Here’s the rough cut of a promo video I’m working on for the Steubenville Youth Conference. I shot all of the video footage and there’s hours more to go through. Please share some of your thoughts and opinions to help me shape the final cut. Thanks!
Matthew Leonard and I share about a renewed understanding of fasting when observed through the lens of Catholicism via voluntary penance and redemptive suffering. The son of a Protestant pastor, Matthew served as a missionary in Latin America previous to his conversion to Catholicism in 1998.
After entering the Church, he obtained a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is now is the Executive Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (http://bit.ly/nD86jb) and you can follow Matthew on Twitter @MattSLeonard.
Fr. Dennis Gang, a TOR Franciscan Friar, shares what fasting does for him as well as some the spiritual direction that he gives students and spiritual directees concerning fasting.
Here’s the archive of my interview on EWTN’s “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi that aired tonight. I explained how I got to Russia, met my wife, became an ordained Vineyard pastor and church planter, joined staff at the International House of Prayer Official Page, then finally returned to the Church of my childhood by reading the lives of Catholic saints and mystics mixed with fasting.
1. Best One-Sentence Summary: I am convinced that the Catholic Church conforms much more closely to all of the biblical data, offers the only coherent view of the history of Christianity (i.e., Christian, apostolic Tradition), and possesses the most profound and sublime Christian morality, spirituality, social ethic, and philosophy.
2. Alternate: I am a Catholic because I sincerely believe, by virtue of much cumulative evidence, that Catholicism is true, and that the Catholic Church is the visible Church divinely established by our Lord Jesus, against which the gates of hell cannot and will not prevail (Mt 16:18), thereby possessing an authority to which I feel bound in Christian duty to submit.
3. 2nd Alternate: I left Protestantism because it was seriously deficient in its interpretation of the Bible (e.g., “faith alone” and its missing many other “Catholic” doctrines – see evidences below), inconsistently selective in its espousal of various doctrines of Catholic Tradition (e.g., the canon of the Bible), inadequate in its ecclesiology, lacking a sensible view of Christian history (e.g., “Scripture alone”; ignorance or inconsistent understanding of of development of doctrine), compromised morally (e.g., contraception, divorce), and unbiblically schismatic and (in effect, or logical reduction, if not always in actual belief) relativistic.
Disclaimer: I don’t therefore believe that Protestantism is all bad (not by a long shot – indeed, I think it is a pretty good
4. Catholicism isn’t formally divided and sectarian (Jn 17:20-23; Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 1:10-13).
5. Catholic unity makes Christianity and Jesus more believable to the world (Jn 17:23).
6. Catholicism, because of its unified, complete, fully supernatural Christian vision, mitigates against secularization and humanism.
7. Catholicism (institutionally) avoids (and/or has the remedy to) an unbiblical individualism which undermines Christian community (e.g., 1 Cor 12:25-26).
8. Catholicism avoids theological relativism, by means of dogmatic certainty and the centrality of the papacy.
9. Catholicism avoids ecclesiological anarchism – one cannot merely jump to another denomination when some disciplinary measure or censure is called for.
10. Catholicism formally (although, sadly, not always in practice) prevents the theological “pick and choose” state of affairs, which leads to the uncertainties and “every man for himself” confusion within the Protestant system among laypeople.
11. Catholicism rejects the “State Church,” which has led to governments dominating Christianity rather than vice versa, caesaropapism, or a nominal, merely “go through the motions” institutional religion.
12. Protestant State Churches greatly influenced the rise of nationalism, which mitigated against equality of all men and the universal nature of historic Christianity (i.e., catholicism in its literal meaning).
13. Unified Catholic Christendom (before the 16th century) had not been plagued by the tragic, Christian vs. Christian religious wars which in turn led to the “Enlightenment,” in which men rejected the hypocrisy of inter-Christian warfare and decided to become indifferent to religion rather than letting it guide their lives.
14. Catholicism retains (to the fullest extent) the elements of mystery, supernatural, and the sacred in Christianity, thus opposing itself to secularization, where the sphere of the religious in life becomes greatly limited.
15. Protestant individualism led to the privatization of Christianity, whereby it is little respected in societal and political life, leaving the “public square” largely barren of Christian influence.
16. The secular false dichotomy of “church vs. world” has led committed orthodox Christians, by and large, to withdraw from politics, leaving a void filled by pagans, cynics, the unscrupulous, the power-hungry, and the Machiavellian. Catholicism offers a sensible, internally-coherent framework in which to approach the state and civic responsibility.
17. Protestantism leans too much on mere traditions of men. Every denomination stems from one founder’s vision, which contradicts something previously received from apostolic Tradition and passed down. As soon as two or more of these contradict each other, error is necessarily present.
18. Protestant churches (especially evangelicals), are far too often guilty of putting their pastors on too high of a pedestal. In effect, often pastors (at least in some denominational traditions) becomes a “pope,” to varying degrees. Because of this, evangelical congregations often experience a severe crisis and/or split up when a pastor leaves, thus proving that their philosophy is overly man-centered, rather than God-centered (Catholic parishes usually don’t experience such a crisis when a priest departs). Many pastors have far more power in their congregagtions than the pope has over the daily life of any Catholic.
19. Protestantism, due to lack of real authority and dogmatic structure, is tragically prone to accommodation to the spirit of the age, and moral faddism.
20. Catholicism retains apostolic succession, necessary to know what is true Christian apostolic Tradition. It was the criterion of Christian truth used by the early Christians and the Church Fathers.
21. Many Protestants take a dim view towards Christian history in general, especially the years from 313 (Constantine’s conversion) to 1517 (Luther’s arrival). This ignorance and hostility to Catholic Tradition leads to theological relativism, anti-Catholicism, and a constant, unnecessary process of “reinventing the wheel.”
22. Protestantism from its inception was anti-Catholic, and certain factions of it remain so to this day (especially in certain fundamentalist and Baptist and Reformed circles). This is obviously wrong and unbiblical if Catholicism is indeed Christian (if it isn’t, then – logically – neither is Protestantism, which inherited the bulk of its theology from Catholicism). The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is not anti-Protestant.
23. The Catholic Church accepts the authority of the great ecumenical councils (see, e.g., Acts 15) which defined and developed Christian doctrine (much of which Protestantism also accepts).
24. Most Protestants do not have bishops, a Christian office which is biblical (1 Tim 3:1-2) and which has existed from the earliest Christian history and Tradition.
25. Protestantism has no way of settling doctrinal issues definitively. At best, the individual Protestant can only take a head count of how many Protestant scholars, commentators, etc. take such-and-such a view on Doctrine X, Y, or Z. Or (in a more sophisticated fashion), the Protestant can simply accept the authority of some denominational tradition, confession, or creed (which then has to be justified over against the other competing ones). There is no unified Protestant Tradition.
26. Protestantism arose in 1517, and is a “Johnny-come-lately” in the history of Christianity (having introduced many doctrines previously accepted by no Christian group, or very few individuals). Therefore it cannot possibly be the “restoration” of “pure”, “primitive” Christianity, since this is ruled out by the fact of its novelties and absurdly late appearance. Christianity must have historic continuity or it is not Christianity. Protestantism is necessarily a “parasite” of Catholicism: historically and doctrinally speaking.
27. The notion (common among many Protestants) of the “invisible church” is also novel in the history of Christianity and foreign to the Bible (Mt 5:14; 16:18), therefore untrue.
