Response to comments on Flirting with Catholicism

Thanks for all the great comments on my previous post, Flirting with Catholicism. You guys brought up some really great points, and @willadair even wrote a post in response to it. This seemed a little long to respond in the comments, so I just turned it into a post.

As so many of you were quick to point out, the Roman Catholic Church is not the “universal church.” The universal church is the priesthood of all believers. I understand that it is merely the Roman Rite that I am referring to. As Devin pointed out, it is the Catholic and Orthodox churches that have the strongest claim to being in continuity with the early church. I was just choosing the one I associate most closely with the early church. There’s lots of debate over whether it should be the Orthodox Church or that which became the RC Church, but that I see them as having equal hold on that title.

I’ve looked into the Orthodox Church (thanks so much for the links Bob) but find I would have to leave too many of the things behind that I currently enjoy about the Protestant church, a big one being contemporary worship music. It’s a big part of my worship, and not something I could easily leave behind.

I understand that “Catholic” is a term that does not belong to any Church, but all who call themselves Christian are part of the Catholic Church. This is an important distinction, one that I understand.

I still think the Roman Catholic Church has a very real link to the original church, which brings me to a point Rev Conwell made. Jesus didn’t send his disciples out to begin this church or that, and while those that follow the doctrine of apostolic succession would call upon Matthew 16:18 where Jesus tells Peter He will build His church upon him. I am not a fan of this interpretation, and think that apostolic succession was more a response to cultural events, not because of this passage. But that’s getting into historical interpretation. πŸ™‚ I do believe that when he sent them out to preach the Good News, the inevitability would be the creation of a church. One church. (if i’m wrong here, or misinterpreting, let me know)

Skippymom, what I was referring to when I was talking about moving down the street to a church down the road for a teaching more your liking, I was referring more to theology, and less to church politics (for lack of a better word). You can go to a different RC Church, but they will still teach the basic beliefs laid out in the Catechism, whereas I could go to my church that doesn’t believe in infant baptism and go down the road that believes infants should be baptised. To me that is a major theological difference. (Not to belittle your point) I’d love to talk to you more about your conversion though if you don’t mind discussing it sometime. πŸ™‚

Brandon, I had never thought of Mark 9:38-40 as speaking against the exclusivity of one church. I’m going to have to look into that more. (Any reason to study scripture deeper is a good one. :)) Is this a widely accepted interpretation?

Transubstantiation is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently, and a doctrine I believe the RC Catholic church is right on the money with. I look to passages like, John 6:31-70 (Which is a lot, I know. But I find it really lays it out with background), Matthew 26:26-28 (and equivalent verses in the Synoptics). Even the verse you quote, if you look at the verses bordering it, Luke 22:17-20, I would say it also makes an argument for transubstantiation. I don’t think that because it becomes his body and blood nullifies the remembrance. It is still a remembrance of his death and resurrection. They could have celebrated it with Jesus following his resurrection and it would have still held meaning. They would, together, be remembering the event that is central to Christianity.

The veneration of Mary and the Saints is something I am still unsure of. I really like the concept, but am unsure of its meaning in today’s context. In the early church, following the legalization of Christianity under Constantine, Christians didn’t know what to do with themselves because persecution was a defining characteristic of who they were. So it made sense to hold up these martyrs. It’s something I want to study and pray about more before coming to any conclusions. It used to be something I was totally against until I learned more about it, which is why it is now in the “Likes” column.

I shouldn’t have used the word, “loopholes” as it doesn’t accurately address what I was getting at. What I wrote following, “answer for almost everything (whether I agree with the answer or not, I appreciate having things laid out like this to avoid the wishy-washyness I see so often)” is what I was trying to get at. Just a bad word choice on my part.

I have to disagree with you on structured prayer though, Brandon. In Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew He said to pray it, “in this way.” Which can be interpreted to mean verbatim or to be used as a framework. But it is Luke 11:2, “He said to them, “When you pray, say:”

But beyond even that, I see power in repetition. I understand that if your heart isn’t in the right place and you are saying it for the sake of saying it there is no use. An essential aspect is the prayer behind the words, not just the words themselves. This is something I’ve been learning as I try to incorporate the Divine Office into my day. For me the power behind the words is what really strikes a chord with me. If you see it as duty and ceremony, then you are right, you’ve lost out on discussion between your heart and God’s. But if you use those words as a conduit between your heart and God’s, it can be a very powerful thing.

