Thursday, April 12, 2007

A difference between Catholics and Protestans, though not shared by all protestants

The other day, I blogged about lecturing to a class at Iowa State. It was a great experience for me in overcoming fears and such. I did have a slight annoyance at a fundamentalist that asked the predetermined "Catholics are not a Bible church" question. I say it was predetermined because it really didn't follow from what I had just said to him at all. He asked why the Catholic Church revers Mary and I said because Mary was 1. Jesus' mother who 2. kept things about him in her heart, and was 3 the faithful disciple who stayed with him even to the point of watching him die on the cross. I even 4. cited the magnificat in which the disciple says to Mary, "all generations will call you blessed." I'd say an answer that involved four direct referances to the Bible could be considered fairly well based on the Bible. But, not according to this lad. He had his point and, by god, he was going to make it! He asked if I could see that we weren't a Bible church so I tried to point out to the lad that several aspects of Christianity were developed outside of the Bible but I could tell that this kid hadn't heard a word I said the entire 80 minute presentation. So why should he start now?

As I read over the Pope's Wednesday audience on Ignatius of Antioch (a spiritual hero of mine!), it occurred to me that this is a huge difference between the catholic church and fundamentalist evangelicals. The difference is that Jesus didn't give us a book on which we are individually "thrown to the wolves" in order to interpret and understand it. Christ, a human, handed on the faith to other humans who, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, handed it on to others. The Bible becomes the only way to understand God in the life of an evangelical. And, even though I believe that this is, of itself, contradictory to their central criticism that Catholicism is a man-made religion, I will save that for another day. The more central criticism is that this attitude denies the historical presence of a God who "did not deem equality with God something at which to be grasped" but denied himself and became fully human. This very human Jesus remained present in the church so it is important not to just understand the portrait of Jesus in the Bible but the portrait of Jesus still working through the apostles and their successors to "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

This is at the heart of the message of the Catholic Church. History doesn't end with the death of Jesus and pick up again, rather arrogantly, at my interest. In order to be fully a Christian, we must listen to the sage wisdom of the breadth of Christian history, not just one book, even one as important as the Bible.


Domini Sumus said...

I had a similar question posed to me yesterday by one of the 8th graders I teach.

This child happened to be Catholic and was repeating something she had heard from someone else.

That made convincing her a lot easier than the student you had.

However, I used this quote from the end of the Gospel of John.

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name."

The Bible itself says that not everything is written in the Bible.

Steve O said...

How important is it for a Christian to recognize Mary as the Catholics do?

Also, how does the church respond to the time when the church apparently fell away (the crusades, the inquisition, and the selling papers that removed sin)?

Anonymous said...

Steve O,
She is Jesus' mother. Do you think it might be important to Him?

After all, it is Jesus we are trying to please. He honoured her. Surely if we can give praise and honour to any human being other than Jesus himself it would be his mother.

Steve O said...

I mean how important is it to salvation that Mary be recognized? Also, Jesus said that anybody who does the will of my Father is my mother, my brother, and my sister. That means that in a sense, the kind that truly matters to God, Jesus had many mothers.

However, I don't care about that issue as much as the other one that I asked.