Sunday, October 28, 2012

When the Faith's Culture Undermines the Doctrine

My goal today is to show where groups of believers have sometimes gone astray in the way they have sought to apply their biblical knowledge to their daily lives.  I have to be careful with a post along these lines, because it would be so easy to take it too far.  That is, I am not focusing today on doctrinal issues or fallacies--e.g. heretical predestinarianism found in churches of the Calvinist persuasion--so much as I am looking at some strange or particularly misguided practices associated with some Christian traditions.  For today, I will only share three brief examples of where the culture of a particular faith can sometimes cause more problems than good.

First, many Baptists and other fundamentalist have embraced the writings of Michael Pearl.  Here's a passage which, as I understand, concerns whipping a 3 year-old.  

She then administers about ten slow, patient licks on his bare legs. He cries in pain. If he continues to show defiance by jerking around and defending himself, or by expressing anger, then she will wait a moment and again lecture him and again spank him. When it is obvious he is totally broken, she will hand him the rag and very calmly say, “Johnny, clean up your mess.” He should very contritely wipe up the water.

It shouldn't even be necessary for a reasonable person to have to point out the evil of this.  It's sick.  We should be defending the weak at every turn, not making them suffer to salve our own moral failings and personal turpitude.  Don't take out your own guilt and sin upon your innocent child!  (See Matthew 19:14.)

Second, the Churches of Christ practices something akin to shunning when members "go astray," or question what they are told.  We may expect this from less mainline denominations such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, but it's startling to see such a cult-like practice welcomed within the evangelical denominations.  How does a family turning its back upon a loved one better demonstrate the love of God?  (See Mark 12:31.)   

Third, there is a disturbing element within some corners of Catholic culture when it comes to Mary.  First, let it not be misunderstood that Mary's role is an amazing and awe-inspiring one indeed.  In her "yes," the power of Eve's "no" is forever broken and mankind is saved because of her glorious son.  She is indeed, then, the Mother of God--an example of the communication of idioms.  What crosses the line, however, is when good Catholics support and promote things such as Our Lady's Fifteen Promises.

There is no act we can do on heaven or earth which can bind the living and all-powerful God of creation to our frail will.  If we think that we can follow some obscure spiritual recipe for ensuring our salvation, then we are not much better off than those who embrace the lie of the so-called "prosperity gospel."  We are not to seek to avoid pain at all costs, after all, but to endure what is necessary for the glory of God and the pursuit of righteousness.  To think that the simple recitation of a good prayer is to be lulled to complacency.  It is, after all, merely a starting point.  There is no free pass from trial, tribulations, or free will, and our salvation is to be worked "out with fear and trembling."  (See also John 14:16.)

Particularly in the case of the latter example, I realize that some may be disappointed or upset with me.  Please feel free to charitably express yourself, and I promise a courteous and respectful response.


The Immaculate Conception
490 To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role."132 The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace".133 In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God,134 was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854:

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.135
492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love".137
493 The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia), and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature".138 By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

from the Catechism of the Catholic Church


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