Sunday, July 31, 2005

Why Don't Catholics Read The Bible



We as Catholics hear this question a good deal. We are also asked, why won't the Church allow Catholics to read the Bible? Catholics do read the Bible, and are encouraged by the Church to do so. Many who accuse the Church of discouraging the faithful to read the Bible, both Old and New Testament, have no idea about the teachings and guidance of the Church in the reading of Holy Scripture. A great number of Popes and Saints have encouraged the reading of Holy Scripture by the faithful., and indeed, even today the Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages the reading of Holy Scripture by the faithful. Where the confusion lies in this idea of Catholics not reading the Bible, is that we as Catholics know that only the Holy Spirit through the Church is the sole interpreter of Holy Scripture for the guidance and inspiration of the faithful.
 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding Holy Scripture instructs the faithful:
 
123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).
 
129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.
 
133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,' by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.'"
 
140 The unity of the two Testaments proceeds from the unity of God's plan and his Revelation. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old; the two shed light on each other; both are true Word of God.
 
1437 Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Our Father—every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins.
 
2205 The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.
 
The Saints and the Popes made these statements instructing the faithful to read Holy Scripture:
 
Saint Jerome--I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: "Search the Scriptures," and "Seek and you shall find." For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
 
Saint John Chrysostom (Doctor of the Church)--“To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures” 

“But what is the answer to these charges?‘I am not', you will say, ‘one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.’ This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.”
 
Pope St. Gregory I--“The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joy”.
 
St. Isidore (Bishop and Doctor of the Church)-- “Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us... If a man wants to be always in God's company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us." 
 
“Reading the holy Scriptures (the Bible) confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man's attention from the follies of the world and leads him to the love of God. "
 
“Two kinds of study are called for here. We must first learn how the Scriptures are to be understood, and then see how to expound them with profit and in a manner worthy of them. A man must first be eager to understand what he is reading before he is fit to proclaim what he has learned."
 
“The conscientious reader will be more concerned to carry out what he has read than merely to acquire knowledge of it... Learning unsupported by grace may get into our ears; it never reaches the heart. It makes a great noise outside but serves no inner purpose. But when God's grace touches our innermost minds to bring understanding, his word which has been received by the ear sinks deep into the heart.”

Pope Leo XIII--“The solicitude of the apostolic office naturally urges and even compels us…to desire that this grand source of Catholic revelation (the Bible) should be made safely and abundantly accessible to the flock of Jesus Christ” 
 
“...For sacred Scripture is not like other books. Dictated by the Holy Ghost, it contains things of the deepest importance, which in many instances are most difficult and obscure. To understand and explain such things there is always required the 'coming' of the same Holy Ghost; that is to say, His light and His grace...It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of holy Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred... and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration is not only essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.”

Pope St. Pius X-- “Nothing would please us more than to see our beloved children form the habit of reading the Gospels - not merely from time to time, but every day.”

Pope Pius XII--“Our predecessors, when the opportunity occurred, recommended the study or preaching or in fine the pious reading and meditation of the sacred Scriptures. ...This author of salvation, Christ, will men more fully know, more ardently love and more faithfully imitate in proportion as they are more assiduously urged to know and meditate the Sacred Letters, especially the New Testament...”

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

INFANT BAPTISM AND THE EARLY FATHERS


INFANT BAPTISM AND THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS

One of the many differences between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches, particularly, the “Bible” Churches, is in regard to the Catholic Church baptizing infants. The Protestant claim is, that infants and small children should not be baptized until they have reached the “age of reason”, usually age seven or older. We as Catholics believe, that although an infant is not guilty of personal sin, an infant, as in all mankind, is carrying original sin, and must be baptized for the remission of that sin.

The “Bible” Churches say that no where in the Bible is there any instance of an infant being baptized, which is true. Yet, it is also true, that nowhere in the Bible is there any indication of a child in a believing home, being baptized after they had reached the “age of reason”. In fact, there is no explicit evidence in the Bible of baptism of infants or later as children among the believers. There are several examples in the Bible of entire households of new believers being baptized, and it would be rather silly at the least to assume that this would not have included infants.(Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33, 1 Cor. 1:16) Also, let us not forget, that Saint Luke in his Gospel, tells us that even little infants were brought to Jesus, in Luke 18: 15-16:People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. When we baptize infants, indeed we bring them to Jesus!

There was no argument or misunderstanding regarding infant baptism until the Reformation. Further, the Early Church Fathers were keenly aware of the necessity of infant baptism, and their only argument was in regards as to the necessity of waiting until eight days after the newborns birth as required for circumcision (see Leviticus12:2-3). Baptism replaced circumcision, as circumcision cannot save, yet baptism through water and the Word of God, cleanses a person of all sin, and sanctifies a person in Christ to everlasting life. Further, through baptism an infant receives sanctifying grace, the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Now, let us see what the Early Fathers of the Church, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Origen, and Augustine had to say about infant baptism:

Irenaeus:
"He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age" (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).

Hippolytus:
"Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them" (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Origen:
"Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).

"The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit" (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage:
"As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born" (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).

"If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another" (ibid., 64:5).

Augustine:
"What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond" (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).

"The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic" (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).

"Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born" (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).

"By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration" (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

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