Why Do They Fear Bible Discussion?
RECENT publicity that reached into many lands made known to the world that the Roman Catholic Church does not want its people to discuss the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. This makes many sincere Catholics wonder, ‘What is it that the Witnesses have that we do not? Why is it that they do not hesitate to speak about their faith with persons of any religion, while we Catholics are told that we might get confused if we tried to do the same?’
It was an article published in the national Catholic weekly magazine America, of June 24, 1961, that touched off comment on the matter in the public press. The article “These Jehovah’s Witnesses,” by Albert Muller, one of the founders of a group dedicated to counteracting the preaching efforts of Jehovah’s witnesses among Catholics, had this to say: “The Jehovah’s witnesses are specialists in their own peculiar way. In general, they know more about the Bible than most Catholics. Since they insist on carrying on all discussions on the basis of the Bible, a Catholic involved with them will be forced to meet them on their own grounds. While the Witnesses’ view of the Bible is a distorted one [though he does not cite a single scripture to prove the claim], the deplorable lack of knowledge that a Catholic is likely to have of the Holy Scriptures puts him at a serious disadvantage.” So Catholics are told to “avoid them.”
Similar instructions have been issued to Catholics in other lands, including Spain. There, in Palma de Mallorca, as an example, a paper distributed to all homes said this: “If you should receive a visit from a pair of propagandists, that try to talk to you, Bible in hand, about prayer, about the Kingdom of God, about the imminent end of the world, about death, about hell, about Christ as a perfect man and not God . . . Do not converse with them—Do not accept the magazines and booklets they offer you—Close the way to any discussion, begging them not to return.”
THE CHRISTIAN VIEW
How different from the instructions that Jesus gave to those he instructed! Well aware that they would come in contact with people of various religious persuasions, Jesus sent them out to preach. Consistent with this, the apostle Peter urged his Christian brothers: “Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.”—Matt. 10:7; 1 Pet. 3:15, Catholic Douay version.
It is in response to this counsel in the Word of God that Jehovah’s witnesses call at your door. If you would not have turned away the apostles of Jesus Christ, why refuse those who adhere to the apostolic example today? Acknowledging that Jehovah’s witnesses are the ones following this apostolic example, Catholic priest John A. O’Brien, in the Alamo Messenger, official Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, for July 7, 1961, said: “The secret of the phenomenal success of St. Paul was his tireless use of the house-to-house method of recruiting converts. It is ironic that this apostolic method is now used by non-Catholic sects, especially Jehovah’s witnesses, whose numerous converts put us Catholics to shame.”
In explaining its position on Bible discussion, the Church may say that the Bible is not enough, that the traditions of the Church must also be considered in matters of faith. But this should present no barrier to discussion between Catholics and others. Why so? Because, if the teachings of the Church are truly those of Christ and his apostles, none of the traditions will conflict with the Bible itself. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day who ‘made void the commandment of God for their tradition.’ (Matt. 15:6, Dy) True followers of Jesus are therefore careful to avoid any tradition that nullifies the Word of God. They use the Bible as their guide.
Of interest in this connection is the following statement in the Catholic Dictionnaire de la Bible:* “Although the Apostles based their preaching directly upon Jesus Christ and proved the divinity of religion by the ministry, miracles and the resurrection of the Savior, a careful reading of their writings quickly convinces one that they prove the truth of their teaching by the Holy Scriptures and that they consider the latter to be the principal depositary of the revelation . . . No reservations, no restrictions; Jews and Christians alike, at that time, recognized the Word as a direct manifestation of God’s thoughts.”
Of course, the Roman Catholic Church makes it plain that it occupies a position of special authority as the church founded by Christ, and that it is therefore the only real authority in these matters of faith. If the facts bear out this claim, then the Church should be anxious to have its members make a thorough study of the teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible and to compare the facts of history proving that the Catholic Church is really that true church. Catholics should feel free to discuss the matter with non-Catholics, knowing their position to be impregnable, and, more than that, they should be anxious to direct such persons to their faith if they know and can prove it to be the one approved by God. On the other hand, if the Church does not adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ, if the facts of history show that the Church has not been truly Christian, then it would be embarrassing to the Church for its members to become well acquainted with these facts by discussion with others. Do you feel free to discuss your religion with others?
If after years of membership in the Catholic Church you feel that your faith is so weak that a few minutes of Bible discussion with one of Jehovah’s witnesses will raise doubts in your mind, perhaps even moving you to change your religion, then you owe it to yourself to ask Jehovah’s witnesses to explain to you the reason for their unshakable hope. On the other hand, if you really believe that yours is the true religion, then you are under obligation before God and his Son Jesus Christ to leave yourself open to Bible discussion with other persons so that you can fulfill the obligation that your own Bible places upon you when it says: “I charge thee, before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, by his coming and his kingdom: Preach the word.” (2 Tim. 4:1, 2, Dy) To be a real Christian, you must be willing to discuss your faith with others.
Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to discuss with you the teachings found in your own Bible. They are glad to help strengthen your faith in the promises of God, to assist you to know your Bible well enough to be able to give sound reasons for your hope.
1926 edition, published in Paris, France. By F. Vigourous, Catholic priest; imprimatur, Parisiis die 28 Octobris 1891, Franciscus, Card. Richard Arc. Par.