Forty Answers to “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic”: #8

Today, we continue our series examining and responding to Catholic apologist and philosopher, Peter Kreeft’s book, “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic” (2018). Thanks for joining me.

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Claim #8: I am a Catholic because of cathedrals

In this short, one-and-a-half-page chapter, Kreeft asks the reader to consider cathedrals as a “proof” for Roman Catholicism. He suggests that the sheer magnificence and grandeur of cathedrals attest to the divine authenticity of Roman Catholicism. He states, “They (cathedrals) are the closest material approximation to Heaven that we have ever seen on earth” (p. 31). The magnificence of cathedrals is appropriate, he states, because they are “houses not for man but for God, for Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who is really present there in the Eucharist.”

Response

Readers of this particular installment would benefit from a little background. Six years ago, I watched a video of Peter Kreeft explain his “conversion” to Roman Catholicism (see here). When he was a boy, the Kreeft family of Paterson, New Jersey took the 20-mile trip into New York City to sightsee and whilst there, the family toured St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue. Young Kreeft was absolutely enthralled by the grandeur of the edifice, especially in comparison to the humble Dutch Reformed church he attended with his family back in Paterson. An interest in Catholicism was kindled and Kreeft eventually “converted” to RC-ism during his college years.

My reaction to cathedrals is quite different compared to that of wide-eyed Kreeft. Certainly, cathedrals are impressive structures. The most famous cathedral in the world, Notre Dame (“Our Lady”), in Paris, France was built over a span of ninety-seven years (1163-1260). The resources needed to build such a structure prior to modern construction methods boggles the mind. It’s extremely difficult to determine the cost of medieval European cathedrals in today’s dollars, but I have seen estimates ranging from $600M to $1.6B. The medieval craftsman and peasants who toiled decade after decade on the European cathedrals were led to believe that their labors would merit their salvation. Likewise, monarchs, the nobility, and even the humble farmer were told their financial contributions would help secure a place in Heaven.

As we’ve discussed in previous chapters, Roman Catholicism is a religion of the material/physical/natural, a “faith” of the sensory/tangible. In Catholicism, salvation is dispensed via physical water (baptismal regeneration). Bread wafers and wine are transformed into Jesus Christ and physically consumed. Sins are forgiven by the audible declaration of a priest. A wide array of physical sacramentals – holy water, statues, palm fronds, candles, incense, scapulars, crucifixes, rosary beads, etc. – are employed to fortify religious fervor. Cathedrals are the pinnacle manifestations of this very physical religion.

In the New Testament, we find that Christianity is not a religion of the physical, but of the spiritual.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” – John 6:63

The simple yet sublime Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that was preached by Jesus Christ and the apostles is the antithesis of the worldly grandeur, pomp, and ceremony represented by cathedrals.

Can a genuine believer imagine the Lord, Jesus Christ, or even the apostle Paul approving of the base, worldly grandeur of cathedrals and of the empty rituals performed inside? Jesus had nowhere to lay his head during His earthly ministry (Luke 9:58). In contrast, Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops relished the magnificent worldly splendor of their cathedrals.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:21-24

Yes, true worship focuses on the spiritual, not the physical. Jesus Christ was not impressed by grandiose religious structures. Such structures were snares in the path to true spiritual faith.

“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” – Matthew 24:1-2

Kreeft and other Catholics believe their cathedrals and churches are actually God’s house, with God the Son allegedly residing in altar tabernacle boxes in the form of consecrated bread wafers.

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:23-27

Rather than being proofs of Roman Catholicism’s divine authenticity, cathedrals are proofs of RC-ism’s worldly and anti-spiritual nature. Mr. Kreeft, I am NOT a Catholic because of cathedrals and what they represent.

Postscript: Sadly, some evangelicals, like Joni Eareckson Tada, have also been overwhelmed by the worldly splendor of Catholic cathedrals (see here). The genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone has NEVER been preached in a Roman Catholic cathedral.

Grandeur or spiritual chains? A young Peter Kreeft was mesmirized by the worldly grandeur of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (above) in New York City.

Next week: Claim #9: I am a Catholic because the Catholic church is not Christ’s organization but his organism, his body

20 thoughts on “Forty Answers to “Forty Reasons I Am A Catholic”: #8

  1. Exactly Tom… cathedrals are a very good reason NOT to be R.C. – or indeed to adhere to any other denomination for the reason of their outwardly grand appearance. I know that there are Anglican and Lutheran Cathedrals; although these are historically interesting, they tend not to be as grand – but these days those denominations too are sadly trying to cosy up to Rome. I love the words of Isaiah 66v1&2… “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is of a poor and contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” He lives in the hearts of those who love Him!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This really puts things in perspective: “The medieval craftsman and peasants who toiled decade after decade on the European cathedrals were led to believe that their labors would merit their salvation. Likewise, monarchs, the nobility, and even the humble farmer were told their financial contributions would help secure a place in Heaven.” Salvation is on the line…and this shows a testament of how works righteousness can make things outwardly beautiful but sadly spirtually the effect is the opposite =(
    I’m sadden to hear Joni Erickson Tada taken in by Cathedrals too

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, brother. It occurs to me that there’s a bit of a “Tower of Babel” element to cathedrals in that medieval Catholics were attempting to “reach up to Heaven” by their efforts.
      RE: Joni Erickson Tada
      I always cringe when I hear evangelicals make gushing remarks about Catholic cathedrals.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “consider cathedrals as a ‘proof’ for Roman Catholicism” … An unbelievable statement. I really am at a loss for words.

