Catholicism and the Bible

Unanimous Consent A Test of Doctrine

Some 450 years ago, the Roman Catholic church firmly established the rule that no one but 'holy mother church' shall interpret the Scriptures. In other words, when reading the Scriptures, everyone must understand their message precisely as did and does Rome. No one might come to a different understanding than that reached by the 'unanimous consent' of the church fathers.

Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published.The Council of Trent, 4th Session, the Canonical Scriptures, Rockford: Tan (1978), pp. 18-19

The First Vatican Council, meeting in 1869-70, reaffirmed Trent's position:

And as the things which the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture, in order to curb rebellious spirits, have been wrongly explained by some, we, renewing the said decree, declare this to be their sense, that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath hel and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise, contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.Philip Schaff, Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, as found in The Creeds of Christendom, Vol II, New York:Harper (1877), p. 242

What are the doctrines declared in the above decrees, infallibly delivered by two RCC councils: There are but two:

1) Only the Roman Catholic church has the authority to accurately interpret Scripture.

2) No one, not even the RCC herself, is to hold an interpretation contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

This is of major importance, for the RCC officially has committed and bound itself, through two ecumenical counsels, to the principle of unanimous consent relative to its teachings and its interpretation of Scripture. In other words, Rome has given us a standard, an authoritative Roman Catholic standard, which we may use in judging the RCC.

This is where Rome stumbles, for by the very test she established infallibly, much of the RCC's 'particular' doctrine fails to measure up. Oh, sure. The Fathers did unanimously consent on the major doctrines of the Christian creed, but there can be found no unanimous consent for Roman Catholic tradition. As one Christian theologian wrote:

...this 'unanimous consent of the Fathers' on which the Roman Catholic Church's authority rests is a complete illusion, because such a consent is historically non-existent.William Webster, Op. cit., p. 31

I have no doubt that for some RCC 'apologists', the above statement will trigger a knee-jerk reaction. Some might proclaim that the Early Church Fathers were in complete accord with the many fantastic dogma and doctrines that the Roman Magisterium has come up with over the centuries. They might do this, despite having been provided a great many examples on this board and others that this simple was not the case. Look to the words of a Roman Catholic writer, if you will:

Sometimes, then, the Fathers speak and write in a way that would eventually be seen as unorthodox. But this is not the only difficulty with respect to the criterion of orthodoxy. The other great one is that we look in vain in many of the Fathers for references to things that many Christians might believe in today. We do not find, for instance, some teachings on Mary or on the papacy that were developed in medieval and modern times.Boniface Ramsey, Beginning to Read the Fathers, Darton, Longman and Todd:London (1986), p. 6

Though there may be some who would argue that the test of unanimous consent is either unfair or unrealistic and, therefore, invalid for judging the validity of RCC teaching. I would remind these persons that Rome itself created the standard against which so many of its doctrines fail the test of authenticity. Mother Church is,it would appear, hoisted on her own petard. As Bill Webster wrote:

Both in the concept and in the content of tradition, the Roman Catholic Church has departed from the teaching of the early Church, with the result that it has departed from the practice of the early Church regarding the authority of Scripture. The Roman Catholic Church has repudiated the principle of 'sola scriptura' in order to elevate its traditions to a position of authority equal to the Scriptures. In so doing, it has embraced the heresy of Gnosticism, condemned by Irenaeus and Tertullian as well as that of the Jews which was condemned by Jesus.William Webster, Op. cit., pp. 32-33

I urge all who look to the Magisterium for correct teaching leading to salvation to instead look to God:

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.Isaiah 45:22


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