I think the most dividing issue between the three main branches of Christianity (P, GO, & C) is the issue on authority. After all, many of the comments that I have come across by those who oppose the Catholic Church seem to indicate that they question the authority which the Catholic Church has claimed. During the reformation, a number of people wanted to reform the Church from its current abuses and they all claimed to know what the truth is. They all wanted to reform the Christian Church and they all had their own ideas on how the Christian Church should be. Naturally, there were disagreements between them and so they all split up and set up their own denominations (or churches). They all claim to be the true Church of God and that people should listen to them. Same thing with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as always, claims to have been given authority by God to carry out various duties of interpreting Scripture as well as administrating and governing the various activities for the people of the Church.

When we read on the history of the Christian Church throughout the ages, we learn about the many events which helped to shape the Church and determine its place in the current society. We learn of the accomplishments and foul-ups of the Church. Some people end up asking, "If the Catholic church has done so many wrong things in the past, how could it possibly be the Church that God established?". Some people claim that their church is true church (or one of the true churches). Others are more indifferent and say that as long as you stick with the teachings of the Bible, you are part of the Church of God. They say that the Church of God could be found in any (or almost any) denomination which looks to the Bible and only to the Bible for authority.

While I don't know what the Greek Orthodox Church believes (since I haven't yet read on the issue from their perspective), the Catholic Church claims that the Scriptures need an authority to do the proper interpreting of Scripture. Therefore, so the claim goes, God speaks to His people not just through the Bible, but also through the mouths of the Church's appointed leaders (ie: speaking through tradition). Some people seem to think that only writing cannot err and that oral communication can. I have thought about that and I end up asking two questions...

  1. Is it possible for God to be speaking through both writings and speech? Could it be that God will only limit His communication to His people to only writing?
  2. If God can talk to us through the mouths of people, does it happen? How trustworthy could it be?
I think Scriptures do need an authoritative interpreter. The way I see the Bible is that it is the message of salvation which God wishes us to receive. I regard it as a manual to life; if you want to live your life well, read the Bible. I also think it contains various messages or hints with and from which doctrines maybe formulated. I think it is this that needs authorize interpreters.

Now one might say that that is assuming that an institutional teaching church exists, one that would claim, as the Catholic Church does, that it has been given authority by God to come up with doctrines and teachings on matters of faith and morals. Some have said that if God wanted to tell people His message of salvation, then everybody should be able to read Scriptures for himself and interpret it because the Holy Spirit will guide them. Obviously something has gone wrong if you end up with contradictions on various teachings since the Holy Spirit cannot say to one person (or denomination) that homosexuality (for example) is fine while telling another that it is not.

I think if we, the common people at least, look at Scripture simply as a book of advice and encouragement, then anybody who knows how to read can go ahead and read God's Word. But if we were to look at Scripture on matters of doctrine and theology (eg: Trinity, salvation, etc), then that would require interpreters. That is why, after all, we have bible scholars and theologians. They, in the interest and pursuit of truth, are there to come up with the interpretations which constitute the Divine Truth. (The internet has literature on this and I will link to them later...)

Mose's Law had Pharisees to be its authorized interpreters. I thought that if the Old Testament could have authorized interpreters, why not the New Testament? And in that sense, why not the whole Bible? Christ said to the people that they must listen to the Pharisees (but don't do what they do because they don't practise what they preach). {Sorry I don't have the reference at the moment.}

I think this has a lot to do with faith. Do you believe that God can use fallible men to teach infallible Scripture? And to write infallible Scripture? Do you think God can use sinful men to carry out God's Word of eternal salvation (which is so very, very important) to mankind? Keep in mind that most of the people back then don't know how to read. Keep in mind also that the movable type print was not invented until about fourteen centuries after Pentecost. Therefore, you won't find bibles in every Christian household. So how were people to learn about God's Word if they couldn't read and/or they had no money to buy Scripture? They had to come to the elders to access teachings found in God's Word. And then the elders would teach them. If you read into the history of the early church (ie: 1st, 2nd, 3rd century) and consider how church administration and organization was done, you should be able to see that what Protestants call "Sola Scriptura" (Scripture only) was not possible.

For me, I have a bottomline rule and that is - if the early church unanimously agreed with something, it's good enough for me. Since Christ sent the Holy Spirit to guide the church "into all truth" and that He Himself will be with the church "unto the end of the world", I really can't see how the church can teach something wrong as being right. Don't expect the Church of God with all its leaders and members to be holy people because if that's one's criteria for finding the Church of God, you won't find one because there are no religions in this world that have all its members (or even just leaders) who lead holy lives.

As noted earlier, some say that the Church of God is invisible and is found in those who have "accepted Christ as personal Lord and Savior". A couple of questions that would then pop up in my mind is: How is this Church to be like and how does it fit in with the rest of the world? Is this Church to be organized? More specifically, the question which was raised earlier may be asked again: "Is this church a teaching church?" If it is, then it would clearly have to be a visible and institutional church.

Some have reasoned that the Church is not to be part of this world since we now belong to Christ and are not of this world. But then I would wonder: Since Christians are suppose to be "the candlelight set on the table for all to see" and our duty is to "preach the good news to the far corners of the earth", don't we have to establish some kind of position within human society so that others may identify us and our uniqueness? Do we not have organize ourselves such that the world will see us standing out and realize that we may actually have a prominent role to play here on earth and will have some kind of everlasting impact and effect on mankind? And so the debate goes on...

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