One thing that unites most Protestants and Catholics is our belief that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. Regarding this, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

“In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God.’ ‘In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.’” (CCC, #104)

Yet the thing that still keeps us separated—one of many—is what we believe the modality of the Bible’s interpretation should be. For Catholics, the written word of God is interpreted by the magisterial teaching office of the Church, with the Pope at its head—who functions as the earthly representative of Christ, the living Word of God. In Protestant faiths on the other hand, interpretation is individualistic—on either the personal level or the congregational level. Ultimately, the Protestant modality only goes as far as, “if it agrees with what I believe the Bible says, I will affirm it as truth”. IMHO, the Protestant modality (i.e. Sola-Scriptura/personal interpretation) is inherently defective. It has a circulatory approach that often comes up inconsistent with church history, and sadly, with scripture itself. What I want to cover in this post, and in posts to follow, are those inconsistencies with scripture itself.

For this reason, I am calling this series, “Where is that in Protestantism?” as a Catholic retort to the common Protestant objection, “where is that in the Bible?”—a question that comes up often in dialogue between Protestants and Catholics. While Protestants use the Bible as their only rule of Faith, the Catholic Church says she does not derive all truths from Sacred Scripture alone. Therefore, there is a number of things found in Catholic teaching that are not literally found in the Protestant Bible. Yet, the challenge I would like to make is that there are a number of things in the Protestant Bible that are not literally found in Protestantism itself. This series will examine the parts of scripture that seem to fall on deaf ears in Protestantism… the parts that are in no way fulfilled by Protestant or Evangelical Bible churches, and so happen to disappear from their Bible altogether. In this post and the following one, we will consider the scriptural nature of the Church that Christ founded.

The first scriptural topic is a basic one. Here it is:

The Visible Oneness of the Church

1 Corinthians 1:10

I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Where is that in Protestantism? There are tens of thousands of Protestant denominations that exist today—which continue to grow and divide at an exponential rate yearly. I remember it happening often when I was a Protestant, whenever a family or a person had a disagreement with a congregation or its leader(s) that, out of personal interpretation, they would leave and start another “church” or leave and attend another “church”. For Protestantism therefore, this verse seems to carry little to no weight. Yet, in Catholicism, this verse finds complete fulfillment. There are no divisions in Catholicism when it comes to the one mind and purpose of the Gospel. Of course, there are some subjective cases with certain Catholics who may not agree with, and therefore not believe in, the entire teaching of the Catholic Church… but those persons aren’t completely Catholic in the full sense of the word. The word “Catholic” means universal. In order to be called “Catholic”, one must be in communion with the universal, or entire, Church and must profess to believe in the universality, or fullness, of the Faith. So yes, certain members of the Catholic Church, in their humanity, sometimes fall short of this scripture. But unlike Protestantism, the Catholic Church possesses the Sacrament of Reconciliation—a safety net to help prevent and repair divisions.

The next scriptural topic goes hand and hand with the previous one:

The Legislative Quality of the Church—Honey, where are the keys?

Matthew 16:18-19

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Where is that in Protestantism? “Keys” are generally a symbol of authority. In the Old Testament specifically, this symbol was used to convey the transference of authority in the Davidic Kingship to a “second in command”, the royal steward, who would act in extension of the Messiah’s authority in his physical absence. See for instance Isaiah 22:20-24 which reads,

“In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots–all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.”

Contextually, this verse refers to the replacement of King Hezekiah’s original royal steward, Shebna, with Eliakim son of Hilkiah. To read more about Davidic stewardship and the meaning of “keys” in the Davidic kingdom read this post.

Additionally, the words “bind” and “loose” are legislative terms. Here, our Lord through Peter’s stewardship makes it possible for the Church’s earthly legislation to have full partnership with the will of Heaven (“whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…”)… to the full effect that whoever hears the Church on earth will hear Christ, and whoever hears Christ will hear the One Who sent Christ (Luke 10:16). Through Peter’s stewardship, therefore, the Father’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When has a Protestant denomination ever legitimately and effectually legislated in a way that united its will to Heaven? Can Protestantism, with all of its divisions, truly ever claim to do so? Was this authority, given to Peter and the Apostles by our Lord, just something to be thrown away after the 12 Apostles died? Or was it intended to be a perpetuated reality of God’s Kingdom via apostolic succession?

Well, that’s it for the first post. In the next post, we’ll talk more about the scriptural nature of the Church… specifically regarding the forgiveness of sins.