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Symbols and Systems: Why Catholics and Protestants Don't See Eye to Eye
Inside Catholic ^ | 3/27/2008 | Rev. Dwight Longenecker

Posted on 03/28/2008 8:25:48 AM PDT by Alex Murphy

My niece's husband is a trainee Baptist pastor. Jimbo's hip, friendly, and fun to be with. He's smart and theologically savvy. I like him. He loves Jesus and believes the Bible, and on most moral and doctrinal issues I can affirm what he affirms. We agree on a lot.

But even when we agree, we don't see eye to eye. Somehow we seem to have reached our religious conclusions from different starting points and through different routes. A chapter in Mark Massa's book Anti-Catholicism in America illuminated the problem for me. Massa quotes an important theological work by David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination, in which he argues that, underneath our religious language, customs, liturgies, rules, and rubrics, there exist more fundamental ways of seeing.

Catholic Symbols

Tracy says that Catholics have a basic concept of religion that is analogical. To put it simply, Catholics use things they know to try to understand the things they don't. Catholics seek to know God and His work in the world through material things: water, wine, bread, oil, incense, candles, images, and so on. For Catholics, some of these things are more than just symbols -- they are sacraments. They not only point to God, they convey His power and grace to us through the mystery of the Church.

For Catholics, this way of understanding the world, God, the cosmos, and everything is rich and multilayered. The Church is not only a symbol of the Body of Christ -- it is the Body of Christ. The bread brought forward by the members of the Body of Christ becomes itself the Body of Christ to feed the Body of Christ the Church.

The Catholic imagination and the Catholic soul are nurtured in a multitude of different sacraments, sacramentals, signs, and symbols. As a result, all physical things are part of God's plan of salvation. Life in all its fullness abounds with the mystery of God's life and love working through the world. This analogical way of seeing is dependent on, and comes from, the basic fact of God's revelation -- the Incarnation of His son, Jesus Christ.

Protestant Systems

In contrast, my nephew-in-law Jimbo, as a good Baptist, shares a radically different perspective on the whole shooting match. Jimbo, like every Protestant, has grown up within a basic religious paradigm that is more systematic. Tracy calls this "dialectical language." He says Protestant theologians, rather than seeing how physical things and human culture connect us to God, emphasize the radical separation between God and the physical world. The Protestant focuses primarily on man's alienation from God, the fact of sin, the need for redemption, and the need for man's response.

The linear thought process is like any other dialectic process: "Thesis = we sin; antithesis = God says 'no' to our attempts to save ourselves; synthesis = God saves us when we confess the truth and justice of God's 'no' to our sin."

The Protestant dialectical process means that Protestants emphasize the individual's existential inner response to God rather than the idea that God is "with us" working to save us in and through the physical and historical world.

Therefore, the idea that a visible church, a historic apostolic succession, a priesthood, and sacraments are necessary is -- at the very root of Protestant thinking -- alien and dangerous. For the typical Protestant, the Catholic Church is, by definition, worldly. Its very nature is materialistic and compromising with the world, the flesh, and the devil. For the Protestant there is therefore no relationship between Christ and culture. The faith is set up in dialectical opposition to the wisdom of man and the ways of the world.

Massa quotes sociologist Andrew Greeley in summation:

Therefore the fundamental differences between Catholicism and Protestantism are not doctrinal or ethical. The different propositional codes of the two heritages are but manifestations, tips of the iceberg, of more fundamentally differing sets of symbols. The Catholic ethic is "communitarian"; and the Protestant "individualistic" because of the preconscious "organizing" pictures of the two traditions that shape meaning and response to life for members of the respective heritages are different. Catholics and Protestants "see the world differently."

So what does all this mean for Jimbo and me? It means that even when we agree, we don't agree for the same reasons. For example, Jimbo and I may both sign up to work at the soup kitchen on Saturday mornings. As a Catholic, I'm more likely to see that hungry tramp as part of my human family whether he is a Catholic or not. I should feed him because he too is created in the image of God. In feeding him I am more likely to believe that I am also feeding Christ, and that this, in itself, is not only worthy but part of my own salvation, and part of the salvation of the world.

Jimbo wants to feed the homeless too, but he is more likely to do so because he wants to be personally obedient to the commands of Christ. He sees the poor hungry tramp as a lost soul who needs not only a sandwich but a savior. In fact, it's likely that Jimbo will give him the sandwich because he is concerned for the tramp's soul and wants to share the gospel with him and make sure he is saved.

