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.”

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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?

“Praise” Music

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Someone just commented to me that I would have loved the praise music at Mars Hill Church in Grandville, MI yesterday. Mars Hill is a mega-church, and the pastor, Rob Bell is becoming an international celebrity based on his talent for writing books and sermons that have no meaning whatsoever.

They had a lot of acoustic guitar and I guess the sound was incredible. It sounds like it would have been a great concert. I am a music lover and have followed and enjoyed CCM music since its inception. I mean as far back as Larry Noorman and Love Song in the 1970s.

That sounds like it’s a great concert, but is it worship, or is it just entertainment? If the talent isn’t as good on a particular night, is worship still going on? I can’t judge individual people, because I am sure it is real worship to many of those in the audience. However, as a whole it seems to me that Praise music is designed to stir up emotions rather than to give praise to God. It is fueled by record companies who push CDs and sheet music to increase sales. If worship is about “feeling good” isn’t that a bit self-centered? Can you be self-centered and Christ-centered at the same time?

Praise music is often filled with irreverent lyrics that treat Jesus like he’s just our “good buddy” rather than the God of Heaven. A good example is that insipid “Our God is an Awesome God” and it’s references to having “thunder and lightening in His fists.” Sounds more like Zeus to me.

I don’t really know about the discussion about the nuts and bolts of the chords and such that people are talking about here on the board. I’m not a musician, so it makes little sense to me. However, I have ears, and I think good taste, and much of this music has just gone down the tubes. It’s not all hopeless, there are a few good artists out there. But this music is for when I want to be entertained, like while driving the car. When I go to a worship service I want to WORSHIP!

What is real worship? Revelation has the best picture of it. It is where the angels and the 24 elders cry forever “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” Falling prostrate to the one who appears as a lamb who was slain. This is what the Catholic Mass presents.

It’s not about what we get out of it, it’s what God gets out of it that counts.

How Firm a Foundation

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I was lying in bed last night praying and listening to the Rosary on EWTN radio online. When it was done I was thinking about the past few months since I surrendered to the Lord’s will and rejoined the Catholic Church.

I was thinking about how long it had been since I had regularly prayed or read the Bible. Since I have come back into the fold, I have found that I spend a lot of my time in prayer.

I know that that is my own fault, but I’ve come to realize that EvaAnabaptimentalism doesn’t really make it any easier. By having no accountability to anyone except God alone, it’s easy to put Him on a shelf, along with our Bible, and forget He’s there. Later we feel guilty that we haven’t prayed all week long, even though we meant to, and told others that we would pray for them. We go to church and look for our Bible and realize that it is sitting in the same place that we left it last week when we got home from church.

But the Catholic Church, by making us accountable to the local priest, by obligating us to go to Mass every week, by making Mass about worship instead of listening to someone talk, by providing prescribed prayers to say throughout the day, having rosaries and medals in our pockets, by hearing with our own ears by Christ’s own representative on earth that our sins are forgiven, keeps Jesus at the forefront of our minds all the time.

I also thought about how different the attitudes are of people to go to church (Protestant churches), and people who go to Mass. At church people will be talking and laughing until the music starts and even then it takes a couple of minutes for people to be quiet. People in the narthex/foyer who have been socializing begin to take their seats.

At Mass, we come in and are immediately introspective and reverent in our attitude about where we are. We sign ourselves with holy water, genuflect before Christ, and immediately kneel to pray and prepare ourselves for worship and to partake of Christ’s sacrifice. We can socialize later. Now it’s time for God. Everything else can wait.

The difference is Christ’s physical presence in the form of the Eucharist present in the Tabernacle at the altar. Candles are burning as prayers to God and usually at least one is burning all the time. When you walk into a Catholic church, even if you are the only person there, there is already something going on. Worship is taking pace. You are walking on holy ground. Immediately I think of the great hymn:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

I don’t mean to disparage here the faith of anyone who is not Catholic. I have known a lot of good, reverent Protestants who are dedicated to daily prayer and Bible reading. Maybe it’s more a reflection on the way that I was than anything else.

I have never been so awed by the presence of God. It’s like for so many years I was swimming in a lake, having a good ol’ time enjoying the weather and the sunshine. Then someone came along and gave me some scuba gear. I then realized that everything I knew was only on the surface. There was a whole other world right below me that I didn’t know existed.

The Catholic Church is like that. Instead of being founded on someone’s interpretation of the Bible that he came up with only last Tuesday, it is firmly planted in history and tradition. Jesus said it pretty well. Whether you are talking about Jonathan Edwards, John Piper, or Billy Graham; Protestantism is built on the shifting sands of personal interpretations of the Bible, blown about by winds of doctrine—whereas, the Catholic faith is built on the firm foundation of Christ’s own body and blood, with the authority that He personally handed down to Peter and the apostles and on down to today.

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