Is Anyone Sola Scriptura? (Catholic Stand)

Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Stand.

Coffee Shop Calvinism

I recently came across a group of men from the Reformed Church we left to become Catholic who were gathered at our local Starbucks. They were discussing theology, and didn’t notice I was sitting next to them for several minutes while they talked about things like “once saved, always saved,” TULIP, and other Calvinist doctrine. It was interesting to listen in on this discussion on some of the very issues that led me from that church and into a life as a passionate Catholic.

This is a group of men who are adamantly Sola Scriptura. But they left the coffee shop that day, not with Bibles in hand, but with thick-as-the-Catechism sized copies of Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem clutched to their chests.

Is Anyone Sola Scriptura?

The belief in the sufficiency of Scripture, wherein one believes Scripture is sufficient to tell us all we need concerning the theological truths God desired to reveal to mankind, can only be believed to be true in light of accurate interpretation. Even to a non-Catholic it has to be, at the very least, Scripture + accurate interpretation.

The longer I look into these issues, the more I am convinced of the impossibility of truly being Sola Scriptura. Even the men from that Reformed Church, implicitly, are living out their faith through the interpretive lens of Grudem and his Calvinist interpretation of Scripture.

Now, this practical reality does not stretch as far as to encompass a Protestant substitute for the Catholic belief in Tradition and the Magisterium – and of course a Calvinist, for example, would say that even Grudem’s words are not infallible. But it does indicate heavily an implicit acknowledgement that Scripture requires an interpretive authority. We need to look at Scripture through some sort of lens. The importance of the accuracy of that lens cannot be understated because if we have a Bible, but can’t interpret it correctly, then we are in big trouble. And we can’t interpret it correctly on our own.

Who Do We Trust?

Even the strongest adherents to Sola Scriptura caution against a “Me, God and the Bible” approach to scriptural interpretation, though for many Protestant Christians, this is essentially what Sola Scriptura has become as denomination after denomination has diverged since the origins of the Reformation. What necessarily results is thousands upon thousands of Christians who are divorced entirely from any authoritative source, and they themselves become their own interpretive authority.

Others realize that we can’t divorce Scripture from its historical and cultural context, nor can we divorce it from the intent of the original authors, or the meaning of words in the original written language.

For those Christians, the question becomes: Who do we trust? How do we sift through the myriad of opinions on this section of Scripture or that? If the Bible is sufficient, how do we know what it is actually saying to the world? We are left on our own, or on the recommendation of our pastors, or the books of Christian authors and theologians like Grudem, Tim Keller, and others to help guide us in, what we hope, is the truth.

The “Ordinary Believer”

Reformed theologian Robert Godfrey writes: “The Protestant position, and my position, is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand it.”

But is this what we practically see in the Church? How does sufficiency come into play with issues that are clearly addressed in the Bible, but differences in interpretation lead people to different conclusions? Take baptism, for example. Are we meant to baptize infants, or should we only baptize those old enough to make an independent profession of faith? It’s clearly addressed in Scripture, but we cannot agree on a meaning. Or what about Holy Communion? Is the bread and wine truly the Body and Blood of Christ, or is it meant to be a symbolic representation of the same? It’s addressed in Scripture. But what does it mean? We cannot understand these things unless we have an interpretive source we can trust.

I do agree that the “ordinary believer” can find what he/she needs to know to understand the basics of the gospel and salvation in the Bible. My 5-year-old can understand that foundation. She knows we have sinned, and Jesus died for us and rose again so we can be with Him. She knows we need to live for God. All things we can find and understand at a basic level in Scripture. But, I don’t agree that all things necessary concerning faith and life are clear enough for the ordinary believer to find it and understand it. The “ordinary believer” does not have a thorough enough understanding of the historical and cultural context of Scripture, nor does he/she have an understanding of the original language of Scripture to understand all things necessary concerning faith and life.

