Saturday, March 11, 2017

Answer to the Apparent "Exclusivity" of the Catholic Church

There was a lively thread on social media regarding various heresies throughout the life of the Church. Many people, when seeing things such as Lutheranism and Anglicanism on the list, recated as expected: pretty incredulously. One person posed the following question/comment:
"So what do you say to people who say the church is any and every believer in Christ, rather than one denomination you believe to be correct? The exclusivity of this is strange to me.. that truth is not in Christ, but only in the Catholic Church. You see your religion as the gatekeeper to God, rather than Christ being so."
My reply, with a little bit more added, follows below.

Pope St. Clement I Adoring the Trinity- Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

"The Church is any and every believer in Christ..."

I agree, provided they've been baptized.

"...rather than one denomination you believe to be correct".

Catholicism predates any denomination. Also, Jesus says that He is "The Truth, the Way, and the Life". There cannot be two (or several) different truths. There cannot be two (or several) ways to Christ. If Jesus founded a Church, then we need to know which one. He warned us there would be those who would preach falsely (Mt. 7:15-16). What are the fruits of those who preach a different Gospel (Gal. 1: 7-9), as Paul warns us? Division. And Jesus, the Head of the Church, does not will division:
"I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word... I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17: 6, 20-21)
If you look through history, you'll see the pattern of other Christian denominations breaking from the True Vine, the Catholic Church, and further splits from those that split from the Catholic Church... and you will not see the converse happening.

"The exclusivity of this is strange to me.. that truth is not in Christ, but only in the Catholic Church."

You make a false dichotomy. You act as though the Church and Jesus Christ are not one. You obviously don't understand what Catholics (and Orthodox Christians) believe:

You cannot separate Jesus Christ from the Church. Therefore, we do not "see [the Catholic] religion as the gatekeeper to God, rather than Christ being so"; no, you make a caricature of Catholic beliefs and have not taken the time to interact with your Catholic brethren to get the "real deal". We, as Catholics do believe Christ is the gatekeeper to God. We do believe that no one can go to the Father except through Jesus Christ. You, however, falsely pit the Church against Jesus Christ, which is impossible to do.

Christ the True Vine- 16th Century
Otherwise, how is it that I can call the Catholic Church the True Vine, as I did above? I can do so, because Jesus and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church are one in the same. Jesus without the Church is a rejection of Jesus. Closely ponder His words in the Gospel of John: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned." If Jesus is the Church, and a rejection of the Church is indeed a rejection of Jesus (as He is the Church's Head), we an see the consequences for breaking with Jesus and His Church are very serious.

If you still don't believe me, look no further than the Acts of Apostles where Jesus Himself identifies Himself as the Church. Take His word for it, if not mine:
"But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you PERSECUTE ME?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, WHOM YOU ARE PERSECUTING; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one." (Acts 9: 1-7)
Jesus had already ascended into Heaven. Saul is persecuting the deacons and other members of the visible Church; yet Jesus talks as if He is being actively persecuted. Jesus presents the visible Church as a continuation of the Incarnation of Christ on Earth, as Deacon Joe Heschmeyer explains in this wonderful article that everyone should read:

(Why You Can’t Have) Jesus Without the Church

I'll close with his words:
"Think about it this way. Christ founded a structured, visible Church. Could a Christian in the first century choose to accept Christ but not join this Church? No. We saw in Part I that you can’t accept Christ and not the Church, and we saw in Part II that when the Corinthians started to factionalize, Paul reeled them back in. 
"What about a Christian of the second century? Could he choose to reject the Church, now that it’s in the hands of the successors of the Apostles? No: the call for all Christians to be all part of the One Church wasn’t just for the Apostolic age."

No comments:

Post a Comment