28. When Protestant theologians speak of the teaching of early Christianity (e.g., when refuting “cults”), they say “the Church taught . . .” (as it was then unified), but when they refer to the present they instinctively and inconsistently refrain from such terminology, since universal teaching authority now clearly resides only in the Catholic Church.
29. The Protestant principle of private judgment has created a milieu (especially in Protestant America) in which it is easier for (invariably) man-centered “cults” such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and Christian Science arise. The very notion that one can “start” a new, or “the true” Church is Protestant to the core. Though (I want to stress) these cults are not Protestant themselves; nevertheless they tend to proliferate, given the existence of certain false Protestant principles of epistemology and authority.
30. The lack of a definitive teaching authority in Protestant (as with the Catholic magisterium) makes many individual Protestants think that they have a direct line to God, notwithstanding all of Christian Tradition and the history of biblical exegesis (a “Bible, Holy Spirit and me” mentality). Such people are generally under-educated theologically, unteachable, lack humility, and have no business making presumed “infallible” statements about the nature of Christianity.
31. Evangelicalism’s “techniques” of evangelism are often contrived and manipulative, certainly not directly derived from the text of the Bible. Some even resemble brainwashing to a degree. [I speak as a former street and campus and counter-cult evangelist myself, who avoided these techniques then, as I do now]
32. Sadly, too many evangelical Protestant evangelists and pastors present a truncated and abridged, individualistic and ear-tickling gospel, in effect merely “fire insurance” rather than the biblical gospel as proclaimed by the apostles.
33. Evangelicalism often separates profound, life-transforming repentance and radical discipleship from its gospel message. The Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this “cheap grace.”
34. The absence of the idea of submission to spiritual authority in Protestantism has leaked over into the civic arena, where the ideas of personal “freedom,” “rights,” and “choice” now dominate to such an extent that civic duty, communitarianism, and discipline are tragically neglected, to the detriment of a healthy society.
35. Catholicism retains the sense of the sacred, the sublime, the holy, and the beautiful in spirituality. The ideas of altar, and “sacred space” are preserved. Many Protestant churches are no more than “meeting halls” or “gymnasiums” or “barn”-type structures. Most Protestants’ homes are more esthetically striking than their churches. Likewise, Protestants (particularly fundamentalists and too many evangelicals) are often “addicted to mediocrity” in their appreciation of art, music, architecture, drama, the imagination, etc.
36. Protestantism has too often neglected the place of liturgy in worship (with notable exceptions such as Anglicanism and Lutheranism). This is the way Christians had always worshiped down through the centuries, and thus can’t be so lightly dismissed.
37. Too many brands of Protestantism tend to oppose matter and spirit, favoring the latter, and sometimes exhibit Gnostic or Docetic strains of thought in this regard.
38. Catholicism upholds in the fullest way the “incarnational principle,” wherein Jesus became flesh and thus raised flesh and matter to new spiritual heights.
39. Some strains of Protestantism (particularly evangelicalism and pentecostalism and especially the Baptists) greatly limit or disbelieve in sacramentalism, which is simply the extension of the incarnational principle and the belief that matter can convey grace. Some sects (e.g., Quakers and the Salvation Army) reject all sacraments.
40. Too many Protestants’ excessive mistrust of the flesh (“carnality”) often leads to (in evangelicalism or fundamentalism) an absurd legalism (no dancing, drinking, card-playing, rock music, etc.).
41. Many Protestants tend to separate life into categories of “spiritual” and “carnal,” as if God is not Lord of all of life. They forget that all non-sinful endeavors are ultimately spiritual.
42. Many Protestant denominations have removed the Eucharist from the center and focus of Christian worship services. Some Protestants observe it only monthly, or even quarterly (the Reformed are notorious for this). This is against the Tradition of the early Church.
43. Most Protestants (Lutherans and high-church Anglicans being the exception) believe in a merely symbolic Eucharist, which is contrary to universal Christian Tradition up to 1517, and the Bible (Mt 26:26-8; Jn 6:47-63; 1 Cor 10:14-22; 11:23-30), which hold to the Real Presence (another instance of the antipathy to matter).
44. Protestantism almost universally denies the sacramentality of marriage, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Mt 19:4-5; 1 Cor 7:14,39; Eph 5:25-33).
45. Protestantism has abolished the priesthood (Mt 18:18) and the sacrament of ordination, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Acts 6:6; 14:22; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6).
46. Catholicism retains the Pauline notion of the spiritual practicality, prudence, and wisdom of a celibate clergy
47. Protestantism has largely rejected the sacrament of confirmation (Acts 8:18, Heb 6:2-4), contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible.
48. A significant minority of Protestants have denied infant baptism, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Acts 2:38-9; 16:15,33; 18:8; cf. 11:14; 1 Cor 1:16; Col 2:11-12). Protestantism is divided into five major camps on the question of baptism.
49. The majority of Protestants deny baptismal regeneration, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 6:11; Titus 3:5).
50. Protestants have rejected the sacrament of anointing of the sick (Extreme Unction / “Last Rites”), contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Mk 6:13; 1 Cor 12:9,30; Jas 5:14-15).
51. Protestantism denies the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and allows divorce, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Gen 2:24; Mal 2:14-16; Mt 5:32; 19:6,9; Mk
10:11-12; Lk 16:18; Rom 7:2-3; 1 Cor 7:10-14,39).
52. Many Protestants deny that procreation is the primary purpose and benefit of marriage (it isn’t part of the vows, as in Catholic matrimony), contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Gen 1:28; 28:3, Ps 107:38; 127:3-5).
53. Protestantism sanctions contraception, in defiance of universal Christian Tradition (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) up until 1930 – when the Anglicans first allowed it – and the Bible (Gen 38:8-10; 41:52; Ex 23:25-6; Lev 26:9; Deut 7:14; Ruth 4:13; Lk 1:24-5). Luther and Calvin, e.g., regarded it as murder. Now, only Catholicism retains the ancient Tradition, over against the “anti-child” mentality.
54. Protestantism (mostly its liberal wing, but alarmingly in many other places, too) has accepted abortion as a moral option, contrary to universal Christian Tradition until recently (sometime after 1930), and the Bible (e.g., Ex 20:13; Job 31:15; Ps 139:13-16; Isa 44:2; 49:5; Jer 1:5; 2:34; Lk 1:15,41; Rom 13:9-10).
55. Protestantism (largely liberal denominations, but not exclusively so) allow women pastors (and even bishops, as in Anglicanism), contrary to Christian Tradition (including. traditional Protestant theology) and the Bible (Mt 10:1-4; 1 Tim 2:11-15; 3:1-12; Titus 1:6).
56. Protestantism is, more and more, formally and officially compromising with currently fashionable radical feminism, which denies the roles of men and women, as taught in the Bible (Gen 2:18-23; 1 Cor 11:3-10) and maintained by Christian Tradition (differentiation of roles, but not of equality).
57. Protestantism is also currently denying, with increasing frequency, the headship of the husband in marriage, which is based upon the headship of the Father over the Son (while equal in essence) in the Trinity, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Pet 3:1-2). This too, is based on a relationship of equality (1 Cor 11:11-12; Gal 3:28; Eph 5:21).
58. Liberal Protestantism (most notably Anglicanism) has even ordained practicing homosexuals as pastors and blessed their “marriages,” or taught that homosexuality is merely an involuntary, “alternate” lifestyle, contrary to formerly universal Christian Tradition, as the Bible clearly teaches (Gen 19:4-25; Rom 1:18-27; 1 Cor 6:9). Catholicism stands firm on traditional sexual morality.
