Monday, June 21, 2010

Catholic to Protestant Dictionary

One objection I keep hearing from my Protestant friends about Catholicism is that it is too complex. God would not have made it so difficult. The gospel is simple, no?

I have two responses, neither of which are profound, but just thinking....

First response. Japanese is a very complex language. I cannot even begin to understand how they speak or write. Yet babies born in Japan seem to get it. It is only when you have been raised speaking another language and are trying to learn it as an adult that it is complex. This is how it is with Catholicism. If you have been raised in its doctrine, it isn't at all complicated--deep yes, but very understandable. When you are trying to go from Protestant to Catholic, this is when it becomes tricky. Japan is obviously a different language than English, so when you need to communicate you go get an interpreter.

However, Protestants simply assume that because we use the same words, that there is communication going on between our faiths when we speak. That is not true. Catholicism is based upon a belief system that began in Jerusalem by HEBREWS, influenced by the GREEKS, who then dispersed into LATIN and GERMANIC speaking areas---almost two millennia ago!

It is a ancient Italic-Germanic-Hellenized-Jewish culture that Catholicism grew up and developed in. Add to this trying to translate its doctrines into 21st century American English.... This is a formidable task. It takes a lot of interpreting for a Protestant to understand. There is a fundamentally different worldview with a faith language that is profoundly different and Protestants are not even aware of this and assume they can understand Catholicism on a superficial discussion. It took me years to learn the language of Catholicism.

We need to be very patient and understanding of Protestants. They need to understand that they cannot "get" Catholicism in soundbites, just as they cannot understand Japanese in soundbites. It takes time and patience and tenacity. None of which anyone seems to have today.

Second response. Who said the gospel was simple? I don't see that anywhere in scripture. To me, it seems a little insulting to our Creator to characterize the plan of salvation, the great mystery kept from the foundation of the earth, upon which the angels look in breathtaking wonder, shrouded in symbols until the fulfillment of time when God became man, born of a virgin who then saved the world by dying on a cross--what about that is simple?

When I look at creation, I see nothing simple. It is excruciatingly, amazingly complex and intricate and yet streamline. God simple? Wow. That wouldn't come close to how I would try and explain the gospel. It took tongues of fire falling down from heaven in order for those who had been with him for years to begin to understand. His thoughts are far, far above our thoughts.


Catholicism, as the language of those who live in Japan, is very, very complex and mysterious to us Americans. And yet, if you are raised within its culture, it is natural to you, just as those little children who came and looked upon the face of Christ understood His love. It is natural to begin to understand when you see Him.

We need to remind Protestants that Catholicism was born of a very different and ancient culture that can be very confusing to us today. Interpretation is needed, patience and tenacity is vital in true communication between us.