Through all of the comments, one thing really struck me (other than the fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not have exclusive rights to the word Catholic or to the exclusivity as the “one, true, unified church”) is that most of my likes are to do with the reverence, the liturgy, the tradition, and my dislikes are with the theology. Now this poses some serious problems, because minor theological differences I can handle. But I disagree with some of the most fundamental of RC doctrine, things that would put me out of communion with the RC Church were I to head down that path. Now things change. Views change, beliefs change. I’m a prime example of that, things that I once hated about the RC Church, I now love. But confessing my sins to a man in the booth instead of directly to Jesus is one of my biggest hangups. I’ve read the Catechism on this and understand where they are coming from, but just like their interpretation forbidding contraception, I don’t agree.

So thanks for all the great comments. They really helped me sort some things out in my head, and while they cleared up some things, they got me thinking about others. And will, that post was amazing! It took a lot of the things I just learned in my History of Christianity class and went deeper. I really appreciated that thank you.

I will have plenty more that I’ll be looking for comments on too. πŸ™‚ I want to write more about transubstantiation, and explore it deeper to find out why it was rejected during the reformation. I also want to learn more about infant baptism, especially since I have an infant. I have been thinking about checking into the Anglican Church, but just haven’t made the time to go. We are involved every Sunday morning at our current church, and it is hard going to new churches with a baby (I find).

God Bless.


13 thoughts on “Response to comments on Flirting with Catholicism

  1. I think it’s great that you are thinking about these important issues within our Faith.

    You can find very early support of transubstantiation in the early Christians: Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 107 AD), Justin Martyr (ca 150 AD) and then many more as we have more extant writings from the 3rd and 4th centuries.

    Luther believed in a mid-way point on the Eucharist between Catholicism/Orthodoxy and “purely symbolic” Protestantism. His doctrine is called sacramental union (or somewhat contentiously, consubstantiation) that Christ really is present, over, with, under, or through the consecrated bread. He and Zwingli, the other earliest Protestant Reformer, butted heads about this immediately as Zwingli taught the novel doctrine of a purely symbolic Eucharist. Neither would budge. Calvin came a decade or so later and eventually struck a middle ground between Luther and Zwingli.

    Regarding the sacrament of Confession, you would be confessing your sins to Jesus through “the man that Christ sent to sit with you, listen to you, and then through Christ’s grace and mercy speak the words of absolution to you,” so it is both-and. “He who listens to you, listens to me.” I still confess my sins immediately to God when I become aware of them and repentant of them, but then I also go to confess them to my priest, as he is Christ’s rightfully authorized representative, for my sins do not just affect myself, but the whole body of Christ, which is the Church.

    God bless!

  2. Yes, Luke 11:2 does say that, but if you read the rest of Luke 11, Jesus speaks of asking for things you need. I think a simile can be drawn there that his disciples were spiritual infants. This is evident because they didn’t know how to pray. With our children, we always give the simplest of prayers so that they can learn how to pray and why we should pray.

    Also, when Jesus prays, the Bible lets us eavesdrop in on His prayers. He doesn’t pray that prayer himself, but rather converses with His Father. Maybe it’s different because Jesus was with God before He came here…but when I pray, I feel I am conversing with my Father.

  3. I don’t mean to lower the importance of conversation-type prayer, I’m just saying not to discount the power of reciting prayer rote. That’s all. πŸ™‚ I will also teach my children to pray simple prayers.

    The argument over reciting the Lord’s Prayer rote or using it as a framework is as old as the prayer itself. lol I studied it for a paper I wrote earlier this semester (I wrote a post on it in March). I didn’t get into the Luke side of things though, something I’ll have to do in the future.

    1. I would also like to continue to point out…since in print I’m sure it looks quite the opposite…I am NOT AGAINST Catholicism in any form or the way they do things. They are my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and we all serve the same God and the same Jesus. We are all part of THE Church, because we are all believers.

      I simply would not enjoy enough freedom to worship the way I do within the confines of the Catholic Church…but for some people it’s a perfect match.

  4. But the true meaning of Christianity is about a relationship and not a religion. I’m not an expert with the catholic church but, I understand there are quite a bit of legalities with the catholic church. My wife is hispanic and left the church at 17 is my point of reference.

    Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through me. Not a pastor, not a priest, or not a saint.

    My thing also is Jesus died, came down from the cross, and came back to life.

    A picture of a broken Jesus on a cross to make me feel guilty of his death isn’t what it’s about I believe. But Jesus in all his glory.

    1. Eric,

      The Crucifixion is central to our Faith: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Many other references could be multiplied.

      The Resurrection is also central, so both are central.

      I would suggest directing your mind and heart while gazing upon an image of Jesus on the Cross toward sorrow for sin, repentance, and great gratitude for Christ and his love for us.

      Anyways, it is also a false dichotomy to say “Jesus and not any person/priest/pastor.” We are his hands and feet. God could announce the gospel through angels and not give us the honor and joy of being instruments to bring Him to the world, but the reality is He deigns to use us, and so people–by God’s grace–are used to bring other people to Jesus.

    2. The picture of a broken Jesus on a cross is not just to make you feel guilty, but to show you the path to salvation.

      You may be caught up in the substitutionary atonement or penal atonement theories. There are others. In particular, look at the Eastern Orthodox soteriology in this article:

      If you have read the Space Trilogy by CS Lewis, he gives a very Eastern understanding of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In it there is a statement about those of us on Earth not understanding the importance of God becoming a human when the creatures of Venus take look like humans. I suggest you read the series.

      (By the way, this passage balances out the potentially substitution aspects of Aslan’s death in the Chronicles of Narnia.)

  5. Yes, no one comes to the Father except by Jesus Christ.

    Still, when given the power of the Holy Spirit by Jesus, it was also said they had the power to absolve sins. John 20.21-23

    Yes, we are to receive Jesus Christ into our lives, which is a far encompassing act that takes many forms.

    Still, we are told to eat the Bread of Heaven. John 6.32-38, 1 Corinthians 11.23-26

    You can find this over and over again: something spiritual and beyond all time is given something physical and temporal. Reception of the Spirit in baptism. Laying on of hands for forgiveness and healing (in case you are looking for another text for confession and absolution). Eating Jesus in the Eucharist. Understanding our relation to God through marriage.

    Just be careful not to get caught in language from a certain time and place in history of the Church. For example, while there is a path leading to it in the Roman Church, transubstantiation is the understanding St. Thomas Aquinas–not necessarily something that has stood for all ages and will stand for all ages.

    Do you understand and talk with your friends using concept of substances and accidentals from Aristotle?

    (If you do, you are going to one special college.)

    The Scholastic understanding of St. Thomas Aquinas works for those who converse and live in that culture. It isn’t perfect, but it works.

    To oversimplify (more than a little bit), the difference between Aquinas’s transubstantiation and Luther’s consubstantiation is whether or not the substance of the bread disappears when the substance of the Body of Jesus becomes present. Both theories say the accidentals still are the same.

    For some of us, it is a matter of faith that Christ is present in the Eucharist–but refuse to get caught up in a Scholastic word parsing. (The reference is to Scholasticism as a movement and school of thought.) After all, Paul didn’t present 1 Corinthians 11 in the logical terms of Aristotle.

    Some of us also refuse to be as dismissive as Calvin, in spite of the clear beliefs and actions of the early church. If God can take our spirits to Heaven to be present with God, God can choose to be present in Bread and Wine.

    (Also, if God can get into the Bread, God can find a way out of the Bread.)

    If you are going to start studying sacramental theology, I would strongly encourage you to study the works of Orthodox and Anglican theologians as well as Roman and Lutheran. What you will get from the Orthodox and Anglicans is a very strong desire and belief not to be tied down to human logical constructions. Lutheran theology (as much as I love reading Luther) does stem from the writings of an Augustinian monk dealing with Roman scholasticism.

    1. I would add, however, that the Orthodox doctrine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist leads them to, like Catholics, bow down and worship Christ present in the Holy Gifts. I have yet to see a Protestant do that, or a Protestant church to condone it, in spite of how many Protestant churches claim to believe in (some sort of) “real” presence of Christ.

      I’m invoking the Pontificator’s 1st and 11th laws.

  6. Thanks for the comments guys, I appreciate it! I’ve been reading and rereading them all. πŸ™‚ So much to think about, with lots of good information and thoughts.

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