Book Review: The Bible And The Rule Of Faith

The Bible And The Rule Of Faith, by Abbè Louis Nazaire Bègin

I found this book online while I was doing some research on the Apostolic Fathers and in general it reads like more contemporary attempts by Catholic writers to defend the authority of the Roman magisterium [1].  Basically, this book, and others like it, is one half of a false dilemma.  From Protestant writers you will see writings equally as eloquent and equally as damning as this one that point out the tyranny of the Catholic Church, of its internal contradictions where infallible Popes differed, or where there were multiple popes claiming infallibility at the same time, and where the obviously corrupt conduct of the Pontiff made their claims to be authorities completely ludicrous and ridiculous, to say nothing of the way that the Catholic Church often discouraged Bible study for fear that people would seek to follow the clear dictates of scripture rather than the murky and unbiblical dictates of the priests.  And they would be as right as this book.  Yet between the anarchy of everyone being a magisterium for themselves and a corrupt magesterium that has long been ruled over by those in opposition to God’s ways there exists room for believers to deal with this book’s serious and worthwhile questions about authority.

This work is a bit over 250 pages and is divided into three parts.  The first part of the book speaks generally about the rule of faith (I), looking at the problems of human reasoning (I-1), the necessity of some kind of rule of faith (I-2), and the rule of faith that the author thinks was passed down from Christ (I-3).  After this short introductory discussion the author moves to a discussion of the Protestant Rule of Faith (II), where he writes at length about the remote rule of faith, namely scripture (II-1), the proximate rule of faith in terms of Holy Spirit-guided individual readers who may often disagree with each other (II-2), and the many contradictions one finds between Protestant groups (II-3), followed by brief discussions of the Catholic view of Bible reading (II-4), the impossibility of the unity of faith in Protestantism (II-5), and the results of Protestantism in the bolstering of the power of the state (II-6).  The third section of the book contains the author’s discussion of the Catholic rule of faith (III), with a discussion of the role of the Bible and tradition (III-1), the role of the teaching church (III-2), and the book’s conclusion.

Obviously, I found this book unconvincing.  Yet in finding this book unconvincing I was pleased that the author at least attempted to struggle with the issues, even if the author was not particularly honest in admitting the validity of the criticism the Protestant opponents of the author had.  Indeed, this book showed the author making many of the same distinctions between essential and inessential doctrines when talking about the debate between Scotians and Thomists over various matters of reasoning, and admitted that the Catholic Church had long opposed the translation of the Bible into the vernacular under stiff penalties because of fears of the result of Bible literacy on the faith of simple believers, a reasonable concern as it turned out.  At the bottom of the whole discussion of the author there are two essential questions that one must ask:  Does the Catholic Church represent the authority of God?  No.  Does the rule of faith that Catholics uphold match the ways of God as portrayed in scripture and as followed by those godly of all generations?  No.  In that light, the author’s claims to support papal authority as the cure to Protestant anarchy–itself a genuine problem–must be rejected.  We can only expect unity of faith and an acceptance of one authority over the Church when Jesus Christ returns and makes his visible rule over the world.  Until then, we will have to deal with disagreement and diversity and division, alas.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: The Bible And The Rule Of Faith

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Apostolic Fathers Series | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: God’s Canon | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To Catholicism | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Hitler And The Vatican | Edge Induced Cohesion

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