Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why Protestant Funerals Expose Some of their Worst Theological Errors & What to Expect if You Come To Mine

In an unexpected and bizarre twist of tragedy, a co-worker of mine had her son murdered by a drive-by recently and today was the funeral which I attended. I have another friend who's an elder in an OPC ecclesial community and he often remarks to me that funerals are where you'll consistently hear the most horrific mutilations of the gospel this side of Hades. (I want to reply 'thats cause you're always going to Protestant funerals')

It was a sad day for all involved but we needn't add insult to injury by spewing painfully bad doctrine from the pulpit. If it happened once, his soul was pronounced in Heaven more than a dozen times. I'm not for a second going to comment on this young man's character (I didn't know him) but even if I did, I'd assume nothing but the best and I assume he was an upright Christian on good terms with God and man. But what is sad is that through this terrible doctrinal error, this man's soul is the beneficiary not of humble and contrite prayers for mercy but of haughty and over-confident thanks to God for His will [God's] being bound by our simplistic interpretations of Scripture apart from sacred tradition and for placing him [the deceased] in heaven right beside all the saints and martyrs. Dung hill theology. Blessed assurance.

And need I remind you that Jesus told of a Pharisee who went before God thanking him that he was not like the sinners and the tax collector went to the same God pleading for mercy because he was one of the sinners? I know of no clearer imagery here than this: The Protestant ecclesial community is boasting that their passed is not like the lost sinners while the Catholic Church around the world continually pleads in humility for the souls of the departed - even when the Pope himself dies the Church prays on behalf of his soul. At any given minute, some Catholic Church somewhere is pleading for the departed souls. And this is the unfortunate result of turning our noses up at Scripture, Christian tradition (and even Jewish Tradition) of praying for the dead. So to my Catholic and Orthodox brothers - please pray for this young man's soul because no one else is - you can call him Red.

If that weren't bad enough, we were subject to the typical Protestant funeral 1-2 combo of dunghill theology + soul trapped in a body theology. They hinted at the doctrine at first but it soon resulted in a clear and direct (while pointing to Red) "This is not Red. He is in heaven now"... They erroneously view the body as a shell we are trapped in. They only repeat the errors of their fathers the Gnostics. This is not akin to Gnosticism it IS Gnosticism. And this doctrine isn't representative of "the emergent church" this IS "the emergent church". Folks don't be deceived, it culminated with the preacher's explicit denial of the Incarnation: "Christ was clothed in a human body".

These errors are serious, and however many Protestants you can point to who may have the theological sense to rise above them and however many Catholics you can point to that don't know whether Job or Judges comes first in the OT (much less know the Church teaching on the Incarnation) - the fact remains that Protestantism fosters and encourages these kinds of errors and Catholicism explicitly refutes them which is why I'm bringing it up.

Now let me make a few things clear and if any of you happen to be present at my funeral please take note and make my wishes known. If anyone comes to my funeral wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I want them turned away at the door. In fact, if you slip through, I'm gonna haunt you! Seriously, if you don't think any more of me on this most solemn of occasions to at least put on a pair of freakin' khaki pants and a polo - if you can't get out of your super casual American ass for 30 minutes to go to my funeral - then don't bother showing up. Don't come wearing flip flops and expecting Contemporary Christian music.

It's telling of our culture when we're too important to be bothered by solemnity at Church (and not necessarily the "gloomy" kind of solemnity) but it's even more telling when we can't even be bothered by pretending a funeral is something solemn and important. We can't even get over ourselves to pay our respects there. We think it is out of humility that we refuse solemnity, liturgy and pomp - on the contrary, it is out of pride! Who refuses this? The pious few? Isn't it the mainstream?! If it were the pious few we could see that it might be humility, but if not then our argument breaks down. One who is truly humble is not afraid to lose himself to the rite. For just thirty minutes of our day, let it not be about us but about someone else or even something else like liturgy or a rite.

The preacher kept remarking about how he felt too formal and wished it was more relaxed. No doofus! This is special, we are being formal because it's important! Being relaxed means its something normal, mundane and expected. This is anything but! This is a violent and terrible invasion of the natural order. This wasn't supposed to happen. We're here to mourn and to plead for God's mercy and to show our respects to the departed and to comfort the family. We're not here to put on flip flops and sing cumbaya with Jesus!!!!

Our culture is embarrassing. Humanity is put to shame by the pride of "the emergent church" and by the haughty Westernism that swears it's too good to be solemn, too special and unique to take part in a rite, too spontaneous to be confined to liturgy, too young to be moved by good taste, too versatile to be governed and too righteous to worry about praying for the dead.

