May God bless you.
+Bishop Giles OFM
One Church Is Not As Good As Another!
By Rev. Wilfred G. Hurley, C.S.P.
Nihil Obstat: Arthur J Scanlan STD Censor Librorum
Imprimatur: +Patrick Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of New York
New York, September 14, 1934
THE PAULIST PRESS NEW YORK, NY
Nihil Obstat: Arthur J Scanlan STD Censor Librorum
Imprimatur: +Patrick Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of New York
New York, September 14, 1934
THE PAULIST PRESS NEW YORK, NY
Nineteen hundred years ago with eyes stern, with words incisive and uncompromising, Jesus warned men of the evils to come.
But there was to be one evil men should fear above all others. It was the one evil Christ would warn them against, time and time again. Satan? Yes! But Satan disguised as an angel of light!
It is here! It is this evil Christianity faces today! And the name of this evil is indifferentism!
What is indifferentism? It is the thought that has come to you, time and time again. A thought you hear spoken of on every side. It is in the very atmosphere you breathe. What is this?
That it doesn't make any difference to God what you may believe. That God doesn't care what you believe as long as you live a good life. That God doesn't care to what church you may belong, as long as you live up to the teaching of that church. In brief, indifferentism is simply this: “One church is as good as another."
This subtle attack on Christianity has been slowly developing during the last fifty years, coming along hand in hand with the material progress of the times. With the coming of the automobile, improved highways, the telephone, telegraph and radio, and the other various improvements to make life more liveable and happy, men have been thrown more and more into contact with each other. So that today, in this nation of ours, we are really just one large family.
But the real vantage point for indifferentism came in 1917, with the World War. When men were taken from their homes. In the East, West, North, and South. Forced to live together in the closest possible contact in army camps, on the battle field, on battleships, in peril and danger, in privation and suffering. And men began to realize that no matter what belief a man might hold, he was apt to be a splendid fellow after all.
And the result was, that although they might hold contradictory creeds and doctrines, a wonderful feeling of friendship, fellowship, and tolerance. sprung up among men.
And it was, unfortunately, in this, garb of friendship and tolerance and good fellowship, that the evil of indifferentism disguised itself. Spreading far and wide until today it is an evil widespread as Christianity itself. Threatening Christianity's very existence. An evil all the more terrifying in its destruction, because while it appears lovely and beautiful on the surface, at the same time it is destroying men's souls.
Does this seem far-fetched? Stop and think for a minute!
If one church is as good as another. then, religion is only a matter of sentiment and good taste. There is no real truth in it. And a man is as free to follow his inclination in choosing his church, as he might be in choosing a club or a lodge. When you are indifferent to anything it doesn't require much opposition for you to give up that thing completely. Religion is no exception. You know that! And thus it requires only a little obstacle for you to drop church entirely.
If you hold one church as good as another, you are not far from the belief that there is not much good in any church. And you are quite right. For, if religion is only an opinion, then it can easily be wrong, as any opinion can be wrong. Hence, there is no certainty. Everything ends in doubt and darkness. The mysteries of faith are denied. And this state of the mind prepares you, sooner or later, for a complete denial of Christianity. A rejection of God's Revelation. And perhaps, even a rejection of God Himself!
"By their fruits you shall know them!" So said Christ Himself. It is the Acid Test! Apply it to indifferentism! What are its fruits?
FRUITS OF INDIFFERENCE
Fifty years ago, had you met a man on the street and asked him: "To what church do you belong?" he would have promptly answered you. Mentioning such and such a church. The United States was, practically speaking, a hundred per cent Christian nation.
Today ask a man on the street to what church he belongs. He will be amazed, and amused at your question.
Seven out of ten will answer you with a pitying smile, that they belong to none. Do you know that the last census revealed the appalling fact, that the American people are now practically 70% Churchless? Think what this means! Seven out of every ten men and women in our country have put themselves down, in black and white, that God, and the worship of God, means nothing to them whatsoever.
To sum up! The last generation were, for the most part, baptized church members. The present generation, for the most part, are baptized, but are not church members. And the signs of the times seem to point out that the next generation, at least outside of the Catholic Church, will be neither church members nor baptized.
That is the fruit of indifferentism in a short fifty years. Is it, or is it not, an evil?
But while indifferentism comes to us disguised as an angel of light, like all disguises, it can be easily torn off. And you can see the evil as it really is. Simply take your God-given gifts of intelligence, reason, and common sense and use them.
GOD IS TRUTH
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life," said Jesus. God is truth! But a God of infinite and absolute truth! He loves truth. And He hates and despises untruth, falsehood, and deceit.
And you are the living child of the Living God!
Hence, God wants you to love the truth! And hate untruth, falsehood, and deceit!
If you believe in God at all, you must believe this!
Now indifferentism says that it makes no difference to God whether you believe in one thing or the other. Whether you belong to this church or another. Whether you believe one set of doctrines, or some opposing doctrines, or whether you believe anything at all.
It is a terrifying statement! It simply means that God is not a God of truth. But a God of falsehood and untruth. That He is the Father of lies. You do away with God!
Why is this?
