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My good friend Dave Smith, always a font of knowledge on Catholicism (if you want to know something, my advice is first stop at his blog, because if it’s not there, there’ll be a link to it there), posted an interesting link which bears on what I was saying yesterday about religion. I can’t comment on what American baptists believe, but I can on what my own tradition holds, and the notion that we think in terms of an invisble church and don’t think of the people as the church and the church as a community is just plain not right. I’d have thought most Christians would focus on our alientation from God and the fact of sin – not least because Jesus was Incarnated, died and rose to end that state of affairs. As for the notion that:

Protestants emphasize the individual’s existential inner response to God rather than the idea that God is “with us” working to save us in and through the physical and historical world.

I am not sure I follow; how can God be with us in this world except through the physical world? Must be missing something there, I suppose. The idea that there is no connection between ‘Christ and culture’ is another one which passes me by. It is not, as Fr Longenecker seems to think, that:

faith is set up in dialectical opposition to the wisdom of man and the ways of the world

so much as our faith challenges the so-called wisdom of man and aims to set what is wrong right – but I thought we all thought that. Is he saying Catholics do not oppose the wisdom of this world?

I can’t attach any meaning beyond a failure of understanding, to the notion that Catholics are communitarian and Protestants individualistic; surely we’re all both? We’re saved in the church and we’re saved individually? If Fr L thinks otherwise, perhaps he should have spoken to some Baptists over here during his sojourn with us? Quite where he gets the idea that we wouldn’t be feeding the homeless knowing we are feeding Christ astnishes me – does he imagine that none of us ever read the verse: ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’? Yes, of course, we’d also like to introduce the homeless man to Christ, but is Fr L really saying he wouldn’t? For a man calling for us all to be better informed for ecumenical dialogue, I am afraid he’s very ill-informed about what my tradition teaches.

Just so he knows: we believe there is a church and it is us, the people of God; we don’t think magic things happen because someone lays a hand on someone who had a hand laid on him by a fellow who says he did too going all the way back to Jude or Peter, we think the Spirit moves all of us; we’re perfectly happy with the idea that Christ is with us in the bread and wine, which we also think is a memorial – it isn’t either/or, it’s both. Praying ‘differently’? Well, I’ve been at Catholic charismatic events which sounded much more extempore than anything I’ve heard in my Baptist chapel. But yes, we don’t do the Rosary, and we don’t do Eucharistic adoration, but then we don’t think the Apostles did, and they were fine on it, as we are. As for producing different music and literature, last time I looked, our salvation depended on Jesus, not our taste in music (and if I may sound a sectarian note, anyone singing ‘Shine Jesus shine anywhere near me needs to have their running shoes on – if that’s what Fr L means by Catholic music, forget it!).

I usually like Fr Longenecker, for whom I’ve a deal of time, but he needs to get out more in Baptist circles – then he’d realise that trying to generalise about us is about as useful as doing that about Catholics. Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Burke are both Catholics – I can’t generalise beyond that.

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