One day while reading up on what’s considered heresies in certain denominations, I stumbled upon one from the Catholic church’s site that states Protestantism as a heresy on their list. So what are their main arguments?
- They say Protestantism is the unbelief of the infallible authority of “the [Catholic] church” to teach and interpret the Scriptures
- They disagree with individuals interpreting the Scriptures for themselves or what they call “private judgement” and believe Protestantism to advertise such a method. 2 Peter 1:20 is their sole verse to debunk such a practice.
Let’s unravel whether this heresy is in alignment and context to the verse stated as well as what the bible teaches regarding this topic and what it means to actually study the bible.
Here’s our foundational question: is the bible God’s Word?
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Scripture is sourced as being breathed out by God so the simple answer is yes. It teaches everything that the man of God needs to “completely” serve Christ. Knowing this should already put the weight of authority and truth in the bible. But it’s not that simple in the eyes of imperfect man who can’t trust a perfect God. So let’s now read 2 Peter 1:20 with some context to its surrounding verses.
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV)
So what does verse 20 actually mean in its context? The background context behind 2 Peter is a warning to the believers regarding false teachers and doctrines. In the verses above, it states and affirms that scripture is not sourced from human interpretation but given by God, through human authors moved by the Holy Spirit. So does this verse restrict the believer from personally studying and understanding God’s word? On the contrary, it actually re-confirms the validity of where we should be getting our foundational truth from; the Scriptures.
Dare I say we’ve stumbled on a misinterpretation and misuse of the original context here? Just goes to show, the only infallible authority is God alone. Now that we’ve debunked the foundational argument against individual believers personally studying the scriptures, let’s look at what God’s word has to say about how believers are able to study the scriptures.
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)
No human can understand the truths of the bible without the power of the Holy Spirit. So who is given the power of the Holy Spirit? All true believers in Christ, when they are saved. (Acts 19:1-6, Acts 2:38, Ephesians 1:13, etc.). As Paul states in 1 Corinthians, believers are given the Spirit from God so that we may understand the things given by God. Let that fact sink in for a moment, true believers are not to interpret the Word of God out of their own understanding but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12)
The Berean believers were commended for their diligence in studying the word. Why? Because they didn’t just get spoon fed what some “church leader” told them but they themselves studied the Scriptures daily and checked to make sure the validity of what was being preached to them aligned with God’s word. This allowed the believers to distinguish between false teachers and doctrines. This also gave accountability regarding what was being taught and done by all believers, no matter their position. When people interpret God’s word for selfish and humanistic reasons, it gives way to false doctrines, teachings and practices no matter what their title may be. Whether they are considered a spiritual leader or not.
If you are a follower of Christ, I pray you would deepen your love and relationship with Christ by diligently studying His word and truth in a personal and intimate manner like the Bereans so that you may be able to equip yourself to defend and uphold the faith.