I've only been to one Catholic funeral. That was actually my first mass. Even the dumbed-down liturgy I experienced that day gave me a glimpse of the heavenly reality the Catholic mass was intended to be. I saw something divine that day. Today I saw something very worldly. May God have mercy on Red's soul and on mine when He decides to take me and on all the holy souls in purgatory. Glory to Jesus Christ, glory forever.


Doc Rampage said...

"too righteous to worry about praying for the dead" There's your mistake right there. Protestants don't rely on our own righteousness but on the righteousness of Christ. If we seem confident, it is not because we are confident in our own goodness but because we are confident in the perfect sacrifice of Christ. That is not pride; it is faith.

It is Catholics who believe that if they can just be good enough then God will cut them a little more slack. That is pride --the idea that we in our fallen state can even approach the holiness of God. Protestants understand that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags --completely powerless to save us. Only the unmerited grace of God saves us through faith. And not even the faith is our own --it is the gift of God.

Do you call it pride when a child smiles as his father carries him through the deadly storm, confident in his father's power to protect him? That is not pride; it is faith.

George Weis said...


#1 - your usage of "ass" almost nullifies your point. Do not at once attack sloppy western culture and then use a sloppy term. It makes the statement kind of silly. You are smarter than that.

#2 - more importantly, no one should be boasting in themselves. If they are a protestant who knows scripture, the Boasting should be in Christ. I know you agree. However, the noting of the passage about the Pharisee and the wretch of a tax collector, is a telling picture. But in this picture, you see someone (Pharisee) boasting about himself and his own merit so to speak. The other realizes his true position before God. If a protestants security is not in their own merit, then how can you point such a heavy finger at them?

What does it mean to be sealed in the Spirit? Ephesians 1:13-14

I'm not wiggling out of James, I am just trying to bring some other things to light as food for thought.

All in all, this is a pretty poor choice my friend to give a blow to protestants. People are hurting. Be of comfort to them. How would they feel at this moment upon reading this? There is a time for Theological debate, but right now, be kindhearted.

Tim, as you know, I speak with love in my heart for you. so please don't be offended. Just allow me to be a voice from a different point of view. I pray you would be blessed to be a blessing.


Tim A. Troutman said...

Doc> I wasn't talking about Protestantism in general there I was talking about "the emergent church" and "haughty Westernism" I thought I made it clear when I explicitly said so.

As for Catholics believing that we earn our way to heaven - I'm not wasting my time refuting that one. You know better.

Protestants have faith but they have faith in false doctrines thats the problem. Gnostics had faith too.

#1 if my use of "ass" nullifies my point then your refutation of my point is also self-nullified. It's a circular argument. It's either the literal sound of the word or the meaning which can make it vulgar and which is it? If the sound, your point is nullified by your use of it. If its the meaning then my point would have also been nullified by saying "self" because thats what the word means. There's nothing sloppy about the term and it's not unintelligent for me to use it. I fully intended to say that word in that instance for a little spice.

#2 I'm not pointing a heavy finger at any Protestant, I'm pointing a heavy finger at Protestantism which is itself the culprit as you'll notice. I didn't compare the preacher of this community to the pharisee I compared the Protestant ecclesial community to it. I didnt compare me to the humble tax collector (far from it) I compared the Catholic Church.

Protestantism is as guilty as the pharisee because she teaches false doctrines which lead souls astray and retard their "race" to heaven (thats biblical imagery before anyone goes bashing it bc it reflects works based salvation or something). The individual Protestant is not guilty like the Pharisee and he/she is not a heretic though Protestantism itself is heresy.

On the Ephesians passage, I think thats talking about the seal of confirmation. Thats my opinion though, not dogmatic Catholic teaching I dont know what the Church interprets it as officially.

Now as for this being out of place, I don't think it is. I would never say this to my co-worker or send this to her. To the preacher I would certainly say it and it would be highly appropriate for him to read.

Doc Rampage said...

Is the "emergent church" a specific branch? I've never heard of it.

I also don't know what you mean by saying that I know better. Catholics, as I understand it, do believe that they have to be good to be saved.

andrew said...

