Thursday, November 30, 2006

4th Century Doctors of the Church

A Dialogue About "Obstinate Ignorance"

This recent dialogue between myself and a fellow neophyte friend of mine over email is partially reprinted with permission. (His words in green & in block quotes) Originally I told him in my email about a protestant friend who is an elder at an Orthodox Prebyterian church who made the comment that St. Augustine single handedly kept the Church from 'going off the deep end'. My friend erroneously viewed him as the only one with his 'head on straight' in the 300s.

When I read your second paragraph I must admit that I was a bit annoyed. It's a struggle to prevent myself from reacting that way, though I really should. Especially since I was exactly like your Protestant friend a little over a year ago. I guess, for the most part, it is the obstinate ignorance that bugs me the most. Why doesn't he read about it instead of commenting on things he has no knowledge of or doesn't understand? Of course, it was only by the grace of God that I was accepting of the Fathers writings... so, prayer for your friend would be the best thing. the 4th century was the richest century for the Doctors of the Church. That statement he made was out of complete ignorance, an ignorance that I would challenge him to back up with honest research... since I know he made that comment off the top of his head, like most Protestants. The more I hear Protestants talk, the more I realize that the "personal Jesus" concept is a reality with them. All of their "knowledge" (in reality, opinions) has been supposedly personally revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. All without careful study, without changing their lifestyle, without seeking humility, etc.

Anyhow I want to point out the level of ignorance your Protestant friend has in his personal "revelation" from who he believes is the Holy Spirit.

First, the Councils which established the canon of the Holy Scriptures took place in the 4th century... St. Augustine didn't even convert until 386 (5 years after the First Council of Constantinople). Also, he wasn't on the council when the Nicene Creed was approved. So, to say that the Church was going astray in the 300s is either utter ignorance or utter blasphemy. Even a Protestant believes that the canon of Scriptures was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and many Protestant denominations recite the Creed. Two things St. Augustine wasn't a part of.

Second, the council of Nicaea (325 AD - pre-St. Augustine) approved the canons for the structure of the Church heirarchy, defined the divinity of the Son of God against Arius, and fixed the date to keep Easter. These things, like all doctrines and dogmas of the Church, were already in existence, passed down by the Tradition of the Apostles as can be seen in all of the pre-Nicene Fathers writings. As we both know, Protestants foolishly reject the Traditions of the Apostles and the authority of the Church. The First Council of Constantinople (381 AD - also pre-St. Augustine) added the Holy Spirit portion to the Creed and further defined the heirarchial structure. St. Augustine became bishop of Hippo in 396 AD, so according to your friend, it would have taken him only four years to influence the Church enough to keep the wheels from falling off, since in your friend's blissful ignorance he stated that it was in the 4th century that St. Augustine did everything. Another thing to note is that St. Augustine became bishop after the First Council of Constantinople and he entered heaven in 430 AD, just prior to the next Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, it is hard to imagine that he was physically present at any of the Ecumenical Councils. Though he was present at the Local Council of Carthage and he actually helped to further approve and frame the heirarchial structure of the Church!

Third, I'm sure that your Protestant friend believes that the wheels came off when doctrines like Apostolic Succession were affirmed, canons of Church heirarchy were affirmed, Apostolic Tradition was used as a means of framing doctrines and dogmas, the belief in the Real Presense of our Lord in the Eucharist was handed down through the Faith and Tradition of the Apostles, etc. Because, if he believes any of that, then he should give up his perceived Christian "independence", his trust in himself, and his "personal Jesus" and enter the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But, chances are he doesn't believe any of those things. Besides the other points I made, which plainly show his ignorance, I think, this point is the most crucial: St. Augustine believed all of those things listed above... the things your friend does not believe! I'll add a couple more things too. St. Augustine also believed in the primacy of the successor of St. Peter. Using Protestant terms, he was a papist. Also, St. Augustine was the Doctor of the Church who defined the Ten Commandments as the first three being in relation to God and the last seven being in relation to our neighbor. Protestants believe that the first four are in relation to God and the last seven are in relation to our neighbor. Though it's not a matter of faith, it is a scandalous matter to some Protestants who think the Catholic Church took liberty with Her exposition of the Ten Commandments. That was St. Augustine!

So, before your Protestant friend tosses out his personal revelations on who St. Augustine was and what he believed, tell him it would probably be wise to actually read about him first. St. Augustine was Catholic in everything. He believed in the Sacraments and everything else the Church teaches, which hasn't changed since Christ sent the Apostles to preach the Gospel and baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just the fact that the Catholic Church recognizes St. Augustine as a Saint should be enough to let him know that he was Catholic. The Church isn't in the business of canonizing heretics.

