Experience is Worth 1000 Debates

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

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16 Responses to Experience is Worth 1000 Debates

  1. Rhology says:

    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.

    Fair enough. So when the RCC says on the one hand “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” and on the other “Muslims, who together with us adore the one true God”, etc, how exactly does that clarify John 24:6?

  2. Stacey says:

    Hi Rhology,

    In hopes that you want to understand, this is my understanding of the apparent contradiction you present:

    “There is no salvation outside of the church” means that there is no salvation outside of the spiritual body of Christ that so many Protestants refer to. You can join this body even without being a “visible” member of the Catholic Church. There is no contradiction with John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” when you refer to the Church as the body of Christ.

    As for this: “Muslims, who together with us adore the one true God” I think I read a rather extended argument over this. Was it on your blog? I see no problem here at all, nor relation to the other statements. It doesn’t declare Muslims as saved or damned. Are you willing to decide that? Best left up to God, I think. All it says is that they worship the same God as we do, the God of Abraham. Which is true. Doesn’t say they have the right path to salvation because of it.

  3. Irenaeus says:

    And people can be saved by and through Jesus apart from their knowledge of him, if God wills (so Christian theology has taught). Salvation is possible for non-Christians, but only through Christ.

    Stacey, did you delete a post above, or is my browser wack?

  4. Rhology says:

    stacey,

    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.

  5. Stacey says:

    Iraneus,

    No, your browser is not wack πŸ™‚ I pulled the post because of something Chris said about all the specific personal references. I’m one of those who’s afraid of identity theft and stalkers online. Not to mention, I was a little worried about my mom seeing it and thought I could treat these issues a little more… delicately.

    Rhology,

    I’ll check my understanding of those phrases with “official sources” to see if I line up with the “magesterium” πŸ˜‰ and get back to you.

    By the way, thanks for giving me an opportunity to look into things more.

  6. Stacey says:

    Rhology,

    I have answered you
    here.

    When you approach these issues, do you begin by trying to understand them as consistent with the goodness of God, with the Bible, and with other Catholic teachings, or do you begin by trying to find contradictions in order to discredit Catholic beliefs?

  7. Rhology says:

    It’s more out of a sense of revealing the evident contradictions and bad epistemology inherent in the RC position. And I’ve been interacting on these topics for some time now.

    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  8. Wintrowski says:

    Rhology:

    It’s more out of a sense of revealing the evident contradictions and bad epistemology inherent in the RC position.

    I’m kind of wondering what you meant by “evident contradictions and bad epistemology”?

    By no means do I intend this as an insult, but, from what I’ve read from you so far, it would seem that you actually don’t know a whole lot about what the Catholic Church actually has to say for itself.

    Stacey, here, is a mere neophyte on the subject, but she’s demonstrating far more honesty and insight on it all than you seem to be with your stereotypical Protestant misconceptions and anti-Catholic hermeneutic of dissent.

    What gives?

  9. Rhology says:

    Hello wintrowski,

    Well, I haven’t really said much of anythg here, so I don’t know how a fair assessment could be made of how much of RC doctrine I know or don’t know.
    Here’s a start of what I mean; I’m a contributor to the Beggars All Reformation blog. It’s a bit hard to make a good brief list of all the places where RCC has it wrong, but we go into more detail there.

    As for the bad epistemology, what I mean is that RCC claims to be the infallible interpreter of the Scr, and RC e-pologists love to toss around claims that Sola Scriptura leads to anarchy and can only offer fallible interpretation of Scriptural truth and that it’s therefore an inferior epistemology. Several problems, since you asked:
    1) If we compare apples to apples, comparing, say, Reformed Baptist internal unity to RCC internal unity, RCC has much more internal fragmentation.
    2) Sola Scriptura is actually limited to a few strains of church, whereas Scripture + infallible interpreter model includes RCC, EOC, Oriental Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, LDS church, the cult of Jesus Miranda, etc. Not a favorable comparison.
    3) There is no logical reason to think that an infallible interpreter can overcome the problem (as advanced by RCs, not by Protestants) that one’s fallible interpretation is a serious impediment to correct and consistent understanding of the Scr, b/c the infall interper doesn’t remove the individual’s fallibility. It just moves the problem back one step.
    4) Plus, one would need an infall interper to tell him reliably whether RCC is the correct infall interper, since there are lots of competitors out there.
    5) RCC claims that Sola Scrip is no good, yet includes such psgs as 2 Tim 3:15-17 and Mark 7:1-13 in its accepted canon of God-breathed Scr, and those psgs clearly insist that one test traditions by the Word of God.