This basic disconnect between our ways of thinking affects virtually everything. Because of the different perspectives, the Baptist and the Catholic will worship differently, pray differently, read the Bible differently, vote differently, produce radically different literature, art, and music. The two may share the same moral values, but they will do so for different reasons. They may share the same essential beliefs, but they will see them from different perspectives.

When we are engaged in dialogue with Protestants over doctrinal or ethical issues, our discussions will be illuminated if we understand the underlying differences of perspective. Furthermore, in the culture wars in which we are now engaged, Catholics and Protestants need to be allies. For the alliance to be strong and positive, both sides need to understand the essential differences of perspective.

Good fences make good neighbors. Only when we understand what truly separates us will we be able to work together with Protestants for the salvation of our society and the ultimate unity of Christ's Church.


TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; Theology
KEYWORDS: allies; bodyofchrist; catholics; protestants; unity
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1 posted on 03/28/2008 8:25:49 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
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To: Alex Murphy

Excallent article!


2 posted on 03/28/2008 8:29:05 AM PDT by Revolting cat! ("I am like...Dude......do you really....like want the Sex?")
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To: Alex Murphy

Great post here Alex, a lot of insight into both sides of the Christian coin.


3 posted on 03/28/2008 8:29:45 AM PDT by EarthBound (Ex Deo,gratia. Ex astris,scientia (Who the hell do I vote for now?))
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: Revolting cat!; EarthBound; Alex Murphy

It is a good article, though I think its a bit too sweeping. There are many kinds of protestants (and indeed catholics too) and many, many strands of theological thinking. My reading of the situation is that there is a “coming together” of denominations, in the sense that we are much more appreciative of each others experience. I’m a Baptist by choice, but I’ve learned an awful lot from Catholics over the past few years. I’ve realised why they believe what they believe, and what that means, and personally, thats been a very enriching experience.


5 posted on 03/28/2008 8:44:04 AM PDT by Vanders9
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To: Alex Murphy

bump.

insightful.


6 posted on 03/28/2008 8:48:21 AM PDT by Smogger (It's the WOT Stupid)
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To: Alex Murphy

“In fact, it’s likely that Jimbo will give him the sandwich because he is concerned for the tramp’s soul and wants to share the gospel with him and make sure he is saved.”

Not shared by all Baptists. Most of us would give him a sandwich because he IS HUNGRY and take the opportunity to witness, big difference in what he said.

I wonder if “Jimbo” is his real name or this is a vain attempt at degrading Jim by making light of his name because of his belief. Hmmm.....


7 posted on 03/28/2008 8:49:34 AM PDT by Resolute Conservative
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To: Alex Murphy; NYer; Salvation; narses; Gamecock; HarleyD; Kolokotronis; AnAmericanMother

Good Read.

Alex, thanks for posting.


8 posted on 03/28/2008 8:49:49 AM PDT by StAthanasiustheGreat (Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit)
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: Resolute Conservative
I wonder if “Jimbo” is his real name or this is a vain attempt at degrading Jim by making light of his name because of his belief. Hmmm..... ,p> Lighten up. It's a nickname. If he's a Southerner its a quite common nickname.
10 posted on 03/28/2008 9:00:00 AM PDT by RobbyS
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To: Resolute Conservative
I wonder if “Jimbo” is his real name or this is a vain attempt at degrading Jim by making light of his name because of his belief. Hmmm..... ,p> Lighten up. It's a nickname. If he's a Southerner its a quite common nickname.
11 posted on 03/28/2008 9:01:11 AM PDT by RobbyS
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To: Resolute Conservative

“I wonder if “Jimbo” is his real name or this is a vain attempt at degrading Jim by making light of his name because of his belief. Hmmm.....”

Southerner like myself.

My oldest kid’s name is JimmieJack, a diminutive of his name.

Women also call me “maam,” because of my age.

It’s a cultural thing.


12 posted on 03/28/2008 9:31:09 AM PDT by OpusatFR
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To: OpusatFR

I am from Mississippi living in Texas.


13 posted on 03/28/2008 9:33:59 AM PDT by Resolute Conservative
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To: Resolute Conservative

I know there are some out there who like to knock Southern customs and names and it is a sore point when it is from outside the South. ~Especially mocking accents.

My husband is called Spanky. We have no idea how this arose, but he is stuck with it. Nicknames are endemic in the South as you know.


