Category Archives: Roman Catholicism

Reflections on the New Pope

This week, the College of Cardinals elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the office of Pope, replacing the outgoing Benedict XVI.  This, of course, greatly disappointed the liberal Protestants as well as the atheist community.  It seems our liberal and atheist friends would like to see a progressive Pope; one who will do away with the restrictive Catholic doctrines that make the religion a dinosaur.

They would like a Pope that supports abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, will eliminate priestly celibacy, allow women in positions of power, and reverse Catholic doctrine on birth control.  Someone who will sell the Vatican and feed the world.

But that isn’t going to happen, and the liberals and atheists need to make peace with that quickly.

This is the second papal election that I have seen in my lifetime.  Unless Pope Francis becomes another John Paul II, it likely isn’t going to be the last one.  The previous election that saw Cardinal Ratzinger promoted to Pope had the exact same groans issuing from the liberals and the atheists.  I expect to hear the same groans next time as well.

Ed Stetzer had a lot of the same thoughts that I did, but as a research specialist for LifeWay he focused on demographics.  What I’d like to focus on here is the theological implications of a papal conclave, and why (if the Catholics are right about what it entails) it will never produce a Pope that aligns with the world on those hot button issues. Read the rest of this entry

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Why Be Catholic?

Godless Girl tweeted:

I’ve noticed a trend: points that atheists make seem to make a lot of sense on the surface.  But, once you dive below the surface and actually think about what they say, you realize how stupid it actually is.

Atheists own Twitter because their arguments are best kept to 140 characters.  More importantly, their opponents should have the same limitation because it takes more letters to unpack and understand a concept fully.  In this way, they sound superior to us ignorant Christians.

But this time, Godless Girl seems to have a point.  I mean, why should anyone remain Catholic?  After all, there was worldwide abuse and this institution just covered it up, shoveled priests to different parishes or dioceses, and then paid out their butts in settlements to keep some of the more damning stories out of the media.

If a corporation had that kind of record, people would boycott its products and services and drive the company out of business.  Why would anyone want anything to do with such a corrupt organization?

Except that’s not really true, is it?  Think about Jack-in-the-Box.  They purposely designed their cooking procedures to emphasize speed and not food safety.  They didn’t cook their ground beef to a proper serving temperature and as a result made hundreds sick.  Children and elderly died of E. coli poisoning.

And they’re still in business.  Evil corporate money-grubbers slayed children with bad hygiene and food safety standards — why would anyone support that institution?

Because the products, services, and messages are separate from the messenger — and the public knows that.  It appears to have escaped Godless Girl.  Jack-in-the-Box revised their cooking procedures and now serve safe food.  It was really never about the food — it was the process, the lax enforcement, and lack of food safety standards that were to blame.  The product was still good, and people were willing to give it another go when Jack-in-the-Box had fixed the real problems.

The Catholic Church, like all Christian churches, has been entrusted by Jesus with a message of salvation to mankind.  None of us are perfect; only Jesus had the mantle of sinful flesh but remained unstained from sin.  We only point the way to him that saves you; we don’t save anyone.

The Catholic Church is the mechanism of this message, but it isn’t the message nor is it mankind’s salvation.  It merely points the way, without being the Way.  Christ himself said that only he is the Way (Jn 14:6).

Another example should suffice.  Let’s say you were sitting on a crate that you really didn’t know the pedigree of.  It’s ticking; could be a bunch of clocks, right?  Then a guy comes up to you, frantic, and screams, “Get off!  Get off!  That’s a bomb, and it’s set to go off!”

You recognize this guy from a database of registered sex offenders.  So you remain on your perch and resolutely declare, “You’re a registered sex offender!  So I know this isn’t a bomb.  I know you’re lying because rapists are liars!”

It’s usually the concussive force that kills people like you, not the shrapnel.  You won’t even feel the broken boards or nails, therefore.  Your insides will already be soup from the explosion.

Judge the message on its own merit, not the merit of those who bring it.  The Catholic Church isn’t perfect.  My church isn’t perfect.  We are, however, co-laborers for one who is perfect; and we point to him, not ourselves.

Must Catholics/Christians Hate Gay People?

