Five Ways to Defend the Faith Against Unexpected Attacks

There are times where we seek out opportunities to evangelize for the faith, but sometimes, the opportunity comes to us. When this happens, it’s not always pleasant. A couple months ago, for example, I was on a flight next to a guy who spent nearly the entire time telling me how rotten the Catholic Church was, I could hardly get a thought in edgewise.

It might be a Protestant trying to save you from your Catholicism, a dissenting Catholic trying to liberate you from obeying the Church, or an atheist trying to enlighten you about the foolishness of belief in God. What should we do in response to these situations?


1. Change the Tone.

I recently had dinner with a friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in some time. He used to be a Mormon missionary, and he’d heard that I’d left my job to become a Catholic seminarian. We both knew that the topic of religion would arise. I breached it by asking, “What would it take for you to become Catholic?”

His response impressed me, because he began it by saying, “First of all, thank you for caring enough about my soul to have this conversation with me.” What a great way to frame the conversation. If a person is rebuking us for being Catholic because they love us and want the best for us (and, in the case of fellow Christians, want to save our eternal souls), we should start out by recognizing that with sincere gratitude. And if that’s not why they’re trying to persuade us (if, for example, they just want to vent some built up anti-Catholic prejudices, or are naturally combative, or want to show us how smart they are), then this is one way of calling them to be more.

Hopefully, this recognition calls both of you to act in true charity: to discuss your differences openly, but in a spirit of authentic love. Not only will setting this tone make the whole conversation more bearable, but it’s a critical first step. After all, no matter how great your defense of the faith is, there has to be fertile intellectual and spiritual soil for the truth to take root.

2. Prepare, Pray, and Relax.

Gerard Dou,
Old Woman Reading a Bible (1635)
I frequently hear Catholics, even devout Catholics, say that they just don’t feel ready to get into these conversations. They’re afraid of getting overwhelmed by their Evangelical aunt’s ability to quote Scripture by chapter and verse, or their atheist friend’s knowledge of science, and are afraid that their own ignorance will make the Church look bad.

Sometimes, there’s truth to this: when Catholics are on the spot to defend their faith, and can offer nothing in response, they’ve both failed a direct Biblical injunction (1 Peter 3:15-16) and risked making the Catholic faith look stupid to those who might have been open to the truth of the faith.

The best solution to this isn’t in the heat of the moment, but in the rest of our lives. We should be serious about learning our faith, including knowing Scripture intimately, so that when confronted, we can give a defense. When we are thrust into these situations, we should take the first opportunity to offer a quick, silent prayer to the Holy Spirit for His assistance. Particularly if the other person is a Christian, you even might offer to say a prayer to the Holy Spirit together, that He will open your minds and your hearts.

Once you do all of that, relax. No matter how smart your interlocutor is, the Catholic has the advantage of defending the truth. No matter how badly you defend the faith, the Catholic answer is the right answer.



3. Keep the Big Guns Ready.

There’s simply no way to prepare for every possible topic that could come up in the course of these sorts of conversation. Even if you take your faith seriously, and make a good-faith effort to be familiar with Scripture, the Catechism, and apologetics, you’ll get the occasional curveball. For example, one reason that my seatmate on that flight was upset was that his wife had a lousy experience as a seven year-old in confession, when she told the priest she hadn’t sinned, and he didn’t believe her. Needless to say, I don’t think the Summa has a section on that.

Lorenzo Veneziano,
Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter (1370)
So, what can you do about that? One solution is to know a few specific areas really well. For example, I would suggest that you should know four areas really well:
  1. The promises Christ made to the Church [namely, that the gates of Hell would not overcome, that the Holy Spirit would guide and protect the Church always, and that He would lead the Church into all truth, etc.];
  2. What apostolic succession is, and how to defend it;
  3. The necessity of the Magisterium; and
  4. The relationship of the Church and Sacred Scripture. Learn these areas, and learn the Scriptural and Patristic support for each.
If you know these four areas really well, you’re ready for most debates with other Christians.

A couple of examples to show what I mean. A Reformed friend of mine recently claimed that the Mass was idolatrous. One way to respond to that would be to know the specific Scriptural and Patristic support for the Real Presence, and for a sacrificial understanding of the Mass. For what it’s worth, then an overwhelming amount of evidence in support of the Catholic view, if you know where to look.  But another way would be to point out the obvious. For centuries, all Christian worship (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Coptic) was centered on a sacrificial Liturgy that was, if the Reformed are correct, idolatrous.

Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, Kentucky (1946)
Now, Christ promised that the Gates of Hell wouldn’t overcome. Surely, if every visible Christian church (including the ones converting all of the pagans) ceased to be Christian, and centered instead on idol-worship, then the Gates of Hell overcame. This leaves only three possibilities: (1) that the Christian churches weren’t uniformly centered on the Eucharist, (2) that Christ was wrong, or (3) that the Reformed are wrong, and the Eucharist isn’t idolatry. We know from history that the answer isn’t (1), and obviously, the answer isn’t (2). See what happened? You’ve shown that the Protestant arguments against the Eucharist are impossible, before you even get into the exegesis of specific passages.

Let’s take something a little more off-the-wall. Maybe you run into a member of the Church of God with Signs Following, a fringe charismatic church that believes Christian liturgy should involve snake-handling or even drinking poison, based on their reading of Mark 16:17-18 and Luke 10:19. Odds are, you’ve never seriously considered why Catholics don’t drink poison and handle snakes at Mass. Fair enough. But you should be ready to explain that (a) we know which Books are in the Bible through the Catholic Church, and (b) we are called to interpret the Bible with the Church, not just take whatever interpretation suits our fancy. If you can explain this, then you can at least show that Mark 16:17-18 and Luke 10:19 don’t require liturgical snake-handling, since the Church doesn’t teach that.

Now, like I said, those four areas are specific to conversations with non-Catholic Christians. You'll want a different set of “big guns” for debates with atheists: being able to defend the Empty Tomb, and the Five Ways are a good place to start. But my point is simple: you don’t have to waste an excessive amount of time squabbling over minutiae (or, for that matter, researching minutiae). After all, odds are, it’s not going to be the minutiae that converts people. Save the minutiae for later.

4. Control the Terrain.

One major reason that I think Catholics feel outgunned when dealing with Protestants and atheists is because they don’t control the apologetic terrain very well. First, we tend to let the other person control the topic of the conversation.  Now, sometimes, that’s necessary. This really might be the thing keeping the other person from being Catholic. But other times, we’re just letting the Protestant or atheist choose the arguments that they think are the best proofs against the Church, without giving us a chance to raise the best arguments for Her.

Second, we tend to let the other person jump from topic to topic as they please: usually is once they’ve made their point, but before you’ve adequately responded (or once it becomes clear to them that the argument isn’t.the silver bullet against Catholicism that they were expecting).  So we end up in conversations like the one I had on the flight, trying to respond to a long string of arguments over everything from clerical celibacy, to divorce / annulments, the priesthood, auricular confession, the necessity of the Church for salvation, Scripture and Tradition, etc., without getting a real chance to flesh out the Catholic view much. No matter how well you know your faith, if you're rushing from topic to topic like this, you're probably going to come away feeling exhausted and unproductive.

Here’s what I suggest: ask lots of questions.  But not just any questions.  Ask questions that make them determine how important, and how strong, their arguments really are.  For example, ask questions like, “is this the reason that you’re not Catholic?” or, “if I could show you that the Catholic view on this was correct, would you be more likely to convert?” If the answer to these questions is “no,” there’s a good chance you’re both wasting your time. From here, you can turn the conversation to the real reasons that they’re not Catholic.

You can also shift the argument towards the “big guns” for Catholicism by asking good questions, or responding to arguments well.  For example, when Protestants quote a Scriptural passage that they think supports their particular argument, it’s often worth asking whether they think the passage could be read in good faith in more than one way.  Do they acknowledge any genuine doctrinal ambiguity in Scripture?  If not, how to explain all of the different denominations in Protestantism?  If so, it sounds like there's a need for some sort of a Magisterium.  What authority did Jesus Christ leave for maintaining and interpreting
Sacred Scripture?

Or perhaps you simply present it as an argument: someone tells you that Mark 16:17-18 means that Christians should handle snakes and drink poison in church, and you respond, “I don’t read it to say that, and I think it’s reasons like this that it’s important that the Church’s teaching authority exists.”  There’s also the fact that some Christians don’t think the end of Mark’s Gospel belongs in the Bible. Who can we turn to in order to know which Books belong in Scripture, and which don’t?

Likewise, when the other person keeps changing topics, politely call them on it. Ask directly: “Okay, you asked about x. Now, it sounds like you want to talk about y, instead. I can explain why Catholics believe as we do about x, or we can switch gears. Which would you prefer?”  You can even say, “I’m giving you plenty of time to explain why you think that the Catholic Church is wrong on such-and-such an issue. Will you extend me the same courtesy to show why the Church is right?”

5. Be Patient and Charitable.

Ven. Fulton Sheen
One of the most surprising things that Catholics discover in talking to Protestants and atheists is how misunderstood Catholicism actually is. Fr. Andrew Strobl is fond of saying that we should strive to understand non-Catholics’ beliefs well enough to be able to state their beliefs to them in a way that they would recognize and accept as their own.  St. Thomas does this beautifully in the Summa, and unless we can do this, we don’t really know where the other side is coming from.

