This morning I had another opportunity to reflect on why Jesus gave the Church -- through St. Peter and apostolic succession -- the final authority to interpret Scripture for faith and morals (for example, see Matthew 16:16-19, John 21:15-17, Acts 15:22-26, 1 Timothy 3:15).
I was talking today with a couple of men who teach predestination in essentially the same manner as one of the Reformers, John Calvin, taught. Many theologians refer to that part of Calvin's teaching as the TULIP -- an acronym for:
T -- total depravity. Meaning, sin is in every part of one's being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.
U -- unconditional election. God saves people unconditionally. They are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.
L -- limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ was not for everyone, but only for 'the elect.'
I -- irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will. The person has no choice in the matter.
P -- perseverance of the saints. Consequently, those whom God chooses to save cannot lose their salvation; If they fall away, it will be only for a time.
I have always disagreed with most of Calvin's TULIP -- even before I was received into the Catholic Church. (I stand with Calvin only at the T). But what has always been a thorn in my eyes is the L of the Tulip -- Christ died only for the elect. In other words, God predestined from before time whom He will save and whom He will not. The idea that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) really means, God loves those whom He has pre-selected to love. He doesn't love the others -- else, why would He doom them to eternal suffering without giving them so much as an iota of opportunity to choose a different destiny?
Of course, the people I spoke with today were ready to support their position with what I call "proof-texts" -- Scripture texts that "prove" their position. Likewise, I was ready to provide my "proof-texts" to prove their position wrong. But doing so, I believe, would have gotten us nowhere. I am sure they were as convinced of their doctrine as I am of mine.
And that brings me to my point. With all the variations in Christian theology -- Pentecostal, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist (including their many splinter groups), non-denominational Christian, Nazarene, Anglican, Episcopal, etc., etc., -- each of which can prove their positions with their own 'proof-texts' -- I am very glad for the assurance of knowing that Jesus Himself said to St. Peter: "I give you the keys (e.g., the authority) of the kingdom" (Matthew 16:19), and the Holy Spirit said through St. Paul, the Church "is the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).
If not for the apostolic succession through the Catholic Church, one man's opinion could be 'proven' just as valid as the next man's. And therein lies great danger. Not a few cults and heresies have begun with proof-texts.
But Jesus didn't want His flock to flutter from one wind of doctrine to another. Which is why He gave us the Church.
Does the Catholic Church have its problems. Of course it does. Serious problems in some cases. But with regard to its authentic teaching regarding faith and morals, it remains the "pillar and support of the truth."
It is there Christ gave us a rock.