This week I received an unusual number of letters to the editor, most of them dedicated to two topics: Catholicism and ad-blockers. In both cases there were many who agreed with me and many who did not. And in every case I am grateful to those who wrote. I genuinely enjoy receiving these letters to the editor.
Comments on Why I Am Not Roman Catholic
As a practicing Roman Catholic I would be first to say that yes, Catholicism has its excesses. However your statement that the Catholic Church does not “have” the Gospel is wrong. Without the church there would be no Gospel. The church decided which books were canonical and which were not. I would like to write briefly on why I am not a fundamentalist: I believe God gave us a heart to know God and a brain to know everything else. The Bible, when it is teaching, is teaching of God’s abiding love. In my view the Bible is not abrogating everything our God-given intelligence tells us. It has nothing to say about, anthropology, astronomy, history, physics, chemistry, medicine etc. To say that it does is to elevate the Book(s) in an idolatrous fashion. I cannot be a fundamentalist because my brain says “sort out the lesson this prehistoric myth is teaching.” It tells me “This is allegory,” “this is hyperbole” etc. I cannot be a fundamentalist because the God of the literal Bible believer is too small.
—Salvator A, Pittsburgh PA
In reference to the veneration of saints and idolatry, I must point out that from the pulpit, Catholic priests have condemned the worship of Mary and the saints. What we do is pay honor (not worship) to very honorable “friends.” We know these saints to be in heaven and so we show them true friendship in the hope that they will, in their turn, advocate for us in Heaven and ask God to pour out His grace and blessing. All this that we believe is scriptural, but Protestants removed 7-½ books from the Bible to make their man-based faith more consistent to their preaching. The Catholic Church keeps excellent records and traditions that lead back to Peter, whereas other faiths may be traced through many branches back to some troubled man who denied Christ’s Catholic Church. Thank you for your time, sir.
—Adam D, Forest Grove, OR
Tim: These comments are representative of letters I received from Roman Catholics. I have a number of replies, of course, but will not make them here and now. In short, I’ve rarely if ever had a Roman Catholic suggest that a Protestant actually understands their theology. Instead, I always hear this: You got your conclusion wrong because you haven’t properly understood.
In your article you said: “I joyfully affirm, of course, that there are true believers within Catholicism and that what is true of Rome’s official doctrine is not necessarily true of all of her adherents.” My remark to this statement is this: You got to be kidding! How can someone who believes in the mass and confession be saved? And don’t tell me they are Catholics even though they do not believe in the mass and confession. My wife was one for 20 years and I have dealt with hundreds of them in my life time along the Gulf Coast. I have never known of one person in the Catholic church that did not believe in the mass or the confession. This article gives people the false impression that a person can sit and listen to the false gospel of Catholicism and be saved. How can anyone be saved by believing a false gospel which is the only gospel the Catholic church preaches?
—Art W, Magnolia Springs, AL
Good and helpful article - and one that needs to be discussed more among protestants. I have a question/concern about this portion at the end: “I joyfully affirm, of course, that there are true believers within Catholicism and that what is true of Rome’s official doctrine is not necessarily true of all of her adherents. Yet the salvation of these brothers and sisters has come despite the teachings of the church, not through them.” I struggle with this. I fear that developing this sort of an attitude may prevent us from evangelizing them. Also—in our modern society, there is just so much information available that people—who are truly seeking God I think, will know of the difference. Would you extend the same sort of grace to someone who is involved in Mormonism or Jehovah Witnesses? Could they be saved and ignorant of what their religion teaches as well? I’m more comfortable noting that God will save his elect, and that he draws his elect to himself from all walks of life. In that, if there are elect numbered in the church of Rome right now, I would expect him to draw them out of her and bring them to a fellowship where God is worshiped in truth.
—Paul A, Oakley, CA
Tim: In this case I was quoting pastor Leonardo De Chirico, and it is important to read his comments to the end: “These people, however, must be encouraged to reflect on whether their faith is compatible or not with belonging to the Catholic Church. Moreover, they must be helped to critically think over what remains of their Catholic background in the light of Biblical teaching.” In other words, Roman Catholics who are saved within the Catholic Church will have to question whether they can remain in that church. Implicit in his statement is the understanding that they will soon see that they cannot. There is a vast difference between a true believer who has come to faith in the Catholic Church and who is beginning to wrestle with what he has always assumed to be true and one who, on the basis of knowledge, denies the gospel of grace alone by faith alone.
