Well Said

January 26, 2009

There are some whom I heard to say, ‘Unless I find it in the documents, I do not believe in what is preached.’ When I said, ‘It is the written word,’ they replied, ‘That is what is in question.’ For me, Jesus Christ is the written word; His cross and death and resurrection and faith through Him make up untampered documents. Through these, with the help of your prayers, I desire to be justified.

St. Ignatius of Antioch Letters to the Philadelphians

I Need a Break

January 20, 2009

Just to let everyone know, I think I need a break. I have things to say, but would benefit from reading more and clarifying ideas. Besides, I can’t conjure up the wherewithal to withstand any semantics right now or people on either side not being honest and devolving into apologetic routine instead of admitting reality, how things actually work, and problems that actually exist. See you soon.

Salvation in the Body of Christ

January 12, 2009

In my previous post, we were discussing extra ecclesia nulla salum, or “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” which I understand to mean that outside the mystical body of Christ, there is no salvation. We also discussed the phrase “Muslims, who together with us adore the one true God” and my understanding that this doesn’t comment on the salvation of Muslims, just that they worship the God of Abraham.

Rhology last said:

I’m not at all sure that there is alot of room in RC dogma to make a distinction between invisible and visible church, so I’d suggest you take some looking before you leap over there.

So, one can worship the one true God but not be saved? How does that work?

Further, there are plenty of anathemas flung Protestants’ way, and then CCC calls us “separated brethren”. I don’t quite get it.

Here is my reply:

In “Discovering Saint Patrick“, by Thomas O’Loughlin, a theological historian, he notes that early Christians thought that extra ecclesia nulla salus referred to the mystical church and was interchangable with “body of Christ”. They even thought it stemmed from “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Biblically, we have “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12:27) to support the mystical church as the body of Christ.

Also from the Catechism, as you may have been reading at Beggars All, it explains the exception of those who are outside of knowledge of Christ or are mistaken in their understanding of how to follow God’s will may possibly be saved as a part of the body of Christ, despite that lack of knowledge. That includes Protestants and people on a remote isle in the South Pacific alike.

Here’s quotes from the Catechism to support this:

The mystical body of Christ includes: “‘At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him.'” and “All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God. . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.” and “Those ‘who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.'”

The Catechism excludes from the body of Christ even insincere Catholics: “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.'”

It also reminds Christians that “Christ ‘is the head of the body, the Church.'”

This is all similar to the Protestant notions of the mystical body of Christ extending to all those Christ has saved through a living faith.

For your second point, ask yourself this: Can someone worship the true God, such as the person in church next to you on Sunday, but not worship Him sincerely, not turn his heart to God, and not repent and be saved? If my understanding of your views is right, then you already agree with the Catholic doctrine on this point, but don’t recognize the language.

Lastly, in the Catholic Encyclopedia it says “Anathema remains a major excommunication… implying exclusion from the society of the faithful.” Wouldn’t you say that you are not in communion with the Catholic Church when you agree with one of the anathema statements? Do you want to be, or why does this upset you?

Even the most extreme anathema measure “anathema maranatha” means to leave the person up to the judgement of God. It does not pronounce judgement on his soul, as we humans should not. Here’s an excerpt: “Maranatha has become a very solemn formula as anathema, by which the criminal is excommunicated, abandoned to the judgment of God, and rejected from the bosom of the Church until the coming of the Lord.”

Interestingly, I found this in the Catholic encyclopedia’s entry on anathema: “More than that, it is with this purpose in view that she[the Church] takes such rigorous measures[pronounces anathema] against him[a sinner], in order that by the mortification of his body his soul may be saved on the last day.” It’s somewhat remeniscent on your explanation of withholding forgiveness, isn’t it? By understanding the severity of our sin, we begin the walk toward repentance and salvation.

Being Catholic may not be the only way to salvation, as the catechism and historians alike confirm, but they believe it is the best way. Knowing the truth and walking in truth is a much better way to get where you’re going than to blunder through life like a blind man. Although those who earnestly seek God will find Him, it’s better to have a map.

Experience is Worth 1000 Debates

January 7, 2009

If I hadn’t experienced the Catholic Church first hand, I don’t know if I would have recognized it as truth. But then, I’m the kind of person who usually has to blunder through all the wrong choices to recognize the right one. Thankfully, God saw fit to bless me with a rather stubborn husband who dragged me along and argued with me persistently until I had time to experience Catholicism. Without that, I may never have found the security and peace of “Rome sweet home”. I don’t know if my own faith was strong enough to indefinitely withstand the errors of Joe Preacher’s theology.

Consider all the persuasive debates we can find online. Without seeing for yourself which ecclesiastical method actually works, it can be easy to think reformer arguments are logical. They have rote responses to typical Catholic apologetics, and without the wisdom of experience, these responses sound reasonable. Here’s some examples:

Catholic Argument #1:
You need an interpreter for the scriptures.

Response #1:
You have to interpret the church’s statements anyway. It’s not the source’s fault if it is misinterpreted, so it’s not the Bible’s fault if it’s misinterpreted.