I put a link to this article on my Facebook page.  I wondered why people who hold beliefs antithetical to Christian doctrine would want to be Christians.  One of my friends responded:

so you have to hate gays to be catholic or christian? if you in don’t agree with everything the church tells you then you can’t be christian or catholic? not trying to debate the issue just making sure I’m clear that’s what you mean by NOT for you a little intrigued by your post for some clarification of your point of view that you mean if you think like this you can’t involved in church? courious

I hear this again and again: Christians hate gay people, and we’re not allowed to disagree within ourselves because if we disagree then what we have isn’t from God.

No and no.  Let’s lay this out:

  1. Homosexuality is a sin.
  2. Marriage is between a man and a woman.

These are both eternal truths defined by God clearly in Scripture. These truths are to be upheld by the Church, and therefore the membership of the Church.

To be Catholic, you cannot be in favor of same-sex marriage. That is not the institution of marriage that is spelled out in Scripture by the Lord himself. The long and the short of it is that we humans don’t get to define marriage or church sacraments — God, who is eternally and perfectly good, is the one who defines those things.

Our nature is fallen from grace, and therefore we don’t really understand what “good” is or what it looks like. God is who we need to look to for that, not ourselves. If we look at homosexuality as something innate to us and think that is somehow “good,” then we are missing the mark by a lot. Remember — we are not good by nature; we are sinners by nature. What we do or what we are cannot be the standard for “right.”

When we use ourselves as the standard for “right” or “good” or “fair,” we will never get to the essence of those terms because no one consistently treats others “right” or “fair.” No one is consistently “good.” Better to ask instead, “What standard are we using for good?”

Every time we judge something moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad, we use some kind of standard. The standard cannot be society, for society changes far too often. Opinions and social mores are up for grabs, and differ every generation. Worse, this prevents us from judging any society as “wrong” or “immoral.” Implications?  The Nazis were on solid ground when they did the Holocaust!

For reasons I’ve already discussed (fallen nature), the standard can’t be what is in our own nature.

Therefore, the standard is God.  God is outside of ourselves, and therefore not subject to a fallen nature.  God also is not a part of society, and therefore not caught in the sweeping changes of morality we see as a society.

Read God’s Word — homosexuality is condemned throughout. Read Catholic doctrine — again, homosexuality is condemned throughout. Early Church Fathers were divided on many, many issues — but this was not one of them.  (See some selected writings here.)

Homosexuality is a sin, but not everyone in our pluralistic society shares the view that sin is a problem.  Does that mean we seek to deny them equal marriage rights using our religion?  We deny them nothing.  They have the right to marry a member of the opposite sex, just as I do. Men can only marry women; men joining to men or women joining to women is not marriage. Homosexual “marriage,” therefore, is the homosexual community asking to change the entire sacrament of marriage, thereby perverting its original intent.

Fine, homosexuality is a sin.  Homosexual marriage isn’t marriage, so it’s not a denial of a right.  Does that mean I hate gay people?  On the contrary, I have gay friends (one of whom owns a lesbian bar and is the founding member of Toledo Pride), I’m a huge Elton John fan, and I’ve been to a lesbian wedding (such as it is; gay marriage is still illegal in Ohio).  Where’s the disconnect?  Well, most people are tired of this expression, but I’ll say it anyway: Love the sinner, hate the sin.

“But I was born gay! If homosexuality is a sin, and if you hate the sin, then you hate me!” Absolutely right! I’m not even going to deny that.  But I’ve already covered this: Sin is innate to all of us, and we’re all sinners.  However, each of us are susceptible to different sins. The challenge as a Christian is to learn to hate that part of ourselves, to crucify it with Christ, and live in a manner worthy of our calling. Is it hard? Yes! I’ve heard it said that Christianity isn’t tried and found wanting; rather, found difficult and left untried.

Could someone in favor of homosexual marriage become involved in church? Could gay people become involved in church? Absolutely to both!! Hopefully through church they will learn that homosexuality is a sin and that it is something that they need to put to bed (no pun intended), not a part of themselves they should explore. No different from any other sin. We wouldn’t exclude adulterers or murderers from our congregations, but Catholic priests would certainly deny sacraments to ones that remained unrepentant.

