It Is Finished!
Why I am not a Catholic, part 2
This is just a collection of a few of my thoughts, nothing fancy, just from my heart.
Folks, when Jesus said, "It is finished!", what do you suppose He meant? The only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that He meant our salvation is finished. What happens when we doubt His word? I don't think I have to spell it out. We aren't accepting His salvation unless we BELIEVE Him. If you think He meant something else was finished, I'd like to know what it might be. Do you think maybe He meant His suffering was finished? What was He doing on the cross in the first place? His suffering was His free choice, and He did it BECAUSE He wanted to take the penalty for our sins. In other words, He wanted to save us. So which ould be more important to announce was finished? His suffering, or our salvation? Jesus represents perfect self-sacrificing love. His sacrifice wasn't focused on Himself. It was focused on US. It was for US. Maybe you can come up with something else. But you are risking a great deal if you get it wrong. What if He meant our salvation was finished, and we assume He meant His suffering was finished? How kindly do you think He will look on that?
Let me change the subject for a minute. I want to talk about Mary. I think all Christians know she is in heaven. What is heaven like? It is a place of PERFECT JOY. I think we all agree on that, too. So Mary is in a place of perfect joy. What if she is interceding for us as Catholics teach? If she cares, she is not experiencing perfect joy. She is suffering along with us. If she doesn't care, she doesn't belong in heaven. Does this make sense? I think Mary is spared from the suffering she would experience if she were constantly interceding for us. Not only that, but since she is a human being, she doesn't have the capacity to intercede for billions of people, praying countless prayers. She is finite. Only God is infinite, and saying she has this capacity is basically to give her godlike qualities. Folks, that's blasphemy. I don't think God ever intended to give her or anyone else this kind of capacity. God is a jealous God, and He doesn't welcome competition. He certainly wouldn't create His OWN competition. Would that be competition? Sure. God is infinite. He is the only PERFECT Being in the universe Who loves us infinitely. He alone deserves our praise. He alone wants to speak to us directly as our loving Father. If you wanted to ask your earthly father something, would you go ask your mother instead? Not unless you are afraid of your own father. And you would be afraid of him only if he is cruel. God isn't cruel. To ask someone else is to backhandedly slap Him and say that He is cruel, so we have to be afraid of Him. Yes, I know Catholics teach that we should ask Mary because Jesus never refused her requests, and this means that if SHE asks, He won't refuse. Folks, this is a way to manipulate God! God is sovereign, and has the right to refuse anyone's request. And by the way, Jesus DID refuse one of Mary's requests while He was on earth, and it's recorded right in the Bible. One time when she wanted to see Him, His disciples said that she and His brothers (the ones supposedly He never had, remember?) were outside and wanted to see Him. And what did He do? He said that those who believe in Him (His disciples) are His mother and brothers. He didn't see her or talk to her at that time.
46. As he was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold his mother and his brethren stood without, seeking to speak to him.
See also Mark 3:32-34 and Luke 8:19-21.
So if He refused a request of His mother when He was on earth, what makes you think you can manipulate Him now by going to His mother instead of to Him? Given He wants to be our loving Father in every sense, don't you think it makes Him angry when you do this?
Let's consider a third topic: purgatory. Frankly, purgatory terrifies me. Completely and utterly. If I thought it were real, I would be unable to face life. Seriously. Purgatory is a place of suffering. The descriptions I have read make it seem pretty grim. How can a Catholic believe in purgatory and still remain sane? I'm not sure a lot of them do. I know there are many, many Catholics and ex-Catholics who reject the church's authority, who are bitter and angry toward Rome.
