Tuesday, October 07, 2008

On the Sincerity and Good Faith (and Profound Ignorance) of Anti-Catholics

From exchanges on the CHNI board:

Just recently I began to investigate the beliefs/teachings of John MacArthur. Make no bones about it, this anti-Catholic is one of the most listened to, influential Evangelical Christians out there today. . . . I would say that of those who have a great visibility within "Christendom" today, John MacArthur would definitely be at the top of the list of anti-Catholics.

MacArthur is a good man with a good heart and good intentions. He does a lot of helpful and interesting expository preaching. I once went to hear him speak when I was a Protestant. He is an anti-Catholic, though, as you note. You might be interested in a direct reply to him that I made: Sola Scriptura: An Unbiblical Tradition: Refutation of Dr. John MacArthur and Richard Bennett.

Dave, how can you speak so favorably about a man who attacks your Catholic faith?

Because I was acknowledging the good things he does. We all have good and evil in us. It's a mixed bag. Just because someone is wrong in one area doesn't make them a completely despicable human being. That in itself is a sort of extreme Calvinist view that Catholics do not hold to.

He doesn't even consider Catholics to be Christians. He openly seeks to evangelize Catholics and pull them away from their faith. How can you call these "good intentions?"

Generally, anti-Catholics are so ignorant that they know not what they do. MacArthur, like others of this mindset, truly believes that Catholics are in immediate, grave danger of hellfire, so he is trying to prevent that, which is a good motive, though erroneous and based on false premises. I don't believe for a second that most of these guys actually know that Catholicism is true and fight against it, anyway. Very few people do that. They believe a thing is false, and so oppose it.

I've always said that anti-Catholicism has far less to do with motives and character than it has to do with lousy thinking and being grossly uninformed. It does our cause no good to start calling names and trashing motives, anymore than it does their cause good to do that to us.

As one who has been lied about times without number (almost daily somewhere on the Internet), I know of what I speak, believe me!

I concur, John may be an okay guy, provided you agree with him! As far as he's concerned, all Catholics are in a religious system that seeks to damn people's souls, it is in his estimation a Satanic religion. . . . With men like John MacArthur, James White....don't you think it's a willful ignorance, a willful blindness? These men have been around the faith a long time, they have a knowledge of Church history, yet they continue to spew out venomous rhetoric about the Church.

I don't, because I think prejudice and human stubbornness have extraordinary power over our wills. The prejudice in this case keeps these men from seeing that what they are defending and fighting against is dead wrong. I'm firmly convinced, from long experience, that they fight for the wrong thing precisely because they think it is the right thing.

In so doing, they do a lot of unethical things, and spew falsehoods by the bucket loads and so forth, but I don't think that proves that they don't believe what they believe in and disbelieve in our position. They're simply fallen human beings that get upset about things they disagree with, and quickly become uncharitable to those who hold them.

That said, they will still be accountable for their actions under God. They may get somewhat of a pass for ignorance, but they will have to give account for spreading falsehood, when they should have known better. Granted, it's a fine line.

The same things are said about me: "how could he not know that Protestantism is true; he used to be one?" One prominent anti-Catholic claimed I was utterly ignorant about Protestantism. Then I produced all the books I had read in those days. He promptly asserted that I must be deliberately deceptive. In his mind there was no other alternative. I had to be dismissed as evil and wicked because I had an honest disagreement with him.

Of course I am not. The truth is that I had a sincere, honest change of mind after a great deal of study and thought. Likewise, anti-Catholics sincerely believe in their point of view, just as I do mine. Since I don't care much at all for being lied about and having my supposed motivations dragged through the mud, I refuse to do it to others. It really comes down to the Golden Rule. We can't read hearts. That's God's job. We can certainly passionately argue in favor of our positions, though: ones that we firmly believe in faith (backed with plenty of reason) are true, and so, therefore, can aid others in this life and in the one to come.

I can't speak for John MacArthur or James White, but there are a couple of diametrically opposed presuppositions that make Catholic-Protestant dialogue difficult for the Protestant.

Protestants assume that if you are in the right you will anger people. Jesus angered people and He and the apostles were executed for telling the truth. Many Protestants honestly do not know where the line between "telling the truth" and willfully being provocative and offensive and enjoying the conflict lies. They would see any show of deference for "God's enemies" as cowardice. And when they make someone mad they believe it is because that person knows they're wrong and are fighting harder because they are coming closer to surrendering to God.

Also, Catholicism assumes that God made the universe, including human logic, to function properly. If a Moslem is mistaken about Jesus' divinity according to the Church, a Catholic will think at least we can agree that Jesus spoke for God, that will make a bridge of communication that will leave the door open for ongoing dialogue, whereas a Protestant with think seeking any agreement is delaying the Moslem seeing he is wrong and turning to Christ. Protestants often say "The devil appears as an angel of light." If a Catholic sounds right about something like abortion or some teaching of the church is presented in a logical, biblically grounded way, the Protestant will think he is being deceived. "It sounds good," she will say to herself, "but Satan quoted scripture to Jesus."

This antagonistic, suspicious, paranoid view of the world and the accompanying belief that to abandon it or even temper it is a betrayal of Christ is what makes people like MacArthur so aggressive. Imagine if you thought that in order to honor God you had to find what was wrong with the faith of each person you met. Imagine thinking that kinship and understanding you feel when someone you once considered your enemy finds something wonderful in common with you is a poison deception of the Devil. Imagine seeing crucifixes at various schools and hospitals around town and footage of JPII kissing mother Teresa's head and hearing there are ONE BILLION Catholics and thinking they are all Satanists. Imagine passing a priest in the hospital and getting a mental picture of him violating a child. Did he just come from molesting someone? It is a horrible way to live. Not only do anti-Catholics live in such a world, they want to save us from it. That is honorable. Mostly in their heads, but their intent is good.

Add to this that Catholics don't want to "save" them. If we had the truth wouldn't we want to save people? And no one knows who is going to Heaven?!? If Jesus had saved your soul you would know, wouldn't you? How could you not know that? Many Christians judge the state of one's soul by certain phrases. A demonic person can look like a Christian but the devil won't allow them to say "Jesus is my Lord." So if an anti-Catholic asks a Catholic "Is Jesus your Lord?" and the poor Catholic, thinking he doesn't own Jesus says "Jesus is everyone's Lord" there is more proof.

One of the testimonies in the Surprised by Truth books that lead me to this forum was the testimony of a woman who suffered terrible persecution at the hands of her family when she joined the church, especially from her brother-James White. Still God gives him a chance, an in with someone he already knows and loves, who knows everything he teaches and still chose the Church, and all he can see is Satan striking closest to his heart in retribution for his "ministry". These folks need our prayers. In view of such a mindset of seeing Satan everywhere but in them it is God's grace they are not all survivalists and that they are trying to help people who privately scare them so badly. That their intentions are good is perhaps the saddest thing of all.

I think all of this is profoundly true. Thanks for these observations! I would say that they also often apply as accurate descriptions of the rhetoric and behavior of so-called Catholic "traditionalists": who frequently mirror in their thought and attitudes, anti-Catholic Protestant fundamentalists. Indeed, many of them came from that group and brought their unsavory behavior and inadequate and insufficiently Catholic mindset with them into the Church.

No comments: