Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Just Thinking Out Loud

I made some new friends on my trip to Tennessee. They are Roman Catholics, they're good people, and they love Jesus. We shared some good cigars, drank some Lucky Number 7, good Port, and shared our thoughts on faith, family, movies and various other issues, all in an effort to solve the worlds problems.

5 Cubans and a Chilean in the Smokey Mountains solving world issues... HA!

We talked about the differences and similarities being from Roman Catholic background, and Protestant background. We each quietly noted differences which keep us content to be where we are. We also noted similarities which drew us to a realization that we are children of a great and mighty God, who laughs at our differences and loves us in spite of them.

I'm not sure where we left off; was everyone comfortable, or were there doubts that still lingered? I don't know. It doesn't really matter.

One of my heroes, philosopher, writer, and Roman Catholic, G.K. Chesterton, once said this about the Catholic church, "The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it . . ."

To my friends who are grabbing for their guns ready to bring up works, praying to Saints, the Inquisition, child-molesting priests, etc..., put your guns back in your holsters. Relax. Take a deep, non-Pharisaical breath. Your utterances will not change anyone's opinion. Also, if you look at the failings of the Catholic church, you will be forced to acknowledge the failings of the 100's of thousands of Protestant churches and various denominations with their many hypocricies, marketing plans, false theology and various other misgivings.


I'm not changing my membership to a Catholic church. I love my heritage on the Protestant side of the fence. I am also fond of the history and mystic nature of the Catholic faith. As Protestants, we are deprived of some wonderful tradition going back over thousands of years. At the same time, I am so thankful for my understanding of God's grace. I am thankful for the teachings of Luther and Calvin, who helped nurture that.

I am also aware that much of my understanding of God's Grace came from people like St. Augustine, St. Francis, Thomas Merton, Chesterton, and St. Manning (HI AL!!)... all Catholics.

I guess what I was reminded of on this trip was that I'm not so interested in being right anymore. It's important to have conviction, but it is also important to listen. There is one way of Salvation, being Christ, but it is important to be loving and gracious; not combative and defensive.

I don't want to be right. I want to share what Christ has done in my life. I want to tell people of His Grace and mercy. I want to tell people that Jesus loves them, without having to be right. I want to trust that Christ, not I, will do a work in peoples live.

As the body of Christ, we need less bickering and more love. It sounds idealistic. It scares the pants off of the "non-ecumenical" crowd. I'm not talking about being ecumenical. We just need to be a people that live what we believe, and stop talking about what we believe.

We need to stop trying to be right.


Anonymous said...

I hope no one will argue that we should 'hate' Catholics or conversely that Protestants can do no wrong. Both sin, have sinned, and will sin. But that's not the point.

Really, the essential issue = what did Jesus say.

Ironically, what the New American Bible—an official Roman Catholic translation— says about eternal salvation does not match up with the Vatican's own website! (Yes, Benedict XVI has a website — and an iPod too!).

According to the Catholic Bible you can have absolute assurance of eternal life by simply/only believing in Jesus for it. Jesus promises eternal life now to every single person who simply
believes the Father's promise/His own promise:

"Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." John 3.17-18 (New American Bible)

In fact, Jesus promised eternal life, zero eternal condemnation, and a passing from spiritual death to eternal life the very instant anyone believes what the Father says about Him (i.e. He = the Messiah who guarantees eternal life by simply believing a promise).

Again the/a Catholic Bible:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. John 5.24 (New American Bible)

The Vatican website on the other hand essentially teaches that God (at baptism) gives the baptized person Grace (i.e. what they need to cooperate with God for the attainment of eternal life):

"The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification:

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life."

Note: the words 'no one can merit' and 'we can then merit' appear in italics in the original. Clearly, for the Vatican (i.e. Roman Catholicism) Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross will not suffice to give you eternal life as a gift.


If you don't quite make it to heaven … no problem you can do spend some time in Purgatory:

"III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven."

On the contrary, Jesus promises eternal life now (without works, without water baptism, without purgatory)

Real and eternally consequential differences do exist.

So … who do we believe the Vatican or the Bible?


Anonymous said...

One night I went to dinner with a Roman Catholic friend. I did not want him to feel that I intended to use our time together to try to convert him. I decided to treat it as a friendly time out.

Sometime during our conversation God opened a door to speak about salvation. Already in his early twenties, he had never heard in his life that God gave salvation for free to anyone who believed in Jesus. He never understood that Jesus paid for everything on the Cross and he could add nothing to it. That night, over dinner, he believed in Jesus. For the first time ever he realized that he could not earn heaven. He never heard that in the Roman Catholic Church. Ever.

Had someone not told him that night he might not have heard it yet.

Marquito said...

I believe the Bible.

Unfortunately, I think most people listen more to their pastors/priests then they do the Word of God. But, I think most Christians who actually read their Bibles and trust in God's Word as the well-spring of all truth, find the teachings of larger organizations moot and irelevant. I also think there are Christians who are like this in every single church and denominational group you can think of.

Belief is personal.

I think there are Catholics who are happy in their local parish, and that they are Christians, have assurance, and therefore understand the gospel.

I think there are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc... who despite the wrong and imperfect nature of their organizational leaders, find peace and community in their home church.

I think if we each took the time to do so, we could find all kinds of heresies, blasphemies, wrong teaching in any given church, denomination, organization, etc...

I also think we would each end up in a church with a membership of 1. That may actually be the saddest church that could exist, and the one in most need of proper teaching on doctrine and our role in the body of Christ.

Marquito said...

In response to the comment about dinner with a Catholic friend:

It's amazing that someone could attend a church and not know that Salvation was made complete in Christ. I've also had similar conversations with Catholics, Independent Baptists, Presbyterians, Church of Christ followers, and Calvary Chapel members as well. It just shows how desperately we as believers need to KNOW what we believe, and 'love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, mind and strength'.