14 posted on 03/28/2008 9:39:26 AM PDT by OpusatFR
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To: OpusatFR

None of my kids go by there given name :)

Peanut, Bebe, and Pepper.


15 posted on 03/28/2008 9:43:21 AM PDT by Resolute Conservative
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To: Resolute Conservative

I have a Peanut, too, and a Baby Huey.


16 posted on 03/28/2008 9:55:03 AM PDT by OpusatFR
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To: Resolute Conservative
I wonder if “Jimbo” is his real name or this is a vain attempt at degrading Jim by making light of his name because of his belief. Hmmm.....

There is no Jimbo, it is only a symbol. He uses Jimbo as an euphemism for separated brethren. ; )

17 posted on 03/28/2008 9:59:21 AM PDT by Between the Lines (I am very cognizant of my fallibility, sinfulness, and other limitations.)
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To: Alex Murphy; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...
Great article!

Conversion Story - Fr. Dwight Longenecker

18 posted on 03/28/2008 10:05:16 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: OpusatFR
Women also call me “maam,” because of my age. It’s a cultural thing.

They also call you that because you're female!

19 posted on 03/28/2008 10:07:05 AM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: OpusatFR
Nicknames are endemic in the South as you know.

There also endemic in Filipino circles apparently. My Dad is called "Pempe" (never figured out what that means) and I have cousin whose nickname is "Jingle" when his real name is Dennis.

20 posted on 03/28/2008 10:18:45 AM PDT by Pyro7480 ("Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus" -St. Ralph Sherwin's last words at Tyburn)
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To: All

Excellent article. We Christians should consider how fun it is to watch Hillary and Obama go at it. Well the secular culture that despises most religions (except Tibetan monks lol) and especially Christians, loves it when we Catholics and Protestants go at it.

Despite our differences we should be able to ally to fight against the culture that wants God dead.


21 posted on 03/28/2008 10:25:11 AM PDT by rbmillerjr ("bigger government means constricting freedom"....................RWR)
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To: Alex Murphy
They also call you that because you're female!

Some things are understood unsaid.

22 posted on 03/28/2008 10:28:27 AM PDT by lonestar
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To: Alex Murphy

“They also call you that because you’re female!”

LOL!

I waited a long time to reach this vaunted old age and “ma’am” territory.

I don’t have to give the same courtesy to any woman now. They are all “girl” to me.

See, you miss the cultural context. I can also call young men “sweetie,” talk to myself and grumble in public, and tell girls their hair’s a mess.

One misses the cultural context which is a problem when we look at each other’s religions.


23 posted on 03/28/2008 10:58:20 AM PDT by OpusatFR
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To: Alex Murphy
Furthermore, in the culture wars in which we are now engaged, Catholics and Protestants need to be allies.

I used to think that we could all pull together against a common enemy, too.

This presumes of course, that both Catholics and Protestants regard godless secularism as a greater threat to the common good than they do each other.

After a few years on the FR religion forum, however, I'm afraid I've lost my innocence and I'm no longer sure that this is the case.

24 posted on 03/28/2008 11:24:06 AM PDT by marshmallow
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To: marshmallow

You and me both.


25 posted on 03/28/2008 11:32:49 AM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: marshmallow; trisham
After a few years on the FR religion forum, however, I'm afraid I've lost my innocence and I'm no longer sure that this is the case.

That's ironic - after my seven years on FR, I've come to the conclusion that God is bigger than my imagination. This year, I'm even more sure that this is the case.

“It is precisely when every earthy hope has been explored and found wanting, when every possibility of help from earthy sources has been sought and is not forthcoming, when every recourse this world offers, moral as well as material, has been drawn on and expended with no effect, when in the shivering cold every faggot has been thrown on the fire, and in the gathering darkness every glimmer of light has finally flickered out – it is then that Christ’s hand reaches out, sure and firm, that Christ’s words bring their inexhaustible comfort, that His light shines brightest, abolishing the darkness for ever”
- Malcolm Muggeridge, from Christ And The Media

26 posted on 03/28/2008 11:55:40 AM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: Resolute Conservative

Then you ought to know better. BTW, as an East Texan whose mother came from Mississipi, and whose grandmother was a “primitive,” Baptist, I know that “witnessing” by Baptists more often involving talking the talk when walking the walk. Catholics tend to do less talking, which is not necessarily a good thing.


