So, the Catholic Church has selected a new Pope. He seems like he's not going to change much, and that sounds fine to me. What is with all these expectations that an institution that has outlived empires and is older than every established government on this planet will change it's basic doctrines in less than 1/20th of the time it has existed? And why would that be a good thing?
As most of you know, I am not Catholic. However, I have noticed again and again an assumption on the part of my Protestant bretheren that if someone is Catholic, they are either probably or certainly not actually saved. Many won't even refer to Catholics as Christians.
I disagree with "The Church" on many, many things, both doctrinal and practical. I have no desire or inclination to convert, yet I cannot understand these assumptions. I disagree with many other denominations, and as can be surmized by the few things I have written here I disagree with just about every Christian individual out there as well. I assume I am probably dead wrong on quite a lot of what I believe. There are certain points, however, where I am as close to certain as I think a human can get.
The question is, are Catholics so far out of what Protestants believe that they cannot be considered Christian? Most Christians, Catholic and non, would argue that groups such as Mormon's and Jehova's Witnesses are not Christian. But this is because they deny very basic points points such as the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and redemption through Grace alone. Catholics, despite what you may have heard, do not deny these basic tenents. In fact, they have defined, refined and championed them throughout history (and yes, they've done horrible things also, but that's not the point right now).
That there are many Catholics who may be confused about these things is hardly disputed by anyone. That does not mean that this is what the Catholic church teaches, though they do seem to lack the clarity of message that you find with Protestants, spending much time talking about peripheral doctrines (the Saints and Mary in particular).
The other big thing that Protestants disagree with Catholics on is Tradition as a way of determing God's will. Sola Scriptura, meaning Scripture Alone is the assertion of Protestants.
However, even Protestants rely on tradition! They use it, first and foremost, in deciding what constitutes Holy Scripture in the first place! As a good Catholic friend of mine said (and he knows who he is) there is no table of contents in Scripture. There are other areas as well where tradition is relied upon. Many doctrines of Christianity are simply not obvious from Scripture alone. The Trinity is certainly one of those. And the gradually shifting views of eschatology can only be attributed to tradition.
But here I believe tradition to be an informal collection of wisdom and doctrine revealed to Christians through the Holy Spirit, not a formal organization with specific recipients of such wisdom. And I believe that the Catholic church has strayed a bit from Scripture in some areas, at least as I understand it.
Well, that's a mouthful so I think I'll take a break. Looking forward to hearing any comments y'all have!