I guess I’m going to have to start a new category for the blog. The “things I hear people say that blow me away” category. The other day the thing that blew me away was having a Christian tell me that, not only was the Bible just a book written by men, but it is also based on dreams. :O Today I was listening to Catholic radio and I heard a gentleman caller tell the hosts of the show that he doesn’t understand why his wife, who is not Catholic, cannot receive Holy Communion at Mass (which I will address in a separate post), and (it gets worse) now he doesn’t think he needs “religiosity” (or the Church or anything else) based upon the words of the Lord Himself in His conversation with the centurion.
And when he had entered into Capharnaum, there came to him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, and is grievously tormented. And Jesus saith to him: I will come and heal him. And the centurion, making answer, said: Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority, having under me soldiers; and I say to this, Go, and he goeth, and to another Come, and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. And Jesus hearing this, marvelled; and said to them that followed him. Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel. And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said to the centurion: Go, and as thou hast believed, so be it done to thee. And the servant was healed at the same hour. — Mat 8:5-13, Douay-Rheims translation.
So now someone decides that what that passage means is that religion (or “religiosity”, ie, Christianity and the Church) is not necessary for salvation. Nothing is necessary for salvation. Or maybe he means that only belief is necessary. Or belief in Jesus. Or in certain words Jesus spoke. But not in other words He spoke. Or…I don’t really know what he means because I think he’s just confused. He’s read a little bit of the Bible, just enough to get really and thoroughly tangled up and twisted all around.
And this is exactly what I mean when I say that reading the Bible alone (as in, only the Bible) is not enough. And reading the Bible alone (as in, on your own) is also not enough. Why? Because you can do just what the caller did: find a verse that supports your favorite—or current favorite—view of how you wish things to be and—poof!—instant Scriptural “proof” of anything you want to “prove”. Except that the Scriptures do not support that view at all; and to think that they do, is to ignore all the places where Scripture contradicts that notion altogether. This is why the Lord founded His Church and gave her the authority to teach. Jesus didn’t go around doing things “just because”. He founded the Church, and gave her the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because we need it, not because He needs it, because we need our worship. We need to worship Him and to be taught by Him and to be His disciples. Consider this:
“And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” — Mat 28:18-20.*
I don’t see the words in there anywhere that say, all we have to do is read the Bible (or part of the Bible, or a few words of the Bible) and decide on our own, with absolutely no idea what we’re doing, that we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that they mean what we want them to mean, and somehow the magical belief that we pretend to have will magically somehow save us.
All I have to do is believe? Really? Only if I understand that the word “believe” is an English word that is used to translate another word** that means far more than we usually mean by “believe”. Way back centuries ago when the Bible was being translated into English, the word “believe” carried more weight, more layers of meaning.
Etymology of the word “Believe”
Middle English beleven, from Old English belēfan, from be– + lȳfan, lēfan to allow, believe; akin to Old High German gilouben to believe, Old English lēof dear — more at love. Date: before 12th century. — Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.
Jesus tells His apostles:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.” — John 14:15.
He tells Nicodemus:
“Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. Wonder not, that I said to thee, you must be born again.” — John 3:5-7.
To the rich young man who asks, “Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?,” Jesus says:
“[Jesus] said to him…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith to him: All these I have kept from my youth, what is yet wanting to me? Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. And when the young man had heard this word, he went away sad: for he had great possessions.” — Matthew 19:16-22.
In these few verses I’ve quoted we find plenty of evidence that much more is required than “belief” in the way we tend to think of it, ie, as mere intellectual assent to an idea proposed to us. The truth is, belief carries within it the idea of intellectual assent and consent of the will; faith, as in, trust; the willingness to listen, which is related to the idea of obeying (the words are related).
This is only a very brief look at the question of belief, looking at only a few verses containing the words of the Lord; not to mention what His apostles said about it. But I think you can see that merely reading a handful of verses and deciding out of the blue what they mean does not allow us to close the book on the case. Instead we have to open the Book and read with the eyes of the Church in the heart of the Church, our Mother. We will not be led astray if we listen to what the Church has always taught, the Church Christ founded, whom He taught, to whom He promised—and gave—His Spirit, with whom He promised to remain until the end of time.
The bottom line is, either you believe what Christ said…or you don’t. Either it is true…or it isn’t. And if you believe part of it, you have to believe all of it. Otherwise the whole thing is a sham and a complete waste of time. If any part of it isn’t true, then all of it is false and a farce. To be a Catholic is to accept the whole teaching of Christ, all of it, and the whole Bible, all of it. To reject any part of it is to cease to be Catholic. You may have doubts, well, who doesn’t? Those doubts may lead you to study and ask questions and to pray earnestly for light and understanding. But doubt isn’t outright rejection, the kind of rejection that is on the edge of an abyss upon which our caller is teetering dangerously near. He has already allowed one foot to dangle precariously on the edge of that abyss. I pray that he has the sincerity and the humility to open his Bible again—and the Catechism!—and pray to God to show him the way. I pray that he will go to Mass and to confession and talk with a good and understanding priest and face this doubt head on. And that God will grant him grace and actual graces to overcome his doubt before it reaches the soul-killing stage.
I’ll keep him in my prayers. I pray that you will, as well. Peace be with you.
*All Scripture quotes in this article were taken from the Douay-Rheims translation in the e-Sword Bible study software program. Online links in the text are provided for your convenience.
**Concerning the Greek word translated by our English word believe, this is what Strong’s Concordance*** has to say:
G4100, πιστεύω, pisteuō (pist-yoo’-o): From G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ): – believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
***References to Strong’s Greek Concordance are taken from the free downloadable software version in the e-Sword Bible study software program. Strong’s is not a Catholic source and I think it could be a bit stronger in its wording in many places (like the one we’ve been discussing here), but it begins to get the idea across that we’re talking about more than an idea. We are talking about realities. We use words to point to those realities, but we have to remember that our words point to something far beyond themselves, to realities greater than we can imagine. One day we will “see” these things, we will see our Lord face to face and words will no longer be necessary on that day when we will know as we are known. How I long for that day!