The Holy See

The Roman Catholic Church—it is so grand, so very awesome—the magnificent cathedrals; world-renowned artists, sculptures, and musicians; and charitable work all over the world. The splendid attire of the clergy with the big pointy hats, the pomp and ceremony, absolutely unrivaled. How could one fail but be inspired by it all.

Then for generation after generation families identify as Catholic: unthinkable to leave it, this Church above all churches, which emerged out of the Holy Roman Empire and before which kings, presidents, even whole nations trembled.

But then this:

Sex abuse: A report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany says 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media outlets said Wednesday. Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said the report they obtained— commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities—concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both weeklies reported. Die Zeit wrote that 969 abuse victims were alter boys. (San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2018, page 2)

What do we make of the article above? One priest I spoke with wanted me to be sure and know that this has nothing to do with homosexuality, but with pedophilia only. Okay, I guess that means homosexuals were not involved; some will go for this, protects them against being targeted by the pro-gay folks, but most of us are not going with this assessment. Yes, heterosexuals molest kids, too, this is a given. In any case, homo or hetero, this is all going on within the Roman Catholic Church, and worldwide.

Do we see this in other Christian branches and denominations? Yes, we do, including in Baptist churches, of which I am a part.

Bigger than we know about right now

 We have been hearing about the trouble in America with the Catholic clergy, some in England, now Germany, but where this looms largest is in Latin America and Africa. In these places, abuses rarely are mentioned, but when it all breaks lose, the Roman Church will be exposed like no one could believe.

Two days ago I happen to spend some time with a woman from Kenya and a man from Mexico. The Kenyan broke right in with what is going on in the Catholic Church. Yes she said her family is Catholic, and she was raised Catholic. After this introduction, she went on to say that due to wide spread abuse of the little boys (she said nothing about abuse of girls of any age) she, her sister, and son, left for America.

The Mexican then piped up and said the same thing happened in Mexico and now all his family are Baptists. (Note: at that point he did not know I am a Baptist pastor.)

The sexual abuse is however, not the major abuse being perpetrated by the Holy See.

The fundamental error

 We go back now into the third and fourth centuries when the Christians were being embattled by any number of heresies, among which was the Gnostic twisting of Christian doctrine. To deal with the theological issues, church leaders gathered to formulate doctrinal stances.[1] Over the course of time, the head of the church at Rome became dominant. Then when the Roman emperor Constantine became head of both church and state, everything changed.

The one major change, and this is a gross reduction of a complex history, individual salvation belonged to the Roman Church to grant. And this lasted for one thousand years. We speak of this period as the dark ages when the Roman church dominated most all of what was Christian. Then in Germany, through the stance of Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation in the early sixteenth century. Now, for the first time in a long time, the Scripture was available to the common people, and lo and behold, it was discovered that salvation belonged to Christ alone and not a Church.

Then followed the inquisition when the threatened religious power structure fought back against those who realized the Roman church was in error. Indeed, one of my relatives, John Philpott, mid-sixteenth century, was burned at the stake for believing and preaching that it is in Jesus Christ and His dying for our sin, the shedding of His blood that covers our sin, that we have salvation at all. And the gift of eternal life comes to the individual through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

Now what had been Christianity was divided, from that time until today.

Why am I writing this?

My concern is that many will turn from the Catholic Church and from Christianity all together over this dramatic disclosure of abuse in that Church. And by the way, let me be careful to say that any and all institutions, Christian based or not, are faulty, impure, and should not be looked upon as holy. I am the pastor of a Baptist Church, and let me assure you we simply stumble along.

Not only dear Catholic people but also many others will disregard anything Christian as something to be avoided. I agree, there is much to be avoided, and my plea is, before chucking the whole lot, study Jesus and see what you find.

Here is my challenge: Get yourself a Bible and find the Gospel of John, or maybe the first New Testament book, Matthew, and start reading. See what happens. You have nothing to lose, except a few hours of your time.

Instead of tossing the whole thing out, make sure this is a personal decision and not simply a reaction to the current scandal.

Kent Philpott

October 2018

[1] There is no space here to outline the history of Christian thought and doctrine. Going to Amazon.com and typing into a search, the history of Christian doctrine, one will find numbers of books dealing with the issue. It will, upon examining this material, be plain how the church swerved from biblical principles and doctrines into what became the Roman Catholic Church of today. My favorite author here is Justo L. Gonzales.

