Today, we will continue with our responses to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.
Citing the three passages below, Armstrong argues for the validity and necessity of Catholicism’s claim to absolute authority in the interpretation of Scripture:
#18) “So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” – Nehemiah 8:8
#19) “So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.” – Acts 8:27-31
#20) “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” – 2 Peter 1:20*
Directly beneath the three verses, Armstrong writes, “Catholics hold that Scripture is a fairly clear document and able to be understood by the average reader, but also that the Church is needed to provide a doctrinal norm, an overall framework for determining proper biblical interpretation.” p. 32.
Catholicism claims that its magisterium (i.e., the teaching office of the pope and his bishops) alone is divinely authorized to interpret Scripture. For multiple centuries, the church withheld the Bible from the laity and, even now, does not strongly encourage individual Bible study. In contrast, God’s Word exhorts us to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). God’s Word also holds up as an example the believers in the city of Berea of northern Greece who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Nowhere in the Bible do we see anything resembling a dictatorial teaching office as we see with the Vatican hierarchy.
As the bishops of Rome consolidated their power and authority, the church became increasingly institutionalized and untethered from God’s Word. The magisterium that claimed to defend orthodoxy had in reality suppressed and abandoned Scriptural truths in favor of its many man-made traditions. The Reformers of the 16th century were able to return the church in part to the simple Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and to the sole authority of Scripture. While the Reformers did not agree on every single theological detail, they were united in the Gospel of grace. The same is true among genuine believers today. How can believers in different countries and cultures all over the world be united in the Gospel without a central authority? It’s an amazing thing to behold. The Holy Spirit divinely unites and guides believers through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and through His Holy Word.
Armstrong is aware that the majority of his readers are not familiar with church history and is therefore confident that his arguments for Catholicism’s authority will appear logical. But even a casual student of church history knows popes and church councils have been in conflict. Armstrong points to the church’s magisterium as its guiding authority, but the magisterium has proven itself to be totally unreliable again and again. Dogmas have been defined that are un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. By placing themselves above Scripture, the popes and their bishops were able to create man-made tradition upon man-made tradition. There is mounting controversy in the Catholic church currently with conservative cardinals and bishops opposing pope Francis’ reforms of doctrines previously held to be infallible. Does correct authority rest with Francis or with the conservative prelates who oppose him?
While Armstrong presents Nehemiah 8:8, Acts 8:27-31, and 2 Peter 1:20 as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” which allegedly validate Roman Catholicism’s authority to interpret Scripture, we see that Catholicism has instead supplanted Scripture with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and by its anti-Biblical traditions. Believers cry, “Sola Scriptura,” Scripture alone guides us, while Catholics, in substance, cry, “Sola Ecclesia,” their church leadership alone truly guides them.
Roman Catholic Church’s authority to interpret scripture violates scripture
*A contextual reading of 2 Peter 1:20 shows that it emphasizes the source of Old Testament prophecies, NOT who has the right to interpret the Bible today. See the article below:
What does 2 Peter 1:20 mean about interpreting Scripture?