Scrupulosity

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When I left the Catholic Church many years ago, one of the reasons I left was because of what Catholics refer to as “scrupulosity.” I had never heard of the term before a couple of years ago, but I recognized myself as soon as I heard what it is. I also know of others who left the Church because of it.

What Catholics know as “scrupulosity”, was what as a Protestant I had come to know as “legalism.” It is a corruption of freedom. The scrupulous person is anxious that he has committed a sin when in fact he has not or is convinced that his venial sins are mortal when they are not. This leads to a person thinking of Catholicism as a big-guilt trip—the feeling that in order to go to heaven, you would have to go to confession several times a day, like God is a ogre in the sky waiting for you to sin so he can kill you before you have a chance to repent.

I found a very good article on scrupulosity that you should read. Catholics, read it so you don’t fall into this trap, or so you can get out of it. Non-Catholics, read it so you can better understand the Catholic position.

Here is one of the best statements in the article: “Perhaps the best antidote to scrupulosity is the awareness that God’s grace is not easily dislodged by our sinful actions, much less by our smaller imperfections. If we think we can easily lose so great a gift, we are guilty of undue pride, which often masks itself as humility: ‘I am a horrible sinner and incapable of God’s love.’ That is a false humility by which we make ourselves more powerful than we really are and minimize the sovereign power of God and his gift of grace.”

Baptists aren’t Protestants? What are they then?

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A recent poster wrote to me that he is not a Protestant, but a Baptist. This is puzzling as it is not only incorrect, but it underpins one of Baptists’ many unbiblical beliefs: that they are the original church that Jesus instituted. Over time it became corrupt and when the term “Baptists” came to be used in the 1500s, it was a return to early, 1st century Christianity.

Baptists often use a work by J. M. Carroll, “The Trail of Blood,” published in 1931. Carroll gives his view of church history in order to justify a sort of Baptist succession where none exists. It is a seriously flawed rendering of church history, because of Carroll’s willingness to embrace heretics of virtually any stripe and claim them for the Baptist lineage, as long as they weren’t traditional Catholics.

Some of these include the Donatists and Novatians. I am quoting this from http://www.shasta.com/sphaws/trail.html. I quote it here as most of the links on the original page are broken.

The problem with the Donatists & Novatians is that they were perhaps TOO CATHOLIC! They definitely weren’t Baptists in theology or outlook.

Novatians and Donatists apparently arose as a result of the Roman persecutions and the issue of how to deal with apostates.

The Novatians apparently were fully Catholic in everything EXCEPT one thing: Novatians would not allow apostates back into the Church at all! The Catholics would readmit upon severe penance. Furthermore, Novatian himself apparently tried to set himself up as Pope…hardly what a Baptist minister would do.

Donatists apparently arose from the belief that the validity of the Sacraments depended on the personal worthiness of the priest. Donatists apparently were Catholic in everything except one thing: Donatists denied the validity of the Catholic clergy, apparently because some might have been ordained by former apostates. Donatists demanded a ‘pure’ clergy for the Sacraments to be valid. Consequently, Donatists rebaptised Catholic converts who entered Donatist Churches, but it apparently had nothing to do with “believer’s baptism.”

The actual 1st century church, when looked at honestly and open-mindedly, reveals a primitive, yet decidedly Catholic Church. This is not just coming from someone who is Catholic and trying to justify myself. I have a nearly 30-year background as a Baptist myself, active in my local Baptist church(es), serving as a Librarian, Sunday School teacher, and as Deacon. When I gave an honest look at Church history, I was so overwhelmingly shocked at what I found that it led me to the Catholic Church. I also feel not a little betrayed at how dishonest the Baptist view of Church history is, along with its deliberate deceitful portrayal of Catholicism.

