Why I’m Not Catholic: Gandhi and the Truth

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.

Let me add that I’m really not interested in hearing about a doctrine from a church that killed people who wouldn’t accept that doctrine. That, in and of itself, makes their doctrine and the church demonic. Nothing further to talk about.)

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.

I have to fight the desire to load you down with examples, then shoot down the arguments I know would be coming from those who don’t care what’s true, so they "quote mine" out of context to defend their particular doctrines.

I’ll resist. Instead, I’ll direct you to the first few chapters of Justin’s Apology and to the very early Letter to Diognetus. Look at what they consider important in describing 2nd century Christianity.

I don’t have to say anything about Acts. Where are the references to rituals, priests, and unimportant doctrines in that history?

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.

Look sometime at the context of the word "doctrine" in the incorrectly-named pastoral epistles. It’s there 16 times. That little study can be life-changing for an American Christian. Sure was for me.

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.

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9 Responses to Why I’m Not Catholic: Gandhi and the Truth

  1. Shammah says:

    Hmm. Bad memory on my part. I don’t doubt you’re correct because I recognize the dates you give as accurate.

    However, I don’t agree that the point I’m making is complicated. It’s pretty simple really. Religious people complicate it, so I argue a lot of points to get people to quit believing that their theories are good even when they produce awful results, but the idea that results matter is very simple.

  2. Ruskin says:

    Gandhi inspired Tolstoy to follow Christ?!? Totally backwards. Tolstoy’s religious writings (particularly “The Kingdom of God Is Within You”) totally blew Gandhi’s mind while he was still just a young lawyer living in South Africa (ca. 1894). Gandhi actually refers to himself as Tolstoy’s “disciple” in a letter written in 1909. Tolstoy died shortly afterward, being an old man by this time.

    It’s really important that you have your facts straight before you attempt to argue a point as complicated as this. Misinformation is dangerous.

  3. Dave Copenhaver says:

    “Roman Catholicism produces fruit. Early Christianity produces fruit.
    The fruit’s not similar.
    It’s like comparing apples and oranges … literally.”

    I always thought apples and oranges were both GOOD fruit! lol

    Maybe it’s more like comparing apples to battle axes or something. 🙂

    Dave

    • Shammah says:

      Legitimate point you make there.

      Sigh. I got one more “you need to join the Roman church” email today, along with a question as to why I “spend so much time bashing them.” (I don’t bash them, I just answer about half of the proselytization they send me.) This person’s argument was that Irenaeus gave a list of bishops from Peter down to his time, and Ignatius used the word Catholic. I guess he was checking on whether I have the fruit of patience. Help me, Lord!

  4. Shammah says:

    For the record, it doesn’t feel very good to have to mention that the RCC used to kill people over rejecting transubstantiation or for translating the Bible into the vernacular. It’s important, nonetheless. The RCC actively recruits people, especially people like me, twisting early Christian history with complete disregard for facts, and arguing that joining their organization is “coming home.”

    Medieval history is loud, obvious proof that this is not a good idea. I’ve met lots of Catholics I like, but the church is not about an organization headed by a mostly political figure in Rome. The church is about local Christians losing their attachment to this world and coming together into a new family bound together by the Spirit of God and the commands and life of Christ.

    It feels mean to tell these nice Catholics that its ridiculous to consider joining their evil organization that exercised a horrendous tyranny over Europe for centuries, but no matter how nice Catholics are, joining the Roman Catholic Church is not a route to learning the Gospel, being born again, obtaining the power of the Spirit, or entering the church the apostles preached about and built.

    So, no matter how I feel about it, I’m speaking up for the Gospel and the church of Jesus Christ, calling Christians to come together, obtain the Anointing spoken of in 1 John 2–which is given to the church, not to individuals–and thus to learn what is true from that Anointing–not from the Protestants, the Catholics, or anyone else except those to whom they are guided together by the Spirit of God and the Scriptures.

  5. Shammah says:

    That’s a fair question, but I took my best shot at answering it already, really, by referring to Acts 2:42-47.

    The church should look like a family. According to Acts 2:42-47, they were in each others’ homes, sharing meals, praying together, talking about what they were being taught, and, in so many words, paying each others’ bills as needed.

    What a family does, only a family filled with the love of Jesus.

    It was not just Jerusalem that lived like that. Justin Martyr *defined* Christianity as the collection of people who refused to be together because of their different customs but now “share the same hearth.” The Ante-Nicene Fathers translators rendered that as “live familiarly together.”

    The Didache talks about calling nothing your own and seeking out the face of the saints every day. It appears that the Didache has a tract in it that addressed the way of light vs. the way of darkness. It’s in the Letter of Barnabas, too, so the Letter of Barnabas has the same commands.

    Tertullian says that the Romans looked at the Christians and said “behold how they love one another” and “they are willing even to lay their lives down for one another.” He said that they shared everything except their wives.

    Those writings cover the whole time period from A.D. 100 to 200.

    After I wrote this post, I got an email from somebody who claimed that Acts 2:42-47 was their experience in the Roman Catholic Church. Great. I’ve never heard of such a Catholic Church, but maybe one exists. I was raised Catholic, and I’ve known Catholic people my whole life.

    If the RC congregation in our town was like that, I’d join it. In fact, RCV would make every effort to join with it, though probably they’d reject us because there’s no way any of us would consider agreeing to papal authority for the bishop of Rome or anyone else. We’re all for being together with anyone who will follow Christ as described in Acts.

    That’s the fruit I’m talking about, though in mentioning David Platt and Francis Chan I’m also talking about service to society, something some segments of the Catholic Church, especially convents, are good at.

  6. I’m having a bit of a problem getting clear in my head exactly what fruit each group/person you refer to produced. Can you nail this down a bit more for me in concrete terms?

    Thanks,

    ThisRestlessPilgrim

  7. jeremiahbriggs says:

    Great post. I always get raised eyebrows when I refer to Ghandi as a great Christian. Some folks even ask me if I think Ghandi was "saved". I don't know if he ever said that he believed Jesus died for his sins. But what he did believe he acted upon. He believe that what he did was equally or more important than what he professed to believe. He believed that laying his life down for others had great power to overcome evil. He was obviously right. Believing that doing what Jesus did gave him great power to set others free. Unfortunatly, many of his fellow countrymen haven't followed suit. Just like many who profess to be Christian.

    • jeremiahbriggs says:

      Perhaps I should blog, "Why I'm a poor speller: Jeremiah and Ghandi." =]

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