Apologetics and Labels

Every now and then, I run into someone who seems to be a Catholic extremist, for want of a better word. When playing at apologetics, these guys, who seem to be on the fringes of Roman Catholicism, can come up with some strange ideas that even the folks at the Vatican surely would have a hard time wrapping their minds around.

One of the tactics favored by most Catholic apologists I have dealt with is to come at their opposition hard, hoping to put him in defensive mode. One of the zingers they like to toss out early in the conversation goes something like this:

We have been around for two thousand years, and like how old is your sect? If you read any of the Church Fathers or you actually examine what the earliest Christians believed, you would see that we are closer to the truth than is Fundamentalist Protestantism.

Those who use this approach are victims of their own propaganda. The Roman Catholic Church has not been around for 2000 years. In fact, some church historians say that the RCC came into being during the reign of Pope Leo I (440-461 A.D.). Others argue for a date late in the 4th century after a Roman emperor became friendly with what was then the Christian church and issued decrees favorable to that body. Another proposed date for the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church is 606 A.D., when the Roman Emperor designated Boniface III, the Patriarch of Rome, as the "Universal Bishop of the Church." Before that, every attempt by various bishops of Rome to exert control over the other episcopates was rebuffed, often with scorn and even ridicule. I have frequently observed that it is the Roman Catholic who is need of reading up on RCC history and the writings of the early church fathers. Such reading would best be done using source documents that have not been blessed by the ministrations of pious Catholic editors.

This is wishful thinking, of course. I doubt that many Catholic faithful actually seek truth in the Bible, for they are prohibited by conciliar legislation from finding anything in the Word of God that in any way differs from the Magisterium's infallible interpretations. Since it is virtually impossible to know what the Magisterium has declared on all but a few selected passages of Scripture, for a Catholic to study the Bible at all would be to run the risk of falling into disagreement with the infallible Teaching Authority and, as a consequence, being declared anathema. Oh! My!

When RCC apologists address what Fundamentalists believe, I get the distinct impression they have no idea at all what they are talking about. I doubt that many make much effort to study the basic teachings of orthodox Christianity; preferring to parrot what they read on RCC canned apologetics sites. Think about it. How many times have you observed a Catholic apologist citing from a non-Catholic source such as Charles Hodge, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dwight Pentecost or B.B. Warfield?

The only information those who would defend Catholicism have most likely was obtained by listening to their parish alter Christus on Sunday mornings or absorbing what their buddies tell them true Christians believe. It seems doubtful that they would check out those Catholic teachings concerning Protestant beliefs. More probably, they just listen, nod their heads and regurgitate.

Luke praised the Bereans for their diligence in going to the Scriptures to verify what Paul had said to them. When it comes to Protestant doctrine and practice, how many Catholic apologists are Bereans? How many are parrots?

Catholic apologists I have met usually promise to pray to Saint Someone-or-other in my behalf. When they do, I inform them that I am not interested in having them pray to any demons or ghosts of dead people in my behalf. The response to my rejection of their offers generally includes a couple of favored proof texts and goes something like this:

They are not demons, if you are referring to the saints in heaven, they are still "alive"! In 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul says that "to be away from the body, is to be present with the Lord." Also in Luke 16, it clearly shows that the souls of the departed go either to heaven (Abraham's Bosom) or hell (Hades)!

The reference to Paul's writings to the Corinthian church is found at 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight)
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
-- 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

And just what does this passage say? One thing it does NOT say is that to be "away from the body is to be present with the Lord," as the Catholic apologist's misquote claims. In this passage, Paul is talking about the glorified body which awaits every resurrected believer. He is making the point that our earthly bodies are fragile, delicate and lowly things, unlike the glorified bodies we will put on one day which will perfectly express our transformed natures.

Paul longed to cast off his mortal body and exchange it for the glorified body that believers will receive when they are resurrected. He knew that he and all believers would not be ghostly figures floating in infinite space. Rather, we will live through all eternity in a glorified body such as Jesus had received -- spiritual, immortal and perfect in every way.

Paul wanted everything that God had planned for him in eternity When the Apostle wrote that on earth he was away from God, he was not declaring that he had absolutely no contact with Him. Believers are in contact with our Lord in prayer, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures and through fellowship with other believers. He was longing to be in his eternal home, in the presence of his Lord. Isn't that what most believers look forward to?

In verse 8, the Apostle says the same thing that he said in verse 6. Heaven is a better place that earth, and Paul would rather be there than here..

In verse 9, Paul tells us of his life's ambition, using a Greek word that means "to love what is honorable." Every believer should share this ambition, for to do so would be pleasing to God. (cf. Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:10; Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:1).

Verse 10 reminds us that every believer is accountable to God for the things he does or fails to do in life. The mention of the judgment seat does not refer to a courtroom setting, such as Jesus faced when He stood before Pilate. . Rather, it points to the place where the Lord will examine how believers lived in order to determine what rewards they might deserve. The Greek word translated as "judgment seat" is beÁma, an elevated platform where victorious athletes were given their crowns.

The Bible does clearly teach that when a person dies, his soul goes at once to its eternal reward. (e.g., Ecclesiastes 12). Catholic hagiology provides glowing reports of the holiness of those they call saints, but history paints an entirely different picture of some of them. Look at Anselm of Canterbury, for example. This Catholic saint died in 1109 and was canonized and made a Doctor of the Church some 600 years later, in 1720, by Pope Clement XI.

Clearly, Clement XI did not know Anselm personally, so he must have made his decision to promote Anselm to sainthood based on information provided to him. Catholic fantasy teaches that, when elevating some dead person to sainthood, the pope is acting infallibly. Did God whisper in Clement's ear, telling him that he should overlook the bountiful evidence of Anselm's homosexual activity and just promote the dead guy's soul? Scripture tells us that God considers active homosexuality to be an abomination. How strange that He would tell His vicar on earth to ignore that and send Anselm on up.

Scripture tells us only God can read the heart, yet Catholicism would have us believe the pope can know for certain when a departed soul enters into God's presence. Apparently the pope, in his capacity as Vicar of the Son of God also has Christ's power and ability to perfectly judge our souls. Give me a break. Catholics know their "saints" are in Heaven because the Teaching Authority of the RCC tells them they are. And how does the Magisterium know this? Why, it told itself, of course.

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