I agree with you that many fundamentalists, evangelicals, and others have deep misunderstandings about the Catholic faith. You seem to have a very open mind. One of the problems most people have is that when they argue against Catholicism, they don’t fight actual Church teachings but a straw man of their own making. This has been a very good conversation indeed. You wrote:
“John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist Societies in Britain that eventually became what is known as the Methodist Church long since rejected the Calvinist system as beong opposed to the grace of the Lord. He wasn’t shy of talking about sin, and recieved much of his unabashed preaching concerning sin and the necessity of grace from his father Samuel Wesley, who was an Anglican minister at the rectory in Epworth. John aslo recieved from his father a message to remember the indwelling Spirit as evidence of the Christian faith.”
As a Methodist I did some light studying of John Wesley. In many ways he revived more Catholic aspects of the faith. Another thing in the Calvinist system that he abandoned was absolute predestination. In the Calvinist system, God becomes almost like an insidious demon who damns or saves people arbitrarily. There is no real justice in this system, nor true grace. It makes a parody of God’s saving acts. John Wesley seems to have understood this well. He actually restored to a degree, the traditional Catholic understanding of man’s free will and cooperation in his own salvation. Many Calvinist leaning Protestants mistake this for an overglorification of human nature. This is not at all the case in Catholic teaching. Our anthropology comes straight from Romans and elsewhere. We understand unredeemed humanity to be totally helpless and doomed to destruction. However, we have a much higher view of God’s ability to transform the sinner into a saint. This is of course, accomplished entirely through grace. You are also correct in mentioning his ‘unabashed preaching concerning sin’. Some Protestants have a false notion that the Church is somehow soft on sin. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Rejecting the Calvinist system gives us a better understanding of sin and exactly what it does to human nature. The theology of total depravity actually excuses sin by making it seems as though people have no choice but to sin, they can’t help it. The Catholic understanding, largely recaptured by Wesley, says that human nature is wounded but that man can, and must, overcome sin (wholly through God’s grace) if he is to be saved.
“Traditional Methodism can be considered somewhat like ‘Catholic’, or ‘Anglican light’, in that our principles are similar to both churches and we hold most sacraments as sacred. However, some of the sacraments, like marriage, are not held as a sacrament and others, like the eucharist/thanksgiving, are ‘spiritualized’.”
This is very true, and goes to what I was saying before. I do not understand, and never have, why Protestants reject marriage as a sacrament. Any thoughts?
“This is problematic to me because as Paul had stated in I Corinthians 4: 6 that the reason for ‘nothing beyond what is written’ was meant to deal with those in the church of Corinth that did ‘spiritualize’ the scriptures. And the purpose for what was said was meant so that no one should be puffed up or above one or the other.”
Saint Paul speaks often about the Gnostic tendencies of some in the early Church. He sought to correct their ideas about special knowledge (gnosis) that people could obtain in a purely spiritual realm. Gnostics also believed that matter was evil, while the spirit was good. I think Calvinism falls into this dualism between matter and spirit, whereas Catholicism understands matter to have a potential for holiness because of the incarnation.
“Yet, many Protestants even today still flaunt ‘sola scriptura’ as if this was to be what makes them better than the Catholic faith. However, if it is true that within Catholicism that scripture and tradition are to cooperate with each other, then Catholics also believe in ‘sola scriptura’, or at least interpret ‘nothing beyond what is written’ in some way or another.”
I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this. Tradition certainly works with Scripture in the sense that they are both part of the Catholic and Apostolic deposit of Faith. We do not go beyond what is written in the sense that we do not seek secret knowledge like the Gnostics do. As an interesting side note, some Catholics have fallen into a similar trap, known as ‘Fatimism’. This is defined as “An erroneous belief, or vice of excess, which arose in the 20th century and finds a new basis of faith in private revelations, latter-day prophecies, visions, and “signs and wonders.” The term does not refer to balanced private devotion, but is a catch-all term for extremist, off-balance, devotions of all kinds, such as those that would elevate Fatima to the level of a dogma or subordinate Catholic and Apostolic teaching to Fatima or make a virtual “goddess” out of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This error is closely associated with the heresy of Charismaticism. Our Lord Himself, popes, and the Saints, such as St. John of the Cross, perhaps the Church’s greatest mystic, warned against these excesses.”
In another sense, Catholics do go beyond what is written in the New Testament though. Scripture is not materially sufficient to teach all Catholic doctrines, but it does at least contain a seed or paradigm from which they spring. The best example of this is in Mariology. Scripture gives us only glimpses of who Mary was. Apostolic Tradition is what gives us the fulness of Mariology. The same is also true of Christology. The Gospels and epistles give us a lot of information about Christ, but actual Christological teaching had to be defined by the seven Ecumenical Councils, using the Deposit of Faith given by the Apostles. Scripture does not tell us definitively that Christ is full God and full Man. Neither does it speak of a hypostatic union. The Bible never mentions the Trinity, only giving clues about a Trinitarian God. You can not be sure, from scripture alone, that God is three persons in one indivisible unity consubstantial to each other with Christ begotten by the Father and the Spirit proceeding from both the Father and the Son. Scripture speaks of three persons in varying degrees, but it simply is not sufficient for defining the whole of Christian truth. This is why heresies like Arianism and Nestorianism arose, and only through the unity of Church teaching were they eventually quelled. This is the same reason Protestantism exists in a perpetual state of Ecclesial anarchy. As a Protestant, I used to be frustrated when I read about the Reformation. I wished that everyone would’ve stayed behind Luther and that Protestantism would be united. Now I understand why this didn’t happen. When you throw off the yoke of infallible Church teaching, there can be no unity, no order, only chaos and libertarianism. You need only examine the various Protestant sects and you will see how the heresies of old have been given new life. Most Protestants have Nestorian tendencies because they deny that Mary is the mother of God. Arianism has been renewed by Unitarians and by some Pentecostals. Many liberal denominations are indifferentist or Pelagian. After the social gospel movement, many viewed Christianity in a humanist light, causing innumerable doctrines to be cast aside. Star Wars has brought back Manichaeanism. Finally, take a look at the moral order which is being quickly destroyed by some denominations. Episcopalians have virtually apostasized by ordaining a gay bishop, how many other churches will follow? Ironically enough, it has been conservatives and Fundamentalists, those farthest from the Church in many doctrinal respects, who have most tenaciously held to Catholic moral teaching. I apologize if it seems I am preaching.
“This has been a good conversation. There are many on here who make Catholics out to be like ‘Pharisees’ as well as forums and articles that make this faith out to be some kind of legalistic, Mary/goddess worshipping cult. But the experience I have had with you and other Catholics on here is far from this diabolical steriotype. In fact, I have had better theological and intellectual discussions with those that have had at least a catholic background than with the more fundamentalist who often just resort to a few scriptures that they parade as slogans in a protest march.”
That is a pretty good analogy. I look forward to many more insightful conversations.