Hard Question for Catholics

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Thinkingstuff, Mar 11, 2010.

  1. Thinkingstuff

    Thinkingstuff
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    I've stated before. My major opposition to the Catholic Church is one of application. Note Jesus statement in Matthew 7:15-20
    One of the reasons I left the Catholic Church at 15 was that my family was devoute. Attending Mass every Sunday. Going to Confession at least once a month. Yet, they committed Adultry, gossipped, fornicated, and ignored God the rest of the time. Before I was rescued at a missionary boarding school, I was considering becoming an atheist. However, God's grace prevented this. Now here is an article from the times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7056689.ece
    Here are some excerpts from the article I find to be problematic for Catholics
    Now considering the Catholic view of the sacrament of baptism. How can a man be "born again" under baptism, filled by the Holy Spirit at confirmation, annointed to be a Priest with a special grace that allows him to provide the "body, blood, and divinity of Christ" in the Eucharist, get promoted to being a Cardnal - all without believing in Jesus?!? It is from the Cardnals that a pope is elected. So presuming that the sacraments provide grace and the eucharist changes men to be more godly how can you have a cardnal not believe in Jesus? If Jesus spoke the truth in the above quote then how am I to judge the "fruit" I've seen personally and what has been shown publically in the Catholic Church? Jesus is about changed lives. Turning away from sin. Do the sacraments work? I think this is a key question.
    How did the Jews know Jesus was the messiah? He forgave a man of his sins then he healed him to show that the son of man has both the power to forgive sins and to heal. By his actions. And the effectiveness of his miracles.
    Now lets take a look at the sacraments. I'll use myself but I'm certain I'm not alone. I was baptised a Catholic. I didn't think one thing about Jesus and certainly we never spoke about him at the dinner table. My step mother being budhist an all. I went to first communion and received a nice certificate. However, in the many years after that point I did all sorts of evil with out a second thought. I had little conscience. I was finally confirmed which means I was filled with the spirit but still nothing changed. I certainly didn't speak in tongues :laugh:. My life only changed when I prayed for Jesus to forgive my sins enter into my life giving me his life that I may die to myself and live again in him. I asked him to give me a new spirit and since then I spurned the lifestyle I once had. Also note before that point I had no desire to read the bible much less understand anything it said. My life effectively changed. yet with the multitude of exposures to the sacraments nothing changed.
    this is where the rubber hits the road. We can discuss theology all day long yet I question what works? If I'm working on a car engine and what I do does nothing to get it going how effective is it? But if I do something that gets it running then isn't that the better way? There are many Catholics who's lives haven't changed despite the frequent participation in the sacraments. This is where I hold my family at bay.

    So Lori, Brianna, Matt, Agnus Dei, Zenas how do you explain this? Not that I dislike you guys but effectiveness is an issue (In fact you guys often have keen insite into what you believe). What really works? Are the sacraments effective? How if they did nothing for me or others? What about the fruit of the church. I know Matt is Anglican and Agnus Dei is Orthodox, Zenas I think is baptist but has a knowledge of the Catholic Church. Yet each holds to a belief in the sacraments. Yet what about the fruit as Jesus above acknowldeges it?
     
  2. Doubting Thomas

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    As an Anglican, I'll chime in.

    I think first of all it's important to note that the sacraments are NOT magic. They don't ultimately 'work' (for salvation) in the unrepentent and unbelieving. For example, when I go to receive Communion the priest (presbyter) invites those to come who are in charity with their neighbor and who resolve to live a new life and are heartily sorry of their sins. Here is the relevant Article:
    XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.
    "The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ."


    The same Article goes on to say:

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]"The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith."[/FONT]

    Conversely, Article 29 mentions that those who partake unworthily eat and drink damnation upon themselves:

    XXIX. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.
    "The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing."

    This same contrast is of course seen Scripturally between those who partake in the flesh and blood of Christ by Faith (ie, John 6:35-64) and those who eat/drink unworthily and are thus guilty of the body and blood of Christ and eat and drink judgement unto themselves (ie 1 Cor 11:27-30). So, in other words, those 'catholic Christians' (of whatever stripe) who mechanically partake of the sacraments without lively faith (ie working in love) or desire to repent of their sins, are actually doing themselves much harm in so partaking.

    I can say a lot more (particularly regarding baptism, etc) but my lunch break is over. But to answer your question: the sacraments 'work' because, for those who are truly believing and penitent, they are efficacious in uniting us to Christ and strenghening us with Himself:

    XXV. Of the Sacraments.
    Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us,by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him
     
  3. lori4dogs

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    This is an excellent question, Thinkingstuff, and I want to give it proper time for an answer. I don't have that time right now but will, indeed, respond.

