Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The True Nature of Jesus and His Church

Justin sent me the following email that I will have to break up into parts:
Recently I've been noticing attacks on Holy Mother Church as an institution unfounded in Christ's "revolutionary" character. I tried looking for literature on the Defense Directory but couldn't locate the right category for the situation. Perhaps there should be a big "Jesus" section, since there's Mary in there too.
I do have an entry in the Directory that you may find helpful. It's all about how the Catholic Church was instituted by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. You can check it out here. However, in light of contemporary developments in Christology, it would be helpful to have an entry that defends our classical beliefs about Jesus: that He is God, that His person is the pre-existent Word, that He has a human soul, intellect, and will, and that He truly resurrected from the dead and ascended to the Father. An entry like that would be pretty fun to make too. I think I'll make that one of my summer projects!

I was in Atlanta and went to an exhibit of some of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writings. He had a beautiful sermon called "Paul's letter to American Christians," which was all well and interesting until he (while role-playing St. Paul, to boot) disparaged Catholics and then the Pope, saying "how arrogant" it was for someone to claim they were infallible!
No one is arrogant who simply acknowledges the ownership of a gift given by another. If the pope attributed his infallibility to his own merits or intelligence then that would be arrogant. BUT, infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit given to the Church so that she will remain in the Truth. The Church does not boast of her infallibility, she simply defends it against people who would disparage it. Plus, the biblical proof for the authority of the Church is compelling.

For more on the infallibility of the pope, go here.

Recently, I found this shirt by a Christian clothing company. Its description reads:
" NO RELIGION - Awesome graphic of an old church symbolizing the traditions of Religion, being shattered by a cross thrown by Jesus. In the scripture Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus says, "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." Below the cathedral is the saying NO RELIGION, followed by the verse, "Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' " Matthew 15:10-11. It's not about the words you say, but what is in your heart!"
What do I say to stuff like that?
This shirt is typical of non-denominational protestantism. In their zeal to get rid of the traditions of men (there are many such traditions in protestantism after all) and return to "Bible Christianity" they have thrown out the baby with the bath water. It's a no-brainer that they would be against the Catholic Church, since ours is a Church with a rich tradition and a hierarchical structure.

What they have forgotten is that Jesus Christ didn't find a quasi-union of individuals with no defined structure who worship God "each in his own way" and who only agree on the "essentials." He founded a church (cf. Mt 16:18) with bishops, deacons, and priests.....in other words, a church with a hierarchical structure. These priestly offices are all over the New Testament, and the various churches are implored to respect their authority (1 Thes 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 5:5). Likewise, those who despise authority will be destroyed (2 Pet 2:10-12), and those who take up Korah's rebellion will perish in it (Jude 1:11).

Furthermore, Scripture calls us to be "one body" with "one faith" and "one baptism" (Eph 4:4-5). It calls us to be "of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32), and of "one mind" and in "full accord" (Phil 2:2). This is the type of unity that Jesus had in mind when He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. The Father and the Son definitely agree on more than the essentials!

This Christian group on my campus, during this Easter Week (I wonder if this is coincidental) put on this little demonstration called "I Confess..." where they confess the sins of Christians and Christianity. Good they like to share our heritage...I thought it was all well and good, but one poster said "I Confess...that Jesus was a revolutionary." Right, well, I believe that too but judging by the new youth anti-authoritarian streak I thought that was to imply another anti-established religion (aka Catholicism) character of Jesus.
Yea, that could have been the goal. For anyone who does hold that Jesus was an "anti-establishment" political revolutionary, I think one helpful passage is Mt 23:1-3. Jesus may not have liked the actions of the scribes and Pharisees, but he still respected their authority or he wouldn't have told the crowd to do the same thing. When they tried to trick Him into treason by asking him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus told them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mt 22:17-21). When Peter took up his sword to defend Jesus against the chief priests and officers of the temple, Jesus said, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52). This is certainly not typical of a "revolutionary."

In my English department's class on the New Testament (which has enough problems as it is being secular and "historical"...but don't fret, just pray for me, I think I have the right tools to defend most things about canonocity), we just had a class on St. Paul where the professor claimed, "Paul's letters imply that his way of teaching was not giving a set of beliefs, but responding to immediate problems." Actually that doesn't seem too wrong.
It is true that he was writing in response to various church problems, but some of these were doctrinal problems, and even when he is responding to disciplinary problems, his writings always reflect his beliefs and what he knew in his heart to be true. So, regardless of the reason for why he is writing, we can always learn from him.

I hope that answers all of your questions.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

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