A Social Religion by Frank Sheed

I have been finishing reading Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed.  It has been a long chore because he is taking my mind to heights I did not realize we would ascend when first we set out.

The following is a section called “A Social Religion” which I found fascinating enough to post.  Why this section and not others probably more worthy?  Not a clue.  Perhaps because my old Protestant individualist thinking still holds sway in some areas and therefore this section impacted me particularly.  Whatever the reason, it seems a good reminder to Catholics in an individualistic religious culture.

Enjoy!

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Looking at man, almost the first thing we see about him is that he is not an isolated unit independent of others, but a social being bound to others both by needs which cannot be satisfied and by powers which must remain unused save in relation to other men.  It would be strange if God, having made man social, should ignore the fact in His own personal dealings with man.  To treat man as an isolated independent unit would be as monstrous in religion as it would be in any other department of human life.  It would be to treat man as what he is not.  But the one being who would not be likely to do that is God, who made man what he is, and made him so because that is what He wanted him to be.  A religion which should consist in an individual relation of each person directly to God would be no religion for man.  A social being requires a social religion.  Within that social religion the individual will have his own religious needs and experiences, but they will be within and not external to, or a substitute for, his approach to God and God’s approach to him in union with other men.

Individualist religious theories there have always been, even among Christians.  They have never been able to carry out the full logic of their individualist theory because their nature as men stood too solidly in their way.  Something in religion that have had to get from other men.  So the Bible Christian, despising the priesthood and minimizing the Church, has yet had to fall back upon the Bible, and the Bible, although it is given to us by God, is given through men, the men who under His inspiration wrote it.  A religion wherein the soul finds and maintains a relation with God with no dependence upon men is impossible, and what makes it impossible is the nature God gave man.  The only question then is whether religion shall do its very utmost to elude the social element in man’s nature, accepting only so much as it can by no possibility avoid; or whether it shall wholly accept and glory in the social element as something given by God, something therefore to be used to the uttermost in religion as in the rest of man’s life.  In giving man the religion of the Kingdom, God showed what His own answer is.

Christ did not leave His followers free at their discretion to form their own groups if it seemed good to them or to remain isolated if it seemed good to them.  He banded them into a society, a Church.

“He gave Himself for us, to ransom us from all our guilt, a people set apart for Himself.”

What the Jews had been, the Church now is.  We remember Moses’ words:

“This is the blood of the covenant.”

But now we have Christ’s words:

“This is My blood in the new covenant.”

There is a new covenant and a new people: not just millions of redeemed individuals: a people.  The brotherhood of every Christian with Christ involves the brotherhood of all Christians with one another.  His normal way of giving them His gifts of truth and life was to be through the society: in other words, the whole Christian life was not to be a solitary relation of each soul to Christ, but of each to all in Christ, this is what the Apostles’ Creed means by the Communion of Saints.  In solidarity with other men we fell in Adam and rose again with Christ; in the same solidarity we live the new life.

God can and does give this or that man what he individually needs.  But the great needs of the soul are not peculiar to the individual, but the same for all.  There is the need for the Life which Christ came that we might have more abundantly; and the need for Knowledge—knowledge of what God is and what man is, and of the goal of life and how we are to attain it.  It is through the society that God offers men the spiritual gifts by which these needs common to all are supplied.  The relation of Christians with one another is essential in their relation with Christ.  They are related to Him not one by one, but in virtue of their membership of His Kingdom.

–Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity; chapter 21 Dispensing the Gifts, section 1

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Some Fun Re-Wording a CARM Article

So I decided to have a little fun.  Taking this piece from CARM titled “Why do Roman Catholics believe what they do”, I re-worded the article from a Catholic perspective writing about Protestants instead of vice-versa.[1]  The blocked quotes are CARM’s and the responses are my own.[2]

Enjoy!

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But, it doesn’t matter what CARM presents to them because the Catholics will continue to believe and defend whatever the Mother Church tells them…whatever the Mother Church tells them…whatever the Mother Church tells them. It is almost a mantra of emotional dedication to the “one true church” that tells them what the truth is. This is, unfortunately, the exact same phenomena I see with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they submit to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Whatever the “true church” tells them, they defend . . . because it is the true church.

It doesn’t matter what Catholics present to them because Protestants will continue to believe and defend their own personal interpretation of Scripture… their own personal interpretation of Scripture… their own personal interpretation of Scripture.  It is almost a mantra of emotional dedication to “just follow the Bible as the Holy Spirit guides.”[3]  This is, unfortunately, the exact same phenomena I see with all heretics throughout history when they proclaimed their own fallible interpretation of Scripture as the only true one and everyone else wrong.  For Protestants, especially American Evangelicals like CARM, whatever the “Holy Spirit” tells them, they defend…because the Holy Spirit told them.  That’s how they know they are not mistaken.

In the cults, members always defend whatever the Mother Church tells them. Rationalizations abound and defenses are made, but the clear meaning of scripture is lost to them no matter what true followers of Jesus (not a church) tell them. Why? I believe I know.

1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Protestants always defend whatever the whims of their own subjective interpretation tell them.  Rationalizations abound and defenses are made, but the clear meaning of Scripture is lost to them no matter what true followers of Jesus (not of their own opinions) tell them.  Why?  I believe I know.

1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Those Catholics who defend the errors of their Mother Church, in contradiction to the Word of God, do so because they are not regenerate. This is what the Scripture tells us. It is as simple as that. They do not have the mind of Christ. They do not hear his voice (John 10:27-28). Instead they are blinded.

2 Cor. 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Those Protestants who defend the errors of their own opinions, in contradiction to the Word of God, do so because they are not regenerate.  This is what the Scripture tells us.  It is as simple that.  They do not have the mind of Christ.  They do not hear His voice (John 10:27-28).  Instead they are blinded.

2 Cor. 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

As with the Catholics, it is certainly possible to appear Christian, to use Christian words and phrases, to do good deeds in the name of Christ, and to appeal to Christ as Savior and still be lost.

Matt. 7:22-23 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

With Protestants, it is certainly possible to appear Christian, to use Christian words and phrases, to do good deeds in the name of Christ, and to appeal to Christ as Savior and still be lost.

Matt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many 1miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

Notice that Jesus condemns those who appeal to their faith and works for salvation.

Notice that Jesus says those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven.

My heart aches for the Roman Catholics who think and behave like cultists, who defend whatever their Mother Church tells them to believe, who justify the error of works righteousness (CCC 2068, 2027, 2068) [sic], who have given themselves over to a Church rather than to Christ, who conduct themselves in a manner consistent with what their Mother Church tells them to do and believe.

“…no one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, hath held and doth hold,” (Trent, Session 4, “Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books”)

My heart aches for Protestants who think and behave like lawless anarchists, whose only authority is their own subjective opinions of Scripture, who justify their error of salvation by faith alone, who have given themselves over to their whims rather than to the Church established by Christ Himself, who conduct themselves according to what their fads tell them to do.

2 Peter 1:20-21 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

The abdication of the self to a church leads to bondage and damnation. But, abdication of the self to Jesus always leads to freedom and salvation.

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The refusal to abdicate the self leads to bondage and damnation.  But, abdication of the self to Jesus working through His Church always leads to freedom and salvation.

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The burden of the Catholics is to believe and follow whatever the Mother Church tells them to believe and do (CCC 862, 883, 896, 939), to merit their own grace (CCC 2010, 2027)[4], and to keep the Ten Commandments and thereby attain salvation (CCC 2068). Such burdens are heavy and unbiblical, yet the Catholics will defend whatever the Mother Church tells them to believe. They follow another besides Christ.

1 Tim. 6:3-4 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…”

The burden of Protestants is to be adrift in a sea of uncertainty.  Since they only follow subjective feelings about what they think the Bible says, they can never rest assured that they are standing on a rock.  They base their doctrines on a fallible interpretation of a few cherry-picked verses from which they interpret the entire Bible.  For every Scripture they use as a defense is another they stumble over.  They can never be unified because unity requires everyone to submit to an authority higher than themselves.  But since each is his own personal pope, there can be no unity and only endless schism.  They believe in “salvation by faith alone” contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture yet must rely on their good works to prove they are truly saved.  Such burdens are heavy and unbiblical, yet Protestants will defend whatever whims their subjective interpretation of the Scripture tells them to believe in defiance of all authority.

They follow a Christ made in their own image.

1 Tim. 6:3-4 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…”

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[1] Some things in this post I would never say as a Catholic, such as Protestants are not regenerated.  If they were baptized properly they are Christians.  I retained much of the wording of the original CARM article to show how silly this article sounds because the exact argument can be turned on the accuser. “Catholics are not real Christians” can be refuted with “Protestants are not real Christians.”  See how nothing has been determined and assumptions are the only evidence summoned forth?

Protestants like the ones at CARM probably had a true experience with Jesus.  Awesome!  Unfortunately, they began the race but seem to think the starting and finish lines are the same thing.  Whereas Catholics believe we don’t reach the finish line until death.  Hence the appearance of “salvation by works”.

[2] Note: I started about halfway down the CARM article because the first part is a silly critique about what CARM thinks Catholics probably/maybe/could/should/possibly believe.  For example, the article quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church to claim that Catholics possibly believe they will become gods.  Meanwhile, they seem to ignore the fact that when the CCC says we will become “partakers of the divine nature” it is quoting directly from 2 Peter 1:4 which says, “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

[3] CARM’s article How to Interpret the Bible begins with, “The Bible is God’s Word. But some of the interpretations derived from it are not.  There are many cults and Christian groups that use the Bible—claiming their interpretations are correct.  Too often, however, the interpretations not only differ dramatically but are clearly contradictory.  This does not mean that the Bible is a confusing document. Rather, the problem lies in those who interpret and the methods they use.  We need, as best as can be had, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting God’s Word.”  https://carm.org/how-interpret-bible

[4] Notice these references begin with “no one can merit the initial grace.” So CARM is misrepresenting and simplifying Catholic doctrine and then “refuting” a caricature.