“Personal Relationship” With…Whom?
Being born and bred in Italy, I have known the strange expressions used by some Protestants only later in life. One day, a young Canadian man asked me whether I had a “personal relationship with Christ”, and I must have looked at him in total disbelief. He proceeded, then, to explain Proddies have quite a buddy in Jesus. Great fun of course, and no “relationship” problems at all, considering the chap also proceeded to inform me he was “saved”, which caused another puzzled look before he explained to me he believes, therefore, well, he must be saved, must he not….
I wasn’t an observant Catholic in those long gone days, but even I would have answered, on demand, that when I die and not before I will know if I’m saved; and no, Jesus had never invited me to breakfast up to then.
These and other funny expressions (memorable the one of the two chaps talking with each other about when they had “met Jesus” during an English course in England, and you really start wondering whether they put something strange in the water…) are now rather familiar to these ears and do not cause a puzzled silence anymore, merely a mild amusement.
Still, I would like to spend two words about the radical consequences a different way of thinking about Christianity leads to.
I do not doubt many of these Proddies are very well-intentioned, and even less doubt the more zealous among them probably outdo most Catholics in their everyday practice of Christian values. Still, their thinking is potentially poisonous, and their attitude not only wrong, but very dangerous for their soul.
A “personal relationship” with Christ forcibly means the abandonment of all those traits generally not considered as part of a friendship: punishment, for once; fear, most certainly; awe and humility, in most cases. We feel comfortable with our friends because we see them at one level with us, we know they have no power to order and discipline us, and we are sure they would never decree we have called eternal torment on ourselves and this is therefore what we are going to get.
Predictably, the temptation will be massive, for all such “friends”, to end up seeing Jesus in the same way. At this point there will be no limit to the extent one’s relationship with Christ can be “personalised”, as very good friends will endure quite a lot in each other. At this point, also, Jesus will have become something scarily similar to the “imaginary friend” some lonely child are told to create for themselves: the pure fruit of an excited imagination, only they call it “Christianity” because of their imaginary relationship with… Jesus, their imaginary friend.
In this we see, I think I can safely say, the working of Satan, of whom it is rightly said he will be ready to let go a few if he has hopes of getting his claws on many more: the strange concept of the “personal relationship” with Christ will still allow some to live a saintly (if erroneous in their belief) life, but many more will be in great danger of damnation as a result of the “bespoke Christianity” they have tailored for themselves; this will in turn lead to be “friendly” towards every abomination; whether seen in other “saved” ones, or directly practiced.
Compare, please, this home-made chaos with the superior – because Divinely ordained – wisdom of the Church, providing her sheep with a set of rules no “friendship” can challenge, and another divinely ordained structure (the Church) to, inter alia, take care things stay that way.
Which does, of course, not mean you can’t relate to Jesus in a very personal way; merely that this “relationship” will not be anything “personal” in the Protestant sense, because it will be rigidly contained within the Catholic understanding of suchlike a “relationship”, in which the two “buddies” are substituted by the King , Judge and Sovereign Priest on one side and the subject, judged and faithful on the other.
I am rather scared (and scandalised) when I read of Catholics talking of Luther and other “reformers” as “men of God“. Men of Satan, more like. Their “novelties” and “reforms” cannot but be a door open to Satan to try to take away as many souls as he can; a process the more insidious when the relevant founder of the heresy led – apart from the heresy – an irreproachable life himself (not the case of Luther, for sure; Calvin more like).
The combined action of the early “reformers”‘, their descendants and the paw of the Devil then causes a situation where Christianity is spoken about in a way people grown up in Catholic countries cannot even recognise anymore.
And what about you? Are you, erm, “saved”?