Dear Pope Francis,
I propose the anniversary of the election of a pope be called “poplectary” (poh-plek-tah-ree). I’m bored of reading articles about the anniversary of your election. The whole phrase takes up too much space, and also I haven’t invented a new word in a while.
Know what else I’m bored of reading? Articles about church teaching where the main argument used is ultimately an appeal to authority; usually God, the Bible, or the Church.
I think apologetics are great. There’s a huge need for them with so many people in the world trying to dissuade people from believing the truth of the resurrected Christ. Believers and non-believers both struggle with why the Church teaches what it does, and this struggle can become a huge pothole in their relationship with Christ.
We need to have a serious look at both what the Church is teaching and how we teach it though.
Yes, the Bible is the inspired word of God – but it is also an historical account of events in Jewish and early Christian history. All cultures have certain assumptions they make about societal roles which affect the degree of agency people have over themselves. We need to take note of the assumptions being made by the people in the Bible and see how those assumptions affect the message.
Yes, the Church has two thousand years of Tradition which have brought us to where we are today. But the early church grew out of the traditions of Judaism and evolved a great deal before it became the rich and powerful entity it is today. Growth in the early church was rooted in the core message of the Gospels: Jesus lived, died, and rose again in fulfilment of the scriptures.
If we examine our own Apostle’s Creed, known to have existed in some form since 390 C.E., the focus is clearly on the story of Jesus.
I believe in God, the Father, the almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Looking closer, the word “catholic” is not capitalized. When written with a small ‘c’ the word catholic means universal. The capital ‘C’ Church is the totality of Christians, the universal church, not the institution of the Catholic Church.
I think if we look at the Church today, growth is still rooted in the core message. But the Catholic Church has been diluting that message by focusing on adherence to Tradition.
I am a Roman Catholic. I attend mass every week, and I believe the presence of Christ is in the bread and wine we consume during the celebration of the Eucharist. I adhere to the Ten Commandments we adopted from our Jewish forefathers and mothers (well, I try) and I no longer do and think these things simply because someone told me to.
In the words of a Dominican priest who spoke at a conference I attended two years ago, “faith should be reasonable.” My faith is reasonable, and because it is reasonable I do not cite God, the Church or the Bible as authorities in arguments. I reasoned things out until I was satisfied the evidence for outweighed the evidence against.
It’s an exercise I’m continuing to do with the rest of church teaching. I believe in God and I believe he has a plan for this world. But constantly citing God’s authority as a reason to do or not do something is lazy. We have the ability and the responsibility to craft better arguments for what we teach. We can fill in those potholes.
P.S. Sorry for not being able to get this up during the week of your poplectary! I was experiencing the human body’s ability to fill nasal passages with an unlimited supply of snot and spending pretty much all my awake-but-not-at-work hours drinking tea and trying to get rid of it all.