Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
More in Response to our Catholic Convert
09/02/2007 - James WhiteSince I have found another response to my "ten questions" list on line, I will abbreviate the rest of my reply to our catholic convert that I began a few days ago so that I can try to wrap up some of this current Roman Catholic topic and get focused upon other issues in my studies and here on the blog.
That is very interesting, but it really doesn't tell us anything, unless what is being said is, "I did not understand the Scripture before, and I still do not, but reading them by inserting anachronistic interpretations derived from Rome makes it all so clear." Did these texts not have a meaning when they were written? And is it being asserted that no one could know that meaning until a much later time? And what if the meaning of these texts goes contrary to what Rome would later define? Have any of these texts been infallibly defined? If not, does it not follow that your understanding of them even now is fallible? And even if they have, are you sure you understand the allegedly infallible interpretation?Have you seriously considered the ramifications of Romes doctrine of sin, forgiveness, eternal and temporal punishments, purgatory, the treasury of merit, transubstantiation, sacramental priesthood, and indulgences? Have you seriously worked through compelling and relevant biblical texts like Ephesians 2, Romans 3-5, Galatians 1-2, Hebrews 7-10 and all of John 6, in light of Roman teaching?
In fact, I have been so blessed by reading texts like these in the light of Catholic tradition. It has opened up so much greater depth of understanding of the scriptures. It has explained many verses that never madesense to my protestant way of thinking. There have just been so many more exclamation marks than question marks.
The point is not so much that I have but people much smarter and much holier than me have. Lots of saints, lots of converts, lots of amazing Christians that have an insight into the scriptures I can only dream of. They lived in many different times and came from many different culture. Catholic teaching on all of these question is massively scrutinized. To suggest that nobody has read these scriptures and remained Catholic is beyond silly. It shows a VERY narrow view of history andSo, in essence, "I really can't understand that stuff...I'll just have to trust someone else." How many times have I spoken to a Mormon and, upon bringing the Word of God to bear upon a false teaching of Mormonism, they have responded in like fashion? Is this truly a Christian attitude toward the Word of God? "It is a light...unto the path of others, who then guide me along in the darkness."
No, have you pondered "what it means to embrace a system that teaches you approach the sacrifice of Christ thousands of times in your life and yet you can die impure, and, in fact, even die an enemy of God, though you came to the cross over and over again?"Have you pondered what it means to embrace a system that teaches you approach the sacrifice of Christ thousands of times in your life and yet you can die impure, and, in fact, even die an enemy of God, though you came to the cross over and over again? And have you pondered what it means that though the historical teachings of Rome on these issues are easily identifiable, the vast majority of Roman Catholics today, including priests, bishops, and scholars, don't believe these things anymore?
Have I pondered what it means to persevere to the end? Of course. Is that such a thing to do. Nobody can snatch me Gods hand. I don't jump I will remain there. So I need to keep saying yes to God. I have the grace of the true Word of God and the true That is pretty powerful.
How many Catholics really believe the teachings of the church does not matter. What matters is if they are true or not. They are. Catholics that have the strong spiritual fruit are the orthodox ones. The rest are people who just don't influence my spiritual thinking one way or the other.If the defection of so many Roman Catholics from historic Roman Catholic theology doesn't matter, why does the existence of wackos on TBN count as evidence against sola scriptura?
Note how its original meaning truly is irrelevant at this point. Sola ecclesia, sola Roma.Have you considered what it means to proclaim a human being the Holy Father (that's a divine name, used by Jesus only of His Father) and the Vicar of Christ (that's the Holy Spirit)? Do you really find anything in Scripture whatsoever that would lead you to believe it was Christs will that a bishop in a city hundreds of miles away in Rome would not only be the head of His church but would be treated as a king upon earth, bowed down to and treated the way the Roman Pontiff is treated?
This is a common mistake. Just because a doctrine develops in a way that was not foreseen in the early church does not make it false. Remember Catholics don't believe Sola Scriptora so they dont have to find clear teaching. All that is required is to find that scripture when read and interpreted through sacred tradition teaches the doctrine.
Not the custom or the practice but the doctrine behind it. The doctrine of the papacy more than meets that standard. In fact, protestant readings of Matt 16:18 just never made sense to me.Really? So, reading the text and recognizing that the rock is Peter's confession, which unites all Christians, and that the topic remains Jesus throughout the text, never made sense to you? But a reading that talks about "this Rock" but actually makes it "you, Peter," makes sense? Reading it so that Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, becomes the first bishop of Rome, and so Jesus is talking about the bishops of a church that would not be founded for years and would not even have a singular bishop until 110-120 years after the events of Matthew 16 makes more "sense"? Is that really what you want to suggest?
