Whatever happened to Catholic apologist Gary Michuta? Recall, Dr. White debated Gary on the apocrypha a few years ago (MP3’s of the debate can be found here). Well, Gary has put together a large website and a blog with occasional entries. A recent entry stated,
“Christians often fool themselves into believing that the bible is guiding them into all truth and that the truth of the bible is so clear that any unbiased person can determine its true meaning. The fact of the matter is even the clearest texts have multiple possible meanings.”
The irony of this statement is my recent purchase of Patrick Madrid’s A Pocket Guide to Catholic Apologetics[Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2006]. This handy little guide consists of nothing more than Scripture references designed for Roman Catholics feeling “flat-footed and ignorant about how Scripture supports Catholic beliefs and practices” (p.9). You would expect Madrid to tell his readers to keep the Catholic Catechism handy for interpretation, but he simply recommends purchasing an RSV (Catholic Edition) and highlighting all the prooftexts he lists.
Early on, Madrid lists those texts establishing the authority of the papacy. But I wonder why, since of the fifty or so texts cited, an infallible interpretation has yet to be given from Rome. The Catholic scholar Raymond Brown has actually said the Roman Catholic Church “…has never defined the literal sense of a single passage of the Bible” [The Critical Meaning of the Bible (New York: Paulist, 1981), p.40]. I’d like to ask Gary Michuta if he would recommend Madrid’s book. It appears to operate on the assumption “the bible is so clear that any unbiased person can determine its true meaning.”
What of Michuta’s charges against the perspicuity of Scripture? One wonders if Michuta thinks the Bereans were fooling themselves when they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). Paul assumes his words were clear: “For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end.” I’d like to ask Michuta how it was that even an unbeliever was able to read the Law and interpret it correctly (Luke 10:26-28).
Michuta is implying the Bible needs an infallible interpreter or else it can’t be understood. But the infallible interpreter appears to be asleep at the job, or more precisely, sleeping for centuries. There is no infallible committee or pontiff I’m aware of diligently pouring over the Scriptures and infallibly interpreting them for the Roman church. I’ve yet to see the RSV (Catholic infallible interpretive edition) at my local Catholic bookstore.
Michuta goes on to present an example of one his clearest texts of scripture, “This is my body” (Matthew 26:26), and posits Protestants have at least 200 interpretations of these words. No examples are given, but a link to a document in Latin is put forward as evidence. One must press Michuta to put forth the goods. Does Gary really want to imply that unless one joins the Roman Catholic Church, one is left with interpretive chaos? How can his position explain the papal encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu that states there are very few instances of unanimous patristic exegesis? In other words, Gary should not put forth a standard he himself cannot meet. The alleged infallible church couldn’t even decide on the number of sacraments for quite some time, but yet they are to be looked to for clarity and certainty!
The Reformers held Scripture interprets Scripture. “This means quite simply, that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture” [R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Illinois: Intervaristy Press, 1977), 46]. This principle was at work before the Reformation. Even Catholic apologist Steve Ray notes, “The Protestant principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, is not a Protestant innovation at all. It has been taught and practiced from the earliest years in the Catholic Church, as a short review of the Church Fathers writings and the subsequent teachings of the Church clearly demonstrates” [Stephen Ray, Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999) pp. 263-264]. Thus, the Reformers were in unity with those who preceded them.
We are called to be diligent students of God’s word. It is that which thoroughly equips Christians for every good work. The words of God make one wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:14-17). They were written so that we may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). Michuta would have you believe you are fooling yourself by relying on Scripture, but Scripture is the very word of God. The Psalmist says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” If the Bible is the very word of God, how could I not be being guided into the truth by reading its words? If Gary wants me to think I’m fooling myself, I must simply ask who’s words are really unclear, his or those found in the Bible?