Religious Rules

The following is a guest post from “CK.”  Although it was completed several weeks ago it comes at an opportune time considering a recent Mark Driscoll sermon titled, “Jesus and Religion.”  In this sermon, Mark Driscoll stated, “And here’s the problem: Religious people make rules for God.”  Is this true?  Are the rules of the Catholic Church just a bunch of people trying to tell God what to do?  CK gives us a take that is truly Catholic.

Catholics have a lot of rules. They should go to Mass on Sunday, fast on days of abstinence like Ash Wednesday, and genuflect (kneel reverently) in front the Eucharist when they enter a Catholic church, just to name a few.

For many Catholics, and to their sometimes even more confused Protestant brethren, these rules can seem without purpose, just another part of a confusing web of doctrines and traditions that only serve to complicate matters when our objective should be simple:  a deeper relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ.

But nothing could be further from the truth. In the Catholic faith, the rules we follow are always ordered toward a greater good, namely union with God himself.

It was the scholarly St. Thomas Aquinas who molded the philosophical system of the pagan philosopher Aristotle into a Christian framework, and in doing so gave Catholics their philosophical basis for understanding how rules connect to our greater purposes. For Aquinas, all agents act for an end or final cause, but in order to reach their final end an agent had to take a number of intermediate steps to get there. Since our final cause is God, we are guided along our path by various moral rules and theological precepts which help us to our final end. In this way, the rules of the Catholic faith help us experience the very life of God.

Catholics should go to Mass on Sunday because God himself is present there, and Jesus instituted the Mass to replace the Jewish Sabbath. Catholics should fast on Ash Wednesdays, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who fasted in the desert for 40 days to prepare himself to share his message with the world. Catholics should genuflect when they enter a Catholic church because they are acknowledging the real presence of God Himself in the Eucharist stored in the tabernacle behind the altar.

We Catholics have to know our faith if we want to live our faith, so that we’re aware of the greater purposes of what we’re doing. If we put in effort to know our faith, which the rules serve, we will surely be rewarded with a deepened faith and knowledge of God.


Applause for Mars Hill

In a previous post I stated that Mars Hill and the Catholic Church are allies in many of today’s greatest cultural battles.  One battle I failed to mention is the issue of Human Trafficking in Seattle.

Mars Hill Church’s downtown campus is aware of the problem of Human Trafficking in Seattle and is doing something about it through a ministry called REST. The downtown campus will be sponsoring a Town Hall event on Tuesday, the 19th to discuss this ministry.  Although I won’t be able to attend, I will certainly be praying that Mars Hill and all men and women of good will can do something about this scourge on our city.

May God put an end to this dehumanizing practice!

Update: More from the Mars Hill Blog: Trapped and Trafficked.

Disclaimer: Although this is noble, I question the strategy mentioned in the video of actually entering a strip club to build relationships with these women, especially for men.  The consequence of a theology of eternal security is that many well meaning Christians can place themselves into situations of temptation thinking they are immune to temptation when in fact they aren’t.  If anyone attends this event they might want to raise this as an area of concern.

Catholicism: We’re All About the Trinity

The Catholic Church does not believe that God must reveal himself in order for us to know that he exists. The reason for this is that God’s existence can be determined from philosophy. This is evidenced by the fact that many people throughout history have determined that God exists even though they did not have any form of revelation to draw from. Aristotle was one of these People. Using philosophy (and a little bit of science) Aristotle concluded that there must be one God, an “unmoved mover,” who is responsible for all subsequent causes in the universe.

But there are many things concerning this God that philosophy cannot teach us. For these things, the Church needs God to communicate His self to us. The Church needs revelation.

The most important doctrine that God has revealed to the Church is the doctrine of the Trinity. In its simplest terms, this doctrine states that the One God of the Universe is a communion of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, God is a family. In this family, there is a Lover (the Father), one who is Loved (the Son), and the Love between them which is so real that it is actually a distinct and eternal person (The Holy Spirit).

The doctrine of the Trinity has always been the central doctrine of the Catholic Church. Whenever Catholics gather for prayer we begin by signing ourselves “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The Catholic Church has always followed the command of Jesus to baptize in a Trinitarian form. Our most ancient members including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Origen all believed in the Trinity. Whenever a person of influence has questioned the doctrine, such as an early fourth century priest named Arius did, the Popes and Bishops in union with him have always held their ground. In fact, these Bishops were the first to use the word “Trinity” to describe the doctrine of three persons in one God.