Christ came to heal the sick, which is why he is sometimes called the Great Physician. The unrepentant sinners among us are the ones who need Christ’s love the most, and therefore they need church involvement that much more.  We should never deny church attendance or involvement to a sinner, because then no one would qualify for membership.

I’m not saying I’m perfect. There’s a lot for me to work on. A lot. I don’t practice what I preach here, so trust me this applies equally to me as it does to any gay person.

The point is that we all have our challenges with living as Christ did, and this life is about that journey to becoming more Christ-like. God promises to get us there, and he works differently on each of us. Homosexuals have their challenges, as I have mine. Church is about giving each other that accountability. It’s about helping each of us on the journey. That’s the point of fellowship.

But, before we can offer the needed accountability, we have to be clear on what constitutes a sin, which is (in my view) the real reason the young man in the article was denied confirmation. If you give approval to those who practice a sin, then you aren’t modeling Christ for unbelievers. Worse, you’re inviting the same judgment on yourself.

I hoped that would clear things up for my friend.  She’s a dear friend and I’d hate to lose her over what I would actually consider a non-issue.  Fortunately, she enjoyed that treatment and said she learned some things.  So kudos for remaining open-minded to other perspectives!

Why I’m Not Roman Catholic (Redux)

A user at the CARM forums linked to the original version of this post.  While I’m happy for the traffic surge that produced, I disagree with a substantial portion of the post and I only addressed that in the comments.  So I should correct any misconceptions the original post might produce about my theology, since I’ve come to a much different conclusion about Roman Catholicism in recent months of study.

In fact, I flirted with becoming a Catholic again, chronicling my thought process here:

  1. The Temptation to Become Catholic Again
  2. The Centrality of the Church
  3. The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The temptation centered around a major problem I have with Protestantism: disagreement and in-fighting.  Against classical Reformation theology, I reject sola scriptura and perspicuity of Scripture.  I also embrace a high church concept — though that isn’t against Protestant theology, it flies against sola scriptura and makes waves with the world.

So it was tempting to become Catholic.  It really wouldn’t be that big of a step, I thought.

But it turns out it is, for I can’t get on board with the Marian dogmas, veneration of saints, and universal primacy of the Pope (including papal infallibility).  As I detail in #3 above, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is largely unsupported and is poorly argued — but is earlier than other dogmas which means it’s one of the best developed.

I’ve found recently in two snippets from the news and the book Justification by Hans Kung that the Roman view of justification is essentially the same as the Reformed view.  I admit that I haven’t read Justification carefully enough, but I’m assured that that is the conclusion of the book.  Man is justified before God solely on the basis of grace through faith, plus nothing.  That is the Reformed view as well as the Catholic view.

However, Catholicism differs from the Reformed view of grace significantly.  Grace is dispensed through the sacraments in Catholicism.  In the Reformed view, it is God’s discretion upon whom grace is given; in other words, it is a free gift and not of works (Eph 2:8-10).  Since grace is unmerited favor, it makes no sense to work for it.  Ever.  God bestows grace upon whom he will (see Rom 9).

Worshiping anyone or anything other than God is idolatry; Scripture makes that clear (see, for example, this post from TurretinFan).  Therefore, I see no justification for the veneration of saints, angels, or the Virgin Mary.

The rubber justification is that latria is paid to God, while dulia is offered to the saints and Mary.  Latria is pure worship, while dulia is more like a deep reverence.  This is a distinction without a difference.  One should err on the side of caution, especially in light of the first commandment’s harsh penalty proscriptions for idolatry.

Consider the severe punishments that God pronounces on the entire nation of Israel for her disobedience and idolatry.  Consider the judgments of the pagan nations in the Promised Land due to their idolatry.  This is something that God takes very seriously.  So should we!

Finally, papal infallibility seems to make Roman Catholicism into a cult. The power of the pope to define doctrine ex cathedra, thus binding all Roman Catholics to that teaching for all time, is too much power to vest in one man.  This sort of behavior is seen in all of your finer cults — the power hungry, unquestioned leader.  What Velma once referred to as “the Papa Smurf figure” in the first Scooby Doo movie.

