Bible & Sola Scriptura
Discussion on Catholic versus Protestant Beliefs from Scripture
Robert Sungenis responds
Cheryl: First, before I begin, I would like to clarify that Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons do not fall under the Protestant religion.
R. Sungenis: They may not be mainline Protestant denominations, but they were formed on the same basis as many of them: (a) a charismatic leader who claimed privileged interpretations of Scripture more accurate than anyone else; (b) a claim that they were the true Church and the Catholic Church was false. In essense, anyone who "protests" against the Catholic Church can be considered a "Protestant," for that is what the word originally meant. END
Cheryl: You are correct that there are thousands of different denominations and splinter groups. Christians initially shared the same beliefs through the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, but through the years there were disagreements about the interpretation of the Bible. All true Protestant religions share the same basic belief in the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and salvation, but there are minor differences in the way their religions are practiced. These basic beliefs are what separates Protestants from Catholics and what caused the division between the two arms of Christianity.
R. Sungenis: That all depends on what one defines as "basic beliefs" and "minor differences." In some ways, Catholicism has only "minor differences" with the Anglican churches. They, for example, believe in baptismal regeneration as does the Catholic Church. Since baptism is a major doctrine of salvation, the Anglicans are closer to the Catholic Church than your Baptist denomination (which views water baptism merely as a symbol).
Be that as it may, I know enough about Protestantism (having been a Protestant for 18 years) to know that there are major differences and minor differences between each denomination, although it seems that when confronted with the major differences most Protestants try to play them down. Still, if you want to narrow the differences down to, as you say above, "Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and salvation," then except for some minor differences, you won't find that much difference exists between Baptists and Catholicism. It's only when we get to the finer details that things really get heated. And as they say, the devil is in the details. END
Cheryl: I chose to worship in a Baptist church, partly from my family background, but mainly from my belief in the church’s interpretation of the Bible. There are some issues with the Baptist church that I disagree with (such as drinking in moderation and dancing – and the church seems to be loosening its stance on these issues), but on the whole, I believe we are following God’s teachings through the Bible. I believe in nothing but the Bible because I don’t believe in any personal or pastoral beliefs that may contradict what the Bible says. Baptists (and probably other Protestant groups, although I cannot speak for them) learn about the Bible through personal and group Bible studies, studying the Word, cross-referencing what they read through other chapters in the Bible, asking questions and discussing what they read with other believers.
R. Sungenis: All well and good, but if you are depending on fallible human beings to give you completely accurate interpretations about the Bible, then your efforts will only be as productive as the fallibility of your teachers. If, for example, Protestant denominations can't even agree on a subject as simple as baptism, then how could we depend on them to give us answers on more esoteric issues? Granted, you think your interpretation is correct, and the Presbyterians, Anglicans, et al are wrong, but how do you really know for sure? The simple answer is that you don't. Yet Baptism is a major doctrine.
For that matter, as I intimated in my last post, you can't even be sure what books belong in the Bible, let alone know the true interpretation of its specific verses (and you know the possibility of an erroneous interpretation is highly likely since you see erroneous interpretations all around in other denominations, and thus surely it is possible in your denomination). END
Cheryl: I wish all Christian religions could share the same beliefs, since that is what Paul encourages for us in 1 Corinthians 1:10: I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfect united in mind and thought. (New International Version).
But Paul also warns that these divisions will occur. Acts 20:30: Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (NIV)
R. Sungenis: Precisely. And that is why I explained in my last post that, if we are going to protect the Gospel, we need not only leaders, but leaders who we know are guided by the Holy Spirit, not the devil. Logic dictates that there can be only one true Church (Eph 4:5). Thus, the second someone starts another Church, then that invented Church must be false. It can work no other way. END
Cheryl: Paul also states in Romans 16:17-18: I urge you, brother, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.
We would all agree with each other in Christianity if we only read and practiced what the Apostles taught us in the New Testament, without trying to interpret too much and add meaning and beliefs where there are none.
R. Sungenis: Precisely. That is why the Catholic Church teaches that the only "Tradition" we are bound to accept is that produced by the Apostles. But the "New Testament" you refer to is the very book which says that the Apostolic doctrine was not limited to the pages of holy writ. For example, 2 Thess 2:15 says that the Apostolic teaching came both in "word of mouth" and "in letter," and that we are obliged to hold to both.
Thus we have two sources, not one, and that dictum is by the decree of Scripture. So if one is really paying attention to Scripture, then he must acknowledge that Scripture never claims to be the sole source or authority for what one is to believe. Granted, the "other" source can never conflict with Scripture, and neither will Scripture conflict with that other source. END
Cheryl: If Catholics don’t read the Bible and interpret it for themselves, how do they know if the Catholic Church is truly following what the Bible teaches?
R. Sungenis: First of all, Catholics do read the Bible and interpret it. We do so in our homes and churches. Granted, many Catholics are ignorant of much of what the Bible says, but we don't judge Catholicism by those who don't live by it. For the past 2000 years Catholics have been reading the Bible and interpreting it. Irenaeus, Basil, Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, Suarez, Bellarmine, et al, were all Catholics and each wrote many volumes of Bible interpretation. I've written 7 books myself on Bible interpretation. Catholics are continually encouraged to read and study the Bible.
But the difference between Catholicism and the average Protestant denomination is, we don't reinvent the wheel at each turn. Once the Church has established what the true interpretation of a certain crucial verse is, then that interpretation cannot change. If it DID change, then we couldn't trust the Church, and, in fact, the Church would be false, for truth cannot change.
For example, the Church has decided that the references to Baptism in Scripture must be interpreted as teaching baptismal regeneration, no exceptions. In fact, the Council of Trent bases this teaching on John 3:5 where Jesus said: "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Now, granted, you may have a different interpretation of that verse. In fact, yours may even sound better than ours. It's easy to believe that the water is merely symbolic. The Bible uses symbols all the time.
But the $64,000 question is: is the Bible using symbols in John 3:5? How would we know for sure?
We seem to have at least two possibilities. In fact, there are other possibilities. Some Protestants believe the water refers to the word of God, and base that interpretation on Ephesians 5:26. Others believe the water refers to the amniotic fluid in the mother's womb. Others believe the water is more than just a symbol but still doesn't save anyone.
So, in effect, we have five different interpretations of John 3:5, and they all sound very good, but there can only be one correct interpretation and the others are devilish imposters. The context of John 2-4 doesn't help too much in settling on one meaning. So what do we do? Well, the good Catholic will ask: what did John mean when he wrote the words of John 3:5?
Well, we need to ask John what he meant. But, of course, John is dead. Fortunately, however, we know what John meant because he told his fellow apostles, and they told the disciples, and they told the churches. When we examine the record of the churches (and we know them be reading the documents of those times) it is a fact that every church, every Father, every council, and every other body with any semblance of ecclesiastical authority said that the interpretation which holds that the water is the miraculous means of grace and actually procures justification is the only correct answer, and all the others are pious frauds.
In short, Cheryl, THAT is how we come to truth in the Catholic Church. Thus, any Catholic who would attempt to reinterpret John 3:5 as teaching something other than baptismal regeneration will have the whole force of the Catholic Church against him, and he will be excommunicated. THAT is how we stop the "wolves" of Acts 20:30 and stop the "divisions" of Romans 16:17-18. It can work no other way.
Cheryl: You’ve discussed many different issues, so let’s take it apart piece by piece. First, let me state again that I can only really discuss the Baptist religion, since that is the church that I belong to and know the most about. So I prefer we stick with just a discussion between the Baptist and Catholic religions. That will keep the discussion less complicated, since there are thousands of different branches of religion, and I’m not able to intelligently discuss all the different intricacies of the various religions.
R. Sungenis: If I bring in other denominations, I don't except you to address their beliefs. The only thing I would expect you to do is answer the inconsistencies and contradictions to the principle that Christ established one church if, indeed, there are thousands of different churches all believing something different about the Bible. END
Cheryl: Also, can we tackle various aspects of Christianity, such as baptism, soon? We can finish our discussion on the belief of the Bible first, then discuss its teachings. That way we won’t get off track.
As stated before, I believe in only what the Bible says, and I refuse to believe in any interpretations that are not found in the holy scriptures. No human being is infallible, and humans do make mistakes. That is why reading the Bible is so important. That way we can compare what we are reading and hearing from other sources with the words in the Bible. We hope we can trust the leaders in our churches, but the only way we can be sure what they are preaching is God’s truth is to compare it with the Bible’s teachings.
R. Sungenis: Sure, but where does the Bible purport to "interpret" its own words? The Bible is a record of words about God, people, places and things. Interpretation is what human beings do, since interpretation involves a THINKING process that ties in various data from various sources and then decides what is meant in the convergence of that data. The Bible has no such ability. It is an inanimate object with no power to think on its own. END
Cheryl: I would like to first discuss your following statement “. . . If we are going to protect the Gospel, we need not only leaders, but leaders who we know are guided by the Holy Spirit, not the devil. Logic dictates that there can be only one true Church (Eph 4:5). Thus, the second someone starts another Church, then that invented Church must be false. It can work no other way.”
I agree that we need leaders that are guided by the Holy Spirit. But I fail to understand how you can determine there is only one true church from Ephesians 4:5. I’m assuming that you believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church, since this is your church’s belief.
