Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mindless, Knee-Jerk Protestantism

Yes, there are many errors in the Roman Catholic Church. They have anathematized the gospel, exatled the Pope above the Scriptures, changed the institution of the Supper, forbidden their priests to marry, turned gospel into law and law into gospel, invented purgatory thus denying the efficacy of the atonement, turned the saints into mediators, and many other such things. In fact, there is a lot more wrong with the R0man Church than can be dealt with in a short blog.

But, and this is a big but, there is something just as wrong with the kind of knee-jerk, mindless protestantism that seeks to find distinctions between the Roman church and ourselves in the outward ceremonies and customs that we share in common. How often have you heard someone reject a practice or custom of the Church because, "it's too Roman"? When questioned about why it is wrong, the person who objects really has no answer. It is as if "being Roman," was enough to banish said custom or practice to the ash heaps of Church ritual.

Why do many American Lutherans reject the crucifix? It's too Roman. Why do many American Lutheran reject the elevation and adoration of our Lord in the Sacrament at the altar? It's too Roman. Now when questioned, many Lutherans will say that the reason the crucifix is wrong is because, "Jesus rose from the dead," as if Roman Catholics don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead. So the empty cross is a symbol of the resurrection? What about the empty crosses of the thieves next to Christ? Have they risen from the dead? The Sacrament should not be elevated? Why, if Christ is in the Supper, shouldn't Christians make that confession by bowing or genuflecting.

Here's a list of things that are Roman Catholic.
1. Having Church on Sunday morning.
2. Reading the Scriptures in the service.
3. Praying.
4. Singing to the Lord.
5. Receiving Communion.
6. Hearing a sermon.
7. Baptizing.

You're right. These things are catholic, therefore we shouldn't do them.

Of course we should. And we should do the others as well; Chanting, candles, observing the church calendar, vestments, processions, gospel processions, elevating the host, displaying the crucifix, conferring absolution, etc. We can do these things in Christian freedom. We should do these things to confess that they fall within the bounds of Christian freedom, especially in the face of all who tell us we shouldn't because they're too Roman.

We shouldn't try to fix the boundaries between the papal church and ourselves on the basis of customs that the church has practiced before there ever was a Roman Catholic Church in the sense in which we know it today. We fix those boundaries around doctrine. The Augsburg Confession defines the Church as the place where the pure word of God is taught and the Sacraments are administered according to their institution. We define our difference with the papal church by doctrinal truth and error. Anything else is mindless, knee-jerk protestantism.


Susan said...

And we do these catholic things because they point us to Jesus and what He's done to save us from our sin. These practices highlight the Gospel. And if we don't see why or how, then hopefully the pastor will get busy teaching us why. But if we simply accept them as One More Rule To Follow, then they detract from the main message of Christianity.

The hard thing for us laymen is when we've been taught to see the beauty of how these practices are indeed gospel-soaked, but then end up at a church where these things are not practiced. I know it's true that we haven't thereby lost the gospel itself, but it sure would be nice to have all that richness.

Pastor Brett Cornelius said...
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Pastor Brett Cornelius said...

That is a perfect point. Why do anything except that it highlights the gospel?

Marie N. said...

Your list of 7 things that are Roman Catholic makes some great points. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You should take it one step further and seriously investigate why the Catholic Church teaches what it does. For example, if the Catholic Church invented purgatory than why is it that multitudes of writings mention praying for the dead (including Maccebees which was conveniently taken from your Bible) why is it that you can still see writings on the walls of the catacombs that are prayers for the dead written by the earliest Christians? Why prayer for the dead if there's no such thing as purgatory. Also, the Bible that you so fervently believe in and interpret yourself is useless without Sacred Tradition and Apostolic Authority which gave us the Bible in the first place when it decided which books where inspired and which were not. There may be issues with how Catholics understand or live out there faith, there may be corruptions and distortions but the bottom line is that the Church is catholic whether you like it or not and when arrogant people decide they know more than thousands of years of history we get 26,000 different denominations that teach 26,000 different interpretations of scripture. Mighty sad if you ask me.