Being a Christian in general


#1

Can a person be a Christian if he or she is unsure of which of the two “branches” of Christianity to belong to? Raised Catholic, Protestant for several years, really looking into Roman Catholicism again, particularly Apologetics. As a Protestant (or thinking I was one, at any rate) I was nondenominational or interdenominational after a brief stint with Evangelical Free Church of America www.efca.org My problem with Protestantism lately has been that in my own experience, and this is a very subjective statement, they do not seem to be as tolerant of people as they profess to be, while Catholics, generally, do. Again, I cannot emphasize enough that this is purely subjective and you may have had the opposite experience. My goal is to explore all the areas of the main doctrines of Christianity, whether Protestant or Catholic. I am starting off in this new direction by attending Mass this Sunday at my local Roman Catholic Church. A very specific question I have is this: Can a person be a Catholic WHO DOES NOT FULLY SUSCRIBE TO ALL CATHOLIC DOCTRINE except the very basic ones, e.g. The Trinity, the Eucharist, Sin, Original Sin, the so-called (by some) Big Rocks. It is the littler rocks that cause me to pause. I do not know how many Catholics there are who do NOT wholly agree with ALL Catholic doctrine. Does anyone know if this number would be very small or very large? Thanks very much to all. My second post since registering approx half an hour ago or less. A real newbie.


#2

Unfortunately, there are a large number of Catholics who don’t adhere to all of the Catholic teachings. This is sad. One who is baptized in the Trinitarian formula is Catholic, whether they believe it or not. You are still committing a sin if you commit to be Catholic but willingly reject one of the teachings.

It’s OK to doubt the teachings, but you are encouraged to study and see why the Church teaches what she teaches.

Care to discuss those little rocks you stumble over?


#3

Absolutely…Will be back later with a list :slight_smile: Mostly nothing major, just wondering. No strong objections. Ironically the issue of transubstantiation, for one, caused me to go BACK to the Catholic Church but I will be back in a couple of hours here. Thank you for your response.


#4

Hi, NotWorthy: Back as promised. In my view, the “big rocks” are the following: They are not open to negotiation among believers. The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, they are infallible, One God exists, the Creator of all, in Three persons, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is true God and true man, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, died on the cross for us as a sacrifice for our sins, arose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father, will judge the living and the dead, Man is lost because of sin, needs salvation, will never get it except through God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
The “smaller rocks” in my view, are, the place of Mary in theology, the priest’s powers, transubstantiation, confessing sins to God only as opposed to man, even if that man is acting via the authority of God, according to the Church, indulgences, Purgatory, the Pope being in a direct and unbroken line from Peter, the Pope’s infallibility, praying to saints or to anyone else instead of to God only, asking that anyone or anything intercede for us instead of asking God directly. Those, in my own personal view, are the littler rocks. Important but nothing compared to the big rocks.
My own view, and I hardly need to state that I am vastly short of knowing the Truth in its entirety, is that Mary was a virgin, that she gave birth to Jesus, that she is to be respected and honored as His mother. She shall be called blessed throughout the ages and this is as it should be, given who she is. To pray TO Mary for intercession with the Son or Father seems unusual. Not incorrect but unusual. Those of you reading this post please understand that I am only too well aware of the fact that my thoughts about these things have nothing at all to do with whether they are correct or incorrect. I ask God to help me with all these doctrinal points. I do NOT think I have the answers.
To continue, I am not sure what authority the priest has to hear confession. I am not sure that it is biblical to confess to anyone other than God, although it certainly is not prohibited. To ask forgiveness, I think that although it appears to be from the priest, I know that the forgiveness is from God only. I do not think for a moment that the priest purports to forgive those who confess. And I recognize that we are confessing to God VIA THE PRIEST. But even going via the priest, I still am not sure it is biblical. Indulgences are another matter. In my view, God, being sovereign, decides who goes to Purgatory and for how long. Canonization of saints. All believers are saints, dead and alive. The authority of the church to make an individual a saint presupposes that God sees that person the same as we do. For all we know, God does not see that person in the same light that the church does.
My main point would be, and I have to look into this, the direct relationship between the present pope and the early church fathers right after the crucifixion.
There is nothing more misunderstood and sometimes hatefully misunderstood, than Catholics by Protestants. I have seen this time and time again and it is vicious, or can be. Protestants do not know that much about Catholicism but they think they do. They do not understand some of the traditions of the Catholic church. Myself, I am not concerned with any church as such because the body of believers who believe in and trust Jesus Christ, that is the church. I would have to call myself a Christian first then a Catholic or Protestant second. First I am an American and then only after that general category am I from Massachusetts etc, to give a very very poor analogy.
I have completed three certiticate programs re Bible studies and am currently enrolled in a seminary certificate program, two of them, in succession, all via distance learning. I cannot get enough of learning about theology and apologetics. If I ever hit the lottery I will immediately quit my job and enroll in a seminary full time, with no view toward being a minister, but just to learn more about my Creator and Savior. I am now out of breath :slight_smile:


#5

I thought I was out of breath. But I have one more point and that is the reason that I began once again exploring the Catholic church and intend to go to Mass on Sundays beginning this coming Sunday. Ironically, transubstantiation figures into this as that was what I first questioned several years ago.
But lately, reading the gospel of John, I became more and more worried that Jesus seemed to be speaking literally not symbolically when He said this is real flesh and real blood. And people fell away from Him, His own disciples, except a few. And he did not tell them he was just speaking metaphorically. He did say he was talking about life and spirit but He did not try to then say that he did not mean real flesh and real blood. This bothered me, the Protestant view that Jesus was speaking figuratively, because they are so sure of this that they will not discuss it much. But to be that sure of it without having definite reasons, that bothered me. I wanted to be sure I really knew what was the truth here. So I began to take those verses more literally and eventually ended up to where I think the Catholic church is right about transubstantiation. Or at least, I was comforted by the fact that it seems to me that Jesus was speaking a little too literally to be only comparing the wine and bread to His flesh and blood just symbolically. So, I am headed back to the Catholic church WHILE i sort out all the other doctrines. I don’t think I have to have it all figured out before i make a move. No one has it all figured out. So I feel I am on safer ground in a Catholic church than in a Protestant one. I can still study theology. But I feel also that Catholics as a group, are a little more welcoming than Protestants, and perhaps more sincere, although that statement is necessarily very subjective and may not even be true. It is true for me in my experience though.


#6

Hello and welcome.

When a person becomes a Catholic they state before the priest, the congregation and God that they accept all that the Church teaches. It would be very bad form to start off one’s Catholic life with a lie. So, bring your issues here and we’ll present the Catholic teaching and reasoning behind them. You may find that the Catholic view makes a lot more sense than you thought. :slight_smile:

EDIT: OK, I see you posted a list. I’ll take a look at it.


#7

Since I was born and raised a Catholic but experimented with Protestantism for about three years (which I don’t think is heretical because it is still Christian) I don’t think I have to go thru the formal requirements of a Protestant BECOMING a Catholic. A passport issued but never used is still good for ten years. Again, a very very poor analogy but an apt one nevertheless, never having renunciated my Catholicism in any way, not even by experimentation and perhaps especially not by experimentation.


#8

As I understand it, you would need to say that you accept what the Church teaches, although you can say that you don’t understand certain teachings and that if it were up to you you might believe differently (i.e., you don’t have to find the arguments convincing, as long as you can trust the Church).

For me one of the big obstacles is women’s ordination. I find the arguments against it produced by Catholics to be breathtakingly bad. I am willing to trust the Church on it, but practically this would put me in a very difficult situation. Apart from the personal issue (my wife has been ordained as a deacon in the United Methodist Church), job-wise I would antagonize mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics by accepting the Church’s teaching, while conservative Catholic schools might be slow to hire me because I cannot honestly say that I think the arguments against women’s ordination make sense, and because I have some faint hope that the current teaching might turn out not to be infallible (also because I want to see women given as much equality in the Catholic Church as official teaching can allow).

