Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why Roman Catholics Annoy Me Less than Baptists

How's that for a provocative title?

I have spent 12 years of my life... 5 years in college and 7 years as a pastor... living in Oklahoma, in the heart of the bible belt. And when it boils down to it, Baptist theologies are always so arrogant and egotistical. Decision theology is fundamentally an arrogant approach -- *I* come to God, *I* give *my* heart to Him. *I'll* spread the Gospel, *I'll* win other people to Jesus (so in reality, it's not just my own decision that saves me, but my decisions will save people who are too stupid to believe without my winsome awesomeness).

And it annoys the tar out of me. I could put up with Calvinists who monkey with the Word -- that would annoy me, but at least they realize it's God who is saving them (maybe -- maybe saving, but if it is, its definitely God doing it).

Now, my friend is Roman Catholic -- and she's been having conversations with a Jehovah's Witness who has been coming around. This is what she wrote yesterday:

Great visit today with my friend E (the Jehovah's Witness). Got to actually evangelize, to share the sublime and astonishing message that yes, God did actually die for us. Her companion D was nonplussed but for the first time I felt it's possible the Holy Spirit is beginning to break through to E. Prayers please.

Note how even as she speaks to her own activity (she evangelizes and shares the good news) -- it is all about what God does.

1. God dies for us.
2. The Holy Spirit is breaking through.

Rome gets two things -- That God is powerful and that God uses means to accomplish His goals. R might have spoken -- but it's the Holy Spirit who is simply putting her to use. And what's the point... is it telling the JW that the Church is more fun? Is it offering her a more entertaining worship or really awesome coffee in the narthex? No.

God died for us.

Now, I know that my friend R does not describe every Roman Catholic (just as I don't describe every Lutheran) -- both our denominations have their quacks who have swallowed the crazy juice of either Arimineanism (bait and switch them into the Church) or rank Liberalism (social justice crusades while the proclamation of Christ and Him Crucified is ignored). But when you get a Roman Catholic who gets what her church actually teaches, and you are a Lutheran who gets what you actually teach... you can actually converse.

This just makes me happy. And refreshed.

Do not be depressed, Lutherans in America. Remember, the vast majority of the Church throughout the world is Liturgical and Sacramental. Baptists and Pentecostals are the fringe... even though they are a loud fringe, a banging gong and resounding cymbal (for if you deny the Baptism and the Supper, the very tangible expressions of God's saving love for us... you by definition have no love... or at least don't know love).

Carry on, remain faithful, fix your eyes upon Jesus - the author and perfector of your faith.


Marke said...

Here in Will Rogers' part of the state we have no Baptists. We do have, however, lots and lots of "Babdists." I truly wish I could take one of their core beliefs, change it just slightly and make it my own. "Once shaved, always shaved." Now that would be heaven on earth.

Robyn said...

R here. Thanks for the kind words. I know you are a very sacramental Lutheran. To say a person is a very sacramental Catholic is redundant; sacramentalism is absolutely a core of the Catholic gospel. And see, I've been meditating some on Christ's image, as recorded in the Gospel of John, of himself as the True Vine. What does it mean that he is the Vine and we are the branches? Branches are living things that take their life and vigor from the sap flowing from the vine. Cut a branch from the vine and it dies. Graft a branch on (cf. Romans 11:16-24) and it gains life. The True Vine not only provides life-giving sap to all the branches, but incorporates the branches into Its own being, and it is via the branches that the Vine produces fruit. The sap is grace which infuses us when we unite ourselves to Christ—that is, when we let him graft us into His Church.

So I would be a foolish branch indeed to look at any tiny fruit that might possibly bud from me unless I acknowledged that the fruit really comes from the Vine. And how much fruit could come from a branch, and how much life could it have, if the sap just covered it or hid it or whitewashed it? God's grace takes a dead branch and makes of it a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), vital with the Life of Christ. And that's the promise God has sent me to offer to my JW friends, whose greatest hope according to their bleak and dreary religion is a natural "paradise Earth" that God might visit from time to time, but where he certainly does not live. I have something better right now than the best promise the Watchtower can offer. God is with us, and not only with us, but just waiting for us to let him in and give us the Water of Life flowing from the side of Christ.