01 August 2007
wst... note: this was originally posted on the free republic website forum.
actual post date tuesday 21 august 2007 8:12 pm cdt
How Catholicism Is Different - THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ISN'T JUST ANOTHER "DENOMINATION"
New Oxford Review ^ | December 1996 | Bobby Jindal
Posted on 04/05/2006 6:41:59 AM PDT by NYer
Just as C.S. Lewis removed any room for comfortable opposition to Jesus by identifying Him as either "Lord, liar, or lunatic," so the Catholic Church leaves little room for complacent opposition to her doctrines. Without inflating the issues that separate Catholics from Protestants, for we do worship the same Trinitarian God who died for our sins, I want to refute the notion that Catholicism is merely another denomination with no more merit than any other.
The Reformers who left the Catholic Church rejected, to varying degrees, five beliefs which continue to be upheld by the Catholic Church. The Church claims that these points are found in Scripture, and they have been consistently and clearly taught throughout the Church's history. I will support the Church's claims here.
(1) SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION: Is sold scriptura (the Bible alone) a sufficient basis for the modern Christian to understand God's will?
The Bible does not contain either the claim that it is comprehensive or a listing of its contents, but does describe how it should be used. Scripture and Tradition, not the Bible alone, transmit God's revelation. Tradition is reflected in the Church's authority to interpret Scripture.
+ The meaning of Scripture is not self-evident. One cannot discern its intended meaning through prayerful reading alone, for Scripture is "hard to understand" and individual misinterpretation can lead "to our own destruction" (2 Pet. 3:15-6; see also Acts 8:30-34). The Holy Spirit's guidance, acting through the Church, "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), is necessary to avoid error since "there is no prophecy of Scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation" (2 Pet. 1:20; see also Mt. 18:17; 1 Tim. 6:3; Rev. 2:17). It is nearly impossible to derive the orthodox understanding of the Trinity, and other teachings which were disputed in the early Christian community, from Scripture alone without recourse to Church teachings. Sincerely motivated Christians studying the same texts have disagreed on the fundamentals of the faith, thereby dividing not only Protestants from Catholics, but also particular Protestant denominations from each other. Post-Reformation history does not reflect the unity and harmony of the "one flock" instituted by Christ (Jn. 10:16; see also Jn. 17:11, 17:21-23; Acts 4:32; Eph. 4:3-6, 4:13; Rom. 12:5, 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 1:10-11, 3:4, 12:12-13; Phil. 1:27, 2:2), but rather a scandalous series of divisions and new denominations, including some that can hardly be called Christian. Yet Christ would not have demanded unity without providing the necessary leadership to maintain it. The same Catholic Church which infallibly determined the canon of the Bible must be trusted to interpret her handiwork; the alternative is to trust individual Christians, burdened with, as Calvin termed it, their "utterly depraved" minds, to overcome their tendency to rationalize, their selfish desires, and other effects of original sin. The choice is between Catholicism's authoritative Magisterium and subjective interpretation which leads to anarchy and heresy. All churches follow their own traditions, but the Catholic Church claims a continuous link to the oral tradition which preceded and formed the canon of Scripture, the same apostolic (Acts 2:42) Tradition St. Paul commanded us to abide by (2 Thess. 2:15; 2 Tim. 2:2).
+ Scripture is not self-sufficient. Christ's own teachings were transmitted orally (Mt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 11:23; 1 Tim. 6:3), and both the Old Testament and the apostles record the necessity of faith that "comes from what is heard" (Rom. 10:17) and of "traditions taught by oral statement" (2 Thess. 2:15; see also Deut. 32:7; Ps. 44:2, 78:3; Isa. 59:21; Mt. 28:20; Lk. 1:1-4, 10:16; Jn. 21:25; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:2, 15:1-3; Gal. 6:6; 1 Thess. 4:2; 2 Thess. 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:13, 2:2; Rev. 2:17). The most fundamental teaching, what constitutes Scripture, is not biblical; Christians worshiped and evangelized for three centuries before the final canon of the Bible was determined at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage. There is no basis outside Church authority for accepting certain books as canonical while rejecting others claiming inspiration, or believed to be inspirational, e.g., the Didache, the Epistle of Clement to Corinthians, the Acts of Paul, or even the Book of Mormon, the Koran, etc. Not surprisingly, Luther attempted to exclude James, Hebrews, 2 Peter, and Revelation from the New Testament. The Church predates Scripture and has historically provided the necessary context for orthodox understanding. Jesus entrusted the apostles to settle doctrinal controversies (Acts 15), and they "handed on to the people for observance [their] decisions" (Acts 16:4), a practice that continues today.
