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3 Reasons Why Jesus Would Be Rejected

August 28, AD 2012 14 Comments

Are three reasons why people reject the Catholic Church today. I”ve been thinking about this for some time, ruminating about the common objections I hear against Catholicism. They can be summarized in three distinct yet overlapping categories: ontological, moral and epistemic.

On the first, many deny that the Catholic Church is who She says She is. This is the ontological objection. They deny the “who” and therefore dismiss Her as a fraud or mere denomination. The second, the moral, is the complaint that the Catholic Church is full of sinners. Luther had this problem — although he admitted his solution did not fix it per se, just covered it up with snow (insert laugh) — and so too today, especially in lieu of the abuse scandal, is the Church riddled with accusations — true as it is — of being a house of sinners. We are teeming with them. Lastly, the epistemic complaint is that the Catholic Church claims to always be right, to speak with infallible veracity — or so it goes. I know better, says the reply, the Bible tells me so, looky here, or something like it is leveled against what appears on the outside an egomaniacal power-play. Who does the Catholic Church think she is?

Of course, all of these complaints could be leveled against Christ. In that way, the Catholic Church can claim She is eerily similar to Her head. [Hold your objections for a moment and keep reading] On one point the analogy seems to go afoul as Christ is not full of sin, but I will explain the parallel in a moment. Let”s consider these three objections, not so much with the Catholic Church in mind, but rather with Christ himself as our referent. I will then return to the Church and ask you to consider how the logic of the objections (notice I did not say legitimacy) against Christ have equal force upon the Church.

Again, I am emphasizing the logic of the objections as distinct from the factual legitimacy of the objections. I make this distinction because generally we accept or reject a statement based on the former. We almost never have the facts before us nor have we properly investigated them. Therefore, we consider the logic of a statement, and upon those merits, accept it or reject it. What is at stake then is the first push-back many non-Catholics have regarding Catholicism, which is at the level of logic not evidence. What I will show is that the Christian objector to Catholicism does not fairly apply this logic and has likely not considered the evidence, something I am not claiming will necessarily require them to become Catholic but will hopefully make their objections to Her less canard-like.

1. Who Jesus was

Can He Be God?

He was either–as C.S. Lewis put–a lunatic, liar or Lord. Anyone who claims they are God can only be one of the three: Lord if True, liar if sane or purely mad. It did not matter whether or not you thought Christ”s teaching was true or false. Not to say that in his teaching men were not compelled to believe. However, men are compelled to believe all kinds of things by preaching. Our Lord knew that about us, it is why he described us as little chicks in need of a mother hen or as dumb sheep.

At the heart of it, we must believe that Christ is God. This belief is the foundation for every other belief. This is an act of faith, warranted by both the supernatural work of grace in our heart by the Holy Spirit and the evidence of this claim as corroborated by: (1) the prophecies Christ fulfilled, (2) His supernatural life and most importantly (3) His death, burial and RESURRECTION. Yes, truly in the resurrection — his power to conquer death — can we know He is who he says he is.

2. Who He picked as His disciples

The Doubter

Jesus did not pick the brightest bunch. Even if you just gloss over the New Testament, it is pretty evident that his team is regularly missing the point. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts, things got better. However, the one who denied Christ thrice is back at it again, pretending he would not eat with Gentiles. Sheesh! This was the guy Jesus adamantly asked to “Feed my sheep”, prayed that His faith would not fail Him, and changed his name like the patriarch of the First Covenant (Abraham).

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Judas fellow. Not so good. Sold his soul to the devil. So imagine yourself a first century Jew. This Jesus is claiming He is God and His crew is a bunch of rag-tag, epic fail sorts, who are petulant at times (“who”s going to be first?”) and one of whom is a devil. Would not the Jews have good reason to say something like this:

“Jesus, we really like you, but clearly you are not the One you say you are. We know God exists, but I just can”t follow your team. They are way too dysfunctional. I just want to go back to a simple life of private prayer. You know, me, myself and God.”

