Saved from an old thread when I still had a PHP forum on my site.
Krissy (The Catholic side, scroll down for my response)
Huh. I guess the part that bothered me was his comment on “there is NO DOUBT that a TRUE Christian WILL eventually leave the Church! It’s not a question of IF they should leave, it’s WHEN they’ll leave!” So, according to this man, it’s not possible to be a “TRUE Christian” and be Catholic. Pffft. I don’t agree with that one bit, and I think God’s going to have a lot to say to this guy someday.
Some things that I noticed (and disagreed with):
1. The Catholic Church believes that when Jesus instructed the Apostles to go out and forgive sins, that this applies to the Priests today. It’s not that these men have so-called “supernatural powers”, but they are following the Apostles, and Jesus’ commands for them.
2. The Pope IS a sucessor of Peter. The Catholic Church has an unbroken line of over 200 Popes, going back all the way to Peter. Peter was the first Pope, actually. (Pope, I recently found out, means “Father”, nothing more.)
3. The Catholic Church believes in salvation through the grace of God and through faith in him, but believes that “faith is dead without good deeds” (James 2:26) and that “we are made right with God by what we do, not by faith alone” (James 2:24). The Catholics don’t believe that good works/deeds are needed for SALVATION – heck, all of the good deeds in the world still couldn’t save ya – however, this “once saved, always saved” business isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and you need to practice what you preach. And shouldn’t everybody? Is it fair for one person to say “Oh, I believe in Jesus, I’m saved!” and not do a thing about it? Good deeds are an outward expression of our devotion and love for God, but it is NOT what the Catholic Church believes as “the way to salvation.”
4. The Catholics don’t pray to Mary, they ask her for prayer. I mean, I ask you for prayer, and you ask me for prayer, so why not ask the very first Christian for prayer?
5. Pictures and statues of Saints and of Jesus are not idol worship, they are simply pictures and statues. I have pictures of my family up on my wall, so I guess it’s not that harmful to have pictures of them up, eh? There’s a difference between idol worship, and creating a picture to remember someone.
6. More to come later, as I pray and think about all of this.
I thank you for your willingness to talk to me about spiritual issues, and for your friendship. It shows that you care, and it means a lot to me.
Paulo (My response)
Okay, let’s go over this bit by bit, because I’ve been critical of the theological issues surrounding Biblical Christianity and the RCC since even before I left Roman Catholicism, and these are classic points of contention put forward by Catholicism’s apolgists.
The Catholic Church believes that when Jesus instructed the Apostles to go out and forgive sins, that this applies to the Priests today. It’s not that these men have so-called “supernatural powers”, but they are following the Apostles, and Jesus’ commands for them.
Granted, Scripture does record Christ’s words to his apostles, John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone his sins, he is forgiven; if you do not forgive them , they are not forgiven.” This would seem to indicate, by the RCC interpretation, that the apostles were given authority to forgive sins directly.
Yet at no point in Scripture do we see evidence of the apostles, if they were given explicity authority of forgiveness, passing that authority on to other believers. Indeed, in Acts 2:38, Peter does not proclaim his own authority of forgiveness, but that of Christ, calling on the Jewish converts to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.”
I was going to tackle the other points, but I just realized it’s lunchtime and I need to go to the grocery to get some chicken and fresh broccoli. Excuse me. Hungry.
Back from the grocery! Anyway, to continue on the same item of authority to forgive sins:
It’s important also to consider the context of forgiveness when citing John 20:23. You can’t simply say, “See, Jesus said that if we forgive men their sins, they are forgiven! That means we have authority to put up wooden confessionals for believers to kneel to a priest and whisper their sins to him through a little hole, so he can receive reconciliation by the priest’s giving him penance and making him say his Act of Contrition.”
That’s not what we see happening in the Bible. Rather, what does Scripture say?
“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13.38, emphasis mine.)
Of course, that still leaves the question as to what John 20.23 means: were the apostles given authority to forgive sins, and was that authority passed on to an ordained priesthood?
Look at the verse directly before John 20:23. After saying that he is sending them as he was sent by the Father, Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” then continues to the forgiveness bit.
The first factor is to receive the Holy Spirit. And who has the Holy Spirit? Only the priest? Again, what does Scripture say?
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2.38)
There you have it. Forgiveness AND the Holy Spirit in one neat package. (Please note that the concept of “baptism” is another thorny issue worth its own thread.)
Does this mean that all baptized believers in Christ, having the Holy Spirit, have authority to forgive sins? Somehow, I don’t think so; not in the sense of the Roman priesthood. Rather, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins by the sharing of the Good News.
(Another take on John 20:23 points out that the passive voice is used, and the “forgiven” may refer to forgiveness by the believer, rather than the redeemed forgiveness from God through Christ. But for me, that’s a bit flimsy.)
