Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Pillar and Foundation of Truth (1 Tim. 3:15)

How can we know that what we believe as Christians is correct? How do we know for sure that the doctrines and dogma of Christianity are what God intended for us? Could there be doctrinal errors in our creeds and interpretations of Scripture?

A non-Catholic commenter recently posited on my re-worded CS Lewis Trilemma:

"When it comes to the church though (made of mortal, non-divine men), we as a body can always get something wrong. In fact we have, MANY times over the last 2000 years. Therefore, there is a fourth element to the argument, which is that we could be mistaken. This goes for any doctrine we may have: we are either correct, mistaken, lying or crazy."

Following this logic, therefore any truths that we currently hold to be self-evident could be wrong because we could be mistaken.
The church, from the time of the apostles, who unequivocally believed in the sacrifice of the altar (The real presence of Christ being present on the altar) was the same church that wrote the Creed beginning with the doctrine of the Trinity in 325 AD.
The Arian heresy that was threatening to divide the Roman Empire both politically and spiritually, was spreading rapidly. The question of who Jesus really was needed to be authoritatively answered. The end result of this doctrinal conflict was a "white paper" of the early church regarding the nature of God and his Church and was called the Nicean Creed.
This early church not only said that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one in being with the Father, but some other controversial things as well. They believed in baptism for the forgiveness of sins and believed that the Church should be one (undivided) holy(sanctified by God's grace) catholic (universal) and apostolic (a continuous and direct succession from the original apostles).

This same early church about 57 years later sat down at yet another council with much debate, prayer and deliberation to discern which letters and gospels should be included in the Canon of Sacred Scripture. The New Testament we hold in our hands today is the product of this Council of Rome in 382 AD.

In following the logic of my commenter, this current canon of Sacred Scripture could be mistaken since it was given to us from the same church that may have been mistaken regarding its belief in the Sacrifice of the Altar (Eucharist)

Is it possible that this church that was perhaps mistaken about the meaning of Jesus words "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood..." also got it wrong when it spelled out the doctrine of the Trinity? Were they mistaken regarding that statement about worshiping and glorifying the Holy Spirit, since that is not found in theBible? Were they mistaken when they said we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins? Ultimately, following this logic, the basic tenets of our salvation believed for 2000 years could be wrong!

Furthermore, how do we know that our individual church creeds and position statements are not mistaken? What if some of our own personally held interpretations of the Bible are mistaken? This goes for any doctrine we might have.

I really don't think my commenter in his heart of hearts believes that any doctrine we believe could be mistaken, because that would cast him as a theological relativist of which I know he is not. (He is a devout Christian) However, his statement ultimately leads to the conclusion that there is no absolute Truth, because just when you think you have acquired a belief system that "works for you", it could be "mistaken."

The Catholic Church believes as stated in the Catechism that "the Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept."

We trust that Christ started this Church and therefore we do not accept that the truths passed down from Christ to the apostles could possibly be mistaken.

The Church, as Sacred Scripture states, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth", faithfully guards "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints". She guards the memory of Christ's words; it is she who from generation to generation hands on the apostles' confession of faith.57 As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.

172 Through the centuries, in so many languages, cultures, peoples and nations, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, received from the one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism, and grounded in the conviction that all people have only one God and Father.58 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a witness of this faith, declared:

173 "Indeed, the Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. . . guards [this preaching and faith] with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth."59

174 "For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. The Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world. . ."60 The Church's message "is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world."61

175 "We guard with care the faith that we have received from the Church, for without ceasing, under the action of God's Spirit, this deposit of great price, as if in an excellent vessel, is constantly being renewed and causes the very vessel that contains it to be renewed."62

Catechism of the Catholic Church


Blogger NotMyOpinion30 said...


I can understand what the poster is trying to suggest. I at one time was a non-Catholic Christian. Unfortunately, his logic turns on his own system of belief. Not only does it cause doubt with every world religion, let alone every denomination of Christianity, but it also sheds doubt on his own personal belief system, even if he believes that he is independent of any organized religion. That logic inevitably leads to a complete lack of faith in anything, like you were illustrating (relativism). It becomes a religion of flawed reason that blows whichever way the wind does.

Of course, C.S. Lewis was thoughtful enough to see this quagmire and was able recognize how illogical it is. He had a true faith in God, so "mistaken" was not an option.