Back to my point about the 4th (and 5th) century being the richest in regards to Doctors of the Church, here is a sample of some of them:

St. Ambrose (Bishop of Milan 374-397) - helped to convert St. Augustine, a wealth of writings in the deposit of Faith that are often cited for doctrines and dogmas of the Church
St. Athanasius (Bishop of Alexandria, d. 373)
St. Augustine (Bishop of Hippo 396-430)
St. Basil the Great (Bishop of Caesarea, d. 379)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Bishop of Jerusalem, d. 386)
St. Ephraim the Syrian (d. 373)
Eusebius of Caesarea (Bishop of Caesarea, d. 341)
St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Bishop of Nazianzus, d. 389)
St. Hilary of Poitiers (Bishop of Poitiers, d. 368) - one Tradition has it that his relics were taken from the church of St. Hilaire of Poitiers and burned by the Protestants in 1572
St. Jerome (b. 340, d. 420) - translated the Holy Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate and also upheld the Tradition of the perpetual virginity of Theotokos against heretics at the time.
St. John Chrysostom (Bishop of Constantinople b. 347, d. 407) - "golden mouthed", one of the greatest Doctors of the Church
Pope St. Leo I the Great (d. 461, Pope 440-461)

And that list doesn't include those who were not considered Doctors of the Church. I may have even missed a few. I hope that somewhat illustrates the level of ignorance and the contradictory nature of your Protestant friend's statements. It's hard for me not to get a bit annoyed and not to show it in my responses, but man, he should READ the stuff he is spewing opinions out about in complete ignorance. I should really be more relaxed about it since I was in exactly the same boat (sinking) as he was.
Joe you're exactly right about the "personal Jesus" phenomenon. Ive noticed that too. Like St. Jerome said "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". And the Protestants call God Father - yet like St. Cyprian of Carthage said "He cannot have God as Father who has not Church as mother". Both of these 4th century like you pointed out. The personal Jesus issue is one of the posts for my blog that I have had on the back burner for a while.

Thanks for that list of the Saints. The only big ones I could think of at the time were St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius & St. Jerome but I didnt mention Jerome to him bc Protestants dont like St. Jerome. I looked online later to see if i could find a timeline but I didnt find one and didnt have time to go through each saint.

The sad thing about this particular Protestant is that while what you said is true - he is grossly ignorant of the 4th century and early Church - he is very well educated in reformed doctrine and church (with a lower case c) history after the reformation. He could probably quote the Westminster Confession. Even the very well educated Protestants (in this regard) have a terrible knowledge of the early Church (which is the most important era to learn about imo!!!)

But for Protestants like him I am not too terribly concerned. He's already set in his ways and it would be a personal embarassment for him to change at this point. So im not trying to convert him by any means. To convert for someone like that (he is in his 60s and an elder at his church) would be to admit he's been wrong about many things for a long time.. That is extremely hard to do for mankind and our ego will cause us to "turn a blind eye" to certain truths.

Im more interested in providing resources for protestants (like me before i converted) who knew deep down inside Christianity is true but also knew that there are some huge pieces of the puzzle missing and it didnt make any sense. I was very frustrated with Chrsitianity. Had I known that the Catholic Church had EVERY answer all along, it would have been so much easier. I want to be a resource for those kinds of people.

I obviously don't believe that you should try and convert anyone, as that would be impossible anyway. Catholics have a different understanding of evangelization. We don't (or shouldn't) believe that we are the ones who convert anyone. And we certainly don't believe that we earn "crowns" in heaven for each soul "we" save. It is only through the grace of Faith, given by the Holy Spirit and accepted by the person, that one can believe in Christ, and it is only through Christ that one can see the Father. We aren't even actors in the process since the entire affair is literally between the grace given by the Spirit and the response given by the person. God doesn't control us and we don't control each other.

