THE New York Sun, in discussing the effect of the “higher criticism” upon the Protestant Church, points out that the Protestant bodies have in practise abandoned the ground of Scriptural infallibility upon which Protestantism stood when the separation was made from Rome; leaving Rome as the “sole champion” of the doctrine that the Bible contains no error. In this it sees, and quite truly, a “remarkable situation“:—
“The pope, in his encyclical on Scripture in 1893, declared that ‘all the books which the church receives as sacred and canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost,’ and ‘that inspiration is not only incompatible with error, but also excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God himself, the Supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true.’ The sacred and canonical books referred to include all the Bible as accepted by Protestants and accordingly the papal definition of the dogma of the Scripture attributes to the Protestant Bible entire and absolute infallibility. That is the question in controversy and the position of Rome as to it is unequivocal. So also is that of Protestantism, so far as concerns its formal and authoritative standards of faith; but while Roman Catholicism commands the layman Dr. Mivart to render obedience to its dogma under pain of excommunication and eternal damnation, Protestantism retains in its ministry and as teachers of theology many men whose teachings openly contradict its standards.
“Does not this, then, leave the Roman Catholic Church the sole champion of Scriptural infallibility? Of course, a law amounts to nothing, becomes a mere dead letter, unless it is enforced. And is it not a very remarkable situation? Protestantism, the great distinguishing feature of which is reliance on the authority of the Bible above and without any other, surrenders the keeping of the infallibility of that authority to the church against which it protested and from which it separated in the sixteenth century, as a fountain of religious error.”
It is of course only in theory that the church of Rome maintains the infallibility of Scripture. The doctrine has no practical importance for any true Catholic. For it is not the Scripture in itself that is the infallible guide of the Catholic into all truth, but the Scripture as interpreted by the church “fathers,” the councils, the popes, and Catholic theologians in general. The Scripture is divine and unerring, but the interpretation is human and fallible. Such an interpretation does not explain the Bible, but the Bible is made to support the interpretation. This opens wide the door to error in its worst form. And by this means error has come into the Catholic Church, through centuries of time, until to-day that church, while still maintaining the doctrine of Scriptural infallibility, has not use for the Bible at all, never encourages its reading in the most enlightened lands, and in Catholic countries prohibits it as a dangerous and heretical book, to be destroyed as an enemy of mankind.
The “higher criticism” is only another form of this human interpretation which has destroyed the Bible for the millions of the Catholic Church. It is a scheme aiming at a like result for the Protestant churches, but suited to the conditions of present-day Protestantism. The papal interpretation of the Scriptures puts error in the place of truth without denying the inaccuracy of the Scripture itself; the “higher criticism” puts error in the place of truth by simply declaring that certain portions of the Scriptures themselves are error. The one is as human and as fallible as the other, and they represent only opposite sides of a scheme to defeat salvation by putting the human in the place of the divine.
The Omniscient never designed that infallible words should be interpreted by a fallible authority. If he had he would not have provided the Holy Spirit as a guide into all truth. If any man lack wisdom, he is not to ask of the pope or the priest, the pastor or the higher critics, but “of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” If men will follow the counsel of the Omniscient and adhere to the plan he has provided for the spiritual enlightenment of mankind, they will find no difficulty in accepting the Scriptures as infallible, without the necessity of submitting their minds to the authority of a pope.