Comments on Why I Don’t Use An Ad Blocker
I love the variety of topics that you tackle. The subject of Ad Blockers is a interesting one and I completely understand your perspective that we have an obligation to view ads when we enjoy the content of a site. Otherwise, it is like we are stealing. I have used an Ad Blocker that I feel addresses the issue well. It is called Ad Blocker Plus. I started using it in addition to filtering and accountability software to help my family and I with purity issues. What I appreciate about this product is that it allows and in fact encourages ads which are meet certain guidelines. It blocks ads that include video, flashy banners, pop-ups, pop-unders etc. I think this is a good approach of allowing advertising content that is appropriate. You might want to look at their website at adblockplus.org for more information.
—Anthony W, Claremont, CA
It seems that the premise of your article about Ad Blockers is open to serious critique. You write, “I believe that when I visit a web site I am entering into an implicit agreement with the owner of that site.” You assume this is to be true (mostly) without defending it. I was uncomfortable when I first read that statement, and as I’ve pondered it it, I wondered whether you apply this consistently with everything supported by advertising? Do you ever walk away from or turn down the volume during breaks in a TV program? Do you ever switch radio stations when the music stops? Do you ever skip over the ad pages in the magazine found in the seat back pocket on an airplane?
Being impractical or inconsistently applied doesn’t automatically imply that your premise is wrong, but it does lead to me to more quickly question whether it’s true. It seems to me that people ignoring (in one way or another) advertising is inherent in the very idea of advertising. Systematically ignoring the ads seems no different to me in substance than ignoring them on an occasional basis, or when its convenient for me. Your article was thought provoking, but in the end, I don’t find it compelling because I think our premise of a “contract” is flawed.
—Josh F, Charlotte, NC
Tim: I know that my approach is open to critique. I even made sure to say that this was a matter of conscience and that others may disagree (or may have a better-informed conscience). I ask only this: If everyone blocks ads on their favorite web sites, how will those sites survive? The fact we must deal with is that ad blockers remove or decrease a site owner’s ability to support his site. If everyone blocks my ads, my advertisers will see that no one clicks those ads and stop running them. Then I will not be able to support the bills associated with the site. Sooner or later we will come up with better approaches to monetization (and perhaps I’ve already done this through sponsored posts) but in the meantime banner ads are a necessity.
Thank you for your reasonable approach to hosting ads. I wish other sites followed your principles, but the truth is that the ad networks out there can be used to serve malware. Today, ad blocking is as necessary as anti-virus. However, you are right in that many sites need the ad revenue to exist, but there are more options than ads. If a site doesn’t offer a subscription service, it is possible to use Google Contributor to pay sites their ad revenue without being served ads. This is not the right answer for everyone, but there are more options than blocking ads and strolling through the wild west of ad networks.
—Bill G, Batavia, IL
Tim: I agree it is possible, but it is very, very difficult to convince people to pay for content they are accustomed to getting for free. How many sites have tried a subscriber model and then had to abandon it? Very few have actually succeeded.
There is another side to the ad-blocker question. There have been quite a few instances of malicious ads — ads serving malware — being unwittingly served by even highly reputable websites like the New York Times, the BBC, MSN, and AOL. (Example). While I am generally sympathetic to your implied-contract argument, I don’t think that exposure to malware is part of that bargain! Safer computing strategies (like keeping all software up to date) can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk. And I’d argue that there is a moral interest in, for instance, not risking one’s computer to become part of a botnet (a network of malware-controlled computers that usually performs various evil deeds). I don’t know what the right answer to this problem is, only that it is not as straightforward as your article seems to imply. Of course, one can (and probably should) “whitelist” ads on certain websites at which the site owner is hand-selecting ads rather than working through an automated ad network. But that is quite different from not using an ad blocker at all.
—Jimmy S, Chicago, IL
Good article. But I don’t believe you. You don’t block ads because you have to do yourself exactly what the ads you would be blocking do: Sell stuff! It’s a tough conundrum. As a Christian author, you want to be humble and famous (ok popular). But you really can’t do both. So you rationalize. It’s an amazing thing Satan has done: created a way for Christianity to get better known by drawing people away from Jesus and closer to people who are becoming more popular by bemoaning the very thing they are so good at doing! BTW, I really like you and your stuff!
—Joel L, Viera, FL
Tim: It sounds like Joel has access to my innermost self and sees things there that even I don’t! What a remarkable gift.
Comments on A Call for Plodding Bloggers
Your recent article, A Call For Plodding Bloggers found me at just the right time. Admittedly, when I’m focused on social shares, page views and subscriber counts like all of the blogging coaches teach, I’m not at my best. But your words about using the gift of my blog for the good of the Kingdom hit home. I’m reminded that I write first to bring glory to God, and if only one person receives something from it then it’s all worth it. I’m encouraged by your article to press on, and I thank you for that. You’ll find me out here, plodding along!
—Gene W, Monument, CO
Tim: Wonderful. I’ll be plodding along beside you.