By this standard, there are a lot of folks who write and speak against the Catholic Church without knowing what Catholics actually believe. Ven. Fulton Sheen said it best: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

This is both incredibly aggravating and strangely comforting. It’s aggravating, because you end up shadow-boxing, as the other person knocks down straw men of what they imagine Catholics believe… and because it’s frankly a bit insulting that anyone really thinks we’re really as dumb and backwards as the anti-Catholic stereotype.

In some cases, you have to slowly wade through a lot of what can only be called bigotry. Protestants frequently hear invectives against the Catholic Church in sermons – something we don’t really do in return at Mass. These invectives are rarely accurate, so by the time they’re telling you how horrible the Catholic Church is, it’s not like they’re bought into one or two lies –they often have a completely inaccurate picture of Catholicism, and are suspicious of any Catholic who attempts to set the record straight.

But as I said, it’s strangely comforting as well. It’s nice knowing that many of those who appear to be the Church’s fiercest critics are acting on a holy impulse: having heard that Roman Catholicism is paganism, they hate Her, not because they hate the Body of Christ, but because they hate paganism, and have mistaken the One for the other. This creates an opportunity to set the record straight. Showing that the Church isn’t Babylonian paganism or an anti-science fever swamp can open people’s eyes to the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church in surprising and beautiful ways.

Getting there is not always easy (and sometimes, doesn’t happen at all). But with patience, prayer, and the grace of God, miraculous things can happen.
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40 comments :

  1. I just may bookmark everything you write!

    As I read this, I had memories of some recent conversations I've had with Protestants. News of my return to the Church didn't go over very well. One particular friend is Reformed and tried very hard to "save" my from my (predestined?) damnation. I can see now that at the very least, her attempt was done in love.

    Controlling the terrain is most difficult with the anti-Catholic crowd, I've found. For whatever reason, these folks just tend to throw it all at the wall to see what sticks. When speaking to my post-Catholic parents (now Evangelical), I can barely keep up with their arguments about statue-worship and cries of "but mass is boring!" Very aggravating, but I like your suggestion about asking questions (especially "What would it take for you to become Catholic?").

    Thanks for the great post!

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  2. Excellent post! Bookmarked and waiting for your next article! :)

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  3. man, i really enjoyed this post! i agree with Christina that "Controlling the Terrain" is a very difficult and time-consuming aspect of these conversations. in my limited experience, i have noticed that my protestant friends and family "jump from topic to topic" exactly as you describe. I have also noticed that the best way to move forward in these conversations is to do just as you suggest - bring up the big issue of Scriptural Interpretive Authority. Thanks for the great thoughts!

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  4. One of the most effective replies to those who reject the Catholic Church is to point out the fact that the Catholic Church is one of the few institutions ever created that is structured so as to be self-correcting. It is the combination of objective moral principles grounded in the natural law, a Sacred Tradition established by the apostles and fathers of the Church, and the authority of Scripture that have always restored and renewed the Church whenever sin or neglect have threatened to undermine its mission.

    Neither secular liberalism nor Bible alone Protestantism is capable of withstanding the corrupting influence of individual sinfulness in a relativistic culture that is committed to the kinds of moral compromises that promote short term solutions while undermining the long term health and stability of the entire culture.

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  5. Blink

    I never had any problems with snake-handling. You would think a clear test of not putting the Lord your God to the test would be hard to find.

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    1. You're right. In Luke 4:9-12, the devil tries to goad Jesus into treating God's promises in Psalm 91:11-12 as a challenge. That seems to be almost a perfect parallel to how the snake-handlers treat God's promises in Mark 16:17-18 and Luke 10:19.

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  6. I'm back to tell you that some Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door this morning. Usually this would terrify me, but I kept your tips in mind. :) It went AWESOME. They're even coming back next week because they weren't able to answer my questions regarding sola scriptura, etc. We got along great, which is even better news. Thanks again for the timely post!

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    1. Wow, that's great! Thanks for sharing that.

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  7. Joe, a potentially dumb question but where in scripture does the sentence: "you must have a personal relationship with Jesus" reside? I dont know scripture well enough to find it and I want to see if the greek word personal is used. Just wondering.
    thanks

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  8. Teomatteo,

    There is no such passage in Scripture. It's just a sort of catchphrase that Evangelicals made up, and as your comment suggests, it's a bit problematic, since it's often used in a way that suggests that the Church, being a communal relationship with Jesus Christ and one another, isn't necessary.

