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Five Apparently Christian Ideas

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Several years ago, John Paul II told Filipino bishops in their ad limina visit that ecclesial cell communities provide a good means for empowering the faithful against the encroachments of fundamentalism.   I did not understand that until I began joining Bible cell groups. In fact, there hasn’t been a session with a cell group where no fundamentalist questions are presented to me for a response.  This is also a reason why there are cell group members who find it difficult to lead Bible cell group meetings.  One of our Sunday group animators put it succinctly:  “The questions raised are normally about a related passage and I fail to give the answer because my knowledge of a particular Sunday passage is limited

For two Saturdays now, I have been explaining to the cell group at Olympia I the line in Dei Verbum which says “In order to rightfully interpret a passage, one must understand it … in the light of the analogia fidei…”  And so our activities revolve around understanding a passage in the light of the beliefs summarized by the Apostles’ Creed.  In order to let the members see how Scriptures cannot contradict the faith from which it derived and of which it is an expression, I asked them to reflect on five apparently Christian ideas and explain how these are wrong and how they are to be responded to when presented.  These statements are…

  1. Only Christ is the Mediator, there is no need for a Pope.
  2. By faith we are saved; there is no need for a Church.
  3. Once saved, always saved.
  4. It doesn’t matter to which religion one belongs since there is only one God.
  5. So long as I and Jesus are OK, there is no need to go to Mass.

The discussions of the members on each of these items depended on whether they have heard the statements before from an identifiable fundamentalist group or not.  No. 4 was defended by one as conforming to ideas found in the Scriptures.  Nos. 2 and 3 were clearly from a fundamentalist group and was dismissed with a Pelagian sounding argument.  Someone even came up with an argument that sounded like one deriving from the Iglesya ni Manalo.  No. 1 was dismissed because the gospel for that day was Matthew 16:13–20.  No. 5, which many of the members subscribed to before their “conversion” was dismissed because it was seen as the expression of a wrong Catholic faith.

It was clear from the discussions that while the cell group members can already handle themselves before fundamentalist “attacks”, they tend to echo the same non-Catholilc arguments that they have become familiar with.  Non-Catholic arguments are often one-sided and non-Christ centered.  Catholic arguments on the other hand are Christo-centric and reconciliatory, that is not “either… or” but “both … and”.  The answers to the above statements begin with the truth about Christ himself.  Below are possible answers to the above statements.

1.  It is true that Christ is the only Mediator, but He also declared that Simon-Peter will be the chancellor of His household.  See this article on Matthew 16:13–19.

2.  It is true that by faith we are saved, as St. Paul would say it, but he addresses the statement to Christians belonging to the Church.  We are saved, not individually, but as members of a community, the Church, the Body of Christ.  It is to be noted here, that the “you” in Paul’s letter to the churches is plural-second person, not singular-second person.

3.  “Once saved always saved” never appears in the Bible.  What we find in the Scriptures are statements according to which the disciple should persevere in the faith.  Typical is the statement in the Apocalypse by the Lord himself —  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation (RSV) 2:10) — and by Paul  “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12)

4.  Religion does matter.  Jesus’ statement in John 4:21–23 often used by a certain fundamentalist group to say that religion is not part of Christianity, is actually a statement about worshipping in Christ, that is in His Body, the Church.

5.  What does being “OK” with the Lord mean?  And by what guarantee does one know that one is OK with the Lord?  Is it the guarantee of “faith” or a lie that one uses for one’s benefit? Besides, the above statements should already show that adherence to the Lord is expressed in an adherence to His Church.  Adherence to both is expressed in one’s dependence of the Lord for life, hence the connection to the reception of Holy Communion at Mass, and the public avowal of one’s faith within the Church, Christ’s Body, in one’s attendance in the Sunday gathering of the faithful.



Originally posted 2008-07-01 18:35:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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