My experience is that many people are against the Catholic Church based on the version of the Church that they have in their mind. So the arguments that many people come up with don’t really challenge the true teaching of the Catholic Church. One issue that many protestant people have trouble with is the concept of purgatory. Whilst I must declare that I don’t really believe in the purgatory that many Catholic’s claim to believe in, I did find a quote about the work of the then Cardinal Ratzingers very interesting:
“Building on 1 Corinthians 3, Ratzinger argued that the Lord Himself is the fire of judgement, which transforms us as he conforms us to his glorious, resurrected body. This happens not during a long drawn out process but in the moment of final judgement itself. By thus linking purgatory to Jesus Christ himself as the eschatological fire, Ratizinger detached the doctrine of purgatory from the concept of an intermediate state” Quoted from page 167 of Surprised by Hope by NT Wright.
NT Wright claims both Pope Benedict (Ratzinger) and Karl Rahner have moved Catholic Teaching on purgatory away from the understanding that many people criticise the Church for. Which made me think about one very important rule for understanding the Catholic Church:
Just because a Catholic said something doesn’t make it Catholic Teaching. This goes for all the liberal and conservative web pages, blogs, podcasts and books out in the market. In fact just because something is popular doesn’t make it official church teaching. If you really want to understand the truth about what the Catholic Church teaches don’t google it, go to the official teaching of the Church, starting at http://www.vatican.va. If someone doesn’t agree with this then at least they disagree with the official teaching not some youtube version of church teaching.
The difference in Evangelical circles is that the opinions of current books, blogs and popular preachers has more weight in defining what the church stands for because there is no “official church teaching”. For example the work of Tim Keller from Redeemer Church in New York is very popular amongst Evangelicals even though not all Evangelicals are Presbyterian. The work of NT Wright, an Anglican is well regarded but not all Evangelical Anglicans agree with his arguments. Mark Driscoll’s books and podcast are very popular yet not many people would list his views as normative for Evangelicals. So in the cross denominational world of Evanglicals there are popular authors and preachers yet there is no official church teaching.
Whilst this may be a little off topic for this blog, I think this is very important at the moment as there is so much information spreading across the web about what Pope Francis will or won’t do. Is he a liberal or conservative, evangelical, social justice advocate, liturgically simple or just a nice guy doing his best? As ministry leaders we have a responsibility to build unity in the Body of Christ, not to continue uninformed positions. So as the ministry of Pope Francis unfolds please check your sources and try to build unity in the Body of Christ.
And I should declare that I know that I am not the source of official church teaching so I will apply the same advice to myself too. Please leave a comment.