Sunday, February 01, 2009

Answers to a Barrage of Common Protestant Criticisms Against Catholicism

A person on the CHNI board who is a Catholic convert, is being overwhelmed by the usual garden-variety (anti-Catholic) Protestant criticisms, which are sowing seeds of doubt. Here are my replies to her.

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Thanks for the opportunity to try to explain some of the Church's doctrines and (hopefully) make you more confident that Catholicism is the fullness of Christian truth.

I am told that while an earnest Christian, I should leave the Catholic church because "they messed everything up" What did they mess up?

The Catholic Church had sinners in it like every other group in human history has had. We've also had more saints and other holy people than any other group.

They ask me why I decide to stay in a church so ridden with error. What errors am I facing?

There are no theological errors (not in any of our dogmas). :D That is the gift of infallibility, that God the Holy Spirit blesses the Catholic Church with. It's claimed that there are many, but we can defend all of our beliefs quite easily, I think, from Scripture, and Church history and reason. Protestants have a much harder time doing that, insofar as they are making truth claims at all.

Since they contradict each other all over the place, it is humorous for any Protestant to carp on alleged Catholic errors, when they have plenty of their own, by the laws of contradiction (they oughtta clean their own house up first). At least we claim to have truth, whereas many Protestants can't even figure out what it is, or if it even matters whether they find it, on many many issues.

Granted the Catholic Church has a horrible record of persecution and power-abuse, but does that make the entire faith false?

No, of course not, because the "sin" argument is not conclusive. All Christian groups have skeletons in their closet. So if sin in sinners disproves any given faith claim, then there is no Christianity whatsoever. See my paper:

Biblical Evidence for Sinners in the Church
But that is a ridiculous and despairing conclusion, so we ought to see that it is false. It's erroneous because it starts from a false and unbiblical assumption that there is a perfect church somewhere (in terms of behavior of its members). Any Christian communion becomes unperfect as soon as the first human being joins it. :)

But historic Catholic sins are no worse than anyone else's. I have an entire web page documenting Protestant sins of the past, which are far less known or talked about. It's a huge double standard:

Protestantism: Historic Persecution and Intolerance
I'm beginning to have doubts about the saints, Mary and Apostolic Succession.

I can't deal with everything at once, so here are my web pages and papers on those topics:

Saints, Purgatory, and Penance (topical index web page)
Apostles Can Become Bishops (Apostolic Succession)

The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church
I mean can men really have powers only meant for Christ?

Of course they cannot! But you have obviously (unconsciously) accepted the false premise that your Protestant friends are feeding you. We can support all our beliefs from Scripture: including all the Marian doctrines. If God wanted to use Mary or various saints in a special way, who can say that He can't do that? The question to determine is whether God wanted to and does use people in this fashion. If we determine that He did, then these powers were not only meant for Christ.

I have been searching for the face of Christ since my Confirmation and feel His presence in the Eucharist. When you get down to Scriptural evidence, even Baptists have to second-guess their assumption the Lord's Supper is a symbol. I'm worried about the Church's doctrines, do we put too much importance on tradition?

No. Protestants put far too little, because "tradition" is an extremely strong theme in Scripture.

Why do our traditions seem "ritualistic" in comparison to the simple Gospel of the Apostles?

It's no more "ritualistic" than the Psalms were, or the OT temple ceremonies, led by priests. The earliest Christians still worshiped in the Temple, and participated in temple sacrifices. So our ceremonies are quite a bit simpler, unless we start literally slaughtering lambs at Mass. See my papers:

A Fictional Dialogue on "Vain Repetition," the Mass, and the Liturgy

Biblical Evidence for Wholehearted Worship, Even in a "Ritualistic" or Formal Setting

Should a Christian Ever Contribute to a Mosque Building Fund? / Early Christians and Jewish Synagogue and Temple Worship
Why does the Pope wear a golden ring when Christ wore a crown of thorns?

Because there is nothing wrong with showing honor to the vicar of Christ. We show it to secular kings and queens (look at Queen Elizabeth). So why not also to a representative of Christ? The same mentality would have us tear down all the beautiful cathedrals. But this is unbiblical:

Biblical Evidence For Building Expensive Church Buildings and Cathedrals
Why do we in fact (though not descended from pagan religions) have so much in common with them?

Because God knew that in order to reach pagans, we had to appreciate whatever was true in their religions and practices. Most religions have some truth in them. St. Paul used this approach on Mars Hill in Athens, commending the people for their religiosity (an idol was nearby) and then presenting the gospel to them. See:

Is Catholicism Half-Pagan?

C.S. Lewis on Pagan Parallels to Christianity
I want to be finally home. I don't want to believe that God tricked me (or even worse Satan).
He didn't. Read some of the papers above, listen to the wonderful encouragement and testimonies from others in this thread, and you'll be fine. This is just Satan putting all these doubts in your mind. Knowledge is power. And biblical knowledge in particular is inspired, extraordinary power to withstand the devil's lies and doubts sown in your mind and soul. It's extremely common for converts and reverts to go through doubts. In my own conversion story I wrote about "seven tense weeks of alternately questioning my sanity and arriving at immensely exciting new plateaus of discovery." And also:
At the end, in most converts' experience, an icy fear sets in, similar to the cold feet of pre-marriage jitters. In an instant, this final obstacle vanished, and a tangible "emotional and theological peace" prevailed.
It goes away by prayer, human support, study of the Bible and the Church's documents, devotional literature and practices, and other aids of the Catholic faith. We're here for ya! God is with you and will lead you into all truth, as you seek Him. Take heart!

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