I have been a Catholic too long now...
The road to Heaven in the Catholic sense is a path where one moves forward to meet God. I can talk about what that road looks like when a soul is stuck in sin, but that isn't what this blog is about. It is about the other roads out there with the promise of Heaven as the destination. Looking back as a Protestant, I can see that the road I was assured of was actually a road in pitch black darkness with one little candle handed to me for light. I can use that candle to see the road map, but cannot see where I am going or where I have been. I would not know if I am lost or headed in the right direction. It didn't seem to bother me at the time as I had a map and felt some false sense of assurance that I had a map and that I was fully capable of interpreting that map on my own. Yet, one day a little voice whispered into my ear, "How do you know you are on the right path?". It's easy to ignore the voice at first. The voice came back, "How do you know where you are going?". It is something that sat on my mind for a time until I just went back to reading the map again. Then the voice becomes more in depth, "How are you going to lead my followers if you do not know where you are going?". All of the sudden the knots start to form in my stomach. All of the sudden the doubt starts to form. Not a doubt in my destination, or my purpose, but in my own ability to guide anybody (including myself) to the destination.
I have been a Catholic too long now...
How can I lead people down this path to Heaven. Some might say me "You don't. Jesus does." Already, that isn't necessarily the case. We are called to lead people to Heaven. in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23" St. Paul finishes his thought with the exclamation "[...] so that I might save some." (1 Cor 9:22 NIV). Paul admits, he is seeking to save people. So, as a Protestant, how was I to save anybody. I had my interpretation of scripture. How was I to know, outside of my own self, that my view was the right view. This is something I still ask some Non-Catholic Chistians. How do you know your interpretation of holy scripture is the right interpretation? When push comes to shove, the different answers will come down to:
1) It doesn't matter if my interpretation is right, I will still go to Heaven because of my relationship with Jesus. (A bit of a cop-out. Also an answer that cannot be cited in scripture. Also neglecting to take into account the passages that seem to indicate otherwise in scripture.)
2) Well, if I am wrong, the Holy Spirit will convict me of being wrong. (This view is also negligent of one's responsibility to one another, and also a bit judgemental. Basically, the answer can be twisted to those who have different views in scripture are just not as close to the Holy Spirit as I am. Also, when one reads a history book, it is easy to notice that these people who all held different views of scripture really believed what they believed, and held no conviction otherwise. Judaizers and Gnostics were the earliest biblical examples of people with different interpretations and, in some cases, did not obey the Church on these issues.)
3) I don't know if I am right or wrong. (The straight honest answer.)
The answer is plain and simple: Nowhere in the bible did anybody give me the authority to truly interpret scripture on behalf of myself and others. Christ gave that authority to his apostles (and subsequently Bishops). He did not give that authority to every living member in the Church, even in the bible. It cannot be found.
So why was I content with a little candle and a map that whole time? I didn't know any better. Thank God that little voice questioned me. I could not answer it, and then it got me to question myself. Why would I not want to walk in the illuminating light of Christ's Church. I see the road clearly. I can choose to walk it or not, but I see it. I know where I have been, and I know where I am going.
I have been a Catholic too long now to go back.