Help with advice to a former SDA

I need advice on a conversation I am having with a friend of mine who is a former Seventh-Day Adventist, now Agnostic. I initially was telling him how the Catholic Church indeed had married. He was slightly put-off to know that. He feels that it is unfair to Latin-Rite priest to allow Eastern Catholic and Anglican Ordinariate married men to be priests and be married. He believed it should all be uniform. I initially explained the history of the history church’s discipline on this, but then had to explain how disciplines are different than doctrine or dogmas. Disciplines can be changed. I used to example of pre-1960’s Catholic abstaining from meat every Friday, whereas now it is only during Lent. He asked if if would be a sin for those pre-1960’s Catholics to knowingly eat meat on Fridays if it is a discipline and it can be changed. I said yes it would, because of the authority of the Bishops. Even though it is a discipline, the mandate of the bishops and the Popes must be adhered to by a Catholic. Once again, he didn’t like that because he struggles with the idea of a religion being man made (which to some extent, each one is in some way or another).

I think deep down, he is trying to figure out God. He is very skeptical of all religion due to his bad experience with it. He questions all of it, but compares it to what he was brought up with. Any advice on what I could say?

It seems that you are trying to distinguish between “mad-made” religion and religious rules established by God’s authority but enforced by men.

The first question is whether any man has the authority from God to enforce those rules. If men do not have that authority, then all the laws they try to enforce are pointless.

We have the answer in John 21:15-17. Jesus specifically charges Peter with the responsibility to care for His flock.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep."

Elsewhere in all four gospels we have other accounts when Jesus grants authority to Peter specifically and to the apostles as well.

So question #1 to your friend is, “Do you believe that Jesus granted any human being the authority to lead His church?”

Once he accepts that idea, Question #2 is, “Do you believe that Jesus intended for His church to continue when the apostles died?”

Question #3 is, “How would the successors to the apostles be appointed so they could continue spreading His message?”

Question #4 is, “How might those successors be identified today? Who might they be?”

Question #5 is, “Is it reasonable for those appointed successors to establish rules for orderly behavior, particularly when a situation arises that was not specifically addressed by Jesus such as issues regarding the use of modern technology?”

Question #6 is, “Jesus was very well aware that men have a tendency to sin. Knowing this, was the authority Jesus gave to men, to lead his church and make rules, invalid?”

Where I am going here is down the path that shows Jesus intended for His church to continue, the He knew men were fallible, that He put men in charge anyway, and it is perfectly proper for those men to make and enforce rules.

This is not man-made religion. This is religion being exercised according to the structure first established by Jesus and the men He appointed.

Once you have asked these questions, BACK OFF and let him think about it for a while. It takes time for an intellectual realization to settle peacefully in someone’s heart.

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