The Catholic Church is all about the Trinity. The Catholic Church received this doctrine as a gift from God and the Catholic Church assists Christians everywhere in understanding this doctrine right up to this very day. We believe it, we profess it, and we coined the term.

Further Reading:

St. Ignatius of Antioch Links

Last week Mark Driscoll posted a good article on what the Church is on the Mars Hill blog.  I think Mark Driscoll did a good job summarizing the Church in this article, and as a Catholic I don’t have any serious disagreements with what he has written.  In fact, I believe the Catholic Church is the best example of what Mark Driscoll says the Church is.  For more on what the Catholic Church teaches about “The Church,” I recommend the applicable passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I also recommend one of the heroes of the early Church, St. Ignatius of Antioch.  Fortunately, there are a couple of recently published articles one might find interesting.

Wherefore I write boldly to your love, which is worthy of God, and exhort you to have but one faith, and one [kind of] preaching, and one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ; and His blood which was shed for us is one; one loaf also is broken to all [the communicants], and one cup is distributed among them all: there is but one altar for the whole Church, and one bishop, with the presbytery and deacons, my fellow-servants. Since, also, there is but one unbegotten Being, God, even the Father; and one only-begotten Son, God, the Word and man; and one Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and also one preaching, and one faith, and one baptism; and one Church which the holy apostles established from one end of the earth to the other by the blood of Christ, and by their own sweat and toil; it behooves you also, therefore, as “a peculiar people, and a holy nation,” to perform all things with harmony in Christ.

Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Philadelphians 4,1

Catholicism: What We Are Really About

Most protestants learn what Catholicism is about from their protestant pastor.  Mark Driscoll teaches the folks at Mars Hill what Catholicism is about all the time.  He says that Catholicism is about following goofy rules, making stuff up about Mary, having sex only to make babies, and following non biblical traditions.  At least, that is what he thinks we are all about. Over the last couple of months we’ve been serving the people at Mars Hill Church by demonstrating that some of the things he thinks we are about are not actually what we are about.  However, in the process of explaining what we are not about, we have ignored explaining what we are about.

So for the next series of posts, that is what we are going to talk about.  We’re going to talk about what Catholicism is really about so that everyone who visits this blog, whether they are Catholic, atheist, or Lutheran, or Mars Hillian, or whatever will not be confused.  As a Catholic I personally have no problem at all if a person says they disagree with something I believe.  If somebody from Mars Hill disagrees with me about the perpetual virginity of Mary, that’s ok with me.  What I do have a problem with is when a person says they disagree with me about something I don’t actually believe.  These are called Straw Man arguments because they attack a position that Catholics do not actually hold.  Not only are they illogical and untrue, but they can be offensive if they are continually perpetuated.

It is my prayer that whoever stumbles upon these posts will not only find them interesting, but will learn from them as well.


Sermon Review: Memorized Prayers

September 26th, 2010: The Lords Prayer

I have no idea whether or not Mark Driscoll has ever read anything I have written here.  My guess would be that he has read very little of our content, if any at all.  Still, Mark Driscoll is getting what DriscollWatch is trying to do as evidenced by this statement in his most recent sermon:

And let me say this, I’m really sympathetic, because I didn’t know how to pray. I was raised a marginal, jacked, Irish-Catholic boy.

I’m thankful that Pastor Mark has rephrased the way he explains his experience as a Catholic.  It is objectively more honest than other statements he has made about his past, and the people of Mars Hill Church deserve that honesty. It is my personal opinion that the priests and lay people responsible for Mark Driscoll’s formation as a Catholic failed.  They passed on legalism and external piety without passing on Jesus Christ.  Even though I’m saddened that Mark Driscoll left the Catholic Church before he found Jesus, I have to keep in mind the words of a very holy priest named Fr. Benedict Groeschel who said, “Better the man who finds Jesus Christ apart from the Catholic Church than the man who finds the Catholic Church apart from Jesus Christ.”

But, there are other things to say about his sermon: Continue reading