Response to the fundamentalist charge that all Christian religions are just "window dressing"

I recently was talking with a good friend of mine who happens to be fundamentalist. He has no animosity towards the Catholic Church, and we’ve had some great conversations. One thing that I remember from a recent conversation, was that he mentioned that since he subscribes to “once saved, always saved”, he believes that all Christian denominations are just “window dressings”, and that any differences are just extrampaneous. He holds that we are much more alike than we might think. I agree to a certain extent, but it’s obvious there are some pretty big differences between our two faiths.

I’ve been looking for some good articles by either Saints or even modern theologians, that deal specifically with this issue: that all Christian denominations are superfluous and as long as we believe in Christ we will be OK. Does anyone one have any links to some good articles, or some good books, that deal specifically with countering this notion. Or perhaps someone here has a counter argument of their own they wouldn’t mind sharing. Thanks!

My ex has a similar ideology. And it was around the time that we had this conversation that it marked the beginning of the end of Protestant ideology for me (though I never subscribed to OSAS).

I told him that while yes, accepting Jesus as God and your savior is very important, we Christians cannot even agree on who or what Jesus is. Is he true God and true man? Is he a mixture of both? Is he even God? Is he separate from God? Is he the archangel Michael or was Jesus just a man raised to do great things? These are all things I have heard people use to describe Jesus.

I doubt he’d say that the topic of the divinity of Christ is a window dressing issue. So what is a window dressing issue and what isn’t? How can he know, and who is he to decide? Who knows if he’ll buy this argument. My ex told me I was starting to sound like a Pharisee. :shrug:

EDIT: Besides, what does it even mean to “accept Jesus.” Say I accept Jesus and (I’m using hyperbole here), I slaughter a bunch of babies, and celebrate a black mass. I accepted Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins! I simply defy him is all. After all, I was saved, so why should it matter? Why should anything I do matter?

No, I don’t think all Christian religions are just window dressing. What do you think Jesus will say to those Christians who deny his “Real Presence” in the Holy Eucharist? This is a most basic belief of Christianity and I would think that being a member of a Christian faith tradition that teaches this doctrine would be very important.

Sorry I can’t remember what books I got the following out of other than Holy Scriptures.

First ask him to reflect on the following:

  • crown of Paul (if he helps his flock members get theirs, he will have a share in those)
  • not stunting the growth of the widows and orphans
  • the talents and being put in charge of bigger things
  • the profitable family firm of God’s children
  • the last 21 verses of Proverbs where the lady with her spinning wheel laughs at the future and sends for rich foods for her servants from abroad (this passage is not about making wives stay at home incidentally. She is the Bride of Christ)
  • when the master comes back from the far country he is going to ask questions about whether the servants have fed their fellow servants on time
  • Cor 12, Eph 4 and helping EACH OTHER share our gifts like the disciples brought the boy with the loaves and fishes forward - he didn’t just say to everybody “look what I’ve got”, they brought him forward

Works of spiritual and corporal mercy are fruits of the new life of the indwelling Jesus in the power of the Paraclete.

Fellowships like his often deny works of new life. They are the man who buried the talent. (But we needn’t particularly highlight the organisational or denominational identity of this.)

(“Bible Christians” might as well have several hundred pages printed blank!)

In practice even the Catholic Church isn’t good at training us up to do works of spiritual mercy for each other and for the enquiers on the fringes who have “non-textbook queries”. (Corporal ones, somewhat better.)

His mindset is defensive yet craving acceptability.

The point of the Reformation in God’s eyes I think is to prove that organisational fracture and differences on doctrine in sacraments while they need to be absolutely respected, meaning that we can’t equate what some of them would claim to equate, are secondary to the fruitful works He is looking for from us all irrespective of denomination.

If his denomination per se has been subtly opposing all or most of these things, hopefully he will move to a better one.

If you play this man at his own game but head on, you will solely confirm him in his own strategy.

Everything I have listed is (in theory) in his Bible and that of every Protestant exactly as in ours. What God is looking for is not to undermine church attachment solely as church attachment, but to strengthen attachment to fruit growing.

