Security in authority: it’s not something you can find in Protestantism and sola scriptura. What is found in Protestantism, is a seductive individualism in which each person seeks out his own, personal interpretation of scripture.
By Luke Taco
18 March 2020
Protestantism can have an almost seductive quality of individualism. With thousands of denominations to choose from, you can shop around and find one that matches with your individual interpretation of Scripture and worldview. One can even find denominations that directly contradict Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian moral teaching. I call this individualism seductive because it has led many people away from the fullness of the Catholic Faith.
I cherished this individualism as a Protestant.
I derived a certain type of pleasure in searching for that one denomination that taught the truth based on my or someone else’s personal interpretations of Scripture. Finding a church that had the correct worship service, taught the correct things, or had a pastor you approved of was like finding a rare and valuable gem. I’m sure many Protestants would liken this to Our Lord’s parable about finding a treasure in a field (Matt 13:44). The only problem with this analogy is that there was only one treasure in the field, not thousands that contradicted each other.
This individualism fits well with our American culture. The lonely cowboy who rides off into the sunset, confident in himself and not bending to the will of others is engrained within our culture; and it’s an arch enemy of the Socialist mentality that has been gaining a foothold in recent years. But when it comes to Christianity, this individualism has a cost.
As a Protestant, there were certain issues that left me uncertain in my relationship with God. These were practices and issues that felt like they might be sinful but were not explicitly outlined in Scripture. Some people and denominations would say they were sinful, others said they might be sinful, others said they were not a problem. Adding to the confusion was the fact that none of these denominations claimed any kind of authority in and of themselves. They merely said that Scripture was the sole authority, yet nobody had the ability to interpret Scripture in an authoritative way. Some would say that I should just pray on it and the Spirit would guide me. This seemed like a Christianized subjectivism and it didn’t sit well with me. Nor did it address the issues that had developed after the completion of the New Testament.
Another common response I would hear (I believe this is the position of many faithful and sincere Protestants) is that these issues have no bearing on one’s salvation, therefore you need not concern yourself. After all, if one is saved by faith alone, then your actions are of no importance. All I can say is this never sat well with me either. Without diverging into a discussion on sola fide, my searching of the Scriptures made it clear that our actions play a significant role in our salvation, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).
When I started to investigate Catholicism, I bought the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Rather than start at the beginning (I have to admit after all these years I still have not read the whole thing), I treated it as an index for all my unanswered questions. Not only did I find the answers, I saw logical, Scriptural and authoritative justifications for them. While at times it was difficult to learn that I had to change my thinking and practices, I was delighted and relieved that I finally had the answers.
I began to see the Church as the light that Our Lord left us to guide us through all time. God doesn’t leave his children abandoned; he gives them the answers they need through the authority of his Church. Rather than wondering if my actions were sinful, I had the security of knowing how God wanted me to live the gift of life that he gave me.
In the Church, one finds security in authority. It’s a blessing. It’s a divine gift. It’s uniquely Catholic.