April 09, 2007

Tough Questions - the word "Catholic"

The Easter season is a time of renewel, personally and as a faith family. Our renewal in faith can and should continue throughout the year, however, so I'd like to begin an exploration of some "tough questions". The particular set of questions I've chosen are from "21 Tough Questions To Ask a Roman Catholic", written by Colossians Two Ministries which targets those "trapped in the web of lies of counterfeit Christianity".

I really like question #6, so I'm going to begin there. "Where do you find the word Catholic in the Bible?"

The short, honest answer is: you don't. The word "catholic" does not appear in the Bible - not in the King James version, the NASB, not in the Revised Standard Version (which I use quite a lot).
The implied argument, I believe, is that since the word "catholic" is not in the Bible, then the Catholic Church is not Biblical - it was not the church founded in the New Testament. There is a dangerous slippery slope here, however; lots of words don't appear in the Bible.

For example, where do you find the word 'Trinity' in the Bible? Again, you don't. The word 'trinity' never appears, but, of course, that doesn't mean that we don't believe in the Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Old Testament prepares for the revelation of the Trinity, and the New Testament implies it throughout.

We use the word catholic, meaning 'universal', to describe God's universal Church - the Body of Christ.

If you want to look for words that bear on the issue of catholicity and that do appear in the Bible, look for "body" and "separation" (or "schism" in the KJV). You will find, for example, what St. Paul has to say on the matter in 1 Corinthians 12. (I'm going to use the NASB translation of 1 Cor 12, which is suggested by the Colossians Two Ministries site.) He states that there is a single Church, a single Body of Christ, "for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free". He also notes that the design of the Body of Christ is such that "there may be no division in the body" - no separation or schism among the members. There should be - and we're promised by Christ that there always will be - a single Body of Christ, a universal (or 'catholic') Church.

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