lundi 22 octobre 2012

Why I Am A Catholic

This isn't my personal proclamation. I should actually come around and make my personal case on why i am a catholic since people keeps asking me. But while i make you wait for that piece, this can already give folks an idea on the likely avenue i may take while writing my own personal piece. My friend Dr. Thierry L. has made his case in response to an article that challenged the christian-hood of all Catholics. My approach has always been slightly different to Dr. T, as we debated some issues on our shared catholicism in 2008 .. but we usually see things the same way. So i recommend his personal apolgia on why he is a catholic.

Hope you find Dr. T responses enlightening, new and interesting.
P.S: Don't forget to check out my book - Help Me Understand Jesus. Check My Book by clicking here or more here  

Dear brethren, I great you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and hope that these few words will open you up to another perspective that is worth considering and thinking about.

I am a catholic and consider myself a Christian. In fact the two terms were interchangeable until the 16th century, and the word catholic means universal, to emphasize the universal nature of the covenant that God wants to make with everyone (1 Tim 2:4) through Christ. And the term was used to separate those who subscribed to apostolic teaching from those who deviated from it (the heresies). Therefore, the answer to the title of your article that I would like to suggest will differ from yours: I am a Christian because I am a follower of Jesus Christ (this is the biblical definition by the way: Ac 12:26).

It is also important dear brethren to make sure that you understand what the Catholics believe accurately and the reason they believe what they believe before making such judgements about them; otherwise you may be attacking a straw man: This is a basic error in logic.

Another thing I would like to mention before addressing some of the specifics of your comments, is the problems in your equation: A billion truths+ a trillion truths+ 0.001 lie = LIE
-  It presumes that the beliefs of Catholics are lies rather than a genuine different interpretation of the apostolic teaching. It betrays already the same old anti-Catholic bias accusing us of I don’t know what. We may be wrong in some of our beliefs, but didn’t it ever occur to you that maybe it is just a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation, and not a lie (with all the assumptions and implications you attach to this word)?
-    If you see lies in every doctrinal differences, this logically means that everywhere you disagree with another Christian (a non-catholic that is) on a doctrine, it means that one of you (probably him or her) believes a lie, and therefore his entire belief system is a lie according to your equation.

As you know non-catholic Christians don’t agree on everything, in fact there are tens of thousands of Christian denominations. Do you realise the implications of your equation in this context. I wonder who would be the only people who are Christians if you follow your reasoning to its logical conclusion, the members of your congregation perhaps.

Furthermore I feel you contradict yourself when you say “some catholic are saved” and at the same time “a little wrong belief contaminates the whole thing”. Those catholic that you claim are saved do believe in little things that you consider “lies” therefore contaminating the whole thing!?!? Please make up your mind.

I believe we should have enough humility to recognize that as St Paul says “we see through a glass darkly” (1 Co 13:12), and it is therefore possible to be brethren in Christ agreeing on core beliefs, while disagreeing on specifics or on how a belief is applied without neglecting the importance of these differences.

Now let me briefly address some of your comments:

Salvation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation is by baptismal regeneration and is maintained through the Catholic sacraments unless a willful act of sin is committed that breaks the state of sanctifying grace. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace which is received through simple faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that good works are the result of a change of the heart wrought in salvation (Ephesians 2:102 Corinthians 5:17) and the fruit of that new life in Christ (John 15).

Baptism: In the New Testament baptism is ALWAYS practiced AFTER saving faith in Christ. Baptism is not the means of salvation; it is faith in the Gospel that saves (1 Corinthians 1:14-18Romans 10:13-17). Christ on the cross told the repentant criminal that that day they’d be together in paradise. That thief was saved because he believed, not because he was baptized in water.

  1. It is true that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by baptismal regeneration, but you don’t seem to know what the requirements for baptism are, check your facts before attacking a faith you don’t seem to understand. It teaches that there are three requirements for slavation: (1) REPENTANCE (Mat 3:11; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30; Acts 26:20; etc.), (2) FAITH (Eph 2:8; Gal 5:6; Heb 11:6; etc.) and (3) BAPTISM (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-4, Col 2:11–12).

Let’s examine one text: Acts 2:37-38: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “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.