59. Liberal Protestantism, and evangelicalism increasingly, have accepted “higher critical” methods of biblical interpretation which lead to the destruction of the traditional Christian reverence for the Bible, and demote it to the status of largely a human, fallible document, to the detriment of its divine, infallible essence.
60. Much of liberal Protestantism has thrown out many cardinal doctrines of Christianity, such as the incarnation, virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Trinity, original sin, hell, the existence of the devil, miracles, etc.
61. The founders of Protestantism denied, and Calvinists today deny, the reality of human free will (Luther’s favorite book was his Bondage of the Will). This is contrary to the constant premise of the Bible, Christian Tradition, and common sense.
62. Classical Protestantism had a deficient view of the Fall of Man, thinking that the result was “total depravity.” According to Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Calvinists, man could only do evil of his own volition, and had no free will to do good. He now has a “sin nature.” Catholicism believes that, in a mysterious way, man cooperates with the grace which always originates from God and precedes all good actions. In Catholicism, man’s nature still retains some good, although he has a propensity to sin (“concupiscence”).
63. Classical Protestantism, and Calvinism today, comes perilously close to making God the author of evil. He supposedly wills that men do evil and violate His precepts without having any free will to do so.
64. Accordingly (man having no free will), in classical Protestant and Calvinist thought, God predestines men to hell, although they had no choice or say in the matter all along.
65. Classical Protestantism and Calvinism, teach falsely that Jesus died only for the elect (i.e., those who will make it to heaven).
66. Classical Protestantism (especially Luther), and Calvinism, deny natural theology, and tend to dichotomize reason against God and faith, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Mk 12:28; Lk 10:27; Jn 20:24-9; Acts 1:3; 17:2,17,22-34; 19:8). The best Protestant apologists today simply hearken back to the Catholic heritage of St. Aquinas, St. Augustine, and many other great thinkers.
67. Pentecostal or charismatic Protestantism strongly tend to place much too high an emphasis on spiritual experience, not balancing it properly with reason, the Bible, and Tradition (including the authority of the Church to pronounce on the validity of “private revelations”).
68. Other Protestants (e.g., many Baptists) deny that spiritual gifts such as healing are present in the current age (supposedly they ceased with the apostles). This position is called cessationism.
69. Protestantism has contradictory views of church government, or ecclesiology (episcopal, presbyterian, congregational, or no collective authority at all), thus making widespread discipline, unity and order impossible. Some sects even claim to have “apostles” or “prophets” among them, with all the accompanying abuses of authority resulting therefrom.
70. Some strains of Protestantism (especially evangelicalism and fundamentalism) have an undue fascination for – even obsession with – the “end of the world,” which has led to unbiblical date-setting (Mt 24:30-44; 25:13; Lk 12:39-40) and much human tragedy among those who are taken in by such false prophecies.
71. Over-emphasis on the “imminent end” of the age (where found in Protestantism) has often led to a certain “pie-in-the sky” mentality, to the detriment of social, political, ethical, and economic sensibilities here on earth.
72. Protestant thought has a strong characteristic or tendency of being “dichotomous,” i.e., it separates ideas into more or less exclusive and mutually-hostile camps, when in fact many of the dichotomies are simply complementary contradictory. Protestantism has been described as an “either-or” system, whereas Catholicism takes a “both-and” approach. Examples follow:
73. Protestantism pits the Word (the Bible, preaching) against sacraments.
74. Protestantism sets up inner devotion and piety against liturgy.
75. Protestantism opposes spontaneous worship to form prayers.
76. Protestantism separates the Bible from the Church.
77. Protestantism creates the false dichotomy of Bible vs. Tradition.
78. Protestantism pits Tradition against the Holy Spirit.
79. Protestantism considers (binding) Church authority and individual liberty and conscience contradictory.
80. Some forms of Protestantism (notably Luther and present-day dispensationalists) set up the Old Testament against the New Testament, even though Jesus did not do so (Mt 5:17-19; Mk 7:8-11; Lk 24:27,44; Jn 5:45-47).
81. On equally unbiblical grounds, some Protestants (notably, Lutherans) opposes law to grace.
82. Protestantism creates a false dichotomy between symbolism and sacramental reality (e.g., baptism, Eucharist).
83. Protestantism strongly tends to separate the individual from Christian community (1 Cor 12:14-27).
84. Protestantism pits the veneration of saints against the worship of God. Catholic theology doesn’t permit worship of saints. Rather, saints are revered and honored, not adored, as only God the Creator can be.
85. The anti-historical outlook of many Protestants leads to individuals thinking that the Holy Spirit is speaking to them, but has not, in effect, spoken to the multitudes of Christians for 1500 years before Protestantism began.
86. Flaws in original Protestant thought have led to even worse errors in reaction. E.g., extrinsic justification, devised to assure the predominance of grace, came to prohibit any outward sign of its presence (“faith vs. works,” sola fide). Calvinism, with its overly stern and rigid God, turned men off to such an extent that they became Unitarians (as in New England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries). Many founders of cults of recent origin started out Calvinist (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, The Way International, etc.). One error begets another more serious and damaging error.
87. Evangelicalism is unbiblically obsessed (in typically American fashion) with celebrities (TV Evangelists).
88. Evangelicalism is infatuated with the false idea that great numbers in a congregation (or rapid growth) are a sign of God’s presence in a special way, and His unique blessing. They forget that Mormonism is also growing by leaps and bounds. God calls us to faithfulness rather than to “success”; obedience, not flattering statistics.
89. Evangelicalism often emphasizes numerical growth rather than individual spiritual growth.
90. Evangelicalism is presently obsessed with self-fulfillment, self-help, and oftentimes, outright selfishness, rather than the traditional Christian stress on suffering, sacrifice, and service. A visit to the average “Christian bookstore” will quickly confirm this.
91. Evangelicalism has a truncated and insufficient view of the place of suffering in the Christian life. Instead, “health-and-wealth” and “name-it-and-claim-it” movements within
pentecostal Protestantism are flourishing, which have a view of possessions and spiritual well-being not in harmony with the Bible and Christian Tradition.
92. Many evangelicals have adopted a worldview which is, in many ways, more capitalist than Christian. Wealth and personal gain is sought more than godliness, and is seen as a proof of God’s favor, as in Puritan, and secularized American thought, over against the Bible and Christian teaching.
93. Evangelicalism is increasingly tolerating leftist political outlooks not in accord with Christian views, especially at its seminaries and colleges.
94. Evangelicalism is increasingly tolerating theological heterodoxy and liberalism, to such an extent that many evangelical leaders are alarmed, and predict a further decay of orthodox standards.
95. “Positive confession” movements in pentecostal evangelicalism have adopted views of God (in effect) as a “cosmic bellhop,” subject to man’s frivolous whims and desires of the moment, thus denying God’s absolute sovereignty and prerogative to turn down any of man’s improper prayer requests (Jas 4:3; 1 Jn 5:14).
96. The above sects usually teach that anyone can be healed who has enough “faith,” contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (e.g., Job, St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” usually considered a disease by most Protestant commentators).
97. Evangelicalism, by its own self-critiques, is badly infected with pragmatism, the false philosophical view that “whatever works is true, or right.” The gospel, especially on television, is often sold in the same way that McDonalds hawks hamburgers. Technology, mass-market and public relations techniques have too often replaced personal pastoral care and social concern for the downtrodden, irreligious, and unchurched masses.