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  9. Make sure, Christina, that you follow the author's other tip of knowing the Jehovah's Witnesses' own views well before these representatives return; and learn their views directly from them. Consult their website at http://www.watchtower.org/e/beliefs_and_activities.htm to inform yourself about their materialistic understanding of the nature of the human soul, their neo-Arianism, and (as to be expected) their understanding of the Eucharist as only symbolic. You will note the subtle errors in the Witnesses' explanations that lead to very wrong conclusions.

    Keep in mind that these representatives or visitors are probably far less prepared for a real theological and ecclesiological discussion than you are. They have a script that they carefully follow, and they usually will not deviate from that script either because they do not have the capacity or they do not have the permission to do so. They may very well end the discussion and excuse themselves when you press them to interrupt their rehearsed delivery. It is, nonetheless, worth an attempt. God may use this encounter as part their converting to the true Faith, albeit some time later.

    May the Holy Spirit work on both you and your visitors during your exchange with these representatives.

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    1. Thank you very much for the resource. The Witnesses who came to our door today were very set on proof-texting to refute the Trinity. I listened carefully and then kindly asked them to go back to the bigger issue that divides us: who has the Authority to proof text to begin with? The man insisted that "Scripture interprets itself," and I asked him to provide his basis for the assertion. If Scripture is self-attesting, surely it says so of itself (spoiler alert: it doesn't). He had never heard of sola scriptura and I invited him to return when he could provide proof of the Protestant view of the verse. In the meantime, I copied down his proof-texts for his arguments against the trinity. I agreed to provide the Catholic response when he comes back.

      Needless to say, he was pretty taken back by my husband and my willingness to engage. His younger companion (clearly a Witness in training) even exclaimed in surprise that he'd "never met a Catholic that used to be Protestant!" All in all though, it was a friendly exchange in the interest of seeking truth. I think they were genuine (albeit incorrect in their theology).

      On the way out, I complimented their evangelism and even said that we Catholics could learn a thing or two. ;)

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  10. Joe,

    A question about another point Protestants and disillusioned Catholics bring up: the question of giant, beautiful church buildings. This Sunday evening the usual things came up: it's vanity, it's pointless, we could just do it (worship) back home, give the money to the poor etc. I had a few arguments in stock: men doesn't only need to eat, he also lives on beauty, churches are not built for us, but A.M.D.G. (for the greater Glory of God), we could all live in shacks, on the street, do you have leather seats in your car (copyright by P. Ted Martin), etc.

    But do you know of an article that concisely refutes all these 'arguments' against beauty (that's what these are, after all)? Why do these people love plain, white walls and puritanism? How can I convince them of the need for gold, murals, painted glass windows?

    Thanks in advance,
    A Catholic from Hungary.

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    1. Good question. I usually just point to John 12:1-8, in which Judas complains that too much money was spent on perfume to honor Jesus, and that the money could have gone to the poor. Jesus rebukes him for this position. As you said, A.M.D.G.

      St. John also notes the hypocrisy here: Judas has no problem taking money for himself. Likewise, the Church's critics complain that too much money is spent on God's House, but I never seem to hear them complain that they themselves have too much luxury.

      I don't know of any good articles that talk about this off-hand, though. Anyone else?

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    2. Thanks Joe. Here are two articles by the amazing Marc John Paul, though this is not a concise defence of why we should build huge and beautiful churches but it touches upon the subject:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2011/10/the-glory-of-being-shut-up.html
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/badcatholic/2011/10/what-cathedrals-say.html

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    3. This not just a Catholic conflict. Here in Huntsville, the First Baptist Church constructed an ENORMOUS bell tower some decades ago. I was a teenager at the time, and I remember thinking (in my adolescent self-righteousness) what a horrible waste of money it was when there were sick and hungry people living in the shadow of this monstrosity. It was a few years before I was able to see it from the "John 12" perspective.

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    4. I wrote a post a while back on The Vatican Wealth that might be helpful to you.

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  11. If God exists, then churches should be the most beautiful buildings on Earth, ornate with the most precious items and drenched in beauty. People should make tremendous sacrifices to build and fill them with music and art. A special class of people should dedicate their lives to these places, and keep them. If God exists.

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  12. Hello, all! I once considered myself a Protestant, having been raised as such, but as I became more familiar with the Scripture (even the Protestant Bible), I found many inconsistencies between the Protestant religion and the Bible. Especially important in my realisation that I could no longer think of myself as a Protestant concerned something which I observed for many years while listening to Protestant sermons and reading books by Protestant preachers: They carefully steer clear of the scriptures which affirm the necessity of good works and temperance in obtaining salvation. I don't call myself a Catholic, but I would advise any Catholic that if you want to strike at the heart of Protestantism when conversing with a Protestant, cater to their doctrine of "sola scriptura" and press them on the many scriptures which refute the Protestant doctrine of salvation, which is their pride and joy.

