I'm reading a book about evangelism written from an Evangelical perspective and the book brought up a few things about which I'd like to give my perspective as a Catholic. I'm enjoying the book very much (a very welcome break from reading art history) but there are a few things that I feel the need to address and by doing so I hope to increase understanding and communication. First of all as a Catholic I don't feel that religion and relationship are mutually exclusive. I hear it often from Evangelicals something along the lines of what the author of this book wrote:
"I'm not religious in the least. In fact, I hate religion with a passion. I think religion is humankind's attempt to put God in a bottle, to control him, to use him. It's people's attempt to defang an otherwise explosive power. I prefer the word relationship."
Now, I can understand in a sense where the author is coming from. Unfortunately there are many people who go through the motions and don't actually have a saving faith. Yes, of course something must me done about this...it must be made clear in our churches that empty religion will not save you. I don't believe doing away with religion is the answer...here is how I understand the function of religion. I didn't really start writing this blog with the intention of blantantly posting Catholic apologetics but I think it'll be the easiest way to get my point across.
Catholics believe that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Jesus assured the apostles and their successors "He who listens to you listens to me, and he who rejects you rejects me" (Luke 10:16). Jesus promised to guide his Church into all truth (John 16:12–13). Jesus gave His authority to Peter, the first pope, to guide his flock.
"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)
"And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." (Isaiah 22:22)
I'm going to copy and paste something I came across concerning these above passages which I found quite interesting:
The "keys" actually refer to Peter's authority over the earthly Church (which Jesus often described as the "kingdom of heaven." Matthew 13:24-52; 25:1-2; Mark 4:26-32; Luke 9:27; 13:19-20, etc.) In the Old Davidic kingdom, the king had a prime minister on whose shoulder God placed the keys of the kingdom (Isaiah 22:22). Similarly, the new kingdom of Christ also has a prime minister (Peter and his successors) who is given the keys of the kingdom. The keys not only represent the authority the prime minister has to rule over God's people in the king's absence, but also the means of effecting dynastic succession to the prime minister's office (for example, in Isaiah 22:20-22, Eliakim replaces Shebna as prime minister in the Old Davidic kingdom). Only the Catholic Church claims and proves a succession of prime ministers (popes) all the way back to Peter, and this succession is facilitated by the passing of the keys of the kingdom.
The reason Catholics believe a religious system is necessary is because it is a means by which God protects against thousands of contradicting interpretations, confusion, and error. The Church is also here to help us grow in holiness. That's what it comes down to really.
For more on this here's an article you may find interesting:
Also, "tradition" is not a dirty word. Jesus only condemned false traditions, which are totally different from Apostolic Tradition. (I'm going to copy and paste more stuff).
Scripture and Tradition
"I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Cor. 11:2).
"Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us" (2 Tim. 1:13-14).
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thess. 2:15)
"You, then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:20-21).
I think there are misunderstandings about Catholicism concerning the relationship between faith and works. Yes, poor catechesis is a reality and unfortunately there are Catholics who don't understand that salvation is by grace alone, by faith working through love. Something must be done about this I would agree. That being said...does the Church teach that people can work their way into heaven? No. In a certain sense a Catholic could say that salvation is by faith alone...IF...this faith is more than just an intellectual assent. A saving faith is a faith that clings to Christ...giving your heart, mind, your whole person over to Him. Good works are not only a manifestation of our faith, but also make our faith complete.
Here is a very good article that I suggest you read if you are interested in this topic:
(More copy and paste following, sorry just bear with me).
Faith and Works
"‘Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’" (Matt. 7:21).
"‘Why do you call me "Lord, Lord," and not do what I tell you?’" (Luke 6:46).
"For he will render every man according to his works . . ." (Rom. 2:6-8).
"For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified" (Rom. 2:13).
"For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgments . . . (Heb. 10:26-27).
"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?" (Jas. 2:14).
"So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (Jas. 2:17).
"But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. . . .Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? (Jas. 2:18-20).
"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (Jas. 2:24).
The best way I can sum up the Catholic understanding of faith and works is that we are saved by faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)
Catholics who "get it" understand that a relationship with Jesus Christ is purpose of our lives. Now, I'm by no means perfect but I know that God is working on me, oftentimes in spite of myself. He is pursuing me and desires to draw me closer to Himself, I believe I have physically felt the Holy Spirit. If you want to know more about my relationship with God, ask me and I will be delighted to tell you about it.
Another thing that the book brought up that I'd like to touch upon is something it mentioned about Mary. I'm not accusing anyone of holding to this view, but the author asserted that Mary in a certain sense rejected Jesus. Now, I find this unfounded and offensive. Yes, Mary was only human so of course she didn't always understand what Jesus was doing but that by no means implies that she rejected him in any way. I'm going to reveal a little bit about what Catholics believe about Mary and why we love her so much. (This could easily be a whole other post and then some but I'll try to keep it brief). We believe that Mary is the one, through God's grace, who most perfectly surrendered to God's will. Her glory is precisely the glory of God in her. Mary's only desire while on earth was and still is today to lead people to her son, Jesus in all humility.
And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. (Luke 1:38)
My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of his maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1: 46-49)
Mary's only desire is to give glory her her son and her God, Jesus, and to help others know Him. Her last recorded words in the Gospels were "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5)
Please, if anyone wants me to elaborate on anything I touched on here or just wants to ask me questions about Catholicism or my experience with God please do not hesitate to come to me for fear of offending me. I hope we can talk about our faith with each other and not be afraid to learn about each other and why we believe what we do.
Peace and Love,