    That’s a good start. I wouldn’t otherwise have puked it all out there, but you did ask. πŸ˜‰

    Peace,
    Rhology

  10. Wintrowski says:

    Rhology,

    Yes, I’m aware of your connection with the ‘Beggars All’ website. I really don’t know what to say about ‘Beggars All’. The prevailing attitude there is one of: “We think the Catholic Church is bad, and we interpret everything said by the Catholic Church in light of that principle, and we’re right, so if you disagree with us then you must be stupid.”

    Even though you haven’t said much on Stacey’s blog, it really doesn’t take much at all to make an assessment of the spirit with which you approach the whole debate. The manner in which you posed the “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” question, for instance, shows that you’re really not interested in trying to understand what the Church is attempting to teach on that matter, but are more concerned with what you see to be an apparent inconsistency, and would prefer to use it as a beating stick than as a means to approach the Church’s teaching with an open heart and clear mind to try to understand with Christian charity what is being said.

    Similarly, your claims of “bad epistemology” are merely a mixture of common misconception and an hermeneutic of dissent. I’m sure, from your perspective, it seems as though all of the mentioned claims are crystal clear in their expose of the Catholic Church, but you sound more like someone who is just looking for any excuse to beat the Church down.

    The reality is that, for many people like you, the Catholic Church is an incomprehensible stumbling block, and the only way to really make sense of it is to ask for God’s help. Otherwise, the human response to the Church is to try to tear her down by the mass of self-contradictions that appear evident to the mind unenlightened and unwilling to investigate with love and charity.

    So, I guess the real question for you is not what are your doctrinal problems with the Catholic Church, but what are the psychological and spiritual reasons why you approach the Catholic Church with a spirit of unreasonableness and dissent?

  11. Rhology says:

    I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but let me turn the question back on you for the sake of illustration. What if I asked you the following?

    I guess the real question for you is not what are your doctrinal problems with Sola Scriptura, but what are the psychological and spiritual reasons why you approach Sola Scriptura with a spirit of unreasonableness and dissent?

    Or…

    I guess the real question for you is not what are your doctrinal problems with the arguments I’ve just stated (since they are obviously correct), but what are the psychological and spiritual reasons why you don’t accede to them with a spirit of unreasonableness and dissent?

    {shrug} I grew up in a very “tolerant” environment, and it is only b/c I am so convinced and so in love with the Gospel, which RCC perverts, that I am interested in RC dogma.
    At any rate, I’ll be happy to engage any and all points which I’ve shared in my last comment, but you’ll need to psychoanalyse me on your own time.

    Peace,
    Rhology

  12. Wintrowski says:

    Rhology,

    I understand how your stated arguments seem “obviously correct” in your mind, and how you think the Catholic Church clearly distorts the version of the Gospel which you have accepted and hold dear. However, the reality is that your mind is caught up in two fundamental flaws:

    1) That the Bible is the only rule of Faith, and personal interpretation is the only valid means of deducing doctrinal truths from the Bible;

    2) That your accepted version of the Gospel is incontestably the “correct” version of the Gospel because it has been derived as a corollary of the above.

    The Catholic Church stands in opposition to these assertions, so, obviously, from your point of view, the Church is wrong in so many ways.

    To answer your question, I do not readily accede to your arguments because my mind is not hindered by these unproven assertions which form the basis of your theology. From my perspective, your arguments don’t hold much weight because I do not have the same superficial view of the Church that derives from an acceptance of the above two points, and I am more able to see the Church how she really is and hear what she is actually saying without feeling an overpowering and irrational predisposition to proclaim error. In my mind, what you say the Catholic Church teaches does not match up with what the Catholic Church actually has to say for herself (and, from what I can tell, Stacey sees that discontinuity also).

    So, now I’m wondering why you see the Bible as being the one and only infallible authority for Christians. What is it that makes the acceptance of this principle so attractive to you despite the lack of convincing evidence to prove that it really is the pillar upon which God intended to build His Church?

  13. Rhology says:

    Hi,

    What is it that makes the acceptance of this principle so attractive to you despite the lack of convincing evidence to prove that it really is the pillar upon which God intended to build His Church?

    Mark 7:1-13 is a great place to start. Jesus’ example is to test tradition by the Word of God. He found the Corban rule wanting and therefore said that “you nullify the word of God by your traditions”. Yet He followed plenty of other traditions – the manner of eating the Passover, washing feet, etc. Why? B/c they were obviously NOT in conflict with Scr. I’m just following in Christ’s steps.
    And the fact that RC dogma does not follow Christ’s example in that it does not judge everything in light of Scripture is enough to reject it.

    Hope that helps.

