What is a Christian?

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We hear the word Christian used a lot these days in so many different contexts.

We hear politicians talk about having “Christian values.” We hear that this country was founded on “Christian principles.”

When somebody does something wrong somebody might say, “well that wasn’t very Christian of them, was it?”

We hear thousands of disagreeing denominations claiming that they are the “true Christian church” or the “first Christian church.” And we hear about “Christian fellowships” or “Christian communities.”

“Are they Christians?”

“Are you a Christian?”

“Well, I was raised Christian, but I don’t really go to Church” or “Yeah, I’m a Christian, but I believe whatever I want” or “well…I believe in the Bible, so yeah.”

So what is it? What is a Christian? Who are the Christians?

Webster’s dictionary has over ten definitions of “Christian” that would support each of the uses in the above statements. So it’s not much help at all.

This is not a new problem though. The early Christians faced similar challenges.

There were numerous sects in the first few centuries that held conflicting ideas about what was true Christianity. And these were important issues – such as the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the monotheism of the Trinity, and whether or not matter was good or evil. These were foundational issues that defined the Christian Church and still do to this day.

In all cases, however, these early Christians discerned the answers to these conflicting interpretations by turning to the leaders appointed by the apostles themselves – to the Church. The main way that early Christians could tell what was true Christianity from what was false was by examining the source and verifying if it had apostolic authority.

Those with apostolic succession (the Bishops) would get together in councils to clarify issues. At these councils they used reason and the Tradition of faith handed down from Jesus’ apostles (with some help from the Holy Spirit) to discern the Truth on a matter (if possible at that time). And just as Christian doctrine had to develop then, so it continues today through the same apostolic succession in the Catholic Church. (To be clear: This “development of doctrine” is simply the defining and clarifying of beliefs already held – not at all the creating of new beliefs as it is commonly misunderstood).

The only way that the early Church could remain unified and meaningfully definable at all was to appeal to an authority that Jesus left in charge – His apostles and their successors.

FYI – This is precisely the process by which the confusion on the canon of scripture was settled – creating the Bible. The only way we have a Bible today is because the successors of the apostles had the authority to discern and define it as such.

This is also one of the obvious reasons why the idea that the Church is simply a “body of believers” with no structure or hierarchical authority is not practical, scriptural, historical or otherwise possible.

If not for this authority, there would have been constant division and disagreement in the early Church. Nobody would have known who was really a Christian and who was not.

With so many Christians who have denied or been deprived of this authority, this is much the same confusion we find ourselves in today.

It is not clear enough to simply say that I believe in a book or a man. For how do you interpret that book? Where is this man? And what did he believe? How do we interpret that? What did he do?

To many, Christianity has become a philosophy. A sociological movement. A family tradition. A synonym for “good.” A mood. A book. A fellowship. A personal ideal. Or solely a personal relationship.

In all of this confusion, we cannot appeal to our own authority to decide such a matter – for we have none. It is that apostolic authority in the Catholic Church that is the only thing that can rightfully define what is Christian – for there is no other authority to which to appeal.

So, if Christians are followers of Christ, and Christ founded a Church, then it would seem to me that a “Christian” would be defined as a member of this Church.

And this very same Church proclaims that one must be validly baptized to be “incorporated into the Church” (CCC 1213).

So it would seem that a “Christian” is someone who is validly baptized.

Of course, we are semantically grasping at something that is much more profound than we can express with words.  Words can only approach the real meaning of this mystery.

Being a member of The Church is not the same as being a member of some organization.  For the Church is not simply an organization, it is the Body of Christ Himself.

Being a Christian is not simply believing something. It is not being a member of an organization. It is not simply going through a ritual or subscribing to some book. It is not merely following somebody or some philosophy.

Being a Christian is not something you do. It’s something you are.  Granted, these two things are unavoidably linked – just as our faith and our works are linked.

But a Christian doesn’t simply act like, feel like, or follow Christ.  A Christian must be Christ to the world.

Becoming a member of His Body – The Church – through sacramental baptism is the first and necessary step (according to that same Church).  But that is just the beginning.  Baptism makes you a Christian.  The rest determines just how good of a Christian you are.

