Questions for Protestant and/or Fundamentalist Christians

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Here are a few questions to ponder. My goal here is to get people to re-examine things that they might simply take for granted, but if you have solid answers I am genuinely interested in hearing them. As my usual readers know, I’m a Catholic Christian, and these sorts of questions are part of what helped lead me toward Catholicism, so I’m curious to know how Christians who do not feel led to become Catholic have resolved questions like these…

1. How do you reliably guard your church against false doctrines that result from people misunderstanding the Bible? When scholars/teachers/churches disagree over the meaning of Scripture, who has the final say?

2. If a fellow believer has chosen to live in sin and claims he’s still a follower of Christ, what authority does your church have to insist he’s wrong and warn him of the eternal consequences of his choices?

3. What people do you trust to accurately interpret Scripture from the original languages, teach universal Christian principles, and provide the most legitimate commentary on the Scriptures? What qualifies them to be trustworthy?

*Bonus Question:

What is the Scriptural basis for serving grape juice instead of wine during Communion?

-Ben 8/3/15

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10 Comments on “Questions for Protestant and/or Fundamentalist Christians”

  1. Jamie Carter says:

    1. You don’t. You believe what you believe, everyone else believes what they believe. If they are similar, the church remains together. If they are not, then you are free to go to another church that believes as you do.
    2. Depends on the church, some churches give themselves power to disfellowship or shun errant believers but others have a live and let live philosophy.
    3. Depends on the church. Some prefer KJV, ESV or NIV, in which case their respective translators are hoped to be trustworthy. Most pastors go through seminaries, so they are hoped to be trustworthy. Teachers are usually average people and even they can interpret scripture for themselves. The Bible says the word of God won’t return void, so we trust that the same God that preserved it for thousands of years will see to it that it isn’t abused. It kind of doesn’t make sense to have a sovereign God who is incapable of being sovereign over the Bible.
    4. There is nothing specifically stating the kind of wine, type of bread, size or amount of bread. It also does not say that grape juice cannot be used at all. We actually have a gluten sensitivity, eating even one communion wafer causes three days of the worst stomach distress imagineable followed by two days of tiredness. Our church is kind enough to provide an alternative.

    • Ben says:

      Jamie Carter,

      I appreciate your forthright responses to my primary questions. I suppose the next logical question might be: Did God intend (and preserve?) something better than confusion and divisions among believers?

      For me it came down to this at the end of the day: either the truth matters or it doesn’t. One of my assumptions in life is that it does. With so many disagreements out there, it’s not possible that everyone has the truth. Some are content to be free to do what they want regardless of the truth. Others simply claim to have the truth regardless of the truth. But there are some who pursue the real truth, sometimes at great sacrifice, regardless of where it leads.

      I believe that God is indeed “sovereign over the Bible” as you say, but how? I believe that He did provide trustworthy teachers, but where? When it comes to questions of eternal significance, I don’t want to hope I have the truth. I want to know that I have the truth.

      May God bless you.

      -Ben

      • Jamie Carter says:

        I see it this way, when the one church divided into two, both churches still contained the truth. When the protestants separated from the catholics, both groups still contained the truth. The baptist, methodist, lutheran, pentecostal, and Episcopalian denominations might not agree on everything, but all of them contain the truth. But I have been to enough churches to know that policing the beliefs of others is sort of like trying to grasp tightly a handful of water.

        I have done enough homework to know that no two manuscripts of the Bible are all alike, all of them have small differences. I know how translators had to choose which sense of the words to convey the meaning of the original. I know how most people don’t bother going into the Greek. In all of these things we have to hope that God preserved them and the Holy Spirit helped these people to get it mostly right. Faith does that in the absense of evidence.

        Even if the Bible is intact, people are prone to error. I just saw an article that said that “we don’t know why Esther kept her ethnicity a secret.” It used Esther 2:10 as proof, but only the first part because the part clearly says that Mordecai told her to keep it a secret. Such errors are common. People who aren’t familiar with the Bible often get carried away by the words of trustworthy people. But the ones that have experience with such things build up a resistance to them. We are just not going to find a perfect church with perfect people who have a perfect bible taught perfectly and practice disciple perfectly anywhere on earth.

        • Ben says:

          Jamie Carter,

          I can agree with you that all forms of Christianity retain a large amount of truth. I’ll even admit that all religions contain *some* truth. But what I require for myself and my family is the fullness of the truth as revealed to us by God, and I want to be a part of the authentic Church that Jesus Himself founded and promised to preserve (as seen in Matthew 16:18). Why compromise my standards if I know that I don’t have to?

          You paint a pretty bleak picture of Christianity. I can witness to the fact that the real Church exists, and it’s wonderful! I simply had to set aside my Protestant presuppositions, and allow myself to listen to knowledgeable Catholics actually explain their faith to me. After that, it was a matter of the Holy Spirit working in my life, drawing me home to the Catholic Church.

          If you like I can explain scripturally how Jesus established one visible authoritative Church to be our source of truth, and that He desired Christians to be actually united.

