Credo in Unum Deum

I Believe in One God

A difference between Catholicism and Protestantism

I would like to put forth the somewhat (today) radical notion that Catholicism and Protestantism (hereafter “C” and “P”, respectively) are not different sides of the same coin (the coin being Christianity), but rather different coins of different currencies. That is to say, while we may loosely refer to both C and P as “Christian”, I contend that only one of the currencies has any economic power. This seems rather obvious when we consider the Law of the Excluded Middle. We can also take arguments used by Protestant philosopher William Lane Craig on the absurdity of Religious Pluralism- namely that all religions cannot be equally true because most all (probably all) hold to mutually exclusive doctrines and/or dogmas. Once again, it seems utterly obvious that C and P cannot both be true.
The Catholic Church claims to be the One True Church (outside of which there is no salvation) which Christ Himself instituted with Peter as the first pope and with Benedict XVI as Peter’s legitimate successor, the pastor of the whole Church, as well as numerous other doctrines, beliefs and dogmas which we could go into but which we will not. P denies the above mentioned and some to most of what was not mentioned. For simplicity sake, let’s just take the first item mentioned: the Catholic Church is the Body of Christ (a dogma which Vatican II reiterated) outside of which there is no salvation. Protestant ecclesial communities deny this dogma, calling it either too narrow a definition of the Body of Christ and thus partly false since the Catholic Church surely makes up part of the Body of Christ, which would make the “dogma” also partly true; or (if you are a Protestant true to your historical and theological roots) utterly false since it is not in any sense the body of Christ but a religion of the Devil, the Whore or Babylon, the Anti-Christ… you know the drill.
This difference over a single dogma seems to be major enough since it deals with the very essence of what it means to be a Christian, a member of the Body of Christ, and tells us what the Christian community is, or looks like. If this doctrine is in any way and at any level or degree held to be false by an individual, it means logically that Catholicism ought to be held by that individual as utterly false. Salvation will not and cannot be found in this institution. Truth there will be, as there is some truth in all religions. No religion is completely devoid of truth.
“But,” some will say, “just because the Catholic Church has some of its doctrines off base doesn’t mean that the essential gospel message isn’t taught or can’t be found in its teachings.” I offer the observation of a famous Protestant thinker in his response to like comments about Jesus:

I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be a lunatic- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.
-C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I am trying here and everywhere to prevent anyone from saying or thinking the really foolish thing people often say and think about the Catholic Church: “I am ready to accept the Catholic Church as one of the great world religions, but I don’t accept her claim to be the Body of Christ, the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” That is the one thing we must not say or think. A religion that was merely a world religion and taught the sort of things the Catholic Church has taught would not be a great world religion. It would be an insane and infantile fabrication- on the level with a religion that teaches that the sun is a giant egg yolk in the sky- or else it would be the concoction of the very Devil himself. You must make your choice. Either the Catholic Church is the True Church, the Body of Christ: or else the product of a crazy child’s overactive imagination or something worse. You can reject the Catholic Church as a pre-historic idiot’s notion of religion, you can suppress and censor and try to drive a stake through its heart as a demon from hell; or you can humbly submit to its rightful and God-given authority in your life. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Her being only a great world religion (it is that- the greatest). Jesus has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.

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July 2, 2007 - Posted by | Religion

1 Comment »

  1. Nice post. I’ll mention it on my site. Newman wrote that once he was getting close to converting he experienced some fear because he finally realized that Catholicism was either divine or diabolical.

    Other converts have said similar things. I think it was Kimberly Hahn who was talking about witnessing a Eucharistic procession before she was quite sure that Catholicism was true. She realized that if she knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and it was not really Christ, then she was an idolator. But on the other hand there would be few things more awful than refusing to kneel and worship if it really WAS Christ.

    Another convert who was right on on the subject was Chesterton. (Big surprise, right?) He said that people who look at Christianity and say “Who can believe such things– that God would become a baby and eventually die! It’s the craziest story I ever heard!” is closer to the truth than the person who says “o that tired old thing… well it’s good for morals, but no one really believes it.”

    I think a lot of people have a hard time getting the distance or fresh perspective required to notice the phenomenon that you point out. They’ve been innoculated against the shock of reality by taking large doses of boring platitudes and worn out sayings that seem to resemble the truth. That is the perfect way to entirely lose sight of the magnitude and importance of the claims of Catholicism to a dull, damning indifference. That’s why half-truths or slight familiarity with the Church are much more dangerous than outright lies. They’re much more subtle.

    Haha, sorry to leave a whole book in your comment box!

    Comment by Robin | July 2, 2007


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