Saturday, April 2, 2011

From the "Why Can't We All Just Get Along" File

One of the things I enjoy most as a Christian is sharing my faith. Engaging in discussions with people who's theological bents range from raging atheists to agnostic to that of varying other Protestant traditions. I enjoy hearing their perspective and giving them mine. We're called as disciples of Christ to do it. I also enjoy the opportunity to learn and the exchange of ideas, but my primary goal is to plant a seed, to make them think, to get them to try on a different set of "theological glasses", if you will.

I endeavor to use as my guide in these conversations, 1 Peter 3:15. I cannot lie, sometimes I fall short of that goal. Sometimes frustration grips me. I would ask for your prayers in that. The thing that frustrates me the most is something called the Straw Man fallacy. The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position (i.e., what the Church actually teaches) and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. I find this particular tactic most egregiously utilized when I am in discussion with or reading something by a Fundamentalist Christian.

I recently found a web page that caught my attention as it represented itself as comparing and contrasting Church services in different Christian traditions. However, it soon got off track and ended up in Strawmanville. 

An example:
"The Roman Catholic Church emphasizes the "Mass", (an act viewed by Catholics as re-sacrificing the actual body and blood of Christ through Communion." 
I get this a lot. It usually comes in the form of a question, "Why are you re-sacrificing Christ when the Bible says His sacrifice was once for all?" The answer: Catholics don't view the Mass as a re-sacrifice of Christ. The irony is, as it is with all of these points, that simply picking up a Catechism would clear up any misconception. Paragraphs 1362-1367 of the CCC say, "1362 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis or memorial. 1363 In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men.182 In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them. 1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.183 "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out."184 1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. the sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my body which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood."185 In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."186 1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit: [Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.187 1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner."188" Emphasis Added. I have left the scriptural footnotes intact.

We are not re-sacrificing Him. His once and for all sacrifice is being re-presented. Now we can discuss that, but lets be clear about what the Church actually teaches. We don't believe we are re-sacrificing Christ.

Another example:
"Catholics believe in the practice of worshiping icons in the Church."

Really? I personally have never met a Catholic who actually worships an icon? Neither have I met a Catholic who worships Mary or any of the Saints. Catholics would consider that idolatry. Statements like this smack of an utter ignorance of the history of the Church. It's like saying that having a picture of your wife in your wallet constitutes "wife worship". God forbade the worship of idols. Not the use of statues or artwork. If He did how do you explain Solomon's Temple?

And a Third:
"The Roman Catholic Church teaches salvation by works"  

As Catholics, we believe the grace of Jesus Christ saves us. We can do nothing outside of God's grace. We accept his grace through faith, but our faith is evidenced by our words and deeds. Our works show the faith in our hearts; therefore, faith and works bring us salvation through grace. Galatians 5:6 tells us that only faith working through love saves. This is the basis of my argument against the belief in "eternal security". Nowhere does the Bible guarantee salvation to the Christian. On the contrary we are constantly warned against falling away. Even St. Paul didn't assume he was saved. Quite frankly, if St. Paul wouldn't do it, I'm not going to do it.

I could go on with many more examples, but I think you get the picture. The Catholic Church makes it VERY easy to know what it is She teaches. If you want to take issue with anything she actually teaches. I'd be glad to discuss it with you. But please, know what it is you're protesting against. Don't knowingly proffer falsehoods as truth and if I tell you what you say we believe is not accurate, allow me to explain.

By discussing our faith, we can all grow in our faith with God's grace. Isn't that what we all want?
God Bless!!

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