I have had friends call me on the phone to discuss the post and I have had friends come to my home to chat about it. I've had emails and comments and it has come to my attention that I left out a "BIG" topic of dissension and it "MUST" be addressed by me, to give the "Evangelical Brownie Mom Thoughts" a closure.
In short: I missed the main thing and this post needs to fix it! LOL
It just happens to be the subject I had hoped not to touch with a 10 foot pole but here I go, touching it.
If you are reading this and you are not familiar with the first post, go grab a cup of coffee click here to read it first and THEN you are "allowed" to come back and read this post. :o)
If you don't read the initial post first, you will be flat lost.
Did you read the first post? Yes?
Alrighty, here we go. We're all adults here so let's be blunt and skip to the chase, shall we?
The A-Number-One reason why SOME Evangelical Christians think the Catholic religion is "not of God" is because of the use of confession. There are many things that Protestants believe are "Biblically wrong" with confession so they have a hard time acclimating Catholicism with their sense of what is "right."
The A-Number-One reason why SOME Catholics think that the Evangelical religion is "not of God" is because they do not use confession and some Catholics even believe that Evangelicals pray one time to Jesus and think they are saved forever with no other actions to be taken.
I'll try to touch on all of the "concerns" evangelicals have and I'll even number them to keep them straight. This is as much for my ease of writing as for your ease of reading. I will then note the answers that I have received from my awesome Catholic friends. The explanations are as I understand them. If I'm wrong, you can let me know in the comments. :o) (let it also be noted that not all Catholics believe the same about the issue of confession so the points could be different depending on the particular Catholic you speak with.)
Here we go!
Number 1: Catholics put their priest in the place of Jesus by repenting to him in the confessional rather than Jesus.
Many, if not most, protestants believe that Catholics believe that the Priest is forgiving their sins. Evangelicals think that confession is something between the Parishioner and the Priest only. We think that every Sunday the parishioner goes into a little confessional and tells all of their sins to the Priest and he says they are forgiven and that's the whole situation.
In that scenario we imagine that the Parishioner goes into the confessional and says,
"Forgive me Father for I have sinned."
We've discussed the whole Father thing, but I failed to mention that saying, "Forgive me Father for I have sinned" is considered "old school" and is rarely done in this day and age.
So on to the next issue of confession. Confessing to the priest rather than Christ.
Would it surprise my evangelical friends to find out that Catholics actually pray to Jesus INSIDE the confessional? Guess what....they do. That revelation turned my ENTIRE thought process on it's ear when I found this out.
Apparently, the entire confession begins with the person thinking about their actions before they even enter into the confessional or meeting with their Priest. The person is praying to Christ and asking the Holy Spirit to guide their steps. Then as they contemplate how they have been living, they pray! Not only is confession preceded by prayer there is yet more prayer during the confession itself. Here is how it goes...
The person has prayed and reflected on their life. They are guided by the Holy Spirit to repent. They go to see the Priest. They walk into a confessional or they meet face to face. The Priest says something to the affect of, "Do you have any sins to tell me about?" The parishioner says, "yep" and they begin a little dialogue. This is what evangelicals may call a pastoral meeting, prayer gathering, alter call...etc.
The parishioner tells all of the sins that they know they have committed. The two have a chat about what they have done, why, how that can be fixed and it's "like" a pastoral intervention session between the priest and a member of his Catholic flock. After the priest has talked with the member, he then asks the person if they are ready to say their act of contrition.
What?! What's an act of contrition?
Well, lets say, my evangelical friend, that you are at a revival. Let's say that the revival is going AWESOME! The preacher is stepping on your toes big time. He's telling you like it is and you are feeling that you have got to stop doing that sinful living and you are ready to go to the alter to pray because you want to lay it on Jesus' feet. You need to get right with God and you know this because The Holy Spirit has taken hold of you through what the preacher has been led to say so you go up to the alter. The preacher kneels down next to you and whispers to you, "What are your needs today?" You say something like, "Pastor, I haven't been living my life for Jesus. I've let school, work, pornography and my own wants come between me and Christ." What does that pastor do? He then says to you, "God will save you today, let's pray." He may even ask you to repeat after him a prayer of salvation.
He may lead you in prayer, you may sob, he may pray aloud and ask God to forgive you and lead you to His throne. You too will pray. You will say a prayer of repentance and reach Jesus....or as the Catholics put it...you have repented by praying an "Act of Contrition!"
