Q: In your column a week or two ago, you said something about all of the Church’s teachings being able to be proved by the Bible. I started thinking about that and I know I have been stumped before by questions about the Bible in relation to Church teaching, although reading things like your column have helped me to answer some of those questions, some I’m still working on. But, it got me thinking, have you ever been stumped by a Bible question from a non-Catholic?
A: Yes, in the sense that I have been asked questions about the Bible – from both non-Catholics and Catholics – that I could not immediately answer. No, in the sense that I have yet to come across a question about the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Faith that I was not able to find either direct or indirect biblical support for once I went looking for it.
Now, when I say “direct or indirect” support, I want to clarify that by giving an example or two. There are, obviously, many things in the Catholic Faith that are directly supported by Scripture. The Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, for example, is directly supported by the Bible in places like Matthew 26:26-29 (“This is My body…”), John 6:51-58 (“My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink…”), 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 (“…guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord…”), and others. These passages directly state what we believe about the Eucharist.
There are also passages that directly support the Church’s teaching on Baptism: John 3:3-5 (born again; necessary to enter the Kingdom), 1 Peter 3:21 (saved through Baptism), Acts 2:38 (wash away sins; receive the Holy Spirit), and more. These passages directly state what we believe on Baptism. Those are just two examples of what I mean by direct support from Scripture, and I could give many more.
Then, there are teachings of the Church that are not found directly in the Scriptures, but which the Scriptures nevertheless provide indirect support for. A perfect example of this kind of teaching is the Assumption of Mary. Nowhere in the Bible does it directly say that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven. Yet, in Revelation 12, you have a woman in Heaven, who has a body – it mentions she is clothed and refers to her hands and feet – and she is giving birth to the male child who will rule all the nations with a rod of iron. So, who is this woman? Well, at a primary level, this woman is Mary, since Mary is the mother of the male child (Jesus) who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. That’s why you hear this scripture passage read during the Mass on August 15th – the Feast of the Assumption.
Infant Baptism is another example of a Church teaching for which the Bible provides indirect support. Nowhere in the Bible does it directly say that we should baptize infants (very important to note here, though, that nowhere in the Bible does it say we shouldn’t baptize infants). Yet, the Bible makes the connection for us between Baptism and circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12), and we know that in the Old Testament, circumcision was done when a child was only eight days old. If Baptism is the new circumcision, and children were circumcised, then shouldn’t children be baptized? Also, in Acts 2:39, after telling everyone to be baptized, Peter says, “For the promise is to you and to your children…” And, in John 3:3-5, it says that no one (no distinction made between adults and children here) can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless they are born of water and the Spirit (Baptism). In other words, just from the Bible alone, there is plenty of indirect evidence for the practice of Infant Baptism.
So, some teachings of the Church are directly supported, and some are indirectly supported, by the Bible. Now, there is one other thing that I want to address in answer to your question. I never said, and I never will say, that the Church’s teachings can be “proved” by the Bible. We can’t really “prove” anything with the Bible. I always tell people that when explaining the Church’s teachings using just the Bible – which is often what we are forced to do when discussing our faith with “Bible-only” Christians – we simply offer evidence for what the Church teaches. We build the case for Church teaching, we don’t “prove” Church teaching. That’s what apologetics is all about – offering evidence. As I’ve said in the last couple of columns, we don’t convert anyone – we don’t “prove” anything to anyone – we throw out the seeds, we make the sound and reasoned arguments, and we leave the proving, the converting, up to the Holy Spirit.