September 17, 2012

I Discharge My Duty To God-In All Good Conscience

Lately, I have gotten rather fed up with my brethren that either have a poor grasp of Scripture and the underlying principles behind it or they have completely bought into the seeker-sensitive "feel good" culture that has so pervaded our evangelical churches. I am again here to set the record straight...again. I am quite tired of the same mantra over and over. You need to be nicer about it. Please stop. Many of my brethren need a strong stomach or stronger backbone. They are using emotional response to a misinterpretation of Scripture to try and affect the way I do my evangelism. Just because some people don't like things stated certain ways because of the way it makes them feel doesn't mean it is the wrong method, it just means they are sensitive people. Perhaps too sensitive. These type of statements never go over well because they challenge the status-quo and upset balances of power. Being gentle and being pushover are two different things. If these people are so gentle why are the so adamant about shutting me down and being so confrontational with me? Why are they harsh we me in telling me that I need to be less harsh with others?

Let's clear the waters now.

I am not harsh and I am loving and I'm tired of being hammered and told otherwise. The things I do have been commanded of me in Scripture and I have obeyed. The problem is that when someone is confronted with the truth of Scripture in an authoritative manner it is always construed as harsh and unloving. It always seems as if someone is being harshly maligned or not loved. We have become way too soft. So soft we are worried about telling someone the truth.

Why do I bring this up? Because I again was questioned about how best to be ecumenical with the Roman Catholic Church and I am again forced to re-frame the argument correctly to answer the question correctly. The assumption in the following question assumes that Roman Catholicism is unquestionably Christian. This is a dubious assertion and at best I consider it a dangerous assumption. The question...

One of the hallmarks of the modern Catholic Church was its change in attitude towards Protestants. Catholics no longer considered Protestants as heretics but rather "separated brethren.". How should evangelicals respond? Should Evangelicals be as conciliatory towards Catholics? To what extent should we be concerned with ecumenicalism and Christian unity?

I initially was torn on this one...until I read the Bible. There is a thread that runs through me that wishes to be ecumenical in my approach to Catholics and all people but never at the cost of truth or the Gospel. I have often been told I am too harsh when dealing with my own evangelical brethren and when it comes to Catholics I’m even less inclined to grant leeway because of errant dogma of the Roman Church related to tradition (works), etc. As a theology major this type of mentality tempers my decisions and methods for evangelism and evangelizing is exactly how I view my approach to Catholics (and even marginal evangelicals within my own church). I view them as an evangelistic target group because of a potentially unsaved condition.

There are many people that view Catholics as Christian as a whole or at least misguided Christians, but Christian none-the-less. I am not so sure. If they indeed believe in justification by faith AND additional works, that Mary and/or saints can be intermediaries with God and can be venerated and that the Pope is infallible, they are not biblical. Add these things together and I personally do not see the difference between Roman Catholicism (RC) and other pagan religions. Any God and doctrine that is not of the Bible is not Christian. The RC is therefore a syncretistic form of Christianity and is no different than the religions of the Old Testament that worshipped Yahweh and Baal in a demonic damning blend that we read about in Hosea, Amos and other places (Imbach 1062). In many of our postmodernist leaning churches, this puts me at odds with my brethren and I am told I am not being loving. This is not true. I am often viewed as radical in my approach even by those in my own church. This is not true. To me, an organization like the Catholic church that would dare to change the intent and meaning of Scripture and supplant the Scripture with man-made "truths", traditions (rituals) and doctrines of demons is "radical". Who would dare do this? The Roman Catholic Church, that's who. So am I being radical telling the truth or is the RCC being radical making itself a God in God's place by supplanting truths with traditions of men? 