However, educating the ignorant is something that we are commissioned to do. Not to convert them, but just to give them information that they didn't have before. It is not something we do to add another soul to our personal list of converts, like it is for the evangelicals. It is something we do when the opportunity arises and is also our obligation as Christians, especially to other Christians. The Spirit will move us to do so when it is appropriate too. Unlike evangelicals who cram their false doctrines down everyone's throat after beating them over the head with their Luther bible, we are to carry out our discussions with love and humility. I have engaged in discussions with Protestant friends and family members on topics of Catholic teachings and doctrines. In those cases the discussions unravelled gradually, I didn't go into the conversation with a list of doctrines I was going to shove in their face. On the contrary, they came to me with theirs for the most part. I saw it as my duty to at least explain the Catholic teaching to them, whether they rejected it or not. It isn't my job to convince them of anything. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. That is why Protestants can read the Scriptures and never recognize the Truth, because they obstinately refuse the grace of the Holy Spirit.

...

I guess my point is that I think you should post this thread. Your friend needs to understand how contradictory and how misinformed his ridiculous statement is and, if he wants to truly find out what St. Augustine thought or what was happening in the Church before and after the Roman persecution (I use the end of the Roman persecution because it is more accurate than the many misinformed Protestant theories on Constantine), that there is plenty of documentation available for research. He needs to put his Westminster Confession, a relatively new invention (in comparison to the age of the Church of Christ) of schismatics and heretics, down and start reading what the mind of the Church thinks today and has ALWAYS thought since Christ sent His Apostles to spread the Gospels.

As far as Protestants not liking St. Jerome, as I recall, their religious father, Martin Luther, didn't like St. James very much either. And St. James' epistle is in their bible too. Why did the heretic, Luther, not like St. James? Simply because he taught how to properly live a Christian life and that "Faith without works is DEAD". Of course Martin Luther would have had the same feelings for St. Jerome because St. Jerome used the Septuagint primarily for his Old Testament translation. It follows that Protestants loyal to their Luther bibles would not like St. Jerome because that might mean they'd have to accept the seven books that the heretic, Luther, removed from the canon. Also, St. Jerome made it clear that the Blessed Virgin was perpetually a Virgin, and he wasn't shy about believing in Catholic teachings. My answer to that is, who cares if Protestants don't like St. Jerome? They don't like anyone that doesn't fit into their own personal "revelation". Why do you think there are 30,000 + Protestant sects in existence? Why is it that being a Protestant is like playing denomination hop-scotch until death? Because, if it doesn't fit their individual interpretation, it isn't true. Changing religions is no big deal as a Protestant, it has no great impact on them. I received an email from a family member of mine that proudfully stated that they had left their church because they didn't like the preacher's teachings. They gave the whole family a warning that we should all trust what the Holy Spirit tells us personally and never to trust a preacher. They went on to talk about how the head of the family had read the whole bible (Protestant, of course), annually, for many years, and that he was more knowledgeable than the preacher of the church they left in the dust. Not only that, we, the rest of the family, should look to him for biblical guidance. That is their mentality. "I'm right! The Holy Spirit talks to me! Nobody else is right! Don't even trust yourself, listen to me! Don't trust anyone else! I've read the bible more than you! I'm older than you so I know more!"

I later told them that they should try reading the writings of the Early Fathers. The response was incredible. I was told that I should not put so much faith in mere "commentaries" and that I should listen only to the Holy Spirit, who talks to me whenever I read the Scriptures as long as I have Jesus in my heart. That men are misleading (so, I guess the Apostles were too?) and that we should only read the Scriptures. Attached to that email was a portion of a Protestant commentary on Scripture!!! Can you believe the hypocrisy? They added that this guy is a guy they could trust.

The best part is next. I read approximately five lines of the commentary (it was three pages long). In that five lines the "scholar" pointed out that we are saved by faith alone and that it is in direct contradiction to Christ's teachings to believe that works have any salvific value. I stopped reading it right there and sent back an email letting them know that "the Church does not teach, nor has it ever taught since Her inaguration at the Cross 2000 years ago, that one can earn salvation by his own merits through works." That was my reply. I should've added that the Church stamped out the heresy of Pelagianism (man can earn salvation by his own merits) centuries ago, which taught exactly what Protestants accuse Catholics of believing.
-End email thread-

My friend is right. There is an undeniable double standard when it comes to interpretation of Scripture. If you were to quote an early Church father or a saint (other than St. Augustine whom they like simply because he at one time taught false doctrines that the Church never adopted such as predestination and condemnation of unbaptized infants which John Calvin later adopted) then you are scolded: "its just men's opinion!" But, in the next breath they show you a commentary by James Dobson or John MacArthur (king of the straw man attacks on Catholicism) or any other contemporary Protestant 'scholar' who (at best) pales in comparison to the great Saints of the early Church in both knowledge & wisdom... and woe to you if you don't accept their opinions as God-breathed.

