Answers for a ‘Desperately Seeking’ Susan

Susan 242 said:

I am a brand new convert to the Catholic Church(12-16-2012)

I am very sorry to hear this. It’s not too late for you to leave. I did leave, too, after a number of years. Those years now seem like wasted time, much damage having occurred, except that, you know, God has a purpose for everything. I did manage to learn where the exits are, in such a way that I could help people find them.

Susan asked:

I asked my pastors directly, “which church should I submit to?”, and everytime they answered my question with the question, ” So you believe that Rome has an infallible interpreter?” Well, I hope somebody’s got some definate answers otherwise Christ left us oprhans! I went as far as to assert that they(Reformers) were relying on Reformed formularies much in the same way that Catholics rely on bishops and popes, for they are absolutely not relying on scripture to serve as the sole informant of their doctrines, but on men who believe that they were interpreting correctly whether you say they are infallible(not erring) or not. Further, if Reformers are not interpreting without any error in regards to faith and morals, why should I trust them and be required to submit to their authority?

Susan, we are not orphans in the world that we should run around blindly with our arms raised, asking, “who is my rightful parent, who is my rightful parent?”

God created us “in his image”, with the capacity to understand what He says to us [whether you know it or not] and with the ability to reflect His glory in the world.

We do have the ability to understand Him if we will stop and focus on Him, on hearing His voice.

Your pastors were right to ask you to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Rome. If Rome’s story is not true, all the disorganization in the [Protestant] world does not make Rome’s story about itself true. I’ve written elsewhere, “Too often, an argument is put forth in this form: “Protestantism has lots of problems. Therefore, Catholicism.”

That’s not what they’re saying here, precisely, but that was how you looked at it.

In defense of Roman Catholicism, now, you see a philosophy professor positing that “it is incumbent on anyone debating said question to argue, on grounds independent of the particular biblical interpretations he adopts, that his IP has a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinion, so that by deploying it, he at least has an argument that his particular interpretations are reliable expressions of divine revelation, not just opinions”

That’s gobbledygook. What he is saying is that you (nobody) can understand what God is saying to you. You can’t trust your own judgment as to what God’s word is and what it is saying to you. What he is saying further is that God does not have the ability to communicate directly with you. Now, you may still be confused, but is that your fault, or God’s fault?

At it’s heart, the Gospel is the reporting of an event. I like to cite some of the sermons in Acts because they’re so straightforward:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

No epistemological conundrum there. Was it because Peter had some kind of mysterious “authority” to “define” a “formal proximate object of faith”? Or was he just simply telling folks about Jesus, the one the Jews had been waiting for. [Is Acts not a book of the Bible?]

Or Paul:

When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Roman Catholics have this concept of a “formal proximate object of faith” as if it had some kind of hard-edged boundary that you dare not cross, lest you miss out on “the fullness of the faith”. But do you know what “the faith” is?

Jesus Christ was the one who was prophesied and promised to the nation of Israel. He died for your sins; therefore, trust and believe, turn and be healed.

Yes, learn everything that Jesus did and said. Then “go and do likewise”.

Then what should I do, what should I do? Should I get baptized by sprinkling or dunking? When I bless myself, should my hand cross from left to right or right to left? Sola Scriptura doesn’t tell me!!!!

Well, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, we “get to” do good works, not “we got to”. Continuing that thought:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jews and Gentiles] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

We are at peace, end of story. Yes, we live our lives in tension; we are healed but we carry around sinful flesh.

The Lutherans have a concept, adiaphora (from the Greek ἀδιάφορα “indifferent things”). You have very many questions – “when I fold my hands, which way do I cross my thumbs?” – but these are adiaphora. That’s a fancy way of saying, “who cares?”

I’ll tell you who cares. Rome cares. The Roman Catholic Church is not descended from the Apostles who said “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” It is descended from the Roman empire, which, to say it bluntly, “wants to be the boss of you”. The Roman tendency is just the tendency of sinful man. “I want to be in charge”. I’m the authority, I’m the boss of you, you have to listen to me. Only I can tell you the boundaries of “the formal proximate object of faith”. “Only I can tell you whether to bless yourself left to right, rather than right to left”.

Someone has to tell you that, if you are an orphan in the world, running around blindly with your arms raised, asking, “who is my rightful parent, who is my rightful parent?”

