Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Doctrine doesn't matter?

My friend JC posts about the common complaint from Protestants that the Catholic Church is too obsessed with "doctrine."  That is, the Church seems more concerned with people being "right" about doctrine and less about the personal relationship with Christ. 

My post is not so much about the charge. It is instead about how this notion can be true to the Protestant given his experiences. Conversely for the Catholic what is true or not often has a great impact on his daily life. 

I had often heard this idea during my days as a functioning Evangelical.  The idea that the differences don't matter so long as we worship Him is in a certain sense true.  Those who profess that Christ is Lord and Savior are all united in that truth.  And as such we should not let divisions come between us unnecessarily. 

For the Protestant worship services are pretty much similar across the denominations.  You have praise music, opening greetings, more praise music.  Then the sermon, which is often the heart of the service.  More singing.  Then possibly a just-a-symbol-not-in-any-way-a-sacrament communion service (maybe).  More singing.  Then goodbye (possibly followed with singing).

Regardless if you have TULIP tattooed on your arm or if you are in a barely Christian denomination this commonality of worship I would wager is pretty common.  Were you to go from one service in the Bible Belt to an "All are welcome, unless you come from the Bible Belt" church in the north of the states, you probably would not notice much difference in overall service types.

However when one goes from a Protestant service to a Catholic one, suddenly we are in an entirely different world.  The statues of the saints and the stained glass.  The huge crucifix in front of the Church.  Rosary beads and repetitious prayer.  Indeed during the Mass the very focus is not on the sermon but the Communion and something about a "sacrifice."  Not only is worship different, it is in a sense turned upside-down.

 It is not suprising then that our Protestant brothers are confused about how much the claims we make create such differences in worship and daily life.  If in most of Protestant worship the doctrine has little bearing then one can go from one church to another and the doctrine doesn't mean much.  But if one darkens a Catholic Church door....


Colin said...
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Colin said...

The problem with your Protestant friend's understanding of doctrine is that doctrine is inevitable. The very essence of Protestantism is by definition a departure in doctrine into a new doctrine apart from the Catholic doctrine. A sectarian movement by definition has doctrine as its central belief.


"Sola scriptura" is a doctrine, in that it applies a rule rejecting all possible interpretations of biblical principles that are not plainly written in the text (despite the fact that many extensively thick Protestant books describe exactly what plainly written text actually says).

"Relationship, not religion" is a doctrine that selectively applies the warm fuzzy parts of the Bible to define the only objective as personal relationship with Christ (while ignoring any descriptions of ecclesial structure plainly and explicitly listed in the text, and the fact that "personal relationship" does not appear in the Bible once).

CatholicGuy said...

JC is actually a Catholic. He made more or less the same argument against it. My post is supplimentary toward understanding how a Protestant could come to this notion if he only went to Protestant communities.