Do Catholics Make Christianity Too Difficult?

Carlo Crivelli, Two Apostles (1475)
Carlo Crivelli, Two Apostles (1475)

A common complaint against Catholicism is that its view of the spiritual life is too difficult, that it over-complicates Christianity and doesn’t trust enough in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. That’s an appealing complaint, since it proposes a lighter, easier Christianity. But it’s a view we should be extremely suspicious of, given everything else we know about reality. So here are six observations that I think have some bearing on how we think of salvation specifically and the spiritual life more generally:

  1. How much harder it is to do things well than to do them poorly;
  2. That we often respond to this difficulty with shortcuts;
  3. That we see shortcuts in the spiritual life, too;
  4. That Scripture warns against spiritual shortcuts;
  5. That the Cross isn’t easy; and
  6. That “hard” doesn’t mean few succeed.

So let’s start from reality in general before moving to the faith in particular:

Observation 1: How much harder it is to do things well than to do them poorly

Have you noticed how much more difficult it is to have something go well than to have it go poorly? This observation might be so obvious that you’ve missed it, or that you take it for granted, but take some time to think about it. Think of how easy it is to come up with the wrong answer to an equation, and how much more difficult to work the sums correctly. One wrong step, and the outcome is wrong (or, at the very least, unreliable). That’s not really true in reverse – it’s not as if you can make a hundred wrong steps, but still be assured of the right answer because one of the steps went smoothly. And it’s like this in all of the sciences, from what I can tell – it’s easy to invalidate a study, to ruin laboratory conditions even accidentally, etc., and it’s much more difficult to make sure things run properly.

But while that seems to be virtually a rule in math and the sciences, it’s nearly as true in other areas as well (even if not quite a rule). It’s a lot easier to make a bad first impression than a good one, a lot easier to lose a job than get one, to fail a class than to master it. Even if you have an easy instructor, you’ll find that it’s harder to master the material than it is not to; ignorance takes no effort at all, while education takes a great deal of work.

In our interactions with those we love, this general rule still seems to hold true. It’s much easier to hurt feelings than to set things aright, and the closer we are to the person (a loved one, a spouse, a child, etc.) the truer this axiom seems to be. A good deal of the grief that parents feel is, I think, related to a recognition of this rule – they have a weighty responsibility to bring up their children well, and it’s much easier to fail than to succeed. Even with our own bodies, the things we should know better, it’s so much easier to live an unhealthy life than to have a healthy diet and get the appropriate amount of exercise. There may be a single cure for cancer out there, but there seems to be no limits to the ways we can contract it. Even a baby recognizes that it’s easier to fall than to stand.

Look at your own life, especially in those areas in which you’re aware that you struggle, and I imagine that you can come up with an even better list upon just a few moments of self-examination. As I’ve said, this isn’t quite a scientific law (although its truth seems to be reflected in one, the law of entropy). I’m considering it just a general observation on the nature and structure of reality. I’m sure that there are counter-examples in each of our lives, things we seem to succeed at in spite of ourselves, but I think you’ll agree that these counter-examples are more the exception than the rule.

Observation 2: That we often respond to this difficulty with shortcuts

Given that success in life is more difficult than failure in virtually every field, how do we respond?

I think that there are a few traps that we fall into. One is to despair. It’s hard to do this thing well, so we simply throw up our hands and give up. I’ll get back to this in a moment. Another trap is to impose an extreme regimen upon ourselves (or worse, upon others). We have a very narrow conception of how to succeed (for example, a very particular diet, or a particularly-intense program of study), and we decide that this is the only way that the thing can be done well. In my observations as an outsider, this seems to be one of the major struggles of motherhood – not only is the thing difficult to do well, of itself, but there is no shortage of other moms who will criticize you for whatever you do, because you’re trying what happened to work for them with their kids.

But it seems to me that the most common trap is the shortcut. Somebody will come along and say, here is a way to get rich quick, or put this magnetic belt on and you can get fit without having to worry about diet or exercise, or try this fad diet, or listen to this audiotape while you sleep and you’ll learn the language, etc. And precisely because succeeding is difficult, it’s so tempting to opt for the shortcut. And in the end, even despair can be a sort of shortcut – give up, throw your hands up, and maybe you’ll succeed anyways without even needing to try.

Observation 3: That we see shortcuts in the spiritual life, too.

You might be wondering where I’m going with all of this, apart from musing about reality. Well, what got me thinking about this is (as I mentioned above) the spiritual life: both salvation specifically, and the life of prayer and sanctification more generally. What strikes me as fascinating is that the very same people who would never be so foolish as to buy into a get-rich-quick scheme or sign up for an easy fad diet expect salvation and the spiritual life to be simple.

I’ve literally seen books in which the difficulty of the Catholic view of the spiritual life is taken, on face, as an argument against Catholicism, as if Catholicism can’t be true if it’s saying that the road is going to be difficult. But here’s the thing: the same God who created the life of the spirit created the rest of reality. If the message He wanted to send in material creation was “life is easy, salvation is easy, just ‘believe’ and you’re good to go,” why does virtually every single other part of His Creation send just the opposite message: namely, that it’s much easier to fail than to succeed?

I would be extremely skeptical of two particular extremes. The first is the attempt to reduce the spiritual life to a one-size-fits-all method: that to be saved, everyone has to pray in just this way, or behave just like so, etc. That doesn’t ring true with what I know of reality: there are no one-size-fits-all diets or exercise regimens or methods of learning or parenting styles or so on.

But the other extreme is to say that all approaches are equally valid, or to posit some too-good-to-be-true shortcut. Just because no two people have the same dietary needs, it doesn’t follow that a diet of cinnamon rolls is as valid as a diet of fruits and vegetables.

As a Catholic, I’m incredulous at those Protestants who present salvation as a one-and-done number: the kind who say things like, “I accepted Jesus in my heart on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 at 9:00 a.m., and now I’ve got nothing to worry about.” Doesn’t that strike you as a little incongruous with, I don’t know, every other aspect of your life? You wouldn’t dream of saying “I had a really healthy meal on Wednesday night of January 14th, 2015, so I don’t have to worry about ‘health’ anymore.” Or even “I got saved by the firefighters after my last car accident, so I don’t need to worry about wearing a seat belt anymore. I’ve already been saved.” So why treat your spiritual health or salvation more lightly than you do the life and health of your body?

Observation 4: That Scripture warns against spiritual shortcuts.

Entire branches of Protestant theology can fairly be described as “get-saved-quick” theology. And of course, like fad diets, it sells well. People want this kind of easy shortcut to be the case. But the Bible warns about just this kind of spiritual shortcut. St. Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:1-7, writes:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His Kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.

As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry. For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Listen to that contrast. True Christianity involves accepting suffering, it calls for urgency, for patience, for conviction, for rebukes and exhortation. Sham Christianity, on the other hand, is nice and easy: no need to “endure sound teaching,” just seek out teachers of your own liking. That sounds a lot nicer than martyrdom (either the physical martyrdom that St. Paul and St. Timothy faced, or the sort of spiritual martyrdom of dying to self-will that each of us have to face).

St. Paul is no “easier” in his message to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 10:1-13). He begins by pointing out that the Israelites of old passed through the Red Sea, “and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all at the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink” (1 Cor. 10:2-4). The supernatural food was the manna (Exodus 16:31), and the supernatural drink was the water from the rock (Ex. 17:6); Paul notes that the Israelites “drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

Okay, so there’s no shortage of graces that God has poured out upon the Israelites, who are, after all, His people. And these graces in a not-so-subtle way prefigure the Sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist, in the Christian life. But then listen to what Paul says: “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did” (1 Cor. 10:5-6). So Paul looks at the way that the Israelites, even after God freed them from Egypt, were still capable of turning away from God and incurring His wrath, and his message is: don’t think that this can’t happen to you. Don’t think that just because once, at 9 a.m. on January 14, 2015, you were brought out of the place of sin that you’re so secure that you can never fall back into it again. The Israelites, even after they went through all of this, lusted for the fleshpots of Egypt. They longed for their old sinful ways. And they were barred from the Promised Land as a result.

St. Paul concludes this lesson with a warning and a promise. The warning is dire: “therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:11). Those who believe in a “once saved, always saved” theology believe that the Saints can never ultimately fall, and hold themselves up as people who stand and who therefore have nothing to worry about. St. Paul is directly rebuking that spiritual arrogance. And of course, even that Paul uses is a reminder that the spiritual life is like the rest of reality: it’s much easier to fall than to stand. But

Now, lest we be overwhelmed by the weight of all of this, lest we throw up our hands and say it’s just too much, he also gives a promise: “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:12). Admittedly, even that promise includes a recognition that the spiritual life is going to be so hard that we’re going to sometimes wonder if we can endure. But Paul’s answer is yes, with the help of God.

Observation 5: That the Cross isn’t easy.

If you want to know whether salvation is easy or difficult, look at the Cross. That’s the price Jesus Christ paid that we might be saved. If salvation were meant to be easy, somebody should have presumably given that memo to Jesus so He didn’t have to worry about the scourging, the humiliation, the being spat upon, the getting whipped, the condemnation as a common criminal, the carrying of the Cross, the forcible public stripping, the having nails driven into His Flesh, and the slow death followed by bodily desecration.

There are only two responses to the Cross: reject it or accept it. Some forms of rejecting the Cross are obvious, where we don’t even want to look at it. A Catholic priest installed a large Crucifix in his church, and parishioners complained that they didn’t want to look at something “morbid and sad.” Another priest related to me his experience in a Gothic Methodist church in which a woman boasted to him that they didn’t have Crucifixes, and shared with him about her time in a Catholic hospital in which she refused to have a Crucifix in her room, saying “get that d*** thing out of my room! Why would I want to look at that when I’m trying to get better?” (The priest, in relaying this story, censored his retelling, pointing out that calling the Crucifix “that d*** thing” may be the worst blasphemy he’s ever heard).

But a subtler form of rejecting the Cross is to say, in essence, “Jesus did it, so I don’t have to.” Here again, some forms of Protestant theology are fairly explicit in preaching this: Christ died as a “substitute” for us, so we don’t have to go through the nastiness of the Cross. But a Christianity without the Cross simply isn’t Christianity. And I mean that in a very personal way. Christ’s message is “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). A theology that rejects this is simply a rejection of discipleship.

Now, it’s true that Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt. 11:30), but that’s because He promises to bear our burdens with us, to be with us in our yokes. Bear in mind that He’s still presenting discipleship as a yoke and a burden, just once that we can bear lightly, because we are invited to “learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt. 11:29). This is another way of saying what Paul says in 1 Corinthians: the spiritual life, unbearable though it is on our own, is one that we can get through because we don’t have to go through it alone. But we still have to go through it, and it’s still going to be a struggle in which it’s easier to fall than to stay upright.

Observation 6: That “hard” doesn’t mean few succeed.

One of the most frequent mistakes that I see on this subject is an assumption that if the spiritual life is hard, then few must be saved; or conversely, that if many are saved, then it must be easy. People will even say, “if so many are saved, how difficult can it be?”

To this, I would again say to listen to the rest of reality. The teenage years are hard, but most people make it through them more or less okay. The bar exam was the hardest test I ever took, and yet 80% of those who took it passed. Most soldiers make it through basic training, but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

So I don’t want anyone to read this and despair, or to say that because they hope that many will be saved, they’re not too worried about the idea that salvation could be difficult. It’s a mistake, and I think a dangerous one, to connect difficulty and ultimate success too simplistically. It would be a much better thing to conclude that since the spiritual life is difficult and Christ wants our salvation, we should be prepared for a lifelong battle, but one in which we’re never alone.

And finally, when you hear someone complain that Catholics make salvation so “difficult,” realize that this is the exact same complaint that charlatans lodge against doctors prescribing good diets and exercise, or by conmen against those who think you have to struggle and work hard to get ahead in business. Approach get-saved-quick preachers with the exact same skepticism you’d approach dispensers of any other kind of snake oil. Or perhaps better yet, don’t approach them at all.

131 Comments

    1. M: Happy Birthday, Mary.
      BB: As everyone on planet earth knows, her birth date is NOT ACTUALLY KNOWN, yet you vainly wish her well wishes thinking she has been granted the attribute of omnipresence to hear you. What a waste of time.

      1. If Jesus is omnipresent due to His saying “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in your midst” … then it isn’t a stretch to believe that Mary is with Him… even as Christ said in this saying : “And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.” So, If Mary is with Christ in eternal life…and He is with us…when we gather in His name… She is close by both her Son and us also due to Christ’s promise “Where I am, you also may be”.

        …Then again, I know Protestants often lack a sense for the mystical, or metaphysical, or anything that isn’t ‘explicit’, or written by St. Paul…and so maybe it is possible that this might is not intelligible, or possible, to you.

        1. AW: If Jesus is omnipresent due to His saying “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in your midst” … then it isn’t a stretch to believe that Mary is with Him

          BB: It most definitely IS a stretch, as I said in my reply at 12:43. Catholicism is always stretching the limits (!) all in an effort to make the Scriptures say what they do not say or even imply. It is completely unwarranted to suppose that the omniscience God holds as the Creator of the universe, may be strrrrrrectched to include Mary as well. Over and over again the early fathers would always say, “do not go beyond the Text”, but in Catholicism, they do this with impunity.

