Monday, June 22, 2020

A fellow Catholic wrote with a good question.

I would like to ask you a question. When I was in grade school, everyone just accepted the Bible as the Word of God. If you said, “It’s in the Bible” then it was assumed to be true, even if it was a very questionable interpretation. Now, I think that the number of people who believe that the Bible is true is dwindling rapidly.

If someone were to ask, “Why should I accept the Bible as the Word of God?”, I think Protestants would quote 2 Tim 3:16 (“All scripture is inspired by God”) or say that it is self-evident. Catholics would say that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who cannot lie, therefore, it is true. I think that is a valid argument, but it seems like not enough for many people today. 

So the question is, why don’t Catholics defend the Bible using other arguments as well? For example, archaeology? You have been very good at that, and John Bergsma talks about the Dead Sea Scrolls and has a talk called ‘But Did it Really Happen’ but I don’t hear much about it in general. 

How about textual criticism (and countering Bart Erhman)? Brant Pitre has the Case for Jesus, but otherwise, I only know of Protestants e.g. Craig Evans making a case. Any comments are welcome. It just seems like I am missing something. FYI, I personally believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. 

Patrick from Wisconsin

My response:


I agree with you completely. We have done a very poor job in our age of making our case. Catholic tend to retreat into a life of devotion and prayer and detach themselves from the bump and grind of the real world and its issues. In some ways, we have fallen prey to the secular way of looking at Scripture. We think of ourselves as “faith people” with a “faith walk” which are phrases that are new on the scene and I have a big aversion to them.

The world, and all to often our own camp as well, think that faith = fairy tale, or faith = believing in something completely non-verifiable in a scientific way. This is not me and many of the new scholars like Hahn, Pitre, and others of course, but unhappily it is true of too many Catholics and Protestants.

I understand the word “faith” as a belief in something with good and sufficient reasons, verifiable facts, and rational arguments. As an example, why do I sit on my dining chair? Because I have good and sufficient reasons to believe it will hold me up. I have faith in the chair.

But the modern use of the word to often means to be a silly adherence to irrational and unscientific things— like healings, miracles, the resurrection, need for prayer, Real Presence, the inspiration of Scripture, etc. Very sad and we tend to play right into the hands of the secular world.

By the way, 2 Timothy 3:16 does not necessarily prove our 73 books of the Bible are all inspired. It only informs us that St. Paul claims the Old Testament writings were breathed by God but has nothing to say concerning the New Testament books except by extrapolation.

When I was younger there was an atheist named Madeline Murray O’Hare who has since disappeared. She would get on TV shows and the Christians in the audience would stand up and quote at her from the Bible. She would say, “I don’t believe that silly old book full of old tales and spiritual experiences. It has no authority.” The next person would stand up and quote from the Bible again. It was useless and embarrassing. No one knew how to confront her in a meaningful way.

We have to confront the atheist, secularist, materialist, Marxist, skeptics on their OWN ground. They have no ultimate meaning to life and we need to push them into a corner and force them to see their meaningless existence without God and the Christian gospel. It is satisfying to do, but very few do it. They retreat into the “faith walk” and join the “faith groups” and have no idea how to explain and defend the truth of Catholicism philosophically, historically, archaeologically, rationally and biblically. Sad.

No wonder the world is not flocking into the Church the way it did when we had intellectual giants and a whole different world view we wore on our sleeves. Do I see a change on the horizon— unhappily no. I pray for a combination of spiritual and intellectual reformation and revival.

Steve Ray