Monday, June 27, 2016



[This post has been updated at the end.] 
MY PRAYER IS NOT FOR THEM [Apostles] ALONE. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17: 20-23

Often I hear that Catholics are not Christians. And of the people who believe this, there are some who believe that Catholics so dangerously distort the gospel that they cannot unite with them in prayer. So, effectively, these certain Protestants live in a state of anathematizing Catholics by avoiding them. I write the following to defend my faith, not to proselytize Protestants but to show them that Catholics do not reject scripture, they just interpret it differently.

Protestants will most likely still disagree with a Catholic perspective, but perhaps a respectful debate and a heart that is open to listening to the Catholic interpretation, will allow these people to see that Catholics are truly Christians. And rather than fighting each other, we should turn our spiritual swords and energy to fight the dark forces in the spiritual battle knowing that we are on the same side. And by uniting in prayers and in spreading the gospel of peace,  as the Body of Christ, we can fulfill Christ's greatest hope and his last command before His death—that we all may be one.

A Conversation with a Protestant: 

ProtestantProtestants believe the Bible is the highest Christian authority. We are sola scriptura. We don't believe in following a pope, a system set up by the traditions of man.

Catholic: We totally agree with your point that Christians should never trust a system that was set up by the traditions of man. We believe that Christ chose His apostles who then formed a church and passed on Christ's teachings. That the Apostolic Church wasn't set up by man but was set up by Christ and given His authority.

Protestant: We don't believe that.

Catholic: I know, that is why you are Protestant and not Catholic. Right? Because if you believed that Christ started the Catholic Church and gave the Catholic Church His authority, you would be Catholic and not Protestant, right?

Protestant: Christ didn't start the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church started at the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century.

Catholic: Let me ask you a question. Just go with me here for a second. What if you found out, without question, that factually Christ did start the Catholic Church. What if you found out that Christ did give the Catholic Church His authority, would you become Catholic?

Protestant: No, because even if you could prove Christ started the Catholic Church, it became corrupted and so it lost it's authority.

Catholic: Okay, let's go down that road. Let's assume the Catholic Church did become corrupt, what in scripture tells us that:

1.  God sets up authorities that do not make mistakes or do not become corrupt?
2. God give us the authority to decide when His authorities are corrupt?
3 God gives us the authority to divorce from His authorities and go and become our own authority or start another church? 

Protestant: There are lots of texts that say we should shun someone who gives a false gospel and what about all the texts against wolves in sheep's clothing? By their fruits we shall know them. And so if the Catholic Church has false shepherds and bad fruits then we don't have to follow them.

Catholic: This is where Catholics and Protestants part ways in their interpretation of scripture. We interpret those texts as God telling the Church—as a whole—not the individual—that they must throw out and excommunicate false shepherds. The church should examine the fruit and make the call, not individuals. Matthew 18 makes that pretty clear because when a person sees another sinning, they should first go to that person privately and exhort them. But after that, the person doesn't excommunicate them and walk away. No Jesus said then you take witnesses for the next confrontation. No individual gets to pass judgment. You must have witnesses. But then, if the person doesn't turn from their immorality, it is taken to the church and the church makes the final call—and only then, after the church has made the final call can the people disconnect from their brother. 

Protestant: So what if the church itself is corrupt? Then how can a corrupt church make a right decision about false shepherds. That is the blind leading the blind.

Catholic: Throughout history God has allowed, in fact, anointed men as His authorities who have fallen to the depths of corruption. Judas is an example. But in fact, when you look at all of the Apostles, they all ran away when Christ was arrested. All of them deserted the Lord when tested. Yet, they are not as bad as the white-washed tombs and hypocritical snakes who were authentically anointed as God's Israelite leaders found throughout the Old Testament. These men caused Israel to go astray and worship idols and sacrifice their children to Molech. These were very weak if not demonic men, and yet God didn't give Israel the okay to follow their own leaders or start a new Israel. Nope, in fact Jesus told the disciples to avoid being like those who sat in Moses seat, but that they still must carefully obey them. (Matt. 23).