98. Sin, in evangelicalism, is increasingly seen as a psychological failure or a lack of self-esteem, rather than the willful revolt against God that it is.
99. Protestantism, in all essential elements, merely borrows wholesale from Catholic Tradition, or distorts the same. All doctrines upon which Catholics and Protestants agree, are clearly Catholic in origin (Holy Trinity, virgin birth, Jesus’ Resurrection, second coming, canon of the Bible, heaven, hell, etc.). Those where Protestantism differs are usually distortions of Catholic forerunners. For example, Quakerism is a variant of Catholic Quietism. Calvinism is an over-obsession with the Catholic idea of the sovereignty of God, but taken to lengths beyond what Catholicism ever taught (denial of free will, total depravity, double predestination, etc.). Protestant dichotomies such as faith vs. works, come from the nominalism of the late Middle Ages, which was itself a corrupt form of Scholasticism, never dogmatically sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Whatever life or truth is present in each Protestant idea, always is derived from Catholicism, which is the fulfillment of the deepest and best aspirations within Protestantism.
100. One of Protestantism’s foundational principles is sola Scriptura, which is neither biblical (see below), historical (nonexistent until the 16th century), nor logical (it’s self-defeating) idea:
101. The Bible doesn’t contain the whole of Jesus’ teaching, or Christianity, as many Protestants believe (Mk 4:33; 6:34; Lk 24:15-16,25-27; Jn 16:12; 20:30; 21:25; Acts 1:2-3).
102. Sola scriptura is an abuse of the Bible, since it is a use of the Bible contrary to its explicit and implicit testimony about itself and Tradition. An objective reading of the Bible leads one to Tradition and the Catholic Church, rather than the opposite. The Bible is, in fact, undeniably a Christian Tradition itself.
103. The NT was neither written nor received as the Bible at first, but only gradually so (i.e., early Christianity couldn’t have believed in sola Scriptura like current Protestants, unless it referred to the OT alone).
104. Tradition is not a bad word in the Bible. The Greek paradosis refers to something handed on from one to another (good or bad). Good (Christian) Tradition is spoken of in 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6, and Col 2:8. In the latter it is contrasted with traditions of men.
105. Christian Tradition, according to the Bible, can be oral as well as written (2 Thess 2:15; 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2). St. Paul makes no qualitative distinction between the two forms.
106. The phrases “word of God” or “word of the Lord” in Acts and the epistles almost always refer to oral preaching, not to the Bible itself. Much of the Bible was originally oral (e.g., Jesus’ entire teaching – He wrote nothing – St. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, etc.).
107. Contrary to many Protestant claims, Jesus didn’t condemn all tradition any more than St. Paul did. E.g., Mt 15:3,6; Mk 7:8-9,13, where He condemns corrupt Pharisaical tradition only. He says “your tradition.”
108. The Greek paradidomi, or “delivering” Christian, apostolic Tradition occurs in Lk 1:1-2; Rom 6:17; 1 Cor 11:23; 15:3; 2 Pet 2:21; Jude 3. Paralambano, or “receiving” Christian Tradition occurs in 1 Cor 15:1-2; Gal 1:9,12; 1 Thess 2:13.
109. The concepts of “Tradition,” “gospel,” “word of God,” “doctrine,” and “the Faith” are essentially synonymous, and all are predominantly oral. For example, in the Thessalonian epistles alone St. Paul uses 3 of these interchangeably (2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 1 Thess 2:9,13 (cf. Gal 1:9; Acts 8:14). If Tradition is a dirty word, then so is “gospel” and “word of God”.
110. St. Paul, in 1 Tim 3:15, states that the Church is the ground of truth, as in Catholicism.
111. Protestantism’s chief “proof text” for sola Scriptura, 2 Timothy 3:16, fails, since it says that the Bible is profitable, but not sufficient for learning and righteousness. Catholicism agrees that it is great for these purposes, but not exclusively so, as in Protestantism. Secondly, when St. Paul speaks of “Scripture” here, the NT didn’t yet exist (not definitively for over 300 more years), thus he is referring to the OT only. This would mean that the NT wasn’t necessary for the rule of faith, if sola Scriptura were true, and if it were supposedly alluded to in this verse.
112. The above eleven factors being true, Catholicism maintains that all its Tradition is consistent with the Bible, even where the Bible is mute or merely implicit on a subject. For Catholicism, every doctrine need not be found primarily in the Bible, for this is Protestantism’s principle of sola Scriptura. On the other hand, most Catholic theologians claim that all Catholic doctrines can be found in some fashion in the Bible, in kernel form, or by (usually. extensive) inference, and that the Bible is materially sufficient for salvation, if it was all one had (on a desert island or something).
113. As thoughtful evangelical scholars have pointed out, an unthinking sola Scriptura position (sometimes referred to as solo Scriptura) can turn into “bibliolatry,” almost a worship of the Bible rather than God who is its Author. This mentality is similar to the Muslim view of Revelation, where no human elements whatsoever were involved. Sola Scriptura, rightly understood from a more sophisticated (e.g., Reformed) Protestant perspective, means that the Bible is the final authority in Christianity, not the record of all God has said and done, as many evangelicals believe.
114. Christianity is unavoidably and intrinsically historical. All the events of Jesus’ life (incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, etc.) were historical, as was the preaching of the apostles. Tradition, therefore, of some sort, is unavoidable, contrary to numerous shortsighted Protestant claims. This is true both for matters great (ecclesiology, trinitarianism, justification) and small (church budgets, type of worship music, lengths of sermons, etc.). Every denial of a particular tradition involves a bias (hidden or open) towards one’s own alternate tradition (E.g., if all Church authority is spurned, even individualistic autonomy is a “tradition,” which ought to be defended as a Christian view in some fashion).
115. Sola scriptura literally couldn’t have been true, practically speaking, for most Christians throughout history, since the movable-type printing press only appeared in the mid-15th century. Preaching and oral Tradition, along with things like devotional practices, Christian holidays, church architecture and other sacred art, were the primary carriers of the gospel for 1400 years. For all these centuries, sola Scriptura would have been regarded as an absurd abstraction and impossibility.
116. Protestantism claims that the Catholic Church has “added to the Bible.” The Catholic Church replies that it has merely drawn out the implications of the Bible (development of doctrine), and followed the understanding of the early Church, and that Protestants have “subtracted” from the Bible by ignoring large portions of it which suggest Catholic positions. Each side thinks the other is “unbiblical,” but in different ways.
117. Sola Scriptura is Protestantism’s “Achilles’ Heel.” Merely invoking sola Scriptura is no solution to the problem of authority and certainty as long as multiple interpretations exist. If the Bible were so clear that all Protestants agreed simply by reading it with a willingness to accept and follow its teaching, this would be one thing, but since this isn’t the case by a long shot (the multiplicity of denominations), sola Scriptura is a pipe-dream at best. About all that all Protestants agree on is that Catholicism is wrong, or on doctrines with which they already agree with Catholicism. Of all Protestant ideas, the “clarity” or perspicuity of the Bible is surely one of the most absurd and the most demonstrably false.
118. Put another way, having a Bible does not render one’s private judgment infallible. Interpretation is just as inevitable as tradition, and such individual interpretation is rife with one’s own traditions, and prior theological biases, whether acknowledged or not. The Catholic Church therefore, is absolutely necessary in order for true authority to exist, and to prevent confusion, error, and division.
119. Catholicism doesn’t regard the Bible as obscure, mysterious, and inaccessible, but it is vigilant to protect it from all arbitrary and aberrant exegesis (2 Pet 1:20, 3:16). The best Protestant traditions seek to do the same, but are inadequate and ineffectual since they are divided.