Let’s be clear.  I do not think Roman Catholicism is a cult.  I know that the Popes have all been very careful and reverent about their use of papal infallibility.  They ask the Cardinals for opinions.  And, since the authority of papal infallibility has been recognized almost 200 years ago, it has only been used twice.

Cults, by contrast, use this unquestionable leader mentality to their advantage.

We don’t see that here.

Also, I have come to respect the Catholic position of natural law and many of the arguments from Sacred Tradition.  Catholicism, I find, is closer to the Bible than 99% of modern Protestantism.  It deserves not the contempt of our brethren, but respect.

And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention excellent Catholic writers like Dave Armstrong (who I was really wrong about — Sorry, Dave!) and Jennifer Fulwiler.  And don’t forget one of my favorite Catholic bloggers (and fellow geek) Jimmy Akin.

I’m not a Protestant out of mere preference, as many are.  I understand the theological issues that divide us.  One day, I pray we are one body as Christ prayed in the garden.  But for now, there are many issues to be settled and I caution those who are Catholic out of preference or Protestant out of preference to study those issues and find out what you really believe.

Follow Up #1: What is Faith?

The series on why I’m not a Roman Catholic despite the temptation to return to the Church was extremely brief.  I oversimplified many issues, and I wanted to take a quick moment to hash out the ones that deserve further examination.  Let’s start with what my wise brother-in-law pointed out in a comment to part #1, which is that a lot of what I said hinges on defining faith.

Authentic biblical faith has two prongs to it.  The first is right belief, or “orthodoxy.” [1]  Generally speaking, to call yourself a Christian you would have to adhere to the following minimalist set of beliefs:

  • Existence of God as a Trinity
  • Preeminence of Christ over his creation
  • Mankind fell into sin, and is now utterly enslaved to it
  • Death of Jesus making atonement for the sins of mankind
  • Resurrection of Jesus on the third day
  • Future return of Christ to judge the living and the dead

And the rest varies quite wildly, even the mechanics of the above vary somewhat (even if the generic belief is still the same).

You need more, because the devil believes that stuff too.  The second prong is right practice, or “orthopraxy.” [2]  Pure religion is to help others and stay separate from the rest of the world.

Again, it’s great if you save the world, either by donating money to causes, championing nonprofits, or rolling up your sleeves and building an orphanage.  The rich young ruler told Jesus he kept all the commands from childhood, and he wanted to know what else he lacked.  Jesus also told his disciples during the Sermon on the Mount that people who did a lot of great things will cry out for Jesus and he will tell them to depart into hell.  Doing good isn’t enough, either.

You need to bring the two prongs together.  Faith is neither one nor the other, but both together.  Salvation occurs solely by grace, but we respond to that grace in faith.  It’s not just believing.  It’s not just acting on a belief.  Mere belief and mere action are both condemned in Scripture.  Both belief and action are required; one separate from the other isn’t going to cut it.

Saving faith always and necessarily produces works, but the works alone will never create a saving faith.  Works apart from faith are merely some rote ceremony, performed without thought for the one whom the works are supposed to glorify.  Faith apart from the works is similarly dead.  What good is a belief until you act on it, after all?

J.P. Holding explains this in more detail here.

Therefore, a true saving faith is going to manifest itself in the life of the believer in a conspicuous way, through that believer’s works.  We see this in the changed lives of those who surrender to Christ. [3] Read the rest of this entry

Renewed Denial of the Roman Catholic Church, part 3: The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Recently, in a conversation on Facebook, I confessed that much of Protestantism annoyed me.  Longtime readers will know that I believe in consistency — hermeneutics should be consistent, interpretations of passages should incorporate what has gone before, and your bar of acceptable proof should be even across all areas of your life.

Protestantism just isn’t consistent.  The first post in this series laid the groundwork for why I don’t think Protestantism is very consistent with regard to Sacred Tradition.  The previous post discussed the concept of high church, how Protestantism lacks it, and why it is biblical.  However, submission doesn’t mean surrendering one’s mental faculties.  For an application of that idea, we turn to the main issue I’ve always had with Catholicism, and a true biblical contradiction in its teaching: the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.