Yep, this is the same thing that Confession is for Catholics. The difference is that they are about to speak to their pastor about their life and allow him to hear what they have to tackle in order to get right with God. He is then able to counsel the parishioner. After the parishioner feels they are ready and after the Priest has said what the Spirit has led him to say, the person confessing actualy PRAYS TO JESUS...not the priest!
The person confessing then says their "Act of Contrition" which is very much like what evangelicals call "The Prayer of Repentance."
"O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend you, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, (evangelical buzz word...we'll get back to this) and to amend my life. Amen."
It's sort of like when there is an alter call and the preacher says,
"Repeat after me. Jesus, I am a sinner, I am sorry for my sins. I confess that I have sinned against you and ask you to forgive me and lead my life from here on out."
Here's where it gets sticky for Evangelicals and for Catholics...
After the member says the "Prayer of Repentance" the evangelical pastor then announces to the congregation or says to the person praying,
"You are now forgiven! You are saved! Your sins are thrown into the sea of forgetfulness!"
He is claiming the Bible verses that proclaim that we are saved by Grace and Faith believing. He feels that He can claim this fully and without worry because that is a promise from God Himself!
On the other side of the table the Catholic Priest will say something like this AFTER the members says the "Act Of Contrition"...
"Jesus Christ absolves your sins."
some (Should I dare say most?) claim Luke 15 and say...
"I absolve thee from thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
No matter which way the Priest says this he is claiming the Bible verses that proclaim that our sins are forgiven by Grace and Faith believing also, though he is asserting the command in Luke 15. He is acting on that verse to release sins ONLY THROUGH the power JESUS GAVE his disciples.
The Priest is not "in himself" forgiving their sins, He is claiming the promise of God, not of vanity as some would believe, but as one of the many promises and gifts that God himself allows people to have. (such as faith healing, prayers of the elders, speaking in tongues etc...ALL of these are gifts and have been given to people by Christ through The Holy Spirit) This also is a gift, a legacy as a disciple of Christ. This is the gift they feel God has allowed them to say/do after the prayer has been given by their member to Jesus Himself! In other words, Only through Christ does the Priest have this power which was given to them by The Holy Spirit.
[Luke 15: 4-7]
"The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord, and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you. 'As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive any one's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain any one's sins, they are retained."
[John 20: 20-23] On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Number 2: They think that if the Priest forgives them they can do whatever they want and still get to Heaven!
Many protestants also believe that if Catholic Parishioners get on the priests good side or give the church enough money, they will be forgiven by the Priest more easily. The obvious inference here is that Catholics want to get on the good side of their priest so they can sin all the time but be forgiven at the drop of a hat "because the priest has that power" in the Catholic religion.
I have to admit that I also thought that the Catholic person could just have a chat with their priest and then he forgave them and that was it. What I have found out from my Catholic friends and from research is something altogether different.
In reality, the priest is believing that the person is giving an honest prayer of repentance to Christ, so when the Priest absolves them of their sins, his job is done because he has fulfilled the verses Jesus spoke in Luke and John. HOWEVER, it is very well understood in the Catholic faith that if the person does not have what an evangelical would call a "relationship with Christ" meaning, if they are not truly sorry, if they are not truly repenting...that confession means NOTHING! Catholics aren't fooling around here. That prayer to Christ is the main deal. Jesus has the last say on the matter and the Priest, the Parishioner and yes, even the Pope knows that Jesus trumps everyone. If the Parishioner is playing around in that confession for earthly gain or some nonsense or if they aren't serious, they are in danger of Hell Fire...in a big way...no matter what the priest says.
Number 3: What the Heck is penance then?!
What I have come to understand, is that confession is not between the parishioner and the Priest. Yes, those are the two people in the confessional/room but the parishioner is under the full understanding that they are confessing to Christ as well as bearing their soul to a Priest. Furthermore, the sins that are being confessed are the sins that the people "know" they have committed, however the sins that they cannot know are also being forgiven.
After the confession, prayer, forgiveness, the priest will ask the person to do something physical, a penance. I liken this to fasting and/or prayer in the closet instead of being seen. (Matt. 6:16-18, Mark 2:18-20, Acts 13:2-3) There is often prayer involved. There may be something like volunteerism asked of the person. They may be asked to do something to keep them busy in the place of the sin they have been partaking in. You just never know it seems what the Priest will be led to ask of you. It's a mystery and kind of interesting for this evangelical to think about.