          AK: Protestants often lack a sense for the mystical, or metaphysical

          BB: Considering that your most treasured doctrine, Transubstantiation, is based on the metaphysical mayhem of Aristotle the PAGAN, we are happy to accept the charge of being as “innocent as doves” (as Jesus instructed) when it comes to the metaphysical metamorphosis of the RC wafer.
          It is outrageous to believe that the Lord would start the ball rolling on the crowned jewel of the faith with an atheist, and then require that belief for the salvation of souls! Scripture says that the Lord reveals his secrets to HIS SERVANTS, so it cannot be true he gave the “mechanical truths” of Transubstantiation to Aristotle, only to be picked up later by Aquinas. I have read the horrid and garbled explanations of Aquinas and suffice to say that not one Catholic in a thousand could repeat back his explanation of how T occurs if their life depended on it.

          1. Over and over again the early fathers would always say, “do not go beyond the Text”, but in Catholicism, they do this with impunity.

            Your implication that the Church Fathers believe in sola scriptura just isn’t true.

            St. Augustine as an example:
            “Let the reader consult the rule of faith which he has gathered from the plainer passages of Scripture, and from the authority of the Church, and of which I treated at sufficient length when I was speaking in the first book about things. But if both readings, or all of them (if there are more than two), give a meaning in harmony with the faith, it remains to consult the context, both what goes before and what comes after, to see which interpretation, out of many that offer themselves, it pronounces for and permits to be dovetailed into itself. (On Christian Doctrine, 3.2)”

            Here he promotes also the authority of the Church in addition to scripture as the rule of faith.

            …Considering that your most treasured doctrine, Transubstantiation, is based on the metaphysical mayhem of Aristotle the PAGAN…

            You mean John 6. John 6 is where we get the idea of Transubstantiation from. You can disagree with the interpretation until you’re blue in the face, but that’s the way we read it. The term and metaphysical explanation came later, but the barebones doctrine long preceded the Church’s curiosity toward Aristotle.

      2. Here you interpret my words and assume you know perfectly well to whom they are addressed! How presumptuous! Your assumption and belief is certainly not in scripture. Assuming that I did speak to the Blessed Virgin Mary, please tell me, if you know, why today could NOT be her birthday? Were you there? Thought not.

      3. “When you pray,” Jesus said, “….your Father in heaven hears you.” Intercession prayer is heard. Jesus gave us His mother in the cross. He wouldn’t like your attitude about his mama! And didn’t Jesus’ words in all four gospels – at the Last Supper & many other times – convince you of transsubstantiation? Many left Him when they heard His words. “Who do you say that I am?” He asked.

      4. “When you pray,” Jesus said, “….your Father in heaven hears you.” Intercession prayer is heard. Jesus gave us His mother in the cross. He wouldn’t like your attitude about his mama! And didn’t Jesus’ words in all four gospels – at the Last Supper & many other times – convince you of transsubstantiation? Many left Him when they heard His words. “Who do you say that I am?” He asked.

  1. My wife does not like when I take shortcuts in marriage, so why would God want us to reduce our relationship with Him to the bare minimal “cuz the thief on the cross did not need this or that.”

    Yes, I am aware of the irony I would have made that argument 12 months ago.

    Personally, I think seeing salvation as marriage (because it is), is helpful. Sure, I got married 5 years ago. But I am still married. I am not “earning” my marriage, but my marriage does require work. Just because I got married 5 years ago, that does not mean I no longer have to try doing anything that makes my wife feel special. So, I work out things in my marriage over time, it is a relationship, it has a living reality, not a static abstract one that only exists in the past.

    In the same way we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Salvation is not earned, but it is experienced in our life in Christ–and that life will have sacrifices, struggles, high points, and low points–just like marriage.

    I’m a newby (to both marriage, sacramental theology, and fasting) so I have nothing else to add. Perhaps, for any Protestants reading comments, I would add that Orthodoxy is much more rigorous when it comes to fasting that Catholicism. This does not make it “better,” but it should make one think why the whole Christian world before Protestantism saw no conflict of interest in this sort of way of living.

    God bless,
    Craig

    1. Hi Craig,

      If you are still living in SW Florida, I pray that you and your wife manage through Hurricane Irma safely, as it looks like it might be coming your way.

      God bless, guard and guide you always.

      – Al

      1. P.S…. If you and your wife need a vacation on the West Coast to get out of the chaos, a couple of weeks at my house here in Benicia, CA, is available. Just e-mail me.

        1. Al, your invitation is very kind. That might work out some day and my wife and I fly across the Pacific as often as time allows. California is on the way 🙂

          The same is true if you are in NY, but I am closer to Albany these days so it is less of a vacation destination than when I lived close to NYC.

          But always let me know, I love being hospitable. Does not mean I am any good at it of course 🙂

    2. CT: why would God want us to reduce our relationship with Him to the bare minimum?

      BB: In case you were wondering, no Protestant on earth has ever advocated getting away with a relationship with Christ based on the “bare minimum”. In fact, Catholics are the ones who have set the standard in their documents about the “bare minimum” requirements when it comes to how many times you must swallow the Eucharist (at least once a year according to Trent), going to confession and other such things.

      CT: Salvation is not earned…

      BB: Then I would highly advise you to leave the RCC because that is exactly what they teach. For example, in CCC 1821, a “grace-produced-works-salvation” is offered as the means to enter heaven. This amounts to nothing less than an EARNED salvation and is therefore, “another gospel” per 2 Cor 11:4.

      CT: I’m a newby (to both marriage, sacramental theology, and fasting) so I have nothing else to add.

      BB: But that is precisely the fatal flaw in Catholicism. They have ADDED to the gospel, thus making it null and void and useless to any Catholic hoping in it on Judgment Day. Paul threw a fit in the book of Galatians when he heard the Judaizers were seeking to add even ONE thing to the gospel. I am convinced he would be foaming at the mouth if he were alive today when confronted with all the “necessary for salvation” requirements imposed on the gospel by biblically illiterate Roman Catholic dignitaries.

          1. Agreed. No TV here either. Did away with it years ago.

            Saw the movie many years ago; it’s a depiction of the depravity of backwoods fundamental ignorance so well represented by BB, and his ilk in places like Westboro.

            “Cue the Banjo’s” is a mocking metaphor from an iconic scene in the movie, for manifestations of said close-minded, militantly uninformed virulence in political or theological discourse.

      1. BB: But that is precisely the fatal flaw in Catholicism. They have ADDED to the gospel,…”

        As you have, Flounder, in the thread of this topic?

        You’ll be back, and so will we, and we remember…Flounder.

  2. If one can create their own version of Christianity without a physical Church on planet earth with authority over them then of course Catholicism will be hard.

    I like creating my own terms and conditions and so do a lot of other ls which is why heresy will never truly die out. It’s easy being a “christian” if one gets to make up the rules through their own personal interpretations of scripture.

  3. CWD: It’s easy being a “christian” if one gets to make up the rules through their own personal interpretations of scripture.

    BB: Jesus indeed required his hearers to make “personal interpretations” of Scripture in far too many places to list here, to say the least! You act as if they don’t exist! Thus, your “quick-draw-mcgraw” shotgun apologetic which implicity castigates Protestants for simply reading the Bible and coming to a conclusion, is lop-sided, inaccurate and shallow.
    In view of the fact that the RCC has left 98% of the Bible officially UNINTERPRETED, — technically, you’re in the same boat as us when it comes to understanding God’s word, and are even in a worse position because if you ask 100 Catholics exactly which verses HAVE been officially defined, you’ll get 100 different answers.

    1. Barry –

      So where in scripture did Jesus reference scripture for believers to personally interpret without regard to his Church (or in defiance of his Church)? Your best chapter and verse to suppport your argument.

    2. Barry –

      If I’m in the same boat as you then why should I care what you think?

      If I chose a RCC interpretation of scripture there can’t be anything wrong with that since that is my personal interpretation and as you said Christ required me to personally interpret scripture.

      But your interpretation is better than mine? That’s intellectual arrogance and in violation of your prior post where each person gets to interpret scripture in their own way.

      The logical conclusion of your theological worldview is relativism but you despise when someone doesn’t interpret scripture like yourself. That’s a double standard.

      1. He cdw…ask Rufus what a “baffoon” is. It’s like giving a Chinese nail puzzle to a child that is, shall we say, developmentally challenged.

        It’ll occupy him for hours while the rest of us engage in a useful discourse.

        Really, Joe said it best a few topics ago, just ignore it. BB’s purpose is not to discuss, but to disrupt, recycling the same, repeatedly debunked Proverbs 26:11 effluent (Pope Boniface, for God’s sake) in the hopes of shutting down an erudite and useful Catholic forum by quantity and volume.

        Parster Jimmy White, wringing his hands and muttering in his bunker like a double-degenerate backwoods Gollum, must be paying his marionette Barry by the post. “Y’all keep at them Papists..I’ll make sure yer trailer ain’t foreclosed…”

      2. CWD: If I’m in the same boat as you then why should I care what you think?

        BB: I’m not saying that you must care what I think. That’s not my concern. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to turn on the light. I can only plant seeds.

        CWD: If I chose an RCC interpretation of scripture, there can’t be anything wrong with that since that is my personal interpretation and as you said Christ required me to personally interpret scripture.

        BB: But of course! Did I ever say that you did not have the RIGHT to your own personal interpretation?

        CWD: But your interpretation is better than mine? That’s intellectual arrogance and in violation of your prior post where each person gets to interpret scripture in their own way.

        BB: Needless to say, I believe my position izzzzz correct, and if it is correct, then, by definition, it MUST be better than yours. However, your charge of “intellectual arrogance” is utterly ridiculous. Just as it is not intellectually arrogant to conclude 2 plus 2 is four, neither is it arrogant to be confident in my own position, which is always based on the Text, common sense and reason. The same cannot be said when it comes to RC theology. You just have a chip on your shoulder because I don’t walk around with a feather duster and a limp wrist, and would prefer I sprinkle angel dust over the heads of all my detractors so we can all just…”get along”. Nope, that’ll never work especially when we read things like Boniface telling us to get down on our knees, we are compelled to raise our voice in defense of the gospel, and we know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that that is exactly what the Lord would want us to do. He will judge on that final day, but in the meantime, theological warfare must ensue for those who may be called to it.

        1. Problem is exegesis isn’t math.

          Arrogance? Yes. It’s all about what you think. No deference to history, scripture or reason. No submission to a Church because you are your own church.

  4. JH: A common complaint against Catholicism is that its view of the spiritual life is too difficult, that it over-complicates Christianity and doesn’t trust enough in the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

    BB: I quite agree. For instance, when Boniface VIII demanded of the world that, “it is altogether necessary for salvation that ***every*** human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff”, I would say that is INDEED very difficult — and ultimately “frustrates the grace of God” as we read in the Text. For the ramifications of such thinking obscures, to quote you, “the price Jesus Christ paid that we might be saved”.

    JH: If salvation were meant to be easy, somebody should have presumably given that memo to Jesus so He didn’t have to worry about [the agonizing death facing him].

    BB: When Boniface demanded papal subordination as a requirement for salvation, he effectively demolished the gospel…AND sent a memo to Jesus at the same time, officially informing him that the merits of his death were now to be SPLIT between him and a human being’s devotion to the papacy (!!!). The logical ramifications of all this is that papal subordination now takes on the same salvific efficacy as the blood of Christ (!!!). I trust you realize that non-Catholics will deny this monstrous error until Kingdom Come. We have no doubt whatsoever that those splitting their devotion between Christ “and something else”, whatever it is, will be given the boot, precisely as those self-procalimng Christians were booted out in Matt 7.

    JH: There are only two responses to the Cross: reject it or accept it.

    BB: Better yet…there are only two responses to Boniface: accept his ludicrous demands and be lost forever, or put your faith entirely in the cross-work of Christ and be saved.

    1. Consider it an application of Luke 10:16 by the one given the Keys, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”

      1. J: Luke 10:16 by the one given the Keys, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”

        BB: If I had a dime for every time a Catholic has blabbered Luke 10 and put their own particular spin on it to support their bombastic papacy, I’d be in dime heaven. Naturally, you don’t give a rat’s tail that not one Bible scholar on earth. living or dead ever used Luke 10 to validate the supremacy of the RCC! You desperately WANT it to be true SO MUCH, that you exchange truth….for certainty. Yet the TRUTH of the matter is that the verse simply does not mean what you want it to mean.
        Thankfully, the sword of the Spirit (Scripture) stabs your position to death, for we see the very same general theme used elsewhere, and since nowhere in those places do they imply the future existence of the RCC with a Roman Pontiff at its head, neither does Luke 10.
        READ IT….

        The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day (John 12 :48).

        Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Jn 13:20).

        “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me”
        (Matt 10:40)

        “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mk 9:37)

        Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you
        (1 Thessalonians 4:8)

        After reading the above, you may well understand now that Luke 10 loses it’s punch when it comes to it being a proof for an infallible Roman hierarchy.