    However, you said: "My life only changed when I prayed for Jesus to forgive my sins enter into my life giving me his life that I may die to myself and live again in him." This is true for everyone regardless of whether they are Catholic or not. A person can go through the motions and without true repentance it has no meaning.
     
  4. Thinkingstuff

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    Ok. Granted they are not "magic". Yet they claim to dispense grace on the believer. Now I think both Anglican and Catholics view baptism similarily. It is the New Circumsision it identifies the person as a member of the Kingdom of God. Jesus told Nicodemus that to be born from above (born again) you must be born of spirit and water. Yet if a child (infant) is baptized what evidence is their of a new spirit? The predolition for sin is evident in the youngest of children. So then how can a child be born from above if the spirit hasn't changed? In essence the theology of both churches claim that the child is now a member of the kingdom of God and born from above. Yet let that child alone and see what happens. Then that begs the next question. If the child's faith is dependent on the parents belief at the time of the child's baptism and they are only involved in the most basic of means with no real faith. Then does that invalidate the baptism? Must then there be another necissary baptism?

    True drinking damnation upon themselves. Yet in the early church as noted by the NT eating and drinking in this was cause illness and death. Counter to that I would suspect many have in these denominations eaten unworthely as even I had as a young person. I neither got sick (as many others do not). However, if a persons faith is once agian a determiner of the effectiveness then why not say it is faith that makes it functional? IS there a suggestion that if a person eats unworthely then they become harden if they do not become soften?
    So in essence are you saying its not the sacraments that are salvific but the faith alone that you possess?
     
  5. lori4dogs

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    Thinkingstuff:

    My own experience, and that of my spouse, is much different than yours. I came to the Catholic Church as a Christian who already had come to faith and repentance. My spouse was an un-believer before becoming a Catholic. However, you are not the first ex-Catholic that I heard sharing this concern.

    We have a friend who also is a convert to Catholicism from being an evangelical. She shared via email the following:

    ". . . but I've pondered of late how MUCH I have grown in my understanding of God and of faith and of a holy life since becoming Catholic. It's been like going from walking to riding a bike, at least. Still room for much growth (a 747, perhaps?), but the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place so much more rapidly and I can only chalk that up to the graces inherent in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist!"

    In response to your post:
    for those who are truly believing and penitent, they are efficacious in uniting us to Christ and strenghening us with Himself

    You said:

    "So in essence are you saying its not the sacraments that are salvific but the faith alone that you possess?"

    My friends response:

    "Indeed! Jesus couldn't perform miracles in his home town because of THEIR lack of faith! It's all very mysterious, but faith must play into the efficacy of God's work in some way, mustn't it?"

    I think she has a valid point.

    As to people living the gospel:

    There are plenty of evangelical Christians sitting in church who, unfortuanately, do not live out their faith past Sunday. It is not simply a Catholic situation.

    As far as Catholic clergy and the sex abuse. Less than 3% of Catholic clergy are said to have any involvement in the scandals. That leaves 97% that are not. It is not just a Catholic problem either. A Baptist pastor in Fresno was convicted of molesting Sunday school children not long ago. Certainly didn't get the attention that he would have had he been a Catholic priest.

    You have difficulty with clergy in all denominations. Look at the Bart Ehrman situation. Right here on the Baptist Board a month or so back, people were praising the Lord for a Baptist pastor who had 'just got saved'. The man had decided he needed to take his ordination certificate off the wall. He shared that he had 'just been paying it all lip service for all those years.' Yes, it is possible to just play the game even in the ministry.
     
  6. Doubting Thomas

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    Look at it this way--
    When Naaman the Syrian was healed of his leprosy in the OT, what was it that healed him? Was it God's grace? Naaman's faith? Or was it him dipping himself seven times in the Jordan River? Is is not all the above? The Jordan River has no inherent properties of curing leprosy, but God by His grace used it has a means to heal Naaman; yet Naaman had to take the decisive step of faith (after initial anger and doubt) and allow himself to do as God's prophet instructed.

    In the NT, the Apostle Paul writes that we are buried and raised with Christ in baptism, through faith (Col 2:12) and that we are made alive together with Christ, being saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:5, 8-9). Paul links grace, faith, being made alive with Christ, and baptism together* . Likewise, Peter says that just as Noah and his family were saved through water (ie the type), so does Baptism (ie the antitype) now save us by the resurrection of Christ. (1 Peter 3:20,21).

    (NB: *though these don't necessarily have to always temporally coincide--see article linked below--particularly in the case of infant baptism)

    So it's not a matter of being grace being "dispensed", as if it is some pseudo-substance that's divided up and distributed to the believer; it's the believer being united to Christ through faith by the gracious means of the sacraments He ordains.

    That is correct. There is parallelism between being born again in order to see the kingdom of God (3:3) and being born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (3:5).