“Witnesses of the Risen Jesus”:  this definition of the Christian comes directly from the Gospel passage of Luke proclaimed today, but also from the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 1: 8, 22). Witnesses ofthe Risen Jesus. That “of” must be well understood! It means that the witness is “of” the Risen Jesus, that is, belonging to him, and exactly as such can render a valid witness to him, can speak about him, make him known, lead to him, transmit his presence. – Pope Benedict XVI

Thoughts, anyone?

30 comments Add comment

William Mackey July 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I am.

Sincerely yours,

William Mackey

KKairos July 16, 2009 at 2:17 am

So was Chesterton a Christian at the time that Orthodoxy was written, by your definition?

If someone is baptized Trinitarian, but not a Catholic, are they a Christian?

KKairos July 16, 2009 at 2:45 am

I should clarify my initial seeming harshness: It appears on my reading that the answer to my first question hinges on what it means to be in the Church–since you used a Capital C I assume you meant the Catholic Church, and at the time of that book Chesterton was certainly not a member.

The question therefore ought to be whether, if a person is baptized Trinitarian and a Christian fitting your criteria above, except for being in communion with Rome, where does that place them?

Matthew Warner July 16, 2009 at 8:26 am

Good question, KKairos.

Yes, The Church IS The Catholic Church. Christ created only one Church.

The short answer to your question is Yes, Chesterton was a Christian at that point because he had been validly baptized (I’m assuming he had been anyway). The Church recognizes non-Catholic baptisms if they are validly applied.

Such baptized Christians are incorporated into The Church, though “imperfectly” so.

If you want to understand more, it’s good to understand what the Church teaches in regard to what the Church is.

The Church has BOTH a spiritual, invisible reality in our mysterious union as the Body of Christ AND a visible reality…part of that being the visible, authoritative structure of the Church Christ instituted.

Here are a few snippets from the Catechism to clarify. But if you truly want to learn what the Church teaches on it, I would read the surrounding paragraphs in the actual catechism too. I think you’ll find it very good.

“The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.” The Church is at the same time:

– a “society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;

– the visible society and the spiritual community;

– the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches.”

These dimensions together constitute “one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element”:

The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.
O humility! O sublimity! Both tabernacle of cedar and sanctuary of God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house of clay and royal hall; body of death and temple of light; and at last both object of scorn to the proud and bride of Christ! She is black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, for even if the labor and pain of her long exile may have discolored her, yet heaven’s beauty has adorned her. – CCC 771

And on non-catholic baptisms:

Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”81 “Baptism therefore constitutes the sacramental bond of unity existing among all who through it are reborn.” – CCC 1271

Juanita July 18, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Sorry, I don’t agree with this theology. Why? The bible says there is no other NAME given among men for salvation except ‘Jesus’. Not Jesus + Catholic.

And, yes I am a Protestant. I am also a child of God and servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accepted by Him. Empowered by the Holy Spirit. Extending his Kingdom.

Artie July 19, 2009 at 9:41 am

Juanita, Catholic theology is not Jesus + Catholic. It would be like me accusing your theology of being Jesus + Protestant.

The Bible says numerous things about salvation which include Jesus and material/spiritual requirements.

Even Satan believes in Jesus.

Chris Weidenhamer July 20, 2009 at 7:41 am

What, then, do you do with the thief on the cross? The one Jesus declared would be with Him in heaven that day? All the thief did was recognize Jesus as innocent and ask Him to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. Will he be the only non-christian there? Perhaps the only baptism required to be Christian is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I get the feeling that a lot of churches, the Catholic Church being the chief among them, have made Christianity far more complicated that it’s supposed to be.

Catholic debating pro-life April 22, 2010 at 8:39 pm

The Thief on the Cross had a “baptism of blief”, I believe. He went through his “purgatory” during his torture on the cross, and he accepted Jesus fully and asked only to be remembered by him. Plus, the Church wasn’t established until Acts of the Apostles.

Juanita July 20, 2009 at 7:46 am

I am a child of God most high through salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Proof of my salvation..
-You will know them by their fruits. God’s working in and though my life is evident.
-We know we have passed from death to life because we love the brethern. I do.
-I am a filled with the Holy Spirit – evidence: I am a bold witness.

