I am annoyed. It seems that I keep finding conversations, blog posts, Facebook comments, news stories, political pundit diatribes, and most alarmingly even devout members of my own faith who are manipulating Christianity to fit in with their personal viewpoints and agendas lately. (Disclaimer: I have been guilty of this in the past too, largely due to my own ignorance.)
I am sorry to have to tell all of you good folks, and indeed many of you are wonderful and loving people, but you are NOT the arbiter of the Christian faith. You cannot dictate what the tenets of Christianity are. You cannot modify Christian doctrine or eliminate those parts that are inconvenient to your way of thinking, or to justify your lifestyle. You cannot re-interpret or modify what Christ and His Apostles meant because it will make for a stronger point in an argument for you. You cannot decide which parts of the moral law or catechism are no longer relevant.
If you are Catholic, you cannot modify the Nicene Creed to meet your new enlightened world view. If you are Protestant, you cannot personally interpret scripture to tell us what you are certain Christ really meant. If you are a secularist, you cannot morph Jesus into some less than Divine, but still all-around-good-guy-philosopher-new-age guru and still call it Christianity.
You simply do not have that right or authority.
And neither do I.
It was Christ himself, the second person of the Holy Trinity, that established His church on earth. Christ was the one who taught what the tenets of the faith were in His culmination and fulfillment of Jewish Old Testament prophecies. It was our Lord Christ who bequeathed the power and authority to His apostles to keep and teach that Christian faith that He established. Indeed, in the Gospel of Matthew, Christ emphatically stated to his apostle Peter the following:
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." -Matthew 16: 18-19
Christianity is a revealed religion. It has been handed down from Christ to Peter and His apostles in an unbroken line of apostolic succession of popes over these last two millennia. The authentic Christian faith is not open to interpretation. Not by Arius, Luther, or Smith, and certainly not by politicians such as Obama, Bush, Romney, or Pelosi.
One has to either accept, or reject, the full Deposit of Faith as handed down from Christ through his apostles and their successors. If that is not satisfactory, you may start your own church based on your own interpretations and beliefs, but don’t assume that it is also an authentic Christian church.
Now that is not to say that there aren’t many churches which do wonderful good deeds and have very loving and holy people within their congregations that try very hard to live their lives and faith as they THINK Christ would want them to do. The problem is that often times these “Christian churches” practice their faith based on the erroneous interpretation of some pastor instead of what Christ actually revealed to us.
It is not for ANY of us to interpret what Christ meant. That authority was given from God in the person of Christ to the very first pope, Peter. That authority was given to His church in its Magisterium. In other words, that authority to bind and loose and teach what Christ revealed to us lies with our current Pope Benedict XVI and his bishops. This teaching authority of what constitutes Christianity resides within the Magisterium of the Church that Christ established on earth. That authority does not reside with ANYONE ELSE, and it certainly doesn’t reside with me.
The Magisterium, guided by the Holy Spirit, protects the Deposit of Faith from any deviation, addition, subtraction, reversal, contradiction, distortion, or destruction offered by those who wish Church teaching to be something it is not. Again, not even the gates of the netherworld will prevail against Christ’s own Church. The Holy Spirit will defend God’s Church and its teachings accordingly.
When told something about Christianity by a well-meaning person, or sadly sometimes by a not-so-well-meaning person, that happens to be contradictory to what Christ has taught, it is incumbent upon Christians to politely but firmly point out the truth. Truth about Christianity is not open to their interpretation or my interpretation of the faith, but rather it must come ultimately from Christ himself. To make sure that we follow His truth, logic would suggest that we follow what His Magisterium teaches on his behalf. Relying on any other person, no matter how well-meaning or holy, will only lead us astray accordingly.