A friend of mine and i are discussing about God's Word and His Church. My earlier reply can be found here: http://tecigurl.blogspot.com/2009/02/whos-your-boss-1.html.
Before anything else, thanks for the continuing discussion. I have yet to read the replies you made last year (sorry!). But I can continue with this thread.
First off, we submit to God as Jesus submits to God the Father but it is dangerous to imply that God the Father “knows much better” that God the Son. When Jesus uttered “not as I will, but as thou wilt” [Matthew 26:39], we should also remember that He knew full well that He came to earth to die for our sins. (He repeatedly revealed this to apostles and others, and prophets foretold it centuries ago.) Jesus is equally God and equally all-knowing, obedience and submission to the Father does not mean ignorance.
But Jesus' crucifixion entails suffering, which is why He started that prayer with “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me” (instead of something like “Thank you for blessing me with this cup; if possible, I would like to have it now because I would really enjoy it.”) Jesus has always known that He is the Only Way to the Father, and that only the sinless God who is also in human form can shoulder the punishment of death for our sake. Jesus knew even before the world began, and He knew that it would lead to great future glory, but the suffering itself is far from pleasant. His prayer shows both honesty and obedience.
The Church is broadly defined as “the Body of Christ” and “the group of believers”. You write, “we still need an earthly authority whom we are sure guided by the Holy Spirit to identify and give measure of that [ultimate God's] standard.”
If we follow our spiritual leaders, who will they follow? You will probably answer, “God” or “the Holy Spirit”. So can we not follow with the Holy Spirit directly?
Is God limited, that He can only talk to the leaders? Of course not. St. Peter himself explained to a crowd, “(saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” right after they were baptized with the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:17].
While some define “conscience” as merely an individual's “gift to naturally discern what is right from wrong”, in light of the Pentecost, “conscience” can now refer to the Holy Spirit which is dwelling in a person who has received Him. Although followers yield to a divinely-established institution, surely we should recognize the Spirit of God over the judgment of any man?
I am not saying that we should reject every form of (human) spiritual authority. But, as I have written before, there are many accounts of this human authority coming into conflict with God's Word. What do we do then? We agree that we should render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. We respect human authority, but we give absolute submission to only one Absolute Authority – Christ Himself.
My answer to your PS is exactly regarding spiritual leaders. I merely used Obama as an illustration of any leader. Authority is instituted by God for order and our guidance, yet you acknowledge that “we are but human”. I agree. Leaders are not exempt from error. I will give examples later.
If a leader invokes the authority of God yet is in direct opposition to God's commands, you write, “truly, we should follow God only and only God's commands most especially when it comes to spirituality and morality”. We do not simply shrug, say this person “just knows much better than us”, and follow anyway.
You ask “why some people don't like the idea of having a Church (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of course) to perfectly explain to us the Gospel”. It's not a matter of “like”, or “gusto”. It's a matter of following God Himself, when the explainers --- with all due respect --- have been misled.
Here are some instances where we can compare and contrast the Word of God with the word of man. (As before, all Bible verses are taken from the Douay Rheims 1899 edition, which is officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.)
Jesus is the Cornerstone and Foundation of the Church
- Peter himself taught that Jesus is the chief cornerstone on which the church is built. [1 Peter 2:3-8]
- Peter: “Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner.” [Acts 4:10-11.]
- For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. [1 Corinthians 3:11]
- "The primacy of St. Peter was ... an essential part of Christ's church, the rock on which it was built ... The House of God will always need its foundation" (The Question Box, Bertrand Conway, 1929 Edition).
Jesus is the Chief Shepherd
- St. Peter himself spoke of Jesus as the Prince Shepherd (the footnote in the Catholic Bible says, "the Greek reads, 'the chief Shepherd'"). [1 Peter 5:4] This Shepherd will come to reward the faithful, referring to Jesus' second coming [2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 2:10; 22:12; Matthew 25:31-46; etc.] .
- "The Vatican Council defines as an article of faith that ... Christ 'conferred upon Peter alone the jurisdiction of Chief Pastor [shepherd] and Ruler over all the flock'" (The Question Box).
The Office of the Papacy is Not Mentioned in the Bible
- Peter simply calls himself an apostle and servant [1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1] and ancient or elder [1 Peter 5:1].
