Monday, June 29, 2009

The Difficult Gospel - Issues with Catholicism (1)

I wrote a very cynical previous blog about Bible Verses the Catholic Church would re-write. I did this not because I think the Catholic Church is wrong in it's teaching, but simply out of frustration. Frustration because of what I call "the difficult gospel". The bible says we are saved by many things: Grace, Faith (eph 2:8-9), Christ (rom 3), Works (Mt 25, Jms 2), Repentance (Ps 51, Mk 1:15), Baptism (2 Pet 3, Jn 3:5, Acts 2, Mk 16), Predestination (Eph 1), Hope (Rom 8), Love (1 Cor 13) , etc. The bible is full of things you're saved by. The first problem is that Protestantism simplifies (incorrectly I still believe) into a single sentence, and it is always stuck in the back of my mind. The second problem is that this makes reading the bible as a Catholic a painstaking labor. You can't read in Romans 3 that we are "freely justified by his grace" without having to remember that those who don't cooperate with his grace and produce good works end up being thrown in the fire according to John 15. You can't read Eph 2:8-9 without reading James 2:24-28. This makes for difficult bible study as I've found with my Evangelical friends.

In the end after you've "explained away" all the conclusions of one verse with another verse, you feel like there's no point in reading the bible anymore. .... Maybe that's why so many Catholics don't read their bibles.

I've been dealing with the fear of damnation and the feelings of guilt that seem to be the birthright of all the faithful sons of Rome and it strikes me at how contrary this is to St. Paul's absolute trust in Christ as his saviour in Colossians and Romans. I want to live a life of faith with full trust in God's grace. I feel like I'm an Arminian but not a Catholic yet. I have no problem with saying that those who do not accept the gift of faith and cease to have faith in Christ are justly under God's wrath. Yet at the same time I find I hate the idea that those who fail to cooperate with God's grace by sinning gravely would be under the same condemnation. Maybe it's because I've always had faith, but always been crappy at works.

In any case, I was reminded by Trent that everything is by grace, and that accepting the gift of faith from God, is like accepting the gift of love/charity/works. Faith working in Love. That and the writings of Cardinal Newman and St. Augustine who both keep reminding me that God's desire is to save me, not to abandon me in my journey and that there is mercy for all who desire it. (thank God Trent said the graces of confessional absolution rest on those who desire them).

But these are the problems I'm still working out with Catholicism, I still drift dreamily back sometimes to Protestantism. Not a day goes by where I don't ask God for forgiveness if the Catholic Church is apostate, or for guidance on which interpretation of justification is correct.

Still to date, I have received no answer from God on whether Catholics or Protestants in general were correct, only slight leadings from the Spirit about certain individuals from each side (C.S. Lewis, St. Augustine, etc). Even though it is in blatant contradiction to Catholic teaching, I still would like to believe that the elect are God's children in every communion on the earth who love him. I only pray that I am one of them, I don't care about titles or labels. I only seek to love my Father in heaven and to trust in the mercy of his Son and my Saviour, Jesus Christ.

This website is becoming helpful to me as well: - it's a bunch of Presbyterian Converts to Catholicism.

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