I don't mean to bash my brothers in Christ. Most, if not all of them are very well meaning. But they lack the full gift of the Holy Spirit because they are not in full communion with Christ's Church and they have but one valid sacrament (baptism).

7 comments:

Dave Gudeman said...

You said: "But, in the next breath they show you a commentary by James Dobson or John MacArthur (king of the straw man attacks on Catholicism) or any other contemporary Protestant 'scholar' who (at best) pales in comparison to the great Saints of the early Church in both knowledge & wisdom... and woe to you if you don't accept their opinions as God-breathed."

Come on now; that is a ridiculuous exaggeration. No one thinks that Dobson or MacArther are inspired in the sense that the writers of scripture are inspired. I've never even heard of MacArther before.

You make these sorts of exaggerations and gross generalizations all the timeand then you say, "I don't mean to bash my brothers in Christ." but of course you do mean to do it. You don't write those hostile paragraphs by accident.

I think I should share with you a conversation I had about you a few months ago. I was talking about early church history with a friend who knows more about it than I do and I recommended your site as an interesting source of the Catholic perspective. He said that he had read your site (from the link on my blog) and that he had been put off by your hostile attitude toward protestants so he wouldn't read it any more. I defended you, saying that you weren't really hostile, just engaging in the sort of rough rhetoric that occurs on lots of blogs. I said he should ignore your unfair exaggerations and generalizations because in between all of that there was a lot of interesting debate.

I don't remember his exact words, but my friend said something to the effect that among Christians, matters of the spirit should be discussed with love and humility, not arrogance and insults. What is proper for speaking to your political opponents is not proper for speaking to your brothers in Christ that you disagree with.

So you ran into a protestant blowhard --someone who likes to lecture about things he doesn't really know about. There are blowhards all over the place. There are sports blowhards, history blowhards, science blowhards, philosophy blowhards, and yes, even Catholic blowhards. But when you run into a blowhard who is a 49ers fan, that doesn't justify you saying that all 49ers fans are ignorant about sports.

There have been thousands of works written by very knowledgeable protestant scholars to explain and justify the protestant case against the Roman Catholic Church. You don't have to agree with it, but you just cannot reasonably say that all protestant complaints against the Catholic church are based on ignorance.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Dave,

I think you should probably look at your posts in the past on this web site. There have been times that you have insulted Catholicism without properly educating yourself on the topics in which you posted. Tim is a convert to Catholicism from a Protestant denomination. He knows Protestant and Catholic theology. You are completely ignorant of Catholic theology which can sometimes show in your posts.

"Ignorance" isn't a bad word. It has only become a bad word in this country because we are taught from a very young age that our opinions count no matter how incorrect they are.

When the word ignorant is used in the context on this blog it means, "lacking knowledge". That is a fact. I was a former Protestant myself and I can tell you that all of the misperceptions I had about the Church were based on ignorance... the same exact ignorance that you are displaying at times. Remember, "ignorance" is not a put-down.

I'm sorry if this post offended you. It was my email to Tim and I told him to put it on his site. I realize now that there was a tinge of invective in my writing, but you must understand that I have been told by family members that I am going to hell because I have become Catholic.

This is a relatively new development and it has rubbed me raw the last few weeks. I should just send it up to God. I admittedly missed an opportunity to offer it up to Him. I realize now that would have been a better use of the hate I have encountered by my family whom I love dearly. I apologize to you if I have greived you.

Please don't attack Tim for it.

There is no excuse for my insensitivity towards my separated brothers and sisters in Christ. Please do not assume that is the rational of the Catholic Church. It is not. I have gone against the teachings of the Church by not approaching the situation with humility and kindness. I acknowledge this and am deeply sorry.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but please forgive me if I offended you.

That being said, I still would like you to read about the Church or ask questions. I am truly sorry about my knee-jerk reaction. The Church teaches us that we should control our emotions and remain sober. That I didn't. It was an incredible moment of weakness and I failed to seek aid from Heaven. On the other hand, that does not discount my arguments. The information in them are not opinions, only the frustration with "Protestant blowhards" as you call them are.