To believe this doctrine, you have to totally subvert the meaning of Mark 6:3, when the crowd in Jesus’ hometown asks, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

The Catholic argument is that the word translated “brother” (αδελπηοσ) can be used for any close family member, since there wasn’t a Greek word for “cousins.”  Therefore, James, Joses, Judas, and Simon are actually Jesus’ cousins.  In fact, according to Strong’s, αδελπηοσ means “brother,”  “sister” or “fellow believer.”  However, we know from other New Testament passages that these folks are not fellow believers.

In fact, there is a Greek word meaning “cousin.”  It is ανεπσιοσ, and is used in Colossians 4:10 to describe Mark, cousin of Barnabas.  (The word actually refers to a niece or a nephew, and I’m at a loss to find out why it is universally translated “cousin.”)  Which means the Catholic argument normally presented for Jesus’ brothers being cousins holds no water whatsoever.

The January 1990 issue of This Rock magazine has an article by Father Mateo specifically stating that:

Kilmon obscures the state of the question by alleging a “premise that ‘brother’ in the New Testament, like its counterpart in the Old Testament really means ‘cousin’ or ‘kinsman.'” No one holds such a premise. Both Hebrew and Greek dictionaries report that there are words in both languages whose primary meaning conveys uterine brother/sisterhood, but that these words are also used in both languages with much wider meanings: half brother/half sister, wife, kinsman, fellow tribe member, and so on, but not, as a matter of fact, cousin. (emphasis added)

But Father Mateo has spoke too soon.  The Catholicism Answer Book (Sourcebooks, Inc: Naperville, IL, 2007), written by Catholic priests John Trigilio, Jr. and Kenneth Brighenti, does hold the very position that Father Mateo repudiates:

Scripture scholars have also delved into the question of brothers and sisters of Jesus.  It all centers around the Greek word adelphoi.  This word can be translated to mean brothers, cousins, or relatives, such as nephews and uncles.  Therefore, when we read in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 13:55 concerning the brothers of Jesus, it is ambiguous whether the word adelphos is refering to brothers, cousins, nephews, or uncles. (57, emphasis added)

Just a few pages prior, Trigilio and Brighenti make a similar point.  Ancient Hebrew (yes, they said Hebrew–remember that point) didn’t discern between close family (brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews), and thus the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus could have referred to other family members that didn’t have precise names (49).

The problem is that the New Testament was written in Greek, not Hebrew.  Greek is exceedingly more complex, and does have those distinctions.  The passages in question, read plainly, indicate family related by blood is under consideration.  One hardly mentions the mother of a person and then a few cousins without some sort of context key.  Nope, these are biological brothers and sisters, not close family or fellow Christians that are being discussed.  It is difficult to argue otherwise.

Renewed Denial of the Roman Catholic Church, part 2: The Centrality of the Church

Recently, in a conversation on Facebook, I confessed that much of Protestantism annoyed me.  Longtime readers will know that I believe in consistency — hermeneutics should be consistent, interpretations of passages should incorporate what has gone before, and your bar of acceptable proof should be even across all areas of your life.

Protestantism just isn’t consistent.  And my previous post laid the groundwork for why I don’t think Protestantism is very consistent with regard to Sacred Tradition.  In this post, I’m going to discuss the concept of high church, how Protestantism lacks it, and why it is biblical.

The Bible is clear, as any Catholic will tell you, that we should hold to a high church concept.  That means the church should be visible, evident, and hold the power of discipline over its members.  If my church excommunicates someone because he is an unrepentant adulterer, then the church down the street should not welcome him with open arms.

Also, the church should be there to interpret Scripture’s teachings for us.  Peter tells us that no teaching comes in a vacuum (2 Pet 1:20).  In Acts, Phillip is shown to interpret Scripture for a man; indeed, the man recognizes that he needs someone to interpret Scriptures for him (8:29-30)!

It is the visible and powerful church, therefore, that should help us understand the teachings.