Do you suggest that my believing in Jesus is on the same level as satan because I am not Catholic?

Matthew Warner July 20, 2009 at 9:01 am

Chris, Baptism can validly occur by blood, water, or desire (as with the thief on the Cross). Water is, quite obviously, the normal form that Jesus instituted and the normal form the Church adheres to today. All can be valid, though.

As to the “Catholic Church making it more complicated than it’s supposed to be” thing. I understand your point of view. But with all due respect, that’s a cop out. That’s like me saying to Einstein, “Hey man, I really think you are making this whole Physics thing a little too complicated.”

And God is far deeper and richer than physics. Why would you expect his Theology (understanding Him) to be any different?

Of course, we can appreciate the simplicity of physics (and God) as well (as most of us do). But a deeper understanding of it does and must exist. And that’s one of the great things I love about the Catholic Church. It’s rich and deep in its theology and spirituality. There is always somewhere deeper to go.

And besides, if you have issues with this understanding of Jesus’ Church, I would take it up with the Apostles (who kicked this thing off) and with the students of the Apostles (who took it from there). Read the early Church Fathers (the friends, brethren, and students of the Apostles themselves). They clarify the deep meaning we find in scripture. And when you study them you see the same Catholic teachings you are calling “complicated” today – and these men were taught in person by the Apostles themselves.

Artie July 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Juanita,

No doubt that practicing Catholics and those Christians who adhere to sola scriptura are Christians. I know plenty of protestants who love Jesus Christ and I also know plenty of Catholics who love Jesus Christ.

Catholics do not adhere to Sola Fide (Faith Alone) and this was my point. Protestants and Catholics use words like faith and it means different things when we use it. Faith for protestants is indeed (Faith + Works). No we are not talking about works of the Mosaic law where we are told in scripture that works don’t apply anymore. We are talking about the same works you are talking about (You will know them by their fruits) Fruits are actions I.E. works.

“Do you suggest that my believing in Jesus is on the same level as satan because I am not Catholic?”

Not at all, you missed the entire point of my post. Catholics don’t just believe that if we “believe” in Christ that we are saved just because we believe. What if we believe in Christ and live a life of sin and feel we can sin boldly and as long as we have faith/believe in Christ we get a free pass into heaven.

Does Satan have belief in Christ? Did he practice good works (Charity, love, giving to the poor, the entire Sermon on the Mount)?

Chris Weidenhamer July 20, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Matthew,

A few side points, if I may:
1- I’m a bit of a word nerd, so I delight in telling you I LOVE the name of your blog.
2- Regardless of any disagreement, I appreciate your work here.

Back to the point:

How do you define baptism by desire? I’ve never heard of such a thing, nor can I think of a way to derive it biblically. I wonder, too, why you never mentioned baptism of the Holy Spirit. What’s your understanding of said baptism?

The cop-out was intended as a pithy response and nothing less. One can reference here the faith of a child as in the gospels, too. To counter your analogy, it would be more like saying to Isaac Newton “Sure pal. Gravity and all that. Still, it’s a fallen apple. It really is.” I don’t mean to deny the complexity or the origins of the church as instituted by the Lord. I’m concerned for the folk who would be discouraged from the faith because they can’t keep up with the rulebooks, so-to-speak.

Understand, I’m at your blog because, like you, I absolutely love the richness of all things Holy. I can’t afford college right now, but I read seminary materials anyway. I listen to sermons regularly. Most importantly, I read my bible. I thank God for all he has opened my eyes to. I don’t want to undercut the church or her worth.

Chris Weidenhamer July 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

As for taking it to the Apostles, Paul had to rebuke Peter for his treatment of gentile converts. Their concerns over Judaizing Christians makes my point perfectly. Too many man made rules that drive away converts. So many rituals and practices it gets away from the main thing. I see what you’re saying about the deeper things taught by the Apostles. I enjoy studying them myself. I’m just worried the Church may have expanded and expounded far beyond reach of the lay persons. That’s how you get “Christians-in-name-only.”