          The reason why I post questions like the ones above is because many people aren’t even as far along as you are. Many people actually still think that Protestantism/Fundamentalism works well. You seem to recognize that it has turned out badly, which I also did. But beyond that is a process that I was blessed to follow…

          1. What was the Church like in the early centuries? What did the early Church Fathers (the disciples of the disciples) write down?

          2. If the early Church was Catholic, how do Catholics explain the Scriptures that I’ve been trained to believe are anti-Catholic?

          3. If the Scriptures are actually Catholic (and given to us through the Catholic Church), then should I start questioning the anti-Catholic rhetoric that I’ve never bothered to question before?

          4. Does God want me to be part of the Catholic Church if it is indeed the Church He founded and promised to preserve?

          5. Does God want the whole world to be part of His Church also?

          Allow me to recommend a couple of books to you if I may. “Rome Sweet Home” by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. “The Protestant’s Dilemma” by Devon Rose. “Surprised by Truth” by Patrick Madrid. Many people refuse to read books that explain Catholic Christianity because I think they are afraid that Catholics are right. When Catholics are given the chance to actually explain themselves then the bleak picture you paint can be seen, but the good news is that the fullness of revealed truth is out there, and it’s available to you and everyone… if you want it.

          A quick note on “policing the beliefs” of people: It’s like managing a household for the betterment of all within that household. I have a rule that my kids can’t watch TV whenever they want. That doesn’t mean that I go over to the neighbor’s house and try to enforce my rules on his kids. I’m in charge of the betterment of my kids, and yeah sometimes the rules get detailed because experience has shown that if I don’t make a rule the kids will take advantage, at least until they’re mature enough to understand the *why* and no longer need the rule. So…. the Catholic Church knows what rules are most likely to produce saints, and Catholics who wish to be part of the “household” of the Church follow them for their own betterment. Other churches can do what they want, and their people can do what they want. I want to be part of a church that helps me be a saint, not a church that makes up silly rules as it goes, or a church that doesn’t care about sin enough to say something. Much like I have the authority to come out into the living room and turn the TV off in the middle of the night and send my kids back to bed (which I haven’t needed to do by the way), I expect a church’s leadership to have actual spiritual authority in order to actually motivate people to be spiritually healthy. Churches without this authority within their own household are essentially promoting a free-for-all of personal interpretation which translates into behavioral anarchy. People can justify pretty much anything when left to themselves.

          Thanks for your comments!

          -Ben

          • Jamie Carter says:

            The early church was proto-catholic, it would take a few hundred years for it to consolidate it’s theology into one coherent stance. Arianism threatened their understanding of the nature of the trinity – but fortunately the church had a powerful ally in Constantine who wanted the church to be consistent and who called for the Council of Nicaea. In that time, the leaders of the churches were bishops who could trace back their authority on the order of succession from their predecessors all the way up to one of the disciples, but with the acceptance of Christianity as the religion of the Holy Roman Empire, they needed to create a leadership structure that benefited new believers in churches who didn’t have that connection with the disciples. Unfortunately, the balance of power favored Rome. It would eventually cause the Greek believers to form their own Greek Orthodox Church around the year 1000 a.d. They did, it seem, try to re-write it’s early history as if the disciples were popes, but they would not have called themselves that as Jesus had told them not to call each other father and ‘pope’ is variant of the Latin word for father.

            Protestants grew to believe that the Catholic’s teaching on Purgatory and the selling of Indulgences was unbiblical. The reformation was particularly unkind, as evidenced by the latent resentment between them even now. My church didn’t really preach against Catholics, they simply failed to mention them at all, so I know nothing about anti-Catholic verses or how they might have interpreted them. I was lucky enough to host a Catholic exchange student who was kind enough to help answer some of my confusion – particularly about Mary. I just see it that both sides have a tendency to highlight passages that they feel bolster their interpretation and ignore passages that work against it. My bleak view of Christianity is something like a humpty-dumpty situation – the church fell a long time ago and all of the kings horses and all of the king’s men simply cannot put it together again. The best we can do is to find what works for us and helps us to walk in Christ-likeness. For some, Catholicism is the way to go, for others, non-denominationalism, and others are pretty much done because they have tried every which way and found only trouble for their efforts.

            For me, as I’ve come to really study in-depth about Scripture, I find it confusing to know that the Bible lists Phoebe, Junia, and other ladies as among the leadership of the New Testament Church and yet modern Christians cannot accept the possibility that they have modern counterparts who are supposed to be priestesses and pastors and deaconesses and apostles. Not only that, but I’ve read about Perpetua, Felicity, Amma Syncletica, and Theodora of Alexandria so I’m convinced that even in Christian history God has done wonderful things through women who are devoted to him. This belief in the equality of men and women as leaders together of the church pretty much keeps me out of favor with every kind of Christianity. Most churches are glad to be rid of me.

            • Ben says:

              Jamie,

              Whew, that’s a lot. I’ll try to be brief.