120. Protestantism has a huge problem with the canon of the NT. The disputes and disagreements concerning the exact books which constitute the NT lasted until 397 A.D., when the Council of Carthage spoke with finality, certainly proof that the Bible is not “self-authenticating,” as Protestantism believes. Some sincere, devout, and learned Christians doubted the canonicity of some books which are now in the Bible, and others considered books as Scripture which were not at length included in the canon. St. Athanasius in 367 was the first to list all 27 books in the NT as Scripture.
121. The Council of Carthage, in deciding the canon of the entire Bible in 397, included the so-called “Apocryphal” books, which Protestants kicked out of the Bible (i.e., a late tradition). Prior to the 16th century Christians considered these books Scripture, and they weren’t even separated from the others, as they are today in the Protestant Bibles which include them. Protestantism accepts the authority of this council for the NT, but not the OT, just as it arbitrarily and selectively accepts or denies other conciliar decrees, according to their accord with existing Protestant “dogmas” and biases.
122. Contrary to Protestant anti-Catholic myth, the Catholic Church has always revered the Bible, and hasn’t suppressed it (it protested some Protestant translations, but Protestants have often done the same regarding Catholic versions and even various Protestant ones). This is proven by the laborious care of monks in protecting and copying manuscripts, and the constant translations into vernacular tongues (as opposed to the falsehoods about only Latin Bibles), among other plentiful and indisputable historical evidences. The Bible is a Catholic book, and no matter how much Protestants study it and proclaim it as peculiarly their own, they must acknowledge their undeniable debt to the Catholic Church for having decided the canon, and for preserving the Bible intact for 1400 years. How could the Catholic Church be “against the Bible,” as anti-Catholics say, yet at the same time preserve and revere the Bible profoundly for so many years? The very thought is so absurd as to be self-refuting. If Catholicism is indeed as heinous as anti-Catholics would have us believe, Protestantism ought to put together its own Bible, instead of using the one delivered to them by the Catholic Church, as it obviously could not be trusted.
123. Protestantism denies the Sacrifice of the Mass, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Gen 14:18; Ps 110:4; Isa 66:18,21; Mal 1:11; Heb 7:24-5; 13:10; Rev 5:1-10; cf. 8:3; 13:8). Catholicism, it must be emphasized, doesn’t believe that Jesus is sacrificed over and over at each Mass; rather, each Mass is a representation of the one Sacrifice at Calvary on the Cross, which transcends space and time, as in Rev 13:8.
124. Many Protestants disbelieve or distort beyond recognition, the development of doctrine, contrary to Christian Tradition and many implicit biblical indications. Whenever the Bible refers to the increasing knowledge and maturity of Christians individually and (particularly) collectively, an idea similar to development is present. Further, many doctrines develop in the Bible before our eyes (“progressive revelation”). Examples: the afterlife, the Trinity, acceptance of Gentiles. And doctrines which Protestantism accepts whole and entire from Catholicism, such as the Trinity and the canon of the Bible, developed in history, in the first three centuries of Christianity. It is foolish to try and deny this. The Church is the “Body” of Christ, and is a living organism, which grows and develops like all living bodies. It is not a statue, simply to be cleaned and polished over time, as many Protestants seem to think.
125. Protestantism separates justification from sanctification, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (e.g., Mt 5:20; 7:20-24; Rom 2:7-13; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Pet 1:2).
126. Protestantism has a strong tendency of pitting faith against works (sola fide), which is a rejection of Christian Tradition and the explicit teaching of the Bible (Mt 25:31-46; Lk 18:18-25; Jn 6:27-9; Gal 5:6; Eph 2:8-10; Phil 2:12-13; 3:10-14; 1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:11; Heb 5:9; Jas 1:21-7; 2:14-16). These passages also indicate that salvation is a process, not an instantaneous event, as in Protestantism.
127. Protestantism rejects the Christian Tradition and biblical teaching of merit, or differential reward for our good deeds done in faith (Mt 16:27; Rom 2:6; 1 Cor 3:8-9; 1 Pet 1:17; Rev 22:12).
128. Protestantism’s teaching of extrinsic, imputed, forensic, or external justification contradicts the Christian Tradition and biblical doctrine of infused, actual, internal, transformational justification (which includes sanctification): Ps 51:2-10; 103:12; Jn 1:29; Rom 5:19; 2 Cor 5:17; Heb 1:3; 1 Jn 1:7-9.
129. Many Protestants (especially Presbyterians, Calvinists and Baptists) believe in eternal security, or perseverance of the saints (the belief that one can’t lose his “salvation,” supposedly obtained at one point in time). This is contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible: 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 4:9; 5:1,4; Col 1:22-3; 1 Tim 1:19-20; 4:1; 5:15; Heb 3:12-14; 6:4-6; 10:26,29,39; 12:14-15; 2 Pet 2:15,20-21; Rev 2:4-5.
130. Contrary to Protestant myth and anti-Catholicism, the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that one is saved by works apart from preceding and enabling grace, but that faith and works are inseparable, as in James 1 and 2. This heresy of which Catholicism is often charged, was in fact condemned by the Catholic Church at the Second Council of Orange in 529 A.D. It is known as Pelagianism, the view that man could save himself by his own natural efforts, without the necessary supernatural grace from God. A more moderate view, Semi-Pelagianism, was likewise condemned. To continue to accuse the Catholic Church of this heresy suggests a manifest ignorance of the history of theology, as well as the clear Catholic teaching of the Council of Trent (1545-63), available for all to see. Yet the myth is strangely prevalent.
131. Protestantism has virtually eliminated the practice of confession to a priest (or at least a pastor), contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Mt 16:19; 18:18; Jn 20:23).
132. Protestantism disbelieves in penance, or temporal punishment for (forgiven) sin, over against Christian Tradition and the Bible (e.g., Num 14:19-23; 2 Sam 12:13-14; 1 Cor
11:27-32; Heb 12:6-8).
133. Protestantism has little concept of the Tradition and biblical doctrine of mortifying the flesh, or suffering with Christ: Mt 10:38; 16:24: Rom 8:13,17; 1 Cor 12:24-6; Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 4:1,13.
134. Likewise, Protestantism has lost the Tradition and biblical doctrine of vicarious atonement, or redemptive suffering with Christ, of Christians for the sake of each other: Ex 32:30-32; Num 16:43-8; 25:6-13; 2 Cor 4:10; Col 1:24; 2 Tim 4:6.
135. Protestantism has rejected the Tradition and biblical doctrine of purgatory, as a consequence of its false view of justification and penance, despite sufficient evidence in Scripture: Is 4:4; 6:5-7; Micah 7:8-9; Mal 3:1-4; 2 Maccabees 12:39-45; Mt 5:25-6; 12:32; Lk 16:19-31 (cf. Eph 4:8-10; 1 Pet 3:19-20); 1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 21:27.
136. Protestantism has rejected (largely due to misconceptions and misunderstanding) the Catholic developed doctrine of indulgences, which is, simply, the remission of the temporal punishment for sin (i.e., penance), by the Church (on the grounds of Mt 16:19; 18:18, and Jn 20:23). This is no different than what St. Paul did, concerning an errant brother at the Church of Corinth. He first imposed a penance on him (1 Cor 5:3-5), then remitted part of it (an indulgence: 2 Cor 2:6-11). Just because abuses occurred prior to the Protestant Revolt (admitted and rectified by the Catholic Church), is no reason to toss out yet another biblical doctrine. Yet it is sadly typical of Protestantism to burn down a house rather than to cleanse it, to “throw the baby out with the bath water.”