R. Sungenis: Yes, in the first case I believe it because the Catholic Church says so, but reason also tells me that since the Catholic Church was the first Church in existence (and that can be proven quite easily by reading the references to "the Catholic Church" in the writings of the Fathers), then it alone must be the Church that Jesus Christ spoke about in Matthew 16:18. Consequently, any Church that tries to replace the Catholic Church must be false. The only way you could disprove this is to prove that there was another Church in the first centuries that was the true Church and that the Catholic Church was a false Church. END
Cheryl: According to the Bible, all Christians are members of God’s church; we are all members of one body. That means that, as long as we follow God’s teachings of the New Testament, we both belong to the same church.
Ephesians 4: 4-5 states: There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.(NIV)
R. Sungenis: Sure, all Christians are members of one body. The question is: how does one define a "Christian"? According to Acts 15, for example, a Christian is one who submits to the decisions of the head bishop (Peter) and the apostles and elders (priests). If not, then anyone can claim to be a "Christian" but make up their own rules as to what Christians are supposed to be, do and believe. In that case, the Montanists, the Gnostics, the Arians, the Docetists, the Sabellians, the Apollonarians, the Donatists, the Pelagians, etc could all claim to be "Christians" since they all claimed to interpret the Bible for themselves and follow Jesus Christ. But the aforementioned groups were all declared heretical by the Church's head bishop and the Fathers concurred. So being a "Christian" is more than just saying "I follow what the New Testament teaches." It is placing yourself under the authority of someone that God has ordained over you. END
Cheryl: Jesus told Peter that he was the rock on which he would build his church (Matthew 16:18), and Peter traveled to various areas preaching the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ church is not a location or a denomination, but the people of the earth that believe in Jesus’ sacrifices for the salvation of our sins.
R. Sungenis: Sure, on one level Jesus has a spiritual Church and they all believe in the spiritual truths of salvation. But that doesn't mean that it is also not a physical Church with a physical location. "Physical" doesn't suddenly become a bad idea just because the Church enters the world. Peter was a physical man, who assumed a physical office (bishop) and was given a physical locale from which to oversee the Church (Antioch, then Rome). The Church of the first centuries used to write to Rome for major decisions on what should occur in their local churches. The local churches are named, physically, in the New Testament (The Church of Ephesus, Colassae, Laodicea, etc). Each local Church has its own bishop (1 Tim 2-3). The decisions of the Apostles were sent out to all the local Churches (Acts 15; 1 Cor 14:33-34). END
Cheryl: Peter states in Acts 10:34-35: I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
R. Sungenis: Yes, and everyone who wants to come into the true Church by accepting the Gospel, they will be welcomed with open arms. We've been doing that for 2000 years.
Cheryl: If you are speaking of Jesus’ church, then you are correct when you state, “. . the second someone starts another Church, then that invented Church must be false.” For, if we stray from Jesus’ church, then the invented church must be from the devil.
But if you are speaking of the Catholic church, then it is impossible to see where this is found in the scriptures. The Bible does not list one particular denomination as the one true church.
R. Sungenis: Then you're in the same boat, Cheryl, because the Bible doesn't mention the "Baptist" church either. Logically, then, we must arrive at the decision as to who is the true Church by other means. The way we do so is to examine what the early Church said about itself. What we find is that the Fathers (Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyril, Ambrose, Augustine, et al) referred to "the Catholic Church," not the Baptist church, as that which proceeded, in steady and precise fashion, from the original Apostles. In fact, Polycarp knew John the Apostle. In other words, Cheryl, we have the pedigree, and we can prove it by historical records. END
Cheryl: Members of the Catholic church broke away from this denomination because they believed that the Catholic church was straying from the original teachings of Jesus and adding beliefs that were not stated by Jesus.
R. Sungenis: Sure, there have always been people who have broken away from the Catholic Church, and they will continue to do so. Arius did, the Donatists did, the Montanists did, the Apollonarians did, etc, etc. And they all did so because, as they put it, "the Church was straying from the original teachings of Jesus..." But where does the Bible say, Cheryl, that we can "break away from the Church if we don't believe what the Church is teaching is right"? I can assure you that it does not teach such a thing. Rather, it teaches that we are to submit to what the Church teaches, because God has placed these rulers over us.
Let me also say this: I know from whence you are coming, Cheryl. I was a Protestant for 18 years. During those years I thought I knew better than the Catholic Church. But then I found out that I was the one who was wrong. END
Cheryl: If you believe that these Christian believers that broke away from the Catholic church are “invented” churches and of the devil, this would also be impossible to prove through the Bible, unless you could prove that their teachings directly contradicted the Bible.
R. Sungenis: The Bible says there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." It says that in the context of an Apostle, St. Paul, who is writing to the Ephesian church, and this is the same St. Paul who was present in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem in which a decision was made by one man (Peter) and which all the other Apostles, bishops and elders held as the final and definitive decision for all the Churches of that day. Peter made that decision by interpreting the Bible (that is, the Old Testament declared that men should be circumcised, but Peter interpreted that to be an obsolete Old Covenant teaching that no longer bound anyone, and he was right). He did the same kind of Bible interpretation in Acts 1:20 when they had to select the next Apostle to replace Judas. Peter interpreted Psalm 109:8 and Psalm 69:25 to teach that the office of the Apostle must be replaced. That was pretty amazing, since neither Psalm says anything about Judas or the office of Apostle, per se. When Peter made this interpretation, all the other Apostles submitted to it. And so it has been the same for 2000 years, without interruption. END
Cheryl: The Bible cautions us that there will be many false christs, prophets and apostles, so we must always investigate our leaders to be sure their teachings follow the teachings of God.
R. Sungenis: That's right. But the ultimate judge as to who is following the Bible is not you or me, but the Church that God has put in authority to judge such things. The Bible is just as adamant against vigilante Christianity as it is about false prophets.
Cheryl: First, I must say that no where in the Bible does it state that the Catholic church is the ultimate judge. In fact, it states in James 4:12: There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor. (NIV) This does not say that the Catholic Church should judge, but rather GOD is the only judge.
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, your above paragraph only proves how misinterpretation of pet Bible verses can lead to erroneous idea. James 4:12 is in a context dealing with individuals judging other individuals; not a context about the Church and its prerogatives to judge. When the Bible speaks about the Church and its prerogatives to judge, the context is quite different, as you will find, for example, in Acts 5:1-6 when Annanias and Saphira were judged by Peter as hoarding money, with the result that they were struck dead on the spot. Acts 15, as I said in an earlier post, speaks of Peter, the Apostles and elders judging whether Christians could partake in various practices. 1 Cor 5:1-11 speaks of Paul judging the man caught in fornication and telling the elders to remove him from the Church. There are many more such instances. Peter and Paul are not acting independently, but as leaders of the Church of that day. And thus, whatever Church you think existed back then, it was the Church that was judging individuals. END
Cheryl: I agree with you that the Baptist denomination is not the “one true church.” The only true church is the body of believers who believe in Jesus Christ, his death on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection. Anyone who accepts Jesus as his or her savior is part of that true church.
R. Sungenis: Then why did Peter and Paul issues rules for all the Churches and expect them to believe in one set of unchangeable doctrines, and the excommunicate those who refused to believe in those doctrines? Hence, if you as a Baptist have beliefs about Christianity that are different than Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc, etc, then, at best, only one can be right and the others are holding to heresy. A free-for-all of believe-what-you-think-Scripture-teaches-for-yourself is not the kind of Church the New Testament teaches. It teaches one set of doctrines, and those who do not accept those doctrines are not part of the Church. END
Cheryl: You state that, “According to Acts 15, for example, a Christian is one who submits to the decisions of the head bishop (Peter) and the apostles and elders (priests).” I have re-read that chapter, and I can find no such claim.
R. Sungenis: Let me make it clearer for you, then. Acts 15:1-6 says there was much discussion and disagreement among the Christians (Paul, Barnabas and certain others) about whether Christians needed to be circumcised. Acts 15:7-12 says that Peter stood up in the midst of the discussion and declared that circumcision would no longer be required for salvation. This decision has been held fast for the last 2000 years. All Christians abide by it. In Acts 15:13-29, James, the bishop of Jerusalem, concurs with Peter's decision, as do all the Apostles and elders, and they agree to send a letter to ALL the Churches telling them what the Council has decided, and that eacy of these Christians is to obey the edicts of the Council. I think that is pretty clear. END
Cheryl: The root of the word “Christian” is Christ, so one who submits to CHRIST is a Christian. John 6:28-29 states: Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” And Paul states in Galatians 3:26: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, and in verse 28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, you keep taking things out of context. When we are talking about the Church's rule over Christians we use passages that speak of the Church and Christians; not passages in which Jesus is speaking about the spiritual essence of believing; nor about passages where Paul is merely teaching that all people have the opportunity to be saved. Your attempt to use these passages to say that the Church has no rule over Christians is precisely why the Catholic Church has warned for 2000 years that private Bible interpretation is very dangerous. The most common error in private interpretation is taking verses out of context. END
Cheryl: The apostle Paul downplays the roles of the church leaders in 1 Corinthians 1:13, “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” and verse 17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (NIV)
R. Sungenis: Again, Cheryl, read the context. The context does not concern a "downplaying of the roles of the church leaders" but an admonishment to the Corinthians who were forming cliques by picking their favorite leader. That is wrong because it pits one leader against another and makes obedience subject to who ones favorite teacher is. But this doesn't mean that leadership, in itself, is being "downplayed" or made something insignificant. After all, who is the one telling the Corinthians they are wrong? It is Paul himself, and this denotes that Paul has the authority over them, as a true Church leader, to show them the error of their ways. END
Cheryl: Although Paul was chosen as one of Jesus’ apostles and a leader in Christ’s church of believers, Paul never claimed to be a great man. He says in 1 Corinthians 2:1, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (NIV)
R. Sungenis: Context, Cheryl. Paul is speaking about how one should preach the Gospel, and he declares that the Gospel is not enhanced by his prowess, but only because it is about Jesus and his crucifixion. The Corinthians were preaching a gospel of worldly wisdom and miracles, trying to impress everyone with their knowledge and stature, and this only led to a perversion of the gospel and division in the Church. Paul is now teaching the Corinthians how to present themselves when the preach the Gospel. Again, Paul can admonish them in this way because he is their leader, which again proves that the Christians must submit to his authority. END
Cheryl: You also argue that the Catholic Church must be the true church because “we have the pedigree, and we can prove it by historical records.” Just because one denomination is older than others doesn’t mean that it is perfect and without faults, especially if their beliefs have been reinvented throughout the years and strayed from God’s original teachings in the New Testament.