              Regarding Church history, I’d like to add a few book recommendations to the few I’ve already given you. “History of the Catholic Church” by James Hitchcock is an excellent and very fair treatment of the periods you mentioned, and isn’t overly long. An oldie but a goodie is Hilaire Belloc’s “Europe and the Faith” to show how the Catholic Church developed in regard to the Roman Empire and beyond. And Rod Bennett’s “Four Witnesses: the Early Church in Her Own Words” shows that the early Church was indeed Catholic (although admittedly some doctrines and structures have developed over time as would be expected to happen- an oak tree doesn’t do much good if it stays in the form of an acorn). If you have any books to recommend I’d be happy to hear it. Then again, as I alluded to in my questions above, so much of all this comes down to who you trust.

              —-

              You said, “They did, it seem, try to re-write it’s early history as if the disciples were popes, but they would not have called themselves that as Jesus had told them not to call each other father and ‘pope’ is variant of the Latin word for father.”

              Peter was the first pope, but beyond him popes were not from the original twelve disciples of Jesus (FYI). I know pope basically means “papa”. But I think you’re basing your statement on a misunderstanding of Matthew 23:9. Jesus was making a larger point in that passage. If He simply was commanding people to “call no man your father”, then we run into problems throughout the New Testament of people disobeying Him:

              Luke 16:24 “Father Abraham”

              Romans 4:11,12,16,17,18 Abraham referred to as “father”

              Acts 7:2 Stephen: “Brethren and fathers, hear me”

              1 John 2:13 “I am writing to you, fathers…”

              1 Cor. 4:14,15 “my children… I became your father…”

              —-

              You said, “My bleak view of Christianity is something like a humpty-dumpty situation – the church fell a long time ago…”

              I’m curious to know how you explain Matthew 16:18,19…

              “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

              —-

              You said, “so I’m convinced that even in Christian history God has done wonderful things through women who are devoted to him.”

              I wholeheartedly agree with that statement.

              To address your larger concern though, the Catholic Church believes that if Jesus wanted female priests, then when He instituted the priesthood He would have made females part of the priesthood. The Catholic Church simply will not contradict what Jesus did. John Paul II said “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”. Just can’t happen. Never has, never will. It’s just not the way God set it up.

              This article explains in a bit more detail: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/women-and-the-priesthood

              The Catholic Church has an amazing amount of respect for women (perhaps it comes from our appreciation of Mary), and I think you’d be surprised how important women are in the function of the Church and the lives of Catholics.

              You said, “Most churches are glad to be rid of me.” Well, the Catholic Church would be glad to have you!

              If you haven’t yet, I invite you to read about my conversion process (found through my “about” page). There was a time where I was in my backyard doing “house church” because I was fed up with “the institutional church” as I saw it. Being Catholic is much better for me than that was, but it was a journey.

              God bless.

              -Ben

              • Jamie Carter says:

                I enjoy reading up about church history, so I’ll add them to my list of books to look out for. That’s why I said that the early church was proto-catholic (the acorn) it would take a few hundred years for the church to form it’s identity apart from the dominant religions and become the tree. I cannot imagine the early church services at Solomon’s colonnade or in the believer’s homes being an exact version of catholic mass as we know it today, but an early version that had some elements in common with Judaism as that was their only example of how to do a worship service and it was how God wanted it done when they were Jewish (and being Christian didn’t stop them from being Jewish as even Paul undertook a nazarite vow.) Because of so many schisms and denominational splits, I really think that it is humanly impossible to reunite the shards of Christianity and restore it to the one church. I believe that in general, God care for all the different kinds of churches because they altogether form the one church – as they are all parts of the body but do not make up the whole of the body by themselves.
                Jewish beliefs required a Minyan – a minimum of ten males – to count as the number of people to hold specific religious obligations. They must be Jewish Adult Males – because ten of his disciples were men, they were permitted to carry out any number of religious activities like praying in public. Without ten men, he would not have been permitted to preach in the synagogues. Jesus had twelve disciples because there were twelve tribes of Israel and none of the Israelite tribes were lead by women. They lived in a time of patriarchy where in general women were not permitted to interact with men in public. This is why the interactions of men and women together are usually set in a private place in Scripture. Two thousand years ago, Jesus had no choice but to choose men as disciples. Today men and women are equals in every way except in church. I just want to be sure we are following the right rules for the right reasons and not the wrong rules for the wrong reasons.

                • Ben says:

                  Jamie,

                  I appreciate your insights, and the time you took to comment. I hope you’ll comment on future posts here as well. If you ever want to discuss the books, let me know!

                  Take care and God bless.

                  -Ben

  2. jimfinn2000 says:

    No one at jugement time will be able to say, “I did not live right because I did not understand.” The Bible is complete and up to date. The many religions are a result of Satans successes. Confusion never comes from God. When the religion is put up to interpretation it leaves the Bible or what God says as not the final authority, when in fact what God says is final. When the church contradicts what the Bible says, the church is wrong. It’s not complicated unless your faith is in the church rather than God almighty. The two are not always the same. Consequently what is done is to spin, twist and pervert the word of God.