Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #9: “The Noble Bereans”

Today, we continue our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his five-part section on Scripture and Tradition with this next chapter countering Protestants’ arguments against Catholicism’s “Sacred Traditions” by which Protestants refer to Acts 17:11 to argue that “The Noble Bereans” used Scripture alone to determine truth.

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In Acts 17:11 we read:

“Now these (Berean) Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

Protestants argue that the Jews of Berea were commended in this verse for appealing to Scripture as their sole authority for matters of faith and practice. They didn’t just accept the say-so of the apostle Paul, but compared Paul’s teaching to divinely authorized Scripture. Protestants correctly point out that, in contrast, Roman Catholicism appeals to its man-made “sacred tradition” as a standard of authority; traditions that contradict and subordinate God’s Word.

This is a difficult verse for Broussard to overcome, but the Catholic apologist gives it his best shot.

Firstly, Broussard points out that the Bereans were referencing only the Old Testament Scriptures by necessity since the New Testament had not yet been compiled. He concludes, therefore, that the verse doesn’t arbitrarily rule out other authoritative sources of truth (e.g., the New Testament and Sacred Tradition).

In response, the Bereans were using the only standard of divine truth they had at the time, the Old Testament, to test Paul’s teaching. Throughout the Old and New Testament, believers are admonished to hold to God’s Word as our sole authority of faith and practice. See here. To claim that the verse doesn’t necessarily rule out other “sources of truth” is an attempt to countermand the clear and obvious interpretation.

Secondly, Broussard contends that the verse commends the Berean Jews for being “more noble” than the Thessalonican Jews only because they received the Paul’s teaching “with all eagerness” and NOT because they compared Paul’s teaching to Scripture “to see if these things were so.” He claims the Greek word for “noble,” ευγενης (eugenes), means “open-minded,” therefore the Bereans were being commended only for embracing Paul’s teaching/tradition, not for testing it against Scripture.

A Catholic apologist with a Greek lexicon and an argument to defend can be a dangerous commodity. Broussard assumes most of his readers do not have lexicons to check his assertions. The normal meaning of ευγενης is “of noble character” or “noble minded,” NOT “open-minded/credulous.” Broussard attempts to undermine the clear meaning of the verse by disassociating the cause (“examining the Scriptures daily”) from the result (“these…were more noble”). He has used similar lexical subterfuge on credulous readers in previous chapters and I assume we can expect to see more of this sleight-of-hand in upcoming chapters.

Lastly, Broussard points out that Paul’s apostolic teaching was identified as the Word of God in Acts 17:13, therefore, the oral apostolic teaching that was allegedly passed down as “Sacred Tradition” is also divinely authoritative.

Gospel Christians certainly believe that Paul and the other apostles taught the genuine Gospel of grace as they did their missionary work. However, there were times when even the apostles walked according to the flesh, such as the time Paul had to publicly rebuke Peter at Antioch because the latter had accommodated the heterodox legalism of the Judaizers from Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-14). We can be confident from the self-attesting authority of God’s Word that all Scripture is divinely inspired and preserved for us for doctrine and edification. See 2 Peter 3:15-16. There is no such standard of divine authority and infallibility for Catholicism’s nebulous repository of orally transmitted “Sacred Tradition” other than the fallible Catholic clergy’s say-so. Recently canonized Catholic saint, John Henry Newman, openly admitted that Catholicism’s traditions and doctrines are ever-changing and developing. Untethered from the authority of Sacred Scripture, the Roman church has guilefully introduced theological novelties as “Sacred Tradition” that subordinate and subvert God’s Word.

Important: Once again, Broussard is employing underhanded deception in his arguments by not acknowledging the current crisis within Catholicism over pope Francis’ doctrine-bending reforms. If “Sacred Traditions” are divinely authorized as Broussard claims, then how can this current pope amend or abrogate some of them? That is a question that is compelling some conservative and traditionalist Catholics to brand Francis a heretic, which only further weakens Catholicism’s claims to divine authority for its “Sacred Tradition.”

Next up: Don’t Go Beyond What is Written

20 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #9: “The Noble Bereans”

  1. Speaking of Newman, he did admit that contradictions would defeat his doctrine of development. I guess he never foresaw Francis!

    John Henry Newman: And, if it be said in reply that the difficulty of admitting these developments of doctrine lies, not merely in the absence of early testimony for them, but in the actual existence of distinct testimony against them,—or, as Chillingworth says, in “Popes against Popes, Councils against Councils,”—I answer, of course this will be said; but let the fact of this objection be carefully examined, and its value reduced to its true measure, before it is used in argument. I grant that there are “Bishops against Bishops in Church history, Fathers against Fathers, Fathers against themselves,” for such differences in individual writers are consistent with, or rather are involved in the very idea of doctrinal development, and consequently are no real objection to it; the one essential question is whether the recognized organ of teaching, the Church herself, acting through Pope or Council as the oracle of heaven, has ever contradicted her own enunciations. If so, the hypothesis which I am advocating is at once shattered; John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Longmans, Green, 1906, Pg 120-121

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  2. While I’m not trying to paint Thomas as a proto-Protestant, I do find it interesting that he said “Sola Scriptura” for the rule of faith.

    Thomas Aquinas (1225/27-1274) on John 21:24-25: It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and others of this kind, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is his meaning when he says “˜we know his testimony is true.´ Galatians 1:9, “œIf anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!” The reason is that only canonical Scripture is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things.
    Latin text: Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est, quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt.” Thomas Aquinas, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti E ditori Ltd., 1952) n. 2656, p. 488.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, sister! You regularly refer to the Bereans as our example to study Scripture so as to test all things. It’s no accident that the RCC does NOT encourage its membership to seriously study Scripture.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Have a good rest of the day! I’m gearing down towards evening couch duty. Yeah, two applications in one day is good. I’m averaging about 4 applications per week.

      Like

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