Our Universal Christian Faith
"But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." 1 Timothy 3:15
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In his book On Christian Doctrine, St Augustine urges the student of the Scriptures to first study and understand the canonical books.
To know which are the correct books, the student should select those designated by the greater number of Christian Churches, and from these, a higher priority should be given to the churches who originated from an apostle as follows:
a) First, the canonical scriptures should be considered those that were received by all Christian Churches.
b) Priority is given to the scriptures deemed canonical by the churches believed to have higher credibility/authority.
c) If there is a difference of opinion between the a larger number of churches, compared to the ones with higher credibility/Authority (not likely to happen), St. Augustine calls this equality.
d) St. Augustine goes on to list the various books in order of priority, including the greatest prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel.
How to Study the Scriptures
In his book On Christian Doctrine, St Augustine provides us with a methodology on how we Should Proceed in Studying Scripture. He asserts that those who claim to understand the Scriptures but such interpretation does not tend to build up his love for God and his neighbor, then he really does not understand as he ought to:
a. Study the Scriptures and commit them to memory if possible.
b. Having understood the clear passages in Scripture, study the more obscure ones, using the clear ones as a ladder, so to speak.
c. The obscure passages contained symbols - the best way to understand these symbols is to understand languages: Preferably Greek and Hebrew.
d. The Italian version of the Scriptures is to be used.
In describing how to study the Scriptures, St. Augustine suggests that the student first learns reads and understands the canonical books. St. Augustine provides a methodology on how to study the Scriptures, and how to determine what belongs to the Scriptures. He attributes this insight to the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. He then goes on to list a minimum set of books as follows:
History Books, containing connected narratives and the times and follows the order of events:
Book of Joshua, son of Nun: Joshua
One book of Judges: Judges
The Book of Ruth: Ruth
Books which do not seem to follow a particular order and are not connected
Two books of Ezra: Ezra
Books of the Prophets
Psalms of David: Psalms
Three books of Solomon ( Proverbs, Ecclesiastes , Song of Songs, for Wisdom and the other Ecclesiastes ascribed to Solomon, most likely were written by Jesus the son of Sirach, and still these to be considered prophetic, since they have been recognized as being authoritative)
The New Testament
Fourteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul: One to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, to Philemon, and to the Hebrews (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews)
One book of the Acts of the Apostles- Acts
One book of the Revelation of John - Revelation
Truth: Is the Bible True? - The renowned Jewish archeological expert, Nelson Gluck, once said, "It may be categorically stated that no archeological discovery has ever contraverted a Biblical record." The US News article says "In extraordinary ways, modern archeology has affirmed the historical core of the Old Testament and the New Testament".
What is the Catholic teaching on the second coming of Christ? Our faith is not caught up in a lot of speculation about what the details will be. We believe that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We pray fervently for his coming, the time of which is known only to the Father. It will not be a secret coming, though it will be totally cosmic and there will be no mistaking it. Those who are faithful at the time of his coming will go out to meet him and joyously accompany him on his return.
The rapture craze ushered in by the Left Behind series of novels is not compatible with Catholic theology. Some fundamentalist Protestant interpret a few passages in the Bible to indicate that suddenly Christ will invisibly come again and whisk away the faithful ones, so they will not have to endure the tribulation end times. It is not God's pattern to spare his loved ones from tribulation, rather the endurance of suffering, even by his own beloved Son, is both an expression and a strengthening of our faith.
Afraid to be left behind? A book review: "...The Rapture also alien to the historical Protestant confessions (as this story from a Baptist newspaper makes clear). Martin Luther had never heard of such a thing, nor had John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, or any other Protestant divine until a pair of 19th-century British small-sect pastors developed the notion apparently independent of each other. One of the men, John Nelson Darby, traveled widely in North America between 1859 and 1874, where his dispensationalist teachings spread like wildfire. (For a more detailed explanation of this theology from a dispensationalist viewpoint, go here and here).
Most Catholic priests, as well as their mainline Protestant counterparts, downplay or ignore interest in the End Times. That's why Paul Thigpen, a Yale-trained religious historian and Catholic convert, wrote The Rapture Trap.
"I began to see so many Catholics taken in by this Left Behind stuff, because they've had no religious instruction in eschatology," Thigpen tells NRO. "In so many parishes the homilies are like, 'Love your neighbor, be nice.' If priests never get around to talking about who Jesus is, there's no way they're ever going to get around to talking about the Second Coming."
Though he writes from a Catholic perspective, Thigpen, an ex-Pentecostal and former editor of Charisma magazine, takes care to demonstrate in the book how none of the leaders of the Reformation believed in the Rapture.
"In the early days, the Puritans thought the Kingdom of God would start in North America, in their colony," Thigpen says. "We have several large denominations in America, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, who owe their existence to millennial fervor."
"When times look tough and threatening, perhaps people find a comfort in believing in the Rapture, that God will help them escape events before they become too bad," Thigpen says. "Ideas have consequences. One, the Rapture doctrine ignores the redemptive power of suffering, which is a powerful Christian theme. Two, the Bible also shows that God chastises His people as well as their enemies; believers share in suffering as well. Three, if people wrongly believe Christians won't be around for the persecution that Scripture tells us will precede the Second Coming, they won't prepare themselves spiritually or otherwise."
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Rapture Trap by Paul Thigpen