When that man realises you have strengthened his fruitfulness in what he understood of his calling (which those around him robbed him partly of, whatever their denomination) God will guide him gradually what he shall further prioritise. At the least he’ll know that some Catholics have got something good!

Have said an Our Father for you both - that’s Lord’s Prayer to him!

The Bible mentions Bishops four times and Deacons five times.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philip’pi, with the bishops and deacons: (Philippians 1:1)

Acts of the Apostles mentions presbyters seven times.

I don’t know anything about window dressing but if a believer doesn’t belong to a faith community with deacons, presbyters and bishops then they don’t belong to the same faith community which Paul belonged to nor do they have the same faith given to us by Jesus.

-Tim-

=billy15;13876424… he believes that all Christian denominations are just “window dressings”, and that any differences are just extrampaneous.

That is an interesting opinion. How does he know that is true? Does the Bible say that somewhere? If not, what is his authority for saying that? Just curious.

He holds that we are much more alike than we might think. I agree to a certain extent, but it’s obvious there are some pretty big differences between our two faiths.

I had a really good bible teacher one time tell me that most Catholics and non-Catholics hold something like 95% or 98% of beliefs in common. They just don’t always realize it. He was a convert from Evangelical Christianity to Catholicism.

as long as we believe in Christ we will be OK.

It seems like WHAT we believe about Christ matters, too. Like someone earlier mentioned, people have different beliefs about who Jesus is/was and those beliefs effect how they live their lives…which matters, I would think.

Or perhaps someone here has a counter argument of their own they wouldn’t mind sharing. Thanks!

I personally wouldn’t offer a counter argument unless the person could offer a decent reason to believe his statement should be believed to be true in the first place.

It isn’t true just because he said it, is it?

Even the demons believe in Jesus and they shudder.

What your friend believes is classic relativism. Which is a heresy. He certainly won’t find his opinion taught in Scripture or Tradition, except to find it condemned.

billy15 #1
a good friend of mine who happens to be fundamentalist….since he subscribes to “once saved, always saved”, he believes that all Christian denominations are just “window dressings”, and that any differences are just extrampaneous

.
Then why did Jesus specifically teach, in the Bible, that all should follow Him in His Church?

All four promises to Peter alone
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven." ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) [Later also to the Twelve].

Sole authority to Peter alone
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

St Paul specifically teaches that we are not “saved” but REDEEMED, for by His Crucifixion, death and Resurrection, Jesus has REDEEMED us. So long as one realises that we are not “saved” in this life, we have to listen to St Paul in that what is lacking is our co-operation. That is precisely why St Paul teaches: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12). We don’t achieve salvation in one fell swoop by accepting Christ as our personal saviour as some are misled to feel.

Our salvation depends on our cooperation in believing and acting as best we know in doing good and avoiding evil. Jesus redeemed us (opened Heaven), we have to play our part to be saved. As St Paul teaches: “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” (1Cor 9:27). And again: “Wherefore he who thinks that he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12). Yet again, “And we exhort you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor 6:1).

As stated by Paul, what is lacking for our salvation is what only we can do, for the sake of His Body which is the Church. Christ was acting for the whole human race, not instead of, not as a substitute. “He bore our sins in His own Body on the Cross.” (1Pet. 2:29). What did Paul say must happen because Christ is the one mediator? “Supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men” (1Tim 2:1-5). Thus we are all called to be co-redeemers. [See *Christ In Eclipse, Frank Sheed, Sheed & Ward, 1978, p 105-108).

“It is not those who say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21). When asked “What must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Keep the commandments.” (Mt 19:16-17).

No one is “saved” until they have responded to the redemption of Jesus by cooperating with Him to supply what was lacking in His afflictions – when we walk in good works (Eph 2:10). As James teaches: “Faith without works is dead.” (See Jam 2:14-26).

Thank you for the responses everyone, many of them are exactly what I was thinking, and some I even mentioned to him. It’s still my hope to find something by a saint or doctor of the Church. Did Bl. John Henry Newman ever right anything on the subject? Or perhaps another saint who had converted?

