Wednesday, March 15, 2006

One Mile Wide, One Inch Deep

We interrupt this broadcast for a short break. I have not forgotten my assignment on analyzing Dr. Hahn's RC conversion experience, I will get on to it next time.

I got this from Cyberbretheren. Here is an article on megachurches and the depth of their beliefs. This is not something new, many observers and experienced Christians have been saying this now for sometime.


Venerable Aussie said...

Dear lp cruz,

When you do consider Scott Hahn, please personally read his book "Rome Sweet Home" first, not someone else's review of it.

I was really disappointed by section 3 of your Neuhaus post. Sorry to have to say this, but it is really sloppy to write blanket generalisations.If you think about it carefully enough, there are great parallels between difficulties confronting the Catholic Church of today and the difficulties it confronted when Arianism was gaining in strength back in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Many claimed to be "Catholic" then, but thanks to the guarantee of Matthew 16:18, the Truth prevailed.

In such times God raises many holy men and women. I believe the amazing phenomenon of former-Protestant pastors/ministers coming home to the Church founded by Christ is one aspect of this. Praise God! For a great many of them, it is John 6:53ff which inexorably draws them closer to the fullness of Truth.

As regards lack of vocations to the priesthood of Christ, this is precisely the result of a conscious effort by many within the Catholic Church over the past 3 decades to Protestantise it. I know, because I have experienced this first hand.

Now that the tide has turned, and this semi-Protestant generation within the Church is passing away, countless young Catholics are now hearing and heeding the call to holiness, and many are also responding by consecrating their lives to Christ as priests, and religious brothers and sisters.

I do look forward to reading the Hahn treatment. I had the privilege of meeting him in person in January and we chatted for 10 minutes. He is a very humble and very thoughtful guy. He certainly isn't triumphalist.

L P Cruz said...

Hi Venerable,

Section 3 comes from first hand experience as a witness and as once an RC young adult - a devotee of St. Jude. Indeed the RCC has not disuaded my people from venerating that statue which historians claim to be an anito. This was featured in passing by a TV program.

I will try and give the name of the Fatima found in the old country.

Yes I am taking Dr. Hahn's conversion from his book and I would like to analyze it from the lens of teachings found by the Reformation fathers.

Venerable Aussie said...

My concern about your part 3 was that it really ends up being a caricature of the Church, not the real Church itself. In an Australian context, it would be like the media citing "Catholic expert" (and ex-priest) Paul Collins as being representative of Catholic thought and practice, whereas in my mind he's about as far removed from the Church established by Christ as you can get!

You say that "Historians claim that the statue was an anito, an animistic god worshipped in ancient times". So my query is twofold. First, do the people believe or claim that it is an animistic god and that they are worshipping it? And second, if they do, where does the Catholic Church believe and teach that animistic gods can be worshipped?

A lot of nutters call themselves Catholic, but I think it is fair to say that Protestantism is the one which is really big enough to accomodate anything - after all, it all fundamentally comes down to private interpretation of Scripture! Even so, if a Protestant claims that Scripture teaches that all Scripture is rubbish, I'm sure we'd all agree that this does not make him representative of Protestant thought!

Moral of the story: let's dialogue on the basis of claimed and documented belief, not on some whacko's interpretation or practice.

L P Cruz said...


My point is that the RCC is big that it can accomodate everything, ie. you can hide in a big church, even receive communion etc. Take the case of that priest who believes or preaches premellinial rapture protestant doctrine. I saw him on TV, I heard his teaching. I doubt if he was censured by the RCC church, but he had a following and went on for a good number of months as I suspect.

The historians/archaeologist argue that the statue of the said Fatima (the name Guadalupe is attached to it if I recall) is so old and it does resemble an anito. For example, the statue is small and it is black wood, now , was Mary black? Was she not Jewish? By no means was she caucasian , the object does not have any semblance even to a well formed human body.

Now, yes, the RCC will deny that when a person vows down to statue, kisses it, puts flowers on it, looks at it, prays to it that that person is worshipping the statue. Yes it does not say that it sunctions worshipping anitos. It denies with its mouth what it affirms by its actions - can you get my drift? But it does not disuade the devotee. This is platonic thought in action.A church's belief and teaching can also be gauged not by what it confesses, but also by what it practices.

