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In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My replies are in red.

>My name is Paolo (Italy) and I read with interest the articles Two Christianities and the responses. I agree with most part of it, since I'm Christian (of Catholic church). Only, I don't agree when on two points:

1)  It is anachronistic to judge historical facts like crusades with XX century eyes. Moreover at these times there was no separation between secular and religious, and probably people were more innocent than now, even if they were acting with cruelty and "barbarian" attitudes. As a Christian (particularly as member of the catholic church), I'm tired of being accused of events that happened centuries ago. I don't think, for example, that inquisition tribunals were much worse than secular ones and any case I'm not responsible of them.<

I totally agree with what you say here. It is anachronistic to judge previous centuries by our (supposed) higher morals. We need to get down from our pedestals and realize that future generations will probably find something in our culture that will be abhorrent to them. Abortion is one thing that comes to mind.

And yes, you (and I) are not responsible for any past atrocities committed in the name of Christ. That was a point I was trying to make in one of my responses.

>2)  The myth that Protestants are more culturalised than Catholics. You don't have to compare North and South America, because N. America was made by Europeans that didn't mixed themselves with natives, while in S. America racial mixing was much more free and the population is still mostly Native American, with a non-European background. You should compare affine populations, like north and south Germany (the old Lutheran Prussia and Sassonia with Catholic Bavaria and Austria) or France with England and so on.<

The only place I mentioned Catholicism was in reference to the different literacy rates between Protestant, Catholic, and, Animist countries. Also, notice that I referred to Jim and Tammy Baker, and Jimmy Swaggart right after the Crusades and the Inquisition. And these tele-evangelists most definitely are not Catholic.

My point in my original post was in regards to the difference between a "true" Christian and a hypocritical Christian, not between Protestants and Catholics. Whether Catholicism itself is "Christian" or not would be another subject entirely, so would a discussion of all of the differences between North and South America, and between other nations. My point in mentioning literacy rates was simply to demonstrate the positive outcomes the Christian worldview can have when consistently applied.

>As a conclusion, I would like to know the meaning of "each person should be able to read the Bible and decide for himself what it means" as the Protestant point of view of Christian faith. Thank you.<

I’m not sure where I said this, but the point would not be the difference between Catholicism and Protestant per se. I was probably thinking mainly in regards to the person who does not currently have a church affiliation. I believe such a person should read the Bible, decide what it says and join a church whose teachings most closely resemble their beliefs.

Now, I will qualify this in a couple of ways. First, no church is "perfect" by any standards. So it is doubtful a person will find a church that they agree with totally. But the overall viewpoint should be consistent with the person’s view.

Second, I am not saying we should not listen to "teachers" to help us understand the Bible. I read the writings of Christian teachers and commentators all the time. But I do believe we are ultimately responsible for deciding for ourselves what to believe and what church to join.

Of course, I am assuming some form of "religions freedom" exists in the above statements, as we have here in the States.

A different situation arises Aafter someone actually joins a church, especially if they want to get involved in it. Most churches have some kind of doctrinal statements they would expects members, or at least leaders in the church to ascribe to. And honestly sakes would require a person to agree with these stated beliefs.

But again, this is why I recommend doing some research on what you believe before actually joining a church, although attending various churches during this time of research would be helpful. Also again, no church is perfect. So I would hope a minor disagreement with a minor point in a confession would not prevent a person from joining and becoming involved in the church.

There is a difference between Protestant and Catholics that I should mention. The confessions of faiths in most Protestant churches are generally "static." In other words, the confession will generally not be changed once a church is formed (although it may not be consistently followed in practice). But in the Catholic church, the pope or a church council can propose new teachings that "the faithful" are expected to accept.

For instance, I hear the pope is now considering on declaring Mary to be "co-mediatrix." Exactly what is meant by this statement I am not quite sure so I would forgo comment on it per se. But, my point is, if the pope makes an "ex cathedra" statements in this regard, you, as a Catholic, will be expected to believe it. It will be a new "official" doctrine added to the doctrinal stance of the Catholic church.

I hope the above helps to clarify matters a bit.

Second Correspondence

In the following e-mail exchange, my comments to which the e-mailer is responding to are enclosed in double "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. The e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in single "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My replies are in red.

>>The only place I mentioned Catholicism was in reference to the different literacy rates between Protestant, Catholic, and, Animist countries. Notice that I referred to Jim and Tammy Baker, Jimmy Swaggart right after the Crusades and the Inquisition. And these tele-evangelists most definitely are not Catholic.<<

>About this passage, I have to confess my ignorance about the tele-evangelist: I don’t know anything about them.<

Good! Preachers like Swaggart and Baker were not worth listening too even before their infidelities came to light.