    What is interesting is Jesus' response to the disciples who try to turn away those who were bringing their infants (Luke 18:15) to Jesus:
    'But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say unto you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." (Luke 18:16-17). So it looks like little infants/children are the right type of people of the Kingdom of God (the same kingdom that must be entered into by being born of water and the Spirit in John 3) and it's the adults that need to be converted and become like children to so enter the kingdom of heaven (see Matt 18:3).

    Yet when adult converts have faith and are baptized sinful tendancies don't vanish either despite the gift of the Spirit; they are still present after conversion.

    How do you know it hasn't? Just because the old Adamic nature is still there (just as in adult converts) doesn't mean something else was not added to the soul. (*see the quote in blue below)

    I think your bolded statement is key. When infants are baptised it is (or should be) the expectation that they will be actually raised in the Christian faith by actual believing Christian parents--nurtured to the point when they can express their own personal trust in Christ. Unfortunately in practice it all too often doesn't happen that way, as you have correctly observed.


    I'd say no it doesn't. Here's a good quote, which I have found helpful in dealing with the same questions you have raised (particularly coming from a Baptist background as I have), from an article titled, "Seed and Water, Word and Sacrament" by Fr Matthew Kirby on the Anglican Continuum blog:

    'In the case of Infant Baptism, we can say the seed of new life is always genuinely planted, and regeneration in this sense genuinely occurs. However, in those unfortunately all too frequent circumstances where the family does not continue to bring the child up in the faith, and the child does not naturally come to an incipient faith as he or she comes to the age of reason, we might say that the new life given does not become an experiential reality, almost as if the seed did not germinate, or if we consider it to be initially “watered” and invariably germinating, did not “break the surface of the ground”, but remained a seed effectively buried, dormant. On the other hand, if the vows are kept by parents and godparents, the seed which was genuinely and objectively given at baptism, becomes a subjective, experienced participation in the life of God.'
    (Here's the link to the entire article: http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2009/11/seed-and-water-word-and-sacrament.html )



    Perhaps not physically, but many today (and during the time since the Apostles) have become sick spiritually through unworthily receiving the Body and Blood. (Just like today, one doesn't see as many physical miracles, signs and wonders, as during the time of the apostles which authenticated their message)

    I'd say that Faith does make it in a real sense 'functional', but Christ has ordained the sacrament as the objective gracious means of uniting the believer (or the young child of a believer) to Himself.

    What do you mean? Can a person harden himself who takes the sacrament unworthily? I'd say yes.

    Not faith alone, because Christ has ordained the sacraments as the usual gracious means whereby He unites us to Himself and strengthens us with Himself through faith. However, notice then that faith/repentance (or actually being a young child of a Christian--Luke 18:15-17) is a necessary condition for those means to be ultimately efficacious.
     
  7. Peggy

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    Hypocrisy can be found in the adherents of any religion. It's not just some Catholics who put on a show of holiness on Sunday and go out and sin the rest of the week. What is important is your relationship to Christ and how you live out your faith in God in love.
     
  8. Thinkingstuff

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    I believe the act of Naaman dipping himself seven times was to determine obedience to the instruction whereby it expressed his belief that God would do as he said. This act was not sacramental in that it was not a visible form of grace but a test or acknowledgement of sorts. Naaman's belief that God would do as he said was confirmed by his actions. Sacraments don't work like that. Sacraments accord a specific grace on those who receive it. As in our discourse with baptism. Though I don't know how the Sacraments become to be viewed in such a way. The etymology of the word simply means holy oath. However, this doctrine seems to have a period of development before its current understanding.

    My question is with regard to the effectiveness of the sacraments. Particularily baptism. My experience has shown in my instance and probably others here at BB that my participation in the sacraments were to no avail but a simple prayer for salvation was. So the sacrament of baptism you then state is not in a sense distributed from a well of grace and given to the participant but a uniting with the Lord. However these verses are the core of my questioning with regard to that very uniting that by nature should cause a divinazation or theosis. Though practically is this true?
    and again
    and
    Through these verses we see a comon theme regarding uniting ourselves with Jesus Christ. Bearing fruit. Fruit of the spirit, lifestyle, and a witness to others. So if the specific grace given to a child is a new spirit that unites that child to God then the natural result should be fruit. but this doesn't seem to "play out". Instead, we see the old nature still asserts itself in these cases. You respond
    indicating that even one who believes and chooses their baptism still struggles with sin. Yet I counter that there is always a significant change in these new converts and fruit is easily observable. So indeed is it functional as you suggest? You question
    and I respond by observation. A child united with christ should bare the fruit of righteousness even as Christ himself does such in his incarnation. So in respect we should see two forces at play here. 1) one representing the united child with Christ by the observance of the sacrament which is specific to being born from above and/or 2) the adamic nature. Unfortunately my observation verifies only the later rather than the former. So again how effective is the Sacraments? If divinazation is the Goal or theosis then functionally it doesn't seem to work.
     