It is interesting to notice that when Peter preached his powerful sermon at Pentecost, when people ask what they should do, he focused on Repentance and Baptism. I am convinced that it is not to downplay Faith which is obviously implied (You can only be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ if you have Faith in Him) and you can only understand that if you look at the entirety of the biblical data rather than one verse here and one verse there. It is called 'proof texting' and it is a very dangerous practice because you can prove almost anything using one verse of the bible here or another there. As for baptismal regeneration, again, refer to these different verses on baptism that either say explicitly or imply it.

  1. When you say the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace which is received through simple faith (Ephesians 2:8-9): I would correct you in saying that the Bible says through ‘Faith’, not ‘simple Faith’. If you want to add qualifiers to the word ‘Faith’, it would be better to stick with the biblical ones: E.g. “Faith working through Love” (Gal 5:6). Furthermore it is obviously not clear in this passage alone what the means of receiving this grace are, and what is meant by Faith (Faith is not just intellectual assent, it is a commitment to trust that can only be seen in the way you act: This is why to repeat myself, St Paul says that: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Gal 5:6).

  1. Ephesians 2:102 Corinthians 5:17 do emphasize the change of heart as a result of salvation, but these two verses don’t mean that you automatically become perfect at your new birth. Yes the dispositions of your heart have changed, but this becomes concrete in your life through a lifelong process that is only made possible by the grace of God provided that you progressively put all your will to it by completely surrendering and completely trusting Him. That is why the same person who wrote these two verses you cited, also wrote to the Philippians “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Phil 2:12-13). God does most of it but we must cooperate but trusting and surrendering in the way we leave and act (with fear and trembling), not just mentally.

  1. Don’t confuse general mean given by Christ and his apostle as seen in the Bible (repentance, faith and baptism) with God’s power to save anybody in special circumstances, because of the Cross of Christ. Among those special circumstances we have the case of the Good thief who obviously didn’t have the time for baptism. This is why the term Baptism is quite broad in the catholic faith; there is what we call "baptism of desire" for instance. But it is undeniable that the general mean by which one enters the family of God according to the Bible, is through these three, even though the sovereign God that we serve is not limited by the means he gives us.

Assurance of salvation: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that salvation cannot be guaranteed or assured. 1 John 5:13 states that the letter of 1 John was written for the purpose of assuring believers of the CERTAINTY of their salvation.

What is meant by that is that salvation is available as long as we cooperate. When we convert to Christ, we are the children of our Heavenly Father, but because of our free will that can be influenced by all sorts of circumstances, it is possible to decide like the prodigal son (1st part of the story) to leave the house and therefore stop believing in Christ as required in John 3:16 (the act of believing suggest a continuous act, not just at one point in time), and our heavenly Father who respects our free will, will not force us to stay home. And this is biblical: Rom. 11:22; Heb. 10:26–29, 2 Pet. 2:20–21. Please read these verses carefully and you will understand that we are not limiting the grace of God, but we are recognising that our will is crucial not only at the moment of our conversion, but throughout our Christian life.

Purgatory: There is nowhere in the Bible where it mentions the opportunity to cleanse the soul of the sins committed while alive, in this “holding place”. This one has got to be one of the biggest lies taught in Catholic doctrine.

The purgatory issue only arises because we have a different understanding of salvation. For Catholics, salvation is the full blown reality of becoming a child of God, not just in name but by nature, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” Eph 4:13. We as Catholics believe that when Jesus said: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 5:48), He meant exactly what he said. I don’t know about you, but I am not there yet. In fact even the great Paul at some point acknowledged that he didn’t get their yet (Phil 3:12).

So the way we see salvation, God doesn’t just look at the righteousness of Christ and say because you believe in him I declare you just, he does that but but much more: In addition he gives us the grace to live a new life until we are like Christ himself, indeed our Master and Teacher said: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” (Lk. 6:40). So we have to get there. Now what happens to those that don’t reach this final state before they die? Remember that “nothing unclean will ever enter heaven” (Rev 21:27). So what happens?

The answer to that question is found in 1 Co 3:10-15: “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

In the last part of this passage of Scripture, St Paul speaks about those who have built on the right foundation: Jesus Christ, but whose quality (their life) was tested and it were burned up. This can be that one is converted, but there is still a little hypocrisy, white lies, etc. though he is a follower of Jesus. And Paul says that they will “suffer loss” but “they will be saved only as through the flames” This is what we call purgatory. If you don’t like the term (especially because of the past abuses attached to it) drop it, but you cannot deny that the reality is biblical under this particular interpretation of the texts. You can accuse us of being wrong in our interpretation (and this is another debate all together: that of authority), but you cannot accuse us of lying as if the Church deliberately misleads people, this dear brethren I find very offensive and I consider as a lack of show of Christian Charity.