Combining the lack of centralized teaching and the invisibility of the church, you can easily see the problem of Protestantism.  If Susie doesn’t like what the United Methodist Church is saying, then she can go to my Grace Brethren church.  If she doesn’t like Pastor Steve’s next sermon (she will love Nate’s music — I mean, who wouldn’t?), then she can move on to the local Episcopal church down the block.  Ultimately, if Susie doesn’t like any of the Protestant denominations, then she’s free to start her own denomination.  There are thousands; what’s one more?

Bottom line: this isn’t the church that Christ promised us in Scripture.  This isn’t the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15).

Here, it was extremely tempting to rejoin the Catholic Church.  That would require some humility; after all, I would have to submit to some dogma that I don’t like.  But, that is what the high church concept is all about.  I expect my beliefs to be challenged, and I expect God to change me in order to conform to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29-30).

But, at the end of the day, I just can’t do it.  I really tried.  But I can’t believe submission means that I have to leave my mental faculties at the door, and believe things that I know simply cannot be true.  There’s a difference between submission and cultic mind control.  After all, the Bible tells us to test everything and hold on to what is good (1 The 5:21) — a passage written to the individual.

For example, the Bible says that my wife is to submit to me as spiritual head of household, as if to Christ.  Now, if I tell her the sky is green, does she then have to submit to me as her husband, even though she can evidently see that is not the case?  According to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (5:21), no.  Testing my statement, it isn’t good and she therefore isn’t under an obligation to submit.  In marriage, Jesus gave us the out of a spouse creating serious disunity (Mt 19:1-9; note that “sexual immorality” isn’t the best translation of v. 9 — the Greek word doesn’t imply adultery, but rather putting asunder or dividing).

So, if the teacher isn’t “rightly dividing the word of truth,” I should think we aren’t under any obligation to submit (2 Tim 2:15).  This is the standstill of Catholic vs. Protestant.

On one hand, the Catholic says that the Protestant is still the final arbiter of what Scripture says (private judgment or interpretation), even if he’s holding a high church concept.  To some degree, this is correct.  But, these same Catholics don’t realize that they themselves have engaged in private judgment as well.  They have made the private judgment to submit to the teachings of the Magisterium.

On the other hand, Protestants have made the private judgment not to follow the teachings of the Magisterium.  Some of us have investigated some troubling claims and found that they are not as well-supported as the Magisterium would have us believe.

In the next post, I will disseminate one such unsupported doctrine, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary.  I will show that it is unbiblical and illogical, and this is why I simply can’t submit to it.  Ultimately, it was my investigation of this doctrine that affirms me as a Protestant.

Renewed Denial of the Roman Catholic Church, part 1: The Temptation to Become Catholic Again

Back in June, I confessed in a conversation on Facebook that much of Protestantism annoyed me.  Longtime readers will know that I believe in consistency — hermeneutics should be consistent, interpretations of passages should incorporate what has gone before, and your bar of acceptable proof should be even across all areas of your life.

Protestantism just isn’t consistent.  Protestants throw out whole swaths of Christian tradition and invent new things.  They claim they follow the Bible closer than Catholics, but do they?

No, as it turns out.  Most Protestants tell you that faith alone saves you.  Yet the Bible, held to be the word of God, forcefully argues that this isn’t the case.  The sentence “You see that a person is saved by works and not by faith aloneactually appears in the Bible (Jms 2:24)!

Another example is that most Protestants reject Catholic Tradition on the grounds that it developed later than apostolic times.  Interesting.  So, Marian dogmas originated in the mid to late second century, while the papacy developed over a few hundred years to solidify in the sixth century, and clerical vestments were developed in the tenth century.  All of those are rejected for the alleged late development.

Now, if Protestants were consistent, then there a few of our own cherished doctrines that should go.  Some came over 800 years later than the latest dogma of the Church rejected as a “late development.”  The 6,000 year old earth concept was developed in the sixteenth century.  The Rapture wasn’t mentioned until around 1850 in any literature that I’ve ever seen.  Altar calls are from the late 1800s, too.

