I'm not a Catholic, but I hear many Christians say Catholics (most, not all, depending on their specific beliefs) are not really Christian, and that they go to hell. I really don't have a big opinion on the matter though.
Any opinions on this?
The traditions of the Catholic Church are indeed written down. There are two big compendia that are considered authoritative; there are undoubtedly some smaller ones, though I don't know if they might all be compiled into the second of these:
1. The Bible. This is the authoritative tradition of the Catholic Church.
2. The Catechism. This is not considered right for all time, AFAIK, but "as right as we know how right now." E.g. I believe limbo would have been in the earlier catechism, and has been removed. We couldn't do that with the Bible; it is what it is.
Smaller authoritative things are a few bits, never authoritatively enumerated, when the pope speaks ex cathedra. The only one I'm sure of is an affirmation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The Apostles' Creed is also pretty authoritative.
So: those are the authoritative traditions. Others are more mutable, but don't change much: the order of the mass (going back to the Didache, IIRC).
I don't necessarily find the Bible to be arbitrary, but a tradition of man. What is arbitrary is your choice of which texts and traditions are 'authoritative'.
How did you discover that Biblical text represents any kind of authority or source beyond men?
But there's no Baptist or SDA preacher arguing that nonsense here and now, just you.
As an Anglican (and an high-church Anglican Catholic at that), I deeply resent your assertion you're basically in agreement with the majority of Anglicans on the basics of the Sacraments.
Do you reject the efficacy of Baptism? Obviously there are disagreements about the specifics of the nature of the Sacraments among Catholics, Lutherans, etc. But, those issues are relatively minor compared to the question of whether, as Scripture says, Baptism saves, whether, when Jesus said "This is my flesh," he meant it... If the point of the question is whether those who believe in the Sacraments and those who believe that we are saved through a formulaic declaration of our own salvation are the same religion, I would say that maybe we're not. If you are a Baptist, you effectively believe that Catholics, the Orthodox, Lutherans, etc., are idolators. Such divisions are all fair enough to discuss, but don't show up trying to steal my traditional title. If you want to reject even the most fundamental Scriptural doctrines on Salvation, feel free to stop calling yourself a Christian... but don't tell me that I can't use the term.
I think you've kind of missed my point, anyway. I'm not all that concerned about drawing lines on who can and can't call themselves Christians. At this point, such a variety of people do that it's really not worth worrying about. I do, however, find it pretty absurd when some upstart modern religion takes it upon itself to exclude the majority of Christians, past and present, from their own religion.
Good grief. Protestant denominations aren't an "upstart modern religion". They're Christian. They started the same time the rest of the Christian Church did. They divided off from a Catholicism they saw as deviating from the fundamentals of the faith. That's not an "upstart", its a schism.
And, the split occurred nearly 500-years-ago. That's not "modern". The Protestant Church split off specifically because they thought Catholics were doing it wrong ... so its a question that's been around a good long time.
"Absurd" indeed. "Upstart modern religion". Don't be melodramatic.
According to the Catechism of my Church, which I of course believe, Baptism is one of 2 Sacraments generally necessary for salvation. I think, however, that calling the issue of transubstantiation, which we reject "minor," is an insult to that dogma, which I respect, even while I don't believe it.
This "feel free to stop" but "don't tell me to stop" language isn't going to work. Mike clearly resents a lot of evangelicals' calling themselves Christians. Meanwhile, the same debate about "Christian" can be had about "modern." I've read history books that put the beginning of the modern era at Oct. 31, 1517. I know that a contemporary evangelical who walks into some Orthodox, Catholic, or Anglican services does not see the connection between his normal church services and his visitor experience. But an Orthodox, Catholic, or Anglican from 1560 who walked into a contemporary Orthodox, Catholic, or Anglican service, would see the connection.
"I think, however, that calling the issue of transubstantiation, which we reject "minor," is an insult to that dogma, which I respect, even while I don't believe it."
It's not a minor issue for theology. The details of the relationship between Christ and bread in The Lord's Supper is not terribly important for anyone's Salvation. Knowing Aristotle and Aquinas is nice, but I don't imagine that God is all that concerned about whether someone has a proper understanding of them. When you no longer believe that Baptism is Christ's promise to you, that you, as a Christian, have entered into a community with a covenant with God, etc... Well, at that point, very little of what you believe Christianity to be is true.
"Mike clearly resents a lot of evangelicals' calling themselves Christians."
I don't care what evangelicals call themselves. They think that they're Christians, and, while most of them misunderstand why, I think that most of them are.
But the teachings of many of these churches are totally unscriptural (though claiming to be based on it), and totally counter to the history of Christianity, going back to Christ. Their teachings and practices are, at this point, not at all recognizable as related to those of modern Catholics, Orthodox, etc., or to those of the early Church. If you want to determine who fits in the "Christian" box (which I don't normally care to do), you could argue for comparing to the earliest Christians, to the majority through history, or to the majority now, but you can't start by assuming that your own recently founded minority sect has supreme authority to strip others of the name of their religion.
Protestantism is not an upstart. It's still absurd for Protestants, or any group, to exclude the majority of Christians from their own religion.
But Protestantism is modern. I think mostly historians refer to modern times as what comes after medieval times, that is, starting with Renaissance and Reformation. Though of course terms are arbitrary.
Still, the thread is about whether Catholics are Christians. Except now it's about whether Protestants are Christians. If I'm going to discuss the fine points of our disagreements, I'd rather do it in another context; with a thread of this title, "I think you're wrong" sounds too much like "I think you are a nonbeliever," and I don't think that.
I'm reminded of that joke of the Christian who dies and goes to heaven. In Heaven, St. Peter is showing him around and says "in this room we have the Baptists", and then a bit further he shows him another door and says, "and in this room the Presbyterians", and so on. Then Peter stops and tells the man to be quiet. Next he guides him to creep on his tippytoes to the next door which is all by itself at the end of the hall. The man peeks in and sees a bunch of people kneeling and praying. Peter whispers "in here are the Catholics, but we have to be quiet because they think they are the only ones here".
Must not have met many Catholics.
Who? Me or the guy in the joke? Joke was told to me by one of the Jesuits who taught me in High School. Growing up where I was from, I never met a non-Catholic until I was a teenager.
The joke's version of St. Pete.