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  13. My boss also said Catholic churches are a waste and should be sold, giving the money to the poor. I said how about your wife selling her engagement and wedding rings, and giving the money to the poor. He responded with silence.

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    1. Good zinger. But it's probably not a good idea to win too many arguments with your boss. ;-)

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    2. No one asks at the Smithsonian be liquidated to buy food stamps.

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  14. What a nice blog! I find your posts inspiring, thank you for the share.

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  15. I've been working with a guy trying to start a street evangelization organization, and I just finished a general outline on the non-confrontational approach we've adopted. Would you be willing and able to take a look at it and tell me what you think?

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  16. An excellent post. One which I'll come back to again and again. Thank you!

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  17. Hey Joe! I know I always say this on your blog, but particularly after I start reading comments, I start wondering why we refer to Protestant churches as "Protestant Religion?" Aren't we all part of the Body of Christ? Christians?

    Obviously there are significant theological differences, but I see so many key, fundamental similarities. And maybe it's my particular protestant/evangelical background that's very close to Catholicism. Maybe it's that I was raised going to Catholic school. Maybe it's that I was raised in a half-Catholic, half-Protestant home. Perhaps.

    I know I say this a lot and I am certainly not trying to argue, because I tend to always agree with what you say. Just interesting that things line up so neatly between us.

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  18. Also - I don't know why people get so angry about Catholicism. And that's coming from a Protestant. I just don't get it...not angry at all...or bring guns to any conversations with my Catholic friends :-)

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  19. As to snake handling and poison drinking, look up St Benedict.

    He was starting to drink from a poisoned cup, but before he put it to, the lips made the sign of the cross over it. It burst and so he was not hurt by the cup (it was handed him by monks who had wanted him for abbot but did not like him as such).

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  20. I don't know what to label myself as. I believe in Jesus' ressurection and try to live as he lived.
    When it comes to the Catholic faith, I can admit that I don't know that much about it. However, what I DO know is that Constantine, the roman Ceasar a few hundred years AD, decided to merge Chrfistian beliefs with pagan beliefs, because that was the only way he could control the Christians. I DO know that the Catholic church commited HORRIBLE crimes during the dark ages towards other Christians and adopted pagan gods and gave them names of saints, like a statue in the Vatican, which supposedly depicts Peter. In reality it is a statue of the "god" Sirius. I also know that the reason the Bible was being translated into Latin was to controll the masses.
    However, I believe that you can very well be saved and be Catholic, and I do believe that God has worked miracles within the catholic church, but I believe that the Catholic system is influenced by roman pagan rituals as well as Christianity, and it is a historical fact that Constantine was the founder of the Roman Catholic church. It is also reason to believe this wasn't an honest conversion on his side, because he still claimed to be a deity after this. The coins used from early roman Catholic times shows Constantine depicted with a sun around his head, symbolising him being a deity.

    In essence; God can work trough Catholics who believes in Jesus and follows him, because... they're Christian. But I do not believe that the Catholic system is NECESSARY to be a Christian. And if it's not necessary... then I can't see any reason to become one.

    There are also a few other things that troubles me. The use of symbolism in Catholisism seems rather disturing to me. For example the obelisk outside the Vatican, which was transported to Italy from Egypt. Why would the supposedly holy site (not that I can understand how a location can be holy) of the Vatican want an egyptian pagan symbol in its front yard?

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    1. >However, what I DO know is that Constantine, the roman Ceasar a few hundred years AD, decided to merge Chrfistian beliefs with pagan beliefs, because that was the only way he could control the Christians

      How do you know this? What are the sources have you read? Have you read primary sources or have you been reading other people's summary of history? Have these summaries been impartial?

      If you believe that Constantine was the problem, have you read what Christians believed in the generations prior to Constantine? Could you, for example, affirm these beliefs? As a Catholic, I certainly can.


      > I also know that the reason the Bible was being translated into Latin was to controll the masses.

      I could have picked on several of the things that you wrote, but this one is a bit of a clanger so I'll focus here. Where did you read that it was to control the masses?! It's actually the complete opposite. The translation was called the Latin Vulgate because it was being translated into the vulgar/common tongue. Greek had previously been dominant in the Empire, but Latin was now replacing it, so the Pope commissioned Jerome to provide the Church with a solid Latin translation of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures so they could easily understand it.

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    2. Well, I think it's easy to see a motive concerning Constantine, concidering how the Romans were unable to hinder the spreading of Christianity by force.
      Something is troubling me when I search for a coin portraying Constantine with the words "soli invicto comiti", aka "committed to the invincible sun".
      This was also used after his conversion. Why would someone who has met Jesus think it's all right to still use the symbolism connected to sun worship or the deification of the Emperor?