        1. John 12:48…this is no contradiction. Jesus is letting us know that there is judgment awaiting those who refuse to listen.

          John 13:20…echos of the same theme. Again Jesus is speaking to the twelve and particularly Peter. They are the “you” and “the one I send” in “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me.”

          Matt 10:40…spoken to the twelve (Matt 10:50), those given authority with Peter specifically given the Keys.

          Mk 9:37…spoken to the twelve, the foundation of the Church magisterium. Part of a lesson on humility.

          1 Thes 4:8…written instruction from Paul, an early member of the Church’s ordained bishops and thus an authoritative teaching member of the magisterium.

          Thanks for all the fine citations to back me up.

    2. This isn’t the first time BB the Bilious has brought up Pope Boniface. Let’s dispense with this bent quiver arrow, shall we?

      Boniface issued the bull “Unam Sanctum” directly to King Philip the Fair of France with whom he was in conflict, and must be read in that context. If one cherry-picks the Bull (as fundie-tards do Scripture), misreading it to assume a permanent dogma of Papal hegemony over all civil authority rather than a focused reaction to a unique political situation nearly **800 years ago,** it might seem a useful apologetic – for the historically ignorant. I refer once again to Bl. JH Newman’s “Development of Doctrine.”

      Papal pronouncements subsequent to Boniface and of course, Church doctrine firmly establishes separation of Church authority from the civil realm, and no one thinks about Unam Sanctam anymore except in the increasingly desperate fever swamps of Jimmy White anti-Papist strategy sessions. Now…subordination to papal authority in matters spiritual, especially those few issues spoken ex cathedra and subject to established dogma, is simply an extension of the principle first stated by Jesus in Matt 16:18, that all should follow in the Church He Himself ordained as a precondition to salvation. Live it, love it, accept it. Talkin’ to you, BB, in your bunker.

      If BB and others refuse to recognize that, well, God is both merciful and just. I can’t say myself what might happen since I am neither God nor BB, the latter who passes judgement on a regular basis, loudly and flatulently. Good luck with that.

      1. AK: This isn’t the first time BB the Bilious has brought up Pope Boniface.

        BB: And it won’t be the last.

        AK: Boniface issued the bull “Unam Sanctum” directly to King Philip

        BB: Whoooooo in the world cares? The words are clear when making reference to “EVERY HUMAN CREATURE” must bow their knee “or else!”. Your retort that I am “cherry-picking” must be dismissed as nothing more than a desperate attempt to whitewash and minimize the absolutely satanic demands of that Pope! Oh how you remind me of those Forensic File shows when the suspect is brought in and tries to downplay the severity of the crime, like “we had an argument but when she ran away she tripped and fell, breaking her neck and I was so scared I dumped the body in the lake”.
        So no, your excuses will simply not work. This is part of your history and we will judge you BY that history. Even if Boniface wasn’t enough, Vatican 1 went on to say that salvation would be forfeited if not in complete lock-step unity with “Catholic truth” down to the letter.

        AK: [All of this] is simply an extension of the principle first stated by Jesus in Matt 16:18

        BB: No it isn’t. We recoil at your attempts to STRETCH and extend your doctrine like a rubber nose, adjusting it to counter any of your opponents’s objections. For you, all this “stretching and extending” never—no, never! has the possibility to turn into a false gospel. We say that the stretching has gone on for so long, the Lord Jesus “removed Rome’s candlestick” as a legitimate church, centuries ago.
        God’s word has the power to defeat all your convoluted attempts to turn the gospel into a works-salvation nightmare. For that is exactly what it is, whether you believe it or not.

        1. Them there forensic file shows, there? (banjo music gets louder)

          Let’s allow the court of public opinion decide how worthwhile to a discussion of Catholic doctrine is your exhumation of an obscure, arcane, situational document. As you said a few topics ago, where are your defenders? Crickets, like the ones in your trailer.

          Luther is part of your history. You love him, dont’cha? Want to go there? How about Mary Baker Eddy? Or Charles Taze Russell? Maybe get on the dispensation disoriented express with ol’ JN Darby? All those spare, nightmare-faced demon-haunted Burnt-Overs…..and you buy into their paresis, almost 200 years later.

          “We recoil…”

          We = you, the ferret in your trousers, and the guy with all that hair on his forehead next to you in the dilapidated single-wide, believing and spouting the same boring sewage topic after topic.

          Bye-bye Barry. Fe-fruit this.

          1. AK: Let’s allow the court of public opinion decide how worthwhile to a discussion of Catholic doctrine is your exhumation of an obscure, arcane, situational document.

            BB: You will never win this argument by trying to sweep under the rug the ludicrous words of Boniface. As long as you remain Catholic, you are forever under the jurisdiction of his words.

            AK: Luther is part of your history. You love him, dont’cha? Want to go there?

            BB: I would be happy to. Luther also clung to the belief that to swallow that horrid piece of bread, even WITHOUT the physical anatomy of Christ inside it, is necessary for salvation, and so I have no hope for his salvation either. Even if I was a follower of his, Protestants are not constrained to be in lock-step unity with their leaders if they perceive the word of God is being mishandled. That is NOT the case with YOUR church. Again, the crackpot theology of Boniface is “extended and stretched” to Vatican 1 when the Pope self-appointed himself infallible in 1870. Should anyone not believe it, we read that all hope for salvation is lost. Hence, you cannot distance yourself from this miserable addition to the gospel and must make up your mind whether to believe it or not. Based on Paul’s condemnation of that very same trick the Judaizers were trying to play with the requirement of circumcision, you would be a fool to think papal subordination is necessary for salvation.

            AK: As you said a few topics ago, where are your defenders? Crickets.

            BB: You act as if I’m the only non-catholic who ever lived, so your cricket theory is chewed up by your grasshopper assumptions.

        2. Barry:

          God’s word has the power to defeat all your convoluted attempts to turn the gospel into a works-salvation nightmare. For that is exactly what it is, whether you believe it or not.

          “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:24 (RSVCE)

          Question 1: Is St. James saying that Justification is by works or not?
          Question 2: If he is, is he saying that that justification is before men, or before God?
          Question 3: If before God, are those works a natural result of Faith or something that you need to *add* to faith?

          1. AF: [Answer me these 3 questions]

            BB: I normally do not evade any question, but in this case, I think I will. At 4:47 you say that, “I can’t pretend to believe in Sola Scriptura”.
            Well OK. So why then should I waste my time arguing from the Text since you have a preconceived mindset to reject anything I say before the ink is even out of my pen? Catholicism rigs the outcome in advance by claiming that since Christ said yada yada yada in Matt 16, “we take that to mean he has appointed the RCC to be his mouthpiece on earth and so everything we say must be true”. And is this not why, as you say at 3:30, “I think Catholic/Protestant discussions get bogged down in needless, fruitless polemics”? I take “needless and fruitless polemics” to refer to the fact that discussing Scripture with your opponents is a fruitless task since you supposedly have nothing else to learn and will always be right no matter what”.

        3. Barry:
          I normally do not evade any question, but in this case, I think I will. At 4:47 you say that, “I can’t pretend to believe in Sola Scriptura”.
          Well OK. So why then should I waste my time arguing from the Text since you have a preconceived mindset to reject anything I say before the ink is even out of my pen?

          Me:
          Well, mainly because the questions were about justification, not sola scriptura. And I was asking about your interpretation of scripture from a standpoint of reason. You don’t have to answer the questions though if you don’t want to.

          Also, you are on a Catholic page called “Shameless Popery”. Shouldn’t you know coming in that a great majority of the readers and commentators are going to be 110% committed Catholics? I would expect if I commented on Pulpit and Pen that most there would reject everything I have to say out of hand because I’m Catholic and that’s a strongly protestant publication.

          1. AF: [You should answer me because] the questions were about justification, not sola scriptura. And I was asking about your interpretation of scripture from a standpoint of reason.

            BB: I ALWAYS try to be reasonable, despite no one believing me. Nevertheless, I could easily get into a discussion about justification, but I think we ought to give the moderator the respect to constrain ourselves to stay on topic. I go off on tangents as much as the next person, but I’m trying to show that I can remain focused. Do not think, however, that I just don’t have anything to say about justification. The RC view of justification is the very essence of my angst against that church.

            AF: Also, you are on a Catholic page called “Shameless Popery”. Shouldn’t you know coming in that a great majority of the readers and commentators are going to be 110% committed Catholics?

            BB: I am very well aware of entering into the fiery furnace, but in case you didn’t notice, I can take the heat.

          2. “…despite no one believing me.”

            I can’t believe even a yokel like you would leave yourself open like that.

            I’ve thought about this a lot, BB…your new Shameless Popery name is ……”Flounder.”

    3. Barry,

      It’s almost as if you decide what you want to talk about first (usually some half-informed rant against the papacy) and then will twist whatever I’ve written to segue into your preferred subject, usually without really addressing the actual topic in any meaningful way. So here, you’ve spit up some anti-Unam Sanctam nonsense on a post having literally nothing to do with the papacy. What’s your end goal, here? Is anyone better informed for having read your “contribution”? Are you learning anything from any of this? Or are you just bored and passing the time?

  5. Joe, your “shortcut” analogy is something I have been mulling for a long time – you turned the jello into concrete for me. Thank you once again.

  6. Hm. So I think my biggest concern here goes back to your first sentence:

    A common complaint against Catholicism is that its view of the spiritual life is too difficult, that it over-complicates Christianity and doesn’t trust enough in the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

    Most of your post seems to argue – successfully, I think – that it’s acceptable for Christianity to be in some sense hard. And I think that’s true, as far as it goes; Christianity is difficult. There’s a reason Paul says that if Christ is not raised, we are above all men to be pitied.

    But I think there are two important caveats there.

    One is that neither hardness nor easiness inherently indicates that one understanding of salvation or the other is correct. Suppose we took Catholicism and appended the Judaizer’s rules: everything Catholicism understands to be required, plus all the old covenant requirements, circumcision, etc. That would clearly be harder and more complicated than either of our faiths – and it seems to me that a “Catholic Judaizer” could repeat, more-or-less verbatim, everything argument you make here except for parts of #4.

    Again, that doesn’t make your statements untrue – it just means they can’t be used to establish any particular level of difficulty as the right one. The easier path can always argue the harder one is overcomplicating things; the harder path can always argue the easier one is taking impermissible shortcuts. These are true regardless of which path is actually correct.

    Is that something we can agree on?

    Because it segues into my second caveat – that I’m not sure your Protestant interlocutor is expressing himself very well when he says only that Catholicism is “too difficult.” Again, “too difficult” in the abstract is a meaningless charge. I think the clearer critique (and the one I’d expect to hear from a reasonable Protestant) is that the Catholic understanding of what’s required for salvation is more difficult than what’s described by Scripture.

    There are obviously theological conversations we can have from that point; I’d be glad to look at some of the specific stuff you reference in #4. I think at that point we might also argue a bit with your depiction of Protestantism on this matter – your post seems to conflate the Protestant objection with a belief in the persistence of salvation, which isn’t fair to my non-Reformed brothers, and even those of us on the Calvinist side of things would object pretty strongly to a “said some words, now I’m done” view of salvation. But at that point I’m setting aside the vast majority of your post; I’d just like to make sure caveat #1 is agreeable before pushing on.

    1. Caveat #1 is the primary reason why I think Catholic/Protestant discussions get bogged down in needless, fruitless polemics. I’m fully on board with limiting the discussion to the “what” of what the Scriptures, Church Fathers, and Holy Church in the past has said regarding salvation. (of course you may protest that I include also the Church Fathers and the Holy Church of the past, unless you’re a Sola Scriptura 1 protestant rather than a Solo Scriptura protestant)

      1. Hi Alexander,

        I have no objection to including the fathers, as long as we’re willing to acknowledge that, unlike the Scriptures, they’re fallible men who contradict each other and make mistakes. Ditto the various things churches have taught over the years – as long as the argument isn’t “The Catholic Church is axiomatically right, and so the discussion is over before it begins,” I have no objection to including them in the conversation.

        1. …as long as we’re willing to acknowledge that, unlike the Scriptures, they’re fallible men who contradict each other and make mistakes.

          I’m a Roman Catholic. I can’t do that. We believe that we have to agree with the consensus of the Church Fathers. We can at least agree that they are “an authority”, despite not agreeing with regard to their fallibility/infallibility?

          Ditto the various things churches have taught over the years – as long as the argument isn’t “The Catholic Church is axiomatically right, and so the discussion is over before it begins,”

          Again, as a Roman Catholic, I can’t just deny my church’s actual teaching. I can agree to leave that common argument out though.

          I can understand not wanting the discussion to just get “shut down”, but the best I can give is treating them as sources we can’t ignore, and not forcing the matter. I can’t just pretend to believe in Sola Scriptura, since I actually don’t.

          1. Yeah, for clarity, I’m not asking you to deny your denomination’s teachings – just that I not be asked to pre-concede them. “The things taught by churches, and by the early fathers, are useful and important to consider in our understanding of Scripture, and we shouldn’t arrive at a conclusion in a vacuum” – sure, absolutely; I’m not a “you and your Bible under a tree” guy.

          1. Hi Alexander,

            Sorry for the slow reply!

            Hm. Thinking about it, I’d start a step back from specific passages. We’re discussing whether the Catholic understanding of salvation is too difficult (or the Protestant view too easy!), and it seems like those require us to open by clearly defining what it is we’re comparing. So it seems like the question before us is, “What must a man do to be saved?” I can offer a defense of a (fairly Reformed) Protestant understanding of the answer to that question from Scripture; I would be interested in hearing its Catholic counterpart, and then maybe we can have a better sense of which verses are crucial to our respective positions. Sound reasonable?

            So my answer here is pretty straightforward: at a minimum, salvation requires a recognition of Jesus Christ as the one true God of the universe, a belief that he died and was raised from the dead by God as a foreshadowing of the resurrection he offers to us, and a sincere, heart-deep commitment to turn from your own evil behavior and submit all aspects of your life to his instruction. There’s also a necessary willingness to make this declaration in some sense public, though “public” is a pretty fuzzy category – it doesn’t necessitate hurling yourself at the nearest Roman guard, but it does seem to exclude a faith so private that you’ll never admit to it.

            Given time, I’d probably play with that definition a bit, but I think it approximates the mark. I do think it’s an important part of that definition that there’s a “and nothing else” component to it – that, in other words, the belief that Christ and Krishna together will save you is likely not salvific.

            Let me argue for what I’ve got so far: I think something of this form fits best with the answers the apostles give when asked this question. Most obviously, it parallels Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” I’m trying to make explicit a couple of things implicit in Paul’s statement – to believe that God raised Christ, you must believe that there is a singular God, for instance – but I think the core elements of the willingness to publicly commit (the declaration), the submission of the will and the divinity of Christ (“Jesus is Lord”), and the belief in his resurrection are all present here. I think it also fits roughly with the structure of Acts 16:30-31: “He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.'” (That one’s a little more implicit; we have to assume something about what the jailer knows re: who Jesus is, his resurrection, etc., though again we see belief and lordship inextricably linked. A willingness to “declare” isn’t mentioned explicitly here, but a form of declaration, via baptism, does follow immediately after.)

            (I should be clear here that I don’t think baptism is necessary to salvation, though I do think it’s necessary to obedience – but I think some willingness to declare for Christ is required by, say, Matthew 10:33.)

            Or, again, Acts 2:37-38: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.'” Repentance requires a turning from something to something else – and the “something else” is pretty clearly implied by “the name of Jesus Christ.”

            So that’s a pretty minimalist definition, but the New Testament conversions we see seem to only require a pretty limited understanding. And I think the certainty of several of these declarations bears emphasizing: not “You may be saved,” or, “You will begin the road to salvation,” but, “You shall be saved.” The opening command suffices for a guarantee. I think we also see that kind of certainty in, say, Ephesians 2:4-6: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” emphasis mine. We are already raised; we are already saved; our future reign is so certain that we can be said already to be seated with Christ.

            But I imagine it’s no shock that the core of my argument is in Romans. And what seems unavoidable to me in Romans is, first, that our salvation is secure; and second, in particular, that our own sin cannot keep us from salvation. There, we find it defined that our “righteousness is by faith from first to last” (1:17), that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (3:24), that “we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (3:28). To do better than quote isolated fragments, it seems to be Paul’s thesis throughout much of the book that our works play no role in our salvation – that we, like Abraham, are credited righteousness purely for our belief (4:3), that we are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them (4:8), that our justification before God is a past and completed thing (5:9), that all those who have died with Christ will necessarily rise with him (6:5). This isn’t just one verse in isolation – it is an argument stretching across multiple chapters that the nature of our salvation is like a gift given to one who does not work (4:5). We are promised that, for those of us in Christ, there exists no condemnation (8:1) – that, indeed, the Son himself is our attorney in the courtroom of heaven, defending us before the very God who has already declared us justified (8:33-34), and that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Christ (8:39).

            I’m fighting the urge here to go full predestination in my argument, and I’m not sure I’m succeeding particularly well – so let me stop there. I’d just note in closing that by no means is the result a “fire and forget” faith of the sort Joe describes above. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone – but it does not remain alone. In Paul’s words, we are “slaves to righteousness” (6:18) – to be genuinely in Christ is to be in a state that must by its very nature produce good works, and to fail to produce good works is evidence against being in that state in the first place. Thus James: a faith which does not naturally produce works is no faith at all. But we insist on these works as effect and not cause; a healthy apple tree will necessarily produce apples, but the apples are the result of health and not the cause. (Or, if you prefer: a piece of uranium will naturally produce radiation, but it is not “producing radiation” that causes a thing to be uranium.)

            Okay, let me stop there, before I tilt at too many windmills; I’m not sure how much of what I’ve said will be applicable to your response, but I hope it gives some framework for my position.

        2. Irked, thanks for the response! Your response is rather long, so I’ll summarize my points. From what I read, it sounds like you hold to a fairly standard reformed understanding and use fairly standard scripture verses to support your stance (which is expected). I was hoping to narrow it down to a verse or two to discuss, but since you were hoping for more of an overview, I’ll oblige.

          I won’t go on a full gospel presentation, because I’m not adept at such a task, and to do such a presentation justice will require a great amount of time and post length, which would be too tedious for an online comment section. I will however give 1. an overview with scripture, 2. a summation, and 3. a list of perceived differences between a reformed baptist understanding and the Catholic understanding. Also keep in mind that I am more of a technical person rather than a storyteller, so this will be perhaps a little dry, a bare list of requirements. For further warning…I actually like the book of Leviticus.

          This list of what is necessary for man to be saved according to the Roman Catholic Church will be my take, this isn’t directly from the catechism.

          Overview with Scripture

          1. Believe. Salvation is by faith. (John 1:1-14)
          2. Willingly accept Christ’s free gift of salvation by being Baptitised (or if you can’t, at least embracing the truth of Christ). The effects of Christ’s redemption are poured out sacramentally, and baptism cannot be substituted for something else if it is possible to be baptised with water. Baptism is necessary for salvation. (John 3:3-5, 1 Peter 3:21)
          3. Receive Holy Communion, Christ’s true flesh and blood, if it is possible for you to do so. (John 6:54)
          4. Obey all of Christ’s teachings and the teaching authority He gave to the Holy Catholic Church. (John 15:1-17, Matthew 16:17-19)
          5. If 4 is wanting in any grave matter, receive Christ’s forgiveness in the sacrament of confession. (John 20:21-23, 1 John 1:9)

          There are also 4 other sacraments: marriage, confirmation, ordination, and extreme unction which may be considered “supporting sacraments”. These are necessary for people’s salvation like the others, but are less directly associated with the individual’s requirements for the forgiveness of sins, so I’ve omitted the scriptures supporting these four.

          Summary

          1. Believe and accept Jesus Christ as God and Savior
          2. If possible, be willingly Baptised
          3. If possible, receive the true Body and Blood of Christ
          4. Obey the teachings of Christ & the Church
          5. If 4 is wanting, go to confession

          Differences with reformed baptists on each point

          1. We require belief in the whole creed of the Catholic faith rather than a smaller set of vital beliefs, and the rule of faith is Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, rather than Scripture alone.
          2. We believe baptism is truly necessary for salvation rather than a witness of faith only, and it is the means of salvation rather than faith directly or a different form of consecration of one’s life to Christ.
          3. We believe that Holy Communion really becomes Christ’s flesh and blood, and that it is both necessary to believe this, and necessary to receive Christ if possible rather than treating holy communion as a symbol. We also teach that Holy Communion is truly offered as a continuation of the sacrifice of Christ. This is crucial to Catholic life, since the Eucharist is the primary form of Catholic worship (although we also worship with song and public proclamation of Scripture)
          4. We believe that works are something that while flowing naturally from faith, are truly added to faith rather than being an automatic result of true faith. We also have some difference on the content of Christ’s teachings, most significantly in the obligation to obey authority of the Catholic Church. We also believe that works actually have a salvific effect once one is in a state of grace. That one can truly “grow” in Justification.
          5. We believe that salvation can be truly lost (Galatians 5:4), and can be restored via confession to a priest, thus reconciling not only with Christ, but also the Church. In contrast to the doctrine of eternal security which states that the promise of salvation is given to future glorification without possibility of loss, despite any temporary lapse in a state of grace with God.

          We also have four more rites that are considered sacraments, which expose some more important differences, but I’m focusing primarily on the Gospel: the requirements that an individual man needs to follow to be saved.

          I would go into discussion of the evidence or points of interpretation, but there is way more here that can be dealt with in one session — which is why the Church traditionally has a somewhat long Catechumenate stage when compared to protestant new member classes — there’s simply “more” to Catholicism than can be covered in even a few weeks. It may be asked as to why many of the early converts didn’t have to go through this, but this is because many of them were Jewish, and already had most of the necessary background to understand Christ’s teaching. The gentiles, as evidenced by the preaching of St. Paul, were given more instruction.

          1. Hi Alexander,

            Irked, thanks for the response! Your response is rather long, so I’ll summarize my points. From what I read, it sounds like you hold to a fairly standard reformed understanding and use fairly standard scripture verses to support your stance (which is expected).

            I surely hope so, anyway – it’s not my intent to blaze new ground here.

            I was hoping to narrow it down to a verse or two to discuss

            I’d actually really prefer that as well; there’s a risk of trying to do too much and consequently doing nothing. It seemed like the thing to do to lay some groundwork for what the disagreement actually is first, though – again, one of my critiques of Joe’s post is that it doesn’t seem to me to represent Protestant doctrine so much as it does “what confused Protestants in the pews think.”.

            And, well, once I start running at the mouth (or keyboard), I have a hard time stopping.

            Also keep in mind that I am more of a technical person rather than a storyteller, so this will be perhaps a little dry, a bare list of requirements.

            I appreciate technical writing. Fire away.

            3. Receive Holy Communion, Christ’s true flesh and blood, if it is possible for you to do so. (John 6:54)
            4. Obey all of Christ’s teachings and the teaching authority He gave to the Holy Catholic Church. (John 15:1-17, Matthew 16:17-19)
            5. If 4 is wanting in any grave matter, receive Christ’s forgiveness in the sacrament of confession. (John 20:21-23, 1 John 1:9)

            These in particular being the points we’d disagree on, then, and the positions I was trying to hedge against in my statement. (As you say, we disagree on #1 and #2 as well, but it seems like our “What is required going forward?” disagreement dominates our “What is required initially?” one, at the moment.)

            I appreciate (and admire) your greater terseness, here. Now that we’ve both laid out our starting positions, is there a verse or two you would be particularly interested in zooming in on? Maybe we could each identify one or two passages from the lengthier corpuses we’ve laid out. (For instance, I’d be very interested in exploring how you understand Paul’s argument in the first part of Romans 4.)

        3. If you were hoping for a bit more of a summarization of the basic gospel message (that is, the story of the Gospel), I’d be happy to oblige too. It would consist of a commentary on the Creed of the Apostles (or Nicene creed, if you prefer), as the creed summarizes quite nicely the gospel in this sense (which is why we also recite it at mass).

        4. For instance, I’d be very interested in exploring how you understand Paul’s argument in the first part of Romans 4.

          Hi Irked, sorry for the long delay — I had escaped the hurricane, and didn’t have access to my books (I live in FL — everything was fine though).

          I’ll try to keep this brief since there are already a ton of comments on this post. I’m not sure how far you want me to go into Romans 4, since the Bible I’m using isn’t seperated into paragraphs, so I’ll cover Romans 4 until verse 14.

          I will be using the Douay-Rheims bible as my translation of choice. This will be my personal (imperfect) commentary, relying on St. Thomas Aquinas’s excellent commentary on Romans as some inspiration and check (I highly recommend his insights, as they are superior to mine): https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/romans/st-thomas-aquinas-on-romans/chapter-1/chapter-2/chapter-3/chapter-4

          1 What shall we say then that Abraham hath found, who is our father according to the flesh.
          2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.

          At the start is important to have a clear definition of what St. Paul here has in mind by “justification by works”. By works, he has cheifly in mind the works of the old testament law as “works”. Yet not only this, but also those works which the Gentiles may do as having the Natural Law (Romans 2:14-16). Thus the agent here is the person, particularly his human nature which is doing the work. So then, when St. Paul says “justification by works” we should consider it to mean justification by the works of human nature, or of the revealed law of the old testament. Here St. Paul points out that were Abraham justified by works in this sense, he would have no Glory before God, because each thing that Abraham would have been doing would have been according to his human nature, thus not praiseworthy before God, because it would be simply natural to him. Wherefore God shows no apparent special praise to the animals, other than to call them “good”. But rather God calls us to the Theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, which is not created in the soul by works, but by the grace of God alone.

          3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.