I think this must be what disturbs many evangelicals. The fact that the Priest is asking the person to "do" something to be "saved" (buzz word for Catholics) could be the issue they have with "works." I don't think this is a bad thing to be asked of a person, however. Some of us NEED to be told to think about our actions. Some of us, do I dare say, all of us really need to understand just how much sin hurts Christ. In doing a physical deed we are forced to think, really ponder what we do to Him when we sin. This isn't a bad thing. Christ still forgives us and we have to think about that for a while. It's not a far off notion to believe that when we "do" things physically we are more apt to think about our actions, release them and try to do better.
Penance is a physical act that helps our physical body learn to stay away from whatever it is that is sinful.
Number 4: No Man is to be called father.
Matthew 23:9 is quoted quite often during protestant services when the topic of Confession comes up in the sermon. We are told quite often that Catholics call their priest Father and that is putting him in the place of Jesus. Oddly enough, when the entire passage is read in the Bible, it can be seen that...well...Here you read it.
Matthew 23: 7 - 12 King James Version
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters (meaning teacher): for one is your Master (teacher), even Christ.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
When I read this I can see that Jesus is asking us not to put any person above us on this earth, but to see each other as brethren on this earth. I can also discern from this passage that if we are not to call someone Father we also have to follow verse 10 and not call anyone teacher. I was amazed to read this in context because it was not at all what I thought it to be.
As a side note, If we read the entire chapter we get an entirely different view altogether of what was actually being talked about...or do we? That is up to interpretation. All I know for sure is that I should have read the verses in context long ago and not just believed what I was "told" because there is much to be gleaned from viewing rather than listening.
The following passages from scripture should put our mind at ease that we can indeed call a Spiritual Leader, Father. The Bible references Spiritual Leaders as Fathers and calls other men Father. The Bible actually references people as "Father" 1206 times and Five hundred fifty eight times the word "fathers" is used. (Source for letters in red and quotes below)
Elders of the Church are called "father" repeatedly in the Bible:
Acts 7:2 And Stephen said: "Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopota'mia, before he lived in Haran, Acts 22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you." 1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
Paul calls Timothy's service to him as a son serves a "father."
Philippians 2:22 But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
Paul compares the Church elders' ministry to the people like a father with his children:
1 Thessalonians 2:11 for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you
Paul calls Timothy his true "child" in the faith and his son:
2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.
Paul calls Titus his true "child" in a common faith. Priests are our spiritual fathers in the family of God:
Titus 1:4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Paul says he has become the "father" of Onesimus:
Philemon 1:10 I appeal to you for my child, Ones'imus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment.
Peter refers to himself as father by calling Mark his "son":
1 Peter 5:13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark.
Yet again, we see John calls the elders of the Church "fathers":
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 1 John 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Jesus himself refers to Abraham as our "father":
Matthew 3:9 and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Luke 3:8 Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
There are hundreds more...but you get the drift.
I have put more thought into this than I ever thought I would. I suppose I just HAD to get to the bottom of what the differences really are in our religions. It amused me to think that some evangelicals believe Catholics actually worship Mary and their priest, yet think nothing of Jesus. I got the same kick out of Catholics who believe evangelicals ask Jesus to forgive us one time and expect to get to Heaven. I suppose it still cracks me up that I must have had some of those crazy notions myself or I wouldn't have been afraid to ask the questions in the first place!
It never occurred to me to ask...until I moved to Detroit and met some open Catholic friends. I thank God that he has given me a platform to pose the questions and friends who are equally as eager to dig into this ocean of information with me. Curiosity...hasn't killed this cat. I do believe it's awakened my understanding and piqued my interest to dig further into the roots of the Christian beliefs. I feel another college class in my future most assuredly.
Now, let me have it...what do you know, want to know or understand about these issues. The different points of view have been exciting thus far..I can't wait for the comments and emails this time! Bring them on...let's find out together! :o)
UPDATE: POST NUMBER 1: EVANGELICAL ME AND MY CATHOLIC FRIENDS
UPDATE: POST NUMBER 2: THE WHOLE CONFESSING TO A PRIEST THING
UPDATE: POST #3: WHAT DO CATHOLICS BELIEVE?
UPDATE: POST #4: DO CATHOLICS PRAY TO DEAD SPIRITS?
UPDATE: POST #5: THE WHOLE RELIGION THING