It is the easy way out to say, "all man-made religion can be mistaken". That sets one upon a pedestal as somewhat more intellectual than all who follow their faiths piously and at the same time immediately ceases any fruitful religious and intellectual discussion. It always gives the person who says it "the last word", which, in this society, makes one feel like a debate champion. The phrase he chose, "Hate to do it, Had to do it", clearly illustrates this example of triumphalism.

The reason why his logic is common amongst non-Catholic Christians, as you are well aware of, is that they usually bounce from denomination to denomination searching for something that meets their expectations. Sadly, there are so many interpretations of the Scriptures (30,000+ non-Catholic denominations) because of the belief in Sola Scriptura, which eventually leads to either a personal authority or the authority of whoever is in charge of the specific church in question (which is contradictory to Sola Scriptura to begin with), that one never finds an interpretation that pleases them. It is that dissolutionment that creates the "mistaken" logic. As no one meets their expectations or interpretation (authority), they must all be mistaken in some way, shape, or form. It is a clear recognition that they do not believe that God really does lead one church. In this view, God just sprinkles a little Truth in thousands of churches. In other words, based on that logic, God has left us to ourselves. We are merely floating around without any appointed shepherds to help us here on Earth. We are lost trying to find a home. We must find the Truth within the confusing maze that He left us. That, by the way, always ends up in self-reliance.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is the Church of the Apostles, the first bishops of the Church ordained by Christ God Himself. The entire Christian world was Catholic until the 11th century schism, which gave birth to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Both religions still share the Sacraments, Apostolic Succession, and arguably all of the most important Traditions (reconciliation between the two would be alot easier than with the Protestant churches). Until Martin Luther, all Christians fell under only two religions. To recap, the Church was completely united for 1000 years. The the Eastern Orthodox schismed, however both churches are almost alike in many of the most important things to this day. It wasn't until 1500 years after Christ ascended into Heaven that Protestantism was born and doctrinal chaos erupted. Not until then did the denial of the Real Presence slowly creep in to the Protestant world (Luther and the COE still believed in Real Presence). Not until then did Christian doctrines that stood the test of time for one and a half millenia start crumbling due to the inability to successfully implement Sola Scriptura, a doctrine that isn't even biblical nor can stand on its own (as can be seen by the division in the Protestant church today).

Being raised in a Protestant religion and bouncing around from Baptist, to Bible, to Methodist, to Bible again, to Pentacostal (experiment), to my own personal Christianity (the "every man-made religion makes mistakes" religion) that failed to fulfill my yearning for Christ, I can completely understand why there is such confusion in this poster's argument.

Unfortunately, when you break it down, it comes from the sad position that God cannot possibly be fully present within any religion or church where someone who is not "divine" is visibly running it. Once again, God has become completely transcendent based on his logic. He cannot be here with us because we are too sinful to get anything right.

I hope that he understands this sometime in the future. It took me many years though and it was only by the grace of God.

God bless you.

February 12, 2007 1:18 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks NMO for the comment. Yes we have all been at this point where we maintained that man is sinful and nothing for sure can come from us.
Just as the Incarnation showed us that God can come to Man and work in the flesh, analogously He works in the "flesh of the Church" as well.
As the catechism said on my post, The Church is both human and divine, but it's a tough concept to grasp and at some point, is only by faith and grace that we too have come to accept that.
Thanks for the thoughtful post.

February 12, 2007 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: “This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved” (Athanas. Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim “Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,” only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.

Pope Benedict XV

February 14, 2007 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Rob V. said...

Well, it was a longshot when I posted anyway, and it appears my fears have been realized.

When a man claims to be a god, he is either correct, lying, or crazy. Those are the only possibilites with a claim that large. But when a church claims a doctrine, they are either correct, lying, crazy, or mistaken (well-intentioned, but ultimately wrong in some way; maybe great, maybe small). Logically, those are the 4 options, because it is not as great a claim. That's ALL I was saying.

Moral relativism? I in NO WAY claimed there are no absolutes. I believe in absolutes! All I was claiming was that in the pursuit of absolute Truth, we (fallible human beings) MAY get it wrong along the way. Sometimes we'll hit the nail right on the head, other times we'll be really close (but not quite there), and maybe sometimes we'll be way off. If you or your readers can't understand that then I can't help you.

However, even in the face of that, we have faith that what we believe is the Truth. We have faith that it is the Holy Spirit that has given us these Truths. But we can't be so arrogant to say we couldn't possibly be wrong on some things. They could be the thoughts of man, or worse. Emphasis: COULD. That's why God also gave us the Bible, to keep us in check.