Because, even though you know nothing at all about the teachings of the various Christian bodies in existence today, you know they are not only teaching different doctrines but they absolutely contradict each other in essential beliefs.
Here is one church teaching baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation. But here is another church denying this, and saying that baptism is not necessary.
Here is one church that teaches men are doomed either to eternal happiness or eternal misery. But here is another church teaching that all men will be saved.
Here is one church that is teaching Christ is really present in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But here is another church which says He is not present, never was, never will be. And the contrary teaching is idolatry.
But why go on? Over every article in the Christian Creed, there is this same contradiction and mutual denial.
Now here you have teachings, not only different but contradicting one another. So that if one is true, the other must be false. Or if the latter is true, then the first must be false.
For you know that when two statements or teachings flatly contradict each other in the same way, at the same time, one of them is wrong. If one is true, then the other must be false and untrue.
For instance, if it be true that the sun gives heat and light to the earth, then it is false to say that it does not. If it is true that you are reading these words at this moment, then it is false, and untrue, to say that you are not doing so.
And it is the same with the teachings of God! If the doctrines of one church be true, then the doctrines of a church which contradicts them in any way, must be false.
And so with the church! If a church has the true doctrines of God, it must be the true church. And a church holding a false doctrine, or doctrines, must be a false church.
Hence, to say that one church is as good as another, is to say that it makes no difference to God whether you hold the true doctrine, or false, contradictory doctrines. You are simply saying, it makes no difference to God whether you believe truth or falsehood.
And this is a frightful blasphemy of God!
Spiritual writers say that if God could be killed it could be done only by denying that He is a God of Truth. By this blasphemy of Him!
Hence, you see precisely how you stand when you say: "One church is as good as another!" You are blaspheming God!
Furthermore, to make such a statement is to speak against your own reason. For your God-given gifts of reason and intelligence tell you that the God of truth loves truth. That He hates error and falsehood.
The whole mission of Christ in His own words was this: "For testimony to the truth." To say one church is as good as another, is to say that the terrible suffering and death of God's only Begotten Son, was the act of a madman and a fool. Such is indifferentism without its disguise.
SCRIPTURE WARNS US
And what about the Holy Word of God? Does it say anything concerning indifferentism?
It surely does! Text after text, and text after text, could be given. The Bible is shot through and through with denial of such blasphemy. But all I ask is to take one quotation. If you would see how God's word contradicts this evil.
It is the closing of Christ's ministry upon earth. He has gathered His Apostles together. And He solemnly gives them that wonderful and glorious commission which is to revolutionize the history of the world.
"All power is given to Me in Heaven and Earth: Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world' (Matt. xxviii. 1 8 ) .
And then, according to St. Mark, Christ adds that terrifying sentence that means so much to you and to me. "He that believcth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not, shall be condemned."
Consider these words! The words of Christ Himself!
"Teach all nations!" What does He mean? The Apostles are ordered by Christ, commanded by Him, "Going, teach ye all nations." What were they to do? They were to teach!
But what were they to teach?
They were to teach the truth! To instruct all mankind in the doctrines and precepts which they had received from Christ Himself. Three long years Jesus had spent with these men. Teaching them. Instructing them. Drilling them. Giving them the truths of Life, Death and Eternity, the Revelation of God to man.
And now He sends them forth to bring these truths to all mankind, to all nations. Moreover, to safeguard the truth, to preserve the truth, He promises to be with them always. Even more! "I will send to you," He promises them, "the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to abide with you all days even to the consummation of the world."
But can you conceive, then, that Christ intended His Apostles to teach anything but the truth? Can you suppose Christ wished them to teach error? Can you suppose that He intended His Apostles should go forth and teach contradictory doctrines?
Could He have said to one Apostle: "Teach all nations that Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation"? And sending forth another Apostle, instruct him: "Teach that Baptism is not necessary"?
Could He have said to one Apostle: "You teach all men, they are predestined to either eternal happiness or eternal misery"? And to another Apostle. He commands, "Deny this"?
Could He have sent one Apostle forth to teach: "I am really, truly present in the Lord's Supper"? And send another Apostle, commanding him: "Teach that I am not present, never will be, and such belief is idolatry"?
And so on, through the entire Christian Revelation. Is God insane?
It is only too evident that Christ, the God of truth, could not have intended that they should teach any such contradictions, errors or falsehoods. His words leave you not even the slightest doubt. His words show He left His Apostles no room for the dictates of private opinions, nor for the prompting of their imaginations, in carrying out their commission.
The Apostles knew that He was the One True God. That He never contradicted Himself. That He never gave utterance to contradictory statements or doctrines. That His teaching was truth. That it was One. And that their work was the teaching of this Revelation of God to all nations! To all mankind!
Christ did not say to them, "Teach what you think is right," or "Teach what you think will make the most converts," or "Teach whatever you think the people want to hear" or "Teach what you think is the best."
But what were they to teach? He commands, "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
He does not say, "Teach them a part of what I have commanded," or "Teach those things that are most agreeable," or "Teach those things that meet with your approval." No! He commands them: "Teach all things whatsoever I have commanded."