A Protestant Christian living in America with an ESV translation of the Bible will come to some different interpretive conclusions than a Protestant theologian who has access to and understands the original languages of the text. This is why it isn’t a matter of whether or not we need an authoritative interpretive source. It’s a matter of in which interpretive source we place our trust.

The Ultimate Question

Even if a Protestant claims their interpretive source is fallible, they still need to rely on an interpretive source. And it will be the one they think holds most closely to the truth. A truth determined by their own best understanding of how to approach Scripture.

And, in my final months as a Protestant, the ultimate question for me wasn’t whether or not I believed Sola Scriptura. My ultimate question became which interpretive source has the greatest biblical, historical, and logical claim to truth.

When I acknowledged that the Bible requires a trustworthy interpretive source, I didn’t know it then but I was a few months away from receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic Church. I have not found any authoritative person or source to even come close in terms of historical and cultural context, original intent, logical coherence and consistency, and theological and philosophical depth. It is my hope that we as Catholics can truly appreciate the gift we have in the authoritative interpretive teachings of the Church. I also hope that my Protestant brothers and sisters will begin an intentional search to begin to ask the question of who they trust to interpret Scripture accurately, and that they acknowledge the importance of the answer to that question. And when they make those inquiries, I hope they give the Catholic Church an equal chance among the other options out there.

I know it’s changed everything for me.

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How This Catholic Family Approaches Mass With Young Children

Many Families, Many Approaches

There are as many ways to manage a family with young children at Mass as there are families that attend. Many people will have something different that works for them. I’m always on the lookout for ideas and have read several articles on what age appropriate expectations are, as well as articles with ideas on how to engage kids in our Catholic faith, both during Mass and throughout the week.

These articles have often been an encouragement to me, and I love picking up new ideas or being able to identify with a family who manages things in a similar way.

So, here is how our family approaches bringing our children to Mass. We have a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 9-month-old.

8 Ways Our Family Approaches Mass

1- We Bring Them

Each week, our family of five loads up in our car and goes to Mass together. Exceptions for this have been when a kid is sick, one parent stays back and the other parent takes the rest of the family. I think the fact that we do this each and every week, over time, will set a good example of the importance of practicing our faith. Even when we are out of town or on vacation, we find a Catholic Church and attend Mass together.

2- Expectations Vary By Age

When our daughter turned 5, we began expecting that she would follow along with the postures of Mass (sitting, standing, kneeling), and also to join in with the parts of Mass she knew. She now sings along with many of the congregational responses.

Our 3-year-old is expected to be quiet and not distract others. He sometimes joins in during some of the parts, but we aren’t requiring he follow every sit/stand/kneel yet.

More on our 9-month-old in a bit.

3- We Sit Up Front

We’ve tried many different seating positions, but have found, for our children, that sitting up front is the most conducive to a smooth Mass (at least for the older two). They can see what’s happening, and that helps keep them more engaged.

4- We Explain Things

We don’t insist that the kids be absolutely silent during Mass. But we also won’t talk about whether or not we are getting donuts after or other random things. They are more than welcome to ask us questions, quietly, or to point something out they notice in the church, or something relevant to the Mass itself. We also sometimes will explain what is happening, or note something interesting for them to pay attention to. These small things are done in whispers. It is important to me that if my kids have a question or are excited to notice something, that I validate their engagement. When it’s time for the Eucharist, we invite them to join us to come and see Jesus, even though they are too young to receive.

5- Activities

I’m a relatively recent Catholic convert (2016) and my husband is a revert. Just prior to becoming Catholic, we were at a church with a comprehensive children’s program, where our kids never were in church with us. They went to their own classrooms to play and have a Bible lesson for the entire service. So, going from that to having them in with us at Mass every week, was a bit of an adjustment for everyone, though I have come to enjoy having our family together each Sunday.

