A friend told me I should write a book on the authority of the Bible and the Church. I was flattered. I dont have the ability, much less the time, to take up such an endeavor but I did jot down some thoughts on the subject. Enjoy.
Is Christ only the son of God because the Bible says it? No, of course not. The Bible is the source by which we came to learn who Christ is, much like the school book that taught us the truth of science or geometry.
The book itself was not the source of truth but simply a proclamation and confirmation of the truth.
If we are to say that Christ is who he claims to be only because the Bible tells us then this is a non sequitur.
How can a book written, assembled and canonized decades and centuries after the man walked the earth be the totally authoritative and sole source of truth about his identity?
Much like a parent gives a name to a child before or at birth so the identity of someone is determined at the beginning and during life, not centuries later.
So let us consider the authority of the Bible.
Is it authoritative? Yes.
Is it more authoritative than the Church who wrote it, assembled it, and canonized it?
For Protestants the answer is very quickly "yes". The argument for this will involve evidentiary references to poorly behaving Bishops and scandals and that contrasted with a standard of morality that does not seem to align with Christ. This will be used to simply say "even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes".
But this argument doesnt really hold water. The Protestant leadership is just as corrupt as the Catholic Bishops they'll reference from history (or the newspaper). So this doesnt really work. They've just replaced the immorality of the Bishops with that of their own.
So is the Bible more authoritative than its author?
Is a doctoral candidate's thesis more authoritative than the doctoral candidate himself?
Is Gods written word more authoritative than God himself?
We must agree that the answer to these rhetorical questions is "no" or we have no common sense of reason.
But, let us assume for a moment that the non-sequitor is true.
If Christ is the son of God only because the Bible says it then that means that all of salvation history was written more than 50 years after his death and wasn't officially assembled and canonized into a single "book" for almost 400 years after his death? Does that mean there was no salvation for 400 years?
If you say "well, no of course it's the sacred scriptures, not the book itself" that still leaves you with the problem that there was no sacred new testament scriptures upon his death and thus God left his Church no authoritative teaching upon his death until the book of James was written some 45 years later. We dont get Paul's Roman epistle for another 12 after that and we dont get the book of John for nearly another 50 after that.
So if the sacred scriptures largely didnt exist for the 1st 100 years then what was source of authority for Christians who lived in the first century??
What?? "The Apostles!!!" You say? You mean the 12 appointed by Christ to thrones of authority?
Yes. The same thrones of authority that have to be succeeded when one of them dies like we see in Acts 1 when the apostles chose another to replace Judas?
This is apostolic succession.
These 12 were the original Bishops of the Catholic Church.
So now we've established that the Apostles were the first authority after Christ and we can clearly see in the Bible, which we also agree is an authoritative and accurate history, that those Apostles offices (thrones) had to be filled when one of them died. The apostolic office had to be succeeded, thus apostolic succession is historically accurate and biblical.
So what does that say about authority?
Since we know that the Church of the Apostles was authoritative, and we can clearly see that authority was passer down and bestowed upon others, can we still, in a Spirit of humility to the will and provision of God refuse to submit to that authority?
Would Christ have established a Church whose governing structure was the 12 Apostles, led by the Bishop of Rome, in which we clearly see that authority delegated and succeeded in the scriptures, only for us to throw it all away 1517 years later?
Is that what God wanted?
Are we ourselves, with our Bible in hand, better equipped to discern Gods truth than the Church that wrote, compiled and assembled the book we claim to be the sole source of truth?
Let us go back to the textbook example from earlier. When we were learning geometry and science and a foreign language, did the school just give a textbook without an authoritative teacher to go with it?
Once again, the answer to these rhetorical questions is "no".
So this really boils down to a question of integrity and that question is this:
"Now that I know the truth, do I have the integrity to honor it?"