Friday, May 28, 2010

Apologia Pro Mi Vita

I've been challenged that I am not in fact actually a Christian at all and that I merely blog on here for entertainment and to provoke controversy. For someone who has spent over 500 posts for 2 years or more, praying, weeping, searching, and longing for the truth, I'm not even going to honor such an utterly baseless and offensive charge. It is much easier to simply dismiss people, than deal with them as actual human beings.

Since I have been provoked, I will give a response.

Everyone keeps asking me about encountering Jesus. I don't think you can encounter Jesus. The article of the creed seems clear to me "he ascended into Heaven". The way Paul taught people about Jesus was not by administering the sacraments: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (1 Cor 1:17 KJV).

I made the argument in another post that I think the catholic faith holds Tradition to be a deposit, not an ever-evolving system of new doctrines, or merely 'whatever the magisterium says at this hour' (Pace Cardinal Manning). The episcopate is a part of Tradition, Papal Primacy is an innovation. At least that's the "unoriginal" argument I put forth previously. When I converted to Roman Catholicism last year, I did so because I intellectually believed it was the only Christian worldview I could uphold. I sought for months - begging people to help me - find a way out. Intellectually, I finally found one, and I faced the question of: at a personal soul level, do I enjoy being Roman Catholic? or would I not prefer to be Orthodox, Anglo-Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed?

My heart was not strangely warmed by the thought of nearly never receiving communion, being forced to confess to a priest even when my conscience didn't particularly trouble me (on pain of damnation), denying the hope and joy giving gospel I had been raised with, and having my friends and family desert me. (apparently it was all a scheme of eventual self-glorification...)

As I re-examined the Word of God in Scripture, the 3 'words' I received from God on pilgrimage, and my own experience, I found that I was free. If I am certain about one doctrine, it is Total Depravity. It is that absolutely nothing within me is worthy of condign merit, that I have no pure intentions, and that I can only be saved by looking to Christ Alone (with a capital A). If salvation is about anything I contribute, I am utterly hopeless. What do we have that we have not received? asks the apostle (1 Cor 4:7). The more I try to focus on my own improvement, the worse I do. The more I accept my total inability, and rest on the promises of Christ, and grasp his righteousness by faith, the more I am at peace. I have rarely been more peaceful, than in the last few days.

I took Communion at an Anglo-Catholic church today, and it was wonderful. I had confessed to God a hundred times my sin, I was not rid of it, but I received him in faith. In Lutheran theology the Eucharist forgives sin, in Roman Catholic theology it is not for the sinful, but the absolved, Jesus comes not to sinners, but to the righteous, those who have jumped through the hoops, followed the rules, towed the party line. Such are allegedly God's children. That I find repugnant. We do not bring anything to God but sin and suffering, and he accepts it and pours out grace upon us. The Eucharist is a means of grace for the believer, even if he is 'unworthy'. God after all "justified the UNGODLY".

There. There's my personal experience. I have no hatred for actual Apostolic and Patristic Tradition, for the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, for the Church and the Law (when applied properly with the gospel).

So to the question: Why is a priest/human/the Church necessary? To lead us to Christ. To say here is the Lord, here is his grace, it is free, it is yours, take it. Catholics claim they have the same view. Actually, what I've experienced, is the opposite. You receive the 'New' Law: do this and live, when you have done your part, God will do his. Clergy should be a special mediation of grace, not the sole mediation of grace. The Church is not the Holy Spirit, and Peter is not the Church.

At the end of the day, it is my soul. Perhaps God will look on me on the day of Judgment and say "you did not submit to the Roman Pontiff, enter into my wrath!" But as Luther says, we have the exterior witness, and the interior witness. By the exterior witness I have shown the the Roman claims to infallibility are seriously dubious, as is the exegesis and Tradition it is built on. The interior witness, is the freedom and grace of the gospel that I feel, the hope about the future, the certainty with which I know Christ will save me.

...but of course, everyone who throws their life away in a secret dishonest pursuit of God for their own glorification, attention, and desire for controversy says such things, why could I ever be trusted...

4 comments:

  1. For the record, I never accused you of not being a Christian. I asked you how serious you are being. I also suggested that Fred had asked some very good questions and that you might want to consider answering them for yourself and for God.

    But my challenge remains, forget about all the dogma and the parsing of Angels dancing on needles and think about this in terms of personal experience.

    Here's Fred's first question: How did the disciples meet Jesus?

    That's a terribly profound question. What could it have been like to meet the guy himself on the beach by your fishing boat? How did they know Jesus was the Christ? Never mind after the ascension, if your phone rang and the voice on the other end said "This is Jesus?"how would you know that it really was or wasn't him?

    And then, Is that still possible to encounter the Jesus the way the disciples did today? And what was is the role of the Holy Spirit?

    Back when I was teaching philosophy, one of my favourite assignments was to ask students to write an essay without any sources. I'd say, you fail if you cite even a single outside source.

    You don't have to listen to me or answer me, but I think you should sit down and write out what Andrew thinks without quoting any authorities at all. Don't worry about mortal sin, or confession, or any of that.

    Because if we are Christians, and we are all united in the same baptism here, then God has made us for himself. Something in you and something in me, yearns for Him.

    I'd concentrate on that. The rest of it, treat it like stuff we do out of respect for the conventions and rules of our society. The important thing to focus on is the need for God.

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  2. Much as I enjoy a good argument, I know that argument cannot compel conversion (turning toward Christ). Instead, I am pleased to affirm your experience, Andrew, in which you encountered Christ and his three words. If you let this experience dwell richly in you, you will follow Christ, which is what I want most for you.
    Yours,
    Fred

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