I should have clarified on what my friend said. What he meant was the true meaning behind “once saved, always saved”; that one believe in Christ’s sacrifice, and that accepting Him as your Lord and Savior is enough for salvation. He acknowledges that “even the demons believe in God”, but also believes that justification is a one time thing. He went as far as to say that even if he had molested and murdered a bunch of children, one’s salvation still couldn’t be lost. Apparently, he’s mixed up redemption with salvation.

Therefore, because of his beliefs, and because he has no animosity towards Catholicism, he believes that I am saved, and therefore all the different Christian denominations throughout the world are for naught and just “window dressing”.

This all stemmed from a conversation on the Good Thief, St. Dismas. Like many Protestants, this is supposed to be the “smoking gun” that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Obviously, we know that it is. But if one subscribes to OSAS, then baptism obviously becomes nothing more than a symbol, and the need for a Church is gone, meaning that according to this thought process, the only differences between Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Evangelicals is that each has some different decorations hanging up. This is why I’d like to see something from the saints or modern theologians. Perhaps it won’t sway him, but we have a 2,000 year history compared to his 200 year history to refer back to. Someone else’s words who can express these things better may be more effective than mine. Who has written well that the Catholic Church is not just one of many different Christian denominations to follow? I like what Bishop Sheen said in that each religion possesses SOME of the Truth, but the only one to possess all of it is the Catholic Church. I’d love to learn more on that subject. Thanks again for all your responses.

The “good thief”

[LIST]
*]went through torture himself acknowledging he was guilty of his crimes
*]he had the presence of mind to defend Jesus to the other thief
*]Recognizes Jesus for who he is
*]Then asks Jesus for His mercy
[/LIST]
An entire Catechism could be written on just that

In Jimmy Akin’s book “The Fathers Know Best” there is a section where he quotes some of the early Church Fathers. They speak quite strongly against schisms and those who cause them or follow someone who does. He quotes people such as Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, and many more… so this goes all the way back to the 2nd century. I recommend this book. It may help you out. Just search for it in the CA store.

accepting Him as your Lord and Savior is enough for salvation.

I don’t know my bible as well as I should so please forgive me. But I haven’t come across that phrase yet. I wonder where that is…book…chapter…verse…?

He went as far as to say that even if he had molested and murdered a bunch of children, one’s salvation still couldn’t be lost.

Ok. That is just plain scary. So basically the 10 commandments are thrown out the window once one believes he has been saved? That is ridiculous and even contradicts Jesus’ own words. Salvation then becomes what…a license to sin? That sounds like a very shallow and superficial type of bible-reading Christianity. No thank you.

all the different Christian denominations throughout the world are for naught and just “window dressing”.

Then I guess Jesus was a fool when He decided to build His Church and promised to be with it always? Jesus’ Church is just “window dressing”?

This is why I’d like to see something from the saints or modern theologians.

Try Akin’s book for what early Fathers said: here’s the link:

shop.catholic.com/the-fathers-know-best-your-essential-guide-to-the-teachings-of-the-early-church-set.html

Try searching on CA for articles and you’ll find plenty of great stuff.

Good luck!

I have been thinking about checking out that book by Akin for a while. I was looking at the table of contents on Amazon. I’m guessing the chapters in Section VII on the “catholic Church” and “Peter the Rock” would be good places to look for quotes on schism? I guess I hadn’t thought of the issue of schism as much in regard to this, but that is what is happening with our Protestant brethren. I just looked up the topic of schism in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and I wish I would’ve used this quote from St. Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians: “I beseech you, brethren… that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment”. (1 Cor. 1:10). That’s from the Douahy-Rheims translation; most others seem to translate “schism” as “divisions”. But I think it gets the point across both of us as Catholics are trying to make.

Surely, as I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a moment, a fundamentalist Protestant could still claim that since we all profess one belief in Christ’s redemption and the saving act of his sacrifice, we are still united. I can think of some ways to address that, but I guess the success of those counter-arguments would depend on how open that particular person is on hearing the true, un-distorted words of the Gospel.

