“What is the Difference Between Catholics and Protestants?” is the title of an article on a popular Protestant website. You can probably imagine how the author answers the question. (I didn’t bother to read it. I have other priorities.) As a New Testament Christian who eschews sectarian divisions, how would you answer this question? Are there any real differences between the two groups? If so, what are the basic differences? Feel free to share your perspective in the comments area.
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God sent His people, Israel, into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, but with these “statutes and judgments” in Moses’ final declaration to them:
“These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things. But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks” (Deuteronomy 12:1-6). The people in that land were pagans and idolaters who worshiped the Creation rather than the Creator. They worshiped the various “gods” which supposedly represented the powers involved in life on Earth. God did not allow His people to simply adopt, nor adapt, the Canaanites’ religious practices as worship to Him. All of: “the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods,” “their altars,” “their sacred pillars,” “their wooden images,” “the carved images,” were to be “utterly” destroyed so they would have no influence among the Israelites, whatsoever. Only the specified worship in the manner God described would be acceptable to God. The Israelites were not to be allied to the worship proscribed by the seasons, but that which was determined by God.
After the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when the kingdom of Christ was established on earth, the Gospel of Christ was to be preached to every creature (Mark 16:15-16). While in Lystra, Paul healed a lame man (Acts 14:8-10), but then the idolaters sought to worship both Paul and Barnabas:
“Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.’ And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them” (Acts 14:11-18). God’s inspired Apostle Paul stopped any idolatrous practice from being used as an explanation for, or an application to, Christianity. There is nothing in idolatrous teachings or practices which should be admitted or accepted by Christians.
Catholicism, whether Roman or Greek, has incorporated idolatrous practices and seasonal calendars into what they call “Christian,” when all they have done is find some Scripture or event in Christ’s life with which to “tag” what would otherwise be a rejected practice. The disciples were called “Christians” by God first in Antioch (Acts 11:26), but Catholicism has spread the term, like an umbrella, over practices of paganism and idolatry. No Christian in the New Testament ever celebrated an “Easter,” “Christmas,” “Lent,” “Seder,” or any of the 40 days of mishmash found on today’s religious calendars, which are mistakenly termed a “Christian Calendar.”
No denomination is “Protestant” that follows Catholicism’s religious calendar. “Seder” is simply a re-creation of the Jewish Passover, which Jesus died to remove (Colossians 2:14-16); “Yule” is from witches, “Eoster/Ishtar” is from idolaters, and “Fertility rites” demonstrated by rabbits and eggs, are the very things forbidden by Paul (Galatians 4:8-11); and “Lent” is hypocritical display of a misunderstanding of “fasting” condemned by Jesus (Matthew 6:16-18). The Lord’s death, represented in the Lord’s Supper, must be kept free from the impurities of falsehood (1 Corinthians 10:15-22). Everyone who keeps special days on a religious calendar did “not so learn Christ” (Ephesians 4:20).
To be a disciple of Christ, one must believe the historical and factual evidence of His life found in the New Testament (John 20:30-31; 21:25) and obey His command to be baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The only events in Christ’s life to be memorialized are: (1) His death, burial, and resurrection first, when a sinner repents and is baptized into death, Romans 6:1-6, then raised “in newness of life”; and secondly, when Christians observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26); and (2) the day of His resurrection remembered each week when Christians assemble (“the first day of the week,” Luke 24:1-9; Acts 20:7). There are no other special or seasonal days for Christians, according to the New Testament. “The churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) never observed a religious calendar that would lead them into apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1-3), because those who follow such stand contrary to inspired truth (2 Timothy 4:1-5). “The churches of Christ salute you” but we salute Jesus Christ above all.
—–John T. Polk II
Hugh’s News & views
SIGNIFICANT QUOTES FROM A FORMER CATHOLIC NUN
Last week I told of the conversion to Christ of Joanne Howe, a former Catholic nun. I mentioned that Joanne has written three books: A Change of Habit, From Nun to Priest, and Biblical Answers to Catholic Questions, all published either by the Gospel Advocate Company of Nashville, TN or a subsidiary of the Gospel Advocate. With permission from Neil Anderson, owner of the Gospel Advocate Company, I am sharing with my readers this week some of the many significant statements from Joanne’s pen as she recounted her “journey” from Catholicism to the church of which we read in the New Testament, the church of Christ. All the quotations will be from the first two books mentioned above, and for convenience I will abbreviate them as “Habit” and “Priest.”
