Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Heresy of Indifference

I enjoy debating Protestants on issues of faith, but every discussion I have with one ends in the same frustrating dead end of doctrinal indifference.  This is typified by something a Presbyterian friend said to me, "We believe that accepting Jesus is all that matters, once he is in your heart, we will be debating the finer points of the faith til the day He comes back."  This proposition makes any argument moot because it claims that theological debate among Christians can never produce a solid result.  My friend's judgement is fairly accurate when applied to Protestant sects, because lacking a Magesterium, Protestants can make no absolute claim to theological truth beyond the most basic of doctrines.

However, this relativism is not satisfactory when considering the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.  Unlike Protestants, the Catholic Church makes a claim of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.  The fallibility of Protestant teachings is the very reason for indifference among Protestants and it is unreasonable to be indifferent about competing doctrinal claims when one side declares itself to be infallible.  Though Protestants profess indifference about Catholicism, they are not really being indifferent, but implicitly and absolutely rejecting the Catholic Church's claim of authority.  Because of this, an honest debate with a Protestant should result not in a declaration of indifference, but a statement of disbelief in the teaching authority of the Church.  This is a solid point of contention and should serve as the starting point for a more fruitful debate.


  1. I think this is a really good point. As Catholics who engage in such debate, I think we insitinctively think and understand this, but we don't spell it out as much.

    The problem with debating protestants though is that they might not even accept this, not as a premise, but as a way of thinking about the debate. Protestants also have a hard time understanding that they are a degree of difference from Catholicism - a derivation from us. Instead they think they are different in kind - making your point in a different way.

  2. Joe: Exactly! Your are right about the real degree of separation between Protestantism and Catholicism vs that separation as percieved by Protestants. Many think that priest=minister and mass=worship service. Protestants don't realize that the Catholic church is not a denominiation, but the numerator.

    Blogger isn't cooperating with me at the moment so I can't sign in.

  3. From Left-footer

    Patrick - Nice point: "Protestants don't realize that the Catholic Church is not a denominiation, but the numerator."

    I too can't sign in.

  4. It also should be noted that Protestants are not trained in philosophy. The closest they come are guys like Norm Geisler. Classical metaphysics are an important tool especially with regards to the intellectual dimension of our Faith...

  5. Marco: I think that you are correct, but the same could be said for most Catholics.