I was watching a video record where randomly a catholic woman approached an evangelical minister and started confronting him over some religious criticism he had made about some shrine. During the argument, the evangelical minister said that the devotion shown by the people in this shrine had no biblical warrant, and neither had the use of candles, robes or rosaries.
DOCTRINE AND CUSTOMS
In the claims postulated by the evangelical minister about the use of candles and robes, amongst other things, he also mentioned that these things were added to Christianity in the times of Constantine and that it was this type of “syncretism” which ended up corrupting Christianity until the Reformation.
However, these claims seem to overlook two important facts. Doctrine and Customs, and their different origin and purpose.
Christianity as we know it today, it is an amalgamation of a number of things that are considered to be divine and others of pure human origin. They are so blended that some are undistinguishable from one another at a quick glance and this can be taken, as in the case of this Pastor, as all claiming “divine” inception.
DOCTRINE, which is the whole deposit of the Faith given to the Church by the Apostles, are all of divine infallible origin and they cannot be altered by anyone ever. These doctrines, revealed, infallible and inerrable, are immutable and they can be found in the Scriptures. They can only be explained or defined but never added or diminished. Examples of this doctrine are the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Jesus’s virginal conception, his resurrection, his Second Coming, the Last Judgement, eternal life, the Sacraments, etc. Mostly contained in the Creed but not limited to it.
Doctrine is made of concepts and practices that cannot be altered and will remain the same until the Second Coming.
CUSTOMS are of later human origin, made up with God’s approval through the unanimous decision of the living Church. These customs which include candles, robes, incense, the canons, etc; were adopted to maintain uniformity across the universal Church and to protect the integrity and dignity of the doctrine.
They can be altered according to times and places and be replaced by new ones at any given time, however, as they were established by Church authority, any temporal changes must be done under the approval of similar authorities over the sector of the Church they control. Never by a single individual.
Salvation does not depend on the human customs of the Church, as old as they may be; but on the purity of doctrine; and this, not because of some one’s caprice but because pure doctrine shows the path to Heaven, and it must be kept clear and visible to be followed.