Parable of the Two Debtors

The Parables of Jesus # 19

Parable of the Two Debtors

Luke 7:36-50

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions.
  2. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace.
  3. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer.
  4. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.
  5. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.
  6. Jesus did not shun Pharisees thought they constantly opposed Him. He accepts an invitation from one of these, a man named Simon, which is a common Jewish name.
  7. Simon did not perform customary acts for a guest: cleaning of feet and anointing one’s hair with oil (olive). Dusty roads and body cleaning rather rare, but Jesus did not so receive.
  8. A woman of dubious reputation, likely a prostitute, boldly enters the dinner party. She approaches Jesus’ feet as He would be laying on His left side with head toward the low laying table in the center of the room. With tears, using her hair as a towel, she cleans the grime from Jesus’ feet then anoints His head, and at great expense, she performs what Simon did not.
  9. Jesus understood this to be a display of love and devotion for the forgiveness she had received. Simon is convinced now that Jesus is not (a) (the) prophet or He would have known what a sinner the woman was.
  10. Jesus, knowing what Simon was thinking, breaks into the situation with a parable.
  11. Two debtors, both owed a great deal, a sum they could not pay; one owed 20 months wages and the other two months.
  12. When questioned by Jesus which debtor loved the most, (The Greek word for “love” is agape.) Simon gets it right.
  13. Jesus then, based on the love displayed, says the woman’s sins are forgiven. Simon would instantly know only God forgives sin, thus a huge conflict must develop for him.

The act of the woman does not earn her forgiveness, but is an expression of the forgiveness she had received.

A Sadness Hidden in the Gospel Story

 

“Good News” is a way of defining “Gospel.” “Good” is the key word, and indeed, being completely cleansed of our sin through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and being given the gift of eternal life is Good News!

Sadness? Where Is this Sadness?

My mother and brother died without Christ. They knew the story of salvation but rejected it. There is no indication at all that they repented and believed at the very last moment. Thus, according to the Word of God, they are in hell. And this saddens me.

There have been times when I came close to falling into a depression over the above fact. Usually I ignore thinking of this reality when I come across those passages in Scripture that make it perfectly clear that hell is real.

For Example

In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13–14, we are shocked to read:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to live, and those who find it are few.”

Quickly we want to think of John 3:16 where Jesus says, “For God so loved the world…” What about that? Does John here trump Jesus?

Yes, I admit to thinking, or hoping, so. But it will not work. Yes, God loves His creation, and all of it, but the reality of sin changes things. Indeed, the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23).

There Is More

In Matthew 10, Jesus informs His disciples that they will be persecuted. Maybe they thought they would be honored and adored by the populace, given the great power over Satan they had been given plus the gift of healing “every disease and affliction” (v. 1). That they not be too elated, Jesus proceeds to bring to their attention a sharp and unpleasant reality.

Jesus informs His followers that they are sent out as sheep among wolves. They will be flogged and treated harshly by governing officials, both religious and secular.

If that is not enough, He tells them, “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matthew 10:21–22a).

There is more. Jesus explains, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36).

Later in Matthew, Jesus says, “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 25:40–41).

Coming to Acceptance

Let me confess that I have softened the Gospel message by not fully disclosing the difficult passages like those cited above. I simply did not want to bring negative issues up lest I cause some to stumble or walk away from Christ.

In addition, I realize why for so long I refrained from preaching through books of the Bible verse by verse. I wanted to avoid having to deal with difficult passages. I am not likely to be the only one to do so.

Despite being a Christian since 1963 and being a preacher of the Gospel message for over fifty years, I still wrestle with the fact that members of my family, close friends, and other dear people I have known and loved will spend eternity in hell.

Will I reject the Word of God because of the sadness that occasionally overtakes me?

Will I devise another salvation scenario whereby all will eventually live in the presence of God forever?

Will I advocate for annihilationism, meaning all those outside of Christ’s salvation cease to exist? No hell, no life at all, just gone?

Or, will I leave the big picture to the Creator God? Indeed, I am merely creature. I yield to Isaiah 55:8–9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are my ways higher than your ways

And my thoughts than your thoughts.