What about purgatory? I find absolutely nothing in the Bible to support the notion. I have been shown ONE verse in the Apocrypha about it. It is ALWAYS dangerous to base a critical and fundamental doctrine on just one verse. The claimed authority of the Pope is likewise based on one verse. And on top of this, the Apocrypha were not even considered canonical by the Roman church until after Luther translated them into German. (Yes, he did, and they're in my Luther Bible, and he included a couple of books that aren't even in the English Catholic Bible.) They are also known as Deuterocanonical, though I personally do not accept that designation. The word "apocrypha" means "hidden" or "spurious" and that's exactly what they are. Jesus made it plain that only shameful things are hidden.
What does purgatory REALLY mean? First, it is an attack on the idea that our salvation is finished. If we have to add anything whatsoever (including our own suffering) to Jesus' sacrifice, He LIED to us when He said, "It is finished!" I don't think Jesus ever lies. Not ever. I am so certain of this that I base my salvation on it. I think it is obvious from what Jesus said that not only are we not REQUIRED to contribute to our salvation in any way, we CAN'T contribute to it! We simply do not have that capacity. We were lost in sins. A single sin is enough to alienate us from God FOREVER. What makes you think that we can somehow fix a lifetime of sin by some suffering of our own? Only an INFINITE Being can fix our sin! The job of saving us is God's. To claim that we play any role in it (other than simply and quietly accepting this FREE gift) is blasphemy! Blasphemy is presuming to do what God alone can do. It is arrogating to ourselves GOD'S responsibilities and powers.
What else does purgatory REALLY mean? It means that God is cruel. If I have a son, and I want to teach him not to put his hand on a hot stove, I DON'T do it by sticking his hand on a hot stove and burning him! I would be rightly accused of child abuse if I did that! It would be cruel! God is not cruel. God is perfect Love. For us to say that He requires us to contribute our suffering is to say that He is not Who He says He is. We are calling Him a liar. Again.
I believe that the doctrine of purgatory was originally developed to generate an atmosphere of FEAR among people. Why? So they could be manipulated into doing various things. Chiefly, if they would donate money for the building of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, they could buy time out of purgatory. This was Luther's complaint, by the way. But this fear could be used to rob the people of the money they needed to buy bread, and history tells us that this is exactly how the doctrine of purgatory was used. And since when can we buy forgiveness in the first place?
So today, the doctrine of purgatory is still part of the teachings. Is it still useful? I imagine it is, since it keeps some people too afraid to leave the Roman church and find the Christian faith elsewhere.
Please keep in mind that part of our nature is to want to Do It Ourselves. We don't want to yield to God and let Him do it all for us. All the world's false religions are based on the idea that we somehow have to earn our salvation, or qualify for nirvana, or whatever. This is a PAGAN doctrine to its very core. The melding of Christianity with false pagan doctrines is called syncretism, and the Roman church has done a lot of this. What if you mix truth with a lie? You don't get a half truth. You get a lie. Half truths are far more dangerous than obvious lies, because they are more likely to mislead.
The use of fear to gain agreement with a point of view is self-defeating. People who accept something out of fear do not REALLY believe it. God wants us to believe out of love and gratitude, not fear. Not only that, but only the Holy Spirit can cause us to have faith in the first place. Does the Holy Spirit use fear to cause us to have faith? I don't THINK so.
The result of all this is that some people manage to reach some kind of accommodation with all of this and retain some modicum of sanity. But a lot don't. In fact, I know of one woman whose head is totally messed up. She originally decided to become a nun, but eventually she left that and got married instead. I think she has six kids. And she is totally and completely wacko. I won't go into any details, just tell you that it's tearing her family apart. And she is by far not the only person I have known like this. And what about the ones who manage to retain their sanity? They should really engage in some self-examination (and if you are Catholic, I invite you to do this) and see what kind of rationale you have come up with to make it possible to live with this kind of doctrine without going insane. Seriously.
So we have a church that presents God as distant and cruel, and that basically calls Jesus a liar when He said, "It is finished!" We have a church that teaches us to manipulate God by praying to a human being who is supposed to be experiencing perfect joy, rather than agonizing over all the suffering in the world (that's God's job).
Please give this some serious thought.