Friday, August 04, 2006

Clement to the Corinthians Part IV

Continuing my reflections on the book study that a group of guys from Church and I are doing on Clement's First Epistle (to the Corinthians). See also Parts 1, 2 & 3.

This week, we covered chapters 14, 15, & 16.

It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, to obey God rather than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation. For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults, so as to draw us away from what is good.

These are such men as Hans Kung who have in modern times risen up in the Church with no intention other than to despise what is holy, and teach others to do evil. (Thankfully the Pope has silenced him and his comrades). The Apostle Paul said:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!(1)

And again:

If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.(2)

If a dissenter rises in the Church and begins to lead others to believe in doctrines contrary to what the Church teaches (after all it is, as Paul calls it, "the pillar and foundation of truth") then he has condemned himself. For Christ Himself said "If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown in the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck"(3)

What is the gospel they preached? Faith Alone? To reiterate what I said in my previous discussion on the topic, we know what Christ and the Apostles taught on the subject. As if their words weren't enough (see Matthew 21:28-32 or James 2:24 for the clearest example) we have extensive writings from the very students of the apostles such as St. Polycarp (disciple of St. John), Linus, Clement (successors to St. Peter) and many others. The more recent you get in history, the more Church writings we have. They have remained orthodox. They have not taught a new gospel as Paul warned against. Here we see Clement warning the Corinthians (as Paul had already done a couple times) against the heresies arising in the Church and the sin being left unaddressed. This is a great example of St. Clement exercizing his vital role (as the 4th pope) and ensuring that the Church maintain its orthodoxy as Paul warned us to do. The Church cannot tolerate anyone who teaches false doctrines and like a rebelious sheep leads others away from the flock. This is why Hans Kung was silenced. This is why Martin Luther was excommunicated.

Interestingly enough, Protestants have no problem using the "Apostle or student of an Apostle" defense for Scriptural authority such as in this apologetic article on the subject by Craig S. Hawkins. But when it comes to the full extent of what was unanimously taught by the Apostles, and the students of the Apostles, they are quick to reject certain points that they don't like.

Clement writes:

Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.

This inspired a quick discussion on the doctrine of pacifism which I will address more fully at a later time. But a few quick points I wanted to make on the subject: Several years ago while I was still a Protestant, I read the book "The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You" by Leo Tolstoy. (Although Tolstoy's views are certainly outside of the Church's teachings and can legitimately be called "weird" in many cases, he was a brilliant writer and his book sure got my gears turning on the subject). I was very dissapointed however, to find that the Protestant community routinely and unhesitantly brushed the subject off without even a second glance. I couldnt even find any reasonable dialogue on the subject.

I posted a message on an apologetic forum regarding Christ's teaching of turning the other cheek. The replies started off like this "This is one of the most misunderstood passages in Scripture" (Immediately my BS Warning Meter was going through the roof) It is quite obvious that the Protestant world routinely ignores that passage and if they deal with it at all, they will dumb it down significantly from its apparent meaning. He was insinuating, with this opening statement, that it is common for people to read this passage and conclude that pacifism is the correct interpretation of the issue. This couldnt be further from the truth! I knew of no one who taught or believed that! Protestants think that this verse means "if your buddies at work are making fun of you because you're a Jesus freak, don't make fun back". I was extremely frustrated with the complete lack of any honest dialogue on the subject in Protestant circles. Now I am quite pleased to see that not only is there dialogue in the Catholic Church, but the Church illuminates the subject quite adequately and has taught exactly as Christ Himself did as the Apostles and martyrs also bore witness to.

I digress, but this did lead me to bring up during our discussion another great thing about being Catholic now. As a Protestant, sometimes I would quote Scripture in conversation to other Protestants just to get a debate going. (I wouldnt tell them it was Scripture I would just say it as if I were stating my own opinion). Its fun, you should try it sometime. Just say something like "we are justified by works and not by faith alone", or "To those who are on the outside everything is spoken in parables so that they might be ever seeing and never percieving and ever hearing but never understanding. Otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven" or "if someone steals some of your belongings you should offer to him other belongings as well" or "Christ's body is real food and His blood is real drink" etc.. etc.. the list goes on. All of these will cause a Protestant to get defensive because they conflict with their world view yet they are all found nearly word for word (the first 2 are word for word and the other two I dont have memorized but look it up for yourself) in Scripture.

The great thing about being Catholic is, if you see something in Scripture, (such as the above), you can unhesitantly repeat it and believe it since you can be certain the One Holy Catholic & Apostolic Church will dare not deviate from Scripture, the traditions of the Church or from the authority of the Curia (as we see being exercized by St. Clement the Pope above).

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