Surveying the readings for this Sunday, the 29th Sunday of ordinary time, we come across 2 Timothy 3:15. Does that chapter and verse ring a bell? (If you are a person who takes pride in your Catholic faith you really need to have a bell ringing in your head when you hear 2 Timothy 3:15.) In fact, it should be a kind of alarm going off. After John 3:16, it is one of the most memorized verses in the Bible by those who like to engage in rigorist Bible debate (especially with folks of the Catholic persuasion). Did you figure it out yet? 2 Timothy 3:15 is: “All scripture is inspired by God and can be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy.”
Before I get to heart of it, I feel the need to praise the good Protestant Christians who like to memorize verses in the Bible. It’s a good and noble effort to keep the Word of God in one’s heart and mind and lips. This practice is the modern equivalent to the Jewish scribes’ tradition of wearing a little black box on their foreheads (a tephillin in Hebrew (or phylactery in Greek)). Most Catholics don’t memorize Bible verses much. Even most priests don’t. I’m pretty bad at citing chapter and verse as well. So, God bless those who do take their Bible so seriously that they memorize chapters and verses. The big problem comes with taking verses out of context, which can be a BIG problem.
So, what’s so important about 2 Timothy 3:15? It is very important to understand how it is often misused and how a simple test of logic can show a person why they are misusing it. For instance, it will be said, “Since the Bible says all scripture is inspired by God, and since you are saying Catholics believe the Pope is infallible, and the Bible never says the Pope is infallible, the Catholic position on the Pope’s infallibility is obviously non-scriptural, ergo untrue”. (I picked the matter of the Pope’s infallibility, but you can substitute many other specifically Catholic beliefs and you will get a similar response.)
But let us allow ourselves to be lead by human reason as well as Divine Revelation and put this type of Bible logic to the test. We must compare, “All scripture is inspired of God” with other matters of truth. For instance, I can say, “All cars are good forms of transportation” or “All McDonald’s serve great French Fries”. This is certainly true. But, what if I said: “Yes, all cars are good forms of transportation so therefore you must agree an airplane is not a good form of transportation.” Or, “Yes, all McDonald’s serve great French fries, so therefore you must agree that Wendy’s never serves good French fries.” The silliness of this kind of reasoning is obvious, right? It is obvious, unless you really despise air travel or eating at Wendy’s. But this is the logic behind the denial on the part of so many non-Catholics of many Catholic teachings. They say in effect: “Everything in the Bible is true, therefore, nothing the Pope says can be true.” Or, “Everything in the Bible is inspired by God, so therefore nothing the Pope says can be inspired by God.” Silly, No? Yes…or Yes?