PillarMy friend Jon Amos recently posted on his blog about how myself and Dave Hodges are ridiculous for claiming that the claims of the Catholic Church are either true or an abhorrent falsehood.  I replied and my comment is the post below.  Jon’s original post can be found here, along with the rest of his blog which I definitely recommend.

Jon,

I’ve been meaning to reply to this since you wrote it, just haven’t gotten up the gumption till now.

You seem to be looking at the Catholic Church and saying ‘Well, one thing taken with another, they’re not all bad’. I appreciate your charity and I would extend as much in kind as my faith allows. One thing taken with another, protestant communities are not all bad, but I cannot concede that they are true Churches. As the Church teaches, they have some marks of the Church, they have the Scriptures, they have some sacraments, they sincerely try to be the Church and that is, in a sense, commendable.

But the analogy simply doesn’t work in reverse. For the same reason that Lewis’s infamous quote about Jesus holds true. His claims are simply too ridiculous to be merely a good option amongst moral philosophies. He claims to be God, and if you do that you are either telling the truth, loony, or a very wicked person indeed.

The reason your framework works for protestantism, and allows for some good Catholics, is precisely because protestantism claims to be one good option among many. You would, I assume, be fine with the statement that there are some good Catholics, some good protestants, some good Orthodox, some good Monophysites, and they’re all good Christians with varying degrees of truth and falsehood. Obviously you believe yourself to be in a denomination closer to the truth than others, otherwise you wouldn’t be there, but others have a good deal of truth and a lot to offer as well. Besides, you’ve got your share of errors.

But the Catholic Church does not claim this about herself. She claims to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, of which all other churches are mere imitations with varying degrees of falsehood. She claims to be THE fullness of the Church, in which nothing is lacking and to which nothing can be added. This, like the claims of Jesus, is either true or ridiculous (which, as far as I’m concerned makes perfect sense considering that what’s true of the head must be true of the body) or profoundly wicked and deceptive. To claim you are the fountainhead of all truth on the earth, if indeed you are not, is extraordinarily wicked, as you will lead many to sin and false belief with your headstrong claims to absolute knowledge. Such a claim cannot be benign.

Jon, I do understand that when you get a new hammer everything looks like a nail, and converts do say extreme and incendiary things in all contexts of conversion. But I think it’s fair to say that I’m not just latching on to an extreme fringe element of Catholicism here and neither is Dave. These extreme claims about the exclusivity of the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church are the modern, post-Vatican II teachings of the Catholic Church.

I’m sure you must have read the recent statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church”.  It clearly teaches, from the documents of Vat. II among other sources, these very ideas of the fullness of the faith resting in the Catholic Church and the protestant communities not being true particular Churches because of their lack in Apostolic Succession. There may be liberal Catholic scholars who disagree with it, but it is the current and ancient dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church.

Anyway, sorry for the rant, but it’s kind of a big topic. Thanks for the post, and, sincerely, thank you for your charity towards the Catholic Church. Many protestants won’t extend nearly so much.

In Pax Christi,

Matt

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