Protestant Pat (4th Post): Losing My Religion
Previously on Protestant Pat: William Carey
APOLOGIES: for my tardiness in delivering this post.
I am not up to an ideal and consistent blogging pace.
It would be easier if I had concluded my testimony at the day of my conversion as if to suggest that I ‘lived happily ever after’ but that would be far from the truth. It seems like every joy-filled realisation mixed with the circumstance I found myself to enjoy them in were not ideal. And many of my brothers and sisters in Christ would probably attest to experiencing similarly difficult circumstances, or if I may ‘sufferings’, in their conversion stories.
But in order to put this chapter of my testimony in its proper perspective, I think I need to explain the Scriptural text that retrospectively inspired my actions.
Concerning Food Sacrificed to Idols
1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]
4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
In direct correlation to that is also
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
I don’t want to dwell too long in exegeting this passage, but this passage uses the example of a non-Gospel Issue, that is food, to talk about how it could lead to Gospel Issues, which are being puffed up, ‘stumbling blocks’ and humility in ‘love’. Thus I want to draw out the principles in this passage that have led me to ‘lose my religion’ and by that I mean losing Roman Catholicism.
Now, I know the Gospel.
That Jesus died and rose again.
And because of that Jesus is Lord.
I know that it is not impossible for me to remain being a Christian and regularly attend Roman Catholic Mass. That is the non-Gospel Issue. I even think the majority of my growth as a Christian, thus far, has happened despite having been attending Mass. This is not to say that some growth cannot occur as a result of the teaching in Catholicism. That was covered in a previous post 😉
The Gospel Issue is that I know that a lot of my Catholic friends and family subscribe to or are unaware of the Catholic doctrine that makes non-Gospel Issues such as attending Mass, and being a Catholic necessary for salvation. Furthermore, there are doctrines and traditions in Catholicism that lead its followers away from trusting in the death and resurrection, and essentially, Lordship of Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. And thus non-Gospel Issues become Gospel Issues, but also Gospel Issues are violated. I don’t think it’s helpful for the purposes of this post to list all those issues but I though they should be enough to reason a change in Church allegiance.
But I had yet to attend to the Gospel Issues of being puffed up, ‘stumbling blocks’ and humility in ‘love’. These are important issues to consider being that they make all the difference between whether I truly know that Jesus is Lord or that I am just putting myself or something else up as Lord by removing my allegiance from a particular religion, let alone, a church.
CLARIFICATION: At this point I should clarify that puffed up is a Jewish word for the sin of pride. I like to call it a ‘sneaky sin’ because it affects everyone whether you’re religious or not. And for most of the time you don’t even know that it’s affecting you until someone apart from yourself points it out to you. Personally, it’s a sin that I find exasperating to deal with. This is especially when I’m confronting someone else about it because I would first have to deal with the sin within myself before I confront another’s’ 😦
Being the youngest of four, barely an Arts student, and no certain career path, it would be very easy for me to have pride in things just for the sake of having pride, or being puffed up, in them. Becoming a Reformed Evangelical Protestant and attending a church that fits such characteristics, is nonetheless still susceptible to such a sin as pride. And admittedly, it was present in my motives, especially when I was frustrated by Catholicism and concerns relating to my family and friends.
This is a big problem since, although it is not a good excuse (because our sin is our own work, but conversion and sanctification are the work of the Holy Spirit; a gift from God), pride is nonetheless the kind of attitude within me that will make me a ‘stumbling block’ (another Jewish word) to my friends and family. This attitude has made me do things that hinder people’s resolve to follow Jesus as Lord and to grow in the love and knowledge of him. And this is despite my knowledge of the necessity of the Gospel.
For that I am sorry first to God
then to you for this sin of sins.
I was then troubled by how I would deal with the ‘stumbling blocks’ that are through specific associations with my Catholic friends and family. I know that in one example, participating in Mass, especially the Eucharist with its attachments to transubstantiation, is permissible because I know the Gospel and I’m pretty sure that transubstantiation is not necessary for what is written about Communion in the Bible (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11.11-34). So it would also be me producing a ‘stumbling block’ for my family and friends to continue participating in Mass and (I hate to use the word, but) tolerating unsound doctrine.
This becomes problematic for me especially when another’s pride is used to put pressure on me to follow their religious (and even irreligious) practices. That is when they can be the ones that become a ‘stumbling block’ for me if I am not cautious. But as I’ve already hinted at, the worst thing I can do is to react to their pride with pride within myself. The thing I hate most about pride is that it’s so insidious that it will, with pressure, cause others to have pride themselves.
But the solution is in fact in the Gospel because
(and forgive me if I quote this to you often. I do so simply because I find it so effective at resolving this issue.)
in the gospel we discover that we are far more wicked than we ever dared believe,
yet far more loved than we ever dared hope.” (Tim Keller)
If we only knew this so that we would bow our knees to God, and it is God that would lift up our heads (to face him). We would no longer need pride (whether it be from religion or otherwise) because we would have the love of Christ. And it is out of this love that we can truly love as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13.4-8.
A love that is truly love because it is humble.
This is the knowledge that I yearn to grasp.
And this is the love that has caused me to lose my religion.
Posted on April 5, 2011, in Doctrine, Testimony and tagged Gospel and non-Gospel Issues, Gospel growth, humility, Jesus Christ, knowledge, love, pride, resurrection, Roman Catholic, Sacraments, Tim Keller. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.