137. Protestantism has thrown out prayers for the dead, in opposition to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Tobit 12:12; 2 Maccabees 12:39-45; 1 Cor 15:29; 2 Tim 1:16-18; also verses having to do with purgatory, since these prayers are for the saints there).
138. Protestantism rejects, on inadequate grounds, the intercession of the saints for us after death, and the correspondent invocation of the saints for their effectual prayers (Jas 5:16). Christian Tradition and the Bible, on the other hand, have upheld this practice: Dead saints are aware of earthly affairs (Mt 22:30 w/ Lk 15:10 and 1 Cor 15:29; Heb 12:1), appear on earth to interact with men (1 Sam 28:12-15; Mt 17:1-3, 27:50-53; Rev 11:3), and therefore can intercede for us, and likewise be petitioned for their prayers, just as are Christians on earth (2 Maccabees 15:14; Rev 5:8; 6:9-10).
139. Some Protestants disbelieve in guardian angels, despite Christian Tradition and the Bible (Ps 34:7; 91:11; Mt 18:10; Acts 12:15; Heb 1:14).
140. Most Protestants deny angelic intercession, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Rev 1:4; 5:8; 8:3-4).
141. Protestantism rejects Mary’s Immaculate Conception, despite developed Christian Tradition and indications in the Bible: Gen 3:15; Lk 1:28 (“full of grace” Catholics interpret, on linguistic grounds, to mean “without sin”); Mary as a type of the Ark of the Covenant (Lk 1:35 w/ Ex 40:34-8; Lk 1:44 w/ 2 Sam 6:14-16; Lk 1:43 w/ 2 Sam 6:9: God’s Presence requires extraordinary holiness).
142. Protestantism rejects Mary’s Assumption, despite developed Christian Tradition and biblical indications: If Mary was indeed sinless, she would not have to undergo bodily decay at death (Ps 16:10; Gen 3:19). Similar occurrences in the Bible make the Assumption not implausible or “unbiblical” per se (Enoch: Gen 5:24 w/ Heb 11:5; Elijah: 2 Ki 2:11; Paul: 2 Cor 12:2-4; the Protestant doctrine of the “Rapture”: 1 Thess 4:15-17; risen saints: Mt 27:52-3).
143. Many (most?) Protestants deny Mary’s perpetual virginity, despite Christian Tradition (including the unanimous agreement of the Protestant founders (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.), some Protestant support, and several biblical evidences, too involved to briefly summarize.
144. Protestantism denies Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood of Christians, contrary to Christian Tradition and the Bible (Jn 19:26-7: “Behold thy mother”; Rev 12:1,5,17: Christians described as “her seed.”) Catholics believe that Mary is incomparably more alive and holy than we are, hence, her prayers for us are of great effect (Jas 5:16; Rev 5:8; 6:9-10). But she is our sister with regard to our position of creatures vis-a-vis the Creator, God. Mary never operates apart from the necessary graces from her Son, and always glorifies Him, not herself, as Catholic theology stresses.
145. Protestantism rejects the papacy, despite profound Christian Tradition, and the strong evidence in the Bible of Peter’s preeminence and commission by Jesus as the Rock of His Church. No one denies he was some type of leader among the apostles. The papacy as we now know it is derived from this primacy: Mt 16:18-19; Lk 22:31-2; Jn 21:15-17 are the most direct “papal” passages. Peter’s name appears first in all lists of apostles; even an angel implies he is their leader (Mk 16:7), and he is accepted by the world as such (Acts 2:37-8,41). He works the first miracle of the Church age (Acts 3:6-8), utters the first anathema (Acts 5:2-11), raises the dead (Acts 9:40), first receives the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-48), and his name is mentioned more often than all the other disciples put together (191 times). Much more similar evidence can be found.
146. The Church of Rome and the popes were central to the governance and theological direction and orthodoxy of the Christian Church from the beginning. This is undeniable. All of the historical groups now regarded as heretical by Protestants and Catholics alike were originally judged as such by popes and/or ecumenical councils presided over and ratified by popes.
147. Protestantism, in its desperation to eke out some type of historical continuity apart from the Catholic Church, sometimes attempts to claim a lineage from medieval sects such as the Waldenses, Cathari, and Albigensians
148. Catholic has the most sophisticated and thoughtful Christian socio-economic and political philosophy, a mixture of “progressive” and “conservative” elements distinct from the commonplace political rhetoric and Machiavellianism which typically dominate the political arena. Catholicism has the best view of church in relation to the state and culture as well.
149. Catholicism has the best Christian philosophy and worldview, worked out through centuries of reflection and experience. As in its theological reflection and development, the Catholic Church is ineffably wise and profound, to an extent truly amazing, and indicative of a sure divine stamp. I used to marvel, just before I converted, at how the Catholic Church could be so right about so many things. I was accustomed to thinking, as a good evangelical, that the truth was always a potpourri of ideas from many Protestant denominations and Catholicism and Orthodoxy (selected by myself), and that none “had it all together.” But, alas, the Catholic Church does, after all.
150. Last but by no means least, Catholicism has the most sublime spirituality and devotional spirit, manifested in a thousand different ways, from the monastic ideal, to the heroic celibacy and pure devotion and service to God of the clergy and religious, the Catholic hospitals, the sheer holiness of a Thomas a Kempis or a St. Ignatius Loyola and their great devotional books, countless saints – both canonized and as yet unknown and unsung, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, the early martyrs, St. Francis of Assisi, the events at Lourdes and Fatima, the dazzling intellect of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, the wisdom and insight of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, St. John of the Cross, the sanctified wit of a Chesterton or a Muggeridge, elderly women doing the Stations of the Cross or the Rosary, Holy Hour, Benediction, kneeling – the list goes on and on. This devotional spirit is, I humbly submit, unmatched in its scope and deepness, despite many fine counterparts in Protestant and Orthodox spirituality. thing overall), but these are some of the major deficiencies I eventually saw as fatal to the “theory” of Protestantism, over against Catholicism. All Catholics must regard baptized, Nicene, Chalcedonian Protestants as Christians. and (e.g., Mt 19:12, 1 Cor 7:8,27,32-3). rather than (and sometimes earlier groups such as the Montanists or Donatists). However, this endeavor is doomed to failure when one studies closely what these sects believed. They either retain much Catholic teaching anathema to Protestants or hold heretical notions antithetical to Christianity altogether (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox), or both, making this Protestant theory quite dubious at best.
By Dave Armstrong
Recap and Example
Let’s go through the whole thing one more time in a somewhat different way because it’s an apparently an impossible, unbelievable point: this hope for ecumenical reunion without compromise.
Already ecumenism has defined predictions and expectations. Apparently easy bridges have not been built, for example between Catholics and Orthodox. While apparently impossible ones have been built, for instance the Catholic-Lutheran agreement on Justification.
In my individual experience I find the same surprising principle to be true. I often find more mutual understanding between myself and a fundamentalist Southern Baptist who sincerely believes I am worshiping the great whore of Babylon and on my way to Hell, or with a Muslim who uncompromisingly rejects my belief that Christ is Lord as utter pagan blasphemy, than I find with some active Catholic laity, nuns, especially ex-nuns, priests and even bishops! As fellow Catholics we may agree on more articles of faith than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, yet I sense we disagree more fundamentally than I do with the Protestant or the Muslim, and not just by personal temperament. Here’s a mystery and when I try to unravel it, here’s what I came up with.