Tim, what you (and I, with heartache) are observing at these funerals, as you well know, is the natural outworking of protestant doctrine. Most protestants do not consider that justification consists in a real union with Jesus Christ, such that the person justified is saturated with the purifying love of God. Catholics are confounded by this error: how can anyone be taken up into God's fatherly embrace, wherein he says: "you were a sinner, but are now righteous, my child," without being really changed? And because this change is real, a mind-blowing miracle of love and grace (why would God do such a thing for us?)- it is something that we grow into (or apart from) throughout our lives.

And of course you have to be good to go to heaven. Heaven is good, and no badness can enter. I suppose that, for a protestant, "good" is a bad word. For a Catholic, "good" is a good word. God is good, and his grace leads me to the ultimate good: eternal fellowship with the Holy Trinity. If I depart this life not being fully surrendered to the goodness of God, then I hope that my Catholic brethren will pray for my soul, that I might be finally purified and brought home to heaven where all is pure.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Doc - First let me apologize for being short, you know me I have the tendency to do that.

Second, on the salvation issue, I could have sworn you and I have had this convo more than once before but anyway, Andrew is right we do have to be good to get into heaven. But not in the way that you're thinking, we don't earn our way in according to Catholic doctrine. Here is a recent post of mine on the subject.

In short - Catholics believe that salvation is by God's grace revealed through faith and works. Protestants believe that it is by God's grace revealed through faith alone and works follow. They're almost two ways of saying the same thing or at least something very close.

The "Unconditional Election" part is where the problem is which is what I'm addressing here. The extreme Protestant view (Martin Luther's although many today reject it) is that we're saved by a mere one-time intellectual assent. Billy Graham Christianity, easy-believism. This is the "faith alone" which was condemned by the Catholic Church.

Gretchen said...

When I was a Protestant, one of the things that bothered me so very much was the doctrine of sola fide--once I began to really examine that lofty, dreamy doctrine. The idea that someone can believe in Jesus and therefore be assured of heaven immediately following death became untenable to me. One who seeks truth above all else cannot go through a lifetime without experiencing firsthand the human condition of inveterate sinfulness and the need for ongoing cleansing.

C. S. Lewis on purgatory: "A modern tends to see purgatory through the eyes of Dante: so seen, the doctrine is profoundly religious. That purification must, in its own nature, be painful, we hardly dare to dispute," from "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century".

And this from "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer": "I believe in Puragatory." He goes on to write that the Reformers had 'good reasons' for throwing doubt on the Catholic sense of Purgatory 'as that Romish doctrine had then become.' Then he picks up again, "The right view returns magnificently in Newman's 'Dream.' There, if I remember it rightly, the saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed. It cannot bear for a moment longer 'With its darkness to affront that light.' Religion has reclaimed Purgatory. Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' -- 'Even so, sir.'"

Christ's righteousness is not the issue, His redeeming efficacy is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the process of redemption is ongoing, both before and after death. Knowing the ebb and flow of sin and holiness in our own individual lives, it seems odd to suggest that we have no further obligation to God. Why did the Holy Spirit have to come? Why did we need an Advocate? Was it only for the Great Commission, or do we really, really need the Holy Spirit's guidance and teaching? Yes, Jesus' sacrifice was once...and for all. But does that then obviate the need and duty of a man to show forth the fruits of that redemption, and on an increasing basis as God is working in him, dwelling in him?

Sola fide takes away from man his free will, in a sense. It says that the initial act of believing in Jesus Christ trumps every heinous act thereafter, regardless of the suffering imposed on others and the state of repentence or lack thereof.

This is a great difficulty, and I have heard many different Protestant doctrines on it--some will say that you can never lose salvation once you have believed in Jesus Christ; some say that your rewards in heaven will be commensurate with your sanctification here on earth; some will say that if you do not show forth fruits of righteousness that you never really believed in Jesus; some do say you can lose your salvation. They are really all over the place, which is a common problem.

As a new Catholic, I see the pride issue as being "I am saved, therefore nothing more is required me." How terribly ungrateful that is to a God who died for us! I used to think that way. Now I think like this: "Lord, you have come to save me. I am overcome with Your mercy and love. How can I thank you? What can I do to show my gratitude? I want to stay in Your presence, show me how to go henceforth. Do not let me stray. I cannot bear losing You. I cannot bear offending You. I am overwhelmed with my sinfulness before Your love. Please cleanse me, make me like Your Son. Do not forsake me!"

Can you see the difference? The humility that the Catholic perspective (at least my infant idea of the Catholic perspective) engenders has done more for a progressive sense of sanctification in my life than anything else I ever did as a Protestant. One of the qualities I saw in Catholics, in general, that was often missing in my Protestant self and friends, was a sense of humility. I was mightily impressed by this and wanted it very much. It was a marvel to me, and it drove me to begin the process of examining the history of Protestant doctrine, and then that led me to the Church Fathers, and hence to the Catholic Church.

