Map of Life - Lesson 7

Map of Life: Chp 7. The Teaching Church
Map of Life: Contents
Catechsim Series 1: 
Catechism Series 2: 8. Faith & Vatican I12. Is Scripture infallible?
Catechism: Q83-101
Aquinas 101: The Role of Scripture & Tradition in Catholic Theology
Summa Theologica
Companion to the Summa: 
Random articles: Magisterium
Ite Missa Est: Truth endangered by magisterium; Magisterium


The Teaching Church

  1. Recap:

    Introduction: Just as we need a geographical map to know where we are, and how to get to where we want to go in the world, we also need a map of life to know where we are in relation to everything else in life, and how to get to our ultimate goal in life. This map of life is given to us by God through Divine Revelation which is preserved, interpreted and transmitted through the Catholic Church.

    Chapter 1:  Just as we must have faith in the geographical map-maker at the start of a journey, we must have faith in life's map-maker at the start of our journey through life. The map of life tells us

          (a) what man is (a creature composed of body and soul, in the image and likeness of God by the possession of an intellect and a will),

          (b) where he is destined (his finality: supernatural union with God).

    Chapter 2:  We also need an law of life so that we might attain the goal indicated on the map of life. This law comprises the physical law (for all material creatures) and the spiritual law (for intelligent creatures). Some spiritual laws are natural to man (eg. the ten commandments), some are divinely revealed in Scripture or Tradition (e.g. the laws of the sacraments). Some spiritual laws form the basis of man-made laws such as canon laws or civil laws. 

    Chapter 3: The "X" that marks the spot on the map of life is heaven, where our highest faculties (intellect and will) are perfected by a perfect knowledge and love of God, which is only possible with supernatural grace (also called supernatural life, sanctifyfing grace and habitual grace).

    Chapter 4: Adam was created with the means of attaining heaven, but lost supernatural grace, virtues and gifts when he committed the sin of disobedience. It was the first sin of the first man and condemned humanity to a fallen state whereby every man was henceforth conceived in the state of Original Sin. The map of life became blurred to humanity, the path was either lost or impassible, and "X" was unattainable without supernatural help.

    Chapter 5: God then entered into His creation so that man might (a) know the truth about God, and (b) know the law by which he might attain God, and (c) be sanctified by the supernatural life necessary for union with God. He enacted the objective redemption by which the gates of heaven were opened once again.

    Chapter 6: The Catholic Church was founded by Christ to continue His mission after he had ascended into heaven. It's mission is to teach the truth, uphold the law (both natural and divine), and sanctify souls by the sacraments. Like a living being comprising body and soul, the Church has physical body which is its human hierarchy of members on earth, and a spiritual soul which is the Mystical Body of Christ (or some say that the soul of the Church is the Holy Ghost, but this is a matter of attribution). A soul must be a spiritually living member of the Church to benefit from the Redemptive work of Christ.

  2. New Testament Revelation

    The Church gives truth, law and life according to Frank Sheed, which corresponds to its mission to teach, to govern, and sanctfy.

    Our Lord taught the apostles a mass of teaching: the Trinity, His attributes [infinity, simplicity, unicity, truth, goodness, holiness, benignity, beauty, immutability, eternity, immensity], His purpose in making man, His mission.

    The apostles also received divine revelations (eg. St. Paul and St. John).

    Some of Our Lord's teaching was written down in the Gospels, most was not. Some of the divine revelations received by the apostles were written down, some not. That which was written down forms the New Testament, that which was not written (at least at first) was passed down by word of mouth or by custom. Indeed, tradition preceeds New Testament Scripture, because the first gospel was written 30 years after the death of Christ. 

  3. The Scriptures

    The scriptures were written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost so that the authors communicated a specific body of teaching without error.

     - The Old Testament treats of Creation and Fall, God's dealing will fallen humanity, preparation for a Saviour.

     - The New Testament treats of the Saviour coming into the world, doing the work he came to do, and arranging for its continuation until the end of time. It comprises

        (i) Gospels

        (ii) Acts of the Apostles & Letters

        (iii) The Apocalypse

  4. Development of Doctrine

    The deposit of revealed truth was completed at the death of the last apostle. It can never change or be contradicted for it is the truth revealed by God about things which do not change: God, the nature and finality of man, and how man may attain his finality.

    The truths might not change, but they can be more deeply understood. This is possible by the application of reason to revealed truth, with the help of grace. The discipline of studying the revealed truth with the purpose of understanding it more deeply is called theology.

    The natural sciences are different. The body of empirical knowledge is always growing. Scientists form theories to explain, and formulae to describe the relationships they observe between phenomena. These theories are always susceptible to be contradicted and dropped as new experimental knowledge, or better theories and formulae are proposed.

  5. The Teaching Church

    Christ established the Church to teach, govern and sanctify. In its teaching office it teaches with God's authority and has the protection of God so that it will never teach error. We say that the Church teaches infallibly. The Church teaches infallibly in three circumstances:

    (i) when the pope teaches a truth about faith and morals expressly intending it to be an infallible, universal teaching; or

    (ii) when the pope in union with the bishops at an ecumenical council proclaim an infallible doctrine; or

    (iii) when a bishop teaches something in conformity with infallible teachings

    The official teaching of the Church is expressed in official documents which are known as Acts of the Magisterium.

    A Catholic assents to the truth of the Teaching Church, not because he agrees, or it seems reasonable, but because it is backed by the authority of God.