While I was hanging out at my girlfriend’s house this weekend, her father suggested that I go with them to their very Evangelical Church. I agreed, as I was once an Evangelical myself, and I love hearing what the other side is saying.
At the end of the surmon, I was ready to freak out. So, I sent an email to the minster asking some questions. I am going to cut and paste all of it here, as I thought you guys might enjoy the read. This is why I became a Catholic…right here:
My email was as follows:
I was present for your message this morning, and it has caused me to ask several questions after the sermon. I was hoping that you might address them.
First, let me say that I really did enjoy the message, and I think that it was well thought out. However, there were a few things that I need a little help with.
First, lets talk about a statement that you made concerning the advancement of medical treatment. In the course of your address, you asked the congregation. “How many of you believe that the advance of medicine is a gift from God?” I was troubled somewhat by this, and the more I thought about it, the worse it got. Let’s consider a couple of “medical advancements”: stem cell research, abortion, breast augmentation, plastic surgery in general to aid in vanity, and even assisted suicide. Clearly, these are not all scientific advances to which God would be pleased. I was wondering if you would like to comment on this a bit, as I am sure this is not what you intended.
Secondly, I wanted to make reference to something that you quoted from James this morning. Note that I am going to use the KJV of the Bible, as it is the one that I have handy. In James 5: 16. In that verse, it states that the righteous, when they pray for us, may facilitate in the Lord raising us up. You then went on to say that you had a group of people in the Church that prayed for you every day of the year. My question is, and I am in no way trying to disparage those fine people, how did you determine that they were righteous?
Finally, and this is the big one for me, I was a bit concerned about the passage in James also under James 5:16. In this, the Bible says that we are to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed. I hearkened back to John 20: 22-23. Here Jesus appears to the Disciples and breathes on them, as God breathed life into Adam, and tells them that the sins that they forgive are forgiven, and that those sins that they retain are retained. When we combine the two, James and John, it appears to make quite the case for the Catholic Rite of Reconciliation (what we commonly refer to as confession). So, I was wondering if you could elaborate on what is being said in James and John here.
Thanks so much!
Now for some fun, this was the response that I got.
Thank you for your note. I appreciate your attentiveness during the sermon and I will attempt to answer your three questions.
In no way do I believe that God is pleased with the special medical procedures you mention.
First of all they are Christians. Secondly, I spoke to another person who knew all these people well and verified from his perspective that they have demonstrated a level of maturity in their faith.
In the James text there is no indication that the forgiveness is given by people. Our confession to each other is sign of our repentance, and then God provides the forgiveness. that is my understanding of that text. In the John text the traditional (Protestant, albeit) understanding is that the disciples “declare” forgiveness or non-forgiveness on God’s behalf depending upon whether or not people receive the gospel. In other words, as I preach the gospel and people receive it I can tell them they are forgiven. If they do not receive it I can say they are not forgiven. I don’t offer or withhold forgiveness, I simply announce it on God’s behalf based on their response to the message. One thing that has helped me with this is to understand it in light of Biblical context. In other words, are there scriptures elsewhere that give people (even priests or clergy) the authority to forgive sins? None that I know of. We announce it only on God’s behalf based on people’s reception of God.*
The wonder of this kind of logic is amazing to me!!!