27 posted on 03/28/2008 12:01:02 PM PDT by RobbyS
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To: NYer; Alex Murphy; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; ...
Conversion Story - Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Ex-Catholic priest to head Anglican cathedral

Dublin, Feb. 25, 2008 (CWNews.com) - A former Catholic priest has been named by the (Anglican) Church of Ireland as dean of Dublin's oldest cathedral.

Archdeacon Dermot Dunne was appointed on February 25 as the dean of Christ Church cathedral. Dunne was educated at the pontifical university in Maynooth and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1984. He left priestly ministry in 1995, married, and became a priest of the Church of Ireland in 1998.

Dr. John Neill, the Archbishop of Dublin for the Church of Ireland, praised Dunne as "a wise pastor and very much a man of God."

Conversion story

This article has no more relevance to the post than yours.
28 posted on 03/28/2008 12:06:25 PM PDT by OLD REGGIE (I am most likely a Biblical Unitarian? Let me be perfectly clear. I know nothing.)
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To: Alex Murphy
Not sure of your point.

Is it that we (Catholics and Protestants) don't need to be allies? That we already are? Or what?

That's a nice passage from Muggeridge but I read it as a witness to Christ's faithful presence in times of personal crisis. Is there some oblique relevance to the Catholic/Protestant thing?

29 posted on 03/28/2008 12:10:18 PM PDT by marshmallow
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To: Alex Murphy; marshmallow
I used to think that we could all pull together against a common enemy, too.

This presumes of course, that both Catholics and Protestants regard godless secularism as a greater threat to the common good than they do each other.

After a few years on the FR religion forum, however, I'm afraid I've lost my innocence and I'm no longer sure that this is the case.

********************

I am not sure that I understand your post.

The above is the post to which I was responding. I will not presume to speak for marshmallow, but if I understood him/her correctly, we agree that there is little hope left for a reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. I know I see too much distrust here daily to believe otherwise.

30 posted on 03/28/2008 12:28:13 PM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: trisham; marshmallow
I will not presume to speak for marshmallow, but if I understood him/her correctly, we agree that there is little hope left for a reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. I know I see too much distrust here daily to believe otherwise.

My point is that there is always hope, depending on where you place your hope. Mine begins and ends in the character and sovereignty of God, who causes "all things to work together for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). If your own pope thinks there's hope for a relationship between Catholics and Muslims, why shouldn't there be a greater hope for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, who at least believe in the same Triune God and Risen Lord?

31 posted on 03/28/2008 12:45:04 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: OLD REGGIE

Rev. Dwight Longenecker wrote the article


32 posted on 03/28/2008 12:48:24 PM PDT by Nihil Obstat (pray for the Christians in the Holy Land)
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To: Nihil Obstat; NYer
From the link NYer posted:

"Ironically it was at Bob Jones that I discovered the Anglican Church. We were allowed to go to a little Episcopalian schism church named 'Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church.' The church was founded by a 'bishop' whose orders-- an Anglican bishop later told me-- were 'valid, but irregular'. He had been ordained by a renegade Old Catholic as well as a breakaway Orthodox bishop."

This old fogey saw a "loose" connection.

In any event I don't see any relevance in the link. It throws no light on the article. IMO

33 posted on 03/28/2008 1:06:16 PM PDT by OLD REGGIE (I am most likely a Biblical Unitarian? Let me be perfectly clear. I know nothing.)
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To: Alex Murphy
My point is that there is always hope, depending on where you place your hope. Mine begins and ends in the character and sovereignty of God, who causes "all things to work together for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). If your own pope thinks there's hope for a relationship between Catholics and Muslims, why shouldn't there be a greater hope for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, who at least believe in the same Triune God and Risen Lord?

There is indeed always hope. You're quite correct.

I don't think we're saying different things. My apparent cynicism at Longenecker's comment that Catholics and Protestants ought to be allies in the culture wars was not meant to imply that it couldn't happen. Rather, simply that human cussedness has and still is preventing this from happening to as great a degree as it should.

34 posted on 03/28/2008 1:06:19 PM PDT by marshmallow
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Comment #35 Removed by Moderator

To: Alex Murphy
My point is that there is always hope, depending on where you place your hope. Mine begins and ends in the character and sovereignty of God, who causes "all things to work together for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). If your own pope thinks there's hope for a relationship between Catholics and Muslims, why shouldn't there be a greater hope for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, who at least believe in the same Triune God and Risen Lord?

*****************

Thank you for that. I would like it to be possible.