      Aaand now I have a bunch of questions, and I'm sorry if this feels like an attack, because it's not. The following questions are things I have asked myself and have hindered me to accept
      the Roman Catholic Church as a system (remember, I am not saying one can't be Catholic and saved, I am just talking about the system)

      -The Latin Vulgate may have worked for a time, but why were people excommunicated for wanting to translate the Bible into other languages after that?

      -"Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (restlesspilgrim.net).

      -I have understood this correctly, "catholic" only means "the whole" or "universal".
      This doesn't necessarily work as an affirmation of the whole Roman Catholic system, which was founded around 300 AD, approx. 200 years after this statement according to your source. .
      I still have a problem with the translation of the Bible. If people could read the common tongue, why did the reformation happen? What about the teachings of Purgatory? Taxed to get saved?

      -What about the persecutions after the Roman Catholic was established? The spreading of Christianity trough the use of military means and the inquisition?

      I have a huge problem with the whole "hunting down heretics"-issue. Why would the Catholic Church kill people? Didn't Jesus say we should pray for our enemies? And I DO believe the Roman Catholic Church had a mission to control the masses.
      Why would they declare the Waldesians to be heretics, for example?
      What about people like Jan Hus, who were burned at the stake?

      -I still don't understand why so many pagan symbols resides within the Vatican area.
      If I could get an explanation of why the obelisk (which in egyptian mythology symbolises the shaft of Osiris) haven't been removed and why they use a statue of Sirius as a tribute to Peter,
      then I would at least be less concerned about the pagan influences.

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    3. I'm happy to answer your questions, but I can't help but notice that in your respond you didn't answer any mine.

      * What are your sources of information?

      * Have you read any of the primary sources?

      * Most importantly, however, can you affirm all the beliefs of the pre-Constantine Church?

      I'll respond to your questions in another comment, but I'd appreciate it you'd also answer mine.

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  21. > Why would the Catholic Church kill people? Didn't Jesus say we should pray for our enemies?

    Actually, it was the secular authorities who did the executions.

    Would you say that you're a pacifist? Do you believe that we should never go to war and that, if someone were about to attack a child, you wouldn't defend him? If you do think that sometimes war is justified or if you would do something to defend an innocent child then we have established that we don't necessarily just pray for our enemies.


    > Why would they declare the Waldesians to be heretics, for example?

    A few things, but the main issue was that they rejected ecclesiastical authority.


    > What about people like Jan Hus, who were burned at the stake?

    Principally for his defense of Wyclif.


    > I still don't understand why so many pagan symbols resides within the Vatican area

    You're assuming that their presence means their worship, but it's the opposite. It's the recognition that Christianity triumphed. This is why Pagan temples were transformed into Christian churches as Christianity became dominant.


    > What about the persecutions after the Roman Catholic was established? The spreading of Christianity trough the use of military means and the inquisition?

    This is another of those questions that makes me wonder what sources you've been reading. There were certainly some deplorable abuses in both the inquisitions and the crusades, but the perception in the public mind is more fiction than historical fact.

    But let's just say (for sake of argument) that every single crime you've heard about the Catholic Church is true. What does that prove? Does that mean that the Church cannot have the truth? Scandal in the Church is always damaging. It should be addressed without hesitation, no doubt. However, Jesus never promised that the Church would be sinless. In fact, he promised us the opposite!

    Also, consider that out of the twelve apostles, one betrayed Him, all fled when He was arrested and only one turned up at the foot at the cross! Even after Pentecost there were problems. These were people specifically chosen by Christ to lead His Church! What a sorry bunch! But their less-than-stellar actions did not invalidate the truth which had been imparted to them.

    The Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners and it was founded by the greatest Physician ever and is full of medicine, nurses and doctors. However, the Church is also full of damaged people, the walking wounded and there are often outbreaks of disease. It often doesn’t look pleasant, but it is the best place to be for those who need healing. The Church is full of sinners and for that I'm grateful, because otherwise I wouldn't be allowed to join.

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  22. > If I could get an explanation of why the obelisk (which in egyptian mythology symbolises the shaft of Osiris) haven't been removed

    If you look carefully, you'll see that a cross has been mounted on top of it and it has the following inscription in Latin:

    Pope Sixtus V (Supreme Pontiff)
    Obelisk of Vatican richly adorned by the Gentiles
    To the threshold of the Apostles
    The labor of thing laboriously carried away
    1586, 2nd year of his pontificate.

    Behold the Cross of the Lord!
    go into exile ye hostile powers!
    The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed!

    Christ conquers,
    Christ is King,
    Christ is Emperor!
    May Christ protect His
    people from all evil!



