I recently announced on these pages my decision to leave evangelicalism to venture into Catholicism. I am taking some time to share some of what went into this decision. These are my thoughts just as it is my journey. I am not telling anyone else what to do. If you find that remaining an evangelical is the safest and most appropriate home for you, then by all means, that is where you should stay. If you are comfortable in a mainline Protestant denomination, or in the Orthodox tradition, I rejoice with you. This is my journey. Read, and then comment. All are welcome to weigh in.
There is something very comforting about math to me. Don’t get me wrong—I am no mathematician. To own the truth, I never went above geometry in high school, and I took the easiest college math class, something called Math and Society, just to get my math credit to graduate. But I like the fact that math is a constant. Two plus two equals four was true last year, a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago. And while there are always new ways to apply math, at least we don’t have math nerds coming up with new “rules” every other week. I have no interest in someone with a pocket protector who wants to tell me that two plus two now equals purple.
While Pythagoras is generally considered as the father of modern math, there are those who think math did not really exist until the first Texas Instrument calculator appeared in the early 1970s. (And there are those who think math, or at least the ability to think mathematically, ended with the invention of the handheld calculator. But that is not the topic of conversation here today.) That we don’t have to learn math any longer since we can just push buttons and let a machine do the thinking for us.
We would think it very odd for someone to toss aside 2,500 years of math in order to teach some new “revelation” or teaching regarding numbers. Again, there are always new ways to apply the principals of math, but no reason to create new numbers.
Yet that is what evangelical Christianity seems to do. Let’s disregard two thousand years of tried and proven true theology and instead go with the revelation du jour.
We have conveniently forgotten that the early church fathers fought—and some died—to perfect the faith we have today. Sometimes the fight over a single word led to church splits that are still in place. (See tomorrow’s post by Mule for just such a battle that led to the Great Schism.) But the Catholic Church found a way to keep together through these trials, and the theology that was forged in fire in the early centuries solidified and became a firm foundation until the sixteenth century when all Reformation broke loose. Still, this was not a time of throwing out all teaching and starting over. It was actually an effort to get the Church back on track. What ended up happening was a splintering into a thousand and one pieces. The djinn is out of the bottle and refuses to go back in.
It amazes me the number of well-meaning men and women who, for whatever reason, seem to believe Christianity was invented in the last century. Or the last decade. It is the same as those who believe math was virtually non-existent before the calculator came into being. These throw away 2,000 years of teaching because … because? Perhaps because the “old” teaching is too difficult to understand, while the “new” teaching comes conveniently packaged in PowerPoint presentations.
Not all teaching of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions is deep, just as not all evangelical teaching is shallow. I also recognize there are differences—small and great—between Catholics and Protestants, and Catholics are not always on the right side of these differences. Theology, for better or worse, is not as cut and dried as a mathematical formula. So don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying Catholics are infallible in areas of theology. I’m just saying that evangelicals who ignore the theological precepts begun with the first apostles are really missing out. New is not always better.
There is a Target store here in Tulsa that has been open for less than five years. The foundation for the back third of the store is sinking, causing giant cracks in the floor of this “new” store. You would think that modern technologies would prevent something like this from happening. You would think that building on a firm foundation would be something any architect or engineer would ensure these days. New is not always better.
Only two evangelical churches I have been associated with over my forty years of being a Christian have even acknowledged that the early church fathers may have known what they were talking about. Or that they even existed. Most have been too concerned with wanting to be “relevant” to bother looking from wince we have come. Think I am exaggerating? I have a question for you, then. When is the last time you sang a worship chorus in an evangelical service that had rich theology? Or when was the last time you heard an evangelical preacher quote a church father?
I am sure I will have questions about Catholic theology as a venture on this road. Yet the Christian faith did not begin the day I was born. The questions I have have been asked and answered for two thousand years. I feel confident in those who have gone before me, and can rest knowing the foundation the Church rests on is sure. I could not say the same as an evangelical.