Artie July 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Hey Chris W. very good questions that you have! I hope you don’t mind me answering some of the questions even though they are directed directly to Matthew in regards to Catholic teaching. Hopefully Matthew does not strike me down! ha ha

“How do you define baptism by desire?”

“Baptisms of desire” and “Baptism of blood” are not sacraments, but simply fulfill the requirements when the sacrament cannot be received due to extraordinary circumstances.

Baptism of desire is the implicit desire for baptism of water by a person who makes an act of perfect love of God, based on faith and with a sincere sorrow for one’s sins. Such was the case in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter encountered pagans who, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the greatness of God. “Peter himself then said, ‘Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these
people, now they have received the Holy Spirit….?'” (Acts 10:46-47).

“I wonder, too, why you never mentioned baptism of the Holy Spirit. What’s your understanding of said baptism?”

In Catholic teaching Jesus said that no one can enter heaven unless he has been born again of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). The Holy Spirit does play a big part in baptism as implies the Holy Trinity.

In regards to all the rulebooks (ha ha). There is a long answer and a short answer. The short answer is simply that the rulebooks so to speak are there to keep authentic Christian teaching inside its appropriate parameters.

Artie July 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Chris W,

In regards to “Their concerns over Judaizing Christians makes my point perfectly. Too many man made rules that drive away converts. So many rituals and practices it gets away from the main thing.”

I will be quite honest you are not the first nor will be the last one to point this out about the Catholic or even the Orthodox.

I would like to clarify that Paul rebuking Peter had nothing to do with rebuking Peter’s teaching. It was essentially Peter’s failure to see the full picture as it applied to his ministry of leadership.

To suggest that Paul called out Peter and belittled him would be inconceivable if were the chief of all the apostles.

Paul was close to the Galatians. He took it a personal offense when some of the converts were suggesting practice Mosaic law. He went so far to call them mindless! This same heresy happened in Romans, but he wasn’t close to them so he took a lower tone with them.

Essentially Paul wanted to confer with Peter on the matter. Peter knew that the Mosaic Law was not necessary and Paul indeed reminded him of this fact. Peter’s understanding of the gospel was correct. The problem was with his behavior, not his teaching.

In regards to the Mass and the sacraments. The Mass is packed with scripture (salvation history) and the sacraments lead us closer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is not to say that some people get in their monotonous routines and become lukewarm by merely making it a requirement. It is more!

Chris Weidenhamer July 20, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Hey Artie, I welcome any and all who can shine a little light on the subject.

Regarding the P’s, you make my point for me. I don’t question Peter’s teaching, nor did Paul. As you stated, it was his actions. He was having the gentiles circumcised. He was trying to push the converts into the Jewish mold. Paul rebuked him publicly, if I’m not mistaken (I may need to look that up).

Listen: this is not about the Apostles. The post was “What is a Christian?” A recent post was “Are Catholics Christians?” I’m concerned for how and by whom that answer is applied.

We can all agree that Christ founded The Church, and that baptism is required to be a member of it. What unnerves me is how quickly you follow that with “…and that church is the Catholic Church, and we must baptize you. At least, you have to want us to baptize you.” Admittedly, you have to have been baptized to be a member of MY church, too, and I’m a part of the Conservative Baptist Convention. Fact is, the church Christ started is the body of Christ. It’s a spiritual Church, and you can’t wash someone into it, nor can we. That required baptism is of the Holy Spirit. Period. End of story. It burns me to hear people state that Christ started the Catholic Church. Christ started the catholic church. Little C. In essence, it means united. I’m not a member of the Catholic Church. I’m still a member of the body of Christ. To read these blogs, it often sounds like it’s big C or no c at all.

Artie July 21, 2009 at 8:15 am

Chris W.

First off the word Catholic is a both/and not and either/or. Catholic describes our faith and the universal church that Christ founded. Methodists in their creed use it as universal and separate themselves from the “C”atholic Church.

It is abundantly clear when reading the early church fathers that their faith was very very Catholic in the sense that I mentioned (they believed in the real presence, baptism, etc). Martin Luther the champion of the reformation believed in the reality of baptism as many traditional protestant denominations do.

