Friday, November 20, 2009

For Mudrake with Love: An Answer to a Good Question

In a comment, Mudrake asked me to take some time to speak of the advantages and disadvantages of agnosticism, protestantism, and Catholicism.

Agnostics have no advantages –unless you call it advantageous to feel no accountability to a God of righteousness –so they can do whatever THEY think best. They don’t believe in Christ’s deity, nor are they sure that God exists or doesn’t exist. So they can’t have a saving faith –a big disadvantage when it comes to Judgment Day. If there is a Heaven or joyous eternal life to gain and a Hell or eternal destruction to shun –and Christ is the way of salvation from the latter, the agnostic is eternally disadvantaged. Agnostics may or may not live positive lives, but their only hope of eternal life is faith in Christ which they do not profess. The Bible says, “By faith are we saved and not of works, lest any man should boast” in his own righteousness.

Catholics and Protestants share faith in Christ as our Savior. I don’t look at their differences as advantages or disadvantages, particularly, but as issues of truth based on Scripture. I do believe the Catholic Church developed unbiblical traditions and beliefs through the centuries –like papal infallibility (nothing in the Bible supports that idea), transubstantiation of the elements of the Mass, (not an essential biblical faith doctrine), the Mass as crucifying Christ anew, again and again, for our sins. Paying for indulgences. I have friends who paid the priest to annul their first marriages so they could re-marry after divorce. Their official intolerance for divorce and re-marriage allows little grace for sinful people and accepting money for God's grace through indulgences is hard to understand. Their fight for the right to life, against abortion, however, is a good example to us all.

Re: Mass: we believe the observance of The Last Supper is to be done, as Jesus said, “in remembrance of me” –symbolizing the remission of sins. The remission was done on the Cross –and the Last Supper symbolized what Christ would endure for our sins. His blood and broken body would atone for mankind’s sins and even REDEEM His sin nature –so that man could be healed and “born again” and have the sin nature in him crucified with Christ, by FAITH –not by observing the Mass as a repeat crucifixion of Christ.

We both believe in Christian baptism –but protestants see it as an “outward sign of an inward work of grace.” We don’t believe the unbaptized will go to Hell even though they have faith in Christ—but we are baptized in obedience to scripture, as a sign to the church and the world that we are identifying with the Redeemed, the universal Christian church which includes all who believe in Him as Savior. It is also symbolic of cleansing from our sins.

My church denomination, the Free Methodist, gives parents a choice as to infant baptism (as the jailer was baptized WITH ALL HIS HOUSEHOLD at the jailer’s conversion) -- or infant dedication (as Jesus was dedicated in the Temple) --with baptism to occur at the age of accountability when the child or adult understands and chooses to follow Christ. We believe that children before the age of accountability are saved, baptized or not --and that anyone can be saved by faith alone --not by the ritual of baptism.

Protestants have criticized all the richness and pomp, ritual and fancy clothing of cardinals and pope, extravagant cathedrals in poverty-stricken nations, heavy drinking and immorality in the priesthood. We see these as extra-biblical practices in the Catholic Church. And some protestant ministers and churches are no better—also wolves in sheep’s clothing. Protestant evangelicals have been guilty of legalism (seeing it as essential to one's salvation to refrain from smoking, drinking, dancing, card playing, gambling, etc.) --but most of their legalisms had Biblical principles behind them even if they weren't essential to salvation.

I think Bible study, which the Catholics are more open to now, is an advantage in Protestantism –and the more the Catholics study also, the more we come together on what is Biblical.

Granted, Bible study results in different interpretations –but we can hardly do worse than the priesthood with their development of unbiblical doctrines and traditions which are inconsistent with ANY interpretation of scripture.

Wesley did say that tradition is important, also, to discerning the will and ways of God, but we must test it against scripture for validity. The Weslyan Quadrilateral for knowing God’s will, hearing His voice, includes scripture, tradition, reason AND experience. All used by the Holy Spirit to guide us. But Scripture is the standard to which the other 3 are subject.

Other advantages: The music of evangelical protestantism has always been inspired and varied. Catholic Church tends to revere too much the style and tradition of music in a minor key. Agnostics don't allow themselves the joy of Christian music, performing it or attending churches to hear it.

There is the advantage of Christian church community life. Church can be a family beyond your own blood relatives --which may care for us more than our relatives in some cases --especially for those who don't live near family.

The Church is a channel for charitable work in the local community that agnostics may not have as much outlet for.

Church may provide a smaller peer group for children and youth to combat the cold, impersonal, cruel world that public school is for so many.

Church helps us raise our children to be good people with consciences and happy people with hope for their eternal futures. It's sad when we use fear of the negative more than the hope of the positives in our parenting (or church teaching/preaching) style, thus turning children away from faith and church. The love of God must be primary and the love for each other --and His statutes and principles (those do's and don't's) must also be communicated as being for our good --which they are.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible


mud_rake said...

"Agnostics have no advantages "

Of course they do- they are completely free from the guilt and associated baggage that Christians must carry around through their miserable lives.

Barb said...

How can they be completely free as agnostics --since agnostics aren't really SURE there is no god or they'd call themselves atheists, wouldn't they?

I wonder why you don't have more sympathy for Christians, given your opinion here.

Jeanette said...

Dennis seems to have a conflict with the definition of agnostics and atheists.

Agnostics could be persuaded to believe in God, but atheists just plain do not believe in God and reject Him out of hand.

I think the saddest part I've read in the Bible was when Paul preached to King Annanias (? Maybe I got his name wrong, but he was a king.) After preaching to him the king responded "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

Almost persuaded would be an agnostic. The sad part is we don't know if the king ever accepted Christ as his Savior or not. He may have had just the one chance from one of the best evangelists the world has ever known and then his heart might have been hardened to the Gospel and he would never be saved.

There is no "almost going to heaven" or "almost going to hell". You go to one place or the other and no amount of prayers by the living can redeem you after you are dead and in hell.

Paul tells us the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ His Son.

Paul had a wondrous conversion experience on the road to Damascus when Jesus Himself asked him why he persecuted Him.

By persecuting Christians he was persecuting Christ. Jesus said inasmuch as we give to the poor we have given to him. We gave Him water when He thirsted, we gave Him food when He hungered and we gave Him shelter when He had none.

People said they didn't do that for Jesus and He told them if they did that for the least they were doing it for Him.

You speak of "love one another" but the real quote is "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" which is a higher standard than just loving someone. To love someone as yourself is high love indeed.