The early Reformers came up with the idea of the seven Catholic Sacraments as symbolic of Christ rather than literal dispensers of grace over and against Tradition.  The Eucharist was no longer a true sacrifice in the sense of being the literal body and blood of Christ and one with the first sacrifice on Calvary, but now becomes a symbol of the death of Christ (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, p1365-1367; cf. the Westminster Confession XXIX.2).  Again, this is over and against not only Tradition, but the Bible (see 1 Cor 11:23-32).

The universal church was founded by Jesus Christ, not by Martin Luther or John Calvin.  So it is wholly inconsistent to throw out vast quantities of Sacred Tradition just because you feel like it, or because you lack the historical understanding of the evolution of the Christian faith.  The teaching functions of the Church have been eliminated or minimized in Protestantism–to its detriment, I believe.  What we end up with a range of possibilities, from no central teaching arm to a carbon copy (but less effective) of the Catholic hierarchy.

My own Grace Brethren denomination has no higher authority other than the individual pastors of individual churches.  Presbyterian have a constitution that can change through a majority vote from the individual presbyteries; but members must abide by the Westminster Confession of Faith, which cannot change.  The Anglican/Episcopal church has monarchical bishops, but no central Pope figure (though the Archbishop of Canterbury has certain “primacy” over the larger church, but not nearly what the Pope has over the Catholic Church).

The lack of a centralized teaching authority in Protestantism sorely tempted me to rejoin the Catholic Church.  In the next post, I want to discuss high church.  It is both biblical and necessary for the body of believers to remain in union with one another.  But that alone cannot bring me to be Catholic, as it turns out, and we will see why in part 3.

I’m About to Do Something Strange…

I seldom answer in my own comment section.  So the strange thing I’m going to do today is to answer someone else’s comment section.

Jennifer Fulwiler wrote a fantastic post about the difference between secular giving and Christian charity.  Secular giving is just one thing that you do to be an American, but Christian charity is woven into the fabric of our thoughts and actions.  To be great, Jesus said, you must serve others (Mt 20:26-28).

The first atheist comment to that post deserves a reply.  I think that the replies in the comment section miss the mark somewhat, so I decided to take a crack at it.  Call me Jen’s Rottweiler.  (If Darwin can have one, so can Jennifer Fulwiler, right?)

The commenter identifies herself as Jemima Cole, and let’s tackle her piece by piece: Read the rest of this entry

Fascinating Phone Call on EWTN Radio

I was listening to EWTN radio this morning and I heard a fascinating phone call.  The caller asked the DJ (maybe the guest, I tuned in and only heard this call) why he needed to receive a sacrament of Penance before receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.

I was floored, to say the least.

Catholic theology teaches that the sacraments are containers of God’s grace.  When you receive a sacrament, you are essentially taking an outpouring of God’s grace.  The sacrament of Confirmation, however, is more than that.

In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit descends upon you, and bestows his gifts chosen for you to be a faithful worker in God’s kingdom.  Though it isn’t strictly necessary, biblically speaking, I think it is an excellent idea to invite the Spirit to take residence in a clean temple.

I stole that from the DJ or guest, because I liked it.

Now, why didn’t the caller already know that?  You think he would.  I knew the answer right away.  True, I was raised Catholic, but it wasn’t on my Catholic upbringing that I drew for the answer.  Consider the words of Paul regarding the receiving of the Supper:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Cor 11:27-32)

I should think that anytime we receive a measure of grace from God, we ought to do such a self-examination.  Just because grace is an unmerited favor that God shares with us, we still ought to accept it reverently and with as clean a heart as we are capable of.  Never should we just take it lightly, or we are taking judgment on ourselves.

For the Catholic, that means confession to a priest, and completing a penance for absolution.  That is so small considering the gift of the Holy Spirit that is about to fill you; greater peace and grace isn’t possible here on earth.

But, is this only a Catholic problem?  Nope.  The whole church, Catholic and Protestant, has done an awful job of educating people of the first step of the gospel of our Lord–that we are sinners in need of a Savior.  The world teaches us that we are basically good; we are evolving toward something greater.  Our evolution is merely incomplete, so it’s not our fault when we behave like roughians.

I blame the world for teaching that.  I blame the caller for buying into it, and not submitting to the teaching of the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is one example among many of how far we as Christians have to go to get the gospel message out to a world that needs it now more than ever.