Good Works: The Roman Catholic Church states that Christians are saved by meritorious works (beginning with baptism) and that salvation is maintained by good works (receiving the sacraments, confession of sin to a priest, etc.) The Bible states that Christians are saved by grace through faith, totally apart from works (Titus 3:5;Ephesians 2:8-9Galatians 3:10-11Romans 3:19-24).

Two comments:
-    Again you misunderstand the Catholics, we just believe that certain actions that Christ commended us to do are carriers of grace because he told us to do them: We don’t have faith in faith, we have faith in Jesus, and therefore, we do what he tells us to do. Just like prayer (the sinner’s prayer in particular that I am sure you are familiar with), fellowship, Bible reading etc. You can’t label those meritorious works the same way when you do your sinner’s prayer, it is not meritorious work. It is the way you express your Faith, trust and obedience in God, you do what you believe he told you to do to be saved. We receive baptism (Mat 28:19; Mc 16:16; Acts 2:38) and confession because Jesus told us to (John 20:21–23, Mat 10:40). A mandate given to the apostles, and now to their successors (the bishops: 1 Tim 3:1-7), who established and delegated elders or presbyters (from the Greek presbuteroi from which we get the word priest: E.g. 1 Tim. 5:17–22; Jas. 5:14–15, Titus 1:5). How can you label us non-Christian for doing what the Lord Jesus told us to do???  

-          As for confession, we don’t confess to a priest as such, we confess our sins to God, and the priest is there as a servant to guide us through that process, he points us to the Love and Mercy of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and Jesus gives them the authority to tell us that we are indeed forgiven (John 20:21–23). This sacrament is even referred to as the sacrament of Love where you need someone to remind you of the Love of God and his forgiveness when you confess your sins.

-     As for the merit issue, again don’t attack a caricature of what Catholics affirm: The only merit given to us is when we surrender to the One who can do it all in us. It is like a little girl who asks her father to give her money and to drop her to the mall so she can buy him a birthday gift. All that she gave her father was possible because he gave her the money, a lift, maybe went with her to the shop, etc.

A great catholic teacher once said: In order to merit, it is enough to know that our merits do not suffice for us.” Our merit, our glory is God’s recognition of what we do with the grace he gives us as eloquently described in the parable of the talents: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Mat 5:21,23). This is the context in which the whole language of merit should be understood. And I acknowledge that in the history of the Church, there has been a misuse of this concept, and that even today some Catholics misunderstand it the way you do.  But a well informed bible believing Catholic who is committed to the teaching of his Church knows better. 

Prayer: The Roman Catholic Church teaches Catholics to not only pray to God, but also to petition Mary and the saints for their prayers. Contrary to this, we are taught in Scripture to only pray to God (Matthew 6:9Luke 18:1-7). In fact, praying to anyone else besides God is idolatry, be it Mary, the dead saints or anyone. Prayer has to be to God alone. By the way, you don’t have to dead to be ordained a saint, all believers, dead or alive are saints, and not just the dead Pope.

  1. Here again you do 'proof texting', and you do it wrong because this has nothing to do with an interdict to prayer to the Saints. In fact this prayer to our Heavenly Father is one that Catholics know above any and are much more attached to it than most other groups. All that this text does is to show us how to pray to our Heavenly Father.
  2. Praying for some may be intimately associated to worship, but the word simply means ‘asking’. And this is how it is used in the Catholic Church. The real issue is our different understanding of death. We believe that the dead in Christ are with God and can intercede for us. Indeed we believe so because Rev 5:8 says that “they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” We are told in the letter to the Hebrew that “you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Heb 12:22-24. Etc.

Priesthood: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there is a distinction between the clergy and the “lay people,” whereas the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9).

Your distinction is wrong: the difference between clergy and lay people doesn't mean the difference between believers and priests. Again, please check your facts. It is true that there is a difference between the people of God (lay people), and those within the people of God that He has called to be servants of the people of God (clergy). In the New Testament there was a clear difference between the [Apostle, bishops, elders and deacons] and the [people of God], and the first group (the clergy) was there to serve the second. Today, whatever your Christian denomination, there is a difference between those in the pew (people of God) and the Pastors (clergy).