But even with the Bible, I am well aware that the many Protestant denominations have gotten things wrong over the years (the current homosexual-bishop-thing comes to mind). But the denominations got started in the first place because the Catholic Church messed up! And it wasn't the first time either! And if you think that the Catholic Church has NEVER gotten anything wrong in its 2000 years (Crusades, corrupt/warmongering Popes, Galileo, Inquisition, indulgences...), I greatly fear for your ability to see clearly anymore. You are ignoring the backpedaling of many of the Church's stances and edicts.

Whether you realize it or not, by saying the Church is human AND divine, you are saying GOD gets things wrong from time to time.

You know I was raised Catholic. I have NEVER heard that the Catholic Church considers itself both human and divine. But I will be looking into this. And if that is in fact true, all the years I have been defending the Church to my Protestant brothers and sisters will have been in vain. The audacity! Simply being appointed by God does not make you divine. (Hello! Were these people divine?: Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist! ... Need I go on!?)

The Catholic Church doesn't own the rights to the Holy Spirit, sorry.

February 15, 2007 8:48 AM  
Blogger TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Rob - reading your post I think you have one overarching misconception about the Church that is driving this argument.

The Catholic Church doesnt teach that the Pope is an infallible person. He can sin, he does he has and popes before him have. Leo X comes to mind. St. Peter sinned and was even chastised by St. Paul. (Remember though Paul affirmed his teaching only denying his action much like Jesus and His encounter with the teachers of the law sitting on the 'seat of Moses' "Do as they say and not as they do"

The Pope has the ability to speak for the Church in a binding and infallible way (like St. Peter at the council of Jerusalem).

Peter only did that once that we know of.

The point I heard Steve Ray make was that God isnt going to write the apostles a blank check by saying "whatever you bind on earth..." without giving them some sort of protection.

Of course, any and all infallibility comes from God not from man.

"Whether you realize it or not, by saying the Church is human AND divine, you are saying GOD gets things wrong from time to time."

This simply isnt true. We understand the Church in terms of the 'family of God' exactly as Israel understood herself. The Catholic Church is in fact the new Israel. We are the bride of Christ and thereby divine. The Church is not perfect because it is composed of sinners. We are the moon Christ is the sun, our divinity, our light is merely a reflection of His divinity, and His light. Everything the Church has, she received from her master, Christ Jesus our Lord. Catholic doctrine has always taught this.

You compared the Church to some individuals (Moses, Elijah etc...) to prove that since they were not divine, neither is the Church. But I think that is not quite relevant.

The Church is speaking in corporate terms when she speaks of her own divinity and not personal terms. Much like when prophets like Isaiah called Israel to repentance they spoke in corporate language. Of course, typologically it may well be applicable to individuals.

So then when we speak of the Church as the bride of Christ, if your analogy to the individuals concerning divinity proved your point then we could also say that the Church is not bride of Christ since it would be false for say John the Baptist to claim to be "married to Christ". You understand in those terms that we speak corporately and it is not necessarily directly applicable on a personal level. It is the same with her divinity.

Anyway, hope i made some sense. Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

February 17, 2007 10:36 PM  
Blogger NotMyOpinion30 said...

"But when a church claims a doctrine, they are either correct, lying, crazy, or mistaken (well-intentioned, but ultimately wrong in some way; maybe great, maybe small). Logically, those are the 4 options, because it is not as great a claim. That's ALL I was saying."

Once again, I can totally understand your frustration with Protestant denominations. Good luck finding the "correct" one. I hope that you'll eventually decide to study history that isn't slanted against the Church someday. I suggest finding out more about the Catholic Church, which has never changed any of Her doctrines or teachings for 2000 years, instead of continuing to argue over topics you have no knowledge of. Even if you don't become Catholic, it would be good to educate yourself so that you would prove to be a better apologist against Catholicism, right? As it stands, you sound confused, unknowledgeable, and completely unconvincing. That doesn't make for fruitful discussion. But the fact that you are visiting Catholic blogs must mean that you must be almost finished searching for a diamond under the foundations built on quicksand in the churches you seem disgruntled with.

There is no doubt that the Truth can be found in Protestant churches, but it is a fragmented and partial Truth. The fullness of the Truth is contained in the Catholic Church. You'll never believe me as long as you stand outside the City of God continuing to toss stones over the walls. You have to enter it to find it. Try reading some writings of the Early Fathers, maybe the Scriptures will start to make a little more sense.

The Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

February 18, 2007 8:30 AM  

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