R. Sungenis: I didn't say we were "perfect and without faults," I said we have the historical pedigree. Two different things. The Catholic Church is certainly not a perfect Church. I point out the faults of her people all the time. I'm one of her biggest critics.
As for the accusation that "beliefs have been reinvented throughout the years and strayed from God's original teachings in the New Testament," I would suggest you don't make blanket charges without having some evidence. I challenge you to name one doctrine that has been "reinvented," and also to tell me one doctrine that disagrees with what is taught in the New Testament. You can have your pick. END
Cheryl: On the subject of pedigrees, Paul claims that genealogies are “foolish” in Titus 3:9. Paul also states in 1 Timothy 1:3-4, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith.” (NIV)
R. Sungenis: Read the context, Cheryl. It's not talking about the Church; it's talking about individuals who argue about where their ancestors originated so that they can make themselves appear greater than someone else. When Scripture talks about the Church, however, we have quite a different context. The New Testament assures us that it is upon the Church that our faith rests. Just two chapters over from where you quoted, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15: "you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." END
Cheryl: You also ask, “But where does the Bible say, Cheryl, that we can ‘break away from the Church if we don't believe what the Church is teaching is right’? I can assure you that it does not teach such a thing. Rather, it teaches that we are to submit to what the Church teaches, because God has placed these rulers over us.” Actually, the Bible doesn’t teach us that the Catholic church should rule over us. Instead, Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:15 that God is “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.” Jesus himself states in Luke 4-8: “It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
R. Sungenis: Yes, and that "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" told Peter in Matthew 16:18-19:
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
This is what happens when you interpret passages in context, Cheryl. You begin to see that you simply cannot pick out certain verses and use them as proof-texts for your private interpretations. The only way you are going to come to truth is by looking at the whole Bible, not simply the verses that you have come to like. END
Cheryl: If we believe that all believers in Jesus make up the true church, there is no possible way to break away from the church without breaking away from God. But if you believe that the Catholic Church is the true church, as you say, then we can easily break away from that church, for the Bible teaches us that we must worship only God and always be on the lookout for false teachers. We must not blindly follow earthly teachers and submit to them, as you say. We must only submit to Jesus’ commands, for Jesus says in John 14:15-16: “If you love me, you will obey what I command,” and in verse 21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”
R. Sungenis: But the Bible says, Cheryl, that the "Church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth" in 1 Timothy 3:15. Jesus said that the Church is so protected that even "the gates of hell shall not prevail over it." So how is it that you say the Church can teach false doctrine, when Jesus himself said He would protect the Church from such? END
Cheryl: How can any person blindly follow one denomination’s beliefs without examining whether its leaders follow the teachings of the Bible? We must be sure that their teachings are really found in the Bible and not created by mere mortals. The Bible states in 1 John 4:1: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
R. Sungenis: Sure, but the Bible also teaches, as DOCTRINE, that we are to submit to the Church. That is a teaching of the Bible, Cheryl, just as much as the ones that tell us to watch out for false prophets. Think about it.
Cheryl: You think that I am pulling verses out of context, but all your arguments are based on your belief that there is only one church -- the Catholic Church – and that the leaders of the Catholic Church have the same power that Jesus’ apostles had at the formation of Jesus’ church on earth. But if you believed – as I do – that the true church is the body of all believers in Jesus’ salvation of our sins, then the verses are completely true and accurate in the context I have listed them.
R. Sungenis: No, Cheryl, that's a cop out. I think you are pulling verses out of context because you are pulling verses out of context. I've been exegeting Scripture for 30 years, and I know when someone is trying to find there favorite verses and I know when someone has examined the context before they appeal to a certain verse. I can assure you that you are doing the former. And if you believe that your larger "context" is the belief that the Church is just some spiritual entity with no physical component, then you're just begging the question, since you haven't proved that premise, at all. You keep ignoring the passages in Scripture that show the Church is also a physical entity, with physical locations and physical leaders with physical rules to follow. END
Cheryl: You are correct that the “only way you are going to come to truth is by looking at the whole Bible, not simply the verses that you have come to like.” This statement is true, and that is why I have been re-reading these chapters every night and quoting them. But please don’t think I am just using verses that I “have come to like.” I wish I could say that I am very good at memorizing and quoting verses. Actually, my memorization skills leave something to be desired, so I must refer to my Bible over and over again, pray for direction, and continually re-read the chapters, in order to quote from them.
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, you're transparent. You've just admitted to me that you've only now started to read the passages I brought to light. How could you have possibly come to a conclusion about what they meant prior to your conversations with me if you've never studied them before? You've just proved to me that you were reading only the passages you liked, not the whole Bible. END
Cheryl: Matthew 16:18-19: And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Yes, Peter was specially chosen by Jesus to lead his church. Jesus granted Peter and the other Apostles special abilities to lead his church of believers, since Jesus couldn’t remain on earth with us. Jesus needed leaders that he had hand-chosen, in order to insure that his teachings were true and accurate. All Christians hope that we can trust our church leaders today, but were these leaders hand-chosen by Jesus while he was on earth? Aren’t they mere men who are imperfect and can make mistakes? That is why we must depend on His gospel, which is detailed in the Bible. We must not stray from the teachings of Jesus, which were told to us through him and his Apostles.
R. Sungenis: But if all those men are fallible, then certainly your denomination, and you, are fallible, and thus your interpretation of the Bible is fallible. So you're in the same boat you claim for the men coming after Peter. Actually your situation is worse, since you are 1900 years removed from those earlier fallible men. At least they knew the Apostles and how they interpreted Scripture. You and your denomination keep reinventing the wheel, as it were, and your interpretations are even more fallible than the early Christians. I suggest you cease appealing to "we must defend his gospel which is detailed in the Bible" as if you have some special revelation from heaven as to how to interpret the Bible infallibly.
The fact is, Jesus didn't put Peter in office and give him the keys with the express intention that the office was going to cease with Peter. That would be absurd. You cannot create an office and have it cease unless you make the entity it serves (the Church) cease. Everything we see in the NT shows us that the office, whatever the office, was perpetuated (Acts 1:20; 1 Tim 2-3; Titus 2-3). If the office is continued, then so are the prerogatives of that office. Jesus said, "whatever you bind will be bound in heaven." Thus, by the nature of "office," this means that Peter and his successors have the unique ability to bind men on earth. In fact, if "heaven" is also binding, and we know that heaven (God) cannot make a mistake, then whatever Peter binds must be the truth, otherwise heaven (God) would be lying, and that cannot be. END
Cheryl: “Paul can admonish them in this way because he is their leader, which again proves that the Christians must submit to his authority.” Yes, we must submit to Paul’s authority because he was the chosen leader of Jesus’ church of believers. But where do you translate this to mean that we must all submit to the authority of the Catholic Church? Where in the Bible does it state this?
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, you can call it the "Church of the Firstborn" if you wish, or the "Church of God," or any name you want to put on it. The fact remains that there was one Church, one faith and one baptism when everything began. We just happen to put the name "Catholic" on it because "Catholic" means "universal." But if someone leaves this original Church and starts another one, then we have two Churches, and then we are in direct violation of Scripture. Your Baptist denomination is about the 100,000th church that has started since the beginning, and thus we have 100,000+ examples of people departing from what Scripture mandates concerning "one Lord, one faith and one baptism." That original Church required obedience to its doctrines, as I have already outlined in previous posts to you (Acts 1, 5, 15, et al). That Church did not tolerate dissent from its doctrines, and deemed as heretics anyone who opposed them, as I have already outlined in previous posts to you (Gnostics, Arians, Apollonarians, Sabellians, et al). So if you think there is another church that can be formed separate from the original Church, and that the Bible allows this kind of departure, please show me the chapter and verse you find this truth. END
Cheryl: You also stated that the Bible, “teaches one set of doctrines, and those who do not accept those doctrines are not part of the Church,” and asked, “why did Peter and Paul issues rules for all the Churches and expect them to believe in one set of unchangeable doctrines?” You are definitely correct about this, if you believe that the church is the body of all believers in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. The Apostles taught a set of doctrines, which are clearly drawn out in the Bible, and we are to follow this set of doctrines, and this set only.
R. Sungenis: So when the Bible itself says that there is more truth than what is recorded in the Bible, what do you do now, Cheryl? As I've stated before, the Bible, in 2 Thess 2:15 says: "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter," it is giving us two sources of truth from the Apostles: that which comes by "letter" (the Bible) and that which comes by "word of mouth" (oral teaching).