3. His Authority

It would have been nice had Jesus said. “You have heard that “X”, and you are right!!!” Instead we get things like “Woe (curse) unto you, if….” and “You have heard that “X”, but I say!

“Jesus is like way too judgmental” (chomping on gum)

Jesus did not mince words. He also did not leave things up for debate or discussion. He taught definitively and explained to His disciples in such a way that they could understand. The Gospels are a proverbial chest full of short, easy sayings to understand but hard to swallow. Not sure what God thinks about the poor? What is our obligation to those in prison? What about divorce? Jesus lays the wood on all of these counts. He is no university professor. He is the Word of God and His intended audience is you and I. He makes no qualms about His credentials and promises that the Holy Spirit would come to assist His Church to both “teach all things” and “remind them of what He had said” (John 14:26).

Interestingly enough, many scholars have shown that Jesus took some pretty big liberties in interpreting the Old Testament. We grant Him those liberties because…well…He”s God! However, the point I am implying is that it is precisely because of His ontology (God) that we accept His interpretive decisions. We do not accept them because they are the only reasonable interpretations of the passages. In other words, reasonable men can disagree with Christ. Faithful men cannot. Christ”s interpretive decisions are not unreasonable but they are also not rationally unassailable. God did not give the self-pious man that easy of a way out. No. By submitting to Christ and through submission alone, we see the inestimable wisdom of Jesus”s words; not merely through some process of self-reflection.

The Church: The Great Scandal of Christ

One of Her Doctors

Christ”s Church today is rejected for the same reasons He was. First, many just do not believe She is who She says She is. The miraculous history of the Church, human albeit but miraculous nonetheless, is a sign of contradiction in the world. Her prophetic witness just by Her existence seems to evidence that Christ has Risen and has imbued His Church with that same power. Despite schism, internal conflict, bad-bad leaders (at times) and treacherous followers, the Catholic Church is still here. Yep, still here. Every generation has written Her off. The second-generation Reformation project assumed that She would just go away.

This Blow Did Not Finish Her Off

Here She is. Out of the tomb and alive and kicking.

Do you believe that Christ”s Church is the one he founded? If not, why do you practice your faith in a church founded by someone other than Christ? Have you considered the preponderance of the mere existence of the Catholic Church and the improbability of her existence through mere natural powers?

Second, many reject Christ”s Church because of her followers and leaders. Just like the first century Jews, they have strong grounds to walk away simply because the Church”s members are not that impressive. For example, if the same percentage of Catholic Bishops were devils like say Judas, that would be 425 turn-coat Bishops. Ave Maria! The United States only has 390 Bishops!

Do you reject the Catholic Church because of the sexual abuse by some priests and the protection of those priests by some Bishops? (See: Abuse in Context–ALL COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED THAT DO NOT TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THIS LINK) Is the Catholic Church not credible to you because her members are so sinful? Because a high percentage of Catholics in the US practice contraception which is explicitly condemned by the Church? Do the sins of the few cloud any possible vision of the beauty and holiness of the many? Moreover, does the human fragility of this Church, that She acts as a hospital for sinners, somehow get out of focus Her divine origin and supernatural guidance and protection?

Lastly, the Catholic Church is the only Church in the world that teaches like Christ. I will grant you that it could be just a big charade. However, it should be noted that the Scriptures witness both our Lord”s admonition to listen to the Pharisees when they are on the seat of Moses (Matthew 23:2) and the idea that “he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29). Since we know that the word “scribes” is co-extensive with Pharisees (from Mark”s treatment), what gives? The point is that Jesus is the new Temple and new Seat of Moses. He is Truth. When He passed off His keys to His steward St. Peter, He knew that he (St. Peter) too would have to sit on His seat–the Chair of St. Peter. This seat is temporary but necessary until the Return of the King.Jesus”s ministry started in the old temple, opening the scroll, and infallibly declaring “this is that” which Isaiah prophesied. The Church”s ministry, ingrafted into the new Temple (Christ) began the same way, only this time St. Peter was sitting in the new Chair, infallibly declaring “this is that” which Joel prophesied. I think it is more than coincidence that the New Testament witnesses the continual hypocrisy of St. Peter even after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord made sure to instruct those who were listening to pay attention to those who sat on the Seat of Moses. In their ears, his admonition resonated but not at the new covenant level it should have. Our Lord was preparing them for the attention they needed to give to the new seat, and it is laid bare in Scripture the obvious parallel between our Lord”s actions and St. Peter”s.