- Peter is never called "Pope," "Chief Pastor," "Prince of the Apostles," "Head of the Church," "Ruler of the Church," "Supreme Pontiff," etc. [Peter and the Papacy, http://www.gospelway.com/religiousgroups/peter_as_pope.php]
- The Bible specifically names several offices in the church and describes the work and qualifications of those who hold that office:
- Apostles (Ephesians 4:11; Matthew 10:2-4; and Luke 6:13-16. Qualifications: Acts 1:21-26; 2 Corinthians 12:11,12. Duties: Ephesians 3:3-5; Acts 10:39-41)
- Elders/Bishops (Phil. 1:1; Acts 14:23; Eph. 4:11. Qualifications: 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9. Duties: Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3)
- Deacons (Phil. 1:1. Qualifications: 1 Tim. 3:8-13. Duties: Acts 6:1-6)
- The Bible contains several passages where the office of Pope ought to be mentioned, if it existed. Ephesians 4:11,12 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 list various officers and workers in the church, but the office of Pope is not mentioned. [Peter and the Papacy]
Bow Down to God Alone
- Mary: “Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.” [John 2:5]
- Cornelius came to meet Peter, and falling at his feet adored. But Peter lifted him up, saying: "Arise, I myself also am a man." [Acts 10:25-26]
- "The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men;"...Which, when the apostles Barnabas and Paul had heard, rending their clothes, they leaped out among the people, crying, and saying: "Ye men, why do ye these things? We also are mortals, men like unto you, preaching to you to be converted from these vain things, to the living God, who made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them..." [Acts 14:11,14-15]
- I fell down to adore before the feet of the angel, who shewed me these things. And he said to me: "See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them that keep the words of the prophecy of this book. Adore God." [Revelation 22:8-9]
- Joshua prostrated himself and venerated the Ark for hours (Joshua 7:6). As "Joshua" means "Jesus" we have a type of Jesus venerating a type of Mary. Applying this to the New Testament figures themselves, it symbolically represents Jesus Christ paying veneration to His Mother. (Catholic Apologetics, www.theworkofgod.org)
Images and Idols
- "Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me..." [Exodus 20:3-5]
- A thorough examination of the Old Testament would preclude any interpretation of the Commandments imposing an absolute prohibition of images per se as this would have God prohibiting what He allows and commands elsewhere: “You shall make two cherubim of gold...” (Catholic Apologetics)
- God never commanded people to bow down and pray to cherubim. The commands to construct cherubim and other objects were only part of God's plans to glorify Himself (ark made by Noah, Ark of the Covenant, Jewish Temple). These objects were never intended to replace God as the object of worship. (Teci)
- "Then Joshua...fell to the ground on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening" [Joshua 7:6]
- Joshua venerated the Ark of the Covenant in the same way Catholics have always honored images. (Catholic Apologetics)
- Joshua was merely in sorrow because of a military defeat (see verses 1-5). This is the only account of Joshua “venerating the Ark in the same way as the Catholics” in the decades recorded in the book of Joshua. (Teci)
- The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence of God Himself. God commanded the making of this Ark, but destroyed the golden calf that the Israelites brought offerings to. The Israelites wrongly thanked the calf from bringing them out of Egypt. (Teci)
- It follows that if the Commandments prohibited the making of any images whatsoever, Protestants ought to remove and destroy all their statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and even Mount Rushmore, as well as burn all their pictures of relatives, friends etc. (Catholic Apologetics)
- I don't pray to my parents. I don't bow down to them. I don't call on them to use spiritual powers they don't have. I love them but they are only human like me and do not deserve my worship. (Teci)
- The Jewish practice in this regard was very strict due to their proneness to imitate the idolatry of the surrounding pagans among whom they lived. (Catholic Apologetics)
- If we use this argument, then we must be equally strict about the Philippines, which is surrounded by pagan, non-Christian countries. (Teci)
- At present, there are Jews living in the state of Israel as well as dispersed in small communities worldwide. Regardless of circumstance, they hold strongly to the Commandment against bowing down to idols and images. They have always been very strict regarding this absolute commandment from their God. (Teci)
Celibacy of the Clergy
- It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher. [1 Timothy 3:2]
- Celibacy is not a Dogma of Faith but a disciplinary law designed to increase the dignity of the Priesthood. Contrary to popular mythology, celibacy has not always been the rule for priests of the Catholic Church. It was only introduced as a mandatory rule in the Western Church during the eleventh century, while in the East married men have always been allowed to become priests. However, once ordained, an Eastern Rite priest cannot marry, and only celibate monks can be chosen as bishops. (Catholic Apologetics)
All Have Sinned
- "For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God." [Romans 3:23]
- "...the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in discharge of the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, is, by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals; and that, therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable." (First Vatican Council, 1870)
- "In the first twelve centuries of her existence the Church was disturbed some twenty-five times by rival claimants of the Papacy. The strife thus originated was always an occasion of scandal, sometimes of violence and bloodshed ... For forty years (in the 14th century) two and even three pretenders to the Papacy claimed the allegiance of Catholics: whole countries, learned men and canonised saints, ranged themselves on different sides, and even now it is not perhaps absolutely certain who was Pope..." (Catholic Dictionary, Addis & Arnold, p. 869).
