Due to an unfortunate trolling incident I have--at least for now--enabled moderation on this blog. I hope at some point to be able to relax the controls again; I wish Blogspot allowed for the kind of control Wordpress has, that users can be approved to bypass moderation settings, but if they have that setting I haven't found it yet. However, I want to stress that I welcome comments from all of you who want to engage the issues, whether you agree with me or not.
Unfortunately, I managed to get the attention of someone whose sole purpose seems to be to hijack a thread and scream about how anybody who isn't Roman Catholic is going to hell. I have deleted the offending comments, but I feel it incumbent upon me to offer a bit more of an explanation.
I am categorically not anti-Catholic. Most of the Catholics I know well, I consider to be unquestionably followers of the same Lord Jesus Christ I follow. We have plenty to disagree about, but we agree on the commonality of our commitment to Jesus. (On this point, by the way, I point you to my friend Mason's recent post, which I wholeheartedly endorse. I also would refer you to Nick's Catholic Blog, where I have recently found myself supporting the "Catholic" contra the "Protestant" in a debate on atonement. Nick and I haven't teased out all our areas of agreement/disagreement by any means--and I'm sure we could find them--but I hope this at least clarifies that I don't reject Catholic believers).
I do have an issue, as I have made clear on this blog and in comments elsewhere, with the notion of extrabiblical authorities--including ecclesiastical hierarchies--being taken as doctrinal authority on a par with the scripture (and in particular, the words of God within scripture as I have elsewhere proposed). Apparently, this particularly riled at least one poster, as he spent entirely too much emotional energy on the idea that anybody who doesn't accept the apostolic succession of the Roman popes is going straight to hell. Of course, I'm sorry to say that the current Pope Benedict has poured fuel on that fire, as he has suggested that churches without priests and sacraments can't possibly be true churches. Obviously I repudiate that statement. That doesn't mean that I am suggesting that Pope Benedict isn't a follower of Jesus (I really don't have the information to pass judgment one way or the other, but I presume that he is). I think he's misinformed on this point, but that doesn't mean he's going to hell. It does mean that I don't give his pronouncements any more weight than I do any other believer's. . .which means they have to be backed up by scripture just like mine or yours.
Of course, coming as I do from the Anabaptist tradition, I would argue that the New Testament teaches that there should be no such thing as a priesthood at all in a post-resurrection Church, as "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5), and beyond that all believers are a "holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5) and a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9). But that doesn't mean that I write all Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans (their priests included) out of the kingdom of God. I know better. The Spirit of God has worked and is working through a wide variety of human institutions that are trying their level best to be faithful churches. They don't get it all right, and they get different parts wrong, but they're trying to be faithful witnesses to Jesus.
I have argued before that even defining people according to who is going to heaven or hell is asking the wrong question. This, combined with the fact that I'm tired of Christian shouting matches, is why I banned the posts in question. I welcome--and will continue to welcome--robust debate. I will not tolerate accusations and pronouncements of damnation against others. I have no interest in why your church is better or worse than mine. I have a great deal of interest in what you and I can do to become better followers of Jesus Christ than we now are.
As I said in my opening post, if you want to shout and scream and hurl abuse at people, there are plenty of places to do it on the internet. This isn't one of them.