“Although I knew the Bible was the world’s best-selling book, I couldn’t explain the purpose of its message, nor did I understand why it was written. The contents of both the Old and New Testaments were mystifying in their teachings and overwhelming in the information they conveyed. Because I had never been taught how to read the Bible or how to understand its message, I felt woefully ignorant of God’s purpose for having it written. When I was told that it would tell me who I was, where I was going, and how I would arrive at my destination, I was confused and concerned that I had never received any instruction like this as a Roman Catholic” (Priest, p. 19).
“Anxious to discover other messages, I arranged a Bible study with Mr. Coffman. I was impressed with his knowledge of Scripture, and I admired his ability to quote passages accurately from memory. As a result of counseling, my self-confidence was strengthened, and thoughts and feelings became stabilized” (Habit, p. 92).
“My conscience reeled. Throughout my adult life I had sincerely believed that I belonged to the only true church established by Jesus, under the guidance and direction of the Pope . . . Now I was confounded with the scriptural teachings that the Roman Catholic Church was not founded on Peter, but on erroneous interpretation of the Bible” (Habit, p. 96).
“Though confused over the conflicts between my religious views and Scriptures, I remained steadfast in my belief that the Roman Catholic Church was the true church and that its teachings and traditions were divine and apostolic. I had been taught that the Bible was not a sufficient rule of faith and that God’s revelations were also contained in tradition. Scriptures alone could not convey a sure knowledge of faith and morals. Determined to uphold my Catholic principles, I refused to believe that my church would teach me error” (Italics Joanne’s, Habit, p. 97)!
“I was totally bewildered! Many teachings, traditions, and doctrines of my religion were nowhere to be found in the Scriptures! My faith in Roman Catholicism was shattered by the revelations in God’s Word” (Habit, p. 100).
“I felt numb as the impact of the Scriptures sank in” (Habit, p. 107).
“Confronted with Roman Catholic doctrines that were in complete contradiction to God’s inspired teaching, I wrestled with remaining in my parents’ religion, or choosing God’s plan for salvation. Finally, after many hours of prayer and study of God’s promises, I abandoned my life to Jesus and was born again in the waters of baptism” (Habit, p. 111).
“Today, as a New Testament Christian, I have joy and peace in my heart, knowing that Jesus is my shepherd and will guide and protect me wherever I go. He is the joy of my salvation” (Habit, p. 111).
“Many with whom I have spoken do not believe in the Bible nor in the existence of absolute truth. They believe that all truth is relative and that what may be true for one is not true for another . . . I am a believer in the Bible as God’s Word. I accept God’s teachings as absolute. I understand that truth is knowable and that the Scriptures are truth” (Priest, p. 11, 12).
“We live in troubled times, days of uncertainty, religious divisions, confusing philosophies, doctrinal error, and threat of nuclear annihilation. Jesus came to this earth so that you and I might have life and have it more abundantly” (Habit, p. 116, 117)
Are you saved, based on what you have read and learned from God’s Word, or are you depending on the doctrines of man” (Habit, p. 117)?
Significant statements, indeed!
July 22: Hilldale Church of Christ, Clarksville, TN
July 24: McEwen Church of Christ, McEwen, TN
July 31: GreenHillChurch of Christ, Mt. Juliet, TN
July 9, 2013
Hugh’s News & Views
CONVERSION OF A CATHOLIC NUN
Joanne Howe is a native of Pittsburg, PA, and the oldest of eleven children born and reared in a devout Roman Catholic family. After attending Catholic elementary schools, in 1949 she entered a preparatory school for girls who wanted to dedicate their lives to God as nuns. In 1953 she entered the religious order of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, PA, where she remained until 1968. As she later wrote in From Nun to Priest (Christian Communications, 1994): “Returning to society after three years in a preparatory school and 16 years in the religious order left me unprepared for the challenges that lay ahead” (p. 16).