And did the Apostles understand His command? They did! There was not the slightest doubt in their minds! Christ had made it as clear to them as the noonday sun.
So much so that St. Paul, and remember in quoting St. Paul, he never even saw Christ — St. Paul coming along years later — St. Paul receiving his teaching from the Apostles — St. Paul could write to the Galatians in letters of fire: "Though an angel from Heaven preach to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be damned."
CHRIST'S COMMAND TO YOU
Then what about those words of Christ that mean salvation to you and to me?
The obligation to heed, and to believe, what the Apostles taught.
Christ commands you under threat of everlasting death. "He that believeth not shall be condemned!"
How could Christ have made His meaning any plainer? How could He have driven it home to you with more force and directness? How could He have been more firm? How could He have been more severe? He tells you that your eternal salvation, your eternal life and death, your eternal happiness or eternal rejection, depends upon His truths. That they should be taught to you. And believed by you!
Yet in the face of Christ's words, indifferentism calmly says: "Christ was wrong. It makes no difference what you believe, or whether you believe at all."
Hence I leave it to you. Indifferentism has no place in God's Holy Word!
And furthermore, did you ever stop to realize when you say one church is as good as another, you take all meaning, all significance, out of Christ's life and work among men?
What is the most prominent feature in the life of Christ? It is His teachings!
Presenting Himself to men, and bringing to men, God's revelation. The truths of Life, Death and Eternity. What men must believe! And how men must live in accordance with this belief!
Probably the most telling point in His whole life's ministry was when He stood before Pontius Pilate. And Jesus cried out to Pilate, and to all mankind! "For this I was born, for this I came into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth."
For truth, Christ came into the world! For truth He suffered! For truth He died!
And indifferentism lightly says: "It makes no difference to God whether you believe truth or error."
Then why was Christ here among us? Then why did He teach? Then why did He suffer and die for truth? Was Christ worse than a human fool?
And what about the Apostles? In all justice the Apostles were eleven good men. Tried and true! They had given up everything for Christ. Homes, friends, positions! They had suffered with Him the scorn, the jeers, and the abuse. He had seen them so hungry that they were plucking the corn from the stalks and eating it raw. He had seen them thirsty, footsore, and weary. They had trudged with Him over the dreary miles of the Galilean desert sands. And all for love of Him. And that alone! Their only reward had been hardship, hunger, and the hatred of men.
Christ not only foresaw, but He even foretold, the hardships, the imprisonments, the exiles, the tortures, the cruel deaths, that were in store for them.
What can you think of Christ? Here He is, ordering these men, His dearest, most beloved friends, to suffer all things in order to bring His teachings to men. When it made no difference to Him whether men believed these teachings or believed them not. How could Christ command them thus? You who believe Christ was God! And believe God is love! Is God an inhuman tyrant?
And what about the Christians of all ages? Those who had kept the word delivered to them by the Apostles!
Did Christ not foresee the centuries of bloody persecution in which His followers would be dragged from their homes, torn from their loved ones, thrown into the loathsome dungeons, scourged, burned, exposed to wild beasts, beheaded, crucified, suffering under the worst and most diabolical of torments? Did He not foresee all this? Did He not foresee all that His followers would suffer and suffer simply because they believed in Him and were faithful to His teachings?
He did foresee all this! He knew exactly what would happen! Can you believe then, knowing God as you know Him, this God loving you as you know He loves you, that He would have demanded obedience to His teachings in the face of all this if it makes no difference to Him what men believe? What doctrines they hold? To what church men belong?
Finally, picture one of these martyrs. his body torn limb from limb; his ears cut off; his eyes burned out by red-hot irons; his tongue ripped out, and red-hot lead poured down his throat; his hair torn out by the roots; tortured and tormented by every diabolical scheme that men could devise; until nearly dead, he is thrown into a furnace where death relieves him from his torments.
Now picture Christ! Coming along and gazing upon that wounded and bruised and scarred body. Gazing into those eyeless sockets, which had welled with those scalding tears of pain and agony.
Can you picture Christ, His lips curled in derision, a mocking light in His eyes, as He says: "I was only joking — it really makes no difference what you believe, or whether you believe anything at all. The joke is on you!"
Can you even imagine such a vile, blasphemous picture of Christ?
But that is the picture indifferentism would give you!
Indifferentism, which says: "One church is as good as another." Indifferentism, which is nothing but blasphemy! Indifferentism, which is simply atheism. Disguised as good fellowship, tolerance, and friendship.
Can you not see that it is against all logic. That it is against all reason and common sense. That it is nothing but a denunciation of Christ. That it contradicts the word of God. That it calls Christ's life and suffering and death, nothing but a lie. That it makes vain and useless the revelation of God. That it makes fools of all Christians.
No intelligent, reasoning man or woman, can hold indifferentism!
It does make a difference what you believe! The doctrines you hold! The church to which you belong!
For quite obviously, it would seem to me, in God-given intelligence and reason, God demands of each and every one, that you belong to the one true church. That church which is teaching those doctrines which Christ gave to His Apostles. The doctrines which they and their successors are to teach to all nations, to all times.
To that church you must belong. The One, True, Church of Christ! And it alone.
One church is not as good as another!