Thanks for bringing this line of thinking to my attention Bestil, this definitely helps, especially the line I just found from St. Paul in Scripture. :thumbsup:

[quote=billy15]Thank you for the responses everyone, many of them are exactly what I was thinking, and some I even mentioned to him. It’s still my hope to find something by a saint or doctor of the Church. Did Bl. John Henry Newman ever right anything on the subject? Or perhaps another saint who had converted?
[/quote]

Yes Bl. JHN did have some comments regarding this view. In his mind it was liberalism (all religions are basically the same) which he fought all of his life. The other belief (OSAS) was an Evangelical opinion (even in the Church of England.) Newman left Evangelicalism behind once he got to college and learned how empty and non-Biblical it actually was.) Although he remained in the Church of England for another couple of decades.

His final conversion to Catholicism (in his own opinion) was a result of his deep reading of the ECFs and history, as well as coming to the realization that the Church of England was really no different from Arianism or some other schismatic/heretical sects that existed during the time of the ECFs. Lastly, he considered the Roman Catholic Church to be THAT church described in Sacred Scripture and the ECFs and that no other was.

I have been thinking about checking out that book by Akin for a while.

It is very worthwhile. I recommend it.

… a fundamentalist Protestant could still claim that since we all profess one belief in Christ’s redemption and the saving act of his sacrifice, we are still united.

Sure. In a sense that is true.

But then I always think about Jesus’ words in John 17 where He prays that “they may all be one even as we are one.” Then I think, well…I bet Jesus and the Father agree on everything. What it takes to be saved, the number of sacraments, His teaching on the Eucharist, OSAS, and all of the rest. I bet they don’t disagree about any of that. Maybe that isn’t what He was talking about with “being one”…but I still bet they don’t disagree.

But we Christians do. And the result isn’t unitive…but divisive.

Thanks for bringing this line of thinking to my attention Bestil, this definitely helps, especially the line I just found from St. Paul in Scripture. :thumbsup:

Good find on that verse! :thumbsup: I knew there was one out there…but couldn’t find it.

BTW, here’s a quick quote from Akin’s book page 225:

“It was not until John Calvin that anyone would claim that is was impossible for a true Christian to lose his salvation. That was a theological novelty of the sixteenth century, unheard of in the first fifteen hundred years of Church history.” (Akin, The Fathers Know Best, pg. 225, Catholic Answers Press, 2010)

Often, English translations of the Greek leave much to be desired.

1 Cor 1:10
10 I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions σχίσματα ] among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

“dissension” is a weak translation IMV.

σχίσματα = schism: a split, division, rent

By definition Protestants do NOT profess the same faith. They by definition in their own belief system, protest the true faith and the true Church. Hence they are Protestants to the faith once and for all given to the saints. THAT is their DNA. We can’t ignore that nor can they. Therefore, It’s our job as Catholics to show Protestants their error.

John Cardinal Henry Newman said it sooooo well. *

“To be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant” *That’s a huge statement. Protestants can’t point to God as the beginning of their belief system. They follow traditions of man, and therefore, by definition, and in conclusion, are NOT following Jesus and what HE established, and made His promises to. Depending on stripe, they follow their founder,Luther, or Henry VIII, or Calvin. or Smyth, etc etc etc.

What’s also clear, scripture condemns that and anyone who does it.

That’s why it is incumbent for Catholics to educate Protestants and all other non Catholics. Whether they convert or not is their choice. That’s why we are to educate them so they have the truth intellectually. What they do with it THEN is what makes the difference. for THEM in eternity

I have found that you can give all the facts you want, but they usually won’t change a Protestant’s mindset. It would mean admitting that the “protest” was out of sorts.

In any event, “once saved always saved” was not even a doctrine until well after the origins of the Reformation. It evolved out of Calvinism into “non-traditional Calvinism” or something called “free grace theology”. You’ll find these concepts are quite new in the history of Christianity.

This theology sounds great but it does not match up with the dozens of scriptures on repentance or the various scriptures on God’s judgement. Matthew 25 is also a good place to start.

The writings of Ignatius of Antioch (first century bishop) also counter this relativism.

EWTN apologist John Martignoni put this way - a Protestant often refers to agreement on the “essentials” in order to justify the denominations. Everything we need to know for matters of faith and morals is not in the bible, but to play sola scriptura for a second, where in the bible does it list the “essentials” or the non-essentials?