Yes there are numerous ecclesiastical communities but there is only 1 church that Christ founded. I think you may be upset that when we talk about the 1 Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and we refer to our Catholic faith as the Church that Christ founded as opposed to the CBC or numerous other denominations.

No doubt that those outside the Catholic (Universal) Church the believe in triune God are Christian, but they are separated from the Church that Christ founded. You defer and say, “NO the Catholic Church is not the Church that Christ founded, but the community of believers is the church.”

I will politely disagree with you on this matter. I can present my case further if you would like, but you will disagree with everything I say anyways. Keep in mind we have nothing to do with the way Christ set up things, we simply follow his mandates and those of the apostles which ultimately dervies from Christ.

Matthew Warner July 21, 2009 at 9:22 am

Artie, your thoughts are always appreciated and helpful! Thanks for jumping in.

Chris,

First, thank you for the kind words. I appreciate your sincere and thoughtful dialogue. I hope you’ll stick around!

Baptism, by definition involves the Holy Spirit (you can see that if you read the catechism link I included). But my post was not “what is baptism?” It was “what is a Christian?”

I agree with your Isaac Newton point – as I stated in the post, that we can appreciate God and the world from a very simple view as well. No problems there.

Your worry that “the Church may have expanded and expounded far beyond the reach of the lay persons” is a bit of a straw man. The Catholic faith, like most things, can be practiced simply or very intricately.

Most Catholics I know practice very simply. And in fact, the sacraments, art, mass, etc. are all geared towards doing just that. The Catholic faith has successfully preached the Gospel for 2000 years to all manner of men – both simple and brilliant.

I can understand you being concerned with people “keeping up with the rulebooks.” But are you equally concerned with people not regarding any rules at all? I think we should be.

Yes, being a Christian is not all about rules. But it’s also not about no rules either.

You pretend that somehow leaving people a solely “spiritual church” with no human authority to help guide them and just giving them a very complex book and saying, “here, just read and interpret this for yourself” is somehow less complicated or confusing than that of the Catholic Church?

I would suggest that such a method is far MORE confusing for people to use. And it is precisely such a thing which has led to the most division within Christianity man has ever seen. Tens of thousands of denominations. Each man his/her own pope. Each with their own personal, differing interpretation of this complex book – the Bible. All, apparently, “guided by the Holy Spirit.”

On the one hand you have the model of the Catholic Church (and its “rules”) – which has been able to remain unified for 2000 years. On the other, you have only a few hundred years of protestants using their (“simple”) model and they’ve managed to divide the Body of Christ more than the Apostles could have ever dreamed. It’s all in the fruits!

As Artie mentioned, Jesus gave us a Church to help guide us, to unify us, to settle disputes, to bind and to loose on heaven and Earth(Mat 16:19). But he didn’t just give this authority to a spiritual Church, he gave it to flesh and blood real HUMANS.

You say this Church Jesus started is spiritual. I totally agree. But it is also physical, human, authoritative, structured and organized. It is all of these things.

We shouldn’t force ourselves to extremes and think the Church is either all man-made rules on one hand or entirely spiritual on the other. Such a position is our own man-made false dichotomy. The mystery of the Church lies somewhere in the middle or perhaps at both extremes simultaneously. And scripture and history speak to this. I wrote a post about this here you may be interested in.

I understand your sensitivity to the claim that Jesus started the Catholic Church. But if you study the early Christians, from the time of the Apostles forward, it’s quite easy to see that they are Catholic in belief.

And to clarify, cuz it seems there may be some confusion – the Catholic Church recognizes your baptism as totally valid. I’m pretty sure your Conservative Baptist Convention would NOT say the same for my baptism. What authority do they have to proclaim such?