Still Sadness

Do I yet have moments of sadness creep over me? Yes, I do. For reasons I do not understand, the older I get the greater is my tendency to think of my mother and my brother. Who could not be saddened?

Kent Philpott

October 2018

In the Wake of the Child Abuse Scandals in the Catholic Church

The recent scandals committed by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church with the thousands of victims, and these victims young boys and girls, is the focus of this essay.

I am not a Catholic Christian, but I am a Christian, and all of us who openly identify with Jesus Christ are tarnished by the events that go deep into the Vatican itself. And this is not something new, either.

What follows is a reporting of a conversation I had this morning with members of the local clergy.

First, someone said the exposure of the abuse has nothing to do with homosexuality but everything to do with pedophilia. And to suggest it has to do with homosexual behavior is homophobic. I take issue with this.

I have been around too long to cringe at this slanderous statement. As a pastor for fifty plus years, I have seen plenty. Yes, not all the molestations are of a homosexual nature, but most are. The altar boys are just right there.

Second, I mentioned that there is a pro-gay contingent at the heart of the issue, which is rooted, and deeply, in the Vatican itself. And the issue is not about celibacy either, meaning clergy has to find some sort of sexual outlet since marriage is not permitted them.[1]

Third, there is nothing new about clergy engaging sexually with youth under their care and guidance. It has been going on for centuries.

Everything changes when the molester holds the power of salvation over the victim’s head. In the Roman Catholic Church, salvation is only attainable through the Church itself, with the rites of baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, and the other “sacraments.”

Sacraments are rites and rituals that confer salvation, and the Church’s clergy give out the sacraments. So what we are seeing now is none other than the abuse of power.

Fourth, power is always the corrupting element. For so long the molesters could get away with what they did because of the power they held over others, plus the ability to cover up the crimes in case there would be complaints.

We happen to live in a day when whistle blowers are honored and protected, and thus it should be. So a crisis is brewing in the sacred halls of clerical power.

Correspondingly, we live in an age when homosexual behavior is almost sacrosanct, and by this I mean, one dare not even suggest there is anything wrong with homosexual behavior. Even those who say they stand with the “Word of God” equivocate. But there are still those of us who will say, “No! homosexual behavior is wrong, it is sinful.”

Fifth, as a sinner myself it is no simple thing to point the finger at others. Quickly the story of the woman taken in adultery comes to mind. Jesus said to the woman’s accusers, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone at her” (John 8:7). Then the Apostle Paul referred to himself, and in the present tense, as the chief or foremost of sinners. (see 1 Timothy 1:15)

Sixth, a way out of this morass may be the recognition that no human being, no church, no group, gives the gift of eternal life. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (see John 14:6)

This great truth frees people from being fearful of exposing clergy abuse. This alone must be the message of those who call themselves Christians.

Seventh, it is not homophobic, or hate speech, to call homosexual behavior sin. Yes, in a culture that is bent on appeasing and promoting homosexuality, there is a cost to pay. Indeed, many         will be cowed by the fear of being labeled homophobic. However, we who follow Jesus must be braver than this. We must make a decision. Will we strive to avoid criticism from those who want to fit into the massive trend to okay sinful behavior? Or will we desire to honor the One who created us male and female and gave us the gift of marriage?

Two final personal words: First, this is not a political statement. No one knows how I vote and I advocate for no one. But because I do not want this essay to be rejected out of hand by someone saying, “Well, what do you expect from a Trumpite!” I tell you right now I did not vote for President Trump. I advocate for Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Second, people in all Christian churches, denominations, and branches of Christianity are sinners, including the leaders. No one of us can cast the first stone. Then the other religions of the world, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and on and on, are lead and represented by sinful people as well. Then consider the politicians, and whatever “ism”, from the presidents, prime ministers, on down, cannot cast a first stone either. The corporate heads, of profits and non-profits alike, the great and mighty business tycoons, the stars of film, television, music, theater, etc., none can cast that stone.

Indeed, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 2:23).

Kent Philpott

October 2018

[1] There is nothing in the Bible stating that preachers, pastors, and other church leaders are not to marry. The history of celibacy is long and complex, but for it being a biblical mandate is absolutely false.