    Peace,
    Rhology

  14. Wintrowski says:

    Rhology,

    Well, using the Bible to prove that the Bible is the only rule of Faith is kind of a circular argument.

    Nevertheless, if I use your logic of testing traditions against the Scriptures, and apply it to your tradition (or, rather, the tradition of John Wycliff, Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc.) of holding the Bible to be the sole rule of Faith, then there would seem to be large contradictions that haven’t been accounted for.

    1 Tim 3:15 would be a prime example of Scripture contradicting your tradition because it says the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, not the Scriptures.

    2 Thess 2:15 says to stand firm and hold on to the teachings passed on by the Apostles whether by word of mouth or by letter, as opposed to your tradition of relying solely on letter, as it were.

    Matt 16:18 tells us that Christ did, in fact, intended to found a church. So, there’s a bit of a question as to why he would even bother if, according to some Protestants, the early church became corrupt and it wasn’t until the 16th century until the “true” Gospel was recovered, which exalts the Bible as the pillar and foundation of truth. I mean, if God’s true Gospel really was Sola Scriptura, why did Christ even bother with Peter and the notion of a Church, why not just give Peter a book and tell him to start making copies?

    Acts 15, when the Apostles and bishops met to discuss the issue of circumcision, why did they even bother if God’s true will was for the Bible to be the sole rule of faith, augmented by personal interpretation? That just doesn’t make an ounce of sense.

    I’m sure you can pull out all sorts of verses here to support your position. As I’ve heard it all before from other Protestants, I can tell you that none of those verses are able to prove the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, nor are they able to clear up the common-sense problems with how that doctrine fits in with what the Bible itself has to say, and how the historical evidence lines up.

    So, I’m really not sure what you mean when you say that the Catholic Church does not judge everything in light of scripture. In my studies, I have found nothing that she teaches which is either explicitly or implicitly contradicted by the Bible — in fact, I can easily say that I think the Catholic Church is more adherent to the Bible than any other church you care to mention.

    The fact that Catholic Church does not teach the tradition of Sola Scriptura because it is contradicted by the Bible, and is not a tradition received from the Apostles, is enough to make her worthy of a more sincere and serious consideration, in my mind.

  15. Rhology says:

    Hi there,

    1 Tim 3:15 would be a prime example of Scripture contradicting your tradition because it says the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, not the Scriptures.

    And a pillar and foundation holds something else up.

    2 Thess 2:15 says to stand firm and hold on to the teachings passed on by the Apostles whether by word of mouth or by letter, as opposed to your tradition of relying solely on letter, as it were.

    Which teachings could easily have been the same as in the letter. There’s no reason to assume that they were definitely different or definitely the same, either way. This proves nothing for you.
    Besides, what is he referring to?
    Read 1-14 – he’s referring to the teachings on staying active and not just sitting around waiting for the Eschaton, and all that is in the letter already.

    13But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
    14It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    It’s the Gospel.

    Matt 16:18 tells us that Christ did, in fact, intended to found a church.

    And where did Christ say it would be infallible? Why not just say it right out? Why send His apostles to clean up so many churches after? Why did so many fall away? Why did Jesus provide for a church that would have one Pope who would supposedly be the pastor of all and continue in unbroken succession when many Popes did not live up to the minimum qualifications for pastor/elders in Titus and 1 Timothy?

    why he would even bother

    B/c He wanted to. These kinds of questions are not very helpful, to be honest.

    it wasn’t until the 16th century until the “true” Gospel was recovered,

    Which is not necessarily the case.
    But even if it were, it follows the same pattern as the Old Testament.

    why did Christ even bother with Peter and the notion of a Church, why not just give Peter a book and tell him to start making copies?

    B/c He wanted the church to be the pillar and foundation of the truth, holding up the Scr.

    Acts 15, when the Apostles and bishops met to discuss the issue of circumcision, why did they even bother if God’s true will was for the Bible to be the sole rule of faith, augmented by personal interpretation?

    Are you claiming they had the entire finished NT at that time?
    Let me recommend James White’s book “Scripture Alone” for a good, readable, not too long intro to this issue, b/c you are throwing out a lot of red herrings.

    In my studies, I have found nothing that she teaches which is either explicitly or implicitly contradicted by the Bible

    And the Church’s being over the Bible, when Christ explicitly set it up the other way around, isn’t an example?
    You can shoehorn justification by faith AND works into Ephesians 2:8-10? Interesting…
    2 Tim 3:16-17 says that Scr is God-breathed and useful for teaching, etc, so that you may be equipped for every good work. How precisely does the Bible equip you to teach:
    -Papal infallibility
    -the Assumption of Mary
    -the Immaculate Conception?

    Thanks!

    Peace,
    Rhology

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