Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Catholicism: Letters to Daniel (Part 2)

Dear Daniel,
I understand that you are and have been busy. I lament the fact that you smell like beer--it is a horrid smell. I used to smell like beer from working at a recycling plant. Now the only time I smell like beer is when I drink it on occasion. Your reason of fundraising towards a mission trip seems a much nobler one.

In reading, or rather, skimming, my last letter, answering your several questions about Catholicism, you complain that you didn't once see mention of RHEMA Bible Institute. Nor would you have. I never spoke of RHEMA or Kenneth Hagin or any of your heroes. I answered your questions about Catholicism. I have no idea what my mention or lack of mention of RHEMA, Kenneth Hagin, the "Word-Faith Movement" et al. would have to do with the questions that you asked, and can hardly see why you would take no interest in a Catholic's response to questions about Catholicism because it didn't mention factors of personal interest to you which weren't actually a part of your line of questioning. In fact, I have no idea why RHEMA would have been brought up except to say that it stems from your personal brand of Protestant experience.

And yes, Daniel, despite your protestations to the contrary, you are a 'Protestant'. Let's trace a bit of history out for you, shall we?

Jesus founded one Church. That Church, to differentiate it from various competing heresies such as Gnosticism, which all claimed to be "Christian", called itself the Catholic Church (as early as AD 110). It survived persecutions, heresies, and even peace for about a millenium, enduring various controversies all throughout. However, the Greek-speaking East and the Latin-speaking West had different ways of expressing theology, and this led to various miscommunications and modes of expression which were taken very seriously. Through various power-plays and whatnot, there came about the Great Schism, in which the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in AD 1054 (this, of course, is a tragic oversimplification of the matter, but, as you are prone to skimming, I figure you won't actually mind).

Catholicism continued on (as did Eastern Orthodoxy), thriving primarily in the west, still battling heretical groups who tried to pervert the Gospel. In around AD 1517, a monk named Martin Luther, battling personal issues of sinfulness, had what he considered a religious revelation, and, because of this revelation, broke away from the Catholic Church, teaching two very new and very different doctrines than those taught in the previous 1500 years of the Church (East or West): Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. Other men caught on to these two doctrines (known as the pillars of the Reformation) and interpreted them as they felt they should. Thus Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, and the Anabaptists appeared on the scene. But these four groups were themselves prone to division, so that the Lutherans broke into several sub-Lutheran categories, the Calvinists into Baptists, Presbyterians, Christian Reform, and the like; the Anglicans broke further down into Anglican, Episcopalian, Methodist, Wesleyan, Puritan, Evangelical Missionary, Pentecostalism, and on and on, and the Anabaptists became groups like Quakers, Salvation Army, Mennonites, Amish, etc. Since there are over 20 000 different Protestant denominations, this is far from an exhaustive list, but this is the progression of denominations--beginning with Luther, to what we have today.

What do all these denominations have in common? A professed belief in Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura (though these are interpreted differently from group to group), and a protestation of Catholic teaching. Hence, all these post-Reformation Christians are known collectively as "Protestants".

Most Non-Denominational churches, such as you claim to belong to, split off of one Protestant denomination or another. Kenneth Hagin himself comes from a Pentecostal background, and your (non)denomination stems, it seems, from Kenneth Hagin and the Word-Faith Movement (which, since it can be labelled as a group, is by definition a denomination). And, even if it is truly "non-denominational", it is still Protestant, as it objects to certain Catholic beliefs, as you yourself have done here.

The Catholic Church, by the way, and even many Protestant denominations, would consider Word-Faith to be heretical, making God out to be rather a Divine Santa Claus. The "Prosperity Gospel" flies right in the face of Jesus' words, "Go, sell all that you have, and give to the poor" and "Where your treasure is, there also will be your heart, so store up treasure in Heaven."

To your statement that you have never read the book of James, and only ever really read Romans, I have to express my concern--especially for one who has professed a desire to be a minister of Christ. Romans is a wonderful book, but it is only one of 73 (for Catholics) or 66 (for Protestants). You are severely limiting your understanding of 'the whole council of God' by sticking only with Romans. Especially since, historically in the Church, it is the Fourfold Gospel which has been accorded primacy of place. If there was any book (or group of books) to be read exclusively, it would be Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

And finally, on what grounds do you "hate" religion? I've heard that phrase tossed around a lot, especially by "non-denominational Christians", all the while they fail to realise that they are, themselves, religious.

Anyway, I would greatly appreciate it if you would reread my first letter to you. I put quite a bit of effort into it. I'm afraid that our conversation cannot progress very far unless you take the time to absorb what I am telling you. Again, I understand that you are busy, so please, take your time with this. I am in no rush.

God bless

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations)

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