Let’s begin at the beginning with God, and the nature of God, and the will of God. God is Love and God wills above all for us all to enter into that Love forever: to incorporate us into the very mystery of the life of the Trinity. Everything that God does, from banging out the big bang, to incarnating His own Son, to arranging for each and every hair that falls from our head, everything He does is done for that end. Now with this general and very Heavenly principle in mind, let us look at something very earthly and very particular.
Let’s look at the ecumenical situation in a very local time and place. Latin America today. Catholics are complaining that Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Pentecostal sects are stealing sheep. Protestant sects are growing and Catholic percentages are declining. Well, instead of complaining, let’s look deeper at the reality. Why is this happening? I think the ultimate reason is because God is Love. Because God wills to draw all men to Himself. Because of that spiritual gravity, because nature abhors a vacuum, spiritually as well as physically, and because the Catholic Church has been so remiss in giving God’s children the fullness of the spiritual food that God has given the Church to give out, therefore, the children have been going elsewhere to eat it.
And God has allowed this because God is a good father. And a good father would rather see his children go away from home and live, than stay home and die. Of course things are not that simple, of course motives for leaving the Church and joining the sects are many and mixed and some are simply bad, but still I think the main force that’s driving these events is in the realm of the spirit is the Spirit. When these sheep find little or no Christ in the Catholic Church, whoever’s fault that is, and find Christ more really in a sect, more really objectively and not just subjectively, and certainly not just emotionally, then they’re moving closer to and not farther from the fullness of the Catholic faith. They may have left the Eucharist, the real presence of Christ in the Catholic Church, and that is the fullest presence of Christ in this world, but they did not know the Person who is present there, and whose body they ate with their bodies, but not with their souls.
When these starving sheep leave home to find the manna of Christ in the sects, they are learning the lesson one that should have learned as Catholics but didn’t. And that lesson one is the only possible foundation for lesson two and three and four. That is, the fullness of the faith that the Catholic Church has, the building, rests on one foundation. As Catholics, these people may have gotten the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but they didn’t get the real presence of Christ in their hearts and in their lives. They got the upper stories of the Catholic skyscrapers, but not the foundation. Not the faith and the hope and the love relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior. Therefore, in order to become good Catholics, they must first become good Protestants.
A Surprising Clue
But reunion without compromise between Catholics and Protestants still seems impossible. Yet, here’s a surprising clue that it may be possible after all: the main point of what I said in the last few minutes “Jesus only,” “the all sufficiency of Christ,” that’s the essential Protestant point and it was just made by me, a Catholic.
That point seems to be an essential dividing point for Catholicism seems to Protestants to violate that point. Catholicism seems to Protestants to be “Christ plus paganism,” “the Ark plus the barnacles,” or “Christ plus many human traditions and historical accretions,” “Christ plus the pope,” “Christ plus Mary,” whatever. The most serious Protestant objection to Catholicism as a religion, not just as a theology, is that it violates the scriptural teaching of the all sufficiency of Christ, the teaching that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
To Protestants, Catholicism seems to add other mediaries, other intermediaries between man and Christ: Mary, the saints, the Church, Sacraments, priests, human traditions.
But I suggest that if Protestants make just one single adjustment in their vision, they will see the possibility of reunion. Not just theologically, but more deeply religiously and spiritually, without any compromise at all. And that one adjustment is not to see Christ in any different way at all, but to see the Church in a different way. Not as an obstacle between us and Christ, not even as an intermediary between us and Christ, but as the very body of Christ Himself.
And why would they make that adjustment? Well, which of these two concepts of the Church is the scriptural way of seeing it? Come on, answer honestly. You read the Bible and isn’t the Bible the supreme authority for any Protestant? Once Protestants see the Church’s identity, they can love her instead of fearing her because the body of Christ is Christ as your body is you. It’s not an alien, it’s not an obstacle. How can your own body be an obstacle? How Gnostic! The body is not your prison house, or your coffin, or your punishment. It’s not even your tool, or your clothing, or your house. It’s not This Old House. It’s you. Although it’s not the whole you. It’s not your head, or your soul. The same is true of Christ’s body which is what the New Testament calls the Church.
It is Christ. Though it’s not the whole Christ. He is her head. And the Holy Spirit is her soul.
Protestants will not and should not stop protesting against the Catholic Church until they see the totally Christocentric character of her and all her teachings. Sometimes, the understanding of the Church’s Christocentrism can be the key to understanding the Christocentric nature of each of the Church’s teachings. And sometimes, it works the other way around. Doctrine by doctrine, yielding its Christocentric treasure at the heart as it is more deeply explored and understood. As Christ the teacher appears at the heart of each of the Church’s teachings. I know a number of Protestants who have read the Church’s new Catechism and had been amazed at how consistently Christocentric everything in it is. And unless Protestants see this, how could they think of reunion with Catholics? And how can they see this, unless Catholics show it to them? And how can Catholics show it to them, unless they see it themselves? And how can they see it, unless they have a teacher, a preacher? As it is written, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the good news.”
In this light, it seems to me, clearly Providential that God has raised up for our time, the time of the end of the second millennium, the millennium of Christian disunity, and the beginning of the third millennium, hopefully the millennium of Christian re-unity, has raised up John Paul the Great. The most Christocentric pope of modern times, probably of all times. The most ecumenical pope of all times, and yet one who is totally and traditionally and enthusiastically Catholic. Is the pope Catholic? There have been times in the Church’s dark history when that joke was not funny. Today it’s funny.
So the reunion must be on Catholic grounds. That is, complete, universal grounds. That is the essentially and distinctively Catholic point: essential Catholic point and it is non-negotiable for any faithful Catholic.
But at the same time, reunion must be on Protestant grounds. And these are equally non-negotiable. What I mean by that is the essentially and distinctively Protestant point: the central Protestant point seems to be the opposite of the Catholic one, namely the simple all sufficiency of Christ alone. Jesus only. Jesus plus nothing. Jesus straight, not mixed drink. If reunion is possible, that is its only foundation. The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.
Now of course that doesn’t have to mean, and it shouldn’t mean “no creed but Christ” or “Jesus only and therefore no Church” or “Jesus only therefore no Sacraments” for most Protestants do have a creed and a church and sacraments.
So perhaps those two central points already overlap a bit, or more than a bit. In fact they overlap so much that we can say, without trickery, that the whole reason for being a Catholic is to be the best possible evangelical Protestant.
What I mean by that strange statement is that the essence of evangelical Protestantism is to be one with Christ, to meet Christ, and that’s the best reason to be a Catholic. That’s the reason for the Mass, and the Eucharist, namely the Protestant thing of meeting Christ. That’s the whole point of the Catholic thing of the Church, and of the Sacraments and of the Saints and all of the rest. Take the Eucharist. Christ is not great because of the Eucharist, the Eucharist is great because of Christ. We Catholics don’t try to squeeze Christ out of the Church like orange juice out of an orange, Christ gave us the Church. We got the Church from Christ first of all. Only then do we get Christ from the Church because He put Himself into her. The Church is the servant, the messenger. The Church is Christ’s body, but the body is the head’s body. We don’t idolize anything. Protestants accuse Catholics of idolatry, ecclesiolatry, sacramentiology, Mariolatry, Christ is the only “idol.” The total “idola” or “icon” or “image” of God. We do not idolize, for instance, the doctrine of the Real Presence. It’s only a doctrine, though it’s a true doctrine. We worship Christ not doctrines about Christ. The Real Presence is the real presence of Christ. Christ alone is the absolute everywhere in Catholicism. Mary for instance, is holy only because of her relationship to Christ. She gave us Him by freely consenting to be His mother. And He gave us her, from the Cross. “Behold, your mother.”
