Monday Musings for June 06, 2016
Good morning, Musers,
Today's musing contains adult material... no... not that kind! But I need to assume that everyone is well-adjusted enough for some frank discussion on the differences between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics concerning faith, grace and salvation.
My wife and I were raised in the Catholic tradition — all the way through confirmation. But I was never more than a nominal Catholic... even as a youth (a condition that would have been true no matter what religion I was — because I resented God... or anything that even smelled like him). That being said, most of our family and many of our friends identify at least culturally as Roman Catholic — and why not! The odds were pretty good that you'd be born a Catholic back then... in Massachusetts, anyway.
I classify Mainsail as a communications ministry. Therefore, I at least pretend to certain efficiencies like weeding out off-topic counter-Catholic material. But today, some of that is the topic — so be warned: If I routinely pummel fundamentalists, with whom I share doctrine more closely than with Rome, the Catholics among you should expect some pointed teaching about where our paths diverge. Indeed, life and faith have many gray areas: I respect those — and I enjoy fellowship where I can get it. But not every idea can coexist as logically true with every other idea. Bumper-stickers notwithstanding, "A" cannot equal "Non-A" at the same place and the same time... even for the most ardent coexister.
But even when ideas will not reconcile, we should earnestly try to coexist peaceably with all other people. We should respect both their persons and their ideas. But we shouldn't fall into the trap of seeing kindness toward or respect for a person as equivalent to agreeing with their ideas. At least one in every two mutually exclusive ideas is wrong... get used to that.
For instance, it's cool to say that all "ways" lead to the same good place, like heaven or whatever... but it's actually wrong to say that... wrong unless you eliminate Christianity from the "all." You see, Jesus made it clear that his way is the only way... and such an assertion is the 'A" to the universalist's "non-A." I will respect that Universalist as a person, but his idea violates rudimentary logic (... and a real friend would tell him).
In like manner, the primacy of Christian authority cannot be both the Bible and church tradition — and I have personally observed that both sides work their ways imperfectly... but that's not the point. When the Bible asserts "A" and church tradition asserts "non-A"... the primacy of authority determines which way to go. Broadly speaking, Protestants assign primacy to the Bible and Catholics assign it to Rome — but note this well: these divergences started at the very beginnings of Church history, millennia ago — and not suddenly with Luther, only 5 centuries ago.
Today's questioner is a Catholic who wonders how we insist on "sola fide" ("faith alone" for salvation) when Jesus said that doing good works is essential to the kingdom of God. But we cannot analyze sola fide without affirming "sola scriptura" — that Scripture alone is the authority of faith. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. But before I discuss these differences, let me affirm something that will make my fellow Evangelicals nervous: People are saved by placing their faith in Jesus Christ. So, no one is saved by birthright, good works, prayers, sacrifice or sacrament… but also... no one is saved by their knowledge of the Bible.
Here's the thing, there are many atheistic historians who know more about the Bible than most Christians do, but who are neither convinced nor converted through that knowledge. Conversely, there are many persons who are legitimately "in Christ" ... but who have no idea know how they got there! Apparently, the Holy Spirit can convert someone without passing them through the Evangelical soul-winning methodologies... as hard as that is to believe! Then there are those who claim to be in Christ... but who are not... and some could even pass the quiz! So, since I cannot sort these people out, I'll just continue to teach the Bible as honestly as I can.... and we'll let the chips-on-the-shoulder fall where they may.
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