A "Simple" Response - Part 2
Here's the thing... Christ is GOD. There is nothing all that simple about the creator of the universe. The depth of God is so vast, that humanity will never fully comprehend it, no matter how much education or intelligence we have. We cannot, therefore, put Christ into a category of simple. In addition, some of his teachings are difficult to understand. This is evident by the multitude of Christian denominations that all claim to know and teach truth, using the same Scriptures and claiming they are ALL inspired by the Holy Spirit, yet not agreeing with one another on many, if not all, doctrinal issues.
A read of the Old Testament also reveals that God instituted many rituals with the Israelites. There are purposes and reasons for these rituals. Now, since we know that the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament, we can also know that these rituals would likely have had a significant carry-over into the new. A study of early Christian writings would prove this, by the way. (It is not the ritual itself that one should take issue with... Rather, what is in the heart of those participating? Are they doing it in vain or to honor God and build on their relationship with him?)
Hmm... Christ wasn't part of a church?? Really? Scripture explicitly tells us that Christ actually ESTABLISHED an authoritative church. Here are some passages that might cause you to reconsider this assertion:
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
WOW... A church with the authority to bind and loose... by which the gates of hell will NOT prevail against it. Doesn't leave much room for the Catholic Church to slip off into apostasy within the first few centuries, does it?
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
If we are to take our issues to "the church" and be considered a heathen if we don't yield to that church, that is supposing that the church has quite a bit of authority to decide such things. It also shows that people must know where this "church" is. The church must be visible.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
If Christ is going to be the head of the church, don't you think he is, therefore, a PART of that church?
1 Tim 3:15
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
The CHURCH is the pillar and ground of the truth! Clearly we see that Christ not only is a part of a Church as it's head, but he is also the one who established it!
Why is it that "religion" has some sort of negative connotation among non-Catholic Christians? Religion is a set of practices centered around God that brings one into communion with God through the reading of Scripture and prayer. This is EXACTLY what Christ established... a religion. There is a difference between practicing religion in VAIN and practicing religion in a way that honors God. Now, if you want to say that God did not establish empty and meaningless religion, I would completely agree with you. But take a look at James 1:26-27, which says, "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
These "Whore of Babylon" attacks that make the Holy Catholic Church out to be the work of Satan himself come as no surprise. After all, Matthew 10:25 states, "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" And John 15:18-20 states, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also."
No other church on the planet gets accused of being the Whore - just the Catholic Church. It's an easy attack... We are the largest Christian body (more than all other denominations combined), so we must have some significant role in God's plan. I suppose if we can't be the Bride in someone's eyes, it's easy to make us into the Whore. Millions of us have followed this "Whore" for 2000 years and out of the Whore have come some of the world's greatest scholars, artists, scientists and musicians. Interesting to think that such extraordinary people could come out such an evil false religion...
As for Ash Wednesday... Catholics and some Protestant denominations practice this because it is a sign of repentance. The use of ashes along with fasting as a sign of repentance is used frequently in the Old Testament (See Jer 6:26, Is 58:5, Dn 9:3 and Jonah 3:6) Jesus also refers to ashes as a sign of repentance (Mt 11:21; Lk 10:13). Since the beginning of the church, ashes have been used in different ways to signify repentance. Today, they remind us of who we are... mortal sinners in need of God's free gift of salvation... "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return." It reminds us that we are members of the Body of Christ called to daily pick up our crosses and follow Christ in humility and with a repentant heart.
Simple, have you ever considered examining Catholicism from it's source rather than buying into misconceptions and straw man arguments that even Protestant scholars find ridiculous? This whole concept is so new in light of 2000 years of Christianity and is a vitriolic attack that is completely unfounded. It bears false witness against the Catholic Church as it does not accurately portray her teachings. I would hope that you would not want to be a part of such a lack of charity.
I'm sure that your attempt to save Catholics is sincere, as I was once fairly anti-Catholic myself so I know where you're coming from... but you are also sincerely wrong. I urge you to read some of my apologetic posts. I also encourage you to read something written by Pope John Paul II. See if what he's saying truly sounds evil to you - make up your OWN mind about the Catholic Church. The way I see it is if you're going to try to save Catholics, you should know them from the inside, instead of buying into the already refuted misconceptions that have been barfed out through people like Jack Chick, Dave Hunt and Lorraine Boettner.
**All verses quoted in the last two posts are taken from the King James Version**