2) Have you considered how completely unbiblical and a-historical is the entire complex of doctrines and dogmas related to Mary? Do you seriously believe the Apostles taught that Mary was immaculately conceived, and that she was a perpetual virgin (so that she traveled about Palestine with a group of young men who were not her sons, but were Jesus' cousins, or half-brothers (children of a previous marriage of Joseph), or the like? Do you really believe that dogmas defined nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Christ represent the actual teachings of the Apostles? Are you aware that such doctrines as perpetual virginity and bodily assumption have their origin in Gnosticism, not Christianity, and have no foundation in apostolic doctrine or practice? How do you explain how it is you must believe these things de fide, by faith, when generations of Christians lived and died without ever even having heard of such things?A bit the same as the last time.You need to understand development of doctrine. I know that is foreign to the Sola Scriptora mindset where everything has to have a proof text. Even so, protestants buy doctrines all the time that have little support in scripture and no tradition behind them. They have no logical basis for new teaching to develop. Catholics do.
Really? So, once you understand Newman's development hypothesis, you will be able to accept that doctrines that flow from gnostic thought can, over time, without apostolic foundation or Scriptural basis, become definitional of the Christian faith? Just what doctrines do I, as a Protestant, believe, that originated in Gnosticism?
Understanding deepens and grows over time. The church is there to make sure no error gets introduced. So we are not constantly relearning the same truths they did centuries ago with no hope of new discovery. We are part of a living tradition that does learn and grow. The immaculate conception cannot be understood apart from some knowledge of genetics. So the apostles could not have taught it. They would never have guessed how much of a persons nature is defined at conception.The IC requires genetic knowledge? Really? Are you sure of your own understanding of this dogma?
All the teachings about Mary are really about Jesus.Really? And you know this by infallible teaching as well?
When we learn something about Jesus it has implications for what we can say about Mary. That is why Christology grew up before Mariology. It has nothing to do with Gnosticism. Gnostics denied Jesus was physically human.Some did...but if it has nothing to do with Gnosticism, why do your own scholars identify the original sources of many of the Marian dogmas as being...gnostic? Have you read anything like Stephen Shoemaker's work, Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption (Oxford, 2006)? Is there any kind of evidence at all that could falsify Rome's Marian dogmas, once you have accepted Rome's authority claims? And if there is not, does this not demonstrate the circular nature of Rome's position?
Talking about His mother is a very powerful way to affirm that Jesus is physical and human. He not only had a body but it developed inside Mary for 9 months and therefore she needed to be prepared for such a job.Or confessing that Jesus died and rose again is an even more powerful way. Now, I know the Apostles and the early Christians did that. I do not have the first bit of evidence that they ever talked about Mary as perpetually a virgin, or immaculately conceived, or bodily assumed into heaven...so...why should I?
The number 1 question I would ask of such a person is: if you claim to have once embraced the gospel of grace, whereby you confessed that your sole standing before a thrice-holy God was the seamless garment of the imputed righteousness of Christ, so that you claimed no merit of your own, no mixture of other merit with the perfect righteousness of Christ, but that you stood full and complete in Him and in Him alone, at true peace with God because there is no place in the universe safer from the wrath of God than in Christ, upon what possible grounds could you come to embrace a system that at its very heart denies you the peace that is found in a perfect Savior who accomplishes the Father's will and a Spirit who cannot fail but to bring that work to fruition in the life of Gods elect? Do you really believe that the endless cycle of sacramental forgiveness to which you will now commit yourself can provide you the peace that the perfect righteousness of Christ can not?
This is the easiest one of all. I continue to believe in I am saved because I am in Christ. I no longer separate that from the idea of being in sacramental union with the body of Christ.just seems like you have no clue what the heart of Catholicism is. It is grace from first to last. Yes grace through the sacraments. They are part of gracenot an alternative to grace. Yes, grace by faith expressing itself through love. My Catholic faith is greatly enriched by my days as a protestant. Very little of what I learned there has been repudiated. Becoming Catholic was a refinement of my protestant faith and not a rejection of it. I am still a biblical, evangelical christian.
Will it be a difficult day when our convert discovers that the Protestantized version of Rome's gospel he has accepted is inconsistent with that taught by Rome over the years? Or will that ever happen, in light of an ever less doctrinally oriented Roman Catholicism in the West, one enamored with inclusivism and even universalism? Or will this convert do what so many others have done and adopt a "cafeteria style" Catholicism that picks and chooses what will be believed and what will not? It is hard to say, but the saddest thing is that the essence of the last question clearly went right past our convert, which would indicate significantly less than enough reading and study in both his former beliefs (whatever they might have been) and Rome's soteriology as well. Which, I think, was why I wrote the questions I did in answer to the e-mail. Of course, it is an act of God's grace that would ever allow a person to realize the importance of the question, let alone what it means to him or her.
---in the defense and confirmation of the gospel