Lastly, the trajectory of Catholic dogma has been such as to run parallel but opposite to the current of society. While society has been steadily tracking to hold to a subjectivist, relativist view of reality, the Catholic Church solidified her understanding of the infallible nature of the teaching authority of the Magisterium.Scandalous. What a great shock to the modern ears! Infallible? Hasn”t psychology, history, natural science and philosophy proven this impossible?

What a gross over-statement.

The point of all of this is a simple observation: The Catholic Church is rejected for many of the same reasons one would reject Christ. 

  • They reject the Church”s teachings because they fail to appreciate “who” She is
  • They reject the Church because sinners are in Her fold
  • They reject the Church”s teachings because they are too dogmatic

Lord Jesus, grant us faith to believe. Amen.

About the Author:

is a father of five (+ 1 in heaven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic. His Twitter handle is @2bcatholic. His favorite color is blue.
  • Bruno

    My friend, the link does not work:

    http://www.catholicleague.com/research/abuse_in_social_context.htm

    Great text though.

  • Larry B.

    I’m an ex catholic, I think the catholic church is a very important church, one of the most important. I did not leave the church for another christian church. I think most christian organizations are basically the same with a few differences seperating them. I believe anyone can get to heaven no matter what religion. Except for truly evil organizations. I left christianity, not because I do not believe in G-d, but because I not believe Christ is G-d. This took 55 years for me to make this decision. It started with reading the OT testment scripture that is supposed to fortell the coming of christ. I absolutely do not agree with the churches explanation of these scriptures. And since I cannot accept the churches interpertation of these OT scriptures, I cannot accept any of the NT scriptures. As I would not ask a Jewish rabbi to explain the new NT, I would not ask a christian Priest, Pope, etc. to explaign the OT testment to me. For me now I am studing Judaism. G-d gave them the laws and rules to live by. I am not going to convert to Judaism but will follow many of their ways.

    • Anil Wang

      Larry, as someone who fell away not long after first communion (due to poor catechisis) and stayed away for 30 years, I sympathize. I was quite comfortable with Stoic/Platonic/Aristotelian/Confucian philosophy. When I actually tried to read the Bible, except for the book of Job which I thought was inspired, I wasn’t much impressed with either the Old or New Testament.

      But then I started looking at Church history and the martyrs. I was blown away. The Church was nearly wiped out at least seven times and each time it bounced back stronger than before. It grow from a small disrespect-able sect into something that took over the Roman Empire in just three centuries and spread throughout the world. People died the most horrific deaths over something as simple as not throwing a pinch of incense to the emperor. It has not changed its doctrines in 2000 years even when it was lead by extremely corrupt Popes and it has held together far longer than any other man made institution despite the fact that there were some extremely polarizing controversies within the Church.

      Objectively after studying all of this, one has to see the Church couldn’t have survived and grown if it had no divine protection. You might have a look at this as well.

