13 June, 2011

Christian Faith and Life discussed with "Jim"

(Jim) Thank you again for your thoughtful response. I believe that I told you that I have no bone to pick with the Catholic church, and would love nothing more than to be convinced that they are of the truth. I was pleased to see how you articulated that salvation is indeed by the grace of God from beginning to end. I have no problem with church tradition being of value if there is no contradiction between it and scripture. As for purgatory, I wish that it could be clearly established in the pages of scripture. I know there is a passage in 1 Cor. 3, but it seems to be metaphorical (works tested by fire) of what happens at the bema seat judgment of believers.

(Cristoiglesia) I came home to the Catholic Church from a different perspective. I believed and had a studied conviction that the Catholic Church taught falsely and in fact was nothing that it claimed to be. However I was blessed with a Berean spirit and set out to prove the Church wrong. In the process I was surprised and indeed blessed to learn that the Church did not teach, practice or have a faith that was contradictory to the Scriptures but was instead the personification of those teachings. It teaches a perfection that still astounds me and convinces me of the veracity of the Church, the Bible and Christ. The Church teaching is a mosaic that fits together perfectly with the Bible and Christ. Only from a divine source protected by divine authority could this be possible in my humble opinion. I have been unable to find and support any contradiction between what the Church teaches and the Bible and Christ.

I think that Purgatory is clearly established in Scriptures but I would agree that it is not explicit in Scriptures. But, the implicit teaching of the process of purgation is overwhelming and results in the fact that the Doctrine of Purgatory is one of the most biblically supported of all Doctrines and is in perfect accordance with systematic theology and sound biblical hermeneutics. There is no place in the entire Bible where the Doctrine of Purgatory is contradicted in any way. But the lack of contradiction does not make it a sound teaching but instead what makes it sound teaching is that it is the only logical conclusion that one can come to when examining the implicit evidence from Scripture. The only conclusion that one can come to from Scriptures if there is no Purgatory is that heaven will be a lonely place if it does not exist and that God’s salvific grace will not extend as generously among His faithful as we hope.

(Jim) I teach a class for new believers. In this class I teach them that initial saving faith is best defined in Romans 10:9, which requires surrender to the authority of Christ, and belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus as the basis for their righteous standing before God. I also teach them that baptism is the non-optional expression of their acceptance of God's grace. I teach them that they are justified by Christ's blood, and are united with Christ in His body in His death and resurrection and the reality of their new identity is best described in Galatians 2:20. But while we are a new creation in Christ, we still struggle with the flesh which is able to be overcome by the indwelling Spirit as expressed in Romans 8, especially verse 11.

I conclude my introductory course with the response to God's grace that is found in Romans 12. I summarize it into three primary thoughts: Presentation, transformation, and occupation. Presentation is when we present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice in a 100% commitment to following Christ. Transformation is where we turn away from the world and embrace the renewing of our mind by saturating ourselves in the teaching of the word of God. The word of God is like fuel, and the Spirit of God is like oxygen. And together they create a mighty flame which is able to burn away the corruption of sin that lingers in our flesh and give us the mind of Christ. And finally, occupation is to re-channel our energies in the transforming power of the Spirit to embrace the spiritual giftedness God has given us to exercise within the church, and to live a life of love as outlined in verses 9-21. At the end of this course, I present each one with a small funnel, inscribed with "be a funnel" and "Romans 5:5". The point of this is to be a regular reminder that the outworking of their new life in Christ is that they are to be a channel of God's love through the Spirit to the world we live in.

(Cristoiglesia) I think that your class is beneficial to new Christians as they are often confused as to what is happening to them. We recognize the call of the Holy Spirit to faith but are confused as to why and the particulars to that call which may inhibit our response. You should emphasize their having openness to the changes the Spirit is in their lives.

I am especially approving of the fact that you emphasize their call to service of God and responsibility to preach the Gospel by example and by Word. This is very Catholic in nature as every Catholic is taught and instructed to go and preach the Gospel at each Mass as a part of the priesthood of all believers. I am also encouraged to see that you teach them to recognize and to use their spiritual gifts to the benefit of God’s kingdom on earth.

I am pleased that you are teaching the importance of Baptism and the biblical teaching on being renewed as new creatures and being born again through Baptism. It is through our Baptism that we are cleansed and made worthy of the familial relationship with Christ that we maintain through contrition and repentance when we are seduced by sin. But I am disappointed that you are not teaching them God’s other commandment which is to eat His truly real and substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity so that we may abide in Him and He in us as His great feast provides through His grace. He says that unless we eat His Body and Drink His Blood we have no life (eternal) in us. St. Paul emphasizing its importance said that unless we discern His Body at this great feast then we bring condemnation on ourselves by receiving it unworthily. In John 6 it is recorded that Christ said that this hard teaching must be discerned through a special gift by our cooperating with His Spirit communicating with ours. It is said that we can never understand His teaching through our carnal senses of reason or intellect but by being sensitive to the spirit instructing us when we remain in Him. All Christians should communicate to non-believers by asking, “have you eaten His Body and drank His Blood so that He can abide in you and you in He as He commanded?” It is sad that so many professing Christ in their lives denies this plainest of His teaching and refuses to do as He says but instead accept a metaphorical representation and perversion of His great feast. They should take notice that if the Israelites had done the same at Passover and only ate a metaphorical representation of the lamb that they would have brought death of their first born on their family. So too do so many refuse His commandment and the saving grace that His feast provides. You may also emphasize the importance of a systematic prayer life and the necessity of their life being one of constant prayer to God for themselves and others.

(Jim) I have had some former lifelong Catholics in my class and they are a source for some of my understanding. Often they are brought to tears as they recount the system of works that they believe they were taught. Either they were poorly taught, or they poorly understood. God bless, Jim

(Cristoiglesia) Yes, there are many Catholics that are Catholics in name only and often claim to be Catholic out of a cultural association instead of a spiritual one. They are often not the faithful ones who are properly catechized and who attend Church and practice their faith. They profess Catholic Christianity because they were born into a family who are culturally Catholic but know nothing of what being a Catholic Christian entails in devotion and practice. God Bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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