I was recently thinking about something Hodge said during one of our church group meetings. We were very honored to receive and host the father of one of our close friends. This man is a practicing Catholic, which means he attends mass regularly. At one point in the midst of conversation, Hodge posed this simple question to him, “Can you show me that in the Bible?”
We have said it and we will continue to say it, but our desire more than anything (and the reason why we are in Portugal) is to give people the opportunity to think differently about God, Jesus, and the Bible. We have seen and experienced firsthand how the Catholic Church has misguided and presented false information as fact. What’s more, one of the most disheartening things that we have witnessed in such a “christian” culture is the lack of Biblical knowledge. Beyond that, there actually seems to be a discouragement to actually open up the Bible and read it. Instead, it is typical to see each home decorated with a family Bible. The thought of owning your own personal Bible is a distant one.
Now, at one point or another, Hodge and I have both expressed that we are not here to fight against the Catholic Church. And what we mean by this it that we do not go out actively looking for ways to put ourselves against anything the Catholic Church does or says. The Catholic culture is so ingrained in Portuguese society that we would drive ourselves crazy (as well as those around us) if that was our objective. However, it remains that day after day we encounter person after person who has been led astray by false doctrine. And so, naturally (and unfortunately), what we believe in often does put us in a position that seems to paint us as active opponents of the Catholic Church, fighting against them. But what we are actually doing is fighting for truth (that is, the truth found in the Bible). Our objective is not to bring negative attention to the Catholic establishment. Instead, it is our desire to show people how Christ can positively affect their lives.
So, back to this conversation. When our friend’s father was talking about certain Catholic traditions (of which there are many), Hodge kindly asked him to point to and show where the Bible backs up said traditions. Where does the Bible say you must pray so many times before you can take communion? Where does it say that it’s correct to pray to saints? Where does the Bible tell us to confess our sins to a priest (instead of directly to God)? Where does the Bible tell us to worship the Mother Mary over Jesus? And where does the Bible command us to degrade ourselves in presenting petitions to God? The Catholic Church has a lot of teachings, of which a large percentage is not actually based on Biblical truth. And in the midst of this, it is our aim not to teach others what we believe but to teach what the Bible says.
The Bible, that is God’s written word to us, stands for itself. While we can often serve as defenders for its’ truth, we more often serve as vehicles to guide people to its' pages. And it is our prayer, our desire, our hope that people will open the pages, read, and discover for themselves what it says.