What one practices is a reflection of what one believes too. If one is not a believer in God and one does not believe that life starts at conception, then one will have no qualms with abortion on demand. The practice reflects the belief even if that belief is not explicitly expressed in a document.

Take the case of the EO, you will not find most of their beliefs documented, you will find it in their liturgy - an undocumented worship practice passed on by tradition.

Venerable, if you lived in Latin American/Asian countries where RCC theology and practice is in its full swing, you will see what I mean.

Perhaps we can start dialoguing by you telling me what you practice - do you pray the rosary? Do you do novena's -- to whom? Do you wear a scapula - what kind? Which is your patron saint that you pray to? DO you do station of the cross?

Lsstly, I though about your referrant to the one True Church. My concern is about the one True Faith.

Gary Sweeten said...

As for Scott Hahn and so many Protestant pastors "returning to Rome" there must be 100 RCC leaders and 10,000 laity coming home to Evangelical churches from Rome for every one going the other way.

Scott started his faith journey in the Charismatic Jesus Movement and then went to a more formal route and then the Presbyterian Church and then to a more Conservative Reformed group and then the Roman Catholic Church. He skipped and jumped around all over the place.

Scott is a fine man but he does not represent many Protestants and the trend is definitely the other way.

Every growing church, Mainline or otherwise, in our region must "recruit" RCC members for they are about half the total population. Our church grew at a rate of some 100 to 200 new members each year and 50 to 60% were converts from the RCC.

All mega churches have many RCC converts. The notion that mega churches are weak in teaching is true but necessary for winning new converts. the tragedy is that they rarely do anything othe than "Dip Them and Drop Them" with no discipleship. However, that will change as people grow in Christ through the Holy Spirit and demand more meat.

L P Cruz said...

Thanks Dr. G.

For dropping by. Your observation is so true. Just by observation the Latin American/Asian countries have contributed to the growth of protestantism in last 30 years. These predominantly RC countries have shared more in bring RCs to the Protestant view of Christianity.

How true.


Jeff Tan said...

Hi Lito. Being a countryman myself, I must ask where this so-called anito is. I have never heard of it. I've been in Quezon Province for the first 15 years and in Manila for the 15 years after that. Perhaps it is in another part of the country? If you remember further details about it, please post here (or email to me) so I can try and google for it.

I'd take such TV reports with a grain of salt. More bizarre things are being said about the Lord, Mary Magdalen, Judas Iscariot, Emperor Constantine and other personages these days. :P

Seriously, I have to admit that we can find lots of superstition among our fellow pinoys, but I don't believe it is necessarily caused by nor encouraged by the Catholic hierarchy. For example, I haven't encountered the sort of practices you mention (which I have seen in parts of Manila) where I come from in Quezon province. At least not at my parish, and not really in our cathedral. I don't know why there is such diversity in practice. In general, I can only look at the story of the woman (Luke 8:43-48) who sought to touch just the edge of the Lord's cloak, and was healed. One might be tempted to shake the woman and tell her to touch the Lord himself, because healing comes from him, not his clothes, (and perhaps rebuke the evangelist for mentioning the cloak at all, as if it was of any consequence) but I wouldn't dare. Faith is too personal, and how we approach the Lord is personal. It is to be hoped that, after seeking physical healing, the woman's faith would grow further and embolden her to seek a deeper relationship with God. But I would not dare to dictate her pace.

Given that the Church hierarchy may take years before giving a verdict (yes/no, that is/isn't a miracle), and given that the Church hierarchy usually says no, I would not be so quick to say that they are actively derailing the faith of Catholics. It may be instead that they are acting so slowly because they are afraid that they might end up doing that if they are too hasty in condemning what is not easy to understand.

BTW I hope it's okay to have commented on that post in this one's combox. It just seemed that the discussion had moved here, so I thought I'd keep up.

Jeff Tan said...

