Friday, July 30, 2010

The Simple Gospel

As a new Catholic, I am accused by many of my Protestant family and friends of my Catholic church making religion too complex--with all its rites, doctrines, etc. I have heard a hundred times by Protestants personally and from the pulpit: "The gospel is simple" and the phrase "the simple gospel."

So, I did a word search on simple and here are the results (RSV):


Job 5:2, "Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple.

In the Psalms:
19:7--The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;  116:6--The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 119: 130--The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

In the Proverbs:
1:4--that prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth-- 1:22--"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?" 1:32--For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacence of fools destroys them; 7:7--and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man without sense; 8:5-- simple ones, learn prudence; O foolish men, pay attention; 9: 4--"Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who is without sense she says; 14:15--The simple believes everything, but the prudent looks where he is going; 14:18--The simple acquire folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge; 19:25--Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge; 21:11--When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge: 22: 3--A prudent man sees danger and hides himself; but the simple go on, and suffer for it. 

    • Romans 16:18 --For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.


      The Bible is not flattering about anything or anyone "simple." They are warned to leave behind their simpleness and learn wisdom.

      We do know that the Bible talks to us about Christians being like little ones and sheep, but obviously they are not to be simple-minded. Paul in I Corinthians warns the people to leave behind the milk and get on to learning the meat. 

      Peter talks about the hard writings of Paul.

      God gives us teachers especially graced with knowledge in order to convey the meaning of the gospel and scripture. 

      Sounds to me as if "simple" would not be an accurate characterization of the gospel nor of God himself.

      Ps. 92:5, "How great are thy works, O LORD! Thy thoughts are very deep!"

      Isaiah 55: 8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and mythoughts than your thoughts."

      When you study the string theory of physics and molecular biology, watch a child being born, categorize bugs, study psychology  and history it is hardly simple, in fact, the more you know the more complex things become. God is not simple, neither is His gospel. 

      Jesus revealed a mystery known from the beginning, a mystery so deep and so complex that His disciples could not begin to understand it, even after spending three years with Christ. It is so unfathomable that the truth of the gospel cannot be revealed but by the Father through the Holy Spirit. 

      To call Christ's sacrifice simple, is a desire to make it easy--to make is casual--to make it common. The gospel's complexity is resplendent and magnificent. It is so full of fearsome, breathtaking and staggering beauty that all who see its glory fall on their knees and exclaim, "holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty!"

  • Friday, July 23, 2010

    Differences in Catholic/Protestant Salvation

    I am always trying to perfect a way to bridge the understanding between Catholics and Protestants. Because I grew up in a more American Fundamentalist worldview, I tend towards using their language than other "higher" forms of Protestantism, so if you are an Anglican, Lutheran or other more liturgical Protestant, this model may in no way be helpful. In fact, I am not even sure myself if this model works, so I would appreciate ANY feedback about its weaknesses from both Catholic and Protestant.

    Also, because I use the language of Protestants, it may confuse Catholics. All terms are relative to Fundamentalism and are meant rather to be understood in degrees rather than absolutes. So while a Protestant may see the Kingdom of Heaven being right now, they do not mean it in the same way as a Catholic, as they see the kingdom as amorphous, spiritual, non-specific to denomination or church. It is a body of believers who are joined by emotional and spiritual ties to Christ, not an actual physical corporate church as Catholics see it. Even the word "salvation" has different nuances between groups. So here goes...

    Note: Neither Catholics nor Protestants believe that "works" are works of the Mosaic Law, but works of charity and faith. The New Covenant Law is the Law of Christians. Also Fundamentalists should note that in the Catholic worldview Jesus came to fulfill the Messianic promise to begin a new eternal Davidic Kingdom promised to Israel, this is vital to understand some of its dogma and doctrine.

    MODELS of Salvation:

    Protestant: Jesus came to conquer death and sin for us and now we, by faith, can accept this free gift and upon death enter eternal life. This is done as an individual. Emphasis tends toward focusing on salvation as a release from eternal damnation. Assurance of salvation bring security until you enter the physical Kingdom of God in heaven. Works are fruits of God living in you but do not affect salvation. You must be perfect to reside in the presence of God.

    Catholic: Christ came to begin His kingdom and his sacrifice released those who enter his kingdom from the bondage of sin. Now, through God’s grace and your obedience of faith, you can become perfect. Emphasis of salvation tends towards release from slavery of sin. Assurance of salvation comes through sacraments because you are already in Kingdom. Works are fruits of God living in you and do affect your ability to see God face to face. You must be perfect to reside in the presence of God.

    Whereas Protestants believe a “born again” experience is the entry way into salvation, Catholics believe it is the faith of baptism. Faith is not only personal but community-based. A parent’s faith can bring their child into the kingdom, a husband’s faith can sanctify his wife. There is a storehouse of faith within the Church which Christians can draw from. 

    Protestant Model in Visual Form:
    Holy Spirit come to sinner as an accountable person and they have a born-again experience in which they become “saved” from eternal damnation. They then are assured upon death that they will enter the Kingdom of heaven. From then on all their sins are covered by the blood of Christ and they will--until death--struggle with sin and though the will remain sinners stained with original sin, Jesus’ merits stand in their place and when called into Judgement, Christ’s life stands in place of their life. At some point after death, their characters will be miraculously transformed into perfection without any attempt of their own and without their realizing it. Hell is for those who did not have a faith experience nor applied the blood of Jesus to their lives.
    _(sinner w/o faith)____|___(saved sinner: sins covered)___|___(KOH)___________
                                        |                                                        |
    faith experience                                        Death/Judgement
                                            (sin miraculously extracted w/o person's knowledge)
    Catholic Model in Visual Form:
    Catholics teach that a person is baptized into the Kingdom of Heaven by either their own faith or their parents. They are now inside the family covenant and have entered the Kingdom of God (this would correlate with Protestant "born again" status). Baptism cleanses the person of original sin and now, living the Kingdom, they are no longer enslaved by sin, but able, through God’s grace to become perfect. Within the Kingdom, sacraments are freely given to encourage, uplift and perfect the saint. At the second coming or death is judgment. If one is not perfect and remains attached to certain sins, they then go to purgatory to learn repentance. After that they are able to stand face to face with God in his glory as a perfected and beautiful bride. Hell is for those who reject all light of love, faith and hope until death. 
    ✟ inaugurates KOH____(sinner baptized into KOH/becomes saint)__|___(See Christ face to face) 
                                                                              (if not yet perfect, purgatory, then Heaven)
    While Protestants believe if you are not “saved” you go to hell, Catholics believe that God’s mercy is available for all and we cannot say who goes to hell, it is His judgement not ours.

    The main difference is that Protestants look forward to a physical Kingdom of Heaven upon death and resurrection. Catholics believe that the physical Kingdom was established at Pentecost. Entry into eternal life (born-again status) for the Protestant is at an experience where he or she allowed the Lord to come into their hearts and they make Him Lord. For the Catholic it is baptism. While Protestants believe "regeneration" happens at death, Catholics believe "regeneration" happens at baptism.  

    Both Catholics and Protestants believe scripture backs up their positions. So if we are to communicate, we need to understand the nuances in words and the models of their biblical worldview. 

    Hopefully this will help. 
    God bless,