My daughter flew first class to Seattle this week. The reason? A nice guy had planned an expensive getaway trip with his girlfriend, but before they could bask on the glory of first class flying, the girlfriend dumped him. Somehow the airline got a wind of that and I guess as a consolation, they bumped my daughter to first class so he wouldn’t be all alone… I am thinking, is this even appropriate? I don’t know, but it happened just a couple of days ago.

So my daughter said the guy was drinking too much. She tried to talk to him about God and he immediately said, “I don’t talk about religion, politics or music.” It was a quiet trip from then on. I am thinking, could be this reason he got dumped? I don’t know, but it makes me wonder.

Yes, talking about religion, especially if it is not your own, is not an enviable task. Suffice it to say that the first couple of Sundays of the series “Religions of the World” at Grace Church have provoked some “fireworks,” the type that only happens occasionally, if that. The reactions are all over the board. The vast majority is overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. But the fireworks happen on the extremities. Some think I am being too “soft;” others, that I am “bashing” other religions. As my old ethics professor used to say, “It’s impossible to please Greeks and Trojans,” so I’m not even going to try. I must simply move forward, guided by some careful study and deep convictions, and always grounded on the Word of God.

This week I will be speaking about Roman Catholicism. On some levels it is so much easier to talk about Islam and Buddhism than it is about the Roman Catholic Church. We originated from the same tree and before Constantine there was only one universal (the meaning of the word “Catholic”) Church. But over the years things changed and schism happened. I used the word “schism” because that is important for Catholic theologians. They insist on distinguishing between “schism,” which means a “parting of ways,” and “heresy,” which means false teaching. So after Vatican II they no longer consider Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans, etc. “heretics.” We are now “separated brothers.” But are we?

Let’s see, Roman Catholic theology teaches that the Bible and the traditions and creeds of the Church carry the same authority. They teach that Mary remained a perpetual virgin, before, during, and after the Birth of Christ. They believe that observing the sacraments is essential to salvation. Without baptism in the Church, for example, one cannot be saved. And one of the sacraments, communion, gives believers the opportunity to partake of the literal blood and body of Christ when they take the elements. The Pope is also infallible when he speaks “ex-cathedra” (from the chair, meaning the Apostle Peter’s seat of authority).

But by far the most spectacular difference between Protestant and Catholic theology is the teaching about salvation. Roman Catholicism never admits that salvation is by faith ALONE through Christ ALONE. This is at the core of the understanding of regeneration and justification in the Protestant tradition.

Roman Catholics believe that Christ’s sacrifice earned enough merit with God but now we must appropriate those merits through the Church and its sacraments.

Now, I am not making this stuff up. I am not “bashing” anyone. I am simply reading this off of the Catholic Catechism. It is there for all to see. In fact, the Vatican spokesperson recently addressed that, in response to Pope Francis’ statement that even atheists can go to heaven if they do good work. Obviously, the Vatican had to scramble to correct the Pope:

“… all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her.” (Fr. Thomas Rosica).

Now, if I asked here, “was the Pope speaking ex-cathedra when he said that?” I could probably be accused of either a bad attempt at humor or a successful “bashing” of the Pope. But I am not saying that, I am just showing the difference between “bashing” and “contrasting.”

By way of contrast, here is what the Scriptures say,

“And this is the record: that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (I John 5:11-12).

I will do some more “contrasting” this Sunday, don’t miss it. And please remember: nothing wrong with dumping a guy for the right reason. :).

See you Sunday!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade