Welcome to the first section of a five-part series on the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).
There are documents available on the Vatican website for all of this. That’s where I found the first-hand resources.
I wanted to start with Dei Verbum because it was one of the shorter documents, and it’s one of those prennial, always relevant topics, especially if you have vocal protestant friends.
Dei Verbum, Latin for ‘Word of God,’ explains how the Catholic Church uses both Holy Scripture and tradition to practice the one true faith.
If I had to break down this document into one key point, here it is:
It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.”
But there is SO much more in this document.
Really, this is the one document that could probably fight all Protestant arguments.
All responses to the good-looking Protestant friend’s questions are pulled directly from Dei Verbum.
Imagine you’re talking nicely with your protestant friend:
He said, “Each person should discern the word of God himself. I read it and find my own interpretation of the Bible.
Tell your friend, “For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.”
Your friend may say, “Jesus didn’t say that.”
(You can answer here snidely that Jesus didn’t say not to watch porn either…)
Or you can say, if you’re a grown up, “The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the church … This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it … guarding it scrupulously…”
Try to explain here, that the Church guards the scripture and tradition. The Church keeps it all safe because we stay against the gates of hell. We will not fall. The Catholic Church will continue, and thus, Christ’s teaching will with us.
Your nice, yet misguided, Protestant friend will say, “Of course Catholics would say Catholics are the only ones who can interpret the Bible. The Church didn’t even let you read it for yourself for a long time.”
Just respond calmly, “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful. That is why the Church from the very beginning accepted as her own that very ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament which is called the septuagint.” (which, remind me to write a learn something post on the septuagint.)
Again Protestant friend will say, “Catholics added books to the Bible.”
Refer your friend to the septuagint, the vulgate, the Council of Trent and the first copies of the Bible. Were protestants around when the Bible was first pulled together? Let me check… uh, no, they weren’t yet.
Remember to keep this conversation friendly, calm and polite. Protestants are still Christians. They just probably don’t know the kind of vast wealth the Catholic Church holds in her teaching and tradition. In fact, most Catholics don’t know about all of it, myself included.
I hope Protestants reading this are not offended. It’s not my intention. I just want to be clear on how to answer this often brought up arguments against being Catholic.
Getting back to tradition, your Protestant friend may throw around some “sola scriptura.”
Just answer, “But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, ‘handing over’ to them ‘the authority to teach in their own place.’ This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and News Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face.”
“What does that mean?” your good-looking Protestant friend will ask.
“Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all,” respond to him. You may want to leave the “therefore” out of that quote, unless you’re a college professor.
This may spiral out of control about whether Christ really established a “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” Church on earth.
Try to stay away from that conversation unless you have wine.
Instead, stay on track about tradition and Scripture.
Tell your friend, “Consequently, it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.”
And that… “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and Christ’s body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles.”
In the end, you will probably only win over a Protestant with love and a lot of prayer.
That’s the only way you’ll win anyone over. Don’t just talk like a Catholic, be a Catholic. Live out what you speak and you’ll change hearts.
It’s not about preaching to someone when you aren’t living what you say.
Finally, part of Dei Verbum is that “We now await no further new public revelation.”
It’s all done. Everything is there, in the Bible and in tradition and the teaching of the Church.
Here’s my favorite part:
“God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty from created reality by the light of human reasons (see Rom. :20); but teaches that it is through His revelation that those religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by al men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race.”
Do you ever look out your window or stop in your tracks on a hike or look out the window of an airplane or scan the Grand Canyon or a waterfall and just know that God was there?
I get it a lot. I mean, the world is beautiful. And it’s God-made!
Just look at the colors present in the sky at sunrise or sunset. God did that.
Or the leaves in the fall or the tulips in the spring or the layers of an onion or the pattern of your cat’s hair. God did that.
God planned that.
GOD CAN BE KNOWN WITH CERTAINTY FROM CREATED REALITY.
We can know him, just by being on earth. It doesn’t take the Bible, it doesn’t take the liturgy, it doesn’t take a proselytizer. It just takes God’s creation to know him.
Then, we have the Bible and the liturgy and our friends to get to know him better. Oh, thank you God.
There is more in Dei Verbum about the Gospels and the relationship between the two testaments of the Bible.
It’s en easy to read document, you should check it out.
God bless, always.
Vatican II Series:
Introductory Post on Church Councils