Protestantism/Leaving the Catholic Church
Hi Pastor Carpenter,
I enjoy reading your responses on All Experts and I am hoping you can help me with an issue I am currently dealing with.
Please note that I am planning on asking more than one other expert about this issue as well, but I would like to get a cross-denominational view of this.
I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, but I was never very involved in the Church and only recently (about three years ago) actually became a true Christian.
After an exhaustive study of Christianity, I have found that the denominations that are closest to what the apostles and Christ taught are Lutherans, the United Methodists, and the Catholic Church/Orthodox Christians. Among this group, I have found that Lutherans and Methodists are closer than the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church.
However, to be quite frank, I am deathly afraid of leaving the Catholic Church because, although I believe strongly in the conclusions I have reached (which oppose papal authority, papal infallibility, and other issues as well), I know that there is ALWAYS a chance I am wrong. If I am wrong, the Catholic Church has made it clear that I am going to hell, or at least that I will be at a very great risk of going to hell.
Because of this, I feel incredibly uncomfortable following my heart and conscience and leaving the Church.
As a person who obviously does NOT fear this, is there any advice you can give me about this issue? Aren't you worried that there may be a small chance you are wrong and the Roman Catholic Church is right? I don't want to put my soul, and the souls of my family members, at great risk by following my own fallible conscience But, at the same time, I feel very unhappy in the Catholic Church (as well as feeling spiritually deprived) and know that my beliefs make me, technically, a heretic there.
Any advice you may have for me about this would be greatly appreciated.
Have a wonderful Holy Week and Easter!
Thank you for this heart felt question. I know it can be terrifying to question something you were taught from the time you were a child... especially when you were taught that to reject the Roman Catholic Church was to seal your own doom. There are a couple of factors to consider.
1. Who has the final authority of faith and practice... God's Word the Bible, or the tradition of men? The Roman Catholic church teaches that church tradition is equal to scripture. The Bible says other wise.
2 Timothy 3:16 (AV)
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
So the Bible is inspired, or God breathed... but we are told to beware of traditions:
Colossians 2:8 (AV)
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
So who wins? Man's traditions or the word of God? It is clear that the traditions of the Roman Catholic church has inserted things contrary to scripture (Maryolitry, the Mass, confession to priests, prayer to people other than God)
2. The second thing to consider is how does one get to Heaven? If one gets to heaven based upon his own merits, then perhaps the Catholics have something to offer... they have a prescribed set of prayers, penance, and sacraments designed to impress God enough to warrant one entering Heaven. If it were possible through works rites and rituals to merit Heaven, why did Jesus die?
Galatians 2:21 (AV)
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Jesus died because the only way into Heaven is through faith without works.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (AV)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Since it is your faith that will save you, you stand no danger in losing that salvation by leaving a corrupt church. In fact we are told that once a church is no longer believing the truth, we MUST separate.
2 Corinthians 6:17 (AV)
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
I hope that this helps you.