The Catholic Church claims she has the God given authority to decide which writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit and should therefore be included in the New Testament. She claims that this authority may be proved from a study of the New Testament.
At first sight it may appear she is arguing in a circle. That is:
1. The Church authenticates the New Testament
2. The New Testament authenticates the Church.
But this is not so. Catholics claim that the information in the Gospels, when treated as normal history, shows that Christ founded a visible organisation (now known as the Catholic Church based at Rome), which he promised to protect from teaching doctrinal error. On the basis of this claim, this Church has used her authority to pronounce that the Gospels are not mere historical records, but the inspired word of God.
This means that when the Church makes a statement on this subject she has to be aware of two audiences. In order to maintain that the Gospels are reliable historical documents, and so protect the basis of her position, she encourages research using scientific methods and open debate. She has to be careful not to pre-judge the results of scientific debate.
But most Church members accept her claims for reasons not dependent on the historicity of the Gospels. So for their instruction she makes known her tradition to maintain that: ‘two apostles and other men associated with the apostles’ wrote the four Gospels ((DV Paragraph 7)).
A Catholic does not accept doctrines as true because
he judges the Bible to say so, but because his Church says they are the teachings of Christ. He studies and ponders
scripture in order to deepen his understanding. A Protestant approaches the Bible in a different frame of mind
so this needs to be remembered when studying together.