Chad Toney said...

Thank you for saying ass and the only way I know the order of Job and Judges is if I sing the song.

Chad Toney said...


, funerals often contain some of the last vestiges of ceremony and veneration among low-church evangelicals, etc.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Chad - Thats an interesting discussion and some good points brought up there. I'll have to add that blog to my bloglines!

Doc Rampage said...

"Most protestants do not consider that justification consists in a real union with Jesus Christ, such that the person justified is saturated with the purifying love of God."

Of course they do. Where did you get such an outrageous idea?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Doc - she is referring to what I made mention of earlier "Dunghill theology". She's referring to Martin Luther (initiator of this error) who taught that we are hills of dung covered by Christ's righteousness. We do not become holy to enter Heaven, Christ's holiness is imputed to us. We remain hills of dung covered by Christ's righteousness.

So in Protestant belief, justification is a one time legal process where "our address is changed in the after life". Declared pardoned by Christ's payment for our sins. Sanctification is the subsequent process that makes us more and more Christ like but has no bearing on our eternal destination (Perhaps rewards once we're there. Opinions vary on this issue)

Catholic theology insists on a non-distinction between justification and sanctification. We do not get into heaven until we have become saints. This doesn't mean we earn our way by being better and better. We dont earn our way at all. God's graces not only covers us, but transforms us (sanctification). This process is actually common to both Catholics and Protestants but the difference is that Protestants deny that it has any effect on our eternal destination whereas Catholics say it does.

My post linked to above would help shed further light on the subject I think.

You also should keep in mind that with the exception of you and George, everyone on this thread is a former Protestant who knew their faith pretty well before becoming Catholic.

George Weis said...

Wow, It is fun to be in the minority!

Tim, I do believe in a one time Judicial act, and yet I believe that we are made holy. Actually initially we are accredited righteousness, but in the process and in eventuality we will be made complete. But for the most part we are still dunghills until we reach the destination. That is how I always looked at it. Not sure how everyone else sees it.


andrew said...

I got the idea from Martin Luther, who taught the justification is the legal declaration of righteousness which effects no change whatsoever in the justified, who remains just as sinful as ever. For Luther, the righteousness of Christ is like a white linen thrown over a hill of dung. This has become the classical Protestant doctrine of justification: declared righteous (legally) but really not righteous (inwardly).

Kim said...

I got the idea from Martin Luther, who taught the justification is the legal declaration of righteousness which effects no change whatsoever in the justified, who remains just as sinful as ever. For Luther, the righteousness of Christ is like a white linen thrown over a hill of dung. This has become the classical Protestant doctrine of justification: declared righteous (legally) but really not righteous (inwardly).

Well, I guess it depends on which Protestant church you've been taught in? I've been in many different denominations/non-denoms, and I was always taught that the believer in Christ is a "new creation", not a righteousness-covered dung hill.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Kim, thats a fair point but I think it also might be an example of "what the right hand giveth the left hand taketh away".

When Protestants say they're a new creation, its different than what Catholics say when we say God's grace effects a change in us.

When they say they are a new creation this is a past tense reference - meaning when they became "born again" they received the Holy Spirit and a new life. They are justified, not on their own actions but on Christ's merits which are imputed to them. That is, Christ's righteousness is covering them they are a new creation because they have been covered. Whereas Catholics say we are becoming a new creation by Gods grace changing us from the inside out through unmerited gifts of faith and works. The Scripture says we are a new creation in 2 Corinthians of course and it is easy in one sense to look at it (even in context) and see Paul referring to a one time event that has come and gone. However, keeping in mind that we cannot look at this with a simple either/or mentality (either its completely in the past or its in completely in the future) one could make a strong argument for reading the passage both in the sense that it has already happened and is happening.

It is much like the Kingdom of God - it is already and still yet to come. It is much like God's victory - it has already come (Cavlary) and is yet to come (final judgment). We should not be surprised then to find Christianity arguing for us as "new creations" (already through baptism) and yet to come (sanctification).

Kim said...

Right. No arguments here.

Tim, you said:
Whereas Catholics say we are becoming a new creation by Gods grace changing us from the inside out through unmerited gifts of faith and works.

When I was born again, I felt truly transformed from within. So I guess I was thinking like a Catholic early on, eh? ;)

George Weis said...

Here here Kim!