Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An Abolitionist's Open Letter to Pro-Life Roman Catholics

A message to our friends throwing rocks from across the Tiber,

You don't know where we've been.

We were lost. We were blind. We were dead. 

We were hopeless. We didn't care that we were hopeless, yet in some twisted and horrible way, we did care. 

And then a man with pierced hands and feet offered His help. He said we were blind and dead, and that He could save us. He told us to repent of our hopelessness, our lack of trust in our Creator, our evil and wicked deeds. He told us He had accomplished what needed to be done to bring us to our Creator, Whom we had denied so many times. 

This man saved us. This man, God Himself, clothed in human flesh, did it all. He alone bore the punishment, weight, and guilt of our sin. He alone provided the sacrifice to perfect us for all time. He told us we receive the benefits He offers, a slate wiped clean, perfect righteousness accounted to us as an entire gift, on the basis of repentance and faith alone, by His sufficient grace alone and the grace of no other. 

And He gave us the grace and strength to turn away from our former deeds and to do what is right, and we discovered more joy, peace, purpose, and wonder in doing what He told us to do than in anything we had thought we could find before, on our own path. So we started doing those things. And we fell more and more in love with this wonderful man, this wonderful God, that we wanted to do even more of them, and to share them with others, and to make sure that as many people as possible knew about this wondrous Creator, this amazing, loving, merciful, and powerful King. 

Then we discovered that there would be opposition.

The opposition takes many forms, but let me focus on only one example as a representative sample. Apparently, we who desire to obey the Lord Jesus Christ in all areas of life are "scary" and worthy of denigration and contempt.

As I read this article by Katrina Fernandez/The Crescat and was reflecting on the recent flurry of criticism directed our way by Roman Catholics, one saying of our great King came to my mind.

Matthew 5:11-12 - "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Based on this passage, I'd like to comment on The Crescat's statements and on the larger context. 

Blessed are you...

First and foremost, we'd like to say to all of you who have been criticising us: Thank you!
You have given us many opportunities to proclaim the Gospel and obey our Lord and repeat the proclamation that saved us from Hell. This is an enormous blessing and this whole thing, including blogposts like this one, has given us the chance to do so.

...when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say...

Why do I apply the word "falsely" here?

The title of the article includes the word "scary", but the author never explains what was scary about Toby's comment.  Further, what is scary about saying "...that does not mean we hate Catholic people; we love them. Everyone at AHA loves them. We also believe that in large  part Western Protesantism is dead, very dead as well"?

Does The Crescat believe love is scary?
Does she believe that self-directed criticism is scary?
Do scary bigots typically exhibit a powerful bent toward reformation within their own circles, as we have consistently called for?

The Crescat compares us to Jack Chick.

-We don't make gratuitous dubious connections between mystery pagan religions and various parts of the Roman liturgy like Jack Chick frequently does.
-We are not King-James-Only. (We think the KJV is somewhere in the Top 5 or so.)
-We don't think demons are cute or stupid.
-We would never picture God the Father in an image.
-Our tone is very different. We are focused on the Gospel. (Not that Jack Chick never preaches the Gospel, but he often chooses to go a different direction in many of his tracts targeting Roman Catholicism.)

Let me share with you, dear reader, some more about this situation:

Recently we have been sharing status updates on our very busy Facebook page of a very general nature. Here are two examples:
So many prolifers love our posters yet reject our ideology...
What they don't understand is that our ideology creates our posters and causes us to share them in the first place. (Source)
We are frequently rebuked for acknowledging theological divisions between us and other anti-abortion groups and advised to stop talking about those divisions for the sake of focusing on what we all have in common: saving babies. The primary problem with that presupposition is that AHA's primary goal is actually revival through the preaching of the gospel, which, we believe, will change the mindset of a culture that approves of abortion in the first place. We will work alongside those with a different gospel or with no gospel to engage in various actions against abortion, but we will not stop evangelizing those who proclaim a false gospel that cannot save or who proclaim no gospel at all. If that is seen as divisive, so be it. The gospel of Jesus Christ always has been. (Source)
It has gotten so bad that even a poster that was created by Bryan Kemper, a Roman Catholic pro-life leader, and shared from his page on our page, attracted a flurry of criticisms against us for being "anti-Catholic".