          Here St. Paul explains the contrary, which is that Abraham was made just by faith. It is important to understand what St. Paul means here. Not that God *made* Abraham just by means of repairing his human nature as adam was before the fall, but rather *Reputed* to him as justice (Romans 4:17). But it is not only reputed to him *as* justice, but also *unto* justice. So here, when God calls Abraham just by means of imputing that righteousness that was not his, on account of Abraham’s faith. Abraham thus becomes truly just, just as on the first day of creation God said “Let there be light” and there was light. So also, whatsoever God declares to be so, becomes so. Thus when God declared Abraham just, justice also then began to reign in him also. That justice not being his own justice, but rather the justice declared upon him, and by that declaration endowed upon him. (see Summa Theologica Question 113, article 2: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2113.htm#article2) Thus St. Paul, when he teaches that justice is imputed to Abraham, he is by no means restricting that justice is also infused, as elsewhere he states explicitly (Romans 5:5). And if the Charity of God is poured within our hearts, then indeed God is just by means of the condign merit of Christ to give an eternal reward greater than the works of a Christian. (Romans 8:18)

          4 Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt.
          5 But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.

          So then, justification if it be merited strictly, would be a wage, but justification is rather a grace. (Romans 6:23) Therefore, justification is not merited strictly by men, neither could it, for Faith, Hope, and Charity are above us. Also this justification, by no means are works required to atain to it, by means of pennances and prayers and suplications, but only faith, the sacrament of Baptism, and consent of the will (Romans 6:4-7). And this faith raising up to God not yet perfected, else there would be goodness in man to boast. But on the contrary, with imperfect faith God justifies the ungodly, not by any merit at all, but by Grace. (Council of Trent Decree on Justification Ch. VIII “…but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.”)

          6 As David also termeth the blessedness of a man, to whom God reputeth justice without works:
          7 Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
          8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.

          Anyone who receives this justification, all of his past sins committed will not be imputed to him by any means, but forgiven. Not so with future sin, for this justice before God is predicated that we walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4) But for the man who walks in the way of God by the power of God, not by his mere human nature, his sins are truly forgiven, and he will not endure damnation. For the justification which we recieve by faith and works, is the justification which is reputed and infused in us by faith, and worked out by the power of God alone in works. Works done not by the flesh, but by the power of God. Neither are those works merely given without our volition, for St. Paul exhorts us to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

          9 This blessedness then, doth it remain in the circumcision only, or in the uncircumcision also? For we say that unto Abraham faith was reputed to justice.
          10 How then was it reputed? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
          11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the justice of the faith, which he had, being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, being uncircumcised, that unto them also it may be reputed to justice:
          12 And might be the father of circumcision; not to them only, that are of the circumcision, but to them also that follow the steps of the faithful, that is in the uncircumcision of our father Abraham.

          So then salvation is for the gentiles as well as the Jews, for Abraham was justified by faith before his circumcision as the father of faith to both. Neither was Abraham’s faith without having been worked out, for he left Ur and everyhting that he knew in order to follow God to a mysterious land. This symbolizes the renunciation of Satan and the world we make in our baptism and step forward before God in true faith to be justified by that faith, according to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).

          13 For not through the law was the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world; but through the justice of faith.
          14 For if they who are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, the promise is made of no effect.

          Here once again St. Paul emphasises his point that if justice were by the law of the Old Testament, the promise of Christ is superfluous. On the contrary, we have justice before God by faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, and not by the legal observances of the Old Law.

          I think the key to these passages are in Romans 2, 6, and 8 primarily, as they give necessary background to St. Paul’s arguments here in Romans 4-5.

          1. Hi Alexander!

            Hi Irked, sorry for the long delay — I had escaped the hurricane, and didn’t have access to my books (I live in FL — everything was fine though).

            Yikes! No worries – glad you and yours are all okay.

            I will be using the Douay-Rheims bible as my translation of choice.

            So, maybe not shockingly, I’d have some objection to using the DR as our foundation here – with all respect to Jerome’s best efforts, I don’t think a translation of a translation gets us closest to the original meaning of the text. I think that leads to some places where the DR differs from virtually every major translation that was working from the original Greek, and it seems like we should prefer such readings. More on this going forward.

            At the start is important to have a clear definition of what St. Paul here has in mind by “justification by works”. By works, he has cheifly in mind the works of the old testament law as “works”.

            Yes, I agree. Paul’s use of “the law” would be clearly understood by his audience as a reference to the Torah, i.e., “The Law.”

            Yet not only this, but also those works which the Gentiles may do as having the Natural Law (Romans 2:14-16).

            I’m not sure these are separate categories to Paul – his argument in Romans 2 seems to be that many of the things God has written explicitly in the Torah He has also written implicitly in the hearts of men – that is, that men know by nature many of these same things in the written law (do not steal, do not murder, etc.).

            Here St. Paul points out that were Abraham justified by works in this sense, he would have no Glory before God, because each thing that Abraham would have been doing would have been according to his human nature, thus not praiseworthy before God, because it would be simply natural to him.

            Hm. That seems to me a bit to major in the minors of Paul’s argument. Abraham could not have boasted before God – but the primary point is that he could have boasted in general. Thus, the argument here is a continuation of that in 3:27: “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.” This section is then a demonstration that 3:27 has always been true: if Abraham had been justified by his actions, he could have boasted – but he was not; his boasting is excluded.

            Not that God *made* Abraham just by means of repairing his human nature as adam was before the fall, but rather *Reputed* to him as justice (Romans 4:17). But it is not only reputed to him *as* justice, but also *unto* justice. So here, when God calls Abraham just by means of imputing that righteousness that was not his, on account of Abraham’s faith. Abraham thus becomes truly just

            One quibble here, which may or may not matter: the DR is effectively unique in its rendering of this word as “justice,” rather than “righteousness.” Beyond that, I think I would agree with the argument: Abraham, by his faith and by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, becomes truly righteous himself – without that implying that he is now sinless in his tendencies.

            And if the Charity of God is poured within our hearts, then indeed God is just by means of the condign merit of Christ to give an eternal reward greater than the works of a Christian. (Romans 8:18)

            Surely the argument is not that God grants merit greater than the works of a Christian, but that he grants merit apart from the works of a Christian – just as he granted it to Abraham apart from his circumcision? After all, we’re headed directly into v. 4-5:

            4 Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt.
            5 But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.

            So then, justification if it be merited strictly, would be a wage, but justification is rather a grace. (Romans 6:23) Therefore, justification is not merited strictly by men, neither could it

            So, following that thought: this seems to me to miss the flow of Paul’s argument. He might have said, “To the one not working sufficiently, justification is a grace.” He does not; he says righteousness is a gift to the one “who does not work.” That to me seems rather core to our disagreement; I understand that Catholics do not believe our works suffice for our righteousness, but Paul here seems to say that our justification is determined as though we did not work at all!

            Your argument overall seems to distinguish between the means by which we gain initial justification and the means by which we retain justification; where does that distinction appear in Paul’s discussion of justification?

            8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin.

            Anyone who receives this justification, all of his past sins committed will not be imputed to him by any means, but forgiven.

            Here I think I must take exception to the DR, because the rendering of this verse is pretty essential. Virtually every other translation renders this some variation of “will not count his sin,” rather than a variation on “has not counted his sin” – and the other readings seem to make it far less defensible to argue that Paul has in mind only sins committed prior to salvation.

            Or, putting that differently, it seems like this reading would cause Paul to be speaking only of our initial justification. But Paul does not restrict his argument in this way. For just one example, without straying too far afield, 4:24 speaks of this imputation as something that persists past salvation (i.e., God “will credit righteousness” to us in this way, rather than just saying God has credited righteousness).

            Not so with future sin, for this justice before God is predicated that we walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

            So that would seem to me to lay 8:1-4 as a counterpoint to 4:8 – and yet it seems to me that the most natural reading is that ch. 8 continues the statement of ch. 4. So 4:8 says that God will not count our sin against us; 8:1 echoes that there is now no condemnation for us. Those thoughts are a matched pair: there is no condemnation because our sin is not counted against us. These are not conditionals: you are free from the law of sin and death, we are those who live according to the Spirit, etc. I don’t see a way here to argue that future sins are counted against us. (Indeed, the end of ch.7 is Paul’s lament that, even though he lives in the Spirit, he continues to act according to his body of death; it’s in the context of decrying his own continuing wayward actions, and celebrating Christ’s delivering him anyway, that he says there is no condemnation.)

            For the justification which we recieve by faith and works

            Where does Paul speak of a justification by both faith and works? That would seem rather contrary to every discussion of it up through ch. 4, i.e., “the righteousness that is by faith from first to last” in 1:17, a justification “by faith apart from the works of the law” in 3:27. As I said above, it seems like your reading would necessitate two different kinds of justification – one by faith alone, the other by mixed faith and works. Where is this other kind discussed?

        5. There’s already too many comments on this post, so I’ll only take a few comments.

          I’m not sure these are separate categories to Paul

          Not seeking to draw a distinction, but rather mend a common distinction to show that the two kinds of works commonly distinguished are one category: Works that are done by human nature alone (by the law or simple nature itself), as compared with works that are done by the Actual Grace of God.

          This section is then a demonstration that 3:27 has always been true: if Abraham had been justified by his actions, he could have boasted – but he was not; his boasting is excluded.

          Not actions in general, only actions that are merely natural. There are also Supernatural good works which have no opportunity of boasting. Once a Christian is doing good works by the Justice of God within him, these works have condign merit with Christ, but not a principle of boasting (1 Corinthians 4:7). Therefore I reject your conclusion that St. Paul is teaching Justification by faith alone here. My alternative interpretation is thus: “Abraham’s boasting is excluded, because justification was not possible to receive on the basis of natural works, but required supernatural Grace.” Thus, I draw not a distinction between Law and Gospel, as Luther does, but rather Nature and Grace, Secular and Sacred, etc. The solution to this “nature problem” (as our human nature is wounded), is to declare it just, and by so doing making it become interiorly just. The Justice here isn’t “extra nos”, outside of ourselves, as Luther taught, but within us. Since the root of Justice is objective, and within us, we need to maintain it by God’s grace. In so doing there is not boasting, for both the gift (Sanctifying grace) and the maintenance of that gift (Actual Grace) are both graces. I think the problem here is that you are trying to read “works” as “all actions period, end of discussion, including works done by God’s grace”. I differ there.

          As I said above, it seems like your reading would necessitate two different kinds of justification – one by faith alone, the other by mixed faith and works. Where is this other kind discussed?

          You misunderstood my assertion. I only have one kind of justification in mind: Justification by Faith and Works. Justification is a process begun by faith and acceptance of the sacrament of baptism, and completed with Good Works done in God. I do not consider this a root of boasting as explained above. Neither to I believe that St. Paul is teaching Justification by Faith alone at all in this passage, except in the sense that no prior works are necessary to receive the Grace of Holy Baptism. Neither do I believe that St. Paul is teaching Forensic justification in this passage, which as I explained, believe is firmly contradicted and condemned by other parts of the Epistle. It’s almost impossible to focus on one part of any of St. Paul’s epistles without referring to future and past parts of his arguments, as he is often asserting and conter-asserting with long, drawn out dialectics.

          Where I get justification by works is James 2:17-26, Romans 8:1-13, and Catholic Theology in general. This is a Catholic, non-sola-scriptura reading of scripture, so my interpretive principles are a little different. I don’t want this to turn into a discussion about James 2 and Romans 8, as I believe we’ve both already said enough and gained some insight into each other’s thinking here.

          1. Although James 2:17-26 and Romans 8:1-13 are not the only parts of scripture that I get Justification by works from, it’s kind of everywhere, especially in the Gospels.

          2. Hi Alexander,

            Definitely understand if you want to bring this to an end, but a bit of feedback.

            Not seeking to draw a distinction, but rather mend a common distinction to show that the two kinds of works commonly distinguished are one category: Works that are done by human nature alone (by the law or simple nature itself), as compared with works that are done by the Actual Grace of God.

            I had to reread this a couple of times, but I think I’m with you now; you’re arguing, under a fairly standard Catholic interpretation, that both “works conforming with the Torah” and “works conforming with natural revelation/the conscience” are “works by human nature,” as distinct from “works by grace.” If I understand past conversations correctly, Catholics distinguish that works of human nature do not participate in producing salvation, while works done by grace (though not sufficient on their own) do. That seems to fit with your statement that

            I think the problem here is that you are trying to read “works” as “all actions period, end of discussion, including works done by God’s grace”.

            Do I approximately have your meaning?

            Because again, I think my question would be: where does Paul make this kind of a distinction? Where does he suggest that, when he says that our salvation is reckoned to us as “those not working,” he means only that it is reckoned to us as those not working in a particular mode?

            (Indeed, it seems like this reading – if, again, I’m understanding you – would cut directly against Paul’s thesis here. Would not Abraham’s circumcision have been a work by Actual Grace? And yet Paul specifically excludes it from consideration in Abraham’s justification.)

            I feel like this is the root of most of our remaining differences; so, for instance, when you say this:

            Not actions in general, only actions that are merely natural.

            I understand how that works in view of the categories you’ve defined – but I do not understand where you see Paul producing those categories. It certainly sounds, reading those first four chapters, as though he has in mind all good works, of whatever source!

            I understand not wanting to expand the conversation out, and I can respect that – it’s entirely fine if we want to call things here. (I have some interest in jumping into the next thread, anyhow.) But it sounds like we’d agree that the question of whether “works” actually means only some subset of works is foundational to Romans – and I don’t think the Catholic reading is sustainable without demonstrating that it has this meaning.

