I recently received a very interesting comment on one of my earlier posts on church structure. You can read it here.
I am informed that my posts can be interpreted as being anti-catholic. I have been called “anti” many things in my time including anti-charismatic, anti-anglican and anti-evangelical. I do not consider myself to be any of these nor to be anti-anything, much (though do read to the end for a caveat to this). Rather, as explained recently I am much more interested in probing and exploring truth, as I best understand it. This entails pointing out what I see as mistakes or incorrect emphases in a number of issues, though what specific point I write about at any time may be either a matter of whim or it may relate specifically to something that has been in the news recently. This is not a new development in the blog, as can be demonstrated from something of a manifesto I published early on or to my take on creationism.
For reference, I usually write (this being an exception) a long time in advance of publication. Forthcoming posts currently in production include 2 very long series (one on Peter, one on the Psalms) and a variety of individual posts on subjects including saints, priests, whether christianity ought to be considered a religion, what a faith school is really like (I did, after all, attend one for 9.5 years), egalitarianism & feminism, the theology of holy spaces and finally one looking at when christians err entitled “Christians are people too.”
Some of these have been in production for several months and some posts I write to clear way for later posts. So there may be many besides my book reviews, which end up being published earlier.
Back to the point. I covered some thoughts on catholicism when the subject came up whilst looking at denominations where I concluded that there is no clear dividing line between what constitutes a denomination and what may be regarded as heretical offshoots, though we may see examples that fall easily into one category or another. My personal view is that catholicism, though related to christianity, should be not be conflated with it. I regard the relation as being very similar to that of Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There may be much common ground in the foundations, but there is so much either taken away or added to as to make it unrecognisable as being the same faith that I have. I could go further into these, though I think they are adequately and more eloquently expressed by Antia Mathias in her post: Why I am no longer a catholic.
There is always a fine line to be trod between toleration and lovingly pointing out where others go astray. I don’t pretend that I have always got things right and I would hope that no reader interprets this blog as being dogmatic in any way. I simply state the truth as I see it, giving my reasons for doing so. I hope this makes the reader think or at least to view some aspect of the subject in a new way, even if this does mean on occasion challenging a line thought which I think to be incorrect. And this is a two-edged sword of course. I welcome challenges to my own point of view, as the original comment which prompted this post did. Sometimes those challenges come from myself, as I have binned quite a few pieces or severely modified them after changing my mind subsequent to the start of writing them. I know that I may well be wrong about this, as with many other things. All I ask is for the evidence or reasoning to be presented for consideration, as I attempt to do for you.
With specific reference to my “unwarranted Marxist-inspired critique about [catholicism’s] clerical hierarchy” my main referent which I had in mind was not catholism at all, though on another reading, I can see how my inclusion of the word “pope” could be interpreted as being more specific when it was intended to be more encompassing, which is why the others included more anglican terminology. It was predominantly based on my experiences in *some* anglican and baptist churches, where the term “laity” has been used as a derogatory term or where there is a very clear superiority complex exhibited by the church leaders. In some of these churches, those are not ordained are even forbidden from administering communion to the rest of the church, which is certainly a great way to make you feel like a 2nd class citizen. This may then be contrasted (at this point, the baptists drop out of the picture) with the extreme deference that I see and read afforded to some bishops. Though I acknowledge this may be due to a different emphasis in reading 1 Tim 5:17,18. Though upon further consideration, this idea may have reached its reductio ad absurdum in the unbliblical catholic doctrine of papal infallibility.
When I say that I regard catholicism as an heretical offshoot, that is not to make any judgement of an individual. I say that as a reference to the institutional church and its beliefs where they do not coincide with sound biblical theology. I have even come across quite a few catholics who recognise this and who professed themselves to be both catholic and christian, making clear the difference between the two. They were often brought up within traditionally catholic families and are happy to participate in the elaborate pageantry of mass whilst at the same time rejecting many of the beliefs which distinguish the catholic church from others.
I might add that my forthcoming posts on saints and priests do also touch on some areas of catholicism that have crept into some christian thinking. The former has been completed and will be published soon, while the latter is currently at an advanced stage of writing. There is no intended anti-catholic bias in these, as I simply wish to affirm what I see as the biblical point of view, but where this differs from the catholic point of view, such differences are pointed out, evidenced and reasoned.
If I am anti anything within christianity, it is this: I am opposed to those who would choose to reject the freedom that Christ affords us by turning christianity into religiosity, where pomp, ceremony, institutionalism and traditionalism mask the truths of the crucifixion & resurrection and which hinder us from loving God and those both inside & outside the church to the full extent of the human heart, mind, soul and strength.