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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Isn't our faith all about a relationship with Jesus? One's religion, then, shouldn't matter as long as one has a personal relationship with Christ.

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Well, yes and no.  Or, with the oft-repeated Catholic apologetics phrase:  it's not either/or but both/and.  It's not either a relationship with Christ or a following one's religion.  Catholics have a relationship with Christ AND it's through our religion (i.e. through the Church) that we can have this relationship.

Firstly, if anyone ever approaches you and asks if you have a "personal relationship" with Jesus, we as Catholics must give a hearty, "Indeed, we Catholics do have a personal relationship with Jesus! The most personal and intimate that we can have in fact!"  For we Catholics enjoy the Eucharist (that is, the One Flesh Union with Christ), and, truly, there is no other religion that has as close or "personal" and intimate relationship with Jesus than Catholicism (and, of course, the Orthodox who also share in the Real Presence of Christ in their liturgy and Eucharist).  I mean, really, how much more "personal" can one get in one's relationship with Jesus than being One Flesh with him???

Secondly, it's true that the entire reason for our existence is to be in a relationship with Christ.  But to say that one doesn't need religion for this relationship is to be a bit nonsensical.  For the word "religion" comes from the Latin word "religare", which means:  relationship (to bind or tie together).  In other words, when someone says, "I don't need religion to have a relationship with Christ" what they are saying is the illogical, "I don't need relationship to have a relationship with Christ."

Thirdly, the only way, really, that any Christian knows anything about Christ is because, well, because the Catholic Church told them this.  It was the Catholic Church which discerned which of the over 400 ancient Christian texts  (not all listed on that website) were inspired.  It was the Catholic Church which codified and preserved that which the Apostles taught us.  Thus, we know that "God is love" only because a religion--the Catholic religion--preserved this teaching.  We know that "Jesus saves" only because of religion--again, the Catholic religion--discerning this to be part of God's revelation. So without "religion" we could not know a single thing about Christ's message of love and redemption.

Fourthly, the question posed seems to be saying that it doesn't really matter what one believes, as long as one loves Jesus.  This simply cannot be true. Doctrine (what we believe) matters because Truth matters.  For without knowing exactly who Jesus is (what we believe) we cannot love Jesus.  In fact, Jesus commands us to know him with our entire MIND (see verse in Matt 22:37 at the top of each apologetics post).  Knowing God with our entire MIND means knowing what he taught, wrestling with the teachings that are unpalatable, unattractive and difficult, and then conforming our minds to the Truth.

Love of Jesus and love of each other ought never be separated from the Truth.  As Pope Benedict XVI so eloquently said, "
Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a clanging cymbal” (I Cor 13:1). It is precisely from union, I would like to say from the symphony of perfect harmony between truth and love that an authentic beauty emanates, capable of eliciting admiration, wonder and true joy in human hearts. The world in which we live needs the truth to shine brightly and not to be obscured by lies or banality; it needs love that enflames and that is not overwhelmed by pride and egotism. We need the beauty of truth and love to strike us in the intimacy of our hearts and make us more human."

Finally, we can see the fruit of this disunifyng paradigm that it doesn't really matter what you believe as long as you love Jesus and love each other.  So they may claim that it doesn't really matter if, for example, baptism is necessary; but now we have confusion and chaos--millions of folks disagree now on just this one verse in the Bible: 
"This prefigured baptism, which saves you now."--1 Peter 3:21.  Does baptism save?  Should it be done on infants?  By sprinkling? Or by immersion?  Is it a sacrament or an ordinance? Should it be done in "Jesus' name" only or using the Trinitarian formula?   Because some folks say that it doesn't really matter what one believes we have allowed division, uncertainty and confusion to prosper in our Christian community.  As Scripture says, there is only ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism--Eph 4:5.  But, sadly, because of the above paradigm, what we see is multiple faiths, each teaching its own version of Christianity.  I simply cannot see how it is a good thing that millions of folks have a myriad of understandings about this once concept, baptism.  Does not it matter that people are disunified on this point?

So, yes, doctrine matters because TRUTH matters.  Jesus wants us to be ONE as he and the Father are ONE.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:
Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. Thank you for this site. I find myself under constant pressure from many Christians who somehow manage to memorize certain scriptures and put their own spin on them. You are doing a wonderful job please don't stop