By the way, Cheryl, you still haven't told me how you know the Bible is the Bible. That is, how do you know the Bible is inspired, and, more importantly, how do you know which books belong in the Bible? END
Cheryl: You are right that these doctrines are unchangeable. But where did the Jesus teach that we must follow the doctrines of the Catholic Church, which contradict many of these original doctrines by the Apostles and change depending on who the current Pope is?
R. Sungenis: If they are unchangeable then why did you change them? It can be shown quite easily from all the evidence in the early Church that it believed in baptismal regeneration (not your view of a symbolic baptism). There wasn't one leader of the original Church that dissented from that teaching. And that Church said that it created no doctrines of its own. It said that everything it believed was passed down to it by the Apostles, as 2 Thess 2:15 says, "whether by letter or word of mouth," which means that the first Christian are basing their belief in baptismal regeneration on what the Apostles taught. Yet we find 1600-2000 years later that your denomination decides to change that teaching, yet you claim the doctrines of the Church are unchangeable. Now, the only way out of this dilemma for you is to prove that what the early Church of the second century believed was diametrically opposed to what the Apostles taught in the first century. Can you prove that, Cheryl?
As for your statement: "doctrines of the Catholic Church, which contradict many of these original doctrines by the Apostles and change depending on who the current Pope is," please name said doctrines that you think have changed. END
Cheryl: “The Corinthians were preaching a gospel of worldly wisdom and miracles, trying to impress everyone with their knowledge and stature, and this only led to a perversion of the gospel and division in the Church.“ You are definitely correct about this. The Apostles taught a set of doctrines, which are clearly drawn out in the Bible, and when denominations stray from this gospel with their “perversions,” it causes division in the church (the body of believers). So the Apostles taught us to follow their set of doctrines, which were given to them by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But did the Apostles teach that you must follow the doctrines of the Catholic Church, which contradict many of these doctrines? Doesn’t the Catholic Church claim that its additions to the Apostles’ doctrine are correct, due to their “worldly wisdom,” “knowledge and stature,” the same as the Corinthians did? Isn’t this why Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church?
R. Sungenis: Already answered above. I'll only add this. Any "break away" from the original Church only spells doom for those who break away, for by the mere act of breaking away they open themselves up to being just as wrong as those from whom they broke away. If the original Church can be wrong, surely the break away Church can be wrong. In other words, Cheryl, you can't "break away" without admitting your own suseptibility to falliblility, and we all know where fallibility leads. END
Cheryl: James 4:12: There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor. (NIV)
You stated that “James 4:12 is in a context dealing with individuals judging other individuals; not a context about the Church and its prerogatives to judge.” Isn’t Jesus’ church of believers made up of individuals? Isn’t the Catholic Church made up of individuals? So when the Catholic Church judges, individuals judge. I don’t see how it can be interpreted any other way; therefore only Jesus should judge, not the church. The only exception to this rule was the Apostles, whom Jesus left on this earth to teach his body of believers.
R. Sungenis: Yes, when the Catholic Church judges individuals are judging, but these are individuals who have been officially designated to judge, since hands were laid upon them and they received the office of bishop. You can read about that in 1 Timothy 2-3. But James 4 is not talking about such official judging. This is basic Bible interpretation, Cheryl. You keep conflating the texts based on your unproven premise that there is only some spiritual entity of all believers, but the Bible no where sanctions such an myopic understanding of the Church of Christ. You could avoid this error if you would only stop ignoring the passages that speak of the Church as a physical entity, not just a spiritual entity. END
Cheryl: To sum up our beliefs in the church talked of in the Bible:
My belief, according to the words of the Bible is the following: Church = body of believers in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Leader of the church = Peter. Therefore, Peter = Leader of the body of believers in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Therefore, believers in Jesus follow the teachings of Peter.
You believe the following: Church = Catholic Church. Leader of the church = Peter. Therefore, Peter = the leader of the Catholic Church. Therefore, today’s Catholic Church follows the teachings of Peter. But does the Catholic Church really follow the teachings of Peter, or does it add beliefs of its own leaders throughout the past 2,000 years?
You have challenge me to “name one doctrine that has been ‘reinvented,’” and also to tell you “one doctrine that disagrees with what is taught in the New Testament. You can have your pick.” Actually, there are a lot of Catholic beliefs that cannot be found in the New Testament, and I would like to discuss them all with you. But let’s start with the power the Catholic Church has granted to Mary, since this is the one belief that disturbs me the most. Can you please start out by detailing what Catholics believe about Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus?
R. Sungenis: We'll talk about Mary when you complete your understanding about the Bible and the Church.
1) Where does the Bible teach that only the Bible is the truth of God or what we are supposed to believe from God?
2) Where does the Bible teach what books are supposed to belong in the Bible?
3) Where does the Bible teach that one can break away from the Church if one feels the Church is wrong?
4) Where does the Bible teach that the Church is only a spiritual entity of all believers and not also a physical entity?
Cheryl: (First, before we begin, I meant that Peter was made the head of the church by Jesus, as I stated in my answer to question #5. The earlier statements concerning Paul in the earlier question were a typo. They should have read Peter.)
R. Sungenis: That makes more sense. Thank you for the correction. END
Cheryl: Once again, you seem very angry and condescending to me. You seem to delight in calling me names and trying to prove that I am some evil prophet. Have I done the same to you? Didn’t I say that God wants us to love one another? There are so many verses in the Bible that state this. I want to have an intelligent discussion – not a heated argument and name-calling session. Isn’t this what God wants for us? How can we witness to others about God’s love if we are filled with anger?
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, you’re a little heavy on the accusations. I’m not angry. I don’t know what “names” you think I’m calling you. Please specify. If I have done so, I’ll be glad to apologize. As for “evil prophet,” I didn’t call you such. I merely said that, if you are wrong, then the very accusation you tried to cast upon me in your quoting of 1 Peter 2:1 applies to you instead. That is a theological conclusion, not a personal attack against you. I don’t even know you. How could I do otherwise. On the other hand, I have tried to be personal with you. I must have addressed you as “Cheryl” about 50 times thus far, but you have yet once to address me as “Robert” or consider me anything more that someone in cyberspace in which to bounce off your ideas. You were the one who initiated this conversation, and I obliged to accommodate you, not vice-versa. END
Cheryl: You stated that “. . . you keep ignoring those verses because you think you have some direct channel to the Holy Spirit. God only sends His Spirit to people who have obeyed Him. You can’t be obeying God if you keep claiming that Scripture is the only authority when Scripture never makes such a claim.” How can you judge me? Doesn’t God know whether what I believe is right or wrong? And yes, I do have the Holy Spirit living within me. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you do too. For God sent his Holy Spirit to live within His believers. Where does the Bible state that you can’t have this Holy Spirit if you obey His scriptures?
R. Sungenis: It doesn’t. It says you can’t have the Holy Spirit if you DON’T obey His Scriptures (Romans 8:1-11). It is a fact, Cheryl, that if someone deliberately ignores various Scripture passages, then they are not obeying Scripture, and thus they do not have the Holy Spirit. Whether that applies to you or not, God will be your judge. But I can at least warn you that you may be doing so, for if I really want to show love to you, I will also show you where you have made a mistake. END
Cheryl: You seem angry at me for not quoting the exact Bible verses you want me to quote. You also seem angry that I am quoting the Bible at all. You claim that I am not reading the Bible thoroughly, taking verses out of context, ignoring verses, and twisting verses to mean what I want them to mean. I am only quoting what the Bible says – nothing more and nothing less. When I quote a verse from the Bible, I read the whole book all over again. You try to insult me by saying that I am not reading the Bible in its entirety. Maybe you should go back and re-read the verses in context and point out how I am twisting them.
R. Sungenis: Yes, but you are quoting only one set of passages and ignoring those that don’t agree with your presuppositions. I suggest, for example, that you go through the NT and gather all the passages that speak of the Church as a physical, authoritative and local entity, as opposed to merely gathering all the passages that speak of the Church as a spiritual entity. Only that way can you be fair with the Bible. The Bible is a big book, Cheryl. It says a lot of things. Only when we amass all that the Bible says, and understand it, can we truly say we have arrived at its meaning. END
Cheryl: What good would I accomplish if I tried to twist God’s words? I know I must face Him in the end, so why would I want to face His wrath from using His words in the way He did not intend? My life here on earth is for such a short time, but my life with Him is for all eternity. I am not trying to win some human debate, I only want to discuss His plan for our lives.
Are you trying to please God too, or are you trying to please earthly humans? Do you feel the same way I do about serving God? Do you feel confident that you are trying to do God’s will? Can you face His judgment at the end with the knowledge that you tried to follow His teachings. I know I am only a human and fallible, but I also know that I am trying to do God’s will. As I quoted before, God knows our hearts and our minds.
You wrote, “I am the one who is insisting that, if you claim the Bible is your only authority, then you are required to show me, in the Bible, where the Bible actually says what you stipulate.” I have showed you major points in the Bible in my previous writings. Why do you want to ignore these verses? Did I make up these verses? Were they taken out of context? Please re-read those parts of the Bible in their entirety and state why they don’t mean what they say.
R. Sungenis: They do mean what they say, but they don’t teach that Scripture is the only authority; they teach, as you stated yourself, that Scripture is “important.” If you can’t see the difference between something “important” and something that is the “only authority,” then I can’t help you any longer Cheryl, and your special pleading is not going to faze me.
Cheryl: You seem to be trying to twist my words. You state, “. . . obviously anyone who broke away from the Catholic Church would be breaking your rule that “If we are Christians, we must never break away from God’s church.” First of all, I am not stating my rules, only God’s rules that he has made known through His Scriptures.