    > ...and why they use a statue of Sirius as a tribute to Peter,
    then I would at least be less concerned about the pagan influences


    I often here charges like this over some statue or other, but the problem is that the different people who make accusations often can't agree which Pagan deity it really represents!

    To what statue do you refer? The one inside St. Peter's with Peter holding the keys? What makes you think it's Sirius? It's attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio.

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  23. > The Latin Vulgate may have worked for a time, but why were people excommunicated for wanting to translate the Bible into other languages after that?

    Who specifically are you thinking of here? It's rather hard to deal with generalities - specifics are much better.

    With regards to the Bible translations, the Scriptures were available in other languages throughout the centuries. For example, a popular anti-Catholic myth out there is Luther was the first person to translate the Bible into German. He wasn't, the Catholic Church beat him to it.

    The Church isn't against people reading the Scriptures, not at all. However, it wants people to read good translations (which include all the canonical books). For example, do you think people should read the Jehovah Witness "New World Translation"? No, right? That's because it's an appalling, biased translation. There would be no way someone could publish such a biased of the Scriptures and remain in good standing with the Church.


    > I still have a problem with the translation of the Bible. If people could read the common tongue, why did the reformation happen?

    The Reformation happened for many reasons, which are too numerous and complex to explain adequately in the comment box, but here are a few factors:

    * Luther's invention of the doctrine of Sola Fide

    * The rejection of Sacred Tradition and the invention of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura

    * Scandal within the Church

    * Opportunistic secular authorities taking advantage of the political situation


    > What about the teachings of Purgatory?

    What about Purgatory? Here's my "elevator pitch" for Purgatory:

    1. Even Christians are inclined to sin (Romans 7:15)

    2. No sin can exist in Heaven (Revelation 21:27)

    3. Therefore something has to happen to me between death and entry into Heaven. This is how "just men...[are] made perfect" (Hebrews 12:22-23)

    I have two family members, both Christians, who refuse to talk to each other. If both of them get into Heaven unchanged, Heaven will cease to be Heaven. They must first be healed and purged.


    > Taxed to get saved?

    I think you're referring to indulgences here, but this is a caricature of the doctrine. Indulgences don't mean that you can buy your salvation. Have you read the Catechism's explanation of indulgences?

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  24. > I have understood this correctly, "catholic" only means "the whole" or "universal". This doesn't necessarily work as an affirmation of the whole Roman Catholic system, which was founded around 300 AD, approx. 200 years after this statement according to your source.

    The term “Roman” Catholic didn’t exist until it was coined by the Anglicans in the 17th Century. At least half of the Early Church Fathers weren’t Roman anyway, being resident in the East.

    As I asked in my previous comment, if you think corruption of the faith began with Constantine, could you affirm all the quotations from Christians prior to AD 300 and the rise of Constantine?

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  25. > Why would the Catholic Church kill people? Didn't Jesus say we should pray for our enemies?

    Actually, it was the secular authorities who did the executions.

    Would you say that you're a pacifist? Do you believe that we should never go to war and that, if someone were about to attack a child, you wouldn't defend him? If you do think that sometimes war is justified or if you would do something to defend an innocent child then we have established that we don't necessarily just pray for our enemies.


    > Why would they declare the Waldesians to be heretics, for example?

    A few things, but the main issue was that they rejected ecclesiastical authority.


    > What about people like Jan Hus, who were burned at the stake?

    Principally for his defense of Wyclif.


    > I still don't understand why so many pagan symbols resides within the Vatican area

    You're assuming that their presence means their worship, but it's the opposite. It's the recognition that Christianity triumphed. This is why Pagan temples were transformed into Christian churches as Christianity became dominant.


    > What about the persecutions after the Roman Catholic was established? The spreading of Christianity trough the use of military means and the inquisition?

    This is another of those questions that makes me wonder what sources you've been reading. There were certainly some deplorable abuses in both the inquisitions and the crusades, but the perception in the public mind is more fiction than historical fact.

    But let's just say (for sake of argument) that every single crime you've heard about the Catholic Church is true. What does that prove? Does that mean that the Church cannot have the truth? Scandal in the Church is always damaging. It should be addressed without hesitation, no doubt. However, Jesus never promised that the Church would be sinless. In fact, He promised us the opposite!

    Also, consider that out of the twelve apostles, one betrayed Him, all fled when He was arrested and only one turned up at the foot at the cross! Even after Pentecost there were problems. These were people specifically chosen by Christ to lead His Church! What a sorry bunch! But their less-than-stellar actions did not invalidate the truth which had been imparted to them.

    The Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners and it was founded by the greatest Physician ever and is full of medicine, nurses and doctors. However, the Church is also full of damaged people, the walking wounded and there are often outbreaks of disease. It often doesn’t look pleasant, but it is the best place to be for those who need healing. The Church is full of sinners and for that I'm grateful, because otherwise I wouldn't be allowed to join.

