Monday, February 28, 2005

A Plea to Ignorance

*This is an article which I submitted to my dorms weekly periodical. For some this article may appear abrasive and offensive; that is not the intent. It is simply a wake-up call. I am what you would call a Christian hybrid. I am a member of a the Wesleyan Church and the Catholic Church. The university I attend has the tendency to be ultra-Protestant and therefore I composed this article as a critical evaluation of the attitudes of too many of the students. Enjoy, but read with an open-mind. The article is obviously biased in order to emphasize the point I was trying to make. Were the setting reversed so would be the content of the article.

"The modern evangelical Church struggles with the grotesque scar which bears certain arrogance about the authority of its doctrine. Protestantism is often seen as considering itself to be the only true Christian Church. While this can in no way be a blanket statement about individual Protestants, the ignorant believer would do well to dialogue with those outside of the walls of the Protestant world. It is ironic that while Protestants have long attacked the Catholic Church on the basis of its claims of authority, the tables now have been turned and Protestants appear to have been programmed to believe that they have the monopoly on Christian Orthodoxy.

The problem has largely arisen from a myopic understanding of reformation history as well as the tendency among modern Protestants to read Scripture myopically. It seems that for many Protestants the modern Catholic Church is synonymous with the Catholic Church of the reformation era. The corruption that had invaded the Church can in no way be ignored or denied but neither can the fact that a Catholic reformation shortly followed the Protestant split and any comparisons between the modern Catholic Church and the corrupt Church of the 1500’s is selective at best. A few weeks ago in chapel we heard the story of how a Protestant man was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English. How is it that we never hear the stories of the hundreds of Catholic whom were murdered when Protestants had control of England? The animosity which has existed between Protestants and Catholics is a two sided coin; neither side can be seen as being solely at fault.

Of course there is much more to say but for the sake of time I will turn to the myopic reading of Scripture which the modern Protestant is prone to. It is truly an outrage that Protestants have minimized the value of Church Tradition. The big “T” Tradition, as Dr. Bounds refers to it, is what the Church has always considered to be Orthodox teaching. Tradition is determined by antiquity, what has been believed from the very beginning of the Church, universality, what has been believed everywhere by all Christians, and consensus, what has been agreed upon by the great Fathers of the Church. Yet the majority of lay Protestants read the Bible as if “it is just me and the Holy Spirit, I don’t need none of that tradition stuff.” It is absolutely mind boggling to me that anyone would find their own interpretation of Scripture to be the authoritative interpretation and not once turn to the great saints of the centuries who have gone on before us and have much more theologically and logically sound things to say than John Elderidge, or John Piper, or even A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis (whom are certainly valuable contributions to modern Christendom). The obvious fact is that all Christians read the Bible through the eyes of tradition. The question is simply which tradition they use.

Ignorance about specific Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine has contributed to the superiority complex of Protestantism. An obvious area of prejudice that Protestants retain is in regards to the Catholic and Easter Orthodox practice of “praying” to the Saints. Cries of “Idolatry!” and “You only need to go directly to Jesus!” are often heard as complaints against such a practice. However, Protestants feel quite comfortable going to fellow believer and asking them to pray for a certain situation. The practice of “praying” to the Saints is analogous to this idea in that Catholic and Eastern Orthodox believers assume that some Christians go immediately to be with Jesus after they die (an idea which is supported by Paul in Phil. 1:22-26). In the same way that we ask other believers to pray for us, Catholics and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church believe the same thing can be done with those whom have passed on. It is not asking the Saints to heal them or perform miracles for them but rather it is asking the Saints to pray for them. While this may be hard for Protestants to accept, it is within the big “T” Tradition of the Church! This of course does not mean that the practice is in and of itself true, but it is obvious that one does not cease to be a Christian by practicing it.

