I got another email today (or maybe yesterday) from someone that wants me to be Catholic. In this case, he wanted to defend the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation by explaining what they "really" think about it.
It’s no wonder that Protestants are so oriented towards beliefs and theology rather than obedience and practical spirituality. We inherited our attitudes from our Roman ancestry!
For me, not being a Catholic is not about anything that can be written in a book.
It’s about experience.
I’ve tried Catholicism. It doesn’t work.
The "Fruit" of Experience
Roman Catholicism doesn’t look anything like early Christianity.
Does it have some of the same doctrines? Sure. Does it have beliefs that are more similar to apostolic Christianity than Protestantism? That depends on the importance you assign to individual doctrines.
Does Roman Catholicism have some of the same behavior as early Christianity.
No. Not in the least. There’s not even a resemblance.
I’ve read all the writings of the 2nd century church. I’ve ready them all twice, in fact. Most of them I’ve read more than that, and I’ve been researching in them for a couple decades.
Other people have done that and joined the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Apparently they were looking for something different than I was.
Long ago, I was captivated by Acts 2:42-47. I read Gene Edwards description of early church life in his book Revolution: The Story of the Early Church.
Excited Christians … Together … Brave … Bold …
Not too concerned about anything but knowing Jesus.
That’s what I saw in the early church fathers.
What did they believe about the Eucharist? I noticed that in passing, and I made up my mind long ago to agree with them on all such subjects.
But that’s an extremely minor part of the whole picture.
Back to the point of this section now that I’ve spent too much time defending my point … but at least it’s less than what I usually do.
Jesus said that you should always make fruit and tree match. Good fruit comes from good trees. Bad fruit comes from bad trees. Don’t excuse trees that give bad fruit, and don’t condemn trees producing good fruit.
Roman Catholicism produces fruit. Early Christianity produces fruit.
The fruit’s not similar.
It’s like comparing apples and oranges … literally.
You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m busy finding apostolic Christianity. I want its fruit. I want Acts 2:42-47.
Oh, that’s right. I have it.
So, I think I’ll pass on reading books about trees that produce some other fruit. Excuse them all you want. Point out the wonderful texture of their bark, and deceitfully depict the history of those trees.
Just don’t do it on my time.
Comparing Apples to Apples
Ok, let’s pick on the Protestants, too. Let’s throw something in for shock value.
Well, no. Let’s throw it in for truth value, and we’ll just enjoy the shock as a side benefit.
We’ve talked about admitting that two trees with different fruit are different trees. Let’s look at admitting that two trees with the same fruit are the same trees.
Mohandes Gandhi and apostolic Christianity.
You want to find the same fruit as early Christianity? Try Gandhi.
Gandhi believed in Christ. He just called him Truth rather than Jesus.
I’m not passing on something I heard secondhand. I read some of what Gandhi wrote. He called Truth a being, and he said that if you follow Truth, you won’t need to defend yourself. Truth would defend you.
Jesus is the Truth.
No, that’s not really correct. The Truth is Jesus. He was the Truth first; Jesus later.
Gandhi knew the Truth.
No, no, no. I don’t mean he knew everything that was true. I mean he knew this Being called Truth. He acted in submission to what that Being believed. He adjusted his behavior so that he would have this Being’s support in what he did.
And he drove mighty England out of India without firing a shot.
Gandhi has influenced more people to follow Christ than you or I have even even dreamed of influencing. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King … all of them were influenced to follow Jesus wholeheartedly because of Gandhi.
There’s no telling how many others.
Who knows? Maybe Jesus liked having his name changed to Truth. That way he might not have to be associated with Christianity, which in general looks nothing like what Christ did, and so is nothing like what Christ taught. Christianity, in general, can be safely ignored.
Unless any branch of it gets political power, that is. In that case, you’ll need the Truth, like Gandhi and the early church did, to drive that tyrannical evil from its throne of power.
Of course, you’ll have to triumph by dying.
That’s how Christians do it, you know.
Am I Condemning Everyone?
Well, I hope I’m not condemning anyone, but maybe I’m coming across real harsh.
I don’t know, but we might as well look at what’s true. We like to argue about trees. Jesus commands us to look at fruit.
Gandhi did what Jesus did. Most of our churches don’t.
Not everyone, though. Friends have visited David Platt’s church in Birmingham. What they’re doing seem rather Jesus-like. I’ve seen videos of Francis Chan’s former church in southern California. What he teaches seems very Jesus’ like.
I say that about Francis Chan because he’s asking people to do very Jesus-like things, not because I know anything about whether his theology is Jesus-like. Jesus said to judge the theology by the behavior it produces, not vice versa. It’s high time we paid attention to him.
I’m sure there’s many more who are really doing what they’re doing, but they’re really hard to find. And I’ve met dozens of people who love Acts 2:42-47 like I do, but who can’t find it. And all of them tell me they know dozens of people the same way.
Hopefully, God’s moving. The "Organic Church" movement was started, I think, by Neil Cole, author of a book by the same name, and I really hope they’re living out a real Christianity. I met some people from that movement in Roseville, CA, and I have a lot of hope in that.
There’s some folks in Memphis doing it really well, too. It’s very unfortunate that they won’t really have contact with us because they don’t like something I said about works—with the church’s approval—on the Rose Creek Village web site. Nonetheless, they’re doing a really excellent job of living out a Christianity that’s noticeably similar to Jesus, the apostles, and the churches the apostles started.
May we never be satisfied with less.