Looking Down at Catholics

As a Southern Baptist Pastor, I can speak to this with some firsthand experience. All too often we speak in a condemning manner about what Catholics believe. We are bereaved by the fact that they do not encourage individuals to read the Bible (although they do not discourage it either). There are many other “problems” that we Baptist’s have with Catholic theology, and for good reason.

However, I think that when we “speak” of Catholic belief, we do not carefully choose our words. I think we appear to be condemning individual Catholics rather than condemning Catholicism. I know I am guilty of coming across in this tone at times, even though I try not to do so. But it seems to be one of those areas where Southern Baptist’s as a whole think that it is ok to condemn the sinner rather than the sin—it’s ok to look down our noses at Catholics.

Some of the recent posts I have read from Southern Baptist’s seem to have moved beyond looking down at other religions and denominations and have carried that right into our very own denomination. I understand that the SBC has problems. I don’t think there has ever been a time in its history where it didn’t have its own problems. But in addressing these problems, we have begun to move beyond pointing the finger at the issues and have begun to point them at individuals in the SBC.

I think this is wrong and bordering on sin. This judgmental attitude and condemning spirit is what Jesus meant when he said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1, NIV). Furthermore, when we change from pointing fingers at the problems to pointing them at individuals the rest of that passage comes into play—“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3, NIV).
Whenever we want to point the finger at someone else’s “problem,” we had better have taken a good look at ourselves first to make sure we don’t have a “plank” in our own eye. So for all those “asking questions” that don’t concern an issue but are aimed at “certain individuals,” I would ask you—do you have a plank in your eye while you are pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye?

It was also quite amazing to me that one post attempted to keep it a secret as to who they were pointing the finger at by using cryptic language that, well, wasn’t so cryptic. I haven’t been blogging for very long, but I knew exactly who they identifying. This is a sad testimony to the “Baptist plank problem.” We too many times jump on the wagon of condemnation without first stopping to examine ourselves and determine if we too need to straighten this issue out in our own lives.

I understand that the SBC is becoming more centralized and so the leaders have a much greater effect upon the developing problems and so many feel at ease with pointing the finger at these leaders. The problem, and the plank we don’t want to acknowledge, is that as churches of the SBC we allowed it to become more centralized. One of the great pride(s) of being a Southern Baptist used to be our unique ability to unite together to further the kingdom of Christ without a central denominational government (as the Catholics, Presbyterians, etc. have). When we allow our “government” (the SBC) to become more centralized, it is going to become more dependent upon the leaders. If there are good leaders, then it will follow that the SBC will be good. If there are bad leaders, then it will follow that the SBC will be bad. It is no different than the United States government. It has become so centralized that it is becoming more dependent upon the president as to whether or not the government will be effective at serving the people or the agenda of the president in office.

When we begin to question whether or not a church is “truly” Southern Baptist based upon their giving, or lack thereof, to the Cooperative Program—are we not questioning how centralized we are allowing the SBC to become? I may only be in my 20’s, but I can read history books and I do believe that when the SBC was first formed there was no Cooperative Program. Were those churches less Southern Baptist? When the SBC proposed the 75 million campaign and churches pledged to donate what they could and the pledges exceeded the 75 million mark (92 million to be more precise); however, the receipts fell far short of 75 million (only collecting 58 million)—were those churches less Southern Baptist because they didn’t follow through with their pledge in the face of hard economic troubles (troubles we haven’t seen yet)? The cooperative program cannot be (and never was) the measure of whether or not churches were Southern Baptist. We are not Southern Baptist because we give to the cooperative program; we are Southern Baptist by conviction—by what we believe and not by where we give our money.

I propose that we look in the mirror and pull out the plank before we try to remove the speck in the eye of the SBC. I propose that we plug the hole in the boat instead of relying on the bilge pump and buckets. Let’s fix the problem rather than playing the blame game. If we only worry about who to blame, we can never move out of the past and on to the future. Let us resolve the problems of the SBC and get back to coming together to further the kingdom of Jesus Christ!

UPDATE: There were a few posts that led me to post this, but the two main posts that led me to this response can be viewed here and here.
What'd you think? 

2 Response to "Looking Down at Catholics"

  • Dave Miller Says:

    I wish I could see the post you are referring to, because I haven't read what you are referring to.

    A couple of observations:

    *I certainly think there can be saved Catholics, but it is in spite of their theological system, not because of it. When I moved to Cedar Rapids (300 years ago) I started watching the "Catholic Channel" (Eternal Word Network??). It was watching Catholic masses and listening to Catholic talk shows and teaching sessions that got me bothered.

    The more I understood of Catholoism, the more foreign it seemed to me to biblical Christianity.

    *I share your concerns about an overly centralized denomination. On the other hand, a denomination as large is goin to naturally become centralized. We can resist it to some extent, but not fully.

    *I think I disagree with your application of the "Judge not" passage you referenced above. I am planning to preach tomorrow about false prophets and how the Bible defines them. We are warned repeatedly that false brethren will come among us to deceive the people of God.

    It is not mine to judge and condemn, but I am called to discern. I must apply the Word and call false what is false.

    Those are some random thoughts.

  • Mr. Hyde Says:

    Thanks for reading my post and giving me your thoughts. I think we may be in agreement with the Matthew passage. I think discernment is what Jesus meant in the verse immediately following those I cited, in which he stated "Don't cast your pearls before pigs..." And you summed up what I meant, "It is not mine to judge and condemn, but I am called to discern." I would add the caveat that it is not ours to judge and condemn individuals, but it is ours to judge and condemn sin (Ephesian 5:11).