Renewed Denial of the Roman Catholic Church, part 2: The Centrality of the Church
Recently, in a conversation on Facebook, I confessed that much of Protestantism annoyed me. Longtime readers will know that I believe in consistency — hermeneutics should be consistent, interpretations of passages should incorporate what has gone before, and your bar of acceptable proof should be even across all areas of your life.
Protestantism just isn’t consistent. And my previous post laid the groundwork for why I don’t think Protestantism is very consistent with regard to Sacred Tradition. In this post, I’m going to discuss the concept of high church, how Protestantism lacks it, and why it is biblical.
The Bible is clear, as any Catholic will tell you, that we should hold to a high church concept. That means the church should be visible, evident, and hold the power of discipline over its members. If my church excommunicates someone because he is an unrepentant adulterer, then the church down the street should not welcome him with open arms.
Also, the church should be there to interpret Scripture’s teachings for us. Peter tells us that no teaching comes in a vacuum (2 Pet 1:20). In Acts, Phillip is shown to interpret Scripture for a man; indeed, the man recognizes that he needs someone to interpret Scriptures for him (8:29-30)!
It is the visible and powerful church, therefore, that should help us understand the teachings.
Combining the lack of centralized teaching and the invisibility of the church, you can easily see the problem of Protestantism. If Susie doesn’t like what the United Methodist Church is saying, then she can go to my Grace Brethren church. If she doesn’t like Pastor Steve’s next sermon (she will love Nate’s music — I mean, who wouldn’t?), then she can move on to the local Episcopal church down the block. Ultimately, if Susie doesn’t like any of the Protestant denominations, then she’s free to start her own denomination. There are thousands; what’s one more?
Bottom line: this isn’t the church that Christ promised us in Scripture. This isn’t the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15).
Here, it was extremely tempting to rejoin the Catholic Church. That would require some humility; after all, I would have to submit to some dogma that I don’t like. But, that is what the high church concept is all about. I expect my beliefs to be challenged, and I expect God to change me in order to conform to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29-30).
But, at the end of the day, I just can’t do it. I really tried. But I can’t believe submission means that I have to leave my mental faculties at the door, and believe things that I know simply cannot be true. There’s a difference between submission and cultic mind control. After all, the Bible tells us to test everything and hold on to what is good (1 The 5:21) — a passage written to the individual.
For example, the Bible says that my wife is to submit to me as spiritual head of household, as if to Christ. Now, if I tell her the sky is green, does she then have to submit to me as her husband, even though she can evidently see that is not the case? According to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (5:21), no. Testing my statement, it isn’t good and she therefore isn’t under an obligation to submit. In marriage, Jesus gave us the out of a spouse creating serious disunity (Mt 19:1-9; note that “sexual immorality” isn’t the best translation of v. 9 — the Greek word doesn’t imply adultery, but rather putting asunder or dividing).
So, if the teacher isn’t “rightly dividing the word of truth,” I should think we aren’t under any obligation to submit (2 Tim 2:15). This is the standstill of Catholic vs. Protestant.
On one hand, the Catholic says that the Protestant is still the final arbiter of what Scripture says (private judgment or interpretation), even if he’s holding a high church concept. To some degree, this is correct. But, these same Catholics don’t realize that they themselves have engaged in private judgment as well. They have made the private judgment to submit to the teachings of the Magisterium.
On the other hand, Protestants have made the private judgment not to follow the teachings of the Magisterium. Some of us have investigated some troubling claims and found that they are not as well-supported as the Magisterium would have us believe.
In the next post, I will disseminate one such unsupported doctrine, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary. I will show that it is unbiblical and illogical, and this is why I simply can’t submit to it. Ultimately, it was my investigation of this doctrine that affirms me as a Protestant.