"Blueprints alone! Blueprints alone I say! "
By Matthew J. Bellisario 2010
Recently a Protestant named James Swan has made yet another feeble attempt to discredit the Catholic Church by pitting different Catholics against one another in their interpretation of a passage of Scripture. Swan and his pretended "Reformers" are always looking for ways to prove that there are as many divisions in Catholic doctrine as there is in Protestant circles. It is quite amusing to watch him and his friends like John Bugay, an ex-Catholic with a chip on his shoulder, hurl any insult and accusation they can muster up, no matter how inept, to try and take the attention off of their disunity of major tenets of Christian faith. In his latest post in which he posted over on another pretended "Reformer" James White's blog, he pits Pope Benedict XVI, Saint Thomas Aquinas and modern Catholic lay-apologist Robert Sungenis, against one another in their interpretation of Galatians 2:11-16, concerning the rebuke of St. Peter.
First of all, we have to ask ourselves if this particular passage even has any significant doctrinal ramifications that concerns the Catholic faith. If we read the three interpretations that were given by each, none of them actually have any bearing on Catholic doctrine. We find Pope Benedict XVI telling us that St. Peter and Paul were not really in any disagreement, but the two taking two valid alternate views in which they opposed one another. Robert Sungenis opposes Pope Benedict's interpretation and says that St. Peter was rightly rebuked by St. Paul. Saint Thomas Aquinas mulls over the two different interpretations of Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine eventually agreeing with Saint Augustine.
Again, we have to ask ourselves, what do these different interpretations actually prove? Does this in any way put Catholics in the same boat as the pretended "Reformers" when it comes to interpreting Scripture? In other words, what is Swan's intention in putting up this post? He tells us, "For all the talk about having an infallible authority, a Roman Catholic can still read this text however he wants to, even coming up with something similar to Jerome's interpretation." OK, and so this proves what? Does any of the interpretations upset any doctrine of the Catholic faith? If St. Peter was rightly rebuked, does it cause any credibility to the papacy? I think not. It seems that in St. Thomas' (13th century) time the passage was interpreted a variety of ways, as it is still done today. Yet no one thought anything of it because in the end it it did not really upset any formal doctrine to speak of. The official doctrine of the Church was still united in all major tenets of the one true faith as it is today. Yet the Protestants do not have this unity of faith.
How does this example of multiple interpretations of this passage compare with the division over Scriptural passages in Protestantism. Quite honestly, there is no comparison. The true Christian faith is a living faith past down from Christ through the apostles protected by the infallibility of the Holy Spirit. So Catholics do not have to worry about having different interpretations of some passages of Scripture. In fact, even God's written Word is a living Word when it lives within the body of the Church. Scripture is a living written source of God's Word, yet it is not isolated from the Holy Spirit from which it was given, in the Catholic paradigm of faith. For the pretended "Reformer" however, this disagreement over Scripture works in a completely different paradigm, allowing for their interpretations of every passage to dictate formal doctrine, yet there is no infallible guide given to them to arrive at any proper interpretation.
If we look at the Catholic faith, we see a faith being passed down and lived throughout the ages in an unbroken succession since the time of Christ. The written Word is an infallible product of this faith being lived out during the early years of the Church, which is written down for the Church by God, as a testimony to the true faith. For Catholics, baptism has always meant one thing, and nothing other than that one true definition has ever been accepted as formal teaching in the Catholic faith. The doctrine is not based on any one Bible verse or passage, but it is based on what was taught by Jesus and His apostles, and those that followed them, and so on. This is the case with all major doctrine of the true Christian Catholic faith. Likewise, there is only one authentic teaching of what happens in the liturgy, and what the function of priests are and so forth, and yet none of these doctrines are derived at from the sole proclamation of the Scriptures. These truths were taught well before one word of the New Testament was ever written, or even before they were made available to the vast majority of Christians, which was not the case for many centuries. Scripture is the origin of the true Christian faith, Jesus is! The Scriptures merely testify to many aspects of this faith in an infallible manner as it was being carried out in the first years of the Church. The Protestants however fight over all of these major points of the Christian faith. They disagree over baptism, they disagree over the Eucharist, the liturgy and every other core teaching of the faith.
So here we can see why Catholics can have a variety of interpretations of some passages of Scripture and still remain faithful to the true Christian faith, while the Protestant cannot accomplish the same with Scripture alone. The Protestant misuses the Scriptures for something God never intended them to be used for. God intended the Scriptures to be an infallible written testimony to the early Church showing the establishment of the Christian faith in the infancy of the Church. It is a basic blueprint for the Christian faith. There are many levels of interpretation that the Church arrives at to reaffirm and teach the Christian faith, yet the blueprint remains infallible. Some passages directly address certain doctrines, many indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, in either the Old or New Testaments. For the Protestant however, he has no context in which to interpret any passage of Scripture to arrive at any doctrine whether it is explicit or implicit, because they isolate it from Jesus' and His apostles' oral proclamation, which has accompanied it since the Church began.
Let me use a limited analogy here, and before I get attacked, I am not comparing Scripture directly here, but only in a limited analogous manner. I have the highest reverence for Sacred Scripture, and when it is read and interpreted within the body of the Church it is the Word of God. Yet when it is removed from the body of the Church, and it is isolated from its Composer, it becomes a stumbling block, since those who remain outside the Church twist it to their own destruction. With that in mind, let me continue on with my analogy.
Modern Protestantism is equivalent to taking an illiterate pygmy from the jungles of the Amazon, standing him next to a pile of car parts, then handing him blueprints for a Ford Mustang, and asking him to construct a Ford Mustang Fastback by using the prints alone. It is not going to happen. He might get the seats put in the frame so he can sit down comfortably, but he is never going to drive it out of the parking lot in one piece. You see, all of the information on how the car goes together is in the blueprint in one form or another. All of the parts, etc. But, without the knowledge of mechanics and engineers which had been handed down for ages to other car mechanics and engineers and so on, there is no way for the pygmy to reconstruct the car. The original pretended "Reformers" were in one way a bit better off than the modern pygmy form of Protestantism that comes from the Amazon, at least they had seen a car put together at one time. They actually rode in it! They however grabbed the blueprint from the real mechanics and engineers, told them they were idiots, and then went and constructed a half-assed monstrosity in which they and their successors have been sitting in the parking lot with for the past 500 years yelling out, "we have the blueprints!, we have the blueprints! Blueprints alone I say!"
As the years go by, they do not get closer to putting the car together because the further time goes on they lose any real knowledge that was handed down to them by the real engineers and mechanics in the first place. They refuse to go to the source that has the knowledge, the Church, and instead rely on their own malformed abilities. Luther took the car parts, rebuilt a partial car close to being functional, yet it had no mirrors, no windshield or brakes on it. As time went by his followers kept ripping off parts thinking they could improve the car, and now they are sitting in the garage in a frame of a 67 Mustang going no where, waving the prints in our faces, still saying, "we have the blueprints!, we have the blueprints! Blueprints alone I say!" The real mechanics and engineers are looking at them saying to themselves, when are they going to connect the drive shaft that they ripped off back in 1751? While the pretended "Reformers" are busy trying to reconnect the drive shaft using the blueprints, the real engineers know what components go on first, and which can be put on in any order, not causing any malfunction to the car and so forth. They use the blueprints for their intended purpose, to help them keep the car running properly at all times.