Sunday, November 05, 2006

Old Heresies Don't Die They Multiply

The interesting (and unfortunate) thing about many Protestant doctrines is that most (if not all) of them are merely recurrences of heresies already soundly defeated many years earlier by the saints and martyrs of the Church. Sola Fide was a 16th century recurrence of a 1st century heresy dispelled by the apostle St. James in his epistle. Although the heresy itself is not recorded in written history, it is clear by his rebuttal that some were teaching that you could be saved by faith alone at the time. Protestants condemn images & statues which is an issue settled long ago during the Iconoclastic movement.

Here's another one I want to talk about: Catholics place much more value and worth on concrete things and institutions here on earth than Protestants do. Is this a good or bad thing? It was ingrained in my thought process from my youth that nothing on Earth (except that which occurs internally) could ever have any eternal value. To most Protestants, baptism means nothing. It’s merely an outward expression of a reality that only truly exists inwardly. Imagine the joy I had at my first Easter vigil witnessing those Catechumens coming into the church and upon watching their baptism into the same Church which Jesus founded through the apostle Peter 2,000 years ago, realizing that I was witnessing an event of eternal consequence! I never had that sense before that very moment.

Before, as a Protestant, it almost seemed heretical to view anything other than an inward response or ideal as eternal in consequence. But does this view match up with historical Christianity? Is it Biblical? Hell no! (I can swear now that I’m Catholic; it only costs one Hail Mary).

But getting back to the subject (which in my view is a very serious one) we find by reading Scriptures and church history that Christ Himself made it very clear that actions also carried eternal consequence. We see throughout the Old Testament God placing very high value on ‘temporal’ things and on specific concrete tangible objects (say the Ark of the Covenant for example). His sacrifices were very exacting and did not allow much room for personal preference. Many people like to criticize the Jews for being meticulous and particular but this is not the sin that they committed! They were merely following what God had specifically prescribed Himself. How serious was God about how His worship should be carried out? Look at those who didn’t follow it exactly: like Cain. My point is this: there is nothing wrong with teaching that actions (such as baptism, penance, indulgences) could have eternal value when Scripture is full of cases that affirm such teaching.

This concept perpetuated by the Protestant church (that nothing visible affects the eternal) is extremely subtle and that’s why it’s difficult to express the antithesis of it. Maybe this is being a bit extreme, but this kind of ‘nothing temporal has eternal weight’ mentality bears striking resemblance to the cult that originated in the 12th century called the Cathars. They taught that everything material was evil and everything spiritual was good. Catharism of course has it’s roots in the very early Christian heresy of Gnosticism. Which brings me back to my original point: old heresies don't die they multiply (thanks to Martin Luther & company).

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