Spiritual Direction: Fundamental Mistakes
The idea of what it means to be a Christian has many different concepts. In the course of the teachings of the Fundamentalist Churches- you will see that they look at the Church (Catholic) as somehow not Christian and teaching false or misleading doctrine. This is simply not the case. This article is written to help address the concerns of others and to help you learn more about the Church.
To begin with, let us present a definition of "Fundamentalism" - Most people would agree that Fundamentalists are Christians who look to scripture alone for guidance as to how to live a Christian life, and who, for the most part, Interpret the bible literally.
Here are two major areas of Controversy that lie at the heart of Catholic / Non-Catholic Christian Debate.
Fundamentalist Claim #1: Scripture only NOT Tradition.
According to Fundamentalist beliefs, they claim Catholic Teaching is based on Scripture and Tradition. The Fundamentalists believe that the Bible was written by individuals and it should be the Sola Scriptura of the truth.
Sola scriptura was the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation. For centuries they have claimed that the Roman Catholic Church had made its traditions superior in authority to the Bible. This resulted in many practices that were in fact contradictory to the Bible. Some examples are a prayer to saints and/or Mary, the immaculate conception, transubstantiation, infant baptism, indulgences, and papal authority. Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church and father of the Protestant Reformation, was publicly rebuking the Catholic Church for its unbiblical teachings. The Catholic Church threatened Martin Luther with ex-communication (and death) if he did not recant. Martin Luther’s reply was, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!”
Sola scriptura does not nullify the concept of church traditions. Rather, sola scriptura gives us a solid foundation on which to base church traditions. There are many practices, in both Catholic and Protestant churches, that are the result of traditions, not the explicit teaching of Scripture. It is good, and even necessary, for the church to have traditions. Traditions play an important role in clarifying and organizing Christian practice. If we would stop there we would have no difference between the protesters and the Church. However, it does not stop here.
The fundamentalists claim that at the same time, in order for these traditions to be valid, they must not be in disagreement with God’s Word. They must be based on the solid foundation of the teaching of Scripture. The problem with the Roman Catholic Church, and many other churches, is that they base traditions on traditions which are based on traditions which are based on traditions, often with the initial tradition not being in full harmony with the Scriptures. That is why Christians must always go back to sola scriptura, the authoritative Word of God, as the only solid basis for faith and practice.
At this point, the claims of the protestants must be addressed. The Books of the Bible were written down by individual authors who were inspired by God to write what they did. The Holy Bible spans over several thousand years of time. In fact, the Bible would have existed for more time as individual books than bound together as one. When you put all of your faith in the Bible only, what is wrong with that?
First, the Bible itself was a tradition. The Old Testament was the story of the Jewish people and their interaction with God. The stories are so true and fresh that even though they took place thousands of years ago, readers can see how they apply today.
Second, tradition also places different numbers of Books in the Old Testament. Fundamentalist Protestants have the least number of books, Catholics have more books and the Orthodox have the most number of their Books. So if you use the Bible as Sola scriptura would it not make sense that you have the most amount of books in your Bible? Would you not want to have more information included? Would you include the Maccabees revolt in your Bible? This revolt stopped the influences of pagan Greek religion into the Jewish faith and allowed Jews to remain Jews until the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ about 150 years later? Without the Maccabees, there would be no Bible because there would have been no Jewish faith left correct? These are the questions you should ask people who believe that the Holy Bible should be considered Sola scriptura.
Third, who actually canonized the Bible? Was it not the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Was not the act done at a Council of Church and was not having large Church Councils like this a tradition of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Therefore, in effect when you believe in the Holy Bible you are supporting tradition, correct? In effect, you would not have a Bible today without the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
When clearly looking at history, how the Bible came about and the traditions of the different protesting churches- sola scriptura does not make sense and does not hold up to strict scrutiny.
Fundamendalist Claim #2: Catholics Are Not Saved
It is a common belief among Fundamentalists that Catholics are not Christian because they are not saved. The Fundamentalist point of view teaches that when a person is saved they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. That is all they have to do. While technically it was Jesus through his death on the cross that saved us from our sins and original sin, is this why Jesus came here and taught us a way of life? Are we making salvation a one-time event in our life and nothing more? Are we not supposed to remain vigilant all of our life here on earth for Christ? If Jesus died for our sins, why would he only want us to be faithful to him once in life? Is it not true that all people who believe in God, in his son Jesus Christ and who do follow His teachings throughout their life are saved? If that is the case then who would be a better example of a Christian, a person who exhibits this behavior once or a person who exhibits it every day of their life?
As you talk with people outside of the Church, remember to be nice and friendly. However, this does not mean that you can share with them your beliefs and explain your experiences to them. All good missionary work begins with a one on one dialog. Now is the time and now is the place for this dialog. Are you Ready? Amen