I am honored to know Joanne as a good friend and as a faithful member of the Nashville Road Church of Christ in Gallatin, TN. In her remarkable book, A Change of Habit (Gospel Advocate Company, 1986), Joanne tells the touching story of her growing disenchantment with her life as a nun, the questions and doubts that she came to have with reference to various Catholic doctrines and practices, the struggles she experienced in exiting the Catholic Church, and finally the exhilaration of coming to know the truth of the gospel in its original purity and simplicity. (More …)
I watched the final episode of The History’s Channels “The Bible” last night. In my humble opinion, which is based upon what a person would actually read in the Bible, the further into the Bible the show got, the worse it got! There were a couple of moments that were done really well last night, but for the most part it seemed as if the directors, producers, actors or whomever, had decided that there wasn’t much point in following what the Bible actually says and instead decided to follow what they think the Bible says or what they think it should say. This is so very unfortunate because the TV show that was supposedly meant to educate people has only added to the growing sources of biblical ignorance that are so readily available…goes to show you that there’s more than more way to waste millions of dollars on error.
I got an email this weekend about a product called the TV Guardian. Does anyone know much or anything about this product? The makers/sellers claim that it has the ability to filter out foul language from TV shows and movies. I talked to one brother who’s in the satellite business and he said that he had seen them before but he wasn’t really able to give me a thumb’s up or down. If you know anything about the product, speak up because if it does 90% of what it claims I think it would be worth the money.
Have you ever thought about how God not only sees what we do during the day, but that He also sees what we dream at night?
I saw a member of the catholic “hierarchy” get interviewed on CBS’ Sunday Morning yesterday. I hope they realize there’s a difference in “hierarchy” and “heirarchy.” They have one, but they don’t have the other! I also heard the man push the false catholic notion that the church “moved” from Jerusalem to Rome. Of course the church moved to Rome, just like it moved to Ephesus, Corinth, Berea, etc. Now what the man meant is that the “mother” church moved from Jerusalem to Sinai…I mean Rome. The Christians in Galatia were reminded about the origins of the church, an origin that the catholic church can’t lay claim to (Galatians 4:21-26). And by the way, may we never forget that the church has only one Head, and the Head of the church sits upon His throne in Heaven because He carried a wooden cross to victory – not a gold one (Colossians 1:18, Acts 2:29-36).
The news media and the world have made a big deal about the appointment of the new Pope.
Our world is very careless about religion and religious terms. During this time while the Catholic Church was appointing a new Pope, I never heard anyone ask, “Is there a Pope in the Bible?” No one seems to care about God’s arrangement for the church.
Even the word “church” is used most often in unbiblical ways in our world today. People speak of “the church” when they are talking about the building where the church meets. Some use the word “church” when speaking of a denomination or all the denominations; denomination and our Lord’s church are totally different things.
The church is men and women who have been called out of the word and called into Jesus Christ. When Saul persecuted the church he dragged “men and women” off to prison.
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.” (Acts 8:1-3)
This church was not built upon Peter nor was he the first Pope! (More …)
hugh’s news & Views
THE RESIGNATION OF THE POPE
Monday morning, February 11, the world awoke to the startling news that Pope Benedict XVI would resign the papacy effective February 28, 2013. At dusk last Thursday he flew off into the sunset to the Castel Gandolfo, some fifteen miles southeast of Rome, for an extended period of recuperation before returning to a monastery in Rome where he will live out his remaining days in mediation and prayer (and with a very nice retirement package to which, of course, he is entitled). This is only the fourth time in history that a pope has resigned and the first time it has happened in almost six centuries! Benedict’s reason for resigning was failing health and the lack of strength to lead the more than one billion members of the Roman Catholic Church. The College of the Cardinals will soon enter a conclave (the word is derived from a Latin term meaning “room locked with a key”) in Rome to elect a new pope.
Back on November 13 of last year I made a “wild” proposal that the pope should resign and that every local Catholic church in the world should become an independent, autonomous congregation governed solely by the Scriptures under the oversight of biblically qualified local church elders/pastors/bishops (in the New Testament all three terms refer to the same persons). I also proposed that every protestant church of every stripe and kind should abandon its denominational structure, name, creed, and practice and become an independent, self-governing congregation of Christians only (Christians without denominational affiliation) under the headship of Christ alone. The pope has resigned (though my “wild” proposal had nothing to do with it) and the Cardinals will soon have a new pope in place. I am not so naïve as to think that either the Catholic Church or the protestant denominations will actually dismantle their man-made organizational structures and go back to the New Testament alone for their way of being governed, for their doctrine, and for their practice. I will, however, continue to make the plea that such is what all churches should do!
