A Christian Error

The primary message of Jesus Christ is that of human inadequacy. We are not sufficient in and of ourselves and we need God’s help to love and to be good people.  As demonstrated by the rejection of the gospel message, human beings passionately hate this message. I believe that the intensity of this hatred comes from our process of growth and development.

We start off as helpless toddlers who cannot wait to do things on our own without assistance.   We become children who resent being restrained and denied at every turn.  We later become teenagers who chafe under the direction and restrictions of our parents. The message of Christ flies in the face of the fierce sense of independence that we develop while growing up and we ridicule those who speak this truth too boldly. “If you are so weak that you need help, that is fine for you. Those of us who are mature adults don’t need that crutch. We are just fine on our own.”

Of course, the brunt of the abuse falls on the Lord Jesus Christ himself and people often try to tear him down and deny the truth of our need for his constant grace and forgiveness. Atheists take the obvious route and pull Jesus down by saying there was nothing special about him.  They deny the uniqueness of his sacrifice, his teaching and his person. “Jesus was nothing special.” they say, “If he even existed, then he was a regular man who said the same things that other people have said.”  When Christians tear Jesus down, they take a much different approach.

There are two basic ways to attack an idea or a person. The first way is to attack the idea or person directly. “That idea is silly and stupid and wrong.” The second way is to attack the person or idea indirectly. If an atheist were to attack Jesus Christ using the indirect approach, he would say something like, “Gandhi was just as great a teacher and human being as Jesus Christ.” Notice that the assailant has not attacked the Christ directly. Such a statement is, nevertheless, an attack on Christ. If Jesus were only as good a man as Gandhi, then Christianity is false and Jesus was a liar. When Christians perform such an attack, they usually use a figure from the Bible.

Most Protestants are aware of Catholic abuses in this regard. “Those Catholics believe that Mary was good and loving and divine like Jesus Christ.”, they argue with disgust. “How could you be a Christian and commit blasphemy by comparing a mere woman to the only begotten Son of God? Did not Jesus say, ‘Know ye not that God alone is good?’ It is like Catholics don’t know the Bible at all.'”

When I hear strident condemnation from Protestants, however, it is deeply saddening. Such people speak as though they don’t know that for a thousand years there were no Protestant denominations and that the Catholic church was the face of Christianity in the West.  They speak as though they don’t know that Martin Luther was an anti-semite whose hateful teachings about the Jews planted some of the seeds that grew into the Holocaust. They speak as if they don’t realize that Protestant errors are almost as bad as Catholic errors!  It hurts so much that the only way to cope is to laugh.

While Catholics make the error of elevating Mary and the New Testament saints to the level of Christ and teaching people to worship them, few Protestants realize that Protestant errors are almost as egregious.  While Protestants do not advocate the worship of the Old Testament prophets, they do teach the Old Testament as though the prophets of Israel were righteous, holy and perfectly obedient like Jesus Christ.  This despite the fact that the Bible is clear on the subject:

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (Matthew 11:11)

For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.  (Matthew 13:17)

Protestants also teach that Adam was good in the Garden of Eden when the Bible clearly teaches that this is not true.  Adam was a created being and he was not good like Jesus Christ in the Garden of Eden.  If he had been, then he never would have eaten of the tree of the fruit of knowledge.

No one is good except God alone.  (Mark 10:18)

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.  (Romans 1:25)

Every time a Protestant says that Adam was good in the Garden of Eden or teaches the Old Testament as though Moses and the other prophets were not vicious and brutal bronze age barbarians, they pull Jesus Christ down by elevating human beings to his level.  With his groundbreaking teaching and awesome sacrifice, Jesus demonstrated a unique love that marks him as entirely separate (holy) from sinful humanity.  If I had to choose between Protestant and Catholic errors, I would reluctantly choose the Protestant errors.  At least Protestants recognize that the explicit worship of human beings is wrong.  But why have any error at all?  Why not recognize the unique worth and supremacy of Jesus Christ?

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
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4 Responses to A Christian Error

  1. I appreciate your words a lot, in defense of Catholicism. But I wanted to point out that you too are repeating a falsehood about the Catholic Church: that Catholics “elevat[e] Mary and the New Testament saints to the level of Christ and teach people to worship them.” No, we don’t. We honor Mary and the saints as our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone on before us. We ask them to intercede for us, just as we ask any one of our brothers and sisters on this earth to intercede for us. Nowhere in this is a single note of “worship,” which is reserved for Christ alone, Who is God.

    • Joseph,

      On the one hand, I appreciate the distinction that you are making. Everyone agrees that it is fine to ask a living saint to intercede for someone, “Hey Dave, I need some prayer”. This does provide some Biblical cover for the practice because Hebrews tells us that we have “a great cloud of witnesses” and presumably these witnesses are capable of prayer on our behalf. On the other hand, I consider prayer to be an act of worship and I consider it inappropriate to worship any but a member of the Trinity. Is asking a dead saint to intercede for you “prayer”? One of my good childhood friends was Catholic and I watched him kneel before a statue of Mary with hands clasped in front of him. I have to say that this act looked like prayer and I believe that his actions were in accordance with Catholic teaching. Overall, I am afraid that I would have to go with the Protestants on this one even if I believe that the error does not rise to being a salvation issue.

      • Robert,

        Why do you consider prayer an “act of worship”? The word “pray” means, in the older sense, simply to ask or petition. Why would asking for the intercession of our brothers and sisters in the Lord be worship?

        Your objections are very common. I’ve actually already written a piece specifically toward them. If you believe in Christ and in His Resurrection, then surely you believe that the saints are not “dead,” but are more alive in Him than they ever have been. Is our God not “the God of the living, not the dead” (Matthew 22:32 et al.)? The Letter to the Hebrews presents not just “a great cloud of witnesses,” but “the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and … the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). These men and women are part of the Body of Christ, and they do not cease to be part of the Body of Christ upon departing this earthly life. Any “prayer” goes straight to God — and these people have been united with God in heaven.

        Regardless of how it “looks,” kneeling is a gesture of respect and yes, prayer — not worship. Ask any Catholic if he “worships” the saints, and he will give you a resounding “no.” What to you makes this “worship”? The kneeling? The communication? I think both these understandings are misplaced. If you mean to “go with the Protestants,” then you should be aware that both Lutherans and Anglicans likewise honor the saints.

        I do not mean to be unpleasant or argue with you; I do admire your irenic attitude. God bless you and His peace be with you!

  2. Pingback: The Sin of Adam, Augustine and the Modern Church | A Thoughtful Christian

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