|Fracassini, Execution of the Martyrs of Gorkum.|
Today I found myself reflecting on Protestantism, and it occurred to me that among its fundamental flaws is that it is okay with the idea of a God Who messes with our heads. This is because Protestants hold that Christ established an invisible church of true believers, rather than a visible Church of true teachers. In other words, God leaves us to figure out for ourselves what we need to do to save our souls.
The idea that God allows us to puzzle out our own path to salvation gives us way too much credit for brains, and God no credit at all for being a loving Father. What loving human parent allows a child to figure out for himself whether to stick his hand in a pot of boiling water, or light matches, or run out into traffic? What loving parent fails to pass on to the child wisdom and knowledge that the child cannot learn without being told? So God sets up visible authority figures for the child in the person of his mother and father in order to teach him the things he will need to know in order to survive in the world -- and also in order to give him a reason to believe what he has been taught without having to find it out through tragic experience. If God does this in order to secure our temporal good, why would He not, to secure our eternal good, set up a true Church of visible teachers with authority to teach in His Name? After all, the avoidance of hell and attainment of heaven is the paramount business of our lives. Nothing else equals it in importance. It is why we were created. Failure to achieve our supreme objective is catastrophic and irreversible. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is a reason Holy Scripture constantly compares mortal man to sheep. We are not very bright.
So why would anybody even want private judgment to be a true doctrine? Clearly, the purpose of private judgment is to allow us to rationalize doing whatever we want. It provides us with a built-in scorn for, or at least suspicion of, authority -- especially the authority of the Successor of Peter -- that permits us to doubt and ultimately disregard any authoritative teaching that goes against our perverse inclinations. It blinds us to the truth by allowing us to replace reality with our own fantasies and stamping them with the imprimatur of the Holy Spirit. It gives us a basis to conclude that, after all, breaking our marriage or religious vows or neglecting our kids or accumulating an Everest of possessions or furthering the cause of socialism or apostatizing from the Catholic faith may indeed be our own personal path to salvation. In the end, private judgment must lead to a forgetfulness of salvation at all, in favor of idolizing the transitory happiness of this life. Private judgment is ultimately rooted in pride. This has to be why the confidence of its adherents is not shaken by the proliferation of contradictory and mutually exclusive judgments, each of which is held by someone claiming to have been inspired by God.
But God does not inspire chaos. He does not leave us without guidance in the pursuit of our most vital interests. He does not deprive us of light in our search for Truth. He does not make the most vital truths obscure and indiscernible. God does not mess with our heads.