Concerning the unfortunate contrast between the roles of Scriptures and of the Church, I think it is tragic to see things that way. They're not supposed to be pitted one against the other. You see things that way because it is the Protestant pre-supposition that the pillar and foundation of truth is the Bible, and so the role that the Church undertakes as its guardian and expositor is seen as an arrogation. But is that true? The Church did not proclaim its own teaching authority. It was Christ who explicitly gives authority to the apostles (Matt 18:18,Matt 10:40, Lk 10:16). It becomes their (perhaps awkward) job to tell people that it's their job to teach as well as to administer.

Fr. Neuhaus' comments (which you quote) is only strange if you saw the Church and Christ as separate. They are not. Christ is the head and the Church is the body. To be one with Christ is to be in his body. The Chuch is a reality to the extent that persecuting it means persecuting Christ.

The role of the Church does not diminish the role of the Holy Spirit nor of Scripture, because it was Christ who built it, the Holy Spirit who sustains it, and it was Christ who gave the Church that role to teach and make disciples of all men. For that particular role, Scripture is the most excellent resource, provided by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, for teaching, refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness. It is also important to note that it was the Holy Spirit who prompts Philip into the role of bringing the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord (Acts 8:26-40), interpreting Scriptures for him and leading him to baptism. That is how, on the one hand, the Holy Spirit leads us unto truth, from the perspective of the Ethiopian: the Holy Spirit guides us through teachers that He calls and sustains in that role. Teaching is a gift of the Holy Spirit to some individuals, the teachers who are called and gifted for that role. That doesn't mean that we are not all individually gifted by the Holy Spirit, too, but we are called and gifted for different roles (1 Cor 12).

I am not putting the Church ahead of Christ, although it certainly is the most visible part of Christ in the world, as Christ himself wills her to be the light of the world, a city built on a hill. But therein lies Christ, where he willed himself to be: the head of the body which is the Church; the cornerstone of the pillar and foundation of truth which is the Church, the groom of the bride which is the Church. All I'm saying is that you must seriously consider that what the Church wields with authority is a role that she has not taken for herself, but one that she bears faithfully for the groom who gave them to her.

Jeff Tan said...

BTW, concerning the Church showing more than the Gospels and more than Christ, that is not entirely untrue. Nothing wrong with more than Christ and more than the Gospels. St. John himself tells us that there is more than was in the Gospels (John 21:25). The Lord tells us that, through him, can do greater works than he had shown (John 14:12). What might be wrong is to exalt something INSTEAD of Christ and INSTEAD of the Gospels. That is not what the Church does. Last time I checked, our most holy Eucharist is still the body and blood of the Lord, no one else's. We still preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, no one else's. Forgiveness of sins is still from the merits of Christ, not anyone else's. And in the liturgy of the Word, we still read from the Bible, nothing else.

The word of God in the Bible is not as great as the Word of God which is Christ, because Christ did not simply get inscripturated: he was made flesh. And the Lord is never alone: he makes us his co-heirs, sharers, and friends, and he gathers us to himself, a multitude of sheep in his flock, and none of that takes anything away from his glory, for we are his body, and one with him, what we receive, he receives. If the body receives glory, it is Christ who receives glory, and the Church is the body of Christ.

Glimpses of the Kingdom shows us that Heaven has more than God alone. It is not an empty palace adorned with white, blank walls and pillars of dazzling alabaster that surround the throne of majesty upon whom sits God almighty, surrounded by no one and nothing else. Instead we find that the Father's house is filled with multitudes of angels and saints who unceasingly worship and sing praises to the Lamb (Isaiah 6:1-4), offering incense with the prayers of the saints (Rev 8:3-4). After all, God has not found it beneath him to give us a share of his glory and power, so why should it be odd that there is always more than we should rightly expect?

The Lord compared the Kingdom a lot to a wedding feast. I've been to a sort of Jewish wedding (groom was Jewish, they had Jewish portions of the banquet) and, if that's what he had in mind, then it will be lively indeed with lots of people. :-)

L P Cruz said...


No worries for conducting the dialog here. Regarding the anito - It was given in passing by ABS-CBN's Pinoy Central - they alleged that historians attest that the said virging Mary was a former anito - now I am not sure as it was a 1 minute spot, but I think this is the Lady of Guadlupe in Makati.