That is why we differentiate the ministerial priesthood from the priesthood of the faithful. All those in Christ are priests in the second sense, but also prophets and kings, but only those who have been chosen among the people to continue the work of the apostles (in serving the people of God by preaching, catechizing, teaching, giving the sacraments, etc.) are ministerial priests. The difference is only functional (to determine who does what, but we are all priests).

Mary: The Roman Catholic Church teaches, among other things, that Mary is the Queen of Heaven, a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven. In Scripture, she is portrayed as an obedient, believing servant of God, who became the mother of Jesus. None of the other attributes mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church have any basis in the Bible.

The idea of Mary being the co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man is not only extra-biblical (found only outside of Scripture), but is also unbiblical (contrary to Scripture). Acts 4:12 declares that Jesus is the only redeemer. 1 Timothy 2:5 proclaims that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men. Christ alone is able to save, he doesn’t need an assistant!

Whatever I say about Mary, I know how difficult it will be for you to accept my point of view, but let me however say something: For lack of time I will deal with only two of the titles that you scorn to show you that all this titles have an explanation and if one wants to disagree with them, one should at least do so in the terms in which the ideas are articulated rather than a caricature. Please note that the Catholic Church is not trying to deify Mary at all; it is simply acknowledging the special place that she has been given by God in Salvation history. By the way when she prophesizes that “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk. 1:48), I wonder if you at least fulfill that prophesy by explicitly recognizing that special grace God gave her, otherwise, in some way you are going against an explicit prophecy in the Bible?

Queen of Heaven:

Many things can be said to support that, let me just mention a few:
-       First of all her Queen ship shouldn't be a problem because of her belonging to Christ: as all in Christ are a royal priesthood.
-      Second since Jesus came to restore the Kingdom of David (The main theme of the Gospel according to Matthew) or actually that the Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament was a foreshadow of Christ's true Kingdom, an important person in that Kingdom was the Queen Mother (Since Solomon and Basheba onward) who had special favors from her Son the King. And this is why though his time did not yet come, he accepted to do a special favor for his mother at the wedding in Cana (Lk 2:1-11). So Jesus being the King of the universe, his mother receives a special privilege in the Kingdom (not deity, Queen ship)  
-      The other reason for her Glory and maybe the most important is her ‘YES’, her total and unconditional obedience to God, even when her Son was hard on her sometimes.
-         Queen of Heaven does not mean goddess. God’s aim is to share his Glory with humanity, so there is nothing wrong with making the one he favored to bear his Son, and the one who has been faithful all her life with such a privilege.

There are other reasons but I will stop there. Again you may disagree with us, but don’t treat us of liars just because our interpretation of the Biblical data lead us to different conclusions than yours, the only charitable conclusion you can come up with is that we are mistaken. But again, this is another debate all together: Whose interpretation is the best?

As soon as people hear this word they immediately without inquiring further, assume that this term means that we are saved by the work of both Mary and Jesus. But this is not what the term means. All it means is “the one who is with the redemptor”, as she stood at the feet of the cross while he was dying. All it says is that she was there, and as a mother when you see your only son being treated like this and you faithfully accept it, this is something that is worth recognizing. It boils down to how faithful she was and how good a model of faith she is to inspire Christian to imitate her, and therefore imitate Christ.


In conclusion, I urge you to review your conclusions: We may differ on these important issues, but we both affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior, we both affirm that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Act 4:12, we both affirm the inspiration of Scripture, etc. This should make us brethren in Christ, separated brethren, but brethren nonetheless. If you disagree with a doctrine from another group, try to look at the doctrine as articulated by the group, and try to get as much info on the reasons behind them, before making any pronouncements.

And we should have conversation between us to understand each other’s beliefs, instead of criticizing what we hear from the outside and labeling each other. Let’s be humble enough and leave to God the task of deciding who is saved and who is not, let’s rather radiate the love of Christ to a world that really needs Him, and continue to exchange in a productive way so as to arrive to that unity of Faith very dear to our common Master (John 17).

I hope this will give you enough food for thoughts and I hope the end of this lengthy response to your article, will find you in the Love, Peace and Joy of Jesus.

A brother in Christ, who cares.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Co 4,6

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