Catholicism in Colombia
Catholicism and Christianity (part 2)
When we talk about Colombia, we want to reach it for Christ. To reach them for Christ, we need to understand what we’re going up against. (Think of Paul, who took the religious background of the Athenians and used it to try to convince them of the one true God.) And in Colombia, that’s largely Catholicism. So we’ll take a bit of a break from our series on Colombian history to talk a bit about the religious climate in Latin America, with a special focus on Colombia.
Catholicism in Latin America can be very broadly divided into three camps: Catholic-tinged apathetic deism, nationalistic Catholicism, and true Catholicism. The first group doesn’t really care what the Catholic church officially says or does, the second group sees Catholicism as a way of affirming their identity, and the third hangs on every word from the Pope, seeing in the church a way to get to heaven. All three need a true knowledge of Christ.
It’s estimated that about 75% of Colombians would call themselves Catholics, but a good two-thirds of those are only occasional attenders of Catholic services. Some of them are apathetic deists—they’ll certainly say that they believe in God, but they don’t seek out a real relationship with him. They would call themselves Catholics, but have no desire to really put energy into even the Catholic church, let alone chasing after Christ. These people need to see how God can make a real difference in people’s lives.
Some are nationalistic Catholics, meaning that they view Catholicism as a part of their identity. They are desperately looking for something to give their life for, something of meaning, something worth basing their identity on. Catholicism—though they would never say it—is a means to an end. They go to mass because that’s what their family has done for generations, or because that’s what good Colombians do, or because they view it as their duty. But attending a church service (be it Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal or Catholic) doesn’t bring you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They focus more on the things that distinguish Catholicism, as well—they often have an even greater focus on Mary and on the pagan trappings of Catholicism than the “true believes” do, because Mary is a clear distinguishing mark between Catholics and Evangelicals.
Some Catholics, however, are what you could call the “true believers”, and these are the few who actually believe what the Catholic church teaches. The problem is that they are sincerely believing in a doctrine that is riddled with misconceptions and lies. Catholicism officially preaches that we are initially saved by grace through faith, but the emphasis lies in how we then must constantly prove ourselves worthy of God’s continued grace. (I’ll quote the Catholic official doctrine: “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” Emphasis in the original.) Catholic doctrine glorifies good works, it all but deifies Mary, it all but deifies the Pope, it hides the good news of Jesus Christ behind a veil of liturgy, and it leads to a focus on the trappings of religiosity instead of the power of the living Word of God to change lives. The only certifiably true doctrine is found in the Bible, regardless of what the Pope says.
The three kinds of Colombian Catholics that I’ve listed here all need Jesus, and most of them don’t realize it. People who do understand the Scripture need to take responsibility to share this news to the world.
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