I have been as a fellow RC kid a witness of priests blessing statues w/ his holy water.

Obviously we do not view the 1st Commandment the same way - see Ex 20:3-6. I take images of human beings as likeness of those who are on the earth beneath. I can only conclude that when the priests himself prays to the image of Mary or Saint Jude that is a form of worship.

Also on the mention of the church - Church (captital C) you mean Roman Catholic church right? What is the Church - how do you define it. Are protestants included in your definition of Church? Are we members of the Church you define?

The Scripture is there to guide the church and to keep the objective promises of God continually experienced by God's people. Even in 2 Pe : 1, the church needs to be reminded and the scripture does that.

I do think there is something wrong in showing more than Christ and more than the Gospel because salvation is at stake here. Paul pronounced a curse on those who will add to the Gospel - Gal 1:8. By the word Gospel I do not mean books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I mean the message that Christ died for the sins of the world as a gift/ a grace - that the sinner has nothing to do but trust that that work fo Christ was for him, Christ's gift. That is why we are saved by Christ's death Alone, by grace alone.

Jeff Tan said...

Hi Lito,

Must be a new statue/icon, that Lady of Guadalupe, since I used to frequent St. John Bosco and the Greenbelt chapels, and no Lady of Guadalupe there. Still, while I might consider ABS-CBN less prone to irresponsible sensationalism as other mainstream media, they aren't above it. One reason why I personally would NEVER have voted for Noli de Castro and his like. :P

I'll see if I can dig up more about that icon/statue. Priests and lay people alike are not immune from erroneously jumping up and down at the first sign of a miracle, if that is what this veneration is about in Makati. Which is why, and I point this out again, it takes a long time for the Church to deliver a verdict about these, and it is by far more common for the Church to decide against the claims of miracles, etc.

As for priests blessing statues, nothing strange there from a Catholic perspective. We do have a more sacramental view of things. Through Christ, "all things were made", so there is nothing intrinsically evil or unholy about physical matter. Scriptures are dotted with God's blessings coming to us through physical objects, e.g., the bronze serpent. The waters of the river, spittle and mud (and probably others) that have been used by prophets and the Lord himself for healing are other examples. They are mere channels, true, but God apparently doesn't hold himself above using physical objects as channels of his grace.

As for the first commandment, indeed we do not. You will find, however, if you examine the history of the Church from the very beginning, that graven/painted images of human beings or animals are not in themselves sinful to create. But what is worship? We share the same view as the Jews, of course, that worship is sacrifice. Our sacrifice, and this has been true from the very beginning and will never change, is in the Eucharist, because there is only one lawful sacrifice: the Lamb of God. We do not have a sacrifice offered to Mary. That was a heresy that was condemned in the 4th century, I believe. Misguided folks who treated Mary as a goddess. That is something we do not do. Our relationship with her is entirely within the context of her three-fold role as Mother, Daughter (and therefore a sister in God's Fatherhood) and spouse (of the Holy Spirit). As Mother, we honor her as we are commanded to do, and in imitation of Christ who honored Mary as a faithful son would. As our sister, she is a role model. In her, we see the fulfillment of the Incarnation that we also seek to fulfill in ourselves: God invites us, and if we humbly say "be it done to me according to your word" then the Word will be made flesh as we become more Christlike and bear fruit through the Holy Spirit. We also honor her special role in the economy of salvation as the spouse of the Holy Spirit and the embodiment of the Church as the bride of Christ. She is the virgin daughter of Zion as the Church is. She is an enemy of the Devil as the Church is.

But we never, ever, offer her a sacrifice as did the unfaithful of Israel who sacrificed to Moloch, Baal and other idols that were fashioned by hands.