>>My point was the difference between a "true" Christian and a hypocritical Christian, not between Protestants and Catholics.<<

>I don’t agree with this explanation, because it seems that you put Protestantism at the top of a range, where literacy rate is a consequence of a better Christian worldview. That's why I invited you to compare similar countries, where you can observe the different effects of different systems.<

OK, lets say I were to compare the USA, which has a much larger Protestant than Catholic population, with Mexico, which is largely Catholic. If I did I would probably be charged with being "USA-centric" and with "Mexico-bashing." I would prefer to refrain.

But I will say, the USA has a very major problem with illegal immigrates coming here from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Meanwhile, as far as I know, no Latin American country has a problem with illegal aliens from the USA sneaking into their countries to live. There must be something about this country that makes it so appealing.

>>I'm not sure where I said this, but the point would NOT be the difference between Catholicism and Protestant per se. I was probably thinking mainly in regards to the person who does not currently have a church affiliation.<<

>'I’ll make a general opinion on your vision of church. I agree with you when you speak of responsibility and on necessity of personal research in matter of faith, but I think your opinion about church role is not right (of course, just in my opinion!).

It seems for you church is not a supernatural institution, founded by Jesus and by the Spirit on Pentecost, but rather a kind of "club" of men sharing the same opinions, so that when they change you are authorized to change church. I agree that no church is perfect, but only because persons that compose it are not.

You are free to change your local church, if you have problems with their members, but you cannot choice parts of the whole deposit of faith given to the church ( I am writing of "musts" in a moral sense, of course you should choice in freedom of conscience and I abhor state interferences on this matter). It seems to me that for you church is a kind of broken mirror, and you have to find the fragment where you can better reflect yourself. I think you build the church office on a very light basis.

I think church is not only the place where to share doctrine, but should be the place where to have Christian life (I mean Word of God, common prayer like daily psalmody and the Holy Communion). I know probably I'm expressing a very traditional catholic point of view, but I think for a catholic the church is like Jerusalem for a Jew, a city "which has unity in itself"<

Please note, I forgot the word "not" in the first sentence of this section. It kind of changes the meaning!

In any case, a "spiritual organization" would be a better way of putting my view, rather than a club. And yes, correct doctrine is the basis for the spiritual unity of the Church; but, also, it is the Spirit who ultimately unites believers. And yes, a local church should be where the Gospel is preached, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered, and there is fellowship between Christians (Acts 2:42).

Yes, you are presenting a traditional Catholic view. My view, as the above indicates is considerably different. It is outlined in my article Reformed-Baptist Perspective.

>>Now, there is difference between Protestant and Catholics that I should mention. The confessions of faiths in most Protestant churches are generally "static."<<

>Agree with you on this explanation of Catholic attitude, but it seems that for you that is wrong! If the world changes, you don’t have to close on an ivory tower, but to try to explain old things with a new language. And moreover theology is not far different from a scientific branch , so that you can have a development of the primitive deposit of faith (of course not a degradation or corruption of it).

I think the church exist for this, to be a God's instrument among the many different voices of the world. You have an example of it in the first Councils of the church, where the scriptural basis of faith like the divinity of Jesus where explained with new words, in order to fight Arians who denied it.

Also, I know it's difficult to accept pope's ministry if you are not used to, but I want to point out that there where only just one "ex cathedra" statement in this century, and the last church council (Vatican II) did not establish any new dogma. Dogmas are not stated for a pope's caprice, but usually are the result of previous long controversies.

I would be happy to hear your opinion on these points. I apologize if I am too assertive and dogmatic, but it's a point quite essential to my personal way of believing, and I know your point of view is probably different from mine and so I prefer to be as more clear as I can With regards

Paolo<

On the one hand, you acknowledge that I understand the Catholic attitude, and then you indicate that I must be ignorant of Catholic teachings and practices.

Be assured, I understand Catholicism rather well; better than most Catholic in fact. I was raised Catholic, and I have studied the subject rather extensively, along with Church history in general.

I have not written on the subject specifically yet as I just haven’t had the time. I could say a lot off the top of my head; but I always seem to get myself in trouble when I do that. I need time to carefully think about what I want to say when dealing with controversial subjects.

Also, one problem I have had in dealing with Catholics is that many seem to be ignorant of Catholic teachings. Moreover, sometimes it is hard to convince them that the Catholic church in fact teaches what it teaches. So I have waited to write on the subject until I have the time to document from official Catholic documents what the Catholic church teaches before giving a detailed evaluation.

Hopefully, sometime in the near future I will write a detailed article, or maybe a series of articles, God willing. As for my point of view, it is detailed in the above mentioned article. Also, I invite you to browse around DTL's Web site. There are many articles already posted that detail what I believe on many topics, even if I do not address Catholicism directly. Check out my articles on The Post-Apostolic Church to see that I have in fact studied Church history like I say I have.

For additional discusions on Two Christianities see Two Christianities - Replies to Responses.

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The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site in September 1997.

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