Take a look at Clement of Rome. Clement was ordained by Peter himself. He was young enough to have known many of the Apostles. He later became the third or fourth pope depending on which critic you listen to. As a pope mentioned so early in history, the earlier popes must have been alive, and leading the Church during the lifetime of the Apostle John, and possibly Paul, who died sometime after Peter. John’s writings are some of the latest of the New Testament, yet he never speaks out against the “growing menace of the papacy.”

Instead we have Clement, the first of the Church Fathers actually promoting Apostolic succession and church hierarchy. His 1st letter to the Corinthians was written because the churches had rebelled against the appointed bishop and tried to set up its own. In chapters 42-44 he uses the example of Moses writing down the law, and says that the prophets are his successors. Then he uses the story of when the Israelites were jealous of Aaron and his status as the chosen high priest. Moses had Aaron and the twelve tribes place rods in the Tabernacle and left them there overnight and the the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but even to be bearing fruit.

“What do you think, loved ones? That Moses did not know in advance this would happen? Of course he knew. But he did this so that there might be no disorderliness in Israel…So too our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that strife would arise over the office of the bishop. For this reason, since they understood perfectly well in advance what would happen, they appointed those we have already mentioned; and afterwards they added a codicil to the effect that if these should die, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. Thus we do not think it right to remove from the ministry those who were appointed by them (the dissenters), or, afterwards, by other reputable men, with the entire church giving its approval…Indeed we commit no little sin if we remove from the bishop’s office those who offer the gifts (the Eucharist) in a blameless and holy way.” (Clement, 2005). (emphasis mine)

Clement then even talks to the Corinthians about the letters that “that blessed apostle, Paul” had written to them earlier concerning a similar issue. Notice that he is not rebelling against Paul’s teaching. He is in conformity with it. This is hardly the voice of someone who is rebelling again the Christian church and trying to set up a separate Catholicity.

He completely destroys several Baptist beliefs. First, there is a hierarchy in the priesthood, second that there is Apostolic succession of the offices, third, that the priests (Gr. Presbyters or pastors) are appointed, not voted in by the congregation.

Note: when Baptists recite the Nicene Creed and get to the line, “one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” they use “Catholic” in the strict “universal” church sense rather than what we know of as the Catholic Church. To a Baptist, “apostolic” simply means based on the teaching of the apostles, which they violate because they refuse any Apostolic teaching that comes from extra-biblical sources.

Later, in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians he says something else that negates another Baptist doctrine, that once a person is “saved” they are always saved and can never lose their salvation. “As for those who do not keep the seal of their baptism, he says, ‘their worm will not die nor their fire be extinguished; and they will be a spectacle for all to see.’” (Clement, 2005).

Next look at Ignatius of Antioch. Ignatius was a student of the apostles Peter and John. He knew them, studied with them, and was nurtured by them. Peter chose Ignatius as his successor as the Bishop of Syria. This is a man who knew the Apostles teaching intimately and yet he promotes a dogma that no Baptist could bring himself to believe, that the bread and wine at communion actually become the body and blood of our Precious Lord.

But take note of those who spout false opinions about the gracious gift of Jesus Christ that has come to us, and see how they are opposed to the mind of God…They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, since they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered on behalf of our sins and which the Father raised in kindness. And so those who dispute the gift of God perish while still arguing the point. It would be better for them to engage in acts of love, that they may also rise up. And so it is fitting to avoid such people and not even to speak about them, either privately or in public, but instead to pay attention to the prophets, and especially to the gospel, in which the passion is clearly shown to us and the resurrection is perfected. But flee divisions as the beginning of evils. (Ignatius, 2005).

There is much more that I could cite, but I’m tired of typing for now. As you can see, the early church was most definitely not Baptist.


Works Cited

Clement. (2005). First letter of Clement to the Corinthians. In B. D. Ehrman
(Ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Vol. 1. I Clement, III Clement, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Didachae (chap. 42-45). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
(Original work published 2003)

Clement. (2005). Second letter of Clement to the Corinthians. In B. D. Ehrman
(Ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Vol. 1. I Clement, III Clement, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Didachae (chap. 42-45). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
(Original work published 2003)

Ignatius. (2005). Letter of Ignatius to the Smyrneans. In B. D. Ehrman
(Ed.), The Apostolic Fathers: Vol. 1. I Clement, III Clement, Ignatius,
Polycarp, Didachae (chap. 42-45). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
(Original work published 2003)

Who is your authority?