Note as well that when you see someone kiss a statue or bow before it, you see only the statue. When Catholics do those things, it is not to the statue but to the person of whom the statue was made after, e.g., the Blessed Mother. I have no particular trouble kissing, hugging or bowing before my Mother and Queen, or my own mother, for that matter. :-)

It is hoped that you do not share the same idea about the holy ones who have gone ahead of us, as this Evangelical friend of mine in college who believes that the holy ones are in stasis, a suspended state, until the day of judgment comes. Because if you accept that Heaven is at this moment populated with the angels by the saints, our great cloud of witnesses, then you will see that when we lift up our prayers to the saints, we are not talking to the concrete or canvas in front of us, but to the very saints who praise unceasingly in Heaven, from whom the angels will offer up to God not just incense but the prayers of the holy ones here on earth (that's supposed to be us). If you put yourself in the shoes of one of these saints, you will realize that it makes absolutely no sense to think that you would cease to remember your loved ones and not pray for their welfare. Being a saint perfected in Heaven, how can it be that your prayers would be very efficacious (being a righteous man, perfected in Heaven), as the Lord declared, yet not have any purpose for interceding on behalf of your brethren still struggling in the world?

And as for Scripture being there to guide the Church, that is not a point of contention. Dei Verbum is apparently a good start in investigating just what the Church officially teaches about Scripture. Likewise, all the ruckus about the canon of Scripture in the 4th century councils suggests the import of Scriptures to the Church.

Finally, you are correct that this is a matter of salvation, but the Church does not proclaim that salvation comes from someone other than Christ. We do teach, however, a more complete understanding of just what sort of faith in Christ is necessary. Some Fundamentalists say that all they need is faith in Christ as Savior; Lordship to those is optional. Others say that Christ must be Lord as well as Savior. Most Evangelicals seem to say that salvation is once-and-for-all at their altar call when they were saved on some fateful day in the past, and that they can never, ever lose that salvation. I know that Lutherans consider a terrible apostacy of unbelief and utter rejection to be grounds for losing salvation, for unlike modern (neo-?) Calvinists, you understand that we are not robbed of our free will when we are baptized, but rather our will is strengthened by grace and better oriented towards God rather than towards sin. What is my point in this? I was pointing out something crucial in such diverse and somewhat contradictory doctrines. It boils down, as Mark Shea points out (I do hope you read his book, too, which I lent you along with the Hahns' book), to what our answer is when the Lord asks us "who do you say I am?" If all we have is a vague notion of who Christ is, and of what He commands and requires of us, then saying "Christ alone" doesn't really mean enough.

We are saved by grace alone. No arguments there. But that the sinner has nothing to do but to trust in Christ? I hope this trust includes a faithful observance of everything the Lord commands us through the Apostles, such as abiding in him, eating his flesh and drinking his blood, being baptized for the forgiveness of sins, forgiving others as we are forgiven, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick or those in jail, welcoming the stranger, to not be ashamed of Christ, to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, to love your neighbor as yourself, and all those other things that Christ told us to observe. Does the act of doing any of these things save us? Of course not, it is Christ who saves us. But these acts perfect our faith, keep us abiding in Christ, and rejecting these acts makes a mockery of what faith we might profess with our lips, and by those acts of rebellion we reject Christ.

I don't know if this is accurate, but while good works apart from grace (and Christ) will not save you, evil works of rejecting God will destroy you.

Jeff Tan said...

BTW Lito, I think you need to re-read Fr. Neuhaus' article. Note what he says just before the lines you quoted:

"To be brought up a Lutheran, at least a Missouri Synod Lutheran, at least there and at least then, was to know oneself as an ecclesial Christian."

When he says "ecclesial Christian" where you quoted him, he is talking about being a Christian in the Church. When he says faith in the Church, he means faith within the Church, being a member of the Church (ecclesial) and a believer of Christ in the Church (ecclesial Christian)

Now when he says that the gospel can only be known through the Church, remember that he is talking about the one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which we proclaim belief in when we profess our faith (Nicene Creed). So the real contention for you is not what he says about all Christians being ecclesial (even unknowingly), but the fact that he sees the Roman Catholic Church as being that Church through whom we can hear and understand the gospel. That .. is a different issue. :)

L P Cruz said...

Hey Jeff,

Very important point you raised.

Firstly, Fr. Neuhaus's understanding of what it means to be Lutheran is rare in his camp. For to be a Lutheran means to be an Evangelical in the original sense of the word (unlike the modern ones of today). In my thinking, this means one is a Gospeller or Good Newser. That is to put in the center of his Christianity - the free gift of God to sinners - that is death of Christ as atonement for his sins, a complete and finished work of Jesus on behald of the sinner. Nothing more needs to be done but believe/trust that his death was for him (the sinner).