R. Sungenis: Okay, then, you’re breaking God’s rules. END
Cheryl: Breaking away from a denomination isn’t breaking away from God’s church – the body of believers in Jesus’ salvation for our sins. As I stated earlier, there was one church after Jesus’ resurrection – the Catholic (which means universal) and Apostolic Church -- which was lead by Peter. This church broke into two units when the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church broke away. The Roman Catholics say that the Greek Orthodox broke away from them, and the Greek Orthodox say that the Roman Catholics broke away from them. So who is to say which is correct? And ultimately, if we all believe in Jesus’ salvation of our sins, we still all belong to God’s church. Isn’t our acceptance of Jesus’ salvation the most important belief?
R. Sungenis: Yes, but that’s not what we are arguing. You initiated this dialogue on the basis of challenging me to defend various beliefs in the Catholic Church, not on whether accepting Jesus is the most important belief. As a result, you proceeded to critique the Catholic view of Scripture, and then offered in your last post to debate a lot more (Mary, salvation, etc).
Now, regarding the Orthodox and the Catholics, yes, both sides make claims, but in reality, only one can be right, no? You make claims against the Catholics and they make claims against you. In the end, only one can be right, regardless of whether some of each go to heaven or not. In any case, unless you claim to be of the Greek Orthodox, I’m not going to address my rebuttals to the Greek Orthodox, but only to you. You claim not to have to come under the authority of the Catholic Church and that is what I am answering. END
Cheryl: Church leaders are very important and help us to study God’s word. I never stated that I do not have to obey my leaders and their authority. I am not some crazy rebel who refuses to listen to authority. I obey my leaders, but I also know that God is the ultimate leader, judge and head of us all. All I stated was that we must make sure our spiritual leaders are following the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, as the Bible encourages us to do, as in 1 John 4:1: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. If my church leader made a proclamation one day that it was good to kill anyone that didn’t believe in the Bible, would I just blindly follow his teachings? Or would I look to God’s scriptures before I followed the leader’s commands?
R. Sungenis: No one is expecting you to be a blind follower, Cheryl, but God does expect you to distinguish between when you have such prerogatives and when you don’t. For example, if you were back in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem, and you saw Peter make the proclamation of dogma that he did for the whole Church in Acts 15:10-12, would you have the prerogative to stand up and say “Hey, Peter, I don’t believe what you are saying is right. God has led me by the Holy Spirit that it is wrong. And if you don’t change it, I’m leaving this Church and starting my own church”? If you did, Cheryl, the next thing you would have experienced is excommunication. That is the way the Church works, and that is how we keep “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” On the other hand, if, according to 1 John 4:1, some false prophet comes to you and says “Jesus isn’t God,” naturally, you have the right to turn away and reject him. In other words, Cheryl, you can call him a “false prophet,” but you would not be able to call Peter a false prophet. And if you can’t call Peter a false prophet, then you can’t call any of his successors false prophets. Those are the important distinctions you need to keep in mind. END
Cheryl: Since you have said that you do believe in the Bible, can you please answer these questions and provide multiple examples for each answer from the Bible? Please quote the whole verse in your answer, just like I did before. Thank you.
1) How am I twisting the word of God when I am only quoting verses? Can you prove how they are twisted? Why would I want to twist them, when I only want to follow His word?
R. Sungenis: I’ve already answered this, but I’ll try again. For example, I’ve asked you for verses that state that the Bible is our only authority, you have provided none, except verses which speak about the Bible’s importance. Hence, using them to prove the Bible is the only authority is twisting the verses. I’ve asked you to provide passages which define the Church. You only provide me with passages that speak of the Church being spiritual. But the Church is also physical, historical and heirarchial. Hence, using only the passages which speak of its spiritual nature is twisting Scripture. There are many other examples.
Cheryl: 2) Are any of the verses I’m quoting contradicting the Bible?
R. Sungenis: The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, so quoting verses will not contradict the Bible. But what does contradict the Bible is your interpretation of the verses, or the manner in which you use one set of verses to prove your view, but forget a whole other set of verses which disprove your point.
Cheryl: 3) If you feel certain that the Roman Catholic Church is the sole entity responsible for the Bible, then why do you want to argue against the Bible so much?
R. Sungenis: I’m not arguing against the Bible. I’m arguing against your interpretation of the Bible.
Cheryl: 4) Where does the New Testament say we should follow other teachings, besides those of Jesus and the Apostles?
R. Sungenis: It doesn’t, and I never said it did. I’ve said that the teaching we receive by “word of mouth” (2 Thess 2:15) is the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.
Cheryl: 5) If God has more for us to know that he hasn’t already revealed in the Bible, then what is it? And how do you know this? Where does the Bible say this?
R. Sungenis: I’ve already told you, 2 Thess 2:15, but you gave some excuse for not obeying its clear words. There are other such passages showing us that Apostolic teaching was more than what was written in the Bible (1 Cor 11:34; Eph 3:3; 2 John 2:12; 2 Tim 2:2). Moreover, since the Bible doesn’t claim to be the only authority, then you are simply presuming something you can’t prove.
Cheryl: 6) Why would God and the Apostles want to keep truths hidden from us and not reveal them in the Bible, in their written words? Where does it state this? Doesn’t God want us to love Him and follow His word?
R. Sungenis: God reveals all that is necessary, but He never said that everything He reveals will be in the Bible. The Bible itself says so (2 Thess 2:15).
Cheryl: 7) I never stated that I didn’t have to follow the Apostles oral teachings, but I believe that they wrote these teachings down for us. Where does it state that the Apostles would reveal special truths only through their oral teachings, and not through the written word?
R. Sungenis: You said: “I believe that they wrote these teachings down for us,” but we aren’t interested in what YOU believe. Unless you can find a passage that says all God’s revelation was written down in the Bible, then what YOU believe is wrong. By the way, I never said, as you claim, “the Apostles would reveal special truths only through their oral teachings.” I said, according to 2 Thess 2:15, there are two sources of divine revelation, oral and written. The oral is preserved in the historical documents of the Church, the written is preserved in Scripture.
Cheryl: 8) If you don’t believe that the Bible is the only source of revelation and our only authority, then what else is there? Why would God want to confuse his people by revealing to them only partial truths in His scriptures?
R. Sungenis: God didn’t confuse anybody. You are the one who is confusing people, since you are not obeying the Bible’s declaration that there is more than written revelation.
Cheryl: 9) Why do you want to make me out to be a “false teacher” and “false prophet,” when I’m only showing what the Bible states? I never claimed to be a teacher or a prophet. How is discussing the Bible wrong?
R. Sungenis: The Bible is correct; your interpretation of the Bible is wrong. If you are preaching wrong interpretations of the Bible, then you are a false prophet.
Cheryl: 10) Where in the Bible does it that that we must have “credentials of authority” to read and discuss the Bible?
R. Sungenis: You can read and discuss the Bible all you want, as we are doing now, but that is quite different than making a dogmatic decision on what a given text of Scripture means. The prerogative of making the final decision on what a given text means is reserved only for the supreme authority God has put in place. I gave you examples of that in Acts 1 and Acts 15 when Peter made the final decision on the interpretation of Scripture.
Cheryl: 11) How do you know that leaders of the Roman Catholic Church are doing exactly as God wishes? How do you know that other teachers are not?
R. Sungenis: Because there can only be one, true Church, as I’ve told you before. All the rest must, of necessity, be false. By the way, you already agreed to that in an earlier email.
Cheryl: 12) Where does it say in the Bible that only the Roman Catholic Church who has the authority to teach us the Scriptures? Where does it state that we cannot read the Bible for ourselves?
R. Sugnenis: We’ve already been over this. The Roman Catholic Church can prove its pedigree all the way back to the first century. There was no other Church existing in that time. I would suggest that you stop divorcing history from Scripture, since Scripture came out of history.
Cheryl: 13) If a church leader tells us to something that goes against God’s teachings, are we to blindly follow?
R. Sungenis: No, I’ve already said that, but there is a difference when a teacher speaks dogmatically and when he is giving his own opinion. When he speaks dogmatically, as Peter did in Acts 15, we have no option but to follow, because he is infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit.
Cheryl: 14) Where does the Bible teach that we must follow the traditions of man? Where does it state that Tradition should be our authority?
R. Sungenis: The Bible doesn’t teach that we follow the “traditions of man.” But it does say that we follow the tradition which carries divine revelation, 2 Thess 2:15:
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the TRADITIONS which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
Cheryl: I want to clear up one item before we go any further, and I don’t think you’ll argue with this point. I think its best to say that GOD is our only authority. The Scriptures come from Him.
R. Sungenis: It goes without saying that God is our ultimate authority. But God has manifested His authority in three channels: (1) the Church, (2) Scripture and (3) Tradition. They are equal in authority because God is directly involved in each one. This follows the biblical principle that two or three witnesses establish the truth. So your problem still stands: unless you can find a verse which says that Scripture is the only divine authority, then your preaching a false doctrine.
Cheryl: I appreciate your attempt to answer the questions I asked, but your answers are lacking substance. Robert, you seem to base most of your belief that the Roman Catholic Church can create new doctrine by just quoting three words out of the entire Bible (2 Thess 2:15), but you haven’t shown where it states in the Bible that we are to believe whatever the current leader of your church teaches, even if it isn’t the same teachings as Jesus and the Apostles.