Protestant: That was before the New Covenant was established.

Catholic: Yet, God established authorities for the New Covenant also and we are to be subject to them.  See: Matt. 10: 2, Luke 11: 49, Acts 1: 2, 26, 42; 4:33; 5: 12;  8: 18; 15:4; 16:4, I Cor. 12: 27-29; Eph. 2: 20; 3:5, 4: 11, II Tim. 4: 3,  I Thess. 2: 6, James 3: 1,  2 Peter 3: 2, Rev. 21: 14,
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. Rom. 13: 1-5 
(Many Protestants limit the "governing authorities" to civic only. That would make no sense considering the theocracy that Israel lived under.)
You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters,  to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. I Cor. 16: 15-16
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Heb. 13: 17

See also: Ephesians 5, 6, Colossians 3 and I Peter 2, 5, II Cor. 2: 9

Protestant: If we take those verses literally and as meaning for today, then we at least are supposed to follow the shepherds who are closest to the Bible.

Catholic: There are two false premises that fundamentally underlie that statement. Number one is that you assume your understanding of scripture is infallible and that you have God's authority to choose your authority.

In raw reality, people choose authorities that will not challenge their way of thinking. People choose their spiritual authorities like they vote for their political authorities. They go with the one who agrees with them. They want their civil government to reflect what they see in the mirror, just like they will make their God out to reflect what they see in the mirror. 

We have to be brutally honest with ourselves. Does the Bible really tell us that the sheep are equipped to choose their shepherds? I don't see that in Israel. They would have ousted Moses many times as well as many other judge and king God anointed.

And secondly nature tells us that even if our God-appointed authorities are imperfect, we don't get to choose them. Kids do not get to choose their parents, but scripture tells children to obey them.

Protestant: Well, I won't obey the Catholic Church, I absolutely totally would never, ever believe they were God's authorities.

Catholic: I understand. But if they were God's authorities, you would obey them, right?

Protestant: They aren't.

Catholic: But you would obey God's authority or authorities if you knew them to be God's authorities, even if they were corrupt, right?

Protestant: God would never ask me to obey corrupt authorities.

Catholic. I know what you are insisting on. You are believing that corrupt authorities will take you to hell. I totally get that. But if God were to appoint authorities and tell you to submit to them, you would wouldn't you?

Protestant: Only if they taught the Bible. As long as they have the Bible correct.

Catholic: So you have set up guidelines for God? So children can disobey their parent's if they disagree with their parents theology or if their parents sin? So God allows children to judge their parents theology and lives in order to accept being obedient?

Protestant: We are not children in the New Covenant.

Catholic: So God does not give authorities to His people in the New Covenant.

Protestant: Yes… but they have to go by scripture.

Catholic: So you believe that God's authorities will go by your interpretation of scripture to be authentic?

Protestant: No, just go by the clear Word of God.

Catholic: The clear Word…. according to your interpretation. And if they don't you are free to disobey and go find another authority or go start another denomination. Can you show me in scripture where it says that?

Do you see how your argument is endlessly circular and endlessly unworkable? Your argument is basically that I have the God-given right to decide who my authority is based on my interpretation of scripture. So God's way is that the sinful, uneducated, immature human gets to choose to whom God has given His authority. Is that what you believe?

Protestant: No, I believe the Holy Spirit will guide me.

Catholic: Does scripture tell you that the Holy Spirit guides you infallibly to choose your authority?

Protestant: Yes. The Spirit will bring us to all truth.

Catholic: Then why do you need an authority at all? If you are infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit, why do you need scripture at all? Why not just trust the Holy Spirit in your heart and be done with it?

Protestant: The Holy Spirit guides me to the Bible as Sola Scriptura.

Catholic: Is that what scripture says? That the Holy Spirit guides you to the scriptures as your highest authority and the scripture guides you to the church as your highest authority in moral debates among Christians?

Protestant: The Bible says the Bible is the highest authority.

Catholic: Could you show me that in scripture?