Chris Weidenhamer July 21, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Gentlemen,

Doing it bullet-style:
-I’m being intellectually honest. My questions are sincere. The cop-out and straw-man comments are demeaning – could you cut me a little slack please?
– Yes, I plan to stick around. Despite my first point, this has quickly become a favorite forum of mine.
– “you will disagree with everything I say anyways.” Artie, I refuse to dismiss or refute any rational argument out of hand. I’m not your average drive-by Catholic basher. I’m learning a lot here and I appreciate your discourse.
-Matt, regarding yours and my baptisms: My baptism wasn’t performed by a priest, it was performed by a Pastor. Honest question, doesn’t that make him ineligible to baptize and my baptism ineffectual? Regarding your baptism: Assuming you were baptized as an infant in the Catholic tradition, I’m loathe to admit you are right. I will say this, though: I once heard a lecture by a Presbyterian Pastor on baptism that changed me completely. He said this: churches may debate the purpose and effect of baptism, but to make a Catholic go through a believer’s baptism ’cause the first one didn’t count cuts God out of the equation and is wrong. I’m with him – if you stand by your baptism, so do I – and praise God for it!
-Finally, Matt, you’ve kinda’ got me beat here. I agree with most of what you said. WE NEED THE CHURCH. We need that human authority. Admittedly, there are a lot of things I question about the Catholic church, and I’ll have to work that out. Thanks for helping.

Matthew Warner July 22, 2009 at 8:33 am

Chris,

I do enjoy bullets. :-)

– First, I’m sorry if you took offense to the “straw-man” comment. It wasn’t meant as demeaning at all, just a term to describe something that’s a distraction from the real point. I didn’t mean to put into question your sincerity (which I believe you are) and it certainly doesn’t mean your questions weren’t very good ones (they were great points and questions!).

– Your baptism by your pastor is recognized as completely valid by the Catholic Church (that is, if it was done as a typical SBC or protestant baptism is normally done).

– Questioning is good. And I greatly admire your openness and searching. It’s inspiring to me, personally. We are all on this journey together, pushing forward, shrouded in mystery and all seeking God. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I know anyone here would be happy to help forge forward with you when you have any other questions.

And I encourage you to continue to learn what the Church truly teaches on a lot of the issues you still question. Even if you don’t fully agree in the end, I guarantee you will come away learning a lot and with a great respect for the Catholic Church. Anytime I’ve had a question and didn’t understand a teaching fully, I just dug in and I can honestly tell you I’ve never, ever been disappointed with what I found. In fact, the answers I found were so inspiring that many of the things I used to question are now my most enthusiastic beliefs. God is good.

Artie July 22, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Chris it was pretty crappy on my part to make that assumption, I am truly sorry.

Chris Weidenhamer August 5, 2009 at 11:19 pm

As I read and re-read what I wrote and how you responded (Matt & Artie), I’m reminded (mostly by my comments) how difficult it is to convey motive and emotion in written form. For any offense I began to feel, I totally forgive you and am glad we better understand our perspectives and intentions. After all, this is good stuff we’re digging into and, as Matt said, GOD IS GOOD. :-)

David October 14, 2009 at 10:48 am

Chris W.

I’m not sure this stream is still active but I would like to comment on the Newton/Einstein analogy.

First Chris, I hope you are still visiting this site. I just found it yesterday. What a gem! Newtonian mechanics is to Einsteinian mechanics the same way Protestant theology is to Catholic theology. Newtonian mechanics is really easy to understand. This is what is taught to high school students. Most Protestant theology is simple too. It is a good entry way into “how to be a Christian.” But Newtonian mechanics is not complete, it is not universal. In certain frames of reference or gravitational fields, it breaks down. Einsteinian mechanics (with Quantum mechanics) defines absolute laws of motion of all things. It is complete.

Just as Relativity is complicated, so is Catholic theology. Both are equally correct in what they attempt to explain. Catholicism is the treasure in the field that we would sell all that we have so that we can buy the field. It is the pearl of great price. Chris, keep asking questions and digging for the Truth.

