hash out the nature of Christ and the nature of the Trinity (which took centuries) you don't know what to believe, you have no authority to look up to. If left to your own devices, you could very well claim to be a Christian and not believe in the Trinity. This is why "the Bible Alone" or Sola Scriptura as Martin Luther proposed it in the mid-1500s (although Jan Hus proposed it earlier but was refuted at the Council of Constance) is an incorrect notion and not even biblical at that.

Thanks for posting, Joy!

Musselman said...

The strange comment by the Protestant woman reminds me of a disturbing statement I heard several weeks ago from an intelligent, sophisticated and committed Catholic friend when I asked him about the virgin Mary: "Oh, she is the fourth person of the Trinity." Apparently heterodoxy gets around.

I would like to ask one question: Where does the Magesterium get its authority? I'm just interested in the thinking behind the trust Catholics place in it---seemingly as an article of faith.

Simone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simone said...

Dear Musselman, ;)

Thanks for your comment. However, the two can not be equally compared.

In the case of your Catholic friend, (I would question if this person is committed to Catholicism--)he is clearly going against very clear Catholic teaching on the Trinity. He is disobedient to the Magesterium in holding a clearly very un-Christian view of God. Just pick up an Catechism of the Catholic Church. Or go to for church documents and so forth.

However, in the case of the Protestant lady, she is her own Magesterium.

Not one single Protestant came up with the Trinity on his or her own. That definition came from the work of church councils.

The Magesterium gets its authority from Christ.

The ancient creed of faith states the four marks of the true Church: only, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Apostolic meaning apostolic succession.

Our faith is an indirect method of knowledge through the witnesses that come before us. It is an encounter with Christ through these people, who hand on the deposit of faith to us, today, 2,000 years later!

God bless you!


P.S. For a brief summary of the list of the first 7 Ecumenical councils of the Church see this post of mine:


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