If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Faith-Destroying Philosophy

I posted this a few years ago. Nothing has changed, so far as I can tell. So I thought it good to post it again.

In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16)

I never cease to be amazed at how great a dearth, how great a drought of Bible knowledge there is to be heard on the radio.

Let me give you a recent example. I’m driving home on the 16 going east, trying not to be too bored. I switched on my radio, found the FM band and scanned for something worth listening to.  The dial stopped a time or two on some news station, then a country station, and then a purportedly Christian station where a woman was teaching about prayer. She was saying something about God’s readiness to forgive sins. She quoted 1 John 1:9 to emphasize her point.  I knew the verse from memory: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

So far, so good. I settled into my bucket seat, checked my side and rearview mirrors, and waited for her to continue. And then she said something that got me talking back to the radio. “You need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel forgiven.”

“Excuse me?” I said to the radio. “What did you just say?”

As if she could hear me, she repeated her statement, “Yes, you need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel forgiven.”

I was no longer bored. Getting angrier with each thumpity-thump of the tires on the asphalt, I shouted at the radio: “Ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel forgiven? What does feeling forgiven have to do with being forgiven?” I punched the off switch before she had a chance to utter another syllable of her dangerous faith-destroying and wholly fallacious theology. Christian faith is foreign to her appeal to ‘feelings.’ We’re not forgiven because we feel forgiven.  We’re forgiven because God promises complete forgiveness to every penitent, every time.


Does she not realize the logical consequence of her theology? If we need to feel forgiven before we believe we are forgiven then do we need to feel redeemed by Christ’s blood before we are redeemed by His blood? Do we need to feel God loves us before God actually does love us?

To live according to our feelings and not according to faith in God’s promises as set down in Scripture and taught by the Church is a veritable guaranteed recipe for the shipwreck of our faith. Not only will our walk with Christ be subject to day to day variables that affect our emotions – like the weather, our general health, or how well we slept the night before, but much worse, our confidence in God’s promises will evaporate with the first serious test to our faith, like the death of someone close to us, a divorce, a serious injury or illness.

We walk by faith in a faithful God, and not by sight – or feelings (2 Corinthians 5:7). Again, the Holy Spirit teaches us (see Hebrews 11:1) Christian faith is the foundation, the substance , the assurance of things hoped for and the incontrovertible evidence of things not seen.

Or felt.

Note also what the Church teaches about faith and feelings: Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. . . . (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2005)

And again: Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith (my emphasis) and Baptism: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved" . . . . (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 977).

Note how the Church focuses on faith, not feelings.

Perhaps, and I am only guessing here, perhaps the reason some people –  including radio teachers of ‘theology’ – focus so much attention of feelings instead of faith is because  while faith depends first and foremost on the grace of God, maturing faith is a function of a broad familiarity with the Scriptures. “Faith,” St. Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). But developing that kind of comfort level with Scriptures takes time. And effort. And perseverance. Lazing back into the comfortable bosom of feelings doesn’t require any of that hard stuff.

Jesus cautioned, “The way is wide and easy that leads to destruction. And there are many on that road. On the other hand, the way is narrow and difficult that leads to eternal life. Not so many choose that road” (my paraphrase of Matthew 7:13-14. See also verse 15).

We ought to all be attentive to the road we are on.

At this point, I wish to remind the reader of my 2+2=1+3 method of Bible reading.  Read two chapters of the OT a day and two chapters of the NT a day (2+2) and you will read the entire OT in one year and the entire NT three times a year (1+3). It takes on average ten minutes to read two chapters -- or twenty minutes a day.

After forty-two years walking with Jesus, I still know of no better way to know Christ.


George @ Convert Journal said...

Rich, this particular recollection showcases another wobbly theology point held by our separated brethren. More than just the "feelings" issue, the radio lady may not understand what it means to confess ones sins. Acknowledging ones sins and asking for forgiveness are insufficient without contrition and resolution to sin no more. Otherwise one is basically saying "look God, I know that I really shouldn't be doing this but am happy to receive the forgiveness due to me (imputed) through the cross." (Then that whole part about asking for help feeling forgiven.)

Part of this is a fruit of "once saved, always saved". A very dangerous, presumptuous, non-biblical and flat-out wrong understanding of salvation. Another part is the absence of the sacramental absolution Christ instituted for us.

I won't even get into the whole "question" of what is a sin. For all these reasons and more, our Lord established His Church... one, holy, Catholic and apostolic (both visible and invisible).

Rich Maffeo said...

Certainly what you are saying is true for some Protestants (I suspect a growing number of Protestants). But when my wife and I were in evangelical churches we knew PRECISELY what sin was, and what it meant to repent (e.g. -- Don't do it again).

The problem, as I see it, with many Protestants (I won't go into the problems I see among my fellow Catholics) the problem with many Protestants is really simple: They are increasingly ignorant of God's word. And, being ignorant of God's word they go here and there and then around the block without really knowing what God says in the book.

That's a problem I believe is solved within the framework of the Catholic Church -- but ONLY if one reads the Scripture for himself or herself. I don't think anyone can find an example of ANY Saint in our history who was ignorant of God's word. Yet (I have found in my 10 years a Catholic) so many Catholics I meet are essentially illiterate when it comes to the Scriptures. To simply sit back and let "Rome take care of it" is not only spiritually lazy, but spiritually dangerous.

But, that is another discussion. Thanks for commenting.

Barb Schoeneberger said...

All the dictatorship of relativism is founded on feelings when you get right down to it. How many people do you hear expressing themselves as "I feel..." rather than "I think"? It is Satan's way of getting us to cut ourselves off from our reason. God has always meant for us to couple reason with faith. Not once do we have a quote in the NT where Jesus or the apostles said "I feel...". By golly, to say things like "feel forgiven" or "feel holy" is downright unbiblical. So if people want to run around and claim to be ministers of any persuasion involving Christianity, they better engage their reason, spend time meditating on God's word, and stop listening to all the feel-good clap-trap out there. True joy is found when we embrace and live the truths God handed down to us.

Another point: feeling forgiven puts the focus on self, not on Christ and our firm resolution to sin no more with His help. It's a prime outcome of our narcissistic culture.

Rich Maffeo said...

Barb, as always, you clearly synthesize in a few words what took me a few hundred. Thank you.
You are an asset to the Kingdom.