(2) APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION: Does apostolic succession insure that the Catholic Church is continuous with the Church founded by Christ through the apostles?
Christ founded the Church and vested her with unique authority. The apostles, the very men who wrote much of the New Testament, were the Church's first bishops, and they appointed successors. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church traces its lineage directly to the apostles, and, thus, the Church claims to be the one Jesus founded.
+ Christ founded the Church, "which is His body," to do His work (Eph. 1:22-23; see also Mt. 28:19; Acts 15:4; Eph. 2:l9-21, 3:10, 4:11-16, 5:23-30; Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:27-30; Gal. 4:26; Jas. 5:14; Rev. 21:2, 22:17) and promised to send the "Spirit of truth" (Jn. 14:16-19) to speak to the Church (Rev. 2-3) and protect her for all time from error (Jn. 14:26, 16:12-13, 16:23, 17:19, 17:26; Mt. 10:40, 16:18-19, 28:20; Lk. 10:16, 24:49; 1 Tim. 3:15). The apostles thus speak confidently of decisions of the "Holy Spirit and of us" (Acts 15:28). Scripture never mentions an "invisible church," a doctrine created by individuals attempting to justify their departure from Rome; rather, it speaks forcefully of an institution blessed with a divine mission to preach the Gospel and offer the graces necessary to accomplish that mission. The Church's foundation was not built on a plurality of prophets; rather the earliest Christians were unified on doctrinal issues in one body. The Catholic Church was the only church for some 1,000 years. Given Christ's promise to be with His Church always, so that "the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18), it is hard to believe that the true Faith disappeared from the world with the "fall of the Church" (dated by Protestants at various points in the first seven centuries), failing to reappear until the Reformation around the 16th century.
+ Christ "summoned his twelve apostles and gave them authority" (Mt. 10:1), so that they were "apostle[s] not from human beings…but through Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:1, see also Jn. 20:21-23; Rom. 1:1, 1:5). These apostles served as the first leaders of the Church, "handing [their decisions] to the people for observance" (Acts 16:4; see also Acts 14:23, 15:2-6, 15:22-28, 15:31, 20:17, 20:28; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Gal. 2:9; Heb. 13:7; Jas. 5:14; Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 2:7; 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 4:14-16; Tit. 1:5-9, 2:15), and "sent" successors (1 Cor. 4:17) and "appointed presbyters…in each church" (Acts 14:23; see also Acts 1:16-26; 1 Tim. 6:11-14, 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:1-5) who were instructed "to teach others as well" (2 Tim. 2:2). The apostles interpreted Christ's teachings, serving as His "witnesses" after receiving the Holy Spirit's "power" (Acts 1:8), and had the "full right in Christ" to command communities and individuals (Philem. 8; see also Mt. 16:19, 18:17-18; Jn. 20:21-23; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 5:9-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11, 5:18-20; Gal. 1:8; Tit. 1:9-10; 1:13-14, 3:8-10; 1 Tim. 6:2-3; 2 Tim. 4:3-5). As the first bishops were to "exhort and correct with all authority" (Tit. 2:15), their descendants in the Catholic Church continue to do the same. During the first century, Pope Clement affirmed that the apostles appointed bishops and made provision for succession.
(3) PAPACY: Is the Pope the successor of St. Peter and thus recipient of special authority?
Christ established the office of the papacy, installed Peter as the first Pope, and gave to him certain privileges and responsibilities, which belong today to John Paul II.
+ Christ gave Peter unique authority over the other apostles. Christ renamed Simon to indicate he was "the rock upon which the Church was built" and invested him with "the keys to the kingdom of heaven" and the power to "bind" (Mt. 16:16-19; see also Rev. 1:18; Isa. 22:15-25). The apostles must have noted the significance of the enormous immovable rock where Jesus gave Peter his authority (Mt. 16:13); it is significant that Christ, the "Cornerstone" of the Church and the "Shepherd" (Mt. 21:42; Jn. 10:11, 10:14; Eph. 2:20), only renamed Peter of all the apostles and gave him these same titles (Jn. 1:42, 21:15-17). Paul recognized Peter's position by addressing him as "Rock" (1 Cor. 1:12, 3:22, 9:5, 15:4-5; Gal. 1:18, 2:7, 2:9, 2:11, 2:14), noting his prestige as a "pillar" (Gal. 2:7-9), and seeking his blessing (Gal. 1: 18-19). Jesus noted that Peter's love and doctrinal constancy were greater than that of the others and prayed that "his faith will not fail" so that he could fulfill his mission to "feed his sheep" and "strengthen" the other apostles (Lk. 22:31-32; Jn. 21:15-17); this is the same relationship between the Pope and the bishops (i.e., Peter's and the apostles' successors). Many passages indicate Peter's primacy by referring to him first (Mt. 10:2; Mk. 1:36, 3:16-19, 16:7; Lk. 6:12-16, 9:32; Acts 1: 13, 5:29) and showing him as the spokesman at crucial times (Mk. 8:29; Mt. 18:21; Lk. 12:41; Jn. 6:68; Acts 3:12-26, 8:20-23, 10:34-43, 11:4-18) and as the central figure in key scenes (Mt. 14:28-32, 17:24; Mk. 10:28,17:24; Lk. 5:1; Jn. 20:3-8). Peter was the first witness of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:5), first to preach the gospel publicly (Acts 2:14-40), first to perform a miracle (Acts 3:6-7), and first to command baptism of the gentiles after he receives a vision (Acts 10:9-48). Peter led the effort to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-26), used his gift of healing (Acts 5:15, 9:34, 9:38-41), spoke before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:8-12, 4:19, 5:29-32), and convicted Ananias and Sapphira in the name of the Lord and the community (Acts 5:1-11). Peter performed the ultimate papal duties by taking charge of the first ecumenical council (Acts 15:6-11) which issued the first encyclical (Acts 15:23).
+ Peter transmitted his duties to his successors. Pope Clement, whose writings are often cited by apologists to verify the New Testament, used his authority to discipline the Corinthian church in A.D. 96. John and other apostles, as well as Timothy, were still alive and would have objected to any illegitimate exercise of authority. However, no protest was made, since Clement was acting within his rights as Peter's successor. In A.D. 110, Ignatius of Antioch praised the church in Rome for being "first in love, being true to Christ's law and stamped with the Father's name." During the second century, Ignatius of Leon defined the Roman position as the orthodox position. Bishop Irenaeus claimed "every church must be in harmony with [Rome] because of its outstanding pre-eminence"; he even listed and cited the succession of the bishops of Rome as a "most complete proof of the unity and identity of the life-giving faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now and handed down in truth." In A.D. 250, Bishop Cyprian wrote, "If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?" Pope Stephen cited Matthew 16:18 as early as the third century to justify Petrine authority. St. Augustine taught that whatever was condemned by the Bishop of Rome was condemned by all. The historical references from apostolic times are plentiful; what is missing is any objection to the Pope's claim as successor to St. Peter with authority over the bishops.
(4) SACRAMENTS: Do the Sacraments actually transmit Christ's grace?
Christ instituted seven Sacraments as recorded in Scripture. The Sacraments are more than mere symbols and actually transmit grace; subjective faith is required to receive the objective grace (Mt. 9:20-22; Mk. 5:28-34), just as Christ's sacrifice becomes efficacious for our salvation after we accept Him. This concept of a physical sign presenting, not representing, God's grace is paralleled in many biblical incidents (2 Kings 13:20-21; Mk. 5:27-34; Mt. 8:3, 9:29-30, 14:36, 15:36, 20:34; Mk. 5:23, 6:56, 7:33-35, 8:22-25; Lk. 4:40-41, 5:12-13, 8:43-46; Jn. 4:48, 9:6-7, 9:10-11, 11:41-42, 13:8; Acts 5:15, 19:11-12).
+ Christ instituted seven Sacraments:
BAPTISM: Christ commanded us to be "born of water and the Spirit" (Jn. 3:5) and "saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal" (Tit. 3:5; see also Ezek 36:25-27; Mt. 3:14, 28:19; Mk. 1:4, 1:8, 10:39, 16:16; Lk. 3:3, 12:50; Jn. 1:33, 3:5, 13:8; Acts 1:5, 2:28, 2:38-41, 8:12, 8:38, 9:18, 10:48, 11:16, 16:15, 16:33, 19:5, 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; l Cor. 6:11, 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5, 5:26; Col. 2:12; Heb. 6:2, 10:22; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rev. 22:17).
CONFIRMATION: Jesus "baptized with the Holy Spirit" during Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5, 2) so that His followers would be "sealed with the promised Spirit" (Eph. 1:13). The apostles "prayed" for and "laid hands on" the early converts so "that they might receive the Holy Spirit" after "they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:14-17; see also Jn. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8, 10:44-48, 19:6; Heb. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:21-22).
CONFESSION: Christ promised the apostles that what they "bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" and what they "loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt. 16:19), and gave them "the ministry of reconciliation" so that they could be "ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us" (2 Cor. 5:18-20; see also Mt. 18:17-18; Jn. 20:22-23; 2 Cor. 2:10).
EUCHARIST: Jesus proclaimed that "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (Jn. 6:28-66), and Paul reminded us that the "bread we break" is "a participation in the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 10:16-17; see also Mt. 26:26-28; Mk. 10:39, 14:22-24; Lk. 22:19-20, 24:30; Acts 2:42, 20:7; 1 Cor. 5:8, 10:21, 11:20, 11:23-31).
MATRIMONY: Christ recalled God's commandment that a man shall "be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh," and added that "what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mk. 10:6-12; see also Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:3-6; 1 Thess. 4:4; Eph. 5:25-28, 5:31, 5:33).
HOLY ORDERS: Christ "sent" the first priests, telling them to "receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 20:21-22), and commanded them to celebrate the Eucharist (Lk. 22:19), forgive sins (Mt. 16:19), and offer the other Sacraments. Paul, thus, later proclaimed himself "to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles in performing the priestly service of the gospel of God" (Rom. 15:15-16; see also Gen. 14:18; Acts 6:6, 13:3, 20:24; 1 Cor. 4:15; 2 Cor. 3:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6).
ANOINTING OF THE SICK: Jesus "summoned the Twelve and began to send them out," and "they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them" (Mk. 6:7-13; see also Jas. 5:14).
+ The apostles and their successors understood the Sacraments to be channels of grace. Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, a convert of the same Apostle John who authored the account of Jesus instituting the Eucharist, condemned heretics who "do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ" in A.D. 110; in A.D. 150 Justin Martyr wrote,
We do not receive these as common bread or common drink. But just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh through the Word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food which has been eucharized by the word of prayer from Him is the flesh and blood of the Incarnate Jesus.
Athanasius wrote, "But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(5) SALVATION: Is sold fide (faith alone) all that is required for eternal life? Do Catholics ignore Christ's sacrifice and try to "earn" their way into heaven?
Salvation requires living faith expressed in a changed life -- i.e., in good works. The process of obtaining eternal life involves ongoing submission to the Lord, allowing His grace to work within and gradually sanctify us.
+ Works are a necessary part of faith. As St. Paul said, "though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2; see also 1 Cor. 13:13). We must "love not in word or speech but in deed and truth" (1 Jn. 3:14-18), for "no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God" (1 Jn. 3:10-11; see also 2 Chr. 7:13-14; Jn. 14:15; Mt. 5:13-16; Acts 26:20; Eph. 2:10; 1 Cor. 7:19; 1 Jn. 2:3, 4:7-8, 4:20-2 1). As "a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (Jas. 2:24), works are a necessary part of faith and salvation. Faith without works is not true faith, nor is it salvific, for God "will repay everyone according to his works" (Rom. 2:5-10); "those who keep his commandments remain in him" (1 Jn. 3:19-24; see also Ps. 50:16-17, 50:22-23; Mt. 6:12, 7:13-14, 7:21-23, 19:16-17, 25:31-46; Mk. 10:17-25; Lk. 11:4, 13:24-27; Jas. 1:19-27, 2:14-26; Acts 10:34-35; 1 Cor. 11:32; Gal. 6:7-10; Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Jn. 3:6, 4:20-21, 5:2-4; Rev. 3:1-4). "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did" (2 Cor. 5:10), not merely what he believed (see also Ps. 37:8-9; Mt. 6:16-18, 10:40-42, 16:27, 18:32-35; 25:35-46; Lk. 6:27-38, 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 3:8; Rom. 2:6, 8:13, 8:17; Rev. 2:23, 14:13, 22:12). Man must persist in his original decision to accept Christ, so that his faith transforms his life rather than remaining an intellectual concept.