These had nothing to do with Roman Catholicism, but they attracted a great deal of attention and criticism. We are, according to these critics, "anti-Catholic". Even Bryan Kemper's poster got that treatment. Nobody thinks he meant only the Roman Catholic Church; he no doubt meant all churches, which is what we mean when we call churches to repent and stop wasting their time.

See, clearly there are many Roman Catholics in the world who are hypersensitive to any criticism of their church. And this raises some serious questions about their hearts. It's impossible for us to know this for sure, of course, but it certainly appears to us as if they are more interested in defending their church than proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus.

Why are they coming on to pick fights about us being anti-Catholic? We can't answer that; only they know. But the explanation that many of these critics are at least flirting with idolatry, as evidenced by their defending their church at any cost, is not something we're prepared to rule out. We've seen very little evidence against the proposition and a great deal in favor. So hopefully we can be forgiven for coming to the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence so far.  

...all kinds of evil against you...

To quote a recent Roman Catholic Facebook critic, we have victimised people with "vicious religious intolerance". This is entirely unfair and we reject it outright.

The Crescat calls our reasons for criticising the Roman Catholic Church "stupid" (without evidence or supporting argumentation).

How's this for evil from The Crescat? 

Luke 6:45 - "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." 

Those who call us "anti-Catholic" are entirely misled, and in using that label reveal that they have very little understanding of the actual issues at hand. Labeling someone in a bigoted and careless way is evil.

A "Catholic" is an individual human being. To accuse us of being "anti-Catholic" is to say that we want the worst for individual Roman Catholic persons. It is to say that we want them to end up in Hell.
Yet, that is the very last thing we want for any individual of any faith. 

And here's the other thing about that. Saying "anti-Catholic" is entirely hypocritical, as we have never expressed a desire for Roman Catholics to end up in Hell. Yes, our theologies differ. They differ so much that we actually have different gospels. Don't believe me? We certainly affirm that's true. The Council of Trent affirmed it too, and the Roman Catholic Church has never taken it back. The Roman Magisterium has officially anathematised, cut off from fellowship and access to (in its view) the grace-infusing sacraments, those who profess the Gospel that we profess.

If we are to use the standard of judgment that these critics of ours are using, then simply by virtue of being a faithful Roman Catholic, these critics are "anti-evangelical" and "anti-Protestant". Yet when have we ever thrown those terms around?

We profess different gospels. The Roman Magisterium, a much higher authority than any individual Roman Catholic layman, has said so. We certainly say so.

If we have different gospels, that is a very, very serious matter:

Galatians 1:6-9 - I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed (anathema)! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (anathema)!

And see, if you're all upset about our having used the word "satanic", reason with me a moment. A candidate for the esteemed position of "The Gospel" has two possible sources - God, or Satan.

The Council of Trent, which is, again, a higher authority than mere Roman Catholic laypeople, has said that the Gospel we proclaim is anathema. The enemy of God and the enemy of human souls is Satan. One does not cry out Exsurge Domine to take action against a work that God initiated. Let's not play hypocritical games here. Our positions are fundamentally incompatible, and both sides accept that. Criticisms that we are anti-Catholic entirely miss the point and are far more a product of postmodern political correctness and a victim mentality than a sober, rational consideration of history and of comparative soteriology.

If Trent felt the freedom to call our Gospel a work of the devil, we will not apologise for returning the favor the other direction.

One of us has biblical justification for saying what we say, and the other does not. And since there is absolutely no way to properly interpret the Scripture and conclude that it teaches there is a distinction between mortal and venial sin, that anyone other than Jesus the Messiah is a source of merit, that grace is infused rather than imputed, that justification and sanctification are not entirely separate categories, that sola fide is untrue, and that anyone who ends up in Heaven can die with sin remaining on his record such that he must suffer for its purgation after death, we abolitionists are entirely confident in our eternal destiny and in the need to proclaim this graceful Gospel to others who do not believe it.

