Last Monday I posted a question and answer from the Westminster Catechism. Several people have responded to it in the comments there, including Housewife* ,who read it and has a few questions for me. Says she,
I would love to see a post about this. I like your writing and I am genuinely curious where someone like you stands.
Alrighty then. She compliments me and then asks me to do something that is one of my favorite things—answering challenging questions about where I stand. I really can’t say no, can I? Here we go.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Does this mean you cannot have a friend from another religion? Would you have a Muslim or Jew in your home? Would you ever want to talk to one of us without quoting scripture?
The first bit in quotation marks is a quote from the gospel of Mark that the writers of the catechism have used to support what they give as an answer to a question in the catechism about whether people who never hear the gospel can be saved. The word condemnation in that quote is, of course, speaking of eternal fate, and as such, it’s God’s business, not my business. I’m pointing this out because I wondered, given the next two questions, it you (speaking personally to Housewife) didn’t take the last part of this quote as a command, so that it means something like, “Believers must go about condemning those who don’t believe.” It isn’t.
Now, on to the questions. Do I have friends from other religions? Yes, I do. I live my life in my community and my neighbourhood, and that means I’m in close contact with all sorts of people. Because my faith is so important to me—something that I value highly—my closest friends tend to be people who believe as I do, but I have many other friends and acquaintances as well.
Would I have a Muslim or Jew in my home? Sure, and I do. I don’t think I know anyone who is a practicing Jew—it’s a geographic thing—but I know people who are Muslims and Seikhs and of the Baha’i faith. We had someone from one of those groups for Christmas dinner, to give a specific example.
As to quoting scripture in regular, everyday conversation: Unless you expressed an interest in scripture and what it says, I’d probably not quote scripture to you.
The reason there’s so much scripture quoted in that particualar post is that the catechism was developed to be used as a teaching tool for those who were already part of the church, specifically, in the case of the Westminster Catechism, the church of Scotland 400 years ago. That everything that the church teaches should be based in scripture would already be agreed upon by those who used the catechism in that way, so for them, including the scriptural proofs was vital. How would someone judge whether the conclusions of the catechism were correct if they didn’t know the basis for those conclusions?
Leaving out all those quotes from the Bible would be a bit like me writing an article titled The Misogynism of William Shakespeare, and then never quoting any of Shakespeare’s own works to support my conclusion. I’d have to include quotes and references to what Shakespeare actually wrote to prove that my conclusion was grounded in something real or tangible or historical, and that it wasn’t merely a product of my own imagination whimically making stuff up as I went along. Any thinking reader would want evidence that I wasn’t just blowing smoke.
The scripture quoted in the catechism serves the same purpose as quotes and references in the Shakespeare article example. All those quotes are evidence that the conclusions in the catechism aren’t just pulled out of thin air, but are grounded in something real—something the users of the catechism would have already agreed was God’s communication, and thus the necessary source for any conclusions in the catechism.
That’s as much question answering as I have time for today, so I’ll save the rest of the questions for my next post. I hope that helps explain some things. If something’s not clear, feel free to ask more.
If you are not Housewife, but reading along anyway, and you have more questions on the subjects touched on by these questions and answers, feel free to ask them, too. If you are reading along and you think there is something important missing from what I’ve written, why not hold off until I’ve finished answering the rest of Housewife’s questions, which go on to other important issues? There’s a good chance what you think I’ve left out will come up there.