Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Definitions & Differences I'm Dealing With (Teri)

The Roman Catholic Church has seven sacraments, the Protestant has two. And they regard them differently. Had to look up sacrament.

The catechism (1084) defines sacrament as instituted by Christ to communicate his grace. They are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify.

Steve Ray in Crossing the Tiber (p. 27) says that according to St. Augustine a sacrament is a "visible form of invisible grace". Ray also quotes his instructor from the time he and his wife were entering the church and his definition sounds right out of the catechism. Ray ends his footnote saying that in sacraments, you experience the Spirit working in and through matter.

Then I looked it up in my handy-dandy IVP Bible Dictionary. The editor(s) acknowledge that we owe our definition of the word to St. Augustine. The dictionary's definition was easily 5 times as long as the catechism's. Some highlights: the elements have no power; it is their faithful use that matters. And, regarding the extra sacraments of the RCC there is "no scriptural warrant for giving the other so-called sacramental rites the same status as Baptism and the Lord's Supper."

More stuff swimming around in my brain. I guess for the record, I'll list the 7 sacraments according to the RCC:
Anointing of the Sick
Holy Orders

Wanna really jar your brain? There are also sacramentals - just to give you more to figure out. "These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy." - Catechism, 1667 Examples: blessings of people, food, objects and places - and I think crossing yourself as Catholics do is a sacramental. There are more, I don't know 'em.

This stuff, to me, is on one hand, really cool. I like the idea that these things exist and I can believe that they would/could bring you closer to God in some ways. On the other hand (and there is lately ALWAYS another hand in my sorting) they would/could get in the way of your relationship with God. Not to mention that I'm just not sure I believe in them. I want to spend more time in prayer, more reading time, and more time in Mass. My fear? That this questioning might go on forever with no suitable answers for my wandering mind and I'll never be able to make a decision. That just sucks.

I think that if I could get myself alone on an island with whatever is in my brain right now, but NO books, NO scripture, NO e-mail or phone connection, and NO bugging influence of the church we just left behind (our local church specifically, not the Protestant church as a whole) - I might personally be drawn to the RCC and it's teachings. I believe my existing relationship with Jesus would be enhanced, not compromised. But I'm not on that island. I'm stuck here still in that river made dangerous by all the debris floating by. And what if the island isn't the escape I first pictured, but my relationship with Jesus - and the river of junk is the Catholic church? The Protestant me says that's exactly the true analogy here. The Catholic me says, well, eventually you'd want to build a church on the island, right?

Finally, I was reading along in the baptism section of Tiber and looking up scripture references in my NIV Study Bible (non-Catholic, obviously) and came across a study note denouncing the Catholic interpretation of that particular verse. Bother. I'm frustrated by this. The Bibles are getting in on the fight. Duh, I guess they're the center of it.


Vicki R. said...

I'm beginning to read the "Tiber" book - already lots of "huh?" & "hmmms" goin' on. But, I'm being diligent with the footnotes, writing down my questions, like, just because the word "church" is used in Scripture, why does that have to mean the Catholic Church? Ray always replaces the small "c" with a capital "C" when using Scripture verses. I've always thought "church" meant "body of believers", not necessarily an actual building, or leadership entity.

My other big question is: So what? Yes, I believe that the Catholic Church is similar if not the same "church" that the apostles attended in their day. But where does it say (in Scripture or other writings) we need to worship EXACTLY as they did? Isn't the New Testament full of "models" that we are to follow, not necessarily duplicate? Like the model of the Lord's Prayer, for instance. Obviously that's not the ONLY way a person should pray. It's an example. So, great. I keep going back to the Catholic Church being an option, rather than a must for all believers.

Teri and Kevin said...

Hi, Vicki-
Oh, man--- I TOTALLY relate to every word you said.
This line, especially, stood out to me:

So, great. I keep going back to the Catholic Church being an option, rather than a must for all believers.

EXACTLY!!! But I can't seem to believe that the Catholics believe this. And I keep testing, I think expecting them to act like Mormons but they don't (at least not the ones I know). For instance, at our little RCIA class we decided to try out last Sunday, they were SO open. They acknowledged that the Catholic church may not be for us and emphasized that we are totally free to try or not. I kept thinking, "Are you sure? Are you just saying that, but as soon as we get a little further, we're bound in blood or something?" - I swear this thinking comes from two places in my life right now:
1) Mormon fear and stigma and pure crap
2) Things I've heard from people who were told or were under some impression that the Catholic church thinks it has the only way to salvation. The thing is, the more I think about this, the more I can recall examples of plenty of people (mostly a generation or two before me) in the Protestant church(es) that feel the same way about their denomination. Like my mom's cousin's in-laws. Strict Southern Baptists and they said others were going to hell, AND were more works-based than any Catholic I've ever met. And like my Dad's parents (my grandparents, though they died before I knew them, unfortunately) - seriously the most narrow-minded Christians I've heard of - they wouldn't let my dad go to ANY other church's activities or camps or anything. They really believed they were the only way and others were doomed to hell. They were particularly anti-Catholic. In fact, my cousin Gerry married a Catholic woman and my aunt and uncle never recovered from that. (Keep in mind my aunts and uncles are in their 80s - my dad was the baby by far). I'm getting more and more convinced that this narrow-mindedness comes from a lack of education. If uneducated families were smart enough to figure out the true salvation message, it's thanks to some special work of the Holy Spirit and some serious soft-heartedness.

Anyway, it bugs me that there is all this cool history and tradition and I'm drawn to it but want no part of a church that says it's the only way. They have every right to say they're the "original", but not the only way. Honestly, I just haven't heard anyone say this - not in the Catechism, not in any testimony or book I've read. And, here's the difficult thing for me - so I'm drawn to it and I believe the history and I think that's a huge factor in choosing a church - it's background and it's doctrine, etc. I like it all - but it's got so much BAGGAGE!!! I join the church and instantly I'm this "other religion". It makes me sad the rift between the Catholic and Protestant churches. I'm not sure I want to be Catholic. I keep thinking of more Protestant-y things I've always known and how I'd be separating myself from those things in some ways. But, and here is the mud puddle I'm sitting in - I can't find anything better. The Calvary Chapels and storefront churches of the world have Jesus, too - and without all the baggage. But - and I realized this writing in the blog early on - they'll have it the longer they stick around. We're all just human churches.

The ONLY bright side I can see in any of this is that it might be neat to be Catholic and adopt their tradition. And I honestly believe my relationship with Jesus could be deepened. I certainly like Mass and the attitudes and thinking behind it. And maybe I'd end up spending my life helping to break down a really dumb wall that both sides helped build.

My whole impression of your e-mail was that you and I are thinking much the same way. Both of us are on the defense. Again, I feel like crying right now - WHY??? I'm a basket case and that is NOT from God. But no one has told either of us yet that we do have to worship this way. I think it's starting to sink in that the Catholic church is an option not THE ONLY option. I want to stand on a mountaintop and scream THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT THINK YOU CAN'T HAVE SALVATION OUTSIDE ITS DOORS!!! EVERYONE GET OVER YOURSELVES. FOCUS ON JESUS!!! WHEREVER YOU CAN DO THAT BEST!!!

Vic, thanks for writing to me. I hope you don't regret it once you get such a long e-mail from me in reply. It's just that this is BIG on my mind right now. I'm so glad to have someone else looking right where I am. Regardless of where either of us ends up - I'm glad to have a friend like you.

long-winded Teri