Tim and I both know the arguments against Catholicism. We both converted to Catholicism knowing those arguments. Now we know those arguments to be based on ignorance. If you don't believe us then I invite you to read, inquire, ask questions of a priest. If you don't come to the same conclusion we did then we'll agree to disagree. But, don't stand on one side of the fence casting stones at the other side without first finding out about the other side for yourself. If you still do not try to educate yourself on the positions you have assumed, then I can only come to the conclusion that you are afraid of what you might find out... as Tim and I both were. We were both very apprehensive inquirers when we came to the Catholic Church to find out what they believe. Now we believe in all of Her doctrines and that She is the Church of Christ. There is ONE Truth, not many. The Holy Spirit does not try to confuse us with contradictory doctrines. I ask you please to educate yourself.

Tim, I am sorry for all of this. I will try to control myself better in the future.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Dave:

I realize that I show too much hostility in my tone and I am prone to exaggerate. I know that no Protestant thinks Dobson or MacArthur are inspired. (MacArthur is a west coast pastor of a large Baptist church and has authored a lot of books including a NT commentary. He is very anti-catholic and probably one of the "Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon" types but not really sure about that)

Anyway, my point was that Protestants would routinely dismiss the early Christians of the Church simply because their writings "are not inspired" yet they will heartily recommend a modern "scholar". This is a double standard.

But I honestly dont intend to bash people. I understand what it is to be Protestant I dont think anyone is an idiot just because they are Protestant. The person I have the most respect for spiritually is a Protestant. The person I have the most respect for scholarly is a Protestant. I did mean to bash the ideals of Protestantism. However, like Joe said this is not what the Church teaches us to do. In fact, while in confession right before my confirmation the Priest made the comment to me that we are not to bash other religions. (This wasnt because of anything I said he was making a point about something else but making it clear that he wasn't putting the religion down)

I say all this to say I am humbled by what you said. I am sorry for offending you and also for offending your friend. I offended one of my close Protestant friends by this blog as well.

My issue is that I have been so frustrated with Christianity for the last 10 years and not knowing where to turn. If I asked the leaders of the Protestant church and the top apologists (which I did) I got answers that didn't work.

One final thing, my Protestant friend who I was talking to in the post wasn't a blowhard shoving doctrines down my throat. He is a good friend of mine and I have a lot of respect for him. In fact, it was his beliefs that I was defending in this post.

He wasn't cramming stuff down my throat and he isnt the "ignorant" type. He really knows his stuff but he doesnt know Church history which is what NotMyOpinion was pointing out in his email. We both agreed to disagree at the lunch table and my friend ended the conversation with the comment from one of the leaders of his denomination 30 years ago "we have more in common with the Roman Catholic Church than with the mainline liberal denominations"

I honestly do seek ecuminism and I really shouldnt bash others or other religions. I am trying to work on my rhetoric and sarcasm. What you are seeing in that email from the two of us is basically frustration.

Dave Gudeman said...

Tim and NotMyOpinion, I really appreciate those responses. I thought I was quoting Tim there, I guess I got confused.

I have to admit, Tim, that I hesitated to tell you about that conversation (for several months, in fact) but I eventually trusted that as a fellow Christian, you would want to know about it. I'm glad to see that I was right.

I'd like to clarify that although your protestant bashing has occasionally annoyed me, I never took it personally as my friend did. When I was your age I had the same ... er ... over-enthusiastic approach to debate that you have, and I know that I didn't have any hostility in my heart when I did it, only a bit of recklessness. But even though it didn't offend me, I thought you would want to know how some others might perceive it.

I'd like to respond to some points by NotMyOpinion also. First of all, if I have insulted Catholics in my comments, it was probably inadvertant but could have been a slip into hostile rhetoric. In either case, I apologise.

Second, I freely admit that I'm largely ignorant of Catholic church history. That's one of the reasons that I find this blog interesting --because Tim tells me things I didn't know. But if you want to make me doubt my protestant beliefs enough to think that it's even worthwhile to investigate Catholic beliefs, you have to give me some plausible justification for why prayer to saints, veneration of Mary, and the priesthood aren't heretical adaptions of paganism into the church. Tim has tried but has not yet even given me something to seriously think about. If he can't come up with anything, then I suspect it's because there is nothing to come up with.

No amount of church history will help you here because there were many other heresies from the very beginning (as Catholics acknowledge) so an early date does not make something less likely to be a heresy.

Througout the Old Testament, God hates graven images and nowhere do the figures of the New Testament say that this has changed. But after all the New Testament authors are dead, graven images become a central part of God's Church?

Nowhere in the scriptures is there any hint that we can pray to anyone but God (although a pagan medium may have talked to the dead). Yet a century after Christ we have prayer to saints and to Mary?