Jesus as Savior and Lord
- In the which will, we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once. And every priest indeed standeth daily ministering, and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God [Hebrews 10:10-12]
- Peter: “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]
- God will judge us according to all our actions, and not by simply whether we "accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior." There is no guarantee of salvation, perseverance in faith and good works are required until the end. (Catholic Apologetics, www.theworkofgod.org)
- The term “Lord” entails complete obedience, hence good works in obedience to God are always required. Meanwhile, the term “Savior” means acknowledging that it is Jesus who saves us.
- The humble sinner who confesses is the one “justified” by Jesus, rather than the do-gooder Pharisee, “because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.” [Luke 18:10-14]
Salvation and Forgiveness as Given, Not Earned
- For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; Not of works, that no man may glory. [Ephesians 2:8-9]
- But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. [Galatians 2:16]
- “An indulgence may be plenary or partial according as to whether it removes either all or part of the temporal punishment due to sin. The requirements for gaining a plenary indulgence are (1) performance of the indulgence work - for example, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for at least one half an hour, devout reading of the Sacred Scriptures for at least one half an hour, or praying the Marian Rosary in a church, public oratory or family group, etc.; (2) sacramental confession; (3) eucharistic communion, and (4) prayer for the Pope’s intentions. The last three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work. However, it is fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the Pope’s intentions be said on the same day the work is performed. If any of these conditions are not fulfilled the indulgence gained will only be partial.” (Catholic Apologetics)
All Things Already Given
- As all things of his divine power which appertain to life and godliness, are given us, through the knowledge of him who hath called us by his own proper glory and virtue. [2 Peter 1:3]
- Secret things to the Lord our God: things that are manifest, to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. [Deuteronomy 29:29]
- Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. [John 13:17]
The Holy Spirit Teaches Us All Truth
- But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall show you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you. All things whatsoever the Father hath, are mine. Therefore I said, that he shall receive of mine, and show it to you. [John 16:13-15]
- Paul: “I think that I also have the spirit of God.” [1 Corinthians 7:40].
- But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. [James 1:5]
- You covet, and have not: you kill, and envy, and can not obtain. You contend and war, and you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences (lusts). [James 4:2-3]
- And when they shall bring you into the synagogues, and to magistrates and powers, be not solicitous how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say; For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say. [Luke 12:11-12]
The Only Unforgivable Sin is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
- Amen I say to you, that all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and the blasphemies wherewith they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin. Because they said: He hath an unclean spirit. [Mark 3:28-30]
- Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. [Matthew 12:31-32]
- And I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but to him that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven. [Luke 12:8-10]
To end this message, I repeat that there is a proper place for authority, especially within the Body of Christ (see Romans 13:1-4). But when there is a disconnect, let us go with what Peter himself exhorted: “We ought to obey God, rather than men” [Acts 5:29].
We need to make sure that we are always on the right track --- thankfully, God Has revealed Himself through His Word (the Bible), through His Word made flesh (Jesus), and through the Holy Spirit.
You write that “we are but human”. Indeed. We are all prone to error. Let us look beyond the doctrines: the evidence has repeatedly shown that humans make mistakes, even Popes.
You write that “without the Holy Spirit, the system won't work”. Indeed. But we should look at the quality and not just the quantity of the system. After all, many political and financial empires do not attribute their success to the work of God.
Previously I quoted, “for every tree is known by its fruit...” [Luke 20:25]. If the Holy Spirit is within us, then we will bear its fruit (Galatians 5) and manifest its gifts (1 Corinthians 12).
I mean no disrespect to the Papacy nor to the Roman Catholic Church. I am simply rendering to the Pope what is the Pope's...and rendering to God what is God's.
As always, thank you so much --- for your time, attention and concern. But be assured that I am already being led by the Spirit through the Bible, through my spiritual family (the local church I attend), and --- like Peter and Paul --- by God's very presence in me.
Your sister in Christ,
P.S. Please feel free to share our exchange.