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    Replies
    1. Wow. First of all I must thank you for taking the time to answer my questions in such lengths. I humbly admit that I must investigate further before making such accusations. I have obviously not done my homework, as you've now showed me.

      I must begin to say that I will be relieved if I can find all of my accusations/arguments to be false, because the more everyone can stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ, the better. I don't think that I will ever become a Catholic though, because I really think that to repent and believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection is enough. If it weren't enough, then that must mean that there are other ways to salvation. I know that neither Catholics or protestants believe that.

      Again, thank you for answering, I shall look more in depth into this.

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    2. > Wow. First of all I must thank you for taking the time to answer my questions in such lengths.

      You're welcome, I'm glad I could help. If you'd like some book recommendations, I'm sure people here can recommend some good ones. You can also find lots of great articles at Catholic.com. I'd also invite you to check out some of the articles on my own blog, particularly my reversion story (http://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/tag/catholics-come-home/?order=asc).


      > I must begin to say that I will be relieved if I can find all of my accusations/arguments to be false, because the more everyone can stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ, the better.

      Absolutely. After all, in John's Gospel Jesus prayed that "they may all may be one" in the same way He and the Father are one, in order that "the world may believe". The repeated schism among Christians is a great scandal of our time.


      > I don't think that I will ever become a Catholic though, because I really think that to repent and believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection is enough

      Is enough...for what? Salvation? You've just given two conditions here (a) repent (b) believe in the Resurrection.

      Although good, there are lots of other things mentioned in Scripture which you don't mention, such as loving God, loving neighbour (visiting the poor, sick, in prison, etc)...and this is before we come to particular commandments such as forgiving the trespasses of others, as well as eating the Body and Blood of Christ. Your answer is good and would be affirmed by Catholics, but I think there's more to be said.

      ****

      Here's my pitch as to why you should become Catholic. Put simply, it is the Church that Jesus founded..

      If you read the Early Church Fathers, those Christians who succeeded the Apostles, those who led the Church in the early Centuries, you'll see that they were Catholic. They asked saints and angels for their intercession, they held to Sacred Tradition and Apostolic Succession, they believed that baptism washed away sins, they believed that when they consumed the Eucharist that they ate the Body and Blood of Christ.Tthey recognized the important role and authority of bishops, especially the successor of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

      To believe in the Bible means to believe in the Catholic Church. The New Testament was written by the Church to the Church, interpreted by the Church, assembled by the Church, defined by the Church and preserved by the Church down through the centuries. To trust the Bible really demands that you trust in the Church who gave it to you.

      The Church has had some nefarious characters, for sure, but Jesus warned us that this would happen. You don't leave the Apostles because of Judas - you stay for Peter. For 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been a Saint-making machine. We've had rich, poor, young, old, educated, illiterate, introverts, extroverts, men and women all rise to levels of great sanctity. These are the "great cloud of witnesses" who cheer us on from Heaven.

      So, I'd invite you to set aside the things that other people have told you about the Catholic Church and to read what the Church has to say about herself. Put simply read about Catholic teaching from Catholics.

      Read conversion stories over at the Coming Home Network (http://chnetwork.org/category/media/the-journey-home/), listen to talks by speakers such as Scott Hahn, Brant Pitre and John Bergsma...and, of course, keep reading Shameless Popery ;-)

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    3. This is a beautiful discussion. Both of you have exemplified how brothers in Christ should approach one another, with patience and humility. I've really enjoyed this.

      If I could just add one thing, it would be to Northwatch. You've said, "I don't think that I will ever become a Catholic though, because I really think that to repent and believe in Jesus Christ's resurrection is enough." I would be careful not to put up those kinds of barriers: just go wherever the Spirit leads you as you delve deeper into the truth.

      Part of the reason I say this is that I think the "belief in Jesus Christ's resurrection is enough" standard is the wrong one to use. We shouldn't be happy with "enough" Christ or "enough" truth. Even if we've cleared whatever bare minimum of truth is needed to be saved, why (a) aim for that, or (b) be satisfied with that? Sometimes, Christ calls us to radical sacrifice and discipleship over and above what we might consider necessary (think of His command to the rich young man in Mark 10:21, for example). And in any case, our whole existence is ordered towards knowing and loving Him. So I don't think that there is such a thing as "enough," where we stop growing in our knowledge and love of Christ (at least, not this side of eternity).

      All of this is to say: we Catholics recognize you Protestants as already our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Good News that we can offer you is ways of getting to know and love Him that you wouldn't otherwise have. It's the way of enriching the relationship that we trust that you already have.

      In Christ,

      Joe

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