Church Authority

Carrie at Beggers All notes that Catholic arguments for the church’s authority haven’t changed much over the centuries. She quotes from John Wycliffe (d. 1384):

“As our Lord Jesus Christ ordained by the writing of the four evangelists, to make his gospel surely known, and maintained against heretics, and men out of the faith; so the devil, even Satan, devises by antichrist and his worldly false clerks, to destroy holy writ and Christian men’s belief, by four accursed ways or false reasons. 1. The church is of more authority, and more to be believed than any gospel. 2. That Augustine said he would not believe the gospel if the church had not taught him so. 3. That no man alive knows which is the gospel, but by the approving of the church. 4. If men say that they believe this is the gospel of Matthew or John, they ask, Why believest thou that this is the gospel? as though they would say, There is no cause but that the church confirmeth and teacheth it.”

She then quotes from Wycliffe’s response to the second point:

“…They bear upon Augustine that he saith thus; That he would not believe the gospel unless the church said it. True men being answered thus, suppose that Augustine said this word. But he said to this intent, That unless Christ, head of holy church and saints in heaven, and the apostles of Christ that are holy church, said and approved this gospel, he would not believe thereto. And this understanding is full true, and reasonable, and according to the words of Augustine; but they understand them, that unless the multitude of accursed worldly clerks approve this for the gospel, Augustine would not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ; and since Augustine was, and is, so great a doctor of holy church, no man should believe the gospel, unless the church of these prelates confirm that this is the gospel of Christ; and unless the multitude of antichrist’s clerks approve the gospel or truth of holy writ, no man should hold the gospel, or any command of God, or maintain any truth against antichrist, and his worldly prelates. But what heresy might sooner destroy Christian man’s belief? and God forbid that Augustine were in perilous heresy, or any Christian man, therefore it is [lies] to slander St. Augustine with this accursed error, to colour their own false understanding and heresy by this holy doctor.”