Why does the New Testament never mention the Catholic version of confession? And if the priesthood and church hierarchy have some special relationship with God that is higher than the relationship available to general Christians, why are they molesting boys or helping to cover it up? That last isn't meant to be gratuitously offensive but consider Mathew 7:15-20:

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Given the kind of fruit that the Catholic hierarchy has borne, why should I believe that they speak for God?

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Dave - I'm glad we can see eye to eye. And I do greatly appreciate you sharing that story with me. I needed to hear that. I'll do a better job from now on with my comments. Especially in this day in age when conservative Christianity is being attacked from all sides (whether Protestant of Catholic) those of us who hold to the original moral values of Orthodox Christianity need to stick together. Many Protestant denominations are every bit as faithful to moral orthodoxy as the Catholic Church is.

Now in response to your challenges about the Church... Thats a lot of topics. It's impossible to answer all of them in any reasonable time frame so let me just take a few "jabs".

You said:
"you have to give me some plausible justification for why prayer to saints, veneration of Mary, and the priesthood aren't heretical adaptions of paganism into the church."

The definition of heresy (from dictionary.com) is:

An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs, especially dissension from or denial of Roman Catholic dogma by a professed believer or baptized church member.

The Catholic Church logically cannot be guilty of heresy. Heresy is an abandonment of what the Church teaches. False doctrine is another issue and of course logically the Church could be teaching false doctrine. I understand the argument that "the Roman Church teaches differently than what the original Church taught" and therefore is guilty of heresy. However, that is taking extreme liberties since we A) have no record of any teachings that contradict what the Church teaches now & B) the entire Christian world was Catholic in the fullest since of the word until 1052 (or round abouts not sure the date) and even then the East remained Orthodox varying only on a few debatable issues and Christianity was still orthodox for another 5 centuries.

As for your specific issues, I understand them VERY well. I had them all and still struggle somewhat with Mariology. www.catholic.com is a good resource I think to get brief Catholic responses to those types of issues.

Prayer to Saints & to Mary, Ive said it before but I'll re-iterate: Mary is certainly not a focal point of Catholicism. I know it seems that way. But I have now gone through a full liturgical year (almost) and have barely heard her mentioned at all during mass. The Trinity and Christ is mentioned and glorified constantly every mass. We gather to break bread & to worship the Triune God. Nothing else gets in the way. Theres no text that can prove that to anyone but having seen it first hand and coming from a Puritan/Reformed background where all these things were particularly egregious ideas, I can personally attest to this fact. Nothing about the practices of honoring the Saints interferes with Catholic worship. I have never so purely worshipped God in my life I can say that for sure.

We do honor Mary. I hear many Protestants say they honor her as well but those especially from the Puritan background are especially (and understandably so) apprehensious about over veneration.

Do you remember the story of Mary Magdalene, and how Christ said that whenever the gospel is told, what she has done (pouring the perfume on His feet) will also be told in her memory? If not to venerate her than why? What sense does it make to do something in memory of someone if not to honor / venerate. On a similar note, Mary the mother of Christ herself prophesied saying "all generations shall call me blessed" and she did so correctly. Catholics call her blessed every time we say the "Hail Mary".

God has always used men & women in redemptive history starting with Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, the Prophets & later the Saints of the New Testament. He has never condemned honoring them. Of course worshipping them would be blasphemy & idolatry. There is no special permission to pray to them in the Bible you are right. But there is no prohibition against it either. All our prayers are ultimately ordered to God anyway as I'm sure you know the typical Catholic response. We only ask them to pray for us. Even Mary. It is God who has the power not the saints. I have a post coming up shortly in response to a CD given to me by a friend on the doctrine of "Solo Christo". I will talk more on this particular issue. But there are far better resources on the net than me.

As for the priesthood, Catholics view the Priests and Bishops as fulfilling the roles of the Apostles. The roles of the "12 apostles" have always been seen as real and legitimate "offices". In fact, Peter spoke by the Holy Spirit saying that the Psalms prophesied concerning the loss of Judas Iscariot saying "let another fill his place of leadership". Clearly, they view a vacant seat.

Christ said many things to the Apostles directly "whatever sins you loose on earth they are loosed in heaven" for example. Catholics believe this is directed to the apostles and the apostles alone. This, we believe, is Christ instituting the sacrament of reconciliation or confession. God is still the one who forgives us of course, but the priest has the ability to give absolution according to Catholic teaching.

