Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Christians Become Catholic

There are at least two routes from Protestantism to Catholicism.

1. Through Truth
2. Through the Church

These two routes are best explained by asking the following questions:

Does Your Church Look Like the Early Church?

Since there is as many different nuances of scriptural interpretation as there are Christians, a seeker for truth would at some point have to ask, "What did Christ mean when He said such-and-such?" Because it doesn't really matter if we have the words correct if we have the meaning wrong. Being able to memorize scripture without comprehension doesn't give a person the truth about God. That's like a four-year-old memorizing Billy's Joel's Piano Man, its very cute, but....

When Christ taught, the meaning isn't up for grabs. He had something He was clearly trying to tell His followers and it needed to be understood as He meant it.

So, how do we know what Christ meant when He said, "Blessed are the poor" and "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" and "You are rock" and "This is my body." Christian scholars disagree. The Holy Spirit isn't teaching us different things about what Christ taught. There is an answer and we can know it.

It would make sense that the early followers of Jesus who heard Him teach and walked with Him as His Apostles would know best what He meant. Or those first and second century Christian leaders who learned it from the Apostles--like Clement or Ignatius or Polycarp or Justin Martyr or Tertullian or Ireneaus. Maybe the early documents like the Didache can tell us as they are almost twenty centuries closer to having heard the Apostles as we are. Just what did the earliest church believe Jesus meant? I would trust the teachings of a first and second century apostle-ordained leader more than a post-enlightenment American scholar whose worldview is culturally two millennia and a few continents from Christ.

Once you start studying the early church you will either become Jew, agnostic or Catholic, because Protestantism is nothing remotely like the early church. If you remain Christian after you know what the early church taught.... You'll have to be Catholic.

Did Christ Establish a Church?

Another route is more direct. Did Christ establish a church? Read the gospels, then read St. Paul. As you are reading ask yourself, "Did God start an actual church body? Did He bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth when He came by means of an organized religion? Is there such thing as a one, true church as the Body of Christ?"

(I am not at this point arguing that He did. I am asking the hypothetical "if?")

If you discover that Christ established a church, then you have to be in that church. It doesn't matter if it is perfect. (Christ warned us that is wasn't going to be. Look at Israel.) It doesn't matter if you agree or understand the doctrines. It doesn't matter if you don't like the leaders or the music or the people or the way they worship. It simply doesn't matter.

If God did establish a church, then we must be obedient and submit to that true Church because every other church wasn't established by God. Other Christian denominations and groups are loved by God and may even be saved. They may be wonderful people, serving God. But they are in a man-made tradition and they are playing church like little girls play at tea parties.

If God established a church, then the church is about what He wants and not about what we like, what we want or what we think. We don't get a vote. God doesn't ask us our opinion about who He puts in charge, if we want to sing with our hands in the air or with drums. He didn't include us in the worship committee or doctrinal committee. The Church is about what God wants.

In the end, it is about obedience.

If God established a church, we have the obligation to find out what that is and join it.

So, if the Bible convinces you that God did establish a church, you will end up at a church with apostolic succession.... a Catholic (or Orthodox).

For He promised His Church, "I will be with you to the end of the age." God doesn't break His promises.

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