Thus to be Lutheran (in my observation) is to keep that in focus and to shun or challenge all else that stirs one away from this truth.

Yes I do have an issue with him, I a former RC kid myself. I know that each time he uses Church for him is the Roman Catholic church. However, to say that it is only through the Church that the gospel is known is (if I may caution) bordering on idolizing the Church. May we never come to the point that all of our hope is based on the fact that we are part of the Church or church, and on that basis we are acceptable to God. For that would mean we are advocating another means of salvation. This would blaspheme the work of Christ. It is Jesus who saves, not the Church or church.

Furthermore the Gospel can be known through the Scriptures too. It is known by man as the HS iluminates him as he search the scriptures for in them he will find life (w/c is Jesus). Please see Jesus words -John 5:39. In fact, someone can preach the Gospel but unless the HS opens the heart of the listener, he will not believe. The good thing though is the Law/Gospel preached carries with it the payload to make the listener feel sorrow for his sins and also to rely on the work of Jesus at the Cross as the solution for his sins.

So like what I am discovering with Dr. Hahn, as with Fr. Neuhaus, it was attraction first before rationalization that made them RCs. When you are attracted you find every reason to rationalize your attraction.

Jeff Tan said...

Hi Lito,

So over at my blog, we've sorted out that the issue is not about "Church" itself but about the Roman Catholic Church being equated with that Church that every Christian becomes part of, willfully or not. Or as Fr. Neuhaus put it: "In an important sense, every Christian, even the most individualistic, is an ecclesial Christian, since no one knows the gospel except from the Church." You're fine with this as long as the Church here mentioned is not the Roman Catholic Church, but simply the "body of believers" in Christ.

Now, when Fr. Neuhaus says "no one knows the gospel except form the Church", does this still present a problem if you consider "the body of believers" that is the Catholic Church of the Nicene Creed? I mean, for example, if that line was said by, say, St. Augustine in the 4th century, or St. Irenaeus of Lyons, or St. Polycarp, or any of the early Church Fathers. There is idolatry and there is telling it as it is. St. Paul calls the Church "the household of God" and "the pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim 3:15) while our Lord himsels says "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it" (Matt 16:18). The Church is also "the light of the world" and "a city set on a mountain" whose "light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father" (Matt 5:14-16).

My point is that it is not idolatry to tell it as it is: to spread the gospel is the job of the Church -- I qualify: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which you say is not the Roman Catholic Church.

I don't think Fr. Neuhaus means to say that our hope is based on Church membership. I have never heard of a Church doctrine that says we are saved solely by membership in the Church. Just look at what the Church teaches about man's sinfulness (even the Catholic member), the consequences of mortal sin (even for the Catholic member) and the necessity of repentance and Christ's forgiveness (even for the Catholic member). We sort of know we're not in the all clear when we're enjoined to confess our sins as necessity requires and to have recourse unto Christ's forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.

As for the attraction being first for Scott, Kimberly or Fr. Neuhaus, I say, "read on!" Don't read into their motives so early in the book. Motives are very hard to verify. Their doctrinal contentions, however, are easier to deal with.

L P Cruz said...


I am affraid that there is equivocation on the word church vs Churh. When the latter is used or when it is found in the Bible, RCs always read it as a referrant to the RCC like in Mt 16:18. This practice is similar to the INK, when you talk to them they will point that the church it refers to is the church of christ which is the INK, after all that is their name.

Protestants who recite the Nicene Creed, - believe in one holy, catholic, apostolic church (note no artilce 'the'). When they do they mean they belive in the oneness of believers in Christ universally - because catholic means universal. In fact, Roman Catholic as a term is contradictory even, because Roman means local while catholic means universal.

In my experience, people do switch denominations because of doctrine, however, people also switch denominations because of psychological and social reasons. I have witnessed some people joining a church because they were shown 'love' and 'kindness' there. The justification follows.

Yes I will read on - in fact I am intrigued at Hahn's claims that the Virgin Mary spoke to him.