Protestants view the words of Christ to the apostles more or less as universal statements to all Christians and in a sense we are all apostles. To be sure, in some sense we all are, but I dont know the Protestant response to the above verses so I cant speak on what they believe it truly means.

Furthermore on the subject, Christ had many disciples lets not forget that. Matthias was one of them who was with them "from the beginning". The lots fell on him and he filled Judas Iscariot's place. When we hear 'the disciples' we tend to think of the 12 but there were many disciples. In fact, if you read John chapter 6 you will see that many of them left Christ when He told them that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood "for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink". He turned to the 12 and asked them if they would leave also. He didn't say "hey wait its just in memory, it's only a metaphor" because He was very clear with what He said and repeated it several times to be sure they understood He's not making a parable.

But what about the 12? What makes them special from the others? Mark makes it clear in chapter 3 of his gospel. "Jesus called to Him those whom He wanted and they came to Him. He appointed 12 designating them apostles that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to have AUTHORITY and to drive out demons"....

The Church has, from the beginning insisted that the apostles held special offices of authority. The councils which, by the Holy Spirit, selected the canon of the Scriptures used apostolic authority as one of the key criteria in deciding which books to include. Mark & Luke were canonized because St. Mark was a disciple & interpreter of St. Peter and St. Luke a disciple & companion of St. Paul. The Protestant church also recognizes apostolic authority and even succsion in so far as the validity of the authors of Scripture are concerned. However, apostolic succesion in their eyes ends with the writing of the Scriptures.

Irenaeus sometime in the 2nd century spoke of St. Polycarp (his predecessor) as being "ordained by the apostles". Polycarp was a disciple of St. John. Other early fathers would vehemently defend this doctrine very early on in the Church so it is clear that this issue was very important especially to early Christians. For more discussion on that subject see my post on Apostolic Succession NotMyOpinion has some great quotes from early Christians on the subject.

Now as for the fruit of the Catholic Church, you are right in saying that many priests have produced bad fruit. But the Church never made any predictions that those who received the sacrament of Holy Orders (ordination) would all be good. This has never been the opinion or prediction of the Church. As NotMyOpinion pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago, St. Augustine pointed out in the 4th or 5th century "the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bad bishops". Yet as you can see from this current post, St. Augustine was a firm defender of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome as were all the Church fathers.

The Church has never taught that even the Pope is going to be perfect much less individual priests. We fully acknowledge that there have been a number of terrible popes. (Pope Leo X would be a good starting point to talk about that subject) But its not the issue, lets look at the fruits of the Catholic Church in general. No Christian can look at its fruits and call them evil. Its not possible. We evangelized nearly all of the world. We have built innumerable hospitals, orphanages and other civil service buildings. Even in my county where the number of Catholics pale in comparison to the Protestants here, the amount of charitable service done here by Catholics rivals that of all the Protestants combined. I admired them for this even when I was anti-Catholic. I challenge you to look at the saints and see their fruits. You will recognize immediately that what they have done is possible only by the Holy Spirit.

Now I fully understand that the Protestants have produced many such good works as well. Perhaps for no other reason than lack of numbers comparitavely but nonetheless undeniable is the fact that the "amount" is far shy of what Catholics have done. But we fully acknowledge that the Holy Spirit does also work in the Protestant Church and with Protestant individuals.

Back to individual priests - again this issue is a serious one (the molestations etc...) but I think with serious consideration you would agree that there is some bias involved here. Clergy from other faiths have been guilty of these issues too (even married clergy) as I personally know many more individual cases of sexual immoral conduct in the Protestant Church than with Catholic. I dont know the statistics and Im sure no one does but it is fairly reasonable to assume that the percentage of Catholic clergy actually guilty of sexual immorality is less or certainly comparable to that of other Christians and undeniably far far less than that of the pagan world. The reasons for the perceived disproportion with Catholic clergy can easily be explained by A) the fact that the shear number of Catholic Clergy far exceeds other Protestant Churches & B) the "world" & the media are only interested in attacking conservative Protestants since they are the only ones who "pose a threat" and so those sins of sexual immorality tend to go largely unnoticed in mainline liberal denominations (which claim a huge chunk of Protestant numbers at least in America). For these reasons its not hard to see why Catholics are perceived as being more guilty than other Christians.

One final point on that subject, let us not forget that it is, in fact, the Catholic Church that taught the western world that child molestation and other such acts of sexual immorality were wrong in the first place. In both Greek and Roman cultures (those very same ones which Catholicism grew up in and flourished) man - boy love and other types of sexual immorality were not only condoned but often encouraged.

