Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So, Why Catholic? parts 2 and 3

This is a continuation on the reasons I've accepted the Catholic faith. Part 1 here.

2. Not Sola Scriptura. I didn’t come from a background that believed the Bible was inerrant, but still, it was all we had. There were guidelines of what you had to believe to be a Christian (Jesus’ resurrection, the Trinity), but beyond that, it was really up to debate because each person was able to interpret the Bible for themselves. I appreciated the flexibility and the emphasis on studying and gaining knowledge so you can best interpret the faith for yourself. But too much freedom leads to relativity, picking-and-choosing, and a lack of accountability.

I can’t believe that Christianity is supposed to be made up of two billion autonomous individuals; we’re supposed to be one church. The Bible is a collection of complex books. Even people who study it for a living disagree. When it’s the only core of the faith, it leaves room for division. The Bible never claims to be the all-end-all of Christian faith. If it was: what did the Christians believe before the Bible was officially compiled? What did Christians believe in a time when most were illiterate and books were expensive and rare? Why did Protestants throw out some of the Old Testament books?

Don’t get me wrong. The Bible is very important. But without a unified way to approach and interpret the Bible, it’s a confusing mess. Which parts are literal and which parts are symbolic? Which laws are just for pre-Jesus Jews and which still apply? I think Luther meant well in saying, “Let’s just go back to only what the Bible says.” but without a context and a structure around the Bible, various interpretations on major theological issues arise, which leads to the ever-splinting branches of Protestantism.

3. Tradition. This is sort of the second part of #2. If there should be more authority than just the Bible, what is it? Answer: tradition. This is not just doing something because it has always been done that way (though I know many both outside and inside the Church probably think it is). Tradition unifies all believers from the earliest church until now; we’re all working on this salvation thing together.

Tradition provides a context for Biblical interpretation and reasons for why we do what we do. It’s not always apparent on the surface, but there really is a reason for everything. It takes constant education to keep digging deeper, but the more you learn, the more you understand the significance of each tradition and belief in the Church. In most cases, tradition gets you to focus on what’s important: God. The Church must have known about ADHD back in the first century, because she has set up rules and routines to help you calm down, set aside your petty distractions, and focus on knowing and worshipping God. Maybe some people can consistently deeply experience God without the structure, but humans usually need boundaries. The boundaries and the structure and the rules are loving, not rigid. Tradition has proven these are the best methods in helping the most people be the best Christians they can. No need to flail about trying to build a religion on your own; tried and true methods already available.

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