Who knows the truth of the gospel? Recently, at the nursing home where I've been spending my days, two evangelical Catholics who came to visit my friend's roommate, who was asleep, visited with me (my friend was also asleep). They talked about their faith and I briefly mentioned things we have in common. One of them said there's a problem with having so many denominations. This was a salient point addressed in the brochure they left, put out by Catholic Answers. I readily accepted that and, reluctantly, a picture of Christ, but I summarily said I did not want a rosary. Our pastor said we should not just kowtow to tradition in our Christian beliefs, but to think for ourselves. As I told a nurse's aide who asked me what I was reading, I'm reading this apologetic for the Catholic faith with an open mind. As to the picture of Christ, I've heard different views. I quickly recalled Martin Luther talking about religious images. I remember him saying that there is a problem if church images become an idol. The picture, on Sandi's locker, in plain sight, has not become an idol. Years ago, a Westminster Theological Seminary student I worked with said that a traditional protestant church has more in common with the traditional Roman Catholic Church than it does with her liberal counterparts. Westminster Seminary was established by a theologian who left Princeton Theological Seminary after it compromised Biblical teaching with worldly liberal/modernist thinking, to fall in lock step with the mainstream Presbyterian churches back in the 1920s. I also found common ground with Catholics when Sandi and I (they graciously got a bed for me, as I was homeless at the time) stayed at Saint Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA. The devotionals played over the loud speaker in the morning were right on target. And, while Sandi was asleep, I had a blessed conversation with Chaplain Suzie. I got to know the nursing staff, some of whom volunteered at Stand Down, a three-day event for homeless and needy veterans. I talked with them when I went there. I friended Saint Mary Medical Center on Facebook. Recently, they stopped funding the Advocates for The Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) in Bucks County, PA. For the past several years, AHTN has poorly served the homeless, not going to bat for them when they should and playing politics. Like the boy who told the Emperor he needs a new set of clothes, I exposed AHTN on my blogs, which are connected to my Facebook page. I suspect that Saint Mary read my blogs and may have based at least part of its decision to stop funding AHTN on my blogs. The problem I have with a point made in the brochure is that the Catholic Church has the market on the truth. The author argued that having so many denominations is a problem caused by using the Bible alone. Fidelity to scripture is found with the addition of The Magisterium - the popes and bishops - who are given divine intervention and authority to protect doctrine from errors, like Plato's Philosopher Kings. The Magisterium is compared to the US Supreme Court; as the Supreme Court interpretes the consitution, the Magisterium lets people understand the Bible. It's infallible, so the author says, "because Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles and their successors." Both the US Supreme Court and the Magisterium are composed of people, who are fallible. The Supreme Court brought us legalized abortion and same sex marriage. The Catholic leadership brought us the unBiblical ideas such as purgatory, the deification of Mary, and confession to priests. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, " 1 Timothy 2:5.I don't buy the argument that because it was the first church, and the leaders are empowered by God (all Christians are, but we are still fallable), that the Catholic Church is the true church and holds the ultimate key to knowledge.Christians are a work in progress, being sanctified, made increasingly made more in the image of Christ. "And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6The Presbyterian churches, formerly the United Presbyterian church and Princeton Seminary, as the pastor who left Princeton to start the Reformed, Westminster Seminary said, is not even a church but a glorified social club. I believe the traditional Catholic Church is still a church, but just in error. I know some Catholics whom I believe are fine Christians. They are Christians first and Catholics second. At a community meal in Bucks County, PA, there is a brother and sister with whom we discuss the Bible, God's word. The woman once gave me a list of Bible verses that match various topics, such as depression, anxiety, and anger.
We all need to be held individually accountable for our relationship with God, the study of his Word, etc. Although clergyman have devoted their lives to study scripture, they still are not perfect. We have to take into our hearts and minds and burn our light for Jesus individually but join with other Christians to fill the world with light. "As iron sharpens iron,so one person sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace! That where there is hatred, I may bring love. That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness. That where there is discord, I may bring harmony. That where there is error, I may bring truth. That where there is doubt, I may bring faith. That where there is despair, I may bring hope. That where there are shadows, I may bring light. That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted. To understand, than to be understood. To love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life."