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Sunday, 5 June 2011

When faith is questioned – An open letter to my Protestant friends

I  have a lot of Christian friends to share Jesus and grow further in faith. Yes, we all are Christians and have tasted Him with our entire conscious mind.  Yet, there are things which differentiate us. Some of my friends are Catholics. Some others have one denomination but believe in all other denominations too. And a few are having no denomination at all. Interestingly, I found a group of people for whom everything is The Bible. They take The Bible to explain almost all phenomena, even the rotation of earth. Why is there too much diversity among us?

When I was doing my pre degree classes, Einstein’s mass-energy relation was one out of the many things which I couldn’t understand well. Even now it is not fully known to me. But I believe that such a relation exists because it was proved. If this is the truth when I deal with a purely scientific theory, what would be my understandings when I come across with millions of times more complicated concepts of theology? I don’t think that you are far different from me in this aspect. Yes, there are things that we couldn’t understand. And, naturally we respond differently when we don’t understand the most divine concepts of theology. This ambiguity in our responses differentiates us though we are united in Christ. Let’s  examine some of our responses.

What was Martin Luther’s response? 

Luther had to go through a serious of states where he couldn’t understand the teachings of Catholic Church. He totally got confused more at one point. Rather trying to understand them further he just made his on doctrines. He had arrived at the principle of private judgment - of picking and choosing religious doctrines; and whenever any book, such as the book of Machabees, taught a doctrine contrary to his taste he rejected it overboard and overboard that book went because it says: 2 Mach. xii 46, "it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins." He not only cast out certain books, but he mutilated some that were left. For example, not pleased with St. Paul's doctrine, "we are justified by faith," Luther added the word "ALONE" to make the sentence read: "We are justified by faith alone." His explanation of this insertion is found in his own words, "I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin and Greek texts; but Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough." St. Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. But Luther creates a Lutheran Bible under his own audacity. He shows little respect for the Bible when he calls the Epistle of St. James "an Epistle of straw with no character of the Gospel in it." He spoke disparagingly about the Epistle of St. Jude, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the beautiful Apocalipse of St.John.

How did you respond?

Some of my friends claim that Mary bore children other than Jesus in contrary to a catholic dogma. To support their claim, they refer to the biblical passages which mention the "brethren of the Lord." In fact ‘brother’ when addressed by the Bible doesn’t always mean a first order relation. It is used to call cousins and nephews In Old Testament. Tradition also proves her virginity. An important historical document which supports the teaching of Mary’s perpetual virginity is the Protoevangelium of James, which was written probably less than sixty years after the conclusion of Mary’s earthly life (around A.D. 120), when memories of her life were still vivid in the minds of many. According to the world-renowned patristics scholar, Johannes Quasten: "The principal aim of the whole writing [Protoevangelium of James] is to prove the perpetual and inviolate virginity of Mary before, in, and after the birth of Christ."

Some get confused with the statues kept in the churches and other catholic places. They believe that the Catholics are worshiping these statues. In fact Catholics worships neither those statues nor those saint or Mary if come alive but worship Holy Trinity and only The Holy Trinity. You keep statues in your states, right? Do you worship them? Definitely not. You keep their statues so that you can remember them. This very same is applicable when you come across with the statues of Catholic Church.

What most of you think today that Catholic Church teaches is just your misunderstandings about Catholic Church. You say that Catholic Church put indulgence as a permission to commit sin. But nothing is like that. These are some situations where you failed to understand The Catholic Church. And naturally you went misunderstanding the Catholic Church.

How to prevent this misunderstanding?

It is not possible to understand everything. We need not understand each and every teachings of Catholic Church to believe her, when most of the teachings are of dogmatic. There are teachings which I couldn’t understand. Say, I couldn’t understand fully how a few hours of physical and mental torture of Jesus Christ on the cross even if in the severe form save the entire humanity from all their sins. I mean how God equates our sins with a few hours of torture. Similarly I couldn’t completely understand the Holy Trinity. The Church has beautiful explanations for all these. The only thing is that I don’t understand. Can I simply blame the Church for I do not understand? Of course not. Still, I believe in whole process of salvation and Holy Trinity. Because the understanding is not a matter of necessity to believe the Truth. How is it possible? . It is because of the faith – belief even when not understood. it is this which grossly differentiates us. 

·                     What does The Bible say on this?

Jesus said to him, "Is it because you have seen me that you have believed? How blessed are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!" (John 20:29).

It explains the necessity of faith. It is fine if you understand and believe. But, what Jesus says about those who believe with out understanding? We can’t understand many things. Say, ‘everything about Eucharist’. We can expect only some possible explanations, but it need not make the whole truth. Truth is quite away from our intellectual capacity. These are all great mysteries. The only thing is that we should develop our faith.

·                     What do the great Doctors of Catholic Church say?

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas “faith is the act of the intellect assenting to a Divine truth owing to the movement of the will, which is itself moved by the grace of God" And just as the light of faith is a gift supernaturally bestowed upon the understanding, so also this Divine grace moving the will is, as its name implies, an equally supernatural and an absolutely gratuitous gift. Neither gift is due to previous study neither of them can be acquired by human efforts, but ‘Ask and ye shall receive’”. The faith is of divine. He says, "the assent of the intellect in faith is due to the will, and since the object to which the intellect thus assents is not its own proper object — for that is actual vision of an intelligible object — it follows that the intellect's attitude towards that object is not one of tranquillity, on the contrary it thinks and inquires about those things it believes, all the while that it assents to them unhesitatingly; for as far as it itself is concerned the intellect is not satisfied”

It also follows from the above that an act of supernatural faith is meritorious, since it proceeds from the will moved by Divine grace or charity, and thus has all the essential constituents of a meritorious act. This enables us to understand St. James's words when he says, "The devils also believe and tremble". "It is not willingly that they assent", says St. Thomas, "but they are compelled thereto by the evidence of those signs which prove that what believers assent to is true, though even those proofs do not make the truths of faith so evident as to afford what is termed vision of them"nor is their faith Divine, but merely philosophical and natural. Some may fancy the foregoing analyses superfluous, and may think that they savour too much of Scholasticism. But if anyone will be at the pains to compare the teaching of the Fathers, of the Scholastics, and of the divines of the Anglican Church in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with that of the non-Catholic theologians of today, he will find that the Scholastics merely put into shape what the Fathers taught, and that the great English divines owe their solidity and genuine worth to their vast patristic knowledge and their strictly logical training.

It is utter clear that the faith is not based on our understanding. We just only need the will to assent the divine truth, and the rest comes as gratuitous gift; i.e. “the understanding” which is a gift of Holy Spirit comes to you if it is that needed. If we compel that we believe only according to the evidences and not because of our free will to assent the divine truth, then we are not different from Satan, as he believe everything of truth just because it is all known to him and not because of will. Friends we are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father and not to be like Satan.

Why the tradition is so important?

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

Who knows the things which are not written in the Bible? It is all known to the Catholic Church as it keeps the apostolic tradition.

“The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:

*  She was and remains built on "the foundation of the Apostles, the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself

*   With the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the "good deposit," the salutary words she has heard from the apostles

*     She continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, "assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor"

You are the eternal Shepherd who never leaves his flock untended. Through the apostles you watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of your Son. (CCC 857)

The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope (cf. Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome.

One part of this great Catholic Tradition is – The Bible . Bible came from the Church and not Church from the Bible. Remember, there was Christianity without any Bible for 300 years.

In 397 A.D., the Catholic Church gave a definitive decision as to which writings and books should be admitted into the Bible and which should be rejected, and every book which is in the Protestant New Testament today, was put there by Pope Siricus and the Catholic Bishops in the year 397 A.D. If Christ had intended that men should learn Christianity from the New Testament, what about the hundreds who lived before the first Bible was given to the world by the Catholic Church?Luther's Protestant Bible came out 1520 and before his Bible the Catholic Bible had been translated into Spanish, Italian, Danish, French, Norwegian, Polish, Bohemian, Hungarian and English, there was exactly 104 editions in Latin; 38 editions in German language, 25 editions in Italian language, 18 in French. In all 626 editions of the Bible with 198 in the language of the laity, had been edited before the fist Protestant Bible was sent forth into the world.
Before the last book in the New Testament was written the Catholic Church celebrated her golden jubilee; 11 of the Apostles had died.

Hence, the bible is not everything. The Catholic Tradition is equally important.

Why the Catholic Church?

Bishop Fulton Sheen says “If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. ... the Catholic Church is the only Church existing today which goes back to the time of Christ. History is so very clear on this point, it is curious how many miss its obviousness..."

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the second Vatican Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

All salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body (CCC 846)

I don’t expect that you understand what I am trying to say as everyone can not understand everything. I am again saying that what you understand is not a matter at all. It is what you believe more important. Let your understandings shall not determine your belief like Satan. Therefore I wish you to grow in faith. Continue reading The Bible as it is the word of God. And please don’t make blunders as you did like the entire one billion Catholics are on the way to hell. Jesus so loves that He won’t allow to perish even a single person. Read my just previous article to know a bit of salvation. As far as possible try to direct all your questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternations or whatever it is to the Catholic officials and get it corrected.

May God bless you all

In Jesus name,

Your brother.