A Message To Roman Catholics (Jesus Christ: Our Last and Only Hope)December 2, 2007
I heard it once asked “Is fear the heart of love?” I would respond to that question by saying “not one bit”. Love itself is the heart of love. Fear, in the sense of being virtuous, is the heart of living rightly without dire consequences. Proverbs 1:7 says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. Does this mean fearing the Lord will help you with your geometry homework? Is this the kind of knowledge that is being referred to? Not quite. Context, context, context. But while we’re on the topic of homework, it is worth mentioning that we DO in fact fear getting bad grades. This type of fear is healthy and pushes us to strive harder for that which is good.
So what kind of knowledge does the fear of the Lord produce? Is it a healthy understanding of how to live? The first few chapters in Proverbs explains that if you don’t live like you fear the Lord you live like the Lord ought to fear you! Now which of these two ways of thinking is in line with making right decisions? The answer is clear. In addition, the rest of Proverbs 1:7 says “fools despise wisdom and discipline”. We are not to be fools, thus careless of what God desires, but fear God so as to make wise choices. So fearing the Lord is advantageous in the sense of living rightly, but not gaining salvation.
Now, the band ‘Death Cab for Cutie’ in their song ‘I will follow you into the dark’ states that they left Catholic school because a Nun informed them that “fear is the heart of love”. The lyrics specifically say “Catholic school, as vicious as Roman rule, I got my knuckles bruised, by a lady in black, I held my tongue, as she told me son, fear is the heart of love, so I never went back”.
This notion however is precisely the heart of the Catholic Church’s teaching! Fear is the heart of love. More specifically, we could say “fear is the heart of eventually being loved by God Himself.” We are at odds with God and until we attain perfection in the afterlife through Purgatory, we are to remain distant from God; maybe even scared of Him. So in the Catholic view, until we are as perfect as God is, fear is advantageous for grace, salvation, and eternity along side God.
But where do these notions ultimately stem from? To sum it up, The Savior Jesus Christ. I don’t mean these notions derive from Jesus Christ Himself but rather because of how He is perceived by us. Namely, how He is perceived by us as a Savior. The only clarifying question one needs to ask is, “Is Jesus Christ a perfect Savior on my behalf or is He not?” In other words, do you perceive Him as a perfect Savior, meaning you may add nothing to His perfect work of making you right with Himself? On the other hand, is Christ an imperfect Savior by which you are not fully accepted by Him yet. This would mean He is still irritated with you, even as you try very hard to be right with Him.
Here is the next important thing to ask: “Does Jesus Christ view Himself as a perfect Savior or not?!” If we can answer this question then we ought to begin to know if Christ fully accepts believers while still imperfect or if He remains irritated and annoyed with them. Does Jesus Christ remain unapproachable due to the fact that we just can’t seem to get our lives in order? Psalm 103:14 says “he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust”. If Christ is a perfect Savior then none of this would surprise Him and He would give us all the grace we so desperately need in spite of us. So again, if Jesus Christ is a perfect Savior in His own mind, and we refuse to see Him as such, we insult who He has declared Himself to be. If this is the case, we are guilty of assuming things about Christ and His love towards us in ways that were never meant to be.
If the idea of Christ as a perfect Savior is foreign to our thinking, while not foreign to His own thinking, we need to adjust our false misconceptions of Christ and re-approach Him as He truly is. We must find out if we can approach Him without hesitation or fear. We must discover if His love is perfect towards us or not. We must see if He is our hearts desire today and not in the distant future if things go well for us. We must pray that Christ would reveal who He really is to us in His very own words such as in Scripture.
If you’re a Catholic reading this and think “but I need the Magisterium (the teaching faction of the Catholic Church) to interpret the Scripture for me”. I would ask you three basic things then: “If you can’t understand God’s Scripture, what makes you so sure that you can understand the Magisterium’s interpretation of it any better?” In other words, how can you infallibly interpret the ‘Infallible Interpreter’, the Catholic Church? You are deemed as a very fallible interpreter by the Catholic Church. But they want to have their cake and eat it too and say you are not when it comes to interpreting their interpretation. They supposedly interpret Scripture, but who will interpret their interpretation of Scripture rightly?