R. Sungenis: I never said the Church can create "new doctrine" based on 2 Thess 2:15. I said we have two sources of divine revelation, according to the Bible: Scripture and Oral Tradition. Both those sources were given by God in the Apostolic Age and then He ceased. Hence, whatever was given by divine revelation in the Apostolic Age, the Church was responsible to preserve. That is why we have copies of the original autographs of Scripture and Church documents telling us the oral teachings of the Apostles.
Cheryl: I believe everything that the Apostles wrote...
R. Sungenis: If so, then you would be required to believe that the Apostles regarded their divinely inspired oral teaching the same as they regarded their divinely inspired written teaching. There is no way out of this, Cheryl.
Cheryl: ...since Jesus chose them personally, taught them directly, and gave them special authorities in the church. But when a modern leader tries to teach something that Jesus and the Apostles didn’t teach -- saying it's an oral teaching of the church -- I have a problem, especially when those teachings contradict the teachings in the Bible.
R. Sungenis: You’re right. If “a modern leader tries to teach something that Jesus and the Apostles didn’t teach -- saying it's an oral teaching of the church,” you can reject it, but no pope in the Catholic Church, speaking under the rubrics of Matthew 16:18-19, will ever sanction that a certain “oral teaching” contradicts something taught by Jesus and the Apostles.
Cheryl: Paul warns us against listening to false teaching in 2 Timothy 4:3: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
R. Sungenis: As I said before, Cheryl, this can apply to you, since you have started another church apart from the original Church. And because you are in this other church, this is why you think the Bible is your only authority: you have forsaken the original Church as your authority. But the irony of the whole situation is, the Bible commands you to have the Church as your authority (Matt 16:16-19; Acts 15:1-28; 1 Tim 3:15, et al).
Cheryl: Your story about standing up to Peter at the Council of Jerusalem doesn’t apply to the situation of today’s denominations. I would never try to argue with Peter, for Jesus granted him the power to lead His church. Peter could never be called a false prophet. We are to continue to follow his teachings today. But how are today’s church leaders the same as Peter? I respect my church leaders, but like I’ve said many times, we hope they are being led by the Holy Spirit. But how can we know for sure? The only way we can know for sure is to test their teachings against the Scriptures, just as it instructs us to do in the Bible.
R. Sungenis: You aren’t following “church leaders,” because there can only be one Church and your leaders are not members of that Church. If your “church leaders” have formed another church, I wouldn’t follow them either. As for Peter, I already told you that Peter himself declared in Acts 1:20 that the offices established must be filled. That is why Peter saw to it that the vacancy of the 12th Apostle was filled. In the same way, Peter’s office of universal leader must be filled upon Peter’s death. THAT is how we acquire our leaders, Cheryl. Not by someone waving his Bible in the 16th century stating that all that went before was wrong and that he is going to start a new church.
Cheryl: Paul states in 1 John 4:1: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
R. Sungenis: Yes, there are many false prophets, and as I said, if you are teaching doctrines the Church never sanctioned, then you could be one of those false prophets.
Cheryl: You stated that Romans 8: 1-11 says that you can’t have the Holy Spirit if you don’t obey His Scriptures and that “if someone deliberately ignores various Scripture passages, then they are not obeying Scripture, and thus they do not have the Holy Spirit.” First, let me state that I am not ignoring Scripture passages – I have addressed all the same passages that you have.
R. Sungenis: Hardly. You haven’t shown me where the Bible says it is the only divine authority, although I must have asked you this about a dozen times so far. Your only attempted answer was to give me verses which speak of the Bible’s importance, but I already know it is important. You claimed that the oral teaching of 2 Thess 2:15 was written in the Bible; and you based this on the “context” of the passage, but when I asked you where the context of 2 Thess, or any other NT passage, teaches that all orally inspired teaching was written in Scripture, you failed to give me said verses. I gave you passages which speak of a physical, authoritative and hierarchial Church, and ecclesiastical offices that are perpetuated throughout time, but you ignored them.
Cheryl: Second, the Bible doesn’t state what you just stated. The Bible says that you receive the Holy Spirit if you follow God’s law of salvation, by accepting Jesus as your savior – and it states this in the very verses you tried to quote.
Ephesians 2:13: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
R. Sungenis: Try these:
2 Peter 1:20, 2:1: First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation....But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies...”
Conclusion: “Private interpretation” leads to “false teachers who being destructive heresies.”
2 Peter 3:16-17: “There are some things in them [the Scripture] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.”
Cheryl: Robert, you say that I am ignoring Bible passages that don’t agree with my “presuppositions.” I am not ignoring any verses. You earlier asked me to show where the Bible states that the church is a spiritual entity, and I did so. I know that the original church of the Apostles had various leaders and teachers, and that there was one church of believers in Jesus, for the Bible tells us this. We need leaders to lead us – any organization must have leaders, or else everything will be in total chaos.
R. Sungenis: And that is what we have now, chaos, because so many people broke away from the one, true Church. Today we have thousands upon thousands of denominations. According to one source, this happens on a weekly basis.
Cheryl: What I disagree with is your belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church – and that today’s Roman Catholic Church has the same status as those original leaders and Apostles. Unfortunately, there is no longer one church (meaning denomination), as God wanted, because the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches split from the each other and from the one Catholic and Apostolic Church.
R. Sungenis: Two wrongs don’t make a right, Cheryl. Just because the Greek Orthodox split from the Catholic Church doesn’t now give you and the Baptists the right to split from the true Church. And, if as you state above, “God wanted” only one Church, then it still holds that God wants only one Church. But so far in this paragraph we have three churches.
Cheryl: The Roman Catholic Church later lost many members when it strayed from the teachings of the Bible. So today we have many denominations, but all believers in Jesus make up his body of believers, His church.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
R. Sungenis: Sorry, Cheryl, that is too convenient. If the Romans Catholic Church was the only Church existing from the 1st century onwards (which can easily be proven through historical records), then it had to be the true Church. If it was the true Church, then it couldn’t have strayed from any of Jesus’ teachings or the Bible’s teachings. Jesus himself said the Church had the prerogative to bind and loose and that once this was done the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. Or would you rather call Jesus a liar and posit that hell did, indeed, prevail against the Church? That’s what you are claiming, whether you know it or not, when you say that the Roman Catholic Church “strayed” from the Bible.
And talk about “straying from the Bible,” you are the one who can’t show me where the Bible says it is the only divine authority. You are the one who goes against the Bible by denying that there is inspired oral tradition that the Church was told to preserve (2 Thess 2:15). You are the one who denies the Biblical mandate that the office of ecclesial leaders must be filled. And rightly so, the Roman Catholic Church has condemned people like you for “straying” from what the Bible says.
Cheryl: God gave us his beautiful Scriptures so we can learn from them, and learn of his laws for us, his plan for salvation, and what the future holds. These Scriptures give us peace and understanding. God loves us (for he states in numerous times through his Scriptures), and he wants us to follow him. If we can agree on the truth of his Scriptures, then we should be able to agree upon all aspects of Christianity. I love God, and I want to follow his teachings, and I can tell that you do too. But where we differ is who our final authority should be. I believe that God is our ultimate authority. Before Jesus returned to Heaven, he granted authority of his church Peter and the Apostles, so they could spread his teachings. I attend church and listen to the teachings of my church leaders, but I know that if they were ever to teach something other than God’s word and what the Apostles taught us, then they would be false teachers. That is why it is crucial that we study God’s Scriptures. God knew there would be false prophets, for he warns us of them many times, so his Scriptures are our defense against their false teachings.
R. Sungenis: If you really want to obey the Scriptures, as you claim, Cheryl, then before you go to another church or say another prayer, show us where the Bible says, other than God, where the Bible is the only divine authority by which you can know divine truth. If you can’t find it, then you are preaching a false gospel – a gospel which claims that only the Bible is your only divine authority. I don’t know how much clearer to make it to you.
Cheryl: Paul wrote to the Christian churches in the Roman province of Galatia, in Galatians 1:6: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
We all need to be sure our leaders are teaching what the Scriptures have taught us. I’m sure you would agree on that. If our leaders strayed from the Scriptures, we must find other leaders.
R. Sungenis: Yes, if someone like you is in a denomination where the leaders are always saying untrue things about Scripture, I would leave too. But the true Church, in its official dogmatic teachings, will not say things that disagree with Scripture.
Cheryl: Maybe I should re-word my questions and make them more specific:
1. Yes, it does say “word of mouth” in 2 Thess 2:15, but were all the books of the New Testament written at that time?
R. Sungenis: The writing of the NT books has nothing to do with whether inspired oral revelation is a viable and perpetuating mode of divine revelation.
Cheryl: 2. If all the books in the New Testament weren’t written yet, how else would the church members receive their information from the Apostles, besides word of mouth and by letter?
R. Sungenis: 2 Thess 2:15 does not base the preservation of inspired oral teaching on whether the Bible was completed or not. You keep ‘reading into’ the passage what you want to see. The passage is clear: preserve the tradition that was spoken orally.
Cheryl: 3. You stated, “God reveals all that is necessary,” so why would he keep his laws hidden from readers of the Bible?
R. Sungenis: He didn’t. His Bible says to preserve and pay attention to orally inspired teaching. You are the one who is ignoring what the Bible is teaching.
Cheryl: 4. How do you know that the “oral teachings” that are “preserved in the historical documents” of the Roman Catholic Church are truly the teachings of God and the Apostles?