36 posted on 03/28/2008 1:50:46 PM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: Alex Murphy

Very good read, thank you for posting this.


37 posted on 03/28/2008 1:55:10 PM PDT by Grunthor (I promise in November to be just as loyal to the GOP as Juan McAmnesty has been)
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To: sandyeggo

You can’t reconcile with people who waste no opportunity to skewer the Church and in fact spend a great portion of their days trying to find things to accomplish that. The mere fact of their deep-seeded hatred of the Church, that was established by Jesus Christ, points to a very sick heart and faulty intellect. All you can do is witness to the Truth and pray for them.


38 posted on 03/28/2008 2:03:03 PM PDT by big'ol_freeper ("Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words". ~ St. Francis of Assisi)
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To: Alex Murphy

“My point is that there is always hope, depending on where you place your hope.”

I think where you place ~ellipses~ has an even bigger impact on detente.

It could be “hope” or it could be so much snake oil.

We will see in the future.


39 posted on 03/28/2008 2:20:17 PM PDT by OpusatFR
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To: OpusatFR
I think where you place ~ellipses~ has an even bigger impact on detente. It could be “hope” or it could be so much snake oil. We will see in the future.

Kirk: I have never trusted Klingons, and never will. I have never been able to forgive them for the murder of my boy. Spock says this could be an historic moment, and I'd like to believe him, but how on earth can history get past people like me?

[later scene]
Spock: Is it possible....that we two, you and I, have grown so old and so inflexible, that we have outlived our usefulness? Would that constitute a "joke"?

40 posted on 03/28/2008 2:28:43 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: Alex Murphy

Un-hunh.

“...but how on earth can history get past people like me?”

Trust me, it doesn’t get past people like me nor do we forget.

Just watch how you parse sentences to fit an agenda and maybe then we can come to a truce.


41 posted on 03/28/2008 2:35:46 PM PDT by OpusatFR
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To: Alex Murphy
Jimbo's hip, friendly, and fun to be with

Could the missing ingredient be suffering?

42 posted on 03/28/2008 2:39:38 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (Free New York)
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To: OpusatFR
Just watch how you parse sentences to fit an agenda and maybe then we can come to a truce.

Funny - I didn't think you & I were at war. Who declared war first, and when?

43 posted on 03/28/2008 2:47:44 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: the invisib1e hand
Jimbo's hip, friendly, and fun to be with

Could the missing ingredient be suffering?

Genesis 21:6 tells us that laughter is an appropriate response to God's blessings, Job 8:21 promises laughter for those afflicted by Satan, and Psalm 126:2 says laughter is a sign to unbelieving nations that God has done great things for us. Maybe it's the other recipe that's lacking something. Maybe it's lacking joy.

44 posted on 03/28/2008 2:51:44 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: Alex Murphy
What, a suffering servant? Blasphemy!

No worries. It's clear your smarter than billions of people with over 2000 years experience.

45 posted on 03/28/2008 2:53:57 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (Free New York)
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To: Alex Murphy
Jimbo's hip, friendly, and fun to be with

Yeah. Just exactly how I picture Jeremiah; or David; or St. Joseph, or St. Paul. Or Jesus.

46 posted on 03/28/2008 2:55:12 PM PDT by the invisib1e hand (Free New York)
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To: the invisib1e hand
It's clear your smarter than billions of people with over 2000 years experience.

"Here I am, brain the size of a planet..."

47 posted on 03/28/2008 2:57:43 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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To: Alex Murphy

“Funny - I didn’t think you & I were at war. Who declared war first, and when?”

Oh, heavens. This is a global discussion encompassing Protestants and Catholics.

As far as personal actions, well, you understand the ellipses reference.

I’m not at war at all. I have nothing but peace and love in my heart for everyone.

~Even the most blatantly offensive.


48 posted on 03/28/2008 2:58:39 PM PDT by OpusatFR
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Comment #49 Removed by Moderator

To: OpusatFR
Post #41: Just watch how you parse sentences to fit an agenda and maybe then we can come to a truce.
Post #48: Oh, heavens. This is a global discussion encompassing Protestants and Catholics. As far as personal actions, well, you understand the ellipses reference.

I see. It's my personal use of ellipses that is singularly responsible for provoking war, and impeding this global "discussion" between Protestants and Catholics.

Oh stop it! [blushes] You're making my head swell.

50 posted on 03/28/2008 3:09:05 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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