Secondly, “How did a Jew living 100 years B.C. consult the Catholic Church’s interpretive authority in order to understand Scripture?”
Lastly, “Is Christ so incompetent that He cannot communicate His message of salvation clearly to you in His own words, thus reveal the degree of love He really has for you as a hopeless sinner?” After all, God is eternal and all-knowing, while all humans prove themselves to be finite, sinful, and ignorant because we’re all born into sin and we all die (Rom 5). Thus, God has more qualifications to communicate clearly then most Catholics grant Him. Of course the killer argument against this notion is that non-Catholics lack a clear interpretation because there are so many Christian denominations. Yet, Catholics prove how they are divided as they have differing approaches to how Scripture and tradition come together (partim-partim view or material sufficiency view). In addition, compare a North American Catholic’s beliefs with that of a Catholic in Italy or Spain. You will find disagreements both great and small. The most serious problem for doctrine, however, isn’t disagreement, but inconsistency. The more we study Scripture, the more unifed, or “catholic” (catholic means universal) our faith will become and thus, there will be more agreement among Christians.
Moving along, remember fear is NOT the heart of winning God’s love for you… but God’s love for you is the heart of Him loving you. God’s love has no strings attached. It is handed out, not because of you, but in spite of you, thus making it the greatest love the world has ever known. God’s forgiveness to you comes with a great cost. It is the cost of all your lawlessness being crushed in Christ.
1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Mary tends to receive far too much credit for being the one who is loving in the Catholic Church. But did Mary lay her life down for you? Jesus Christ, who is God, laid His life down for you. It cost Him everything and He did not do it out of reluctance but love. No acts of love compare to that of Jesus Christ’s, especially Mary’s. Jesus Christ is the one who knew what it was like to be cold, naked, bruised, abandoned, lonely, hated, rejected, and tormented. Christ can relate to you more then you may be willing to realize, for He is our High Priest. Jesus Christ boar God’s infinite wrath for believers and you can take rest that He did so perfectly because He rose from the grave (Rom 4:25). If Jesus Christ did not perfectly pay the price for sin then He could not have risen from the grave because He would still be under the curse of their unpaid sin (Rom 6:4-10; 1 Cor 15:17).
Perhaps you view Christ as your Savior. Perhaps you have for a long time. But how do you view Jesus Christ as a perfect Savior today? Is He merely your initial hope of salvation, thus making you your final hope of salvation because you build towards God’s holy and infinite demands of you? Or is Jesus Christ your last hope of salvation because you have nothing to contribute to God’s holy and infinite demands of you? As John Wesley said, “you are not a good person in trouble with a bad God, you’re a bad person in trouble with a good God.” Do you feel the weight of your infinite debt to Christ because of your lawlessness for being hateful, jealous, lustful, deceitful, worshipful of other things, and worst of all prideful (Ex 20, James 2:10, Gal 3:10)? Is Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection most precious to you because it saves you from Christ’s deserved wrath to you (2 Tim 4:1, Rom 2:5)? Or are your own contributions just as useful to you in avoiding what you so greatly deserve, thus making you cling to both the cross and yourself?
If Jesus Christ is your last hope of salvation, and therefore your only hope, then your efforts to save you are as convenient as a baby grabbing a hammer to build a house. If Jesus Christ is a perfect Savior, are you willing to cherish Him as such beyond all else? Including beliefs and traditions which challenge this notion? If Jesus Christ is your only hope of salvation, then let no amount of fear bring you even a millimeter closer to Him. The deciding factor of God accepting you is not you… it is God’s own perfect love in spite of you! That is the heart of God’s love. (Rom 4:2-3, Eph 2:8 )