I’ve been having a discussion with a few Protestants, and one of them insists that what I’m saying isn’t really Catholic. He seems to think Catholics believe in salvation by works, that we worship Mary, etc. So, I’ve come to the Catholic Answers forums to ask: is what I’m telling him really Catholic? Or am I really telling him Protestant beliefs and labeling myself Catholic?
What I disagree with in your comment is that 1) theology somehow makes us less able to love Jesus 2) Catholicism is about rules or regulations and 3) all we need to do is have a relationship with him and not worry about what “denomination” we’re in.
To the first, theology doesn’t separate us from God. Quite the opposite. Just like knowing my wife draws me closer and closer to her, knowing about my God draws me closer and closer to Him. The most poetic language ever spoken about mans relationship with God probably came from St Augustine and St Therese of Lisouix, both of who are Doctors of the Church (there are 33 “doctors” of the Church, with Doctor referring to a great theologian).
Here are a few quick quotes from St Augustine: “our hearts remain restless Lord until they rest in thee.” "Let me know You, O Thou who know me; let me know You, as I am known. O Thou strength of my soul, enter into it, and prepare it for Yourself, that You may have and hold it without spot or wrinkle. "
2) Catholicism isn’t about rules, regulations, salvation by good works, or earning our way into Heaven. We are saved by Grace Alone. Let me repeat that. Yes, we are saved by Grace Alone. We can’t earn our way into Heaven. We are saved by Grace Alone. I don’t know why Protestants constantly accuse us of believing that we have to earn our way into Heaven. The Catholic Church officially condemned works-righteousness as a heresy called “Pelagianism” in 418 AD.
- As far as having a relationship with Jesus; I agree. I was a Protestant for over 10 years, and I was on fire. But the “fire” of Pentecostalism and Protestantism is nothing compared to the fire of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist.
But just as I have a relationship with my wife, there is a structure to it. The structure of the relationship is the “religion.” Many evangelicals have a problem with the word “religion” and think “relationship” and “religion” are somehow opposed to each other. Yet James 1:27 refers to our relationship with God as “religion.”
But I agree that we have a relationship with Jesus. No doubt. But there is no intimacy greater than the Eucharist. I love the music, singing, preaching, etc that happens in Protestant circles. But there is nothing like the Eucharist. No song, music, preaching, or charistamtic worship service can match the Eucharist. The difference is the difference between a husband having intense emotional singing, reading, and hearing sermons about his wife (Protestant worship service) vs actually having physical intimacy with her (the Eucharist).
- I agree that denominationalism is wrong. In fact, Paul explicitly condemns it in 1 Cor 1 and 3. The reality is, denominationalism didn’t exist until 1517. Jesus prayed that there would be unity in the Church in John 17. Peter said that the Church needs to be of “ONE MIND” in 1 Pet 3:8. Jesus said in John 17 that if we are not unified, then the world will not know He was sent by the Father. And what came directly after the Protestant Reformation? The “Enlightenment” and secularism.
Scripture says we must have true unity. When a Lutheran says we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism and an evangelical says baptism is just a symbol that doesn’t "do’ anything; they can’t both be right. When a Catholic says that the Eucharist really is the body blood soul and divinity of Jesus; and a Calvinist says it’s just a symbol, they can’t both be right. There have been arguments for 500 years among Protestants, and they can’t figure out their differences.
You don’t see that in Catholicism. We follow the model in Acts. Acts 1, the Apostles appointed Matthias as a Church ruler called an Episcopate (English word is “Bishop”). Likewise Paul ordained Timothy a Bishop. SO what happened when the apostles had a disagreement? In Acts 15 they met together in a Council and made a definitive declaration one what was true and what was false.
Jesus passed this authority onto His Church in Matthew 16 and Matthew 18. He said “whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
The purpose of the Church is so that we can have a correct interpretation of the truth, so we are not fighting amongst ourselves for 500 years and violating Christ’s commandment to be unified.
And do you know what the Church called itself for the first 1,500 years of Christianity? Remember that Acts says we were CALLED Christians, but we didn’t call OURSELVES Christians. Let me give you the earliest surviving writing of what Christians called themselves:
“Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
St Ignatius of Antioch, 107 AD
I invite you to actually check out what Catholicism teaches. We don’t teach that we can earn our way to Heaven. We don’t worship Mary or the Saints. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. We don’t deny that we need a personal relationship with Jesus. We don’t believe the mass is Christ being re-sacrificed again and again. etc etc.
Anyways, I hope that clears up some of your misunderstandings about Catholicism. I invite you to learn about the Eucharist, and question why you are still protesting the Catholic Church. After all, that’s what the term "protest"ant means!