Edwin


#9

This is a very very difficult area to understand. Short of going thru the steps necessary for a NON Catholic to become a Catholic, does this mean that I could not attend Mass until and unless I in effect renounced Protestanism in its entirety and accepted Catholicism in its entirety? I could understand a little more easily if both branches of the church were not both Christian. If I were going from Islam to Catholocism, all the doctrines are so mutually exclusive that I could understand not going to Mass til all was sorted out and I rejected Islam and embraced Catholicism. Maybe I will remain nondenominational Christian.


#10

OK, got that. In your case, then, you can re-enter into full communion with the Church by the simple act of a full confession. But there is still the issue (which applies to a great many people) of identifying oneself as X, while actually not believing what X teaches. It is, in a sense, dishonest and/or self-deluding.

As to your list, it’s way too broad to deal with in one thread. I’d suggest that you take your top two issues and post them as separate threads (in the Apologetics forum). That way they can be discussed with the proper focus. Now, having said that, I’ll make a few comments in passing:

– the place of Mary in theology

To understand Mary’s place in God’s work of salvation is to more fully understand the beauty of the Incarnation, and to more fully understand what God made each of us to be.

– the priest’s powers

Authority, given by God, might be a better term. See the Old Testament for a better understanding, for Catholicism is truly the fulfillment of the faith which God gave to the Israelites.

– transubstantiation

Again, to accept transubstantiation is to more fully appreciate the completeness of the Incarnation - that God has truly joined with us, not just spiritually but in every way that his corporeal nature and ours make possible.

– confessing sins to God only as opposed to man, even if that man is acting via the authority of God, according to the Church

IMO, most objections to confession are based on a fear or distatse of stating our sins to another person. In the sacrament of Confession God actually makes use of that fear or distaste to further our sanctification.

– indulgences

Must be understood in the light of Purgatory

– Purgatory

Not God’s final punishment, but God’s final mercy to all of us who rejected many of God’s sanctifying graces here on earth. Even so, God keeps his promise and fully sanctifies and purifies us in order that we may enter heaven. It is a great gift, not an ordeal.

– the Pope being in a direct and unbroken line from Peter

I guess the historians would have to deal with that.

– the Pope’s infallibility

Why is the Pope’s infallibility so hard to accept, but the infallibility of all those scripture writers so easy to accept? Did God run out of power to keep his messengers from teaching error?

– praying to saints or to anyone else instead of to God only, asking that anyone or anything intercede for us instead of asking God directly.

In heaven as on earth, the situation is not just me -n- God, it is me, all my brothers and sisters in Christ, and God. It is one great big family, acting as a family. If you were in heaven, would you not desire with your whole mind and heart and will that which God desires, which is that all should be saved?


#11

Anybody can (and should :)) go to Mass. But only Catholics who are in a state of grace can receive Communion.


#12

It’s quite a complicated question. A lot of what most Catholics regard as “doctrine” is not “dogma”, that which the Church asserts to be true and essential for the faith.

On the other hand, as with any organisation, you have to agree to obey the rules as they are, if you are to become a member in good faith. That doesn’t mean that there is no party within the Church who thinks that the rules should be otherwise, or that you may not join it.

In the case of women’s ordination, you are not assuming the right to ordain priests yourself, are you? In that case you are not obliged to express any opinion on the subject of who and who cannot be ordained. In fact discussion on this matter has been banned, which is unusual, but indicates that Rome has no intention of revoking the traditional practise.