...because of Me...

And let us make no mistake. We do not affirm the same gospel as the Roman Catholic Church.

Our good news proclamation is this: We were born dead in trespasses and sins, entirely unable and entirely unwilling to reach God. Then by God's grace, we must repent of our sin. By God's grace, we must put our full trust in the atoning work of Jesus the Messiah on the cross. By His one-time single sacrifice, He has perfected His people for all eternity. He reckons/imputes/accounts all of His infinite righteousness to those who receive it by faith alone as a free gift. He wipes away all sin of all degree of gravity at the cross. The believer is entirely unable to merit anything good. The believer has merited evil. Jesus the Messiah has merited all righteousness and exchanges His righteousness to the believer, and the believer's evil to Himself. He births us anew apart from anything we do, entirely apart from any action on the believer's part. This Gospel is revealed and authoritatively proclaimed in His Word, which is the only final and sole infallible rule of faith for believers.

The Crescat and other Roman Catholics see fit to criticise us for this stance. We are unapologetic. This is our lifeblood and our final answer. By God's grace, we will never waver from this proclamation. the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you...

This hypocritical Roman Catholic attitude has been around a long time.
We are not the first, nor will we be the last, people to be Gospel-focused and doing our best to proclaim the glorious Gospel of grace to people who by their own admission have a different Gospel, and to be called "anti-Catholic".

Being called "anti-Catholic" for proclaiming the Gospel, being evangelical, and arguing against various points of Roman theology is just wrong.  We are proud to join the ranks of those who have gone before in engaging in evangelical outreach to those who belong to a church that has officially anathematised the Gospel we proclaim.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great...

We are actually rejoicing over this whole episode because we have had the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel in an area of American political and moral life that has been sadly devoid of the Gospel for decades. The pro-life movement has been dumbing down its theology for a long time and has not embraced the Gospel as the solution.

The pro-life movement has been not been focusing on the Gospel but on other things - scientific facts about fetal development, voting blocs, pragmatic political considerations, even things like Mary's rosary. Many of these things are well and good and even necessary to a well-rounded denunciation of the arguments against abortion, but there has been a distinct non-reliance on the power of the Gospel to transform sinners into repentant saints by the grace and forgiveness of Christ.

The Lord is using us to bring light to this dark place. Where the Gospel is not present, darkness is present. We are bringing the Gospel to bear on the question of and in the arena of pro-life.

That's why we don't call ourselves "pro-life"; we are abolitionists of human abortion.
When others have let the Gospel fall by the wayside, we are taking it up and placing it at its rightful place.

While the above is a rebuke, yes, it is a rebuke offered in love. This fight is far from over and our friends in the pro-life movement have, we pray, plenty of time to take up the good fight, to retake up the best weapon in our arsenal - the Gospel of Jesus Christ - consistently, firmly, foundationally, and in the foremost position. Take it up, wield it, use it.

If abortion is to be brought to an end in this country, it will be because of the Gospel of Jesus. 

As abolitionists of human abortion, we will not turn away from this means, nor this end.

We will not rest and we will not be silent until we have effected its abolition.


Rhology said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gervase Crouchback said...

Here is one Catholic in Australia saying sorry for this ,and acknowledging Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour,Who died for my sins,and that no amount of indulgences,attendign to Mass or other works can wash away my sins-Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.
And to all of those who are taking potshots at each other,shame,when there is a world on fire ,you all throw mud over each other. This is aimed at Fernandez ,as much as at the AHA. Oh i was a proddy ,growing up on jack Chick cartoons,dispensationalism and baptisimal regeneration. attended a Latin mass and became a Catholic ,(although i believe in the Undivided Church ) ,because of the Catholic Church's stance on moral issues. Oh was it not the Holy father who has said in recent years that Catholics need to look at Luther's writings favourably? Except the traditionalists.that is .