Saturday, August 9, 2014

Catholic Apologetics - some assumptions

Before I begin to attempt to explain and defend my faith, I must state a few principles.  Here are some things I believe:

Common ground: Christians share the majority of their beliefs with each other, while we differ on a few others.  It's tragic that those fewer differences cause so much discord.  We should keep firmly in mind the very many truths we all confess.

Scriptural interpretation:  When we try to interpret scripture, we have to be very careful. It can be tempting to interpret it to mean something we want it to mean rather than what God means.  Peter warned against this:

[16] As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. [17] You therefore, brethren, knowing these things before, take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness. (2 Peter 16-17)

It seems to me that we have to be careful when we interpret scripture that we do not come up with an interpretation of one verse that requirse some other verse to be discarded because it does not agree with our interpretation of the first.  I would bet that most of us can find some other denomination whose interpretation of a verse we disagree with.  We must keep in mind that they disagree with our interpretation, too.  One interpretation must be correct, and conflicting interpretations cannot all be correct.  Our goal should not be to prove that our interpretation is correct, but to find the correct interpretation and make it our own.  If we try to "prove" that our interpretation is correct, discarding other verses that disagree, are we not pitting our will against God's?  That's a dangerous place that I don't want to go.

Another thought:  sometimes, maybe, a verse just means what it says.

Charity:  Remember that we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are discussing these issues because they are important, essential even.  We love each other as Christ commanded us to, and we are working not to defeat or to vanquish, but to save.

Questions about the Catholic faith

A young gentleman of my acquaintance has asked me several questions about my faith.  They are serious questions, and they deserve thoughtful consideration.

I am Catholic.  He is a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.  He lent my family a book, The Five Points of Calvinism, to explain some of his faith.

In asking his questions, he did clarify to say that when he asks what I believe, he is asking what the Church teaches.  I should state at the outset that I'll do my best, but that I am imperfectly catechized at best.  I plan to refer to the Bible and the Catechism, as well as to some sites and publications that I feel comfortable with.  If anything I write raises an eyebrow, please ask about it in the comments and, of course, feel free to research it yourself.  I don't hold myself out as an authority; I'm just doing my best.

In attempting to answer his questions, I will need to distinguish between explaining and defending my faith.  Explanations will refer to sources I accept but that he may not accept.  When I attempt to defend, I will try to refer to sources that both he and I accept.

As I told him once, I imagine that if we sat down side by side and started quite at the beginning ("In the beginning God created heaven, and earth...") and moved forward from there, 95% of our beliefs would be congruent.

Here are some of his questions:

"Mary- Do you believe she is perfect? Did she stay a virgin or have other children? Do you believe that she should be prayed to?"

"The Pope- Do you believe when he is speaking from the “chair” that his words are without fault? If so, how would you explain that?"

"Do you view Priests as mediators between us and God? Or is Christ the only one who can fill that role?"

"Do you believe that our faith is justified only by Gods grace or are works a part of that justification? I understand that “By our works shall we be known” but are those works saving works or just the fruit of being saved?"

Shortly, I'll work on addressing them as best I can.