I have also been told I am causing the division between myself and the Roman Catholics due to my behavior? Really? Who is not following the commands and ideas in Scripture? These same exact people that tell me this are often worried that I will project and image to the outside world that we are an infighting squabbling lot, never once trying to explain to people that it can't be considered infighting if some of the participants are not "in" the faith. Why should I stand here, usually pretending to be unperturbed by clearly unbiblical behavior making people think everything is hunky-dory creating a false image of the faith to the outside world? The truth is we are often divided since anything that is not of Christ is of the Devil. If its of the will be divided. Let's face it people, even in perfect situations set up by God, people are sinful and are of their father the Devil and they are of this fallen world system. These people do not need my help projecting an image of division. This is exactly why we only need Christ to be saved, not a man-made institution and man-made rules that are flawed...i.e.: The Roman Catholic Church. We cause more damage by trying to fake our unity that really isn't there. We then win a convert only to have them come into the faith and see how many "Christians" really are and draw the conclusion that we are indeed divisive malicious backbiters. The fears that we are hypocrites are affirmed and they are driven away...and rightfully so. Who wants to join an organization of disingenuous people hiding the truth of a situation?  

To win people to the faith we need to show people the spine that we have inside by the way we show things on the surface and tell the truth about a situation...even when the situation is horrible. It shows we too are human. People would rather see a genuine failure than a fake success. Just ask any of the recent athletes that have been disqualified for disingenuous and cheating behavior. Then match this up to a person that may have failed at an endeavour but gave the blood, sweat and tears to compete and come up just short of the winners circle. We may honor winning in this world but good people honor the ability just to run the race with determination.

Because I do love the Catholics as I do all my neighbors I tell them the truth so they are not condemned or damned. I blame the errant doctrine of the RC on the Roman Catholic Church itself and God will hold them to a higher standard (James 3:1) but it also tells us to rebuke them when they are in error, not follow them or encourage damning philosophies through apathetic silence (1 Tim 5:17-20). It is for God to deal with the Church proper but as an evangelist it is my job to deal with and try to win the Roman Catholics themselves back to the true beliefs of the Bible. Because I do love Catholics it affects how I approach them and whether or not I am conciliatory towards them. So I have begun treating strict adherents to RC dogma that practice works, the sacraments and veneration of Mary and the saints (which I view as worship) just as I would unbelievers and/or members of a syncretistic cult. Herein lies how I think all should deal with the Roman Catholics as mentioned above.

Because of aforementioned reasons I approach the Catholics the way I do in a firm but loving manner. Legalistic and demeaning? No. I am being obedient with the intent to save some that quite possibly might not be saved (but believe they are) and these are often the hardest to get through to. It is a case of the proverbial: “Trying to save the saved”. I will do this regardless of what the Roman Catholics have done after the Vatican Council because, quite frankly, the Roman Catholic church is already in error and I really shouldn’t be gauging my behavior off of a benchmark of known syncretistic Christianity perpetuated by the Catholic Church. I (as a Protestant) should be solely following the commands of the Bible and delivering the message of the Gospel and the truth of Scripture in love regardless of what council has been held or Papal Bull passed. These actions show my true heart and concern for the state of the Catholic’s eternal souls.

First, we need to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. We should be concerned with the unity of Protestants and Catholics only to the point of Biblical bounds. This is also the very thing I tell people that tell me I am too harsh and unloving in dealing with errant dogma of the Catholic Church. I will love them and all others but I will not do so at the cost of abandoning Scriptural truth. This is where I cut the line on ecumenicalism. Usually, when it comes to ecumenicalism it is always the evangelical Protestant that ends up compromising the truth of Scripture to meet on middle ground and be inclusive to others who are in error. We cannot do this, we have a highly exclusivist faith. By faith through grace we are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way and there is no other.

This means if we do love the Catholics we should be adamantly evangelizing them with the Truth of the Bible as a precautionary measure because of many of the unbiblical syncretistic teachings of the Catholic Church itself. This means we better have a firm grasp on the Bible ourselves. Contrary to the postmodern style of pluralism and feel-good theology, we should also be making inroads and attempts to correct the Catholic Church itself with the truth of Scripture regardless of what has happened over the centuries. We are to stop spreading the true Gospel when we stop breathing whenever in doubt of someone’s salvation. Until my dying breath this is the charge that was given to me ages ago by the Lord.

Hooft, Willem Adolph. No Other Name: The Choice Between Syncretism and Christian Universalism.. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963. Print.

Imbach, S.R. "Syncretism." Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Pub Group, 1990. 1062-1063. Print.

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