Faith is not decided merely by personal ideas or theories, but by what God has taught through his Church. It’s not enough to lay claim to a scriptural verse or two about faith, or about any other scriptural topic, inspired and valid though the verses be. These claims, as necessary and important as they are, must be accompanied by a willingness to accept the larger collective picture that a verse here and there explicitly or implicitly points toward.
Although we do individually possess the heavenly resources to discern God’s will for our lives, what we perceive to be God’s will is best validated by subjecting it to the wise scrutiny and governance of the Apostolic Authority ordained by Christ. Without this scrutiny and governance, something that should always direct toward spiritual maturity and unity in the faith, it is altogether too easy to go running about on well intentioned tangents that accomplish little, or nothing, of either temporal or eternal value.
Not only is this the best validation, it is honestly the safest approach to testing my own personal cognitions. This approach makes two assumptions forthright. The first assumption is that there is such a thing as divinely ordained Apostolic Authority. The second assumption is that my own cognitions, as right as I think they are, no matter how much I cherish and promote them, may not be worth the effort to think them or the paper to print them on.
I’ve not always thought along these lines. The largest portion of my Christian life was lived after something of a Sola Scriptura fashion, a concept that I’ve come to think of as delusional since it denies the necessity of both the Teaching Authority of the Church and the rightful place and understanding of Sacred Tradition. To think that the Church and her legitimately ordained representatives know better for me than I know for myself is something that has come about over this past decade of my life. It involved a lengthy transitional process replete with its own set of difficult growing pains.
This trusting in Apostolic Authority really is not such a contrary thing. Nor is it a selling out of my self to think this way. I was more so a seller of self in my life before Christ and in my Protestant career – seeking the freedom to satisfy my own base urgings, believing this one and that one, following one cause or another, yielding my self to the sway of this denominational interpretation or that one, putting stock in people whose lives possessed not a thread of the kind of authority that Christ invested in the Apostles and in the succession of his appointed Apostolic leadership.
It is quite clear to me now that I have the advantage of retrospect. I was, all along, desirous of and looking for the resting place that Christ had ordained and placed into being. I longed to discover and reenter the realm of faith-expression that gave the early believers in Christ their character and personality, a faith-base that still motivates the historic Church although it seems to be viciously coming under attack by modern influences from within.
I was desirous of and looking for the “missing something” that I did not understand and could not name. How could I have possibly understood? How could I have possibly named something that I did not know anything about?
I was, after all, reared in a Protestant style of formation that left me without a personal frame of reference that would allow me to understand it. It was a style of formation that called into question and refused to recognize the work of the historic Church, the lives and efforts of the rightfully canonized Saints, and one that elevated reforming protesters to a kind of pseudo-heroic saint-like status despite the undeniable and degenerative ongoing process of continual fragmentation inherent in their ambitious reformational activities.