R. Sungenis: Because the Church, who, as Jesus stipulated, has the power to bind and loose, told me so (Matt 16:18-19). Or as 1 Timothy 3:15 says: “...the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.” That’s why divine revelation, as Scripture itself teaches, has two or three witnesses, since one will support and confirm the other.
Cheryl: 5. What teachings do you believe in, if the teachings contradict each other – the teachings in the Bible, or the teachings of your church?
R. Sungenis: The teaching of the Church and the Bible don’t contradict each other.
Cheryl: 6. If you knew that the leader of your church was teaching something that was wrong, what would you do?
R. Sungenis: Depends on what leader it is and from what capacity he is speaking. If he is merely giving his opinion, and his teaching is false, I can reject it and tell him so. But if he is speaking in his official capacity as the universal and infallible leader of the Church, he won’t teach something that is wrong, and therefore I won’t need to object. That’s what Matt 16:18-19 is all about.
Cheryl: 7. Robert, you state that I am confusing people since I am “not obeying the Bible’s declaration that there is more than written revelation.” Can you please point out where the Bible clearly states this? The Bible repeats, over and over and over again, in clear language, what it wants to be sure that people understand. Jesus and the Apostles knew that we humans could be hard-headed, so they repeated their teachings in multiple ways. So please show the verses where the Bible clearly shows that there is oral revelation that can only be obtained today through the Roman Catholic Church.
R. Sungenis: I already gave it to you. The primary passage is 2 Thess 2:15. The passage tells the Church to preserve the orally inspired teachings of the Apostles. Following this is Matt 16:18-19, which than gives the Church the power to decide which are the authentic orally inspired teachings as well as decide the written inspired teachings. Which brings up a good point. There were hundreds of books claiming to be inspired, but the Church only chose 27 for the NT. Why is that? Because the Church used her authority, given to her by Christ, to decide which books were authentic and which books were mere pretenders. The same process of authentication applied with the oral tradition that Church had compiled.
Cheryl: 8. How do you know that my interpretation of the Bible is wrong? (And this is not just my interpretation – this is what the Bible clearly states, and what millions of other people also believe.)
R. Sungenis: Because, when there are two different interpretations to a given verse, Cheryl, at best only one can be right. Since you haven’t shown yourself to be an infallible interpreter of Scripture, either by demonstration or by divine mandate, then the choice is rather easy. Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. There is only one true Church. Thus, anyone who comes from another church with another interpretation of Scripture is a false prophet.
Cheryl: 9. How can you be sure the Roman Catholic Church is the “one, true church” of the Bible, especially when the Roman branch was just one of five centers of the first church?
R. Sungenis: It can be shown quite easily, as I told you before in quoting St. Augustine, that the line of popes can be traced back right to Peter. Linus followed Peter, Clement followed Linus, and so on. It can also be shown that the “five centers” all gave their allegiance to the Roman bishop, the Pope, to settle matters of dispute.
Cheryl: 10. You state that “the Roman Catholic Church can prove its pedigree all the way back to the first century. There was no other Church existing in that time.” There were actually four other centers of the first church – Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. Were they all wrong? Why?
R. Sungenis: No, they all followed the doctrinal decrees from Rome. That can be proven very easily as well.
Cheryl: 11. How do you know that the Greek Orthodox Church, which also claims to be the “true church” is not the one, true church?
R. Sungenis: Because, as a matter of logic, you can’t have two true churches.
Cheryl: 12. You state that “the prerogative of making the final decision on what a given text means is reserved only for the supreme authority God has put in place. I gave you examples of that in Acts 1 and Acts 15 when Peter made the final decision on the interpretation of Scripture.” Yes, we agree that Peter does have that final decision. So why did leaders after Peter negate his final decisions and add their own decisions?
R. Sungenis: This is precisely the problem you’ve been having since we started this discussion, Cheryl. You don’t comprehend what the passages are saying. The leaders didn’t “negate” Peter’s decision. Peter’s decision was that no Gentile need ever be circumcised in order to become a Christian. No one at the Jerusalem council contradicted that teaching. The only thing they did was add four pastoral directives for the local churches so that Peter’s denouncing of circumcision would proceed more smoothly among the Jews and Gentiles. And this is precisely the way the Catholic Church operates today. The pope gives the primary doctrine, and his bishops implement that doctrine with their own pastoral directives.
Cheryl: You stated, "It is truly sad when, after you claim the Bible as your only divine authority, you simply can't find a Scripture passage where the Bible teaches such a doctrine. Unfortunately, Satan has deceived you very well. This just shows the blindness that Protestants are in, and there is simply nothing I will be able to do about it." I don't see how you can determine this from the points I have addressed. I have listed Scripture passage after Scripture passage, but you just throw them to the side and don't pay any attention to them. If I can't quote the Bible, what else can I quote, since these are the words from God. We can't talk to him face to face at this time, so we depend on the Bible for our knowledge. I'm sorry if you don't believe in the Bible, and I will continue to pray for God to open your heart to his Scriptures.
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, please try, very hard, to understand what I am going to say so that you can come back with a more reasonable and intelligent response, otherwise it is simply futile to discuss things with you any longer. Your quoting of Scripture passages doesn't mean a thing to me if you are quoting the wrong Scripture passages and/or trying to distort their original intent. The devil quoted Scripture passages to Jesus many times (Matthew 4:1-10) and continues to do the same today as he appears as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14-15). So you don't impress me by quoting Scripture. I've been studying Scripture for 30 years and I can tell the difference between people who really know Scripture and people who are mere pretenders.
Please understand that, the only thing that will impress me, and the only reason I will continue this conversation, is when you produce just one passage of Scripture that says the Bible is the ONLY divine authority. Just one, that's all I ask. Please don't give me passages that say the Bible is "important" or "inspired" or "from God" or anything of the sort. I already know those truths. I want a passage that says, clearly, the Bible is the ONLY divine authority. I don't want passages that say the Bible is A authority, but one that says it is the ONLY authority. If you can't find one, then you have simply lost this debate.
If you find such a passage, then exegete it and tell me why you think it says the Bible is the only divine authority.
Cheryl: Robert, there is really no way one of us can determine if we’ve “lost” or “won” this debate. God will be our final judge, and he knows the truth of his Scriptures. We must face his judgment in the end. He knows our hearts and our minds, and he knows what he has taught us through Jesus and the Apostles.
While on earth, Jesus taught us his plan for our lives and for our salvation. He then appointed his Apostles to share his teachings. If you re-read the New Testament, you will see that the Apostles taught only the gospel of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. They emphasized, over and over, the importance of following this gospel of Jesus, and this gospel only. They showed how prophesy of the earlier scriptures was fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Throughout the Old Testament, the coming of Jesus was foretold, but nowhere in the New Testament do the Apostles state that another gospel will be revealed in the future – a gospel of praying to Mary and saints, etc. In fact, the Apostles warned against other gospels and warned of the destruction that would come from teaching any other gospel. This shows that the Bible, which they describe as the gospel of Jesus and the Word of God, is the only gospel and the only one we should follow.
2 Thessalonians 1:8: He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if you receive. . a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
Galatians 1:6-9: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
2 Peter 2:1 states: But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.
Jesus revealed everything that he learned from God. He did not hold anything back from us. Everything he knew he revealed to us through the Scriptures.
Jesus says in John 15:15: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
The Bible describes the Scriptures and its usage in these words (taken from various verses):
God-breathed, power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, a righteousness from God is revealed, not ashamed of the gospel, do all things for the sake of the gospel, share in its blessings, Jesus’ commands, Jesus’ teachings, words of the Father, everything learned from my Father, all made known to you, hope, endurance, encouragement, from God, not from the prophet’s own interpretation, sound teaching, guard the good deposit, words taught by the Spirit, truth, able to read and understand, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, thoroughly equipped for every good work, word of truth, gospel of salvation, flawless, a shield, if anyone loves me he will obey my teaching, living, active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrates soul and spirit, judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Words used in the Bible to describe teachings outside the Scriptures and its authors:
False doctrines, myths, promote controversies, many false prophets, he who does not love me will not obey my teaching, turning to a different gospel, really no gospel at all, throws you into confusion, trying to pervert the gospel of Christ, false teachers eternally condemned, false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ, masquerade as servants of righteousness, false teachers, destructive heresies, bring swift destruction, bring the way of truth into disrepute, exploit, stories they have made up, say what their itching ears want to hear, turn their ears away from the truth, Do not add to his words, do not add to His words, do not go beyond what is written Do not believe every spirit, test the spirits.
(1 Timothy 1:3-4, 1 John 4:1, John 14: 23-26, Galatians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 2 Peter 2:1, 2 Peter 1:16, 2 Timothy 4:3, Proverbs 30:5-6)
Please find, if you can, verses that teach the reasons we should follow another gospel that did not directly come from Jesus and was taught directly to the Apostles. According to all these verses above, we must only follow the gospel of Jesus. I believe there are some wonderful servants of God in the Catholic Church, but I am worried that some Christians are being led astray by being taught to pray to Mary and saints. Can you please show me where the gospel of Jesus tells us to do so? If Jesus tells us to do so, we must follow his teachings; but if he does not tell us to do so, would this be following the teachings of men and not God?
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, despite your disclaimers, you've lost the debate. I asked you for a verse of Scripture that says the Bible is the ONLY divine authority. I asked you for this verse because you kept insisting that the Bible was your only divine authority. Now, either you are making the assertion that the Bible is the ONLY authority, or the Bible is. If it's the Bible, then where does it say so? Unfortunately, you don't seem to know what the word "ONLY" means, or, more likely, you do, indeed, know what it means but can't find a verse of Scripture that uses it in reference to Scripture. I'm not interested in passages which extol Scripture. I already hold Scripture in the highest esteem. I wanted a Scripture verse (not your opinions) that says Scripture is the ONLY authority. Since you haven't provided one, then you have no support for your Protestantism, period.
