09 November 2010

Early morning evangelism

Every morning from 5 on Premier Christian Radio you can, if you're insomniac like I sometimes am, hear two hours of four of America's finest evangelical protestant preachers. You can learn some amazing things. Just this morning one of the preachers made the clear point that "there is no evidence that humans evolve into angels". He was arguing against "angelmania" - a growing body of belief in USA that angels are everywhere, acting on our behalf. It was good to know that there are some beliefs that are too crazy for him to believe. Of course, he means something special by "evidence" - he means there is no biblical authority for this view. All these guys generally believe that the bible is the word of God, to be understood literally.

Or do they? Another of the preachers, Pastor Chuck, fielded a listener's enquiry. In Ecclesiastes it says the earth will endure forever, whereas somewhere in the New Testament it's clearly stated that God will create a new earth and heaven. Which one is true? Pastor Chuck audibly wriggled, and said that Ecclesiastes must be understood figuratively. Uh-oh. I foresee he might have trouble renewing his fundamentalist library ticket.

One unexpected effect of my early morning listening has been to conclude that Catholicism is prettier than Protestantism. Protestantism relies on two basic tenets: sola scriptura and sola fide. The first means that only scripture gives God's word (so any later prophets are false), and the second means that only faith can bring salvation. The first tenet runs into trouble when you find contradictions like Pastor Chuck's example. I don't deny that one of the statements might be meant to be understood figuratively, but who decides?

But it's the second tenet that's more problematic, and makes protestantism seem ugly. Catholicism, by contrast, stresses the value of good works, and so addresses people's relations with each other. These dawn-chorus preachers only address people's relations with God. So it's wrong to be gay, not because you're corrupting someone else but because you're betraying God's intention for you. Salvation depends just on your faith. Everyone is a sinner, no-one deserves grace, but a sincere faith wipes away the sin. Belief, for these protestants, is quite plainly a means to be saved, which actually comes to sound quite selfish. It's never suggested that belief should change your behaviour towards other people. There is no mention, ever, of charity, for example.

I can't see the point of a religion that doesn't attempt to make people act better towards each other. For all its faults, Catholicism seems much more concerned with this than the kind of Protestantism I hear these early mornings.


Anonymous said...

Mmmm.... The preachers you listen to represent a small sliver of Protestantism. And Catholicism is much more complex than an emphasis on good works. Google the Micah Challenge if you want to find the authentic voice of evangelical compassion

Forever Charlton

Herek Dales said...

I would fully agree that given a choice Catholicism has the more 'romantic' feel compared to the killjoy Protestants. However, as 'God' is merely a device created by ancient peoples to try and make sense of the natural world there is just as much sense in worshipping the moon, sun, stars etc. My personal 'God' having seen the light and abandoned Catholicism, is Charlton and the Holy Trinity of Waggers and Parky. Parky, of course, may be taken as 'figuratively' and can be replaced at any given time if the results dry up. Keep the Faith, Up the Addicks.

Andrew H said...

I think that it is a matter of balance. As a Chistian your own salvation is important to you, but so is showing God's love to the world by your actions. The fundamentalist Evangelical end of the spectrum seem to concentrate on the Me bit; at the Catholic end it can just be your good works that matter and not that you are a nasty bastard to know.

The Church of England may have got the balance right with its Protestant and Catholic influences - but then being an Anglican I would say that.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, it's all balls, whatever flavour you choose.