            Anyway, thanks for the conversation!

        6. I think a good starting point for begining to learn a traditional Catholic reading of Romans and St. Paul in general is to pick up a classical medieval commentary on scripture such as St. Thomas’s:
          https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/romans/st-thomas-aquinas-on-romans/chapter-1/chapter-2/chapter-3/chapter-4

          This sort of more sacral reading of scripture is what Luther overturned. He made the distinction of St. Paul not about Holy vs Secular, but Law vs Gospel. Also gaining an understanding of Catholic Theology helps — i.e. Sanctifying Grace vs Actual Grace, Congruous merit vs Condign merit vs Strict merit, etc. A good place to gain some information there would be the Summa Theologica.

          And then as many Catholics recommend, reading the Church fathers is greatly helpful to get a feel for how medievals/Catholics read the scriptures.

          1. Heh. I do try to read the fathers on these points, though not as much as I should; I’ve argued some of these positions are clear among the fathers in other posts.

            Aquinas in particular, though, is nails on a chalkboard for me. His dependence on Aristotelian metaphysics just poisons the well; his basic assertions are so wrong, on such a fundamental level, that it becomes rapidly impossible to sort out the justified and unjustified claims. Cf., for instance, his arguments on motion (in the broad, “changes” sense of the word); he grounds a fair bit of theology on an explanation of “here’s how motion works,” and yet his explanation is trivially false.

        7. Anyway, thanks for the conversation!

          You’re welcome! I enjoyed engaging with you! And yes, I think you do understand my categories at least in part, though I think I’ll have a hard time showing them from St. Paul without going through the entirety of Romans verse-by-verse, probably in person where we can discuss differences in interpretation on the fly.

          Anyway, nice discussion here!

          Pax Domini

  7. Is it harder to live out Christianity when you are your own Pope, Priest and Church and determine doctrine by your own interpretation of scripture or when the RCC sets the standards?

    Not even close. RCC is much harder.

    1. CWD: Is it harder to live out Christianity when you are your own Pope, Priest and Church and determine doctrine by your own interpretation of scripture or when the RCC sets the standards?

      BB: If this statement was meant to convey that non-Catholics go around teaching that we be our own “Pope, priest and church”, then you have utterly failed to understand your opponent’s position and are ill-equipped to even participate in the discussion. Previously I wrote how Catholicism “stretches and extends” their doctrine to the point that it is biblically bankrupt. Here you make matters worse by stretching and extending your opponent’s view to the point that it is unrecognizable, and thus, you are arguing with the wind. I shouldn’t even have to say it but I guess I have to. PROTESTANTS HAVE ELDERS IN THEIR CHURCHES as Scripture teaches and are therefore not adverse to authority figures. We believe in the office of a teacher as Scripture has ordained, so we are obviously very interested in learning from those who have labored in the Word longer than we have.

      1. How about Lutheran Elders who have labored in the Word? Seventh-Day Adventist Elders? New Life Church Elders up the road from me? Mormon Apostles and their Quorum?

        C’mon Barry, which one is right? Which one of the storefronts got the Keys to the Kingdom, last week, in mom’s basement, who parstered up without a day of seminary but lots of lady-killing charisma? I am betting any and all of the above visiting here would find **you** biblically bankrupt….it would be fun to watch.

        1. C’mon AK. Which one is right? That’s a no-brainer for BB…..fortunately. The one that agrees with him, of course.

          Joe (not SP blog Joe)

          1. Hey Joe – yup, it’s a peculiar thing, this disordered theological narcissism, born in the roiling Petri dish of Second Great Awakening evangelism. I get a powerful vibe of deep personal insecurity from Flounder. Most Catholic haters (really, any kind) are just that, skating very thin icy bombast over a pond of bottomless self-loathing.

          2. AK,
            It’s an amazingly massive blind spot. The Protestant method of settling into one of the many conflicting denominations is for each believer to “test drive” them and then join the one that lines up with what THEY think the Bible says……it’s truly absurd when you think about it. The individual is seeking to learn about the faith, yet he sets himself up as THE arbiter of which one most accurately teaches the whole truth!

            And to not realize that they are using a truly arbitrary standard – their own personal interpretation of Scripture (or perhaps the interpretation of your own favorite Biiiiiible scholar, which is the same thing!) – is even more mindboggling.

            The ideal Protestant church: the one that fits me.

            Did it ever occur to any of them that the vast majority of the so-called leaders of these denominations (or non-denominations for those who REALLY follow the Bible) are:
            1. Praying to the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth
            2. genuine
            3. intelligent and well studied in the Scripture

            Yet, they teach opposing views on many doctrines. Splain that Lucy!

  8. Barry –

    Protestants have elders? So what? They have no real authority if you. If you don’t like what they say then just change churches or start your own church. Very easy to get around tat one if you’re a Protestant and disagree. In fact, the inherent hthrological relativism built into Protestantism is what keeps it alive. Why? Because I get to chose what to believe in my interpretations without any Pope, priest or Church with authority over me.

  9. Elders have no real authority over you. If they tell you scripture is X and you think it’s y, what do you do? Bound to Conform? Nope. You leave and go to another church or start your own. Very easy.

    1. Most of the little storefront charches (spelling intended) here in Colorado Springs have no Elders, just a Parster.

      And how does one become one’a them there Elders anyway? You, dude, I’m an Elder, cuz I say so? Ok, I’m a brain-damaged congregant, I believe you, until I don’t.

      Sounds like something out of a bad science fiction novel: “The Elders of Barsoom will now pronounce judgement on your sorry —….”

        1. I am sure Barry has a glowing opinion of Presbyterians. But hey, they have Eldersssss…..and anythings better’n a Pope….

          There is a point when ludicrous becomes entertainment…such is on the sidelines watching 40,000 denoms squabble and watching Barry trip on his malapropisms.

          1. I am sure Barry has a glowing opinion of Presbyterians.

            I doubt it. When I was a Presbyterian for a while, I didn’t know anyone spewing as much anti-catholic vitriol as Barry — including one congregant who was literally former opus dei, and loved to talk about his “dark” Catholic past.

          2. AK: [It is amusing] watching 40,000 denoms squabble

            BB: It is not even close to true that there are 40,000 separate interpretations of the Bible. You only keep showing how utterly ignorant you are by misrepresenting your opponent’s view.
            Apparently you didn’t get the memo from the “National Catholic Reporter” to “kindly shut up”

            http://www.ncregister.com/blog/scottericalt/we-need-to-stop-saying-that-there-are-33000-protestant-denominations

          3. Hey Flounder, here’s one you’ll like; the 40,000 number is just …a…..

            ..wait for it…

            ..A METAPHOR! Like, y’know, John 6…..

            Author disparages the use of ‘Protestant.’ OK, I can buy that. I like “Reformed.” And in that, I lump the entire poisonous stew since 1517, especially the products of the fever swamps of the so-called Second Great Awakening. Practically, there’s no difference between the products of that sad demon-haunted event, between you and the Mormons. Read on, MacDuff….

            Have your cousin Jethro read you the whole article (slowly), such as this gem:

            “The scan­dal would be no less if there were two denom­i­na­tions, and no greater if there were two mil­lion. Any divi­sion in the body of Christ is a scan­dal.”

            Bite down hard on this while we saw off your other leg. No shot of whiskey for you ’cause you’d go to hellllllll…….you are reflatulated.

        2. AF: Elders are a reformed/presbyterian thing. They are usually elected by the Pastor from what I remember.

          BB: Your ignorant comment is why I pop in to places like this. You are 110% WRONG, proving you don’t know WHAT the helicopter the Bible says.
          I have spoken about this issue before, but it simply goes in one ear and out the other, demonstrating that God is purposely withholding the truth from people like you for his own good reasons (Matt 20:25-6). So I write, not for your sakes, but for others who will do the legwork and check it out, as opposed to you blindly following your VERY blind leaders, both of whom will fall in the ditch as Jesus correctly stated.
          Now…how DARE you say that the office of an elder is a “reformed thing”?! It is absolutely infuriating to read something like this; Catholicism already makes a habit of believing a truckload of things OUTSIDE the Text; but now, when things are mentioned INSIDE the Text, they too are ditched! Honestly, I would have more respect for you if you just threw the Bible under the nearest city bus and start your own religion instead of trying to make the word of God subservient to your terrorist demands.
          As any student of the Bible will tell you, ELDERS are mentioned in Scripture, and Catholicism typical equates that office with a sacerdotal priest, the likes of which is mentioned NOWHERE in the Text. Yet, they have erroneously made an elder equivalent to a priest so they may upgrade the office of a BISHOP to be something else entirely and on a higher level. However, THE BIBLE SAYS THAT THE OFFICE OF A BISHOP AND ELDER ARE THE SAME, and you can deny it till yer blue in the face, but you will lose each and every time you foam at the mouth.
          In the one church at Philipi there was “episcopoi” (bishops, plural) …Phil 1:1. The bishop was a local official, and there were sevvvvvvvveral of these in each congregation. [NOTE: exactly as in MYYYYYY congregation] . Furthermore, the “elders” (presbyteroi) and “bishops” (episcopoi) WERE, again, THE SAME. This is shown clearly in Acts 20. In verse 17, it says that Paul called for the elders (presbyteroi) of the church at Ephesus. In verse 28, he refers to them as episcopoi –overseers, (KJV)—“guardians” (RSV), all of which are BISHOPS. The same people are designated by both titles (elder/bishop). We find this same “phenomenom” clearly indicated in the epistle to Titus.

          Thus, the uplifting of the office of the Bishop OVER an elder, as is the case in RC government, is utterly unbiblical and is to be rejected. Needless to say, it’s not surprising in view of their habit to uplift Peter and Mary to something they could never have imagined, and to UPLOAD good works to have the same salvific efficacy in the matter of salvation as the blood of Jesus Christ (CCC 16, 1821, 2016, 2068).

          1. Flounder, this screed is overused, rife with opinion (excuuuse me, individual interpretation) and and way past its expiration date. Let’s see what those who learned at the feet of the Apostles and were given the job of ensuring ecclesiastical and doctrinal continuity, had to say about Church hierarchical organization (for, as you say, others benefit – you are looong gone):

            CLEMENT of ROME

            “Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry” (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).

            IGNATIUS of ANTIOCH

            “Now, therefore, it has been my privilege to see you in the person of your God-inspired bishop, Damas; and in the persons of your worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius; and my fellow-servant, the deacon, Zotion. What a delight is his company! For he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ” (Letter to the Magnesians 2 [A.D. 110]).

            “Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest” (ibid., 6:1).

            There’s more, but the rest of us get the idea. Off to a lovely Church community festival this fine afternoon.

          2. Your ignorant comment is why I pop in to places like this.

            Are, or are not Elders elected in Reformed/Presbyterian churches? If they are, my comment wasn’t ignorant.

            The rest of your commentary was useless babbling that that system of church government was the only biblical form of governance, as if the scriptures somehow interpreted themselves. I find the church fathers altogether sufficient to refute you. Particularly the good quotes St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Clement I that AK just posted.

            …and to UPLOAD good works to have the same salvific efficacy in the matter of salvation as the blood of Jesus Christ…

            You said you didn’t want to talk about justification. If that’s true, stop bringing it up. If that’s false, please answer my questions.

          3. Alexander – thank you for the kind comment. As a former Protestant, you bring credibility to this “discourse” I cannot.

            I also hail awlms brilliant Newman-esque pastiche on Revelation.

          4. AK: this screed is overused, rife with opinion

            BB: You failed to refute it..and that’s because you can’t. It was all based on FACT by the way, facts you cannot dispute, so the only other option was to say I am merely giving my opinion. I wonder if you are on medication as I’m sorry to see you have now reverted to downright lying.

            I won’t even read what you submitted as it’s clear you could not care LESS about what the Bible has to say about biblical protocol when it comes to church government. All you care about is your precious church fathers who you put ABOVE the word of God, and you therefore are to be condemned.

          5. Also, I was a presbyterian. Don’t go on with that whole “God has blinded you” claptrap. I literally used to be a committed reformed protestant and left. I intentionally left calvinism and adopted Catholicism, knowing full well all of the sort of biblical arguments you’re repeating here.

            I understand them, and reject them.

    2. Lenin quote: “When the last capitalist is hanged, he will have sold us the rope with which the deed will be done.”

      Flounder (Barry) will be wind-twisting on his increasingly desperate Jimmy White-supplied references…and the hate that blinds what little intellect he may possess.

  10. “Do Catholics Make Christianity Too Difficult?”

    Maybe we should analyze it this way….”Is it difficult to manage or grow an empire here on Earth?” And, we should look at it this way, because that is the model/typology that the Book of Revelation taught the Church would eventually be… so as to accomplish Christ’s saying:

    “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”

    Note that Jesus uses the plural ‘Ye’, above, signifying that it is ‘you all’ as a corporate body…a unified body… that will teach all nations until the end of the world. It this sense Christ notes both expanse of mission territory…ie. all nations preached to…and a great length of time necessary…. until the ‘consummation of the world’. And would not a great deal of organization be required to carry out this command of Jesus? Would there not be necessary a system, and means of communication, for all future missionaries and apostolic successors as they expand to each of the most distant nations?

    Again, the Book of Revelation teaches this model, when it says:

    “…John to the seven churches which are in Asia. Grace be unto you and peace from him that is, and that was, and that is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne, And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us a KINGDOM, and PRIESTS to God and his Father, to him be glory and EMPIRE for ever and ever. Amen.”

    Note, that everything above revolves around the metaphors “prince of the kings of the earth” and “made us a kingdom”, and then ‘glory and empire forever’.

    So, is creating a ‘universal kingdom of priests’, as the saying relates above, not a ‘sophisticated’ type of government? Does it not take order and rule to manage all of the different elements for all of the inhabitants of the kingdom, and which is mean’t to last until the end of the world (…and then continue in Heaven forever)?

    The way I see it, is that the Catholic Church is both a fulfillment, and a work in progress, of this simple teaching and prophesy, above, and we have 2000 years of history to prove the model. And, even though it indeed has been complicated, and difficult, at various times in it’s history, this does not mean that it isn’t still the kingdom on Earth that is described above in Revelation (1:5).

    So, it is only a normal characteristic of any kingdom, or empire, to be organized and complicated. Would if be better if Jesus taught that it would be disorganized and theologically confused, as is the current Protestant model….and which in no way resembles the typology of ‘kingdom’ or ’empire’? Rather, the Protestant model generally follows a small, or micro, organizational model, as compared to a “universal’ and ‘catholic’ worldwide ‘franchise’ model. With Protestants it’s pretty much ‘everyman and his theology for himself’; and, ‘Everyman his own theologian’. With Catholics, it’s: “We are one worldwide body of many parts. And this body is unified in doctrine, sacraments and Church governance. In theology we are not alone by ourselves, but rather we ‘crowd source’ our opinions on theology it through synods and ecumenical councils. And then we obey their conclusions to maintain worldwide unity as Jesus desired in His empire.”

    This is to say, again, that it is the Catholic Church that follows the model taught by the Book of Revelation, above; and as any empire does, we have countless physical books and manuscript proofs detailing our long history, to prove it.

    But, what do the Protestants have to prove their (rather anarchical) ecclesiastical model? Most of us here are still waiting for an answer, but don’t think we’ll get one anytime soon.

    1. AWL: Note that Jesus uses the plural ‘Ye’, above, signifying that it is ‘you all’ as a corporate body…a unified body… that will teach all nations until the end of the world. [The RCC fits this rubric].

      BB: Because there is not a hint or a whisper of the supremacy of the RCC mentioned in Holy Writ, desperate RC apologist must revert to the most flimsiest of implications to make their case. What you just said deserves the medal of honor for lunacy, which not one Bible scholar on earth would endorse. It falls into the same empty void as “He who hears you hears me” trick, which I refuted at 12:06.

      AWL: the Book of Revelation teaches this model, when it says [he] hath made us a KINGDOM, and PRIESTS to God and his Father…So, is creating a ‘universal kingdom of priests’, as the saying relates above, not a ‘sophisticated’ type of government?

      BB: The “sophisticated” type of government you are trying to sell is nothing but a hopeful monster. The Bible is filled with abundant information pertaining to priests. We would certainly expect then, that when we read about life in the New Testament church, SOMETHING ought to be mentioned relating to a Catholic priesthood if the claim is legitimate. Yet out of nowhere, Rome manipulates the Last Supper into a sacramental priesthood by brazenly asserting that right there at table, Jesus ordained the apostles as Catholic “priests”! (CCC 1337). What nerve!

      Now we need not argue about whether the term “priest” may be applied to the ministers of the gospel, for it’s true that the “priesthood of all believers” is a fact (1 Peter 2:5 & 2:9, Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6); however, the “sophisticated” type of government you imagine Jesus instituted, is built on nothing but sinking sand. We go further to examine the duties of these “priestly ministers of the gospel” and here they are: Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8, 23-6; 6:2-4; 20:28; 1 Cor 4:1-2; 12:27-31; 14:6, 26-33; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Eph 4:11-16; 1 Tim 3:1; Titus 1:5-9.
      In all of these, there is found no discourse, no word, no syllable, nor even a whisper that the ministers of the New Testament should engage in a theatrical re-presentation of the cross wherein they were to preside over the metamorphosis of bread and wine and offer the body and blood of our Savior as a propitiatory sacrifice to blot out the sins of the living and the dead!!! Moreover, the RC priest scandals have proved in a heartbeat the total failure of your celibate priesthood.

      AWL: Does it not take order and rule to manage all of the different elements for all of the inhabitants of the kingdom

      BB: Needless to say, Scripture is not silent when it comes to “order and rule”, and consequently, lists the offices of the church in 1 Cor 12:28 & Eph 4. But hark! Nowhere do we read of the office of a Pope OR a priest! The silence of of the Holy Spirit with regard to your made up offices is all the proof one needs to know they are fake.

      AWL: The way I see it, the Catholic Church is both a fulfillment, and a work in progress, of this simple teaching and prophesy, above

      BB: Oh stop it. The way ***I*** see it is that the allusions to Roman Catholicism in Revelation as that religious monstrosity that will one day arise which the Lord is none too pleased with, are VERY HARD TO IGNORE. This baby was going to be BIG, and therefore it HAD to start early to get the ball rolling. The departure of biblical protocol as it relates to church government immediately after the exit of the apostles, were the first indicators that would result in the Papacy, as well as the elevation of the bishop over an elder, and the emergence of a sacerdotal priesthood, all of which the Bible has not one word to say about.

      AWL: Would if be better if Jesus taught that it would be disorganized and theologically confused, as is the current Protestant model
      BB: It is beyond ridiculous to suppose that Catholicism gives us a theological coherent model of the Christian faith! Your main gripe here seems to be that same ol jabber about Protestant disagreements. OK, let’s nip this in the bud right now.
      Where in the world do you get the idea that Jesus contemplated that everyone would agree with one another in lock-step fashion down to the last detail? Apparently you have forgotten the principle of Romans 14:5: “Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind”. Is that an axiom that the RCC teaches it’s gullible followers? Not on your life.
      Furthermore, “disagreements” do not in the least take away from the Bible being able to function as the sole rule of faith. If my Christian brother happens to read the directions for baking a cake, and adds two eggs instead of only one according to the directions, the fault does not lie with the recipe (i.e., the Bible) but with my brother, or it could be that the Holy Spirit simply does not wish that person to come to a fuller expression of truth at that particular time (Luke 24:45), which will obviously lead to disagreement, but this God allows because he wants the better of two positions to be made manifest to all (Proverbs 18:17; 1 Cor 11:19).

      I take it you argue against the legitimacy of Protestant belief and practice by pointing out variations of belief among our denominations. However, one would think that you would first want to ensure that your OWN system was not also excluded on those same grounds. And it doesn’t matter as to the degree of difference either. One cannot, for instance, argue that the RCC is more legitimate on the basis that there is LESS disagreement within it than within other systems of belief. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Either disagreements nullify a system, as you suggest, or they do not. Otherwise, the best one can argue is that his religious system more nearly CONFORMS to a set standard of unity, but does not actually MEET that standard.
      It is also important to keep in mind that the ‘diversity of belief’ argument invented by Catholics to chastise Protestants for their disunity, is extremely hypocritical. Everyone on EARTH knows there is not complete unity within Catholicism, so who, pray tell, are you trying to kid? Examples too numerous to mention could be furnished, but I trust you get the point.

      1. Theres not a hint of Scriptural support for sola anything, which blows the rusty tramp steamer of your whole following “apologetic” out of the water.

        If you want to showcase Catholics who doubt, for example, the Real Presence, have at it. Some of our greatest saints have experienced doubt and darkness. Doubt, God expects it. Schism – defined by pride and arrogance – a fatal sin.

        1. AK: There’s not a hint of Scriptural support for sola anything

          BB: I violently disagree, and so would Jesus…who said in John 12:48 that on that final day we will be judged by his word ALONE. Thus, since the only place we may find that word is in the sacred Text, you will be up a creek without a paddle when trying to defend yourself come Judgement Day as to why you supposed all those addendums the RCC added to salvation which were OUTSIDE that word, were legitimate. And let me assure you that passing the buck by saying, “The RCC told me so” will NOT cut it.
          Indeed, you will lose that debate, and will find yourself in the very same, exact position as were those self-proclaiming Christians in Matt 7 who told him, “we did many wonderful works in thy name”. But it all fell on deaf ears. And we’re told that this will be the case with “MANY”. When he says “MANY”, he means TENS OF THOUSANDS, as the word is used elsewhere. All of these “Christians” were given the boot because they chose to lean on the merit of their good works IN CONJUNCTION WITH the merits of Christ. I stand amazed that Catholics think they are immune from falling in with the Matt 7 crowd. They are IN FACT, the very epitome of the Matt 7 crowd! Jesus Christ COULD NOT HAVE BEEN REFERRING TO PROTESTANTS because we have no desire whatsoever to lean on the merits of our good works. Logically then, he is referring primarily to Catholics (and of course every other self-proclaiming Christian such as Mormons, etc who also do many good works in his name–but then attach a deadly salvific efficacy to them).
          The moment you dismiss the “SOLA” of his merits alone to save you (as the RCC teaches), you are lost.

          1. I violently disagree, and so would Jesus…who said in John 12:48 that on that final day we will be judged by his word ALONE.

            I “violently” point out that you’re adding the word “alone”:

            King James Bible
            He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

            English Revised Version
            He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.

            Douay-Rheims Bible
            He that despiseth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

            None of the above (or any other) translation has the word “alone” in this passage. Also, the words of the apostles and prophets are in scripture, but the way you are reading this passage limits the importance to only the words of our Lord. I give you credit for FINALLY giving an argument for your peculiar version of sola scriptura, but it’s not even one of the better arguments.

            The moment you dismiss the “SOLA” of his merits alone to save you (as the RCC teaches), you are lost.

            Again, you’re trying to bring in justification, but as you’ve shown before, you don’t actually want to discuss it. Please drop it.

          2. All of these “Christians” were given the boot because they chose to lean on the merit of their good works IN CONJUNCTION WITH the merits of Christ.

            That’s a terrible butchering of this passage. Christ says “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” This means that knowing Christ and keeping free from sin are related. I.E. people who lean on the merits of Christ alone without also avoiding mortal sin (1 John 5:16-17) shall not be let into heaven, no matter how many “works” they did in Christ’s name.

            But again, you said that you didn’t want to discuss justification, so why do you keep mentioning it?

          3. Alexander,

            What about these scriptural quotes that contradict BB’s ‘word alone’ declaration? :

            — “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged”

            — “The queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold more than Solomon here.”
            [Luke 11:31]

            — “The men of Ninive shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold a greater than Jonas here.”
            [Matthew 12:41]

          4. AF: you said that you didn’t want to discuss justification, so why do you keep mentioning it?

            BB: Did I ever say I was perfect?
            In any case, yes, I will deal with some of the off-topics, but do so only because they are first brought up by others and so will give them a brief response. There is an element of pride in doing so because if I don’t respond, then you’ll think I’m a dumb bunny and have nothing to say to the matter.

            Previously, I said: All of these “Christians” were given the boot because they chose to lean on the merit of their good works IN CONJUNCTION WITH the merits of Christ.

            AF: That’s a terrible butchering of this passage. Christ says “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” This means that knowing Christ and keeping free from sin are related. I.E. people who lean on the merits of Christ alone without also avoiding mortal sin (1 John 5:16-17) shall not be let into heaven, no matter how many “works” they did in Christ’s name.

            BB: My statement does not in the LEAST butcher the passage. The only fault therein, if I do say so myself, is that I did not go far ENOUGH. I would say that your take on this verse is TOO strict, narrowing it down exclusively to self-proclaiming Christians who were secretly committing mortal sins. I challenge you to find ONE commentary who seconds the motion. Methinks you are taking this position (going back to my “Forensic Files” example at 12:43) to minimize the possibility that you and your Catholic friends could not possibly be under the same condemnation as those mentioned in Matt 7. I say that you are squarely and pinpointedly RIPE for the very same passport to hell that they were issued.

            I and a million others would utterly reject your claim that these were exclusively “secret mortal sinners” spending their lives “robbing banks” in the daytime and then going to church at night. It is simply illogical to believe that such a vast amount of people, conveyed by the word “many”, live their life out in this way. Sure there will always be the hypocrites, but this is talking about a very large amount of people, and thus it makes more sense that these were more like the 5 foolish virgins, who were behaving quite nicely, and were in all the right company (the 5 wise), but who were LOST nevertheless because they were self-deluded. Self-delusion makes the most sense for the Matt 7 troop because…

            1) They claim the name of Christ, which means we can eliminate Muslims, Buddhists, pagans, atheists etc. Therefore they must be part of a Christian denomination where there is great evidence for self-delusion in regards to the value of their good deeds.
            2) They work their works in Jesus’ name, but they still get the boot.
            3) Their charismatic activities, and prayers all in his name, fell on deaf ears.
            4) They claim a relationship with him by calling him “Lord”, but all to no avail because they were self-deluded in thinking they were Christians, but were not.

