Robert Hugh Benson on the “simplicity” of the New Testament

When faced with the difficulties of properly interpreting Scripture, friends and family often fall back on a statement like, “Well the Gospel is simple and we’re given that straight. So as long as you have this, you’re good.”

This is the “fundamentalist” mindset; we accept the fundamentals of the faith and everything else is up for a debate. Even if the “basics” are all you need, what are those specifically? I wrote about this earlier here.

I just finished reading “Paradoxes of Catholicism” by Robert Hugh Benson and he had a section talking about this sort of thinking. (Emphasis is mine.)

RobertHughBensonNow much of it is so false that it needs no refutation. It is, for example, entirely false that New Testament theology is simple. It is far more true to say that, compared with the systematized theology of the Church, it is bewilderingly complex and puzzling, and how complex and puzzling it is, is indicated by the hundreds of creeds which Protestants have made out of it, each creed claiming, respectively, to be its one and only proper interpretation. Men have only come to think it “simple” in modern days by desperately eliminating from it every element on which all Protestants are not agreed. The residuum is indeed “simple.” Only it is not the New Testament theology! Dogmas such as that of the Blessed Trinity, of the Procession of the Holy Ghost, of the nature of grace and of sin–these, whether as held by orthodox or unorthodox, are at any rate not simple, and it is merely untrue to say that Christ made no statements on these points, however they may be understood. Further, it is merely untrue to say that Protestant theology is “simple”; it is every whit as elaborate as Catholic theology and considerably more complex in those points in which Protestant divines are not agreed. The controversies on Justification in which such men as Calvin and Luther, with their disciples, continually engaged are fully as complicated as any disputations on Grace between Jesuits and Dominicans.


Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.


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