Don Cornett I think You did a very good job explaining Catholic faith. the only thing I would ask from you is What would you tell me if I want to be a catholic.
The question is this why should I be Catholic and not Protestant since the Catholic Church does not expect us to see the Protestants as Pagans, but Christians? That is why we call them separated brothers and not pagans. To the extent that non-Catholics believe some Catholic truth, from a Catholic point of view, we would see them as Catholic. The only thing that makes them Protestant is the negation of one or more Catholic teachings. Even some of the most anti-Catholic groups have not renounced all Catholic understandings whether they know it or not. For example, non-Catholics have a very high regard for Scripture. This is also very Catholic.
Catholics can agree to disagree with other Catholics. Protestants can agree to disagree with other Protestants and so the question is this. Does it make any difference whether we are Catholic or Protestant? It all has to do with the issue of authority.
A Protestant couple with an excellent question: I will explain this by way of a story. At a Catholic conference in San Diego, I met a Protestant couple who was looking at the Catholic Church. They wanted to know if there was any reason for being a Catholic Christian over being Protestant. I told them the whole issue is settled by authority. The Catholic Church can make a definitive statement that stands for all time. The Protestants really cannot. The best they can do is to agree to disagree.
I started by asking them if they knew what was the first major area issue dividing Christians in the Bible. They said they that they didn’t know. The issue was circumcision. In Acts, some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Paul could have just consulted his Bible and made up his own mind, but he didn’t. He consulted the Church, the elders, and the Apostles in Jerusalem. Even in the Jerusalem council itself, there was dissension “some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them (Acts 15:5).
After much debate “Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke [circumcision] upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bea? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:7-11).
And so, the issue of circumcision was settled once and for all, for all time by a statement made by Peter the Apostle. Paul and Barnabus went on to speak about signs and wonders of God. And then James spoke and affirmed Peter’s statement James replied, “Brethren, listen to me. Symeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles (Acts 12:13). Why did Peter make definitive decision that circumcision was not necessary? He did so because Jesus had already appointed Peter and gave him the power to do so.
Jesus calls peter the rock: “ 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” (Mt 16:18).
Jesus gives to Peter the keys: “ I will give you the keys [authority] of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19).
Jesus gives Peter the keys to bind and loosen: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19).
When Jesus gave this authority to Peter, what was the setting and who was present? Jesus was speaking to the disciples and asked them “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” The disciples gave various answers of what others say, none of which were correct. Then he changed the question and said “But who do you say that I am?” Peter was the only one who answered. Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
Peter made a definitive infallible statement that stands for all time and Jesus acknowledges that Peter got this from Jesus’ Father in Heaven. This was not spoken in privacy; it was spoken with the disciples present because Jesus wanted them to know that Peter was the rock, Peter was given the keys and Peter was given the power to bind and loosen.
In order to be a part of a church that would be a Biblical Church then it would need to have the authority to settle issues such as circumcision. The Catholic Church can and does make definitive statements that can and does settles issues. The Protestants cannot do this in their churches and could not at the time of their beginning.
I them asked this Protestant couple a question. “What was the first major issue of division among the Protestants.” They said that they did know. I explained to them that it was over the issue of the “breaking of the bread and what it means.” In the Catholic Church it was called transubstantiation; however, the early Protestants broke with this understanding and invented their understanding. Fr. Martin Luther rejected the Catholic understanding for his understanding. He called it “consubstantiation.” Christ was present in the bread and wine; however, the bread and wine had no change. John Calvin disagreed with Luther and said that Christ was not present in the bread and wine, but present above the bread wine. Zwingli disagreed with Luther and Calvin, and taught that there was no presence of Christ in relation to the elements of bread and wine. How do they solve the problem?
They all believed in the “Bible Alone” but were not able to solve the problem because in consulting the “Bible Alone” they were all three in disagreement. Evidently “Bible Alone” was not enough. They could have consulted with the line of Peter which Paul did in Acts 15, but they couldn’t because they rejected the line of Peter for their Protestant experiment. There was no way to solve the problem and so the Protestant experiment was a house divided from the very beginning. Everyone was their own pope all claiming for themselves their self-appointed authority and at the same time denying the authority given to others in the Bible. They were claiming the “Bible Alone” and the same time ignoring or explaining away the verses of the Bible that showed the authority of the Church. Perhaps the interesting thing about the “Bible Alone” is that it is not in the Bible. The moment that you believe the “Bible Alone” you now believe something that is not in the Bible.
So, they then take the “Bible Alone” and claim to be illuminated. As one Evangelical put it and I quote “God the Holy Spirit indwells in me as described in John chapter 14 and 15, and illuminates the word of God to me.” Non-Catholics see the Protestant reformers as great Holy men of God who had the Holy Spirit and were illuminated. If they were illuminated by the Holy Spirit when they read Scripture then why did they come up with three different contradictory understandings of what the breaking of the bread means. Was the Holy Spirit confused or were the Protestant reformers confused when they rejected the authority of the Church?
One person claims to be a Calvinist and so he follows John Calvin. Another person claims to be Lutheran and so they follow Fr. Martin Luther. For the people claiming to follow the “Bible Alone” why would they be following men? At the same time another calls Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli heretics equally as bad as the Catholics. And yet all are claiming to be illuminated. If the Protestants were truly illuminated by the Holy Spirit then there would not be tens of thousands contradictory theologies creating a type theological anarchy with no way of solving issues. The issue of the breaking of the bread (transubstantiation) had already been solved by the Church but the protestors rejected it for their own contradictory understandings. This is the very reason why many wonderful Evangelicals and other non-Catholics are willing to do the unthinkable and consider the Catholic Church.
Again, Catholics can agree to disagree with other Catholics. Protestants can agree to disagree with other Protestants and so the question is this. Does it make any difference whether we are Catholic or Protestant? It all has to do with the issue of authority. The difference is that the Catholic Church can step in and settle the disagreement when and if it chooses just as was done with the issue of circumcision in Acts 15. Protestants can only agree to disagree and admit that they cannot make a decision that stands for all time because they have no overall authority. To them only the Bible has authority.
The biblical Church is that Church that can make a definitive statement just as was done in Acts 15.