    I had an uncle who came to America from Italy and would send money back there to a church. He thought if he gave money for new church doors (maybe they needed new doors or a new church was being built) he said hopefully God would then open heaven’s doors for him to enter. Sad. After we were saved we bought my uncle a Bible in Italian and witnessed to him. One day he told us he was reading the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. It made him cry. He was a very emotional man. Im sorry to say that I don’t know if he ever became a true believer.

    Excellent post Tom. Thank you for your labor in the Lord!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cathy. The “cathedral mentality,” equating grandiose buildings and elaborate pomp and ceremony with spirituality is the norm in RC-ism. Yes, many Catholics contributed to the church thinking the offering would help them merit Heaven.

      Thank you and thanks to you and Billy for your continuing outreach to the lost.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am telling you Papa Tom, beauty is an idol to Kreeft. I LOVE beautiful edifices. I do, I have no problem admitting this. Personally I would take Sacre Coeur over Notre Dame but that does not mean that I would convert to the RCC because I like their building! That is absurd! Seriously, I have seen Sagranda Familia in Barcelona and while it is a sight to see (personally I don’t like it) I would never convert to any religion because of their building. The Taj is beautiful too but I am not going to convert to Hinduism because I think it is beautiful!

    There is something in Kreeft, some unmet longing for beauty that he did not find in the truth faith and this has been a snare to him to the point of converting to RC. My goodness we no longer have purity in place (temple/building) we have purity in person (Holy Spirit indwelling each believer). The Church is NOT the building.

    When I was younger I used to write a lot of poetry. I even won some awards and many of them had to do with comparing houses structures to people and their lives. I get his analogy but as that as a reference to subscribing to a religion is ridiculous. I also love classical music! I can understand how someone listening to Bach, Vivaldi etc would think they were having an experience with God and have questions about God or starting seek Him I have no issue with. God can use anything to get people’s attention, unfortunately the RCC is not the true church! There are plenty of saved people who do not care or miss the fact that “the origins and inspirations of these cathedrals come from Heaven.”

    I am FaceTiming with Nathan as we do at lunch time and I read him the opening of this chapter. Nathan says and I quote, “the Catholic Church could have structures with technological advances and more elaborate than anyone else because they oppressed everybody and taxed them heavily in which they would have the resources and funds to build their cathedrals.” I am sure that some folks who saw these cathedrals saw oppression and evil, not the Trine God!

    I just read your comments aloud and Nathan said, “Tom said what I said!” I met Nathan when he lived in Idaho and he said, “maybe we should all convert to Mormonism as they have elaborate Cathedrals/Temples as well!” So true that these edifices do not preach salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone. I remember when I was young we were at St Peter’s and I said something to my mom about putting money in one of their many collection spots and she said, “NO the Vatican has enough money!” THANK YOU for sharing Kreeft’s backstory! I knew that he had some kind of bend toward the senses so again, thank you!!!! How Kreeft doesn’t see the RCC as the embodiment of materialism is astounding!! I know that you are very thankful that God has saved you and Corinne from this false system and I am too!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all of the good comments, Mandy! I enjoy impressive architecture just like the next guy, BUT as you mention, I’m not going to start worshiping Osiris and Isis because of the Pyramids.

      RE: The Church is NOT the building.

      Evangelicals often say this but Catholics believe the church IS the building, a very holy place where the Jesus wafer resides and the sacraments are dispensed. People have a strong desire to go to a designated “holy place” so as to better commune with God. I started reading Allison’s new book last night and he does an outstanding job once again of explaining the RCC’s “nature-grace interdependence,” that God’s grace comes through the natural/physical/material like priests and cathedrals. Such a “dead-on” summation of RC-ism.

      Thanks, Mandy. We are sooo grateful that God saved us out of this false system.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do know from my RCC friends that the Church IS the building! I wasn’t going to put the Church is not the building but with being an OT girl, and all my studies on the temple and priesthood, it never ceases to be far from my mind that church isn’t the building.

        I can appreciate people having a strong desire to go to a designated “holy place” I am looking forward to reading Allison and hear more how he presents the RCC’s “nature-grace interdependence.”

        Thank you for taking the time to read my responses, I really appreciate it!!!! 🤗🤗🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I had a long correspondence several years ago with a Catholic woman. She had been attending a non-denominational evangelical church. She wanted to pray at church during the week, but her church’s building was closed so she went to an unlocked Catholic church and felt overwhelmed by the “holy/sacred” atmosphere. Kreeft all over again. The woman never understood the genuine Gospel but was caught up in works religion which emphasizes “holy sites.” She eventually ended up as a guest on the EWTN television show, “The Journey Home,” praising God for leading her into RC-ism.

        I think hip mega-church evangelicalism could use a very healthy dose of bringing back some reverence to church service, but I know about the other extreme.

        I’m mostly on the couch today in the midst of a “bug” so your timing was perfect!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Glad to be on time!!! I struggle with the hipster model as I shared with you before, but I have also seen the other fundamental side and your insights into the RCC further affirm there is absolutely no perfect church this side of heaven. Some are closer than others, but still I perfect.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sad to hear about that tragic news. I’ve read that the mother was acting erratically, jumping up and down on a picnic table near the ledge, got down and then got back up and did the same thing and lost her balance. Witnesses say she was with a man at the time but they’re not saying if he played a role.

        Liked by 1 person

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