+ Salvific faith involves transformed lives. One of the most consequential, and yet neglected, Reformation beliefs is the view that utterly depraved man is incapable of meaningful sanctification. This rejection of spiritual regeneration and subsequent separation of spiritual from physical realities has resulted in various widely held current beliefs, ranging from predestination to nominalism. Yet Luther was wrong to claim that our sins are as dung covered by snow, for he underestimated both God's justice and His power. Faith does more than cause God to ignore our sins, for His grace is enough to accomplish a true spiritual rebirth. In embracing God's grace, our righteousness becomes imparted, as our sins and their effects are "removed from us" (Ps. 103:12). God "build[s] you up" (Acts 20:32) so that we are "conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom. 8:28-29) and are "washed…sanctified…justified" (1 Cor. 6:11; see also Ps. 51:3-4; Isa. 43:25; Eze. 36:25-27; Jn. 1:29, 3:5; Acts 26:18; Eph. 3:14-19, 4:1-6, 4:22-24, 5:25-27; Rom. 6:22-23, 8:37; 1 Cor. 6:20; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:12-14; Gal. 6:15; 1 Pet. 1:22; Phil. 2:15; Heb. 3:12-14; 1 Jn. 1:9, 3:4-10, 4:17-18; Tit. 3:5; Rev. 19:7-8). Christ's death on the Cross truly negates the effects of sin, in both our temporal and heavenly bodies; insofar as we accept the new life He offers us, we are reborn and "washed" (Jn. 13:8) -- i.e., restored to a state of grace so that we might have eternal life.
+ Salvation is not a one-time event. We must endure to the end if we are to enjoy eternal life, for our salvation, our justification and sanctification, is both completed (Eph. 2:8; Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Jn. 5:11-13) and ongoing as we "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12; see also Mt. 10:22, 13:20-21, 24:9-13; Mk. 13:13; Jn. 8:31-32, 15:6; Acts 13:43; Rom. 5:2, 8:24-25, 11:22; 1 Cor. 1:18, 15:2; Gal. 2:17; Col. 1:21-23; 1 Tim. 4:14-16; 2 Tim. 2:11-12, 4:6-8; Heb. 3:14, 12:1; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:6-9; Rev. 2:10-11, 2:26, 3:10-11, 14:13). While Jesus has accomplished all that is necessary for our salvation through His sacrifice on the Cross, and in that sense we can claim assurance of salvation, it still remains for us to participate fully and voluntarily in that salvation. Christ is true to His promise and will not allow the Evil One to take us, but He will not force us to remain in Him against our will. Calvary accomplished "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12), but our salvation requires our continued participation. Lest we claim absolute assurance of salvation for ourselves, we must remember that "the one who judges…is the Lord" (1 Cor. 4:4-5; see also Heb. 10:30 and Jas. 4:12). He promised to condemn those who know His grace and then fall away, for "if we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment" (Heb. 10:26-29; see also Jn. 15:5-6; Mt. 26:24; Lk. 22:22; Heb. 6:4-8, 10:36-39; Eph. 5:5; Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Pet. 2:20-21). The Lord condemned those who commit mortal sins, for "there is such a thing as deadly sin" (1 Jn. 5:16-17; see also Jn. 20:23; Mk. 8:38; Mt. 10:33, 12:31-32; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5-7; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
I trust I have provided enough evidence to indicate that the Catholic Church deserves a careful examination by non-Catholics. It is not intellectually honest to ignore an institution with such a long and distinguished history and with such an impressively global reach. I am not asking non-Catholics to investigate the claims of my neighborhood minister, but rather am presenting a 2,000-year-old tradition, encompassing giants like Aquinas and Newman, with almost a billion living members, including modern prophets like Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.
Nonetheless, the Catholic Church must live up to her name by incorporating the many Spirit-led movements found outside her walls. For example, the energy and fervor that animate the Baptist and Pentecostal denominations, the stirring biblical preaching of the Lutherans and Calvinists, and the liturgical solemnity of the Anglicans must find expression within Catholicism.
I am thrilled by the recent ecumenical discussions that have resulted in Catholics and Evangelicals discovering what they have in common, in terms of both theology and morality, and as exemplified by joining to oppose abortion and other fruits of an increasingly secular society, but I do not want our Evangelical friends to overlook those beliefs that make Catholicism unique. The challenge is for all Christians to follow Jesus wherever He leads; one significant part of that challenge is to consider seriously the claims of the Catholic Church.
Posted by wst... at 20:12