A refutation of one pastor’s opinion about the Catholic Church

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Justin Kollmeyer was as inaccurate as he was uncharitable in his characterization of Catholicism and the history of the Reformation and Martin Luther, in particular.

I will address some of this points as briefly as I can:

• The Catholic Church does not teach that each man “must earn for himself the favor of God or come under His wrath and severe punishment.” This is Pelagianism, a heresy from a 4th-century English monk named Pelagius. We Catholics have always taught we are saved by grace, but we also uphold the duty to do good works as part of our salvation. But, to be sure, the grace to be saved and to do good works comes as a free gift from God.

• We have never taught that God is “an angry judge.” That’s just ridiculous and makes me wonder if Rev. Kollmeyer ever cracked a book on Catholicism actually written by a Catholic??

We do believe in Purgatory, but it’s entirely incorrect to see it as a “punishment.” Rather, it is the final phase of sanctification the soul must go through to be pure enough to enter into the heavenly realm. It is not a punishment, however. It is a necessary cleansing.

• The Bible was not “only for the clergy and universities, and only translated into Latin.” I too heard this “Latin only” lie as a history major, but the fact is that there were many translations into the vernacular, including English and German.

The main reason the Bible was limited in availability was because before Gutenberg’s printing press, books in general were extremely rare, as was literacy. The Church therefore used art and regular Bible readings during church services to educate the faithful. But there was no intentional denial of scripture to the people in general.

• The pope did not create “indulgences” just to build St. Peter’s. Indulgences were and still are part of the Church’s devotional practice. The teaching is on this topic is hard to understand even for Catholics, but suffice it to say that it wasn’t just some get-rich-quick scheme concocted by Pope Leo X. Yes, the sale of them was abused by some, but that doesn’t mean the principle itself is incorrect.

• Luther’s assertion that the only authority is scripture may sound appealing, but it’s really an illusion because everyone sees scripture slightly to vastly different. Thus we have 30,000 Protestant denominations today and a divided, fragmented Christendom that has steadily lost influence in the West since Luther’s “revolt” (since it was by no means a “reform”).

• Rev. Kollmeyer’s rather rosy view that Luther, and Luther alone, helped to release “the human spirit to soar to new heights for the advancement of all civilization” is perhaps his most preposterous contention, and is one that can only be claimed in a vacuum of historical ignorance.

But, it fits the Protestant and Anglo-Saxon narrative that the world was in darkness before the advent of Luther and the other Reformers, and that they, and only they, truly understood the Bible and Christianity.

This rather arrogant contention assumes that the previous 1,500 years of Christianity were completely devoid of proper theology, understanding, and practice of the faith.

But if you scratch the surface a bit, you find a massive cast of holy people, both men and women, who developed the faith, defended it from multiple destructive heresies, reformed the Church, defended the people from evil secular rulers, created some of the most beautiful art in the history of humankind, and revived Western civilization on a firm Christian foundation.

For sure there was corruption in the Church at the time of Luther. The Church is a human institution, though with a divine component to be sure, but that human element is indeed vulnerable to the corruption that all humans are. Reform at Luther’s time was for sure needed, as it is today.

But Luther wasn’t interested in “reforming” the Church. He was intent on separating from it and dismantling it. If the “church” is the body of all believers instead of just a denomination among many, we can echo Christ’s call that “we all could be one as I and my father are one.”

But that is not the situation now. We are divided and we continue to attack each other, as Rev. Kollmeyer did in these pages, at a time when we should be united to try and face an aggressive secularist and anti-Christian movement in the West.

No, Luther’s legacy is not a grand advancement of civilization. Rather, it is a collapse of Christian unity and an increase in division and mutual suspicion.

Thanks be to God, even amidst this condition there are many good Christian men and women who live the faith well in their respective sect, but one can not help wonder how great our witness would be if we were still united as one flock in the pasture of the Lord.

Trey Hoffman

Peachtree City, Ga.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Trey, don’t you think it’s about time to dispense with this nonsense? Do you honestly think that your long diatribe has changed any minds? Arguing about who has the “bestest” church has been going on since the beginning of time and nothing has changed. Why do you feel the need to defend your choice of church? You want to be a Catholic? Good for you! You want to be a member of the Lutheran Church? Awesome! You want to practice Buddhism? Knock yourself out! If you hadn’t noticed, we are a diverse world and although one religion may be practiced more than another, it doesn’t mean one is better than another. Religion is a belief system. Getting everyone to believe the same thing isn’t going to happen and thank God for that! And so what if some other strain of Christianity gets some things wrong about another belief – it just doesn’t matter. It’s all in what YOU personally believe and that’s what matters the most.

    In closing, I’d like to point out that you chastise Rev. Kollmeyer for supposedly “attacking” the Catholic Church, while you attack him for expressing what he believes. Peace apparently escapes you.

  2. Trey, thank you for the information about Pelagius and Pelagianism. I had never heard of him before. Sometimes it is so confusing because one day a concept is in and the next day it’s out so we need to be told which is which today because things change all the time.

  3. I assert the point that the entirety of Christendom has become irreconcilably fragmented from the truth and that almost no one has been able to make the audacious claim of having the knowledge and understanding of the entire purpose of creation because they have NOT spoken under the direct auspices of the Holy Spirit since the immediate days after the ascension of Christ.

    Though I do not call these men fool hearted or insincere, I only point to your OWN statements about the the numerous doctrinal divides within Christianity itself which underscores the element that suggests that two Millennium have past without certain CRITICAL and ecclesiastical differences being resolved. If it sounds illusionary to you that God is capable of rectifying these problems by speaking in a revelatory manner to a man, such as was Paul, then I refer you to the three visions atop Mt. Sinai experienced by Moses in the book of Exodus. Now I also need not remind you of the visionary form of the Word that appeared to ALL the prophets to whom were given the indispensable duty to write exactly what they saw and heard. This is the preferred and ONLY convincing channel of communication from God to man. Like it or not that is what it is. Congregation and Clergy alike have failed to comprehend this basic, fundamental tenant and thereby are deceived in part because they do not PROPERLY investigate the doctrine they believe in and espouse as truth.

    A proper and satisfactory investigation of anything concerning God’s purpose is absolutely required by all those to whom he has given a sufficient amount of intelligence to UNDERSTAND him. This is understood by the words of the prophet ISAIAH who stated “To the LAW and to the TESTIMONY, if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them” (IS 8:20) The Clergy and others have grievously deviated from speaking according to the Law of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy), and the Holy Prophets (Joshua To Malachi) which are in agreement of each other. This stipulated pattern of conclusive proof in the SCRIPTURE itself has the ability to eliminate ALL gainsaying, dogma, and needless religious concepts. The Church’s doctrine is contestable simply because it is not soundly applied in any way that is remotely accurate or even VERIFIABLE.

    Time would fail me to rightly crack the can open on why there can be no unification of falsehoods in the true church or spiritual congregation of Christ’s body. I simply state that the things which have their foundation built upon HUBRIS and self-aggrandizement must be smitten when they have become sufficiently large so that God may get his own glory for overthrowing it. It has been done in Egypt and upon Babel so that it may be repeated again.

    Do not regard this as another attack. I do not elevate myself. I have been elucidated and wish to impart to you the same understanding that has been shown to me ACCORDING to the scriptures themselves (not opinion, concepts, traditions and excluding mistranslations and misinterpretations). May Christ’s own words be illumination to us:

    ” Ye Search the Scriptures for in them ye think he have eternal life for they are they which testify of me” John 5:39

    Thank you

    The only