Our certitudes communally and individually within the Church derive from objective historical facts and not from mere philosophical theory.
There is a threefold linking that is the basis of our security:
- The Christ-event grounds its own reality and certitude. ‘The risen Jesus manifests Him-self to his disciples and thus creates in them an experiential certitude regarding his Resurrection – this certitude then finds expression in the Christian keryg-ma’ (Juan Alfaro ‘Theology and the Magisterium’)
- The apostolic community, the early ecclesia, enjoys a primary and privileged position in mediating this Christ-event to the entire world. This first Christian community experienced the risen Lord and received an abundance of his transforming Spirit. They had no doubts about their proclamation, for it was rooted in what they could not possibly deny: their day by day experience of Jesus of Nazareth culminating in his Passion and death and crowned by the staggering experience of his risen life. ‘For this reason, the apostolic Church is normative for the Christian faith of every age, not simply because it is not possible to come in touch with the Christ-event except through the testimony of the apostolic Church but also and above all because the apostolic Church came into being through a privileged grace and revelation of Christ’ (Alfaro)
- Within this early Church were conceived and from her womb were born the New Testament writings. These compositions were authored by her members and attested to by the whole community under the guidance of her leaders, the Apostles and their successors. Thus the New Testament and the apostolic Church are interlinked as normative for all later ages. They in turn are tied in with the unshakable Christ-event. The Spirit of the risen Jesus, who transformed the apostolic community on Pentecost, also inspired the Scriptures and continues to dwell in the Church which Jesus founded. This risen Lord through his Spirit is the radical ground of our certitude, for he caused the Resurrection, inspired the New Testament and dwells in the pilgrim Church.
The Catholic Church, this ecclesial community in unbroken continuity from the first century to the twenty-first and beyond, cannot betray its indwelling Lord for He is with her until the end of time (Mt. 28:20). She cannot teach error, for ‘when the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you to the whole truth’ (Jn. 16:13).
Human beings cannot have a more secure source of certitude.