            Consequently, he sends them away by disowning their every deed and word, saying He “never” knew them to begin with and that they were “workers of iniquity” (or lawlessness). You do not necessarily have to be a “low-life” committing actual crimes to be a worker of iniquity. Lawlessness is the doing away with of God’s law. Now the Bible states over and over that we are “NOT SAVED BY WORKS (Eph 2:8,9; Titus 3:5; Rom 4:5,6; Rom 3:25-28, Rom11:6). The Matt 7 crowd categorically state that their trust in salvation clearly was divided between faith in Christ and the doing of their many wonderful works. And this is PRECISELY what Catholicism teaches (CCC 16, 1821, 2016) and especially 2068 where the demand to keep the 10 commandments (the law of Moses) is required for salvation. 2068 not only proves out of their own mouth that no Catholic cannot possibly be saved (simply because no Catholic has ever kept the 10 commandments perfectly!) but furthermore, Acts 13:39 flatly states that God has eliminated the law of Moses as the means for justification! This puts the likelihood that the vast majority of people Jesus will reject will be Catholics in particular because they are looking to keep the law of Moses! From the moment they enter the RCC, either by birth or later “conversion”, they have become LAWBREAKERS, by virtue of the fact that the RCC breaks God’s law—by requiring their members to KEEP IT for salvation on the one hand, and then REPLACING it with something else entirely on the other; namely, “the sacraments of the NEW LAW” (CCC 1129). THIS…IS…WICKED… and lawlessness to the max, and so we are not surprised to hear him call these people by those very words.

            Hence, because RC foot soldiers are taught this “grace-produced-works-salvation” from the get-go, Jesus says to them, “I never knew you”….not “I once knew you and now I don’t”, but “I NEVER knew you”.
            Essentially, if we take just one of their requirements, like “proper conduct” being necessary for salvation (CCC 16), this command puts an unnecessary burden on the person to always wonder if their “proper conduct” is ever good enough, leading them to trust in their OWN imperfect obedience, rather than in the “obedience of the One” per Romans 5:19, so that at the Judgment Seat, they can be found, “NOT having a righteousness of their own” (Phil 3:9), but a righteousness that is imputed (Romans 4:6, 11), so that he may be called, “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jer 23:6).
            Catholics DO NOT understand what it means to trust “SOLA” in the obedience of the One, nor do they understand what it means to stand at the Judgement Seat with a righteousness NOT their own, neither do they understand what it means to call the Lord, “Our Righteousness”.

            You may have the last word but I will not respond further to this issue.

          5. …I would say that your take on this verse is TOO strict, narrowing it down exclusively to self-proclaiming Christians who were secretly committing mortal sins….

            Fair enough, I also agree that this passage is about self-deluded people in some sense — I don’t narrow scripture to one interpretation only, neither do I think myself immune to self-deception. I also don’t believe that it is limited to true Christians who secretly commit mortal sins, but also those who publicly commit mortal sins. Men such as these are legion. There are many TRUE Christians who are not in a state of Grace at all.

            I do emphatically deny that this passage has anything whatsoever to do with Catholicism, and reject your idea that “I never knew you” means “you were never saved to begin with”. There are other passages such as Galatians 5:4 which demonstrate that a person can be truly saved, then fall out of a state of grace, and I don’t feel the need to belabor the point.

            ….You may have the last word but I will not respond further to this issue.

            My last word is simply this: you will be accountable on judgement day for more than just your faith. You will also be judged by how you treat others. I say this not as a judgment, but a warning to be careful how you compose yourself online, because it will be brought up on judgement day. If you believe that Catholics must repent, you got me there — I need to repent 24×7, and readily acknowledge that I am a sinner, but I don’t believe that turning back to Protestantism is the answer at all.

          6. “I and a million others would utterly reject your claim that these were exclusively “secret mortal sinners” spending their lives “robbing banks” in the daytime and then going to church at night. It is simply illogical to believe that such a vast amount of people, conveyed by the word “many”, live their life out in this way.”

            Ever hear of your Brother Jimmy Swaggart? A fella who believes the same manufactured hoo-hah as you? He just got caught….just one of many sinners, of all faiths.

            Alexander, I also note Flounder didn’t address your calling him in his additions to Scripture. A shock….

          7. ” Now the Bible states over and over that we are “NOT SAVED BY WORKS (Eph 2:8,9; Titus 3:5; Rom 4:5,6; Rom 3:25-28, Rom11:6).”

            How about the New Testament’s “final exam,” Matt 25: 31-46? Or is that just another one of those Mad Dog Pastor White “metaphors?”

            How about it, Flounder?

      2. Uncontrolled denominational breeding is what has driven out some of Reformed’s best and brightest straight across the Tiber. Please keep defending – it works well for the Papists.

        1. In the RCIA class I am teaching, young couple with kids. All are being instructed. I asked, what’s your story? Both former non-denoms. Were stationed in Belgium and were “blown away” by devout residents of their small town. Mom said, “there, we found the real, original Church and neither my kids nor I will never again have to go “church shopping.”

  11. Barry –

    Are you bound by what your elder tells you about scripture?

    Nope. It’s just your interpretation that counts, not his. As you said before, this is what Jesus said many times. Man should interpret scripture on his own.

    What a joke.

  12. Barry caught adding words to scripture? No way. I bet he uses Luther’s Bible.

    Of course, he’ll dodge and weave over his elders post having any real authority over his personal interpretations. Elders having authority over him? Please. He’s his own man.

  13. This seems like an odd complaint to make against the RCC. You need to change the location of your complaint box.

    We should not make the church to be too hard or too easy. It is the Goldilocks range. We should never make the church something that Christ did not intend. My first thought is connecting this question with the story of the rich young ruler, The high standard set by Jesus produces a cry of “who then can be saved?” from the disciples (Luke 18:18-31). Jesus’ reply to their objection with “these things are impossible for people, but with God, all things are possible.” (Yes, cwslaw223, this is my own blasphemous translation)

    1. Jesus says that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him, yet also says this yoke is easy and burden light…the power of faith, hope and love.

      1. Excellent connection to make, John.

        The love of Christ makes us believe Him when He teaches. And therein we learn things such as “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst”. When we realize this true presence of Christ, we receive great joy at the gift that Christ provides us with His presence amongst us. And, His true friendship encountered therein is what helps us in ‘carrying our crosses’ that He mentioned. As you said “it’s the power of faith hope and love’ that makes the burden light. And this is true, because the joy found in the truth that Jesus is with us, counter balances the tremendous trials that might occur in our lives. We are so happy with His presence, that we value all else much less, and so the loss of these things bothers us less, as they are not our chief treasure in life. This makes “our yoke easy and out burden light’. And it’s all tied to faith, hope and love, as you said.

  14. Joe said, in his post above: “You might be wondering where I’m going with all of this, apart from musing about reality.”

    I say, keep on posting your ‘musings on reality’ as they are intuitive, enlightening, instructive and usually spot on. Pretty much everything you write is of the highest quality spiritual material. Needless to say, thank you very much for all of it. You are continually providing the commentariat here a treasure of Christian spirituality.

          1. If the dead fish starts to swim, I’ll call the Swiss Gard or the janitor with his bucket and broom to swift him to the River.

  15. I could be a Swiss Guard…as long as I got to move to Switzerland after my tour was done.

    Barry? I was thinking more the chief of staff of the Curia. That would cause his head to explode.

    1. On the contrary. He would spend all his time in the papal ping pong room having fun and collecting his 3000 Euro’s every month..because he’s fundamentally opposed to ‘curia’s and advanced ecclesiastical organization. A better job would be papal shoe shiner….but I’ll help him if he ever gets behind in his work. 🙂

      1. Yeah, given the European model of short hours, big pay not tied to performance, you’re probably right.

        Most likely he’d be right at home with that model as a down-home ‘vangerlilercal parster.

  16. Why does the Catholic Church seem complicated?

    Because it follows the natural law and the holy Spirit which operates in the natural law. It does not operate though ‘sola scriptura’ or any of the other ‘sola’ doctrines. The church began as a tiny seed, namely Jesus Himself. And at every stage since it’s germination it followed a natural course of development. In fact, because it grew naturally, it even looks similar to institutions we find in history, and even today, such as kingdoms and corporations.

    To follow ‘sola scriptura’ and not the Holy Spirit, the Church would have needed to maintain home style Churches as was practiced in the first few decades, because scripture details this epoch in Christian history. But to limit th Church to this model would be the same as forcing a 12 year old to wear a 6 year old’s suit of clothes and pair of shoes. It’s idiocy.

    We know the Church adapted naturally, and filed with common sense which is a ggift of the Hly spirit, because they instituted the diaconate very in the very first years to solve natural problems of administration and organization, as the Church grew. And, if they did this in the beginning, is it any wonder why they continued to this very day? As long as the Holy Spirit Guides the Church there will never be any serious problems with it. As the Shepherd will be leading the flock.

  17. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus commands us: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The Catholic Church has noted this scripture. If His sacrifice were all that were needed, why would He be commanding us this? Squirm, rationalize, philosophize. Nothing refutes the word of God, although many have argued with His definition of “be” or “is,” etc.

    Please, anyone, tell me if you’ve noticed the corpus of Christ hanging upon a cross in any Protestant worship space. Do Protestant churches even have an empty cross to call to mind what God has done for us?

    Seems to me we owe God more than He owes us.

    1. Do Protestant churches even have an empty cross to call to mind what God has done for us?

      Yes, they generally do. I don’t think that’s proof of anything one way or another – plenty of false churches do the same – but yes.

      1. What is a false church? Who determines what is true and what is false? The lawyer?, the lawgiver?, the jailer?, the jailed? Let’s hear the argument!

        1. Who decides what is and is not the bride of Christ? Christ does.

          I think I’ll bow out of further discussion on that point, though; I made the argument I feel is relevant to Joe’s post above.

    2. Margo,

      The proof is on the Catholic side. The very name Catholic/Universal was to distinguish the apostolic Church from the many gnostic churches and groups that were growing alongside the authentic Church in the 1st and 2nd centuries. The Protestant concept would not distinguish between these heretical groups, hence, no need for a ‘catholic’/universal Church. Everyone would interpret the scriptures as they pleased. We might remember that most of the gnostics still followed the Catholic model as the leaders of these groups were often ordained bishops. So, they already were well aware of the scriptures, they just sought to interpret them to their own particular ideologies. And this is also what the Protestants do. So, according to them, there never should have been a ‘catholic church’ to begin with. “Everyone to their own interpretation” would be the rule.

      And this also leads to another problem. We know that St. James was the first bishop of Jerusalem. This indicates that the growth of the early Church expanded with geographical authority as a major component. that is, in no way did it expand in a Protestant way, wherein numerous churches could exist in a single city. Every early bishop (or auxiliary bishop) had its own diocese, just like happens today. Bishops did not transgress on the geographic territories of other bishops. And again, this is the present model in the Catholic Church. However, how could the Protestant model work back then? There would be multiple denominations in any particular city. Their would be doctrinal unity amongst them. All would be endless controversy. All would be confusing. Even as in Protestantism it is to this very day.

  18. You, Irked, not I, made a statement jabout a false church. I asked for a definition, argument, proof.j

    Regarding the main point of this article–Catholicism is not soft Christianity–Joe has provided a proof. I don’t see anywhere nhis article where he raises the issue of a false church. You raised the term, so the burden of anything is on you. I don’t have the foggiest notion what you mean when you use the term.j. Unless you don’t see the logic of that? In which case, sir, I hope you have a very nice day.

    1. Whoa, hang on! I wasn’t trying to imply that anyone in this conversation is a false church. My point was that “Protestants hang up crosses” doesn’t prove anything good about Protestants (and, as a corollary, that I don’t think “Protestants don’t hang up crosses” would prove anything bad about them – it’s not like we have a lot of specific commandments about church decor).

      This was not a dig!

      1. Irked,
        I did not interpret your comment as a “dig.” I asked how you defined a false church and asked for argument and proof (expansion) on that. Who suggests what Jesus did or did not command on church décor? A cross is not décor.

        A crucifix represents the instrument upon which God allowed His Son to open the gate to man’s grace and salvation. (It is a ‘key’ given to the Church which honors and re-presents it for man’s recollection.) The wood of the cross calls to mind the wood of the tree instrumental in Man’s fall in Eden). Requiring the presence of the cross and its depiction of Christ upon it, helps man to recall its meaning as a foil to man’s forgetfulness (increasing with advancing age and far proximity to the historical event). The Church has done so through its presence of the Cross in every sacred liturgies within every Catholic Church since (fact check required here). Just as the Church re-presents Christ’s sacrifice through repeating His command to eat His body and to drink His blood, we re-present and honor the instrument through which that sacrifice was accomplished. Today, in fact, the Church honors the “exaltation” of that instrument by a liturgy which calls it to mind by Scripture and service specifically focused on the Cross of our Christ. (Tomorrow we honor the body-soul instrument of his incarnation and the sorrows she endured as a result of willing God’s will.)

        I again wish you a very nice day. No dig intended. If you see no logic in all this? Forget about it!j

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