Again, thank you for the discussion. It has indeed been very enlightening.
Cheryl: Since I cannot stray from God’s teachings in the Bible, and since you won’t stray from the teachings of your church, can we now start fresh with a discussion on our religions’ other beliefs? If you would like to start with a question for me on my religion, I would be more than happy to answer it.
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, I'll try to say this nicely. Here me again. You asserted the Bible was your ONLY divine authority. I asked you to show me where the Bible teaches that assertion. You didn't give me one. Instead, you gave me a lot of verses extoling the greatness of Scripture. I already know it's great. I use it all the time. Hence, if you're not going to answer my specific request, there is no sense in continuing a discussion with someone who can't prove from the Bible what she claims from the Bible.
Or perhaps you don't understand the question (and it wouldn't be the first time). I had a similar discussion with a Protestant a few years ago, and it took him about a month to understand what I was really asking him. Prior to that, he did the same thing you are doing now, that is, he would quote verses indicting the greatness of Scripture. Then one day it finally dawned on him. Unfortunately, he was not able to come up with a verse, and then the discussion stopped. That is where we are right now.
So, here goes. If you find a verse of Scripture that says the Bible is the ONLY divine authority, I will forsake Catholicism in a heartbeat, because you will have proved it to be a false religion. No kidding, Cheryl. Just one verse will do, and I will disown Catholicism faster than you can say "John Paul II."
Until then, there is nothing else to talk about. You are the one who initiated this conversation, and you are the one who insisted that we deal with Scripture first. I obliged on both counts. But if you're going to deal with Scripture, then deal with it. Stop putzing around with verses that don't prove your point. I hope you understand.
Cheryl: You seemed determined to argue with the word of God. To say that you can believe in other teachings just because you can’t find the exact word “only,” is the same as trying to twist the Bible to mean what you want it to mean. That is like a person who wants to believe, let’s say, that God had a daughter that he sent to earth. This person could argue that nowhere in the Bible does it say that God didn’t have a daughter that we should worship, so therefore, how could we prove that this person’s belief was false.
R. Sungenis: Mere excuses, Cheryl. Your analogies don't impress me. They only show your desperation. You were the one who used the word "ONLY" in our correspondence. If you don't believe me, then I suggest you re-read it. Thus, since you claimed the Bible was your ONLY divine authority, then it shouldn't be hard for you to show us where the Bible teaches that it is the ONLY divine authority. This is not rocket science, Cheryl. Either you are making all this up or the Bible says it is the ONLY authority.
Cheryl: I have quoted verses that prove that we must not believe in other gospels other than what Jesus and the Apostles taught us in the Bible, but you continue to ignore them. I have not stated my opinion, only the word of God. Since you believe the verses I quoted don’t say we must follow only the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, maybe you could show me why.
R. Sungenis: And you accused me a while back of sounding like a politician?? Cheryl, understand this. Find me a verse of Scripture that says that we only know the Gospel through the Bible and nothing else (that is, not through the Church or Tradition).
Cheryl: Can you please answer the following questions?
Where does the Bible state that we can follow teachings that are different than what Jesus and the Apostles taught us?
R. Sungenis: It doesn't and I never claimed it did. Stop playing games with this, Cheryl. The question is very simple. Where does the Bible say it is the only divine authority?
Cheryl: What does the following verse mean? I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
R. Sungenis: It means what it says, but you're not following it. If you can't tell us where the Bible says it is the only divine authority, then you are preaching a false gospel, Cheryl. You are imposing your belief on the Bible when the Bible doesn't teach what you are saying about it being the only divine authority.
Cheryl: What does the following verse mean? But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
R. Sungenis: It means what it says, and if you are preaching something the Bible doesn't preach (e.g., that the Bible is the only divine authority) then you are to be condemned.
Cheryl: What does the following verse mean? Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you to prove you a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6).
R. Sungenis: It means what it says, but you are adding to His word by putting something in the Bible that isn't there, that is, you are adding that the Bible says it is the only divine authority but the Bible never claims such. The Bible doesn't need your help, Cheryl. It is flawless. And if it doesn't claim to be the only divine authority, then surely it doesn't need someone like you to say the opposite.
Cheryl: What does the following verse mean? Acts 17:11: Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
R. Sungenis: It means what it says. Note that when St. Paul came to Thessalonica, HE, not the Thessalonians, was the first to open up the Scriptures and preach to them (Acts 17:1-3). The same thing happened in Berea. There was only one problem, however. The Old Testament never mentioned the name of "Jesus" as being the Messiah. St. Paul then informed the Thessalonians and the Bereans, as he did everyone else, that "Jesus" was "the Messiah" of the Old Testament, which is something they could not know from just reading the Old Testament.
Note that, the Bereans listened to Paul and "received the word [Paul's teaching that "Jesus" was "the Messiah"] with great eagerness." It was by Paul's authority, as an Apostle, that they believed him. And only after they accepted St. Paul's authority, did they then look into the Scripture (Acts 17:11). Scripture was used as an added testimony to St. Paul's authority, not as you claim -- the ONLY divine authority.
Cheryl: Instead of telling me that my belief -- God’s word and God’s word only -- is wrong, maybe you could show my why.
R. Sungenis: I have done so. I hope you stop fighting it and surrender your will to the truth, not your own inventions.
Cheryl: Robert, You seem to be going around and around in circles. None of your answers to my questions make any sense. The Bible says that you can’t follow any other gospel but the Bible, and you say you agree with that teaching. How then can you believe in any other gospel? You’ve agreed before that you believe another gospel – the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church – some of which cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. Either you believe that there is no other gospel, or you believe that there is. Which is it?
R. Sungenis: Let's try this one more time.
1) There is only one Gospel.
2) What I believe about the Gospel is found in Scripture, and nothing I believe about the Gospel is contradicted by Scripture.
3) I've already given you the verses from the Bible in which the Bible says that the Church and Tradition are also our authorities in addition to the written word (Mt 16:18-19; 1 Tim 3:15; 2 Thess 2:15).
4) You have failed to show me a verse that supports your gospel, a gospel that says that the Bible is the ONLY divine authority. Until you give me that verse, Cheryl, then you are the one who is dancing around in circles.
If you claim the Bible is the ONLY divine authority, then show me where the Bible says what you claim. That isn't very hard to understand, is it? Stop trying to turn the tables and put the burden on me. You made the claim. So let's see the proof. A child could understand what I'm asking for.
Let me warn you also that, this whole dialogue is being posted on our website for the whole world to see. If I were you I would answer my question directly and not be evasive (as you have been).
Cheryl: John 15:15: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
You said that John 15:15 “means what it says.” Yes, it says that Jesus has made all of the teachings of God known to us. If he has shared all of God’s teachings with us, why do we need other gospels – gospels that are not taught by Jesus? If Jesus didn’t give us these gospels, how can they be true? And if you agree, as you say, that the Bible is flawless, why does the Roman Catholic Church need to add to it?
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, try to understand, please. We don't need "other gospels." There is only one true Gospel. I have said that repeatedly. One of us has it, the other one doesn't.
And yes, the Bible says that everything Jesus knows from the Father he has made known to the Apostles, but the Bible also says that not everything Jesus told the Apostles is written in the Bible.
John 21:25: But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
This is further proof that oral tradition, as taught by 2 Thess 2:15, is our divine authority along with the written word.
Cheryl: Are any of the teachings from the Roman Catholic Church different than what Jesus and the Apostles taught us? Do the Catholic teachings of Mary and the saints agree with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles? If so, how do they agree?
R. Sungenis: I told you were not going to discuss any other topic until you answer the question I gave you about the Bible. Again, you were the one who initited this dialogue, and you were the one who wanted to discuss the Bible first.
So tell us, Cheryl, where does the Bible teach that it is the ONLY divine authority?
Cheryl: I don’t know why you say I am following my own inventions. And how am I following a false gospel by believing in the Bible? How am I “putting something in the Bible that isn’t there” when I am only quoting the Bible? I didn’t invent the Bible; I am only following the teachings of God that he gave us in the Bible. I also said earlier that God is my divine authority, and that I follow his teachings. His words are the truth. You say that I am showing my “desperation” with my arguments. I don’t see how quoting the Bible and believing in God’s teachings is “desperation.” You recounted the story about the Bereans listening to Paul and receiving his teachings with great eagerness. Yes, I listen to Paul too. He wrote his teachings in the Bible, and since I read the Bible and believe in its teachings, I am following the teachings of Paul and the other Apostles.
R. Sungenis: Cheryl, I meet all kinds of people who quote from the Bible but that doesn't mean anything, mainly because they only believe what they want to believe from the Bible. What they don't like they ignore. And that is what you are doing. Just to name a few, you've ignored the Bible's teaching that it isn't the ONLY authority. You've ignored the Bible's teaching that the Church and Tradition are additional authorities. The result? You are not following the Bible. You are following Cheryl's version of the Bible, and unfortuntately for you, that is a false gospel.
Finally, since you have been evasive now for the last few exchanges concerning my direct question to you that asks you for a verse of Scripture that teaches that ONLY the Bible is the divine authority, if you don't answer it in your next email, then I will simply ignore your email and cease any responses. All of the dialogue will be put on our website as it is.
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