Thursday, July 14, 2016

Catholics and the Orthodox are going to hell

There are a number of ways to win an argument.  The best way should be by presenting the facts and making a case for why you or some other party is right and the other party wrong.  But the best way for many today is simply to misrepresent the truth.  If you can cast a disparaging light over your "opponent" all the better.  And throw in a few logical fallacies and you are almost assured a victory.

One of the reasons I left Protestantism was their seeming disregard for their own blindness and an inability to present sound arguments as to why their views were correct as compared with those of the Orthodox Church.  Arguments for doctrines like justification by faith alone, sola scriptura, the sovereignty of God as expressed by the system called Calvinism, etc.,  were typically unconvincing.  Most of them had a priori truths that I couldn't submit to in the first place, making the rest of the argument rather a waste of time.  In short, most of what I heard was similar to this article. So when I read statements like the one that appeared on the Pen & Pulpit blog site I find my decision to leave Protestantism once and for all confirmed in spades.

Let me say up front there are some real differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy including their views of the Eucharist.  And so I find it frustrating that he just lumped them both together.  It makes it difficult to respond. So as you read please keep in mind I'm not as familiar with Catholicism as I am with Orthodoxy.  If you have questions please feel free to talk to a priest from either of those two groups. They would be able to explain things better than I.

It isn't that the writer of the article is completely wrong.  I don't know off the top of my head if every claim he makes is wrong.  I certainly don't agree with the Catholics on a number of issues.  But Orthodoxy I do know and the writer makes a couple of false claims (certainly unintentionally, but very commonly made).  For example, to claim that Catholics and Orthodox believers aren't going to heaven because they are idolaters assumes they are worshipping something other than God.  Orthodox believers, and I believe Catholic as well, do not worship holy relics or icons.  They venerate them, which to the outsider may look like worship but is not.  In fact they would consider any worship of inanimate objects or any being other than God blasphemous and would condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

He also makes a very odd statement.  He says:
Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians do not hold to a belief in the final authority of Scripture, rather, Catholics’ authority is in the hierarchical system of priests with the Roman Pontiff at the head, and the Orthodox Church’s authority comes from the seven ecumenical councils. A rejection of biblical authority is a rejection of Christ himself, for the Scriptures say that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.
He then quotes John 1:1-2,14.

I'm not entirely sure how he thought this supported his assertion.  In fact it sounds more like he is saying the Scripture and Jesus (the Word) are one and the same.  If this is true then why not treat your bible like you would the real presence of Jesus?  Why not swap out the Catholic/Orthodox eucharist for your bible?   I don't believe he intended to say this, but it is telling that he did.  The Protestant view of Scripture is such that it quite easily can be swapped in for the true presence of Jesus.  Talking about a potential form of idolatry!

Again, because he thinks Catholics and Orthodox are worshipping these things in place of God and therefore are idolaters, he insists Believers (here he means Protestants, but I'm not sure which Protestants he means) are not to associate with them and that anyone claiming to follow Christ must leave the Catholic and Orthodox church.  All I can think in response is, "But I just got here!"

I also do not understand his assertion that Christians should leave the Catholic or Orthodox church because God is not the God of confusion but of peace (or of order in some translations). In my walk with God I've been a part of various denominations:  baptist, charismatic, anabaptist, non-denominational (whatever that means), and more.  Frankly, the confusion between these various denominations and even in them is staggering.  It was exactly this that helped drive me to the Orthodox Church in the first place!

He makes another statement I find troubling.  He writes, "...bible-believing Christians have always held to the belief that Roman Catholics are unsaved...".  This makes the astounding claim, implicit in such statements, that there were no bible-believing Christians before the Protestant Reformation. What else could it mean?  There is a belief within Protestantism among the more conservative that the Church faltered and fell away for almost fifteen hundred years until the true faith was discovered again by an angry German monk in the sixteenth century.  The writer may not be claiming this, but such statements do make one wonder.  The fact that there was, at least, a thirteen hundred year span of church history where some of the major claims of Protestantism would have been seen as schismatic and even heretical should be worth some amount of consideration.

Considering I've been following the Savior for about thirty years and it has taken me over ten years of studying the Orthodox church and asking lots of questions of both Protestants and Orthodox, I think I'll stick with my Orthodox church a bit longer.  They seem to have much better answers than the Protestants do and quite frankly they make more sense to me.

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