Ecumenism Without Compromise – Peter Kreeft
There is a golden key! His name is Jesus Christ. We can’t do it. And He can. We must be very clear about those two truths. The main reason it hasn’t happened is that we do not fully believe both those two truths.
Christ Himself is the most powerful source of reunion in the world because it comes not from the world but from Heaven. And He will have His way with us sooner or later, one way or another. We don’t know whether it’s going to be sooner or later, and we don’t know if it will come by one way or by another. But we do know that it will come because it is his will. We don’t know when and we don’t know how, but we know who.
Pope John Paul II has voiced the bold hope that as the first thousand years of Christian history were the millennium of Christian unity, and the second thousand years were the millennium of Christian disunity, 1054, 1517, and the over twenty-thousand denominations that came from 1517, so the third thousand years may be the millennium of Christian re-unity, reunification.
But how? The deepest division is obviously between Catholics and Protestants, for the Eastern Orthodox Churches have all remained one, not split into twenty-thousand in creed, code, or cult. They have preserved the fullness of Catholic faith. Except for universal papal authority, but that has changed its form quite a bit throughout Christian history, though not its reality, and it can change again. The pope himself explicitly said that in Ut Unum Sint. But how can Catholics and Protestants achieve reunion? I will prescind entirely from the question whether Anglicans are Catholics, Protestants, both, or neither. Well it cannot be by yielding or weakening or compromising one iota of divinely revealed truth!
All the serious differences between Protestants and Catholics concern how much territory this category of divinely revealed truth covers. For instance, the Church’s doctrines about Mary, and the saints, and the seven Sacraments, and Transubstantiation, and purgatory, Catholics accept them because they believe they are true and divinely revealed. Protestants reject them because they believe they are not true and not divinely revealed. Protestants say Catholics believe too much. Catholics say Protestants believe too little. Protestants say the Church added to Christ’s original, pure and simple revelation in the New Testament. Protestantism is thus Catholicism stripped down: the Catholic Ark with what Protestants claim are the non-scriptural barnacles scraped off of it.
When I was at Calvin College and investigating things Catholic and falling in love with them and feeling guilty about it, because this was the wrong church, I took a course in church history to try to get things clear. And the very first day of the course, the wise-old professor said, “What is the Church?” And we were all just freshman, we didn’t know for nothing so nobody answered. So he said, “Well, you’re going to meet a Roman Catholic someday and he’s going to say, ‘You’re in the wrong church! You’re a Calvinist, you’re in the church John Calvin founded 500 years ago. We’re in the church Jesus Christ founded 2000 years ago.’ What do you say to him?” Nobody had an answer. I said to myself, “I’m in the right class.”
He said, “Well, here’s what the Catholics will say: the church today is a great big thing and it looks very different from the simple thing you read about in the New Testament, but it’s the same just as that oak tree is the same organism as that little acorn. What’s wrong with that picture? The Catholic will say that Luther and Calvin broke off some branches of the church because it was really rotten and they tried to start a new one, but that can’t be done cause there’s only one Jesus. And therefore, only one church. What’s your answer to that? What’s wrong with that picture?” And nobody had an answer. I said to myself, “I’m in the right class!”
And he said, “Well, here’s what’s wrong with that pictures, here’s what happened: Jesus founded one church indeed and it is the church described in the New Testament, and it’s like Noah’s Ark, and it did get rotten, and Luther and Calvin and Knox and others said, ‘Gee, this Ark is sinking! We gotta scrape the barnacles off!’ So they scraped the barnacles off and restored it to its simple, pure, primitive, New Testament essence. So we’re in the right church! It’s the Catholics who are the upstarts. They’re the ones who added all those pagan barnacles.” I said, “Oh that makes me feel good.” I remember asking a question, I said, “Professor, do you mean to tell me that, if my Catholic neighbor and I both found a time machine and went back to the first century,” I still remember his look, “What’s this guy, a weirdo? Science fiction?” “…and worshipped together, that I as a Protestant would feel more at home in that church than he as a Catholic would?” And then he smiled. He said, “That’s exactly what I’m saying.” I said to myself, “Good, that means that I don’t have to be a great theologian to figure out who’s right. All I have to do is read the Church Fathers to prove to myself that they were all Calvinists.” Well, I read the Church Fathers and proved to myself they were all Catholics, so that’s why I’m here.
But the very word “Protestant” means protesting, refusing some of the Catholic whole because they think it’s anti-scriptural and unscriptural barnacles added to what Christ gave us. While the very word “Catholic” means universal, or whole. The whole deal. So this has a problem, apparently without a possible solution because no faithful Catholic could dream of unity with Protestants except on Catholic grounds. For to be a Catholic is to believe that those grounds are holy grounds, divinely revealed. It is the Protestants who must remove their shoes. Catholics cannot negotiate away any of the deposit of faith because it is not theirs, it is Christ’s! The divinely appointed mail carriers may not edit God’s mail.
Why not to a friend, an adviser or a community of people? Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, who is not Roman Catholic, nevertheless judges that the Catholic Church has “more adequate means” for dealing with a sense of guilt than other religions and institutions (Donald De Marco, “The Decline of Private Guilt and the Need for Confession” pp. 99-106). Here area a few reasons why that may be true:
- The priest charges no fee. He freely received from God the power to declare sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and thus must freely exercise for others that ministry of mercy.
- The priest strictly keeps confidences learned in the reconciliation chapel. Church laws governing what we term “the seal of confession” under severest penalty prohibit a priest from revealing any sin of an individual penitent to any person under any conditions. The long history of this sacrament indicates that priests, despite their human their human weaknesses in other areas, have nevertheless observed those restrictions remarkable well. Confessors take these rules very, very seriously.
- The priest’s wide experience, acquired through regularly hearing many confessions, gives him deep insights into human guilt and divine mercy.
- The priest pronounces with authority and in an audible voice God’s forgiveness of sins:
- “Through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” – Rite of Penance
People walk away from the Sacrament of Penance having actually heard these clear and certain words of liberation. They know guilt is gone and sins are removed. Friends, advisers and others can comfort or reassure on this matter, but not announce with such certitude.
- The priest carries out the promises of Christ. After the resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples: “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained: (John 20:22b-23).
- The priest seeks to mirror in his attitude, words and actions the gentleness of Christ. There are over a dozen incidents in the Gospels which either describe Jesus actually forgiving a repentant sinner or teaching about God’s mercy, which has no limit and lasts forever. The Savior’s example serves as a role model for priests in the sacrament.
- The priest and the penitent actually celebrate a sacrament, the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. Confession of sins with absolution is more than a merely human ritual that cleanses away unpleasant guilt. As one of the seven sacraments established by Christ, Penance not only forgives sins, but also restores or increases sanctifying grace. Moreover, Reconciliation bestows actual graces that heal the wounds caused by sins and strengthen the virtues needed for our progress.
- The priest in the name of the Church reconciles us with the community. Sin, as we have seen, weakens or ruptures our relationships with God, others and the world around us. In this sacrament, the priest both declares that those fractured relationships have been restored and aids in rebuilding them.
from Rev. Joseph Champlin – “Why go to Confession?”