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Do you claim the Bible as your sole authority for matters of faith and doctrine? Really? Every church teaches something different. Every pastor interprets the Bible according to his own personal beliefs. How is anybody supposed to know who’s teaching the truth?

If you say, “Well, all we can do is choose the denomination that’s most faithful to the Bible.” Then you are the one deciding what the Bible means. You are the one deciding what is true. The Bible isn’t your final authority – you are. It’s a dangerous game to play putting yourself above God’s chosen authority, the Catholic Church which he personally instituted.

The Eucharist and Communion

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I meant to write this a month ago, but you know how it goes sometimes. It has now been over a full year since I rejoined the Catholic Church. I have learned so much over the past year. So much now that I never understood is so clear to me now; I don’t understand how it never made sense to me.

The Eucharist has become so precious to me. Before, as a Protestant, we always talk about having fellowship with God, and obeying his ordinances of Baptism and the Communion. I have always wanted to be part of churches that take on as literal of an interpretation of the Bible as possible. Yet on these two points the most literal interpretation is not the Baptist, or Plymouth Brethren interpretation, it is that of the Catholic Church. Fundamentalists claim to be literal, but they refuse to take Jesus at his word on these two sacraments.

Fundamentalists talk of fellowship with the Lord. But only the Catholic Church really offers either. Here we have Christ taking the form of bread to become one with us. Protestants talk of receiving the Lord into their hearts, but Catholics literally take Him into our hearts, and stomach, and skin, and eyes, and even the ends of our hair and fingernails. We become one with Him, in the much same way that a man and wife become one. This is not accidental. We are his Bride, and he wants to be one with us.

Fundamentalists talk of Communion with other believers, but only Catholics also believe that we can still have fellowship and union with believers who have died. The writer of Hebrews describes some of the great men of the faith throughout history. Then in chapter 12 he says “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Not “we will be someday when we get to heaven too”; but “we are surrounded” by them.

Note that this cannot be the “invisible” church; these are Old Testament Hebrews and Jews! They are not part of the Church. But the Church, as the New Jerusalem, is in complete communion with the Old Testament saints.

Christ’s presence in the Eucharist

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If virtually all Christians believe that God can come to earth in the form and substance of a human being; why is it so difficult to believe that Christ can exist in the form of bread?

More about Purgatory

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I am currently listening to Tim Staples’ CD set, God’s Perfect Plan: Purgatory and Indulgences Explained. What an excellent resource. Even if you are a Protestant and cannot accept the existence of Purgatory, you will find this set useful. Even if all it does is lay out the Catholic position so you understand it better, without all of the anti-Catholic exaggerations and untruths contained in so many anti-Catholic works, you will be better of for it. You can purchase it from Catholic Answers.

Those who do not accept purgatory make the claim that because Christ atoned for all sin and all penalties for sin, there is nothing left to be purged. Tim presents an illustration that I have heard before, but I would like to expand upon it. I know that when you are talking about analogies though, you can never come up with something that will work in all instances, so mine is not perfect either, but I think it fits better. The illustration goes like this.

Suppose your son breaks a neighbor’s window and later is sorry that he did it. He may even go to the neighbor and apologize, and if he is a good neighbor, he will forgive the boy. Even though he is forgiven, it  does not eliminate the need for him to make reparation for the broken window. Forgiveness has been granted, but there is still a price to be paid. He needs to pay for the window.

Now suppose there is another neighbor who does not owe the first neighbor any kind of debt. Further suppose that he sees that your son has no way of paying for the window, and you won’t pay either, trying to teach him a lesson. The second neighbor pays the first neighbor for the window, illustrating how Christ pays the penalty for us.

