I've given two sermons in my life. The first was in my high school Humanities class. We each were assigned one of the tales from Canterbury Tales to adapt using modern language and tell in front of the class. I was assigned the Parson's Tale, which instead of a story is a two-hour sermon on virtuous living and the seven deadly sins. So I wrote a sermon on virtuous living and the seven deadly sins. And gave it in front of the class. And everyone, including the teacher, was surprised that I wrote a sermon on virtuous living and the seven deadly sins and gave it in front of the class. I'd always wondered how a teacher could be surprised at one of her students doing the assignment she gave them, but perhaps that's just a reflection on how poorly her previous students had done on the same assignment. Whatever the reason, given that the characters in Canterbury Tales were surprised that the Parson gave a sermon, I think my interpretation was successful.
My second sermon was considerably shorter than my first. It consisted of one sentence and was given one fine Sunday when one of my friends was too tired to go to church because we'd stayed up all night. I felt bad that she missed church and hoped to give her an uplifting message of God's love and grace as told by the Bible. That message was as follows:
God's probably not going to screw you over, but you never know when He's going to make a bet with the Devil. It was not well-received.
While this post isn't a sermon, it is of a religious nature and therefore may not be of interest to everyone. Of course you probably realized this after you noticed a Latin phrase in the title. Not only is it Latin, it's italicized Latin, meaning it hasn't yet become commonly used in the English language. Why Christian sects feel the need to have Latin phrases for every little thing is beyond me. It serves little purpose but to alienate those who they're trying to convert with the phrase
It's so easy to join us! Yes, it is easy; all you have to do is learn Latin.
Of course I'm being flippant. I gotta try to make this entertaining for the people who couldn't care less about the theological discussion that follows. But back to the point; I fight hard to minimize the number of religiously-themed posts in this blog. Believe it or not, Christian history and theology still interests me quite a bit even though it's no longer something I believe, and I am often tempted to write about my thoughts in this area. But because I know not everyone who reads this cares to read the random thoughts about religion which come into my head, I rarely post them. So if they bother you, let me know and possibly suggest some way I can accommodate you being bothered. And if they don't bother you, let me know and I'll post them more often. And if they actually interest you, feel free to comment on them so a discussion can be had. And now that that's out of the way...
I, like most other people I grew up with, was raised a Protestant, meaning I rejected the authority of the Pope and the Catholic church. I suppose by that definition I still am a Protestant, though I think it'd be more accurate to say that I'm a Protestant++ (or Protestant--, depending on your views of Protestantism and apostasy) since I also reject the authority of the Bible.
Anyways, many Protestants, including myself at the time, accept a doctrine called Sola scriptura, which states that the Bible alone is sufficient for all Christian doctrine. The purpose of this doctrine is verification; if the Church teaches something, it can be verified by reading the Bible. Historically this teaching grew out of the Protestant Reformation since some Catholic Church doctrines which were backed by sacred tradition and not Scripture upset some of the Reformation's players. It's a reasonable way of thinking, to want to be able to verify one's faith. But it is, as I say, flawed.
It's impossible to look at Scripture without biases. You're not just reading the words printed on the page; you're reading the text and interpreting it based on any number of external factors: social and cultural norms, political affiliation, the authorities in your particular church, current methods of Biblical exegesis, etc... You are, in effect, using your own tradition to interpret the text. It may be a tradition you agree with, but it's still an external factor not Biblically based.
Most likely, the main external factor is the tradition of your particular denomination. Someone a long time ago, using their own society and culture as a guide, interpreted the text a certain way, and this interpretation made sense to the people who raised you. You were raised to trust this interpretation as correct, so you believe it, forsaking all other interpretations. Even if someone else disagrees with you, pointing to the texts they've used to reach their conclusion, you aren't going to change your mind. Why? Because you don't trust them. You don't trust that they've considered the parts of the text which prove you're correct, and you trust your teacher of the Scripture more than you trust this random person arguing with you. This trust is external to the words printed on the paper because the belief didn't come from the words printed on the paper; it came from your tradition. In the same way, Catholics trust their sacred traditions external of any Scriptural backing. You don't trust their external traditions, and that's fine. They don't trust yours, which is fine too. But don't claim your church is better than theirs because your teachings are all
Biblically based and theirs aren't.
As I was thinking what to write in this post, I read an article titled The False Quest for a True Islam. It's a good article; I recommend reading it. In it was a great discussion about this very subject as it pertained to Muslims and the Qur'an. The author's much better with words than I am, so I'll excerpt it here:
Now, there is no doubt that the Qur’an contains much that is disgusting by modern liberal standards. And it is disturbing that movements emphasizing jihad against the infidel have gained strength. But the Qur’an does not speak for itself. The vast majority of Muslims only make heavily mediated contact with the Qur’an. A typical Muslim is unlikely to be literate in classical Arabic, and using translations is not an everyday practice. Ordinary Muslims depend heavily on their local religious scholars, Sufi orders and similar brotherhoods, officially sanctioned clergy, and other mediating institutions. They hold the Qur’an sacred, but their understanding of what Islam demands comes through their local religious culture. Their interpretations are filtered through the mainstream legal traditions and the unexciting, nonviolent needs of everyday life. (emphasis mine)
Sufi order with
denomination and you've basically described modern Christianity. That's why so many denominations exist; because they're reading the same text but have different external factors affecting their interpretation. Southern Baptists 200 years ago thought God considered slavery moral because they owned slaves. They now consider it immoral because our society considers slavery immoral. Different external factors cause people to reach different conclusions.
So, Catholics (or Catholic, as only one Catholic I know of reads this), you have won the battle of Sola scriptura. You have lost the war since I still reject your religion, but I'll still let you claim it as a victory.