|St. Joan of Arc (allegedly)|
There, but for the grace of God, go I…
I can say with certainty that had things turned out differently I would have been one of those misguided people I mocked in my last post. To an extent – I’d like to think that I would have stopped short of inviting – on their own blogs – those whose religion I preached against to come on over to my blog so I could teach them where they were going wrong. This seems to me to be, at best, optimistic! I’d like to credit myself with more intelligence than that… But then I would, wouldn’t I?
But, I pity these people. [But then I would, wouldn’t I?]
How do you tell someone who has been taught about the Bible directly by the Holy Spirit that the Church came before the Bible? Or, that without the Church that they hate so much there would be no Bible that they say both contradicts the teaching of the Church and (with the application of sola scriptura) renders it obsolete?
I’m often reminded in situations like this of those ‘magic eye’ images that you could stare at and eventually see a basic 3D image within it. I remember a friend relating a conversation he had had with a non-Christian who insisted, because he had never seen such a 3D image, that there was nothing there. My friend was kicking himself afterwards for not realising until it was too late that he could have used this as an example of faith itself, the truth of which, some people just can’t see.
I have seen these images and I even managed to copy a complicated one onto a sheet of paper while still maintaining my focus on the hidden image – I don’t know how my eyes managed that one!
I have also seen the truth of Gospel and I think the above metaphor works with the atheists whom Fr. Longenecker seems to take to task from time to time.
Here, though, I am using it as a metaphor for those Protestants of any denomination or none who are oblivious to the truth of the Catholic Church, or even those that persecute the Church that Christ himself established because they don’t really understand what they are doing. They don’t see the truth of the Church.
The reasons are myriad, but probably boil down to either the deficiencies of the Catholic Church (or more likely the perceived deficiencies often due to the sin and evil done by the Church’s clergy and members) or the errors of Protestant Christianity that these people are brought up with or that provide the accepted understanding or framework of Christianity within certain cultures.
So non-denominationalists are reacting against the errors that they find in denominational Churches and, not wanting anything to do with them or their errors, they assume that the only way to keep themselves from the same errors is to go it alone. After all, everybody agrees that this is possible because the Bible is understandable to all. They might miss out on the fellowship provided by a Church community but protecting oneself from error is more important. In this scenario these people probably don’t even realise that the Catholic Church that they condemn along with all other Churches isn’t ‘just another denomination’. Moreover, they equally fail to realise that by separating themselves from other Protestant denominations rather than being Non-denominational they are in fact setting up just another “denomination” outside the Roman Catholic Church and in opposition to it. It’s almost like a second- or third- generation thing whereby these people, who are effectively protesting the Protestants, do not realise that there are also defying the Church that Jesus himself established, thereby going against the teaching of the Bible.
The quotation from Blessed John Henry Newman, ‘to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant’ means nothing to them. It is almost perhaps that they see the opposite to be true. (Recent) history shows them how many Protestant denominations there are and how many ways there are to go wrong (if one doesn’t stick faithfully to the teachings of the Bible and guided by the Holy Spirit), so they reject this completely.
Their blindness seems to me to be in the intervening eighteen or nineteen centuries between Christ’s death and resurrection and the inventions of the Protestants of the ideas they reject.
As someone who has both contemplated the Church from the outside, like someone not seeing the 3D image and claiming there was nothing there, and someone who has been granted the gift of seeing beyond the jumble of meaningless shapes and lines to be able to behold the truth of the Church in all its beauty, coherence and integrity it seems to me to be tragic that these people, who are “on fire for Christ” direct their efforts so ignorantly and in such a misguided way.
It seems to me that if you look at the gospel and the history of Christianity (or even the entire Bible and the whole of salvation history) the only logical conclusion is that the Catholic Church is the One True Church established by Christ himself. Everything else is a fudge; most things can be explained by different interpretations and worldviews but there will always be loose ends: passages for which the interpretations are inadequate (Matthew 16:17-19, John 6), doctrines contrary to the teaching of the Bible (sola scriptura, sola fides) or doctrines contrary to nature (total depravity).
But for those who are blinded to this logic, this obvious conclusion, how do you tell them? They will just quote the Bible at you and perhaps pray or invite you to their blog. It won’t ever occur to them that they might be wrong.
I think this might be what is known as invincible ignorance.