      As for the Christian interpretation of the OT, actually if you study 1st century Judaism, you’ll notice that the Christian interpretation of scripture is actually a very Jewish away of interpreting scripture, particularly among the Alexandrian Jews (who translated the Septuagint which was the Bible the Apostles used). There was an expectation among several rabbis that the Messiah would in some way be God and there were many theories given since it didn’t make sense. Most of Jesus’ moral teachings were actually in line with Jewish teaching, even by modern Jewish standards. The suffering servant was also understood by Rabbis, but it doesn’t make sense since the Messiah was also supposed to be king. The virgin birth was also expected (it’s in the Septuagint) but this wasn’t surprising since any rabbi knew that God could make descendents of David from the stones, and the Old Testament is filled with miraculous births. If Catholic interpretation of the Old Testament lead you out of the Church, you’d do well to study 1st century rabbinic interpretation such as the ones given in the Babylonian Talmud and other ancient Talmuds as well as the writings of the Jew Philo of Alexandria and Josephus. If you’re near a university, you might want to see if they have an Anchor Bible Commentary:
      http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/SeriesPage.asp?Series=143

      It includes commentary by Jews, Catholics, and Protestants. It might help clarify things for you.

  • John

    Dear Larry,

    Your dilemma and conclusion is not uncommon. However the use of reason can also lead you to the truth of the Church. One such example is the question of who Jesus was: Lord, liar, or lunatic. Dr. Peter Kreeft has a great summary of this argument presented in more detail than this article.
    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/christ-divinity.htm

    Bless you

    • Larry B.

      Thanks for the link, and if some day truth and reason points me to christ divinity, I will follow it, just as it led me away from believing in christ divinity. Although we may not agree on this issue, I’m sure there are many we do agree on. I still spend alot of time on catholic web sites and others as well. Your efforts for teaching and encouraging is greatly appreciated.

      • Paolo

        Larry, I think the best argument for the divinity of the Church is still the one furnished beautifully by St. John Chrysostom. The Apostles could’nt follow Him alive, seeing His miracles and wisdom, being frustraded by His death. So, how would have they bear the burden of apostleship all over the world if they would’nt have previously seen Him indeed resurrected from death?

  • Bill Foley

    from Bill Foley

    Iucunda Sane
    Encyclical of Pope Pius X on Pope Gregory the Great
    March 12, 1904

    8. Kingdoms and empires have passed away; peoples once renowned for their history and civilization have disappeared; time and again the nations, as though overwhelmed by the weight of years, have fallen asunder; while the Church, indefectible in her essence, united by ties indissoluble with her heavenly Spouse, is here to-day radiant with eternal youth, strong with the same primitive vigor with which she came from the Heart of Christ dead upon the Cross. Men powerful in the world have risen up against her. They have disappeared, and she remains. Philosophical systems without number, of every form and every kind, rose up against her, arrogantly vaunting themselves her masters, as though they had at last destroyed the doctrine of the Church, refuted the dogmas of her faith, proved the absurdity of her teachings. But those systems, one after another, have passed into books of history, forgotten, bankrupt; while from the Rock of Peter the light of truth shines forth as brilliantly as on the day when Jesus first kindled it on His appearance in the world, and fed it with His Divine words: “Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass” (Matth. xxiv. 35).

    • Beautiful

      • Jen

        Dear Brent, My son is a transitional deacon, fervently working to be ordained into the priesthood next June. Thank you for your ministry. In light of Fr. Benedict Groeshel’s comments recently, I appreciate your thoughtful support of Christ’s Church. May the doubtful follow scripture to Matthew 13:25-30.

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  • Patrick Cullinan, Jr.

    Dear Larry B.,

    Jews become Christians because of Isaiah chapter 53.

    Also look at shroud.com, which is Barrie Schwortz’s website on the Shroud of Turin.

    God be with you,

    Patrick

    • Larry B.

      Thats true, it’s one of the verses that is used. But they also teach,
      The servant of 52.13 – 53:12
      Israel, who bears God’s word and His teaching is called “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). It is their responsibility to bring God’s light to the world through their obedience to God’s law. When they fail in their calling and the world walks in darkness; Israel is held responsible. It is for this reason that the servant bears the sins of his oppressors. And the servant is comforted with the promise that he will eventually share his knowledge with many thus fulfilling his true calling before God (53:11).

      To me, you either agree with what christians teach, or you agree with the people who actually wrote these scriptures, who were inspired by G-d. I simply accept their teaching over christians teaching.
      I know all about the shroud, it absolutely fasinates me.

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