It does not list them, obviously. So where does this authority to determine the essentials come from? Each denomination becomes it’s own authority. We know this is not valid authority.

The OP is not talking about Protestants. He said that the person challenging him is a Fundamentalist, not a Protestant. There is a difference.

Fundamentalist non-denominationalist Evangelicals are not Protestants and they will be the first to tell you that. Most fundamentalists are as quick to distance themselves from organized Protestant religions as the are to distance themselves from Catholicism. “I’m not protesting anything” is what they will tell you.

I’ve met John Martignoni. He has spoken at my parish. He has lots of problems as an Apologist. To start with, his style is extremely angry and condescending - that alone makes him a non-starter for many Christians who ascribe to the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.

-Tim-

Be that as it may, all of nondenominational theology is rooted in Protestantism whether or not they want to distance themselves from it.

Certain denominations refer to themselves as fundamentalist as well.

All one has to do is see what one’s belief system is. If they are not Catholic, and not E Orthodox of some stripe, and go by “fundamentalist” Christian, then they are Protestant of some stripe.

I’ve even heard Lutherans say they aren’t Protestant. :rolleyes: Luther and his followers were the founders of Protestantism. Then all the others of many stripes, followed him

[quote="bestil]But then I always think about Jesus’ words in John 17 where He prays that “they may all be one even as we are one.” Then I think, well…I bet Jesus and the Father agree on everything. What it takes to be saved, the number of sacraments, His teaching on the Eucharist, OSAS, and all of the rest. I bet they don’t disagree about any of that. Maybe that isn’t what He was talking about with “being one”…but I still bet they don’t disagree.

But we Christians do. And the result isn’t unitive…but divisive.
[/quote]

Very well said, thanks for providing that verse. I hope to use that in the future. This thread has been a great resource. I often do my best learning when I write out a response in the form of an essay after doing research on a certain subject, this one being on the claim that all Christian denominations are just “window dressing”. I’m grateful for the insightful posts you and others have given.

Awesome, thanks Steve. This is something I was planning on looking for, what the word actually translates to. it’s good to know that “σχίσματα” directly translates to schism, thus bolstering the Catholic argument even more.

[quote=MattP]I have found that you can give all the facts you want, but they usually won’t change a Protestant’s mindset. It would mean admitting that the “protest” was out of sorts.
[/quote]

I agree, but we at least have to try. This person has become a dear friend to me. i know I cannot convert him, as only the Holy Spirit can do that, but it’s my hope that during our conversations (as he loves to talk religion, and so do I!) his eyes might be opened a bit more. It took other people like Scott Hahn many many years before they finally converted. All we can do is have the correct information in our minds so we can argue effectively for Christ’s Church, utilize it, and pray to the Holy Spirit that some seed has been planted. He’s told me on one occasion that he loves our talks because it makes him think about his faith. I see that as a good thing, and at the same time, having to articulate my beliefs as a Catholic Christian has been a positive good as it helps me to become more confident in knowing and spreading the faith.

The writings of Ignatius of Antioch (first century bishop) also counter this relativism.

Do you have a specific letter in mind that you could share here?

EWTN apologist John Martignoni put this way - a Protestant often refers to agreement on the “essentials” in order to justify the denominations. Everything we need to know for matters of faith and morals is not in the bible, but to play sola scriptura for a second, where in the bible does it list the “essentials” or the non-essentials?

It does not list them, obviously. So where does this authority to determine the essentials come from? Each denomination becomes it’s own authority. We know this is not valid authority.

I like this; a very good point.

I’ve only recently been reading and listening to Martignoni’s work in recent months, and what I’ve heard, I’ve liked. I don’t think he’s overly condescending as you mentioned Steve B, but nobody is perfect. We can all do better in how we charitably spread the faith. His talk on OSAS that I heard was pretty phenomenal, and had said some things that I had never considered. I’m curious to know if he’s ever broached the topic of “window dressing”, but as I’ve had trouble this whole time, it’s hard to put into a search engine exactly what I’m looking for and get the right results, which is why we have this thread here now.

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