Carol November 3, 2009 at 9:06 am

It is beautiful to see how the Spirit is moving to heal these ugly wounds among us. I would like to point out how this whole dialog comes remarkably close to the Gospel readings from the previous two Sundays (Oct 18 & 25) which were Mark 10:35-45 and Mark 10:16-52. Note that in both these stories Jesus asks “What do you want me to do for you?”.
Who is playing the role of James and John and who is playing the role of Bartimaeus?
James and John have the in. They are close companions of our Lord from the beginning, but still they are not perfect in their understanding. Bartimaeus has none of the advantages of James and John, he even lacked baptism, yet Jesus called him. “Take courage. GET UP. Jesus is calling you” Jesus tells Bartimaeus.
Note also that Jesus grants the request of the blind beggar, yet rebukes James and John.
Yes, James and John accepted the cup of the passion and death of Jesus and were privy to the greatest intimacies of Christ; yet Bartimaeus “immediately received his sight and FOLLOWED HIM on his way”. That is Bartimaeus became a follower of Christ, a Christian from that point forward.
The Catholic Church understands this. That is why our catechism does not deny that God saves whomever God wills. And I would add God grants power and grace and mercy to whomever God wills. No one who bothers to do the research with the guidance of the Holy Spirit can deny that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ with Apostolic authority and is intimate with the majority of Christ’s teachings and messages. This fact does not preclude the possibility that God has made other roads to Himself. Roads that, let’s face it, are far more palatable to a lot of people. Unfortunately this is mostly due to lies and misinformation; but that is where the world stands right now. Never forget that Satan is laughing with glee when we sing mud at each other.
It seems the two important questions we need to ask ourselves when we approach apologetics are:
1. Will this divide the Body of Christ?
2. Am I putting God in a box?

If you answered yes to either of these then I beg that you reconsider your response.

Yes as intellectual Catholics it’s all so clear that God has granted us the true path, the real road, the cup and the passion; but as practical Catholics we need to look to our congregations. Seriously. Were you aware that statistically speaking, most abortions per religion are obtained by Protestants at 37.4% but coming in a close second are Catholics at 31.3%? It’s frightening: http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html . What does this say about where our hearts lie?
I love the quote from St. Athanasius. It drives to the heart of the matter. But in no way should it be inferred to be a limiter on whom God has called to follow him. Rather it should make the 80% of “Catholics” that claim to be as such yet think they can believe whatever they want to believe, sit up and take notice. It should make the Church herself seriously reconsider her methods of catechesis. Until these things happen, the Catholic Church can claim no superiority, let alone perfection in a practical sense (intellectual yes but practical never) over our protestant brothers and sisters who, after all are going on blind faith.
The Catholic Church is reformed and re-forming. By the grace of God’s will, may we be made whole again through Jesus Christ our Lord.

PS – Paul’s rebuking Peter takes away none of his authority; moreso, it acknowledges it. How many people rebuke the president every day?

tscott October 9, 2010 at 8:02 am

Such a sad answer to who is a Christian. It has to be about the Spirit of Christ(The Holy Spirit). And to bring this issue to one about Baptism is also skewing the issue. The Pentacostal experience early in the Acts of the Apostles is key here.

Christopher Lake February 20, 2011 at 2:18 am

tscott,

The Bible, itself, states that baptism is a *part of* being saved– rather than being merely one of the “fruits” of a person already having been saved, as certain Protestant denominations teach. In Acts 2:38-39, Peter commands adult non-Christians to repent *and* be baptized. He then states that *after* these things things occur (repentance and baptism), the people in question will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2:39, we see hints of the historical fact (documented in writings of the early Church) that the early Christian practice was for the infants of Christian parents to be baptized, making them a part of the Christian community– though faith in Christ must also be exercised, when awareness of the need for it comes. However, baptism is still a part of becoming a Christian. Peter himself states that this is the case.

Again, non-Christian adults are commanded to repent *and* be baptized, after which Peter states, in verse 38, that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. According the the Bible, baptism is actually a part of becoming a Christian, not simply a sign that one already is a Christian.

Christopher Lake February 20, 2011 at 2:35 am

Sorry– obviously, I meant to write, “According *to* the Bible, in that last sentence.

Also, a clarification to my comment– as I understand, for the child of Christian parents who was validly baptized as an infant, when that child reaches the point of awareness of sin, repentance and faith in Christ must occur, in an *ongoing* sense, if the grace of that baptism is to result in salvation. If am I contradicting the teaching of the Catholic Church (which does not contradict the teaching of the Bible, as the Church compiled the Bible), I hope and trust that someone will correct me.

Baptism is part of salvation, according to the Bible, but it is not the only part. One cannot turn away from faith in Christ and live in ongoing sin and still expect to be with God in Heaven, simply because one was validly baptized as an infant.

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