Re: point 2, you said…
The Pope IS a sucessor of Peter. The Catholic Church has an unbroken line of over 200 Popes, going back all the way to Peter. Peter was the first Pope, actually. (Pope, I recently found out, means “Father”, nothing more.)
I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the Papacy can historically be traced right back to Peter’s bishop-hood over Rome.
And I do not care a whit.
An unbroken succession in the Papacy is no guarantee that the Pope and his church are maintaining doctrinal correctness. St. Paul, one of the prime foundations of the early church, himself warned, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” -Galatians 1.8 He even said it twice.
This is one of the founding fathers of the Christian church, saying that if even he himself, or an angel, were to say something contrary to the Gospel of Christ, he was to be considered eternally condemned. And what goes for him goes for those who claim to succeed him.
If Jesus Christ said that He is the only Way, Truth, and Life; if Jesus Christ says the Will of His Father is that He who looks upon the Son and believes will be saved; but if the Pope’s church says our redemption in Jesus is through belief PLUS works PLUS sacraments… then I believe Jesus, and I will follow Jesus. Not the Pope.
The Catholic Church believes in salvation through the grace of God and through faith in him, but believes that “faith is dead without good deeds” (James 2:26) and that “we are made right with God by what we do, not by faith alone” (James 2:24). The Catholics don’t believe that good works/deeds are needed for SALVATION – heck, all of the good deeds in the world still couldn’t save ya – however, this “once saved, always saved” business isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and you need to practice what you preach. And shouldn’t everybody? Is it fair for one person to say “Oh, I believe in Jesus, I’m saved!” and not do a thing about it? Good deeds are an outward expression of our devotion and love for God, but it is NOT what the Catholic Church believes as “the way to salvation.”
I very much agree with that! I even blogged about the harmonization of the Epistle to the Romans with the Epistle of James a couple of months ago: Everything I had to say on the faith and works issue is there.
(And since when did kneeling in a confessional, kissing baby Jesus statues, lighting candles for dead souls, and saying rosaries constitute biblical “good works,” I wonder?)
4. The Catholics don’t pray to Mary, they ask her for prayer. I mean, I ask you for prayer, and you ask me for prayer, so why not ask the very first Christian for prayer?
Maybe because we are commanded by Scripture and warned not to contact the dead?
Please see Mark Horne’s weblog entry.
He’s referring to the Orthodox faith, but what he says also applies to Catholicism.
Pictures and statues of Saints and of Jesus are not idol worship, they are simply pictures and statues. I have pictures of my family up on my wall, so I guess it’s not that harmful to have pictures of them up, eh? There’s a difference between idol worship, and creating a picture to remember someone.
And yet, there’s a difference between keeping a picture of your family for remembrance, and plastering bloody crucifixes all over a church and having people kneel to them and kiss them. And there is no doubt that, in many of the Catholic traditions I have witnessed or taken part in, power is ascribed to those figures, regardless of what Catholic or Bible doctrine may say.
I’ve always understood that most intelligent Catholics are praying, not to the statue, but to the Saint or Savior represented by that statue. And I still believe it’s wrong. To kneel before a statue when our God is fully able to hear our prayers without saintly intercession is to demean, in some way, his sole sovereignty as our Lord. Bible Christians are called to be above reproach, not even approaching or resembling the ways of early pagans who carved idols for themselves and bowed before him.
I’m in the Philippines: a strongly Roman Catholic nation. Every church is brimming with statues. Many homes have an “Our Lady” grotto with a Mary statue in it to bless the home. Each classroom in each school is overlooked by a crucifix. Taxi drivers have little “Santo Niño” images on their dashboards for a safe trip. In a shopping mall just down the road from my office, a giant statue of Mary in thick golden robes holds out its hand, and a little pamphlet says that if you kiss its hand and make a wish in the Name of the Father, the Son, the Virgin Mary, and the Holy Spirit, your wish will be granted.
This blasphemy is tolerated, condoned, and even propagated by the Roman Catholic Church. What is that if it is not idolatry?
I say again, fun sermons, vibrant priests, and contemporary masses are not points to consider above the doctrinal errors of the Roman Church as compared to the Bible. I believe that sacred tradition has the power of blessing, just as the RCC believes, but I stand firm that tradition must first bow to Scripture. If a church will not do that, and continues in the heresies that the RCC continues in, then it should be avoided by any Bible-believing Christian.
Whew! I’m sorry to make you read such a long and vehement page, but I feel very strongly about this; because I was saved out of a Roman Catholic background, and I hate to see someone going from what I believe is the correct view — evangelical Christianity — starting to lean towards Roman Catholicism. I maintain that it’s a mistake, and by your own standard, God will have something to say to me at the judgment.
But I think we have different ideas of what he’s going to say.
Here’s my two cents:
First of all, I am a born-again Christian.