However, this illustration breaks down on a major point. Although the penalty has been paid, your son did not pay it, which on the surface sounds good. But the problem is that correction (discipline) never takes place. If the neighbor continues to pay penalties for the boy, he has no incentive to change his behavior. He may continue to break windows, knowing that someone will pay for it. Not only will he eventually lose the benefit of correction and discipline, but he will also eventually lose the feeling that he has any need for repentance (can you say, “once saved, always saved?”).

The problem with this scenario is that this is what the court system would call a civil case. It changes quite a bit if you look at this using a criminal case instead. Suppose your son (let’s make him a little older, say 17) murders the neighbor instead of just breaking a window. Also suppose that again after he commits the crime he is sorry, truly sorry for what he has done and repents of his sin before God. Suppose that the family of the neighbor also believe that the boy is truly sorry. Protestants and Catholics alike would agree that even though he may have been forgiven by God, and possibly the family of the dead neighbor, your son still has a penalty to pay regardless of how sorry he is.

Because we are now talking about a criminal case, there is nothing that anyone else can do for him. Let’s say that you love your son so much that you can’t bear the thought of seeing him go to prison for the rest of his life, or to face the death penalty, especially because you really believe that he has repented of this sin. No court in the land is going to let him off the hook and let someone else do his jail-time. He, personally, must pay his debt to society.

Purgatory is more like that. Christ forgave the sin, making it possible for the person to attain total forgiveness, but the penalty for the sin remains and must be paid for by the perpetrator. And remember, the penalty that must be paid is not because the court has imposed it. It is because the person broke the law. In other words, he owes the debt, even if no one knows he committed a crime.

I mentioned in a previous post that Protestants say they do not believe in Purgatory, but they do believe in a purging process. If there is no need for Purgatory, which serves one purpose only—purification, then there is no need to be purged (correction/discipline) at all. Let me ‘splain.

The Protestant certainly believes in the Lord disciplining his children. It is presented in so many places in the Bible that I will not bother listing them. The reason the Lord disciplines them is because he loves them. He does not want to punish anymore than any other parent wants to punish their children. He does want to correct them though, again as any parent would.

What is correction or discipline? Is it merely punishment or obedience? Or is it trying to change your child’s behavior so that wrong intentions and desires are purged away, and past debts are paid resulting in holiness?

If the Protestant agrees with the Catholic that a penalty must be paid here in this life for your sins, civil infractions, and crimes, then why would they think that the slate is wiped clean at death? What magic is there in dying? Two minutes before you die you owe a criminal penalty for crime no one ever convicted you of, but you die and now it no longer needs to be paid? If Christ paid that part of the debt at death, then why do we give a penalty at all after repentence and you are still alive? Conversely, if you die owing the debt, the debt still needs to be paid. The Protestant does believe this along with Catholics, but only regarding hell. If they believe this is true regarding hell (not all do), then why not a cleansing process at death for Christians who have not yet had a chance to confess their sins, or for ones they have forgotten about, or didn’t realize they were sins?

Easter Vigil 2008

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I just got back from Easter Vigil at my church. This was my first vigil as a Catholic, even accounting for my past. For those of you who don’t know me, I grew up Catholic and left the Church at age 20. I became a Baptist, and after almost 30 years I have returned.

And to think that only a year ago, I went to an Easter Vigil as my niece and nephew were baptized and confirmed. I remember that all the Bible readings were cool (except they always have to throw in one of those Apocryphal readings). But all the kneeling, standing, candles, lighting the fire, etc. I almost couldn’t stand. I kept thinking to myself, “these people are pagans. Pagans!

How far the Lord has brought me in less than a year. I can’t believe that I could never see the truth as revealed through the Church. My first Mass as a Catholic was last August, on Assumption Sunday. I once rejected Mary as our Mother. Now I have had more victory over sin in the past year because of her intervention than I have ever had in my entire life. Praise God for his grace and mercy and lovingkindness! Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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