Fighting Within the Family


Just the other day, I was reading a blogpost about Christianity in the Philippines. It stated that Christian missions has been active in the Philippines for just over 100 years but only about 12% of Filipinos are Christians.

I would not be difficult to question the statistics:

  • Christianity and Christian missions arrived in the Philippines nearly 500 years ago, not 100.
  • Around 90% or more Filipinos describe themselves as Christians.

How does one go from these particular facts and get to the numbers put in the “Tweet”?

To get there, one must make four assumptions:

  • Roman Catholic Christianity is deemed to be non-Christian
  • Real Christian missions only started with the arrival of Protestant missionaries to the Philippines close to the beginning of the 20th century
  • 0% of Roman Catholics in the Philippines can be counted as Christians
  • 100% of Protestant and Protestant-like groups can be counted as Christians

Now, I am not a Roman Catholic, and I do have some issues with certain RC doctrines, but I have great trouble with the four assumptions above.

First, it presumes that the church from perhaps the 4th century (with the establishment of the strongly hierarchal church) to the 16th century (with the development of the Protestant Movement(s)) died, at least in the West— and I am guessing that the Eastern Orthodox groups would not be judged kinder. After all, if the mission work of the Catholic is not described as Christian, and Catholics are not described as Christians, it is pretty safe to say that one feels that the Catholic Church is an illegitimate Christian body. And it is likely that if one feels this way, one probably feels the same for the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Tewahedo, Coptic, and other of the more ancient forms of Christianity. This then suggests a feeling that the church “died” for many centuries or existed in some invisible, hidden, “trail of blood,” movement. However, a better suggestion is that God established the church and has been with it in good times and bad, much like He was with the Israelites in the Old Testament.

Second, it presumes that all Protestants are “Real Christians.” I am familiar with a lot of the groups that could be loosely grouped as Protestante here, and many of them are quite sketchy. It is hard to figure out criteria that would include all of them while excluding the Catholic church. Some might argue that they do not do the “Sinner’s Prayer.” Some do, of course. I have met Catholics who have. And there are Protestants who don’t. However, NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN SAVED BY RECITING THE SINNER’S PRAYER.  We are saved by faith in Christ. If Protestants are concerned that SOME Catholics believe that Mary, the Saints, or the Sacraments aid salvation, they should also be concerned by Protestants who believe that denomination matters (particularism), sinner’s prayer,  or a specific experience (baptismal regeneration or glossolalia). We should be thankful that God saves guided primarily by His grace, than our theological orthodoxy.

Why do I care about this? I live in Baguio City in the Philippines. We have people of all faiths and non-faiths from all over the world. But what are the Protestant churches doing here? All too often, they are focused on treating their nearby Catholic churches as competition, at best, or enemies at worst. It is absolutely true, Protestants were treated as enemies when the Philippines was under Spanish rule. However, as I have said before, in blood feuds, arguing about “who started it” never really leads to resolution.

All I am suggesting, a small thing, is that we should be careful how much we narrow the church. There are bounds for what is the body of Christ, but those bounds are defined by God. While we are not fully able to know the mind of God, that is a good thing. We are not supposed to know. But we should at least be open to the idea that the church is bigger than we are comfortable with.

 

 

 

  • Roman Catholic Christianity is absolutely classed as non-Christian,

  • Real Christian missions only started with the arrival of Protestant missionaries to the Philippines close to 1900 AD.

  • 0% of Roman Catholics in the Philippines are Real Christians

  • 100% of Protestants in the Philippines are Real Christians

Every one of those assumptions is highly suspect, but this is not the forum for this.

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