ADDING A BIT OF PERSPECTIVE: ARE ROMAN CATHOLICS JESUS’ SKEPTICS?
As I alluded to in Should Catholic tradition have equal or greater authority than the Bible?, here of late several Christian blogs I frequent have taken up the issues they have with the Roman Catholic Church.
- altruistico has run a series. His last was Should Catholic tradition have equal or greater authority than the Bible? To see what led to that post, check this link (=> http://altruistico.wordpress.com/?s=catholic).
- quotes and notes and opinions posted Beware! Deceptive Ecumenism at its Finest. That post is a bit more angry.
- THE NAKED TRUTH 2 discussed the especially exalted place the Catholic Church gives Mary, the mother of Jesus. Isn’t Mary worthy of worship? began a series of five posts.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with discussing our differences, but one thing worries me about such posts. We risk obscuring the fact that in spite of our differences Catholics remain our brothers in Christ.
Consider the extract below of a comment by thenakedtruth2. In response to scout’s persistent query, obligingly listed all the Catholic traditions he thinks are in conflict with Scripture.
-the tradition of papal succession and authority
-the tradition of holding to ‘no marriage’ for men leaders (meanwhile the alleged first pope had a wife)
-the church tradition of teaching and promoting transubstantiation
-the tradition of absolute belief in papal infallibility (meanwhile Paul rebuked Peter for some careless practice)
-the tradition of holding to faith plus works equals salvation; plainly contradicting the Lord, Paul, Peter, and James
-the teaching of water baptism to remove sin
-the teaching of a human to absolve others of real sins
-the teaching of the tradition of Purgatory (meant solely to relieve the miscreants of an unrepentant and Godless life)
-the tradition of Mary as Saviour through her sinless life (her alleged sinless life)
-the tradition of ‘last rites’ to once more hope for favour
(extracted from here)
‘s concerns are real, and he presents them well. He is not trying to create strife, but what we hear is not necessarily what the speaker says. Thus, being tactful and still saying what needs to be said requires prayer and the love and grace of Jesus.
Are there times when we must air our differences? Yes. Such a time was when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenburg (October 31, 1517). The Roman Catholic Church badly needed reform. Luther identified specific practices, such as the sale of indulgences, that were clearly corrupt. Thus, too many of the Catholic clergy were behaving as false prophets and teachers.
2 Peter 2:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)
False Prophets and Teachers
2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Fortunately, the Catholic Church responded to Protestant Reformation by initiating The Counter-Reformation. Because of the pressure offered by competing Christian Churches, that reformation continues even today. Therefore, while the differences between Bible believing Protestants and Roman Catholics remain serious, both share the same basic creed.
That creed is literal and many hundreds of years old. In 2009, I wrote WORDS FOR A DOUBTING THOMAS. That post references the Nicene Creed. That statement of faith is shared by all followers of Christ Jesus, including the Roman Catholic Church.
Note also that the Roman Catholic Church has conceded one of main points of the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church agrees we are justified by faith alone. See the JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION. Wikipedia provides some background here.
But?????… we may ask: doesn’t the Roman Catholic Church still need reform today? Yes, but what church does not? In fact, have not many Protestant churches drifted from a firm adherence to Scripture? What about them?
In any event, few of us have strong enough characters to respond well to criticism. Hence we see proverbs such as this.
Proverbs 9:8-9 English Standard Version (ESV)
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
Unlike 1517, in our day the Catholic Church cannot require us to become member. So only those who choose to be are Catholics, and antagonizing them is foolishness. Therefore, the reform that remains is now largely up to the members of the Catholic Church and our Lord.
What can we do? I think our part lies in Bible education (which all three of the blogs cited above are devoted to). As Christians we all need to reverently study the Word of God. If we study the Word, and if we pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us, won’t all of us find our minds renewed (Romans 12:2). To that end numerous websites, churches, missionaries and so forth have dedicated themselves. Each of us, we who call ourselves born again Christians, must do our best to support such efforts.
Personal note: I was raised as member of the Roman Catholic Church. I now attend a Protestant church. I would not be as happy in the Catholic Church. I don’t think a humongous, worldwide, catholic, church organization is desirable. The Bible calls upon us to be brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, but where does it say all Christians need to belong to the same Christian organization?
What does the Bible call upon us to do? We must participate with other Christians in fellowship.
Hebrews 10:24-25 English Standard Version (ESV)
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So why this post in defense of Catholicism? I have noted Protestants tend to have an exaggerated conception of Catholic beliefs. How does that happen? Instead of examining what Catholics say they believe, we listen to what others say Catholics believe. Because that’s third party information, that’s not as likely to be accurate information.
Previous Posts In This Series
Part 1 — DID JESUS CLAIM TO BE GOD?: February 16, 2014