The Protestant’s dilemma?
When someone tells you you’re in a dilemma, and that’s news to you, you get a little curious. So when I heard about a book called The Protestant’s Dilemma I thought…okay, I’ll bite. What’s my dilemma? So I bought it. And I didn’t buy it.
The author is a converted Roman Catholic lay apologist who attempts to show “how the major tenets of Protestantism – if honestly pursued to their furthest extent – wind up in dead ends.” Most of what he feels lead to dead ends I’ve already addressed in my month-long series on the Catholic Church which I began here. There were no fresh revelations that constituted any sort of dilemma for me. But he begins and ends with perhaps the Church’s most distinctive doctrine and the reason why I don’t hesitate to call attention to her and why I want to call attention to her now: her claim to authority over all Christendom. It’s pretty much her solution to all the dilemmas she finds herself in when Catholic teachings and practices appear to run contrary to Scripture: The Catholic Church alone has the authority to correctly interpret it, as the only true church founded by Jesus.
I have many dear family members and friends who are Catholic and live good, faithful lives in service to God. I believe I can applaud and affirm them without affirming the institution that claims them as members, which, by the way, still claims me as a member also because I was baptized Catholic. The Church’s claim of primacy is one with far-reaching ramifications for all Christians, so rightly deserves examination. And the Church herself then is fairly targeted for scrutiny.
The ramifications for me personally are little more than the occasional welling up of indignation at her insistence that my faith is faulty and second-rate, and the concern for my Catholic family and friends who I sincerely believe are being sincerely deceived. But if what she claims were true it would mean that I and many others, Catholic and non-, are destined for hell. And if they are false, as I believe they are, many are unnecessarily suffering fear and anxiety over their eternal fate instead of resting in the assurance that they are already saved and secure. The Catholic Church is also hindering unity within the Body of Christ with her works-righteousness salvation doctrine that is opposed to the salvation by faith alone doctrine of non-Catholic Christians, and her assertion that salvation is through her alone.
So is the Roman Catholic Church Christ’s visible authority on earth? An answer in the affirmative is crucial to whether or not the rest of her claims go through, so I want to examine the question as fully as I can, which will take a few posts. Today I just want to implore any Catholic reading this to be as diligent in spiritual matters as you would be in earthly matters. If you got a letter or phone call purportedly from the IRS or other government authority, you’d want to see some credentials before complying with their demands. Doesn’t it make sense to investigate the Church’s credentials? Is it enough that that’s how you were raised and you’re comfortable just being told what to do and believe? Or if you have investigated them, are you convinced enough to stake your eternal destiny on the Church’s interpretation of evidence that millions of other Christ-followers have understood differently?
If the Catholic Church truly is the visible manifestation of the Body of Christ and the sole arbiter of his truth, then you absolutely should submit to her. But that’s a huge “if” and one of infinite importance. Should we not be thoroughly convinced of it before surrendering our souls?
Here’s another “if”: If you are not thoroughly convinced, you owe it to yourself to do some more investigating. I hope you’ll return to read and consider my arguments for why the Catholic Church is in error in proclaiming herself the one, true church.