To start, we brought an activities kit, with coloring and notebooks. We also did some crackers and water. It’s what we saw as the best option to help our kids make the transition. Now, our daughter doesn’t use the coloring much at all because she is participating, and our son sometimes does, but often sits quietly. It was something that helped us. Our daughter also has taken to bringing her children’s Bible with her. We can sometimes turn to the story in her Bible that matches the reading, and definitely can turn to the Last Supper so she can draw connections between that and the Eucharist.

My hope is that parishioners can give families grace in this area. As a teacher, I know each child is so different. One kid might need something to fidget with the whole Mass. Another kid might be able to focus the whole time right away. And every possible thing in between. Having those activities helped our kids transition, and they are weaning off their dependence on them as they grow, and as we gain experience attending Mass together.

6- Taking Turns

Our 9-month-old is incredibly wiggly. She is constantly on the go. Right now, we try to start Mass with her in the pew with us. Typically, we can make it to the Gospel before she starts getting frustrated at the confinement we’ve placed her in. She wants to crawl under the pew, and out the side, and to eat the pew and make noises to hear the sound of her voice. My husband and I are currently taking turns bringing her out to the foyer, where we can hear the service, so she can get her wiggles out until she is old enough to know how to sit still. She’s just an adventurous baby, and she won’t be that way forever. The person who is out with the baby doesn’t experience Mass as fully as the other, but the Eucharist is there, and we are able to receive Jesus into us, even whilst in the phase of baby wiggles.

7- Special Masses

During the Easter Triduum this year, I tried something new that I think I would like to continue. During those special Masses, where some unique things occur (Holy Thursday Mass is an example,) I made my daughter a chart, with pictures noting certain things for her to look out for, like the presentation of the oils, the washing of the feet, the stripping of the altar. When she noticed each thing happening, she checked it off. It was a way to keep her engaged, and to start teaching her about these particularly important moments in our faith.

8- We Make It Special

We make sure to hold hands with the kids, or let them sit on our laps, or put our arms around them, and in general just make it a special family time. We want them to feel close to us, and to experience the faith together. We smile at the big kids when they participate in something new, encouraging them to keep it up. We want Mass to be a positive experience. Something they look forward to, most weeks at least, and something they see as part of our family identity.

Conclusion

Again, there are as many approaches to Mass with kids as there are families. This is just what has been working for us, at this phase of life. It always warms my heart to see other families with young kids at Mass each week. Bringing our children to Mass is one of many things we can do to help our children grow in faith and virtue now and for the long road ahead.

We’re all in this together.

(Note: This article originally appeared on Catholic Stand)

-Lorelei

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Finding Peace Amidst Chaos In Adoration (Catholic Stand)

(The article below originally appeared on Catholic Stand. Click here to read.)

Letters To God

While sorting through a bin of items from my childhood, I came across several pages of prayer journals. In different phases of my life, I would write my prayers to God in letter form. The letters are written in such familiar language, as though I was writing a letter to a best friend. They made me smile. Some of my letters were written during normal times where nothing extraordinary or desperate was happening. Others were written during relatively difficult periods of time. But they were all very honest and trusting. They were also all handwritten, which means I made the effort to steal away and share my heart with my God.

In particular, these letters reminded me that I am currently far from the place where make such a concerted effort to pray. I pray, yes. But they are shorter, more fleeting prayers: praying with the kids before bed, praying a Hail Mary during the day. There is a place for those prayers inserted into the daily routine, to be sure. But there is also, I think, a need and a place to slow ourselves down and let the world melt away and connect with our Creator on a more intentional level.

How Quickly We Forget

I have to smile and shake my head a bit at how, despite all the changes in technology and industry and convenience, human nature really changes very little. For example, the Israelites witnessed God parting an entire sea to save them from the pursuit of Pharaoh and sustained them with manna. They so soon forgot, however, and built idols made of gold. Similarly, I forget so easily the balance, peace, and joy that is in my life when I intentionally spend time with God.

