Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Worldly Christianity

Worldly Christianity

          Recently a well-known Protestant speaker made some remarks on a television show regarding birth control that were troubling.  It was during a regular question-answer segment in which viewers could submit questions for his “wisdom.”
          I don’t mean to personally insult this man (I am sure he is sincere), which is why I’ll refrain from using his name.  But his responses demonstrate a dangerous snare that exists, of which all Christians need to be aware.
          This particular caller said that her pastor had preached against artificial birth control.  She and her husband had been using it, and she wondered if they were sinning.  The response began with a distorted presentation of the Catholic position against birth control, followed by the inaccurate statement that, “The Protestant Church has always supported artificial birth control,” and finally the assurance that not only was she not sinning, she was being a responsible Christian by being prudent and taking control of her own reproduction.
          There are many pitfalls in this response.  Frist, it should be noted that there is no such thing as “The Protestant Church.”  Different Protestant denominations approach different theological and moral questions their own way.  The Southern Baptist Convention would probably not appreciate being lumped in with the United Methodists, for example, given their stark differences on abortion.  Also, every Protestant denomination considered artificial birth control sinful before the Lambeth Conference in 1930.
          The second problem is an even bigger one.  This person’s presentation of the Catholic position (not to mention his description of Natural Family Planning) was shamefully distorted.  I doubt that he intended to deceive; I’m sure he shared what he believed to be true.  But his error potentially led many others into error.  It reinforces the importance of learning what Catholics believe from the Catholic Church directly.  The catechism is readily available.  Of course, our Protestant brethren deserve the same respect.  It’s only when we have an accurate understanding of each other that any useful dialog can occur.
          Finally, as I listened to his response, I felt like I could have been watching the Ricki Lake Show.  What I mean is, he was simply affirming the wisdom of the world to the caller, and just putting God’s stamp of approval on it.  Again, my purpose is not to question this man’s integrity (or Ricki Lake’s, for that matter). 
But we have to beware of worldliness masquerading as Christianity.  We are all at risk of falling into that trap.  I certainly have.  Rationalization is the one skill at which we are all masters. 
As Catholics we have the benefit of the Church to safeguard us from interpreting God’s Word in a manner that simply validates our own lifestyles.  Obedience is critical to our avoiding the snares laid out by the devil.
And especially regarding the issue of artificial contraception, it would be an act of charity for us to know and understand the teaching Christ has given us through His Church.  We have many brothers and sisters who need to hear the truth presented with clarity, confidence and charity.