What I think based on experience:
Yes, you have to read/know/interpret the church’s statements. But let’s face it, “You should never get an abortion or use contraception” is a lot more clear than random verses pulled out to support infanticide (such as 1 Samuel 15) or just quoting the ten commandments “Thou shalt not kill”, and then leaving it up to the person to decide when life begins. Practically, there’s a huge difference. There’s also a catechism, Councils, a priest you can go to… there’s just a lot more resources.

Catholic Argument #2:
The Catholic Church is unified, and Protestantism is fractured into thousands (the exact number is debated) of denominations.

Response #2:
Catholicism has denominations too, so their argument is stupid.

What I think based on experience:
Again, there’s a difference. On one hand we have eleven branches of the Catholic Church that agree on all the important doctrinal points and profess the same faith and plan of salvation. On the other hand, we have “post-denominational” churches, where Joe Preacher decides whether or not you need to read your Bible, what exactly you need to believe and do to be saved, whether you can lose your salvation, whether we should bring about the apocalypse ourselves; the list goes on. I consider all the start up churches with no creed or backing a separate denomination, because generally they have different doctrines. It helps that I’ve gone to the new church on the corner and found that out firsthand. It also helps that in going to several different Catholic Churches, I’ve found the same thing at each one. They have the same readings, the same catechism, and the same doctrine all over the world.

That’s just a couple of examples of how experience helps in figuring out what’s true and what works. So my advice is: Don’t knock it until you try it. I’ll leave you with this thought: God will not abandon the person who seeks Him with an honest heart.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matt 7:7-8

My Paradigm Shift

January 5, 2009

At some point I realized I was using phrases like “us” and “our views” while referring to Catholicism. I wondered when I began thinking of myself on the Catholic side of the fence rather than the Protestant side. I can pinpoint the beginning of this paradigm shift to a lengthy debate with a friend of mine that recently abandoned his Christianity. He belonged to a form of Calvinism and drifted away slowly. Then he finally announced his rejection of Christianity in favor of embracing a new-age pantheistic view of the universe. He now believes in a holonomic theory of the universe in which all of matter consists of energy that is consciousness.

My friend said that his new views gave him freedom to love and forgive others and conquer his sins whereas Christianity never did this for him. He complained that Christians ignore inconsistencies in the Bible (which I’ve heard from a lot of people, but never had a compelling argument presented), use the fear of Hell to convert others, over-emphasize guilt and sin, and foster hateful attitudes towards others. The list goes on but those are the highlights.

A year before his denouncement of Christianity, I remember asking my friend would he lose his faith if the theory of evolution were true? His affirmative answer gave me worry. It was just one symptom in a series of problems that I have come to identify with the Protestant break from the Catholic Church. His problems constantly seemed to be rooted in sola scriptura coupled with bad interpretations. He would believe anything if he could find a verse or even a couple words together in the Bible to support a view. One example is the idea that you should only forgive people when they repent, which he got from the verse “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3). I read this and see a command to not withhold forgiveness if someone repents, not a command to forgive only if they repent. An authoritative interpretation would do away with this kind of rampant Bible literalism that gives fundamentalists so much trouble with modern science.

In response to his accusation that Christians use the fear of Hell to win converts, Mother Teresa sprang to mind instantly. She was even criticized for not pushing conversion on the poor she worked with. She insisted on witnessing through actions by spreading the love of God. This is the general attitude that I find from Catholics, and I think the “win souls any way you can” attitude is strictly an evangelical downfall. It’s my theory that “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) evangelism is a natural conclusion to being saved once and for all and by belief alone.

This salvation invention of Luther’s may also be the root of my friend’s other major objection: over-emphasis on sin and guilt. This is the epiphany of epiphanies for me. In reading Luther’s biography, “Luther the Reformer: The Man and his Career” I learned that all of Lutheran theology stems from belief in the total corruption of everything we do and are, which in turn came from Luther’s obsession with his own sins and the insufficiency of anything he did in front of a righteous God. While his fellow monks pointed Luther to the forgiveness of the cross, he instead came up with the following formula for salvation: Our salvation depends on our faith in Christ (i.e. belief that he is the Son of God who died for our sins), our faith depends on repentance and knowledge of our state as a sinner. Therefore, says Luther, “always a sinner, always repentant, always righteous”. Ironically, in a self-reliant effort to escape from his sinful state, Luther instead emphasized his sinfulness and elevated it to the basis for his own salvation. But his illogical and fruitless method of finding righteousness through belief and repentance alone left his followers despondent. They have no arsenal in the ongoing battle against sin to become like Christ.

Just previous to these discussions with my friend, I had read “Counterfeit Revival” by Hank Hanegraaf. His well researched history of Pentecostalism made me sick to my stomach about the shady persons initiating the charismatic renewal, a movement I had unknowingly been a part of from the ages seven to seventeen. I learned from this book the importance of knowing the history of things and the damage that can be done with Bible literalism, especially when things are taken out of context. So when these other issues came up in discussions with my friend, I was primed to take refuge in Catholic beliefs, starting to claim them as my own. Sola scriptura crumbled, authority of the Church rose from obscurity, and the practices of the Church started making so much sense in light of errors that were possible when you try to do things a different way. Chris says that if it’s anything like his conversion, this paradigm shift of mine is like getting over the top of the hill, and it’s all a fast roll down from here.