The New Testament knows nothing of popes. While the Catholic Church maintains a list of popes from the apostle Peter to the papacy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the recently resigned pope), the New Testament is silent about such an office. For several hundreds of years following the close of the New Testament, there was a gradual (and sometimes not so gradual) departure from the simplicity of the New Testament way. Bishops, Archbishops, and Patriarchs strove for power. In A.D. 588, the Bishop of Constantinople, known as John the Faster because of his extraordinary abstinence and austerity, assumed the title of ecumenical or universal bishop of the church. He was promptly condemned by Gregory (later called “the Great”), Bishop of Rome. Phillip Schaff in his History of the Christian Church (Volume III, page 220) says that Gregory “was provoked and irritated beyond measure by the assumption” of John the Faster. Gregory wrote: “Whoever calls himself universal priest, or desires to be called so, was the forerunner of Antichrist.” Yet less than twenty years later, in A.D. 606, Gregory’s successor as the Bishop of Rome, Boniface III, was appointed Universal Bishop of the church by Phocas, the Roman Emperor. John Lawrence Mosheim in his Ecclesiastical History (Volume I, page 160) describes Phocas as “that abominable tyrant,” and goes on to say, “thus was the papal supremacy first introduced” (emphasis mine, hf). Therefore, A.D. 606 is the actual date for the beginning of the papacy. It was not characteristic of the church of which we read in the New Testament! (None of the above is intended as disrespectful of my Catholic friends, but simply to set forth the facts of church history.)
The New Testament church was established by Christ upon the foundation of His being the Son of God (Matthew 16:13-20; I Corinthians 3:11). The church was purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28), and is composed of every person who has been washed in that blood by obeying the gospel of Christ and being saved from his/her sins (Matthew 26:28; Revelation 1:5b; Acts 2:37-47). Christ is the one and only head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). He never resigns, but “ever lives to make intercession” for His people (Hebrews 7:25). He “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8).
March 10: Stuart Church of Christ, Stuart, Florida (p.m.)
March 5, 2013
Been thinking here lately (I’m really opening myself up to zingers there!) about the catholic church situation and what the catholic church itself teaches about the pope and even Mary.
So the pope’s word is supposed to be infallible, right? When does it become so? Was his word as a “cardinal” infallible? And since he’s still alive does his word continue to be infallible? If not, how does one go from being fallible to infallible and back to fallible again? Talk about a rollercoaster ride! And also, is Benedict still the most-holy or is he only normal-holy? Or is he even Benedict anymore?
Now when it comes to Mary and her conception being “immaculate” from “original sin” how did she come to be that way? Jesus was born in the flesh according to her genetic material, right? Were her mother and father immaculate as well? How about her grandparents? And her great-parents and their great-grandparents? When did this whole “immaculate” thing start in the gene pool? Why didn’t the siblings of Jesus get the same benefits of their mother’s “immaculate” condition? Scratch that last question – seems like I remember something about sex between a husband and a wife not being allowed and no other children being born. But the other questions still stand.
And by the way, if you do give an answer in the affirmative, please give a scripture reference that affirms your affirmation along with it :) That would be most helpful.
If the Catholic church were biblically wise they would allow the vacancy of the pope to stay just that way – vacant. Many Catholics (and even some people who aren’t Catholic???) worry about their church because it has no head. If they understood the true biblical nature of the church they would know that the church is never without her head. Jesus is the head of the church and his reign as such has not ended (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23). Two heads are not better than one!
If the Catholic church were biblically wise they would allow the vacancy of “Peter’s throne” to stay just that way – vacant. Many Catholics (and even some people who aren’t Catholic???) worry about finding the right person to continue Peter’s legacy. If they understood the true nature of Peter from the Bible they would know that Peter would never allow himself to sit on a “throne” over the church, they would know that Peter would never allow people to “bow and kiss his ring” and they would know that the Bible never refers to an office in the church called the “pope” (Acts 10:24-26, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28). Peter never sat with a golden scepter upon any “throne” above the church which Jesus Himself rules with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:8-9, Revelation 2:26-27).
If the Catholic church were biblically wise they would allow the silence of uninspired and fallible words to stay just that way – silent. Many Catholics (and even some who aren’t Catholics???) worry about the lack of spiritual guidance without a pope. If they understood the true biblical nature of the church they would know that they should listen to the inspired and infallible word of God that the church is called to follow. The word of God guides the church of God, the church of God does not guide the word of God (Ephesians 3:3-5; 2 Peter 1:3; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
If the Catholic church were biblically wise they would know there’s a difference between universal unity based upon error and universal unity based upon the truth…that’s one big if though!
“endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)
The Catholic Church prides itself on being the “universal” church, but the only universal thing they own is error. I do not feel bad for the deceivers, but I do feel bad for the Catholics who have been deceived into thinking that Rome has their best interest in mind. Rome has Rome’s best interest in mind and nothing more. Rome is not interested in listening to Heaven’s word because Rome thinks their word is on equal authority with Heaven’s. They are blind to their own blasphemy and to the blasphemy which they cause others to commit.
In fewer areas is the blasphemy of Rome more apparent than in its doctrine of exalting Mary above that which a person should be exalted (1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 12:6). Not only does Rome itself fall before Mary in false and idol worship, but it urges, no, it wickedly compels those who have been deceived into doing to the same. Many people who refer to themselves as Catholics are ignorant of the dangers that the Catholic Church promotes when it comes to Mary. Through deceiving leadership, many individuals, my mother’s side of my own family included, have been led toward the pits of Hell through a make-believe Mary who cannot be substantiated by the word of God. Make no mistake, Mary the servant of God whom we see in the scriptures as Jesus’ mother is not the same Mary the “Queen” of Heaven found in the catechisms of Rome.
From time to time there are some who think that Rome doesn’t really teach the things concerning Mary that it is accused of teaching. If the truth were told, people have no idea just how entrenched the Catholic Church is in idol worship and blasphemy. You don’t have to take my word for it though, take the word of Rome itself:
“It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her aternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God.” (Pope Leo VIII – Supremi Apostolatus)
“O Virgin most holy, none abounds in the knowledge of God except through thee; none, O Mother of God, attains salvation except through thee; none receives a gift from the throne of mercy except through thee.” (Pope Leo XIII – ADIUTRICEM)
“As she suffered and almost died together with her suffering and dying Son, so she surrendered her mother’s rights over her Son for the salvation of the human race. And to satisfy the justice of God she sacrificed her Son, as well as she could, so that it may justly be said that she together with Christ has redeemed the human race.” (Pope Benedict XV – INTER SODALICIA)
“From our earliest years nothing has ever been closer to Our heart than devotion-filial, profound, and wholehearted-to the most blessed Virgin Mary. Always have We endeavored to do everything that would redound to the greater glory of the Blessed Virgin, promote her honor, and encourage devotion to her.” … “For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation.” (Pope Pius – IX UBI PREMUM)
“It is impossible to measure the power and scope of her offices since the day she was taken up to that height of heavenly glory in the company of her Son, to which the dignity and luster of her merits entitle her. From her heavenly abode she began, by God’s decree, to watch over the Church, to assist and befriend us as our Mother; so that she who was so intimately associated with the mystery of human salvation is just as closely associated with the distribution of the graces which for all time will flow from the Redemption.” (St. Germ. Constantinop – Orat. 11, in Dortnitione B.M.V.)
How much clearer can it be? Catholics can deny that Rome teaches people to worship Mary, but they can only make that claim if they have never heard or do not understand what Rome is teaching to begin with.
If you ask a devout/practicing Catholic to explain or defend the above views with the Bible they cannot, for the Bible condemns such teachings and behavior (Acts 10:25-26; Revelation 22:8-9; 1 John 5:21). God alone is the church’s Savior. God alone redeemed the souls of the lost. God alone deserves glory and praise from the church. God alone is the church’s refuge. God alone satisfied His justice. God Himself gives gifts of mercy from Heaven. Mary never asked to be exalted, and the Bible never tells anyone to do such a thing. She was as dependent upon God for her salvation as any other person ever was. She was and is no more holy than any of God’s people who have been cleansed by the blood (1 Peter 2:9).
Sadly, because of Rome’s darkness many eyes have been closed to the light of Jesus’ glorious gospel that leads to life and immortality (2 Timothy 1:10) never to be opened again; but if you are a member of the Catholic Church please don’t stand idle, leave the path of idol worship while you have the time and opportunity. Trade in catholicism for Christianity. Come to God through His Son alone. No other word, no other path and no other person is needed (John 14:6). Leave the church that began in Rome for the church that began in Jerusalem (Acts 2:47). While all roads may lead to Rome, the roads of Rome do not lead to Heaven. You can escape the “universal” blindness of blasphemy by receiving the sight of God’s grace found in His word (Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 1:22-23).
“Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Eph. 5:14)
“And Mary said: ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.'” (Luke 1:46-47)
“Who will not fear you, O Lord, and glorify your name, because you alone are holy?…” (Revelation 15:4)
Marriage isn’t a sacrament. One. But is there anything else in this article you’d differ with?
Recently I have finished two extended outlines on assignments I have for a preacher’s retreat in southern Illinois. Those extended outlines amount to about 30 pages in total (for both). If you are interested in receiving them via email attachments from me, please let me know and I will send them to you. The outline are on Catholicism and Buddhism. I will need your email address to do this.
Last October the USA Today reported a survey with the headline: “US Catholics’ religious identity slips”. While one in four Americans identify themselves as Catholic, 86% say you can disagree with teachings of the church and still be loyal to Catholicism. Only 30% support the teaching authority claimed by the Vatican. Since 1987 attendance to Mass has declined from 44% weekly to 31% and those who attend less than monthly rose from 26% to 47%. When asked why, the prevailing answer was they are simply not very religious. This is not true of Catholics alone; it is equally true of Protestants. Americans have become simply not very religious and the results are all around us and not very pretty. Some call it progress; I call it regress. This is Just-a-Minute with Ed Boggess
In Jesus’ banquet parable (Luke 14:12-24), the master sent his servant to gather up guests for the feast. His instructions were, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (v. 23, ESV).
In Latin, “compel people to come in” is written, “compelle intrare.” From early centuries of church history through medieval times and beyond, the Roman Catholic Church leaned on a grotesquely twisted interpretation of “compelle intrare” in Luke 14:23, concluding that governmental authorities had the right to coerce people into the church. In a perverse marriage, Catholicism and the state were so tied together that the former could dictate the latter use deadly force against the church’s enemies. And, the church’s enemies included whatever men and doctrines were not in lock step with what the Catholic Church taught. Forced conformity to Catholicism was the glue holding society together. Naturally, if people were allowed to study the Bible for themselves, voluntarily practice what they believed from their own study, and freely preach their views, it would be a fundamental threat to the church’s power (and the crumbling of society, as they knew it).
Reformers such as Martin Luther are often hailed for their courage in confronting the status quo in religion (i.e. Catholicism). Yet, what they created in the Reformation was simply another state religion like Catholicism—only with certain different doctrines. In other words, while Luther opposed the Catholic Church, he very much endorsed the idea that the Reformed church could use force against its own enemies.
While the reformers (such as Luther, John Calvin, etc.) were battling Catholicism, there were others insisting that both sides were wrong in their concept of a church which forced itself on everyone in a given locale. The view of these objectors was that the church of Christ consisted of voluntary believers, and that it had no connection to the state; nor was it biblical to use force in spreading the gospel. They studied their Bibles and clung to their convictions. They also found themselves mercilessly persecuted by both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers.
Martin Luther commissioned his friend, Urbanus Rhegius, to fight those who were calling for a church formed only of voluntary believers. Rhegius said:
“The truth leaves you no choice; you must agree that the magistracy has the authority to coerce his subjects to the Gospel. And if you say, ‘Yes, but with admonition and well-chosen words but not by force’ then I answer that to get people to the services with fine words and admonitions is the preacher’s duty, but to keep them there with recourse to force if need be and to frighten them away from error is the proper function of the rulers….What do you suppose ‘Compelle intrare’ means?” (quoted in Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, p. 74).
Those who thought the church and state were separate, that the state should not interfere with the church, and that the church should be organized along New Testament lines, were considered radicals and hated as enemies. One of them was Felix Manz, of Zurich, Switzerland. His goal was “to bring together those who were willing to accept Christ, obey the Word, and follow in His footsteps, to unite with these by baptism, and to leave the rest in their present conviction” (ibid.). In other words, Manz was opposed to coercion and held that the church should consist of true believers—those who wanted to accept and obey the gospel.
For his “heretical” ideas, Felix Manz had his hands tied around his bent knees, with a big stick shoved between his elbows and knees so that he could not move his arms. He was put in a boat and rowed into the Limmat River, where he was thrown into the frigid water to drown. The date was January 5, 1527.