#13

Thank you. May I ask you one question? Identifying oneself as X when X does not believe all that he or she should believe, does going to Mass cause me to identify myself as X? I am serious and not being flippant. I do not want to live a lie. Is GOING to Mass and participating, and believing that transubstantiation is true re The Holy Eucharist, is this “permitted” although one does not completely subscribe to all doctrines? The reason I ask this is this: It is a Christian church, and sure, it is a Catholic church, but as a person in the pews, worshipping God, what do you think of what I said above in this one post here? By attending Mass, I am not necessary holding myself out as a Catholic.
I will tell you two quick stories to use as sort of an example. I talked one with the monsignor of this particular Catholic church I went to. He told me that all people will be saved. I told him that what he said contradicted what Jesus said about salvation and many enter through the wide gate of destruction and only a few make it to the narrow path, and other quotes. But he maintained that all will be saved, period. I know this is not Catholic doctrine. Yet he holds himself out as X by OFFERING the Mass. I was a little perplexed by that.
At my mother’s funeral Mass in a Catholic church, the pastor from the Protestant church I was attending, sat behind me in church alongside an elder from the same church. When it came time for Catholic communion, my pastor got in line right behind me and accepted the Host although not going along with the transubstantiation but IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIANITY. He felt himself called to partake of the Eucharist whether it was the body and blood literally or symbolically. The point is, he partook. I think it was a Christian attitude. His elder right behind him remained seated and was disgusted that a Protestant pastor would partake of the Eucharist. This was, in my view, not very Christian of him.


#14

Here is the crux of the problem. I am a Christian but I do not completely subscribe to all of what the two branches of Christianity teach, except for the so-called Big Rocks I set forth in a prior post, which are not negotiable. They are the main points of the Christian faith.
So I am not Catholic but neither am I Protestant. I believe that the Catholic Church is closer to original Christianity. But being in this sort of limbo, I should not attend Mass and especially not receive communion, even though I believe that transubstantiation is the correct way to interpret what the gospel of John said about true flesh and true blood of Christ.
So I am in a religious DMZ of sorts.


#15

No, one is not proclaiming oneself as a Catholic merely by attending Mass. In fact, non-Catholics (and I understand you are not a non-Catholic) are strongly encouraged to attend Mass (without receiving Communion) before becoming Catholics.

I will tell you two quick stories to use as sort of an example. I talked one with the monsignor of this particular Catholic church I went to. He told me that all people will be saved. I told him that what he said contradicted what Jesus said about salvation and many enter through the wide gate of destruction and only a few make it to the narrow path, and other quotes. But he maintained that all will be saved, period. I know this is not Catholic doctrine. Yet he holds himself out as X by OFFERING the Mass. I was a little perplexed by that.

Yep, there are far too many priests who are kind of protestants-in-their-hearts, teaching what they want to teach rather than what the Church teaches. It is very dishonest and damaging to their flocks.

At my mother’s funeral Mass in a Catholic church, the pastor from the Protestant church I was attending, sat behind me in church alongside an elder from the same church. When it came time for Catholic communion, my pastor got in line right behind me and accepted the Host although not going along with the transubstantiation but IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIANITY. He felt himself called to partake of the Eucharist whether it was the body and blood literally or symbolically. The point is, he partook. I think it was a Christian attitude. His elder right behind him remained seated and was disgusted that a Protestant pastor would partake of the Eucharist. This was, in my view, not very Christian of him.

It’s not unknown for non-Catholics to receive. Some do it in ignorance of Catholic teaching regarding who may receive, and some do it in defiance of that teaching. But, if the Church is really what she claims to be, then one must submit to her teaching on who may receive the Eucharist. One is simply not allowed to determine that one need not follow her rules, since they are not her rules but God’s rules.


#16

DCB, I’ve only got a second before I have to get back to work. But consider Peter’s response at the end of John chapter 6.

It’s obvious Peter doesn’t have a clue what Jesus is talking about, eating His body, gnawing on His Flesh, drinking His Blood. It gives me the willies, and I wasn’t even there.

But… when Jesus asked Peter was he ready to leave, too, what did Peter say? “To whom else will we go? You have the words of everlasting life?”