But if you know God is your Father, and Christ has made things right for you, that you are not a blind orphan, you need not run around looking for “the right” parent. You simply need to look to the one true parent that you have, the Father, and his ONE mediator, Jesus Christ, and understand with your heart and turn and be healed, and know that He is a God who is good for His Word, which you now conveniently [thanks to Godly and careful believers before you, who worked to understand the calculations needed to discern the canon of Scripture, to learn the languages that others, who had heard directly from God, spoke, to trace the history of how it occurred] have in the form of a single book, “God’s word to mankind”.

There is your “formal proximate object of faith”. If you believe God’s word tells you to cross yourself left-to-right, and some other believer says “no you must do it right-to-left”, when you stand before God to give an account, do you think He really cares about that?

Meanwhile, thumbs-up or thumbs-down on Rome. Is the story of their “authority” a true one? Or is it full of falsehoods?

People now need to ask the one question: “Did the Roman church come by its authority in a legitimate way?” Was its authority “divinely instituted,” as it never tires of reminding us that it is? Or was this authority accumulated through less-than-honest means?

Does Rome really get to retrospectively say what happened in history, even if it didn’t? Is retrospectively determining what happened in history a matter of authority? Or is it a matter of understanding? Nevertheless, they will tell you they have the authority to take a non-event and make it a dogma that you must believe lest you “incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.”

Peter and Paul had no knowledge of such an event, and the Scriptures say that God is rather angry with people who inventively “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” to say precisely where the authority comes from to create such a heavy burden in the first place.

Published by John Bugay

"We are His workmanship," His poiema, His "poetry." If you've ever studied poetry, or struggled to write a poem, you understand the care God takes to "work all things together for good" in our lives. For this reason, and many others, I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I have seen His hand working in my life, and I submit myself to His merciful will, with all my being.

2 replies on “Answers for a ‘Desperately Seeking’ Susan”

  1. John

    It’s always interesting to me how those in the Roman communion deny the apostolic message while proclaiming that they are the apostolic church.

    So when Michael Liccione replies to you thusly,

    “What I’m saying is that, without the sort of authority the Catholic Magisterium claims for itself, we have no way of making a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinions. The problem with lacking such a distinction is precisely that we cannot distinguish between what God is saying to us and what we are saying to ourselves”,

    he simply denies what the apostles taught us.

    1. As far as our ability to “distinguish”, the Apostle Paul disclaims that outright. In Romans 3:4 (Let God be true and every man a liar!) the Apostolic norm for truth rests in God alone and not in fallen man’s ability – or inability – to discern it In other words, the truth of God is independent of man’s ability – it is not, as Mr. Liccione would have believe, dependent upon it. Some refer to this as “objective” truth and it is precisely that objective nature that allowed Paul to castigate the Galatians for following “another gospel”. According to Mr. Liccione’s standard, Paul got the matter backward. The Magisterium at Galatia should have been consulted first.

    2. The ascertaining of “truth” is the result of the Holy Spirit working in both the faithful proclamation of God’s word AND in its faithful reception – both parts are necessary. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 is a good example. Paul relies on the faithful hearing of the Thessalonians as validation for the truth of what he taught. In fact, this “faithful hearing” is powerful enough to entirely discredit apostolic teaching. Think of Paul, again to the Galatians: ” If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:9). The veracity of Paul’s own preaching lay in the faithful reception of the Galatians. In other words, even the words of Paul would not have been true had not the Holy Spirit confirmed them within the Galatian believers. Susan has to think about the innumerable historical examples where Catholic Magisterial teaching has not been affirmed by the Catholic faithful and ask, if God the Holy Spirit is truly at work here, why is there so little agreement?

    3. Mr. Liccione also seems to have an inflated ideal about the Magisterium in that he (apparently) believes that the Magisterium always acts out of pure motives or is always reliable. John’s blog contains material which shows clearly that the motives of the Magisterium have often been corrupt and where they have frequently been contradictory. For example,on the question of abortion, would Susan be correct in consulting Pope Innocent III who was in favor, or Pope John Paul II who was not? Here’s the real question: applying Mr. Liccione’s standard, how can Susan decide which doctrine is correct Catholic teaching? On his paradigm all she has is her own best guess – or Mr. Liccione’s opinion.

    When Jesus affirmed every “jot and tittle” of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17-21) he affirmed the fact that it is God who impart truth to His followers not a collection of men.

    “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (Daniel 2:21) – not any “magisterium”.

    God’s people know God’s truth and that’s the principled difference. I pray that God will impart it to Susan.


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