  9. Thinkingstuff

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    Ah, but with Catholicism and like denominations we go beyond the hypocracy argument when we discuss the Sacraments which "confer some specific grace upon those who receive it."
     
  10. Matt Black

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    I'm pretty much 'on all fours' with DT on this one: it's not an either/or but a both/and. Both Hitler and Stalin, to take extreme examples, were baptised (Catholic and Orthodox respectively), so it is clear that sacraments alone do not save (just as, IMO, faith alone does not). This is, I think, clear from Scripture, whether it be Jesus' words in Mark 16 ("whomsoever believes and is baptised is saved") of John 3:5 ("born again of water and the Spirit"), or Peter's soteriological formula in Acts 2:38-39 ("Repent and be baptised"), or even more 'antetypical' examples re communion,such as all the Israelites eating the manna (cp with John 6:24ff) and yet some of them perishing through disobedience and grumbling nevertheless.
     
  11. Thinkingstuff

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    In the baptist view it is the belief not the activity that confers grace. So a person may be baptized and it affects nothing for salvation. Yet if a person believes it is enough to affect their salvation and unity with Christ. Under both Catholic and Anglican sacramental view faith and the activity working together seems to confer grace. One cannot be with out the other. Yet is this observable or functional? It doesn't seem so. When a person has a belief alone with out the sacramental act we see a life altering change yet can the same be seen with regularity in the sacraments? In other words, If this were an equation. a person believes in Jesus + participation in the sacraments = unity with God. Can I take out Participation and still see unity with God? I know already I can take out person believes in Jesus and the rest of the equation fails. Yet to me it seems participation in the sacraments are ineffectual (in an observable way) to confer a grace resulting in unity with God.
     
  12. Matt Black

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    Depends what you mean by 'unity'. Faith is sufficient to effect declaratory/ 'forensic' justification, which may or may not result in behavioural change, but I don't think it is enough to effect ontological soteriological change (you can call it 'sanctification' if you like); to put it another way, the former effects forgiveness for past sin, the latter effects freedom from all sin. For the latter, one needs ongoing salvific grace; God has chosen, I believe, to communicate that grace through the sacraments, but He has not limited Himself to communicating grace in that way.
     
  13. Thinkingstuff

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    Then how does this work with infant baptism? Is baptism only for the past sins or our sin nature? Does it affect their Ontological soteriological change? Also this is my point. As I obaserve the sacraments in practice I don't see an effect with regard to sanctification. Belief alone seems to affect this aspect. In otherwords. I have observed people who believe in Jesus Christ work towards sanctification NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO to draw closer to God. This is observable. Sacraments haven't, in my observation, affected a greater sanctification than any other devotion.
     
  14. Matt Black

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    To answer your questions re baptism, yes and yes; if someone of whatever age falls in the font/ baptistry and drowns the moment after they are baptised, they go straight into the presence of God for eternity.

    Re your second point, I said that God is not limited to the sacraments as means of grace, but why would a believer want to deny him/herself access to them?
     
  15. Thinkingstuff

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    Both Anglican and Catholic argue that the sacraments are necissary but observation indicates that this is not the case. Its in otherwords not an issue of denying the sacraments but do they do as they are purported to do? I have not observed it. Or is it just another form of devotion in which case they are not necissary.
     
  16. Matt Black

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    Sorry, but anecdotal evidence just won't do. A Catholic might retort, "Baptists argue that reading the Bible daily is necessary but observation [I have made of devout and pious Catholics] indicates that this is not the case. It's in otherwords not an issue of denying the Bible but does reading it daily do as it is purported to do? I have not observed it. Or is it just another form of devotion in which case it is not necessary."
     
  17. Thinkingstuff

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    Yet baptist don't claim that reading the bible saves. Certainly its useful to those who take it serously and apply it to their lives. baptist claims that it is belief that saves. Whether you add devotion to it or not does not affect anything else. Catholics cannot claim this with regard to the sacraments.
    Catholics claims something else entirely with regard to the sacraments. They are
    Note
    . So in order for the second to be true the first must bear observable fruit whereas I indicate they do not.
     
  18. Matt Black

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    Define 'belief'. Do you mean a response to an altar call? If so, believe you me, I've seen plenty of those in my time and many don't bear much fruit in the end.
     
  19. Thinkingstuff

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    Belief:
    Question how much conviction did they have? Was it belief to begin with or something else? I've made clear my stance on faith it must be a living faith.
     
  20. Matt Black

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    And what do you mean by that?
     

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