Few can be unaware of the change which has taken place in recent years in the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the Bible and the laity. The Scriptures are now being circulated and are available in a way in which they were not a short time ago, even in Roman Catholic countries. It is reported that in India the celebration of Bib!e Sunday is marked with a ceremony of 'enthronement of the Bible in houses' which involves the censing of it and various other acts of homage!
This may suggest to some Protestants that the Church of Rome is becoming more biblically oriented. The new prominence, however, given to the Bible since Vatican II must be understood in terms of the teaching of that council itself, which states, '... It is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence'. Also, besides adding tradition, or the oral teaching of the church and placing it on the same level as Scripture, the Church of Rome insists that the Bible can only be interpreted by the magisterium or teaching office of the church.
Thus the same decree of Vatican II goes on, 'The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church'. This of course is vested in the Pope himself.
When these facts are taken into account, it will be seen that the presence and availability of the Bible in the Church of Rome is seriously compromised. The Roman Catholic layman is allowed to use it devotionally, to foster piety, but not to prove doctrine. That is the business of the Pope and the hierarchy. By virtue of this teaching office the Word of God is corrupted, something against which the apostle Paul repeatedly warns (2 Corinthians 2:17 and 4:2).
Two examples will show the serious implications of this position and how it brings the Church of Rome under the same condemnation which our Lord pronounced against the Pharisees, when he said that they made the Word of God of none effect through their tradition.
First, let us take those commandments which define our duty to God. The first commandment declares that we must worship God only. The Church of Rome permits the worship of saints, angels and relics. She does so on the basis of a verbal quibble between latria, worship which may be paid to God alone, and dulia, worship which may be paid to saints.
In the second commandment God forbids the worship of images. The Church of Rome sets aside the second commandment and allows the worship of images. The force of this commandment is evaded by including it under the first and dividing the tenth commandment up into two, in order to make up the number to ten.
God forbids blasphemy in the third commandment. The Church of Rome waives this when she takes the names of God such as 'Holy Father' and ascribes them to the Pope.
In the fourth commandment God commands his day to be kept holy. It is well known that the emphasis in the Church of Rome is upon attending mass, not keeping the day holy.
The concept of man's duty to God is thus thoroughly corrupted by the teaching authority of the Church and the commandments of God are made of none effect through tradition.
Secondly, let us take an example of what the Bible says about Mary and what the Roman Church makes of it. The decree on Mary, of Vatican II states, '... her intercession brought about the beginning of miracles by Jesus'. But if we read the story in John 2, that is not how it appears at all. On the contrary Jesus was showing to Mary on that occasion that he was sovereign in the exercise of his power as the Son of God and would tolerate no interference, not even from her, 'Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come'.
What is common to these examples is that the Church of Rome has succeeded in making the Bible say the exact opposite to what it is in fact saying. If the teaching office of the Church cannot be trusted here where can it be trusted? Are not the Scriptures twisted and tortured in the interest of the church's dogma and tradition?
There is then a great gulf in principle and practice between the Protestant position of the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture (as stated in the sixth Article of the Church of England), and that of the Church of Rome. And it seems clear which is more likely to communicate to us the true message of the Bible.
This fundamental difference remains unresolved. There is no indication that Rome intends to change its position. Protestants cannot, and must not, surrender the unique authority and primacy of Scripture. That alone made The Reformation of the Church possible four hundred years ago, and gives hope of its further reformation today. Without it spiritual darkness would quickly overtake Christendom as a whole.
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