I cannot comprehend how the same Protestants who accept such ideas as Calvinism and eternal security, which are outside of the big “T” Tradition and have been formally rejected in smaller Church councils in the first eras of Church history, can place the title of “heretic” and “idolater” to the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church. The truth is that such theology as Calvinism is much more heretical than the doctrine of either of these two branches of Christianity! Not only that, but many Wesleyans, although the official statements of the church believe otherwise, see baptism as merely an outward symbol of a profession of faith and grace is not communicated. In the same way, many Wesleyans view communion as simply a remembrance of Jesus Christ and do not take seriously what the early Church did that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). The Church has always believed that grace is communicated at communion as well. Both these dominant views of baptism and communion by Wesleyans are outside of Christian Orthodoxy and are technically heresy. The irony is all too clear. Do not forget, either, that while Protestants often view the hierarchy of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church as destructive, these two branches of Christianity have survived much longer than the Protestant Church, which split incredibly early in its infancy.

So let us stop this nonsense about the Catholic and Easter Orthodox Church being in need of evangelism. Rather perhaps we Protestants should turn our attention to educating our congregations on Church history and Church Tradition. The fact is, when Tradition is thrown away so is Orthodoxy."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I will pray tonight...

So it is 1:00 in the morning and I have to be up in six hours to get ready to preach a sermon. It is the third sermon in my series on the book of Ruth. So far God has truly blessed this series and I believe He is doing mighty things with it. With that said, the obvious questions is, "Why am I not in bed?" The explicit immediate reason may be that my sheets are currently in the dryer, however, I also feel compelled to write tonight.

I went to a Chinese buffet with my fiancee and some buddies tonight. I went up to the buffet counter to get my food and on my way back I noticed twin little boys eating with their mom and two other women. The feeling that went through me is difficult to describe. The boys could not have been any older than six or seven. They were absolutely adorable and it broke my heart. I have twin brothers myself who were once that age. When I saw those little boys it was as if the Holy Spirit descended upon my shoulders and began to speak to my heart. Their mother held a cigarette in her hand and the other two women were smoking as well. I do not mean to say that smoking is inherently sinful as I do not believe that it is. But something struck me.

It was not that they were smoking which struck me, it was...well I am not sure what it was. But I do know that I felt an incredible ache for these boys, a desire to stop by their table and ask if I could spend time with them during the week. I didn't, but I began to wonder where these little boys would end up in life. The town where I attend college is quite run down. It has a low socio-economic status and the sad fact is that children are not given much of a chance here. Would these boys graduate from high school? Would they meet women and marry and raise families? Would they find a career that they enjoyed doing? Would they have a relationship with Jesus Christ? I don't know the answer to any of these questions but I do know that I still feel an ache in the deepest regions of my heart.

So the Spirit began to touch my heart and I realized how wrapped up in myself I truly am. This past week we had midterms and I spend countless hours studying and writing papers. Why did I not take a break to go and talk to one of the guys in my unit? Why did I put my studies before relationships? Which will have more eternal significance? I think the answer is clear, but nonetheless I chose to study. I did well on my midterms because of it, but it seems to me I could have done just as well and taken perhaps an hour or two away from studying to spend time with people.

The community I am in is much in need of people willing to give of themselves in order to benefit the people who live here. As Christ said, no servant is greater than his master, and therefore it is the calling of every Christian to have the heart of a servant. The Holy Spirit showed me tonight that I have the opportunity to impact lives before I leave this city. The lives of children, the lives of the aged, the lives of those wondering where they are supposed to be in this life. God loves the people here who daily are fighting for a warm place to sleep and food to give to their children as much as he loves those of us here who will go to bed tonight in our comfortable dorm rooms with electricity, water, heat, and warm blankets. The question is not, "God how can you let this happen to people?" but rather, "Ben, how can you let this happen to people?"

So as the others in my dorm will lay their heads down tonight on their soft mattresses and fall asleep under their warm blankets, I will fall down on my knees and I will pray for those little boys. They deserve at least that.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Like dirt in a vacuum...

Like dirt in a vacuum, I've been sucked in. I almost cannot believe I'm doing this, but I'm making a blog. Will I faithfully update it? Who knows, being a Champion of Orthodoxy is very time consuming. Only time will tell, but for now I will enjoy using this medium as a means of expressing my well as denouncing the many heretics in my residence hall and the Christian community. So, may you enjoy what I have to say, and may I enjoy saying it. A sermon outline is calling my name...