Protestant: St. Paul told Timothy that the Bible is God-breathed and "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Tim. 3: 15-17)

Catholic: So Paul, who was given authority to teach, told Timothy that Christians were allowed to disobey authority because they had the Bible? Is that what the Bible says?

Protestant: The Bible says to follow the Bible.

Catholic: The Bible also says to obey your God-appointed authorities.

Protestant: As long as they go by the Bible.

Catholic: Show me where the Bible specifically states that God allows a Christian to jettison His appointed authorities because they don't agree with their interpretation of scripture. Can a child walk away from his father because he disagrees with his father about scriptural interpretation?  Let me ask you an honest question?

See how ridiculous this argument is if you substituted our earthly father in the circular reasoning. The Protestant child would then say that the didn't have to obey their father because their father had a difference of opinion about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.
        The child could say, "I refuse to believe God wants me to obey you dad because I believe the scriptures are my final authority." 

"But honey, " the dad responds, "the Bible says you are to obey me."  
      "Yes, but only if you believe in Sola Scriptura," the child responds.
"I am your final authority according to scripture," says dad, "So if you really consider the Bible God's Word, you will obey me."
"But you don't believe in Sola Scriptura, so God wouldn't want me to have you as my authority."
"So if I told you that my highest authority was scripture, would you then obey me?"
"Yes, because you obeyed me and admitted I was right about the doctrine of Sola Scriptura."
"So you wouldn't obey me if I had said God made me your authority?" Dad looked puzzled.
"Right, you first have to meet my check-list of doctrines I believe to be true from scripture." The child insists. 

The Catholic continued: If you found out that the Catholic Church was truly an ongoing God-appointed authority, would you submit to them?  Because what Catholics have found is that most Protestants still wouldn't. They don't believe they have to submit to anyone. Isn't it true that for some Christians, the Bible alone doctrine is used to make the individual Christian their own authority and they wouldn't submit to the Catholic Church even if they found out God-appointed it as His Church?

At this point, the Protestants usually stop the conversation having the last word about the evils of the Catholic Church…. forgetting about the evils of the Protestant churches and completely ignoring the fact that they too are sinful and corrupt. And that if the same standard they held to judge the Catholic Church would be held to themselves, no one would ever be able to be an authority. No one.

And yet God placed His authorities on earth. In each family—both the small one of one man and one woman and their children as well as the New Covenant family. 

A couple of Protestants have objected to this post saying that I have not given the best theological responses for Protestants. I am absolutely willing to change the Protestant responses if someone gives me better ones. All I had to go off of was the answers I have experienced. 

However, understand that I am not interested in taking the conversation off topic. Or in the Protestant asking what they believe to be a better question. I invite Protestants to answer this question exactly as I have stated it: 

IF Christ were to have a church that He gave His authority to, would you obey it? Please don't answer.... "He doesn't have such a church." That is not the question. 

They point of this question is not to get into any other Protestant objections to the Catholic Church. It is to one: Show the Protestant that there is really no evidence they would ever accept for us to show Christ started the Catholic Church. Their position is not based on evidence. 

But the much more important point I am making is that Catholics have been convinced that Christ started the Catholic Church. 

For us to have any meaningful dialogue that premise is where we must start. We don't believe in in the doctrines of sola scriptura or in sola fide because we believe Christ started a church.

We remain faithful to the pope, not because we like him or think he is infallible or pray to him or think he is God. We remain faithful to the bishop in Rome because we believe Christ started a church. 

We are horrified by the priestly scandal and the witch trials and the inquisition and all other things the people in the church have done over its 20 centuries, but we understand Judases infiltrate us and people fail God but God will not fail Catholicism because we believe Christ started a church.

IF Christ started a Church and He gave it His authority, we will be a part of that church and obey her.... because of our love for Christ. Just as we would follow our biological fathers because Christ told us to. It is about obedience. Because Christ started a church. 

Once you understand where the Catholic is coming from (the Catholic perspective), and we understand thoroughly that you don't believe that...but once you have understood the basis of all our beliefs, we can discuss all the theological ideas you have--which are based in the Protestant perspective of sola scriptura. 

I hope that is helpful in our dialogues.