Over the recent centuries, both Catholicism and Protestantism have had to back off of “compelle intrare,” but neither the former nor the denominations that sprang from the latter have gone all the way back to the primitive church’s organization and practice. Therein lies their insuperable problem.
If we, in the church of Christ, had lived back then, we would have been hunted like dogs by both Catholics and the Reformers. We are still at spiritual war with their religious descendants, but, thanks be, at least they cannot come after us today with a death warrant.
Do you have a motto for your life? Or a mission statement? A word, phrase, paragraph that sums up who you are, who you want to be, what you think it’s all about? Plinky.com asked this recently, and since we’re coming up on a new year when such thoughts are common to man, it seemed a good one to ask today. I hope it’s not been asked before, but if so, consider it again, in light of the fast train approaching that is 2011.
We’re taking our guests today to see the second largest Catholic basilica in the world, after the Vatican. It’s one of the testaments to that religion, and considering we work in its shadow, seeing it provides a perspective hard to get elsewhere.
Don’t think I mentioned that we had a baptism on Saturday. Was a wonderful moment. A young girl that Paula studied with and Jorge baptized, after our BBQ together. What news have you?
Two items came to my attention yesterday about developments in the Catholic Church.
First, the pope released a document, “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” From the noise, it would appear to be a major pronouncement, but it remains to be seen if their approach will change. Don’t hold your breath. In a striking phrase, Benedict is being touted as the “pope of the word of God.” With the bashing of fundamentalists, it appears to be another move to preempt them and keep from losing ground to those sad and despised souls who take the Bible literally.
The other item is talk between the Catholics and a few Protestant groups on the mutual recognition of each side’s baptisms. The Catholics want to make it easier for others to convert. So says one article about the main benefit of the talks:
For Catholic parish life, the accord would be advantageous in cases where someone baptized in the Reformed traditions wishes to enter full communion with the Catholic Church or wishes to marry a Catholic.
The Catholic Church recently invited Anglican bishops over to their side, and facilitated that move. The impression is the Catholics are hungry for converts, and they’ll take them where and how they can get them.
What happened to Cardinal Bernard Law, and why has he disappeared from his “diocese?”
The answer has to do with the Catholic Church’s long struggle with pedophile priests and the hierarchy that has shielded them and kept the authorities at bay for years and years.
“Newsweek Magazine” reports that Law was rescued by Pope Benedict (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) when the Massachusetts Attorney General decided the Cardinal should appear before a Grand Jury investigating the incidents of sexual abuse by priests of the church and the subsequent cover up of those cases. Here’s the link: http://www.newsweek.com/id/236934.
“Newsweek” reports that the pope himself is likely to be served with court papers during his upcoming trip to Great Britain, and the Vatican is pushing hard for the British to accept Vatican City as an independent state so that the pope could be granted diplomatic immunity.
The problem with this is that the formation of Vatican City as its own little country was done only by Mussolini in what “Newsweek” calls “a sweetheart deal” during Mussolini’s reign of power in the 1940s. There’s never been any official recognition of the Vatican as an independent, sovereign state.
Should the pope be brought to justice to answer for his alleged cover up of sexual abuse cases committed by priests? Should the pope be held accountable for ordering cardinals and bishops to prevent cases from being reported to the police?
Should those who call themselves Catholic reconsider the foundation of their beliefs in light of the sexual abuse of children by priests who were supposed to remain celibate by the “infallible” fiat of the pope?
Socrates was supposed to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Shouldn’t people ask themselves if a religious system should be abandoned that denies the truth and tries to keep it from becoming known?
Concerning false teachers, Jesus said, “Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them,” (Matthew 7:20). Isn’t it time we ask some serious questions and get some serious answers about a system of religion that permits the abuse of children and allows the guilty to hide and escape justice?
Brethren, I hope we’re all availing ourselves of the opportunities to teach the truth to those in Catholicism in light of the recent headlines concerning pedophilic priests. There is a whale of debate going on the news Web site message boards about it, and people in the Catholic church are at the least upset and at most ready to leave. They’re looking for the truth, and we have an opportunity to give it to them. I’ve posted some of the news articles on Facebook, because I wanted my Catholic friends to see what was going on warts and all. They don’t like it, and a couple have clicked me “off,” but if they can see the inconsistency and evil involved, perhaps they can search for and find the truth.