Sorry for the long reply just started typing and couldnt shutup. Thanks for understanding and having a forgiving attitude. Theres no reason why we cant educate each other and be united in Christ whom we both serve through the Holy Spirit and overcome our doctrinal differences.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Typo correction - fullest SENSE of the word not since. :)

And one more note concerning heresy in case you or any other reader hasn't seen me mention this before. Catholics do NOT consider Protestants heretics. We do consider the original dissenters (Martin Luther, John Calvin, King Henry VIII etc...) to be heretics but not their followers. And again I understand King Henry was not part of the reformation.

Also some very in depth Catholic Apologetic blogs are Jimmy Akin & Cor Ad cor Loquitor which are both linked to on my main page. Anyone seriously interested in in depth discussion on these and other topics should check those out.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Dave,

If I may, I'd like to make a friendly suggestion. Please don't put the entire burden of proof on Tim's shoulders. He is a layman just like me and just like anyone else who you may ask that is not a member of the Teaching Authority of the Church. We can err, we can make mistakes. We do not know all things. Everything is accepted on faith and there are some things that, as you know, are complete Mysteries that cannot be explained with our finite human minds. Some common ones between Protestants and Catholics are: The Holy Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Creation, the Signs and Miracles, etc. These things require special care and we cannot be expected to be perfect in what we say. Are minds are the size of peas when compared to the Doctors of the Church, and their minds would not even be apparent in the light of God's infinite wisdom. Speaking for myself, I am no teacher and I have no expertise in anything, let alone religion.

I personally believe that the best apologetics exist in the writings of the Early Fathers of the Church. The link below has a large library of Early Fathers' writings. It is a Catholic web site, but please don't let that bother you. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, use it only as a centralized resource of Early Church writings.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/

In them you will find the mentality of the Church and see that it has not changed since the Apostles. Once again, I was very doubtful of Catholic doctrines and dogmas as to where they could be tied into Scripture and Apostolic teaching. One of the things that helped me most, by the grace of God and Faith, was reading the Early Fathers... especially pre-Nicene Fathers. Why? Because they would clearly show the Apostolic Traditions that the Church followed before the Bible had been canonized.

Let God carry the burden of proof. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the Truth. He will, if you ask. In no way am I implying that you are without the Holy Spirit... I am not. I'm just suggesting you ask Him. I am not pretending to know where you will be led. But please be sincere about wanting to get your questions answered. I believe that you are sincere, and if you are you will find the answers. Tim and I found the answers we were looking for. But it also took a very unlikely and couragious step on our part to actually decide to seek the answers from the source. I wish we could talk to you personally about it, but we laugh now how terribly uncomfortable the first time we entered a Catholic Church. Then, to start the RCIA Inquiry process, not because we wanted to simply "become" Catholics, but largely to prove to ourselves where Catholicism was wrong. I think it took alot of guts on our part. Especially since, at one time, I personally believed that the Church was the "whore of Babylon" and was the anti-Christ. I had even converted a Catholic friend of mine to Protestantism. He, of course, wasn't familiar with his own religion and his parents were fallen away Catholics. I used the angle, "Catholics worship Mary and idols. If you don't convert you will go to hell!" It was particularly effective, especially since we were only 12 years old.

I have been talking to that friend recently and asking him if he remembers anything about Catholicism in hopes that, by the grace of God, I can lead him to the sources that will dispell the misperceptions I put in his head as a child.

I think Tim has done well in his response. I would like to add to it, but I don't think I should at this time... mainly because of allowing myself to be consumed by frustration and saying things in a manner that I should not have. I probably need to take a break until I can be more charitable in the manner in which I communicate. But also because I realize more and more everyday that I am no one. I am not a theologian and I am not an apologist. I am a neophyte who is extremely thankful for my conversion and who becomes overzealous at times. But that is exactly what I must learn to control. (I believe that I read where this was something that was taught to the neophytes of the Early Church; not to let their zeal control their passions and cause them to drive others away).

The other reason is that I realize that a central teaching of the Church is that we show what being a Christian is in how we live. I should really focus my concentration of practicing what I preach, so to speak.

St. Francis of Assisi said:

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

and,

"While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart."

I need to do those things before I can be used to help anyone else do anything. And then, it is not even me who would be, because I can do nothing good on my own.

Thank you for your responses, too. I really needed that to bring me down to reality. I mean it, I really appreciate it. I wish all the best for you.