I know, historically, that the times where I am the most peaceful, the most grounded, and have the most perspective are the times in my life when I make time to pray. There was the summer I babysat several days a week and, while the kids napped, I would spend the time in devotion. There was the spring I went through a break-up and met God daily in my sorrow. There were many times when nothing in particular was going on, and I just acknowledged it was important and made the time.

But then I get comfortable. I let my priorities subtly, yet consistently shift. In those phases of life, when fleeting prayers are all that sustains me, something significant is out of balance. I am quicker to anger. I am more easily burdened by the stressors of life. I lose perspective on what is truly important. The Israelites and I? We have more in common than I’d like to think.

Making God Time A Priority

I am always going to be busy, though as the years go on the business takes on different forms. In high school, it was extracurriculars, and calculus homework. In early married life it was graduate school and learning how to be a teacher. Now, it’s three children aged five and under who are always hungry and who leave a trail of toy wreckage in their wake.

My husband recently (and gently) pointed out that I have many Martha-like tendencies. I spin many plates. Most of them necessary. I spin the plates of meal planning, house-keeping, playing with the kids, writing, and planning ahead so our family has what we need. Anxiety doesn’t rule my life, but there is more of it that I’d prefer when I am always focusing on the plates I spin, instead of looking up beyond the plates, to the One who created these gifts in my life. The gifts of food to eat, and a home to keep, and children to love, and a brain that loves to create and plan.

Amidst the business, there must still be time for God. Yes, he is there with us in the chaos. But he is also there, waiting for us to spend time with Him. He is there, in the quiet of our bedroom, or backyard, or coffee shop. He is there, in the Eucharist at each and every Catholic parish. He waits for us there in a full and real and tangible way.

Finding Adoration

Prior to becoming Catholic, I had access to God in many beautiful ways and many beautiful places through my Christian faith.

But one of the many significant gifts I have access to now through being Catholic, is the gift of Adoration. When I am weary, when I am burdened, I can go to my parish, and sit with my Savior. After our Mary/Martha conversation, I knew I was past due for some time sitting at my Savior’s feet.

So I went to Eucharistic Adoration. I entered to the scent of incense, a symbol of the prayers of the people rising up to God. I didn’t go with any specific agenda, or prayer requests in mind. I just wanted to slow down and remember what it felt like to be with God.

Through the brief time I was able to spend in Adoration, I found it was difficult to slow down my ever quickly moving mind. I realized it’s probably pretty tricky for God to get through to me sometimes when my own brain is moving a million miles an hour. I need to remember to slow down. I didn’t have any lightning bolt revelations, or earth-shattering clarity. But I did have rest. How beautiful is it that God is always there waiting for us? He is there in Adoration, in the Eucharist, in all those created in His image, in the world He set into motion in a universe filled with stars, voids, gravity, and light.

He is so patient with us. He finds us where we are, and makes Himself available for us to come to him. Where he veils himself in something so humble as the bread and the wine. Which, when I think about the immensity of God, isn’t that different from when He veiled His glory in the body of a human man.

It humbles. It inspires awe.

And so, I will go again to the feet of my Lord until I remember how to slow down my mind, to sit and to be, and to let Him fill me with his peace and His love. Then, I know, I will be able to accept with peace whatever it is that may come my way. Perhaps next time, I will once again bring a notebook and a pen, and remember what it is to share my ordinary and extraordinary burdens and joys with my God. And then to put the pen down, be still, and remember what it is to listen and to soak in His love for me.

-Lorelei

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Helping Each Other To Heaven (Catholic Stand)

Hello friends!

Lorelei’s latest article is up on Catholic Stand today!

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Helping Each Other To Heaven: A Convert’s Perspective on Catholic Marriage

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A Lesson From A Two Year Old On Holiness (And A Quick Update)

Hello!

Lorelei’s latest article is up on Catholic Stand today!

A Lesson From A Two Year Old On Holiness

This Catholic Family just got back from a Mega Family wedding. It was so much fun, and we will be sharing more about our weekend with you in our next post!

-JP and Lorelei

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