You see, Peter accepted that Jesus knew what He was talking about, even if Peter didn’t. Peter basically placed all his trust in Jesus and His Teaching. That’s what I’ve done in my study of the Church. There are things I don’t understand, and there I things I had a BIG problem relating to, when it came time for me to actually BE catholic rather than just filling up a pew spot. But I trusted in Jesus’ promise to build His Church and to guide His Church.

In my view, it’s “To what other church would I go? The Catholic Church has the Words of Eternal Life”.


#17

That point about Peter is a very powerful one. Extremely powerful. Peter did not have to understand it all, merely follow Jesus, as He certainly knows what He is doing even though I don’t. Excellent excellent point…thank you.


#18

People who are not baptized in the Catholic Church or who are baptized in some other church, when they officially become Catholics at the Easter Vigil Mass take an oath saying that they hold and accept all that the Catholic Church teaches.

That requires a leap of faith because not even a person who has been a Catholic for 80 years, probably including the Pope, knows everything that the Catholic Church teaches. It is just that, an act of trust or faith that understands that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit will not teach falsely. That does not mean that priests and bishops cannot sometime make errors in their teaching. The only ones guaranteed not to make errors when teaching are an ecumenical council of bishops in union with the Pope or the Pope himself when he teaches ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter). That does not mean that the Pope cannot make mistakes in carrying out his everyday business or when he offers an opinion. The gift or charism of infallibility requires some specific conditions for it to be exercised.

It is not clear to me if you have received any of the Sacraments beyond Baptism, confession or Penance, communion, or confirmation. If not you would probably be required to go through a process similar to RCIA where you learn the fundimentals of the Catholic Faith and bring your reception of the sacraments up to date. If you have received all those Sacraments in the Catholic Church as a young person, then all that would be required is to go to confession.

Th catch in that of course is that you are struggling with the “small rocks” and need to come to terms with those. Your previous posts leave me with an impression that many of these “small rocks” are a difficulty, not because you could not eventually accept them, but because you really don’t understand them well enough.

If you would take your list and break out each “rock” as a separate question and post it, I am sure that the good people on these forums could help a great deal with understanding.

Meanwhile, as a human being, you have every right to attend Mass anytime you wish and I recommend on a regular basis. Refrain from receiving the Eucharist until you get squared away as a card carrying member and have gone to confession. One thing you will probably notice at Mass is that each Mass has upwards of fifty verses or more from the Scriptures that are read or prayed.
That is many more than I have ever heard at a Baptist Sunday Service. Catholicism is very Biblical and has the bonus of having a strong reliance also on Sacred Tradition, which while not always stuff in the Bible can be traced back to the apostles and the Church of the first century. There are also traditions with a small t in the Catholic Church but these are usually practices that may change and be modified over time.

Be of good cheer, I think you will find a lot of satisfaction and blessings in coming back. It will take a bit of prayer, work, and study however. :thumbsup:


#19

Please consider attending RCIA classes to gain a better understanding of the faith – even if you’re already Catholic.

A mistake many make is to rely on our own wisdom.

Enjoy your journey!


#20

Very well said :thumbsup:

I am a cradle Catholic and though I never left the Church to go to any others I wasn’t always faithful in following the Church’s teaching regarding birth control etc. What I have discovered is that if I had followed all the Church’s teachings I would have been happier and the early years of our marriage would have gone smoother. Luckily my wife and I stuck together through the rough times and now are very happy after 26 years of marriage. But I remember feeling most insecure when I was “making it up on my own” and going for what I thought was best for my life rather than relying on the Church’s wisdom for answers. DW and I have discussed this many times and agree that if we had trusted in God and his Church that the rough times we went through would have been much easier.

God doesn’t want you to be miserable here one earth. He loves you and will support you if you let him. The teachings of the Church are there to give us guidelines that will help us be as happy as we can be until we can joyfully rejoin him in heaven. Fall into the loving arms of Mary and be comforted in your daily life.


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