My conviction on the issue of idolatry is that statues, while conveniently falling into the category of idolatry, are merely a small part of the point, what I figure, God was trying to make. Idolatry doesn’t just speak of keeping “brazen idols” around, but also less tangible idols, like success, career, money, popularity, self-righteousness, girlfriends, boyfriends, whatever you want. I think the point He was making is that you should not love these things more than him, or make these things more of a priority over God. He IS a jealous God.
And on the whole quasi-debate on Catholicism and Christianity and Religion, blah blah blah: I made the decision to be a born-again Christian, and that was the best decision I ever made. I worship the one true living God and no one else. I accepted Jesus into my heart and life and made Him the Lord of all. But even with that in mind, I still am not going to tell someone else that they’re wrong. The whole point of Christianity is to lead people back to God. I’m sorry but I think it’s a waste of time to try and convince other people that the camp you’re on is the right one because we’ll NEVER REALLY KNOW. I believe in my heart, truly, that God is the ONE TRUE GOD. Period. But the only one I will be able to convince of that is myself. People know what they want; they don’t need to be told what to do. They’ll ask for God when they need Him, and that’s exactly what God wants. He wants for people to NEED Him, not just WANT Him.
It doesn’t help to preach to the preached. People have had religion crammed down their throats since time immemorial and it won’t help if we keep doing so. Isn’t the whole point to bring people to a knowledge of God’s love? It’s this religious rigidity that scares many people away from church and from God. Jesus CHOSE to hang out with the hookers, the swindlers, the tax collectors, people you just want to hate because THEY WERE THE PEOPLE WHO NEEDED HIM. Since Jesus commanded, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, shouldn’t we comply?
And for those people who already have “religion” and are worshipping God but in a different way. I believe, so long as I know that they are worshipping the true God, the God that I believe is the only true God, then that’s great. Because believe you me, I’ve met a lot of screwy born-again Christians and a lot of God-centered, die-hard Catholics and no one really has the right to say whose side is better.
Now let’s all shut up and have a group hug…
You know I can’t agree with that level of relativism, Raff. We can be sure because we have the Word of God made sure in Scripture, and we know that it is an objective and faithful guide, both for our salvation and our walk with Jesus. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” says Timothy 3.16.
Scripture tells us that we are saved only by God’s grace, not by works. (Eph 2.8 ) It tells us that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice did away with sin once for all. (Heb 9.26) It tells us that we are brought to God through Christ’s sacrifice, the righteous for the unrighteous. (1 Peter 3.18)
Sure, there are gray areas in Scripture — we wouldn’t have denominations if there weren’t — but we are certain of what Scripture tells us in certain terms: saved by grace, not by good works! Everytime the New Testament mentions good works, it is always as the natural offshoot of faith, or of the predestined creation of God; not as the way to heaven.
Catholics can claim that they are saved by grace too, and that they believe in works only for the justification of faith, just as Evangelicals do, but that’s not what I see being taught within the church. I see it being taught by the RCC that holy grace is available through the Sacraments, through Sacred Traditions, through good works, the other producing the one, rather than the other way around.
That’s not what Scripture teaches. If grace comes through a Sacrament, then that Sacrament is a work, and we are not saved by works. Grace comes directly to us through Jesus, not through a Tradition.
When I came to that realization, I understood that I had to leave the Catholic Church. Perhaps it’s the “mother” church, perhaps it can trace its succession back to the apostles, but if it’s wrong, then it is wrong. And if the blind lead the blind… (Matthew 15:14)
Now I’ve really offended some people. Sorry. I have to stand up for what’s right. Is that group hug still open?
Hey again, Pau, it’s me Riffraff, just forgot my password…
I completely agree with everything you’ve said; so long as it’s part of the scripture and it’s used in the correct context, I have no doubts as to its validity. I am fully with you on good works being the result of faith and not the reason for salvation. But the question we still have to ask ourselves is: What is more important, proving we’re right or bringing people to the saving grace of Jesus? I’m not saying that you can’t get people saved by being staunch defenders of the As Is, but people nowadays have grown (whether positively or negatively is up for debate) to believe that religion (any form) was created as the proverbial opiate, and serves no use in today’s insta-quickie-info society. I’d hate to resort to proverbs, but you do attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.
I absolutely do not preach compromise, but rather a tolerance tempered with grace. I know that homosexuality, fornication, lying, cheating, infidelity, and a whole lotta other stuff have been condemned by God explicitly. But people are not going to listen to what you have to say if the first words out of your mouth are going to be, “You are going to hell if you keep doing what you’re doing.” This is definitely a gray area and will always be the subject of many debates for a great while, and by no means do I say that we should all listen to my semi-liberal rear end because I’m right, but if I had a friend who wasn’t a Christian and needed to be saved I’m not going to get him to go to my church by threatening him with eternal damnation. I got enough of that sort of thing reading Chick comics.
I feel that the most appropriate way to get the saving gift of Jesus across to the masses in this day and age is by packaging it with love and forgiveness, not with death and destitution. After all, isn’t that how Jesus did it?