October 19, 2017

From the iMonk Archive: The “Happy Enough” Protestant

MOD: This discussion has degenerated into the usual “my side v. your side” dirt clod fight. Unfortunately, this shows some of us have missed or forgotten the spirit of the original post. Go back and read it again, folks. I can celebrate my tradition and the good, biblical aspects of it, without having to denigrate yours. Comments are closed.

Today we revisit a classic IM post Michael wrote in March 2008.

Because I’ve been wrestling with Protestant/Catholic issues throughout this past year, I receive a lot of email from those who have moved outside of their lifelong evangelicalism and somewhere within sight of the catholic tradition, if not the Roman Catholic church.

Some of that mail takes me to blogs and the writing of people who are in a tortured state of mind and heart. Some are ministers strongly drawn to Roman Catholicism. They have read Hahn and Howard. They are listening to The Coming Home Network on EWTN. They are tired of evangelicalism’s circus atmosphere, its deficits and its many problems.

The unity, antiquity and beauty of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy stand in stark contrast to the divisions, innovations and shallowness of evangelicalism. I have no problem understanding this attraction. It seems that Luther made a terrible mistake, and every person who “goes home” can take satisfaction in healing that historically disastrous and unnecessary rift.

When you are reading those books and thinking about the many strong suits of Catholicism, it’s hard to feel good about being a Protestant. A recent “Coming Home to the Roman Catholic” church television ad recited so many wonderful things about Roman Catholicism- without a hint of the other side of the coin- that it was difficult to see why anyone would want to remain a Protestant.

But there is a different way to approach this situation than the back and forth of pleading apologetic arguments, collections of verses or authority claims. Without insult to any Roman Catholic or criticism of anyone who has converted or will convert in the future, I want to say some things to the rest of us.

The rest of us? Yes, those of us who are Protestant and will remain Protestant for the rest of our lives. Not because we are angry, but because we are “happy enough” to be Protestant.

We have varying feelings about Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the various divisions in Christianity, but we are not going to change our place as Protestants and evangelicals. We have deep respect and appreciation for the antiquity of these Christian traditions, and we have abandoned the idea that we are able to understand evangelicalism without them. But we are not changing churches because we believe we are part of the church.

We believe that the churches we have grown up in, the churches that we have served and that have served and nurtured us, are the churches God himself sovereignly brought us into. The debate about “what is the true church?” is not a compelling one for us, because we believe that all of us who belong to Christ are joined with him in his church.

Phrases about ecclesial bodies or less than fully communing churches are not heard by us in the same way they are heard by those who have a Roman Catholic view of the church. These are our churches and we love them. They have given Christ to us and many of us have given our lives in service and devotion to them. Unlike some of our brothers and sisters, we do not want to leave our Protestant churches behind, but we want to see the presence of Christ among his people in them more deeply manifested and demonstrated. We are “happy enough” to be embraced by imperfect Protestant churches and people as we make our pilgrim journey.

We love our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters, and respect the godly spiritual leaders and Biblical voices within those traditions. We are embarrassed by much of the anti-Catholicism that exists in evangelicalism, though we understand it as we understand the anti-Protestantism that exists within some of the Roman Catholic community.

We are “Happy Enough” Protestants. A strange title, I know, but an important one. We are happy enough as Protestants to remain Protestants, and we are happy to be protestant. We seek to practice a kind of Protestantism that is not characterized by unrest, anxiety and anger in relations with Catholicism. Our goal, in simple terms, is to be happy to be Protestant because we are happy in Christ and the Gospel that we find in Protestantism, even with all its flaws.

We are not seeking to evangelize Roman Catholics or to sell our churches as superior. We regret the rhetoric that commodifies church and Christian experience to “mine is better than yours.” We seek, instead, to embody what Paul so often talked about in his letters: Joy in Christ in the midst of a historically imperfect church.

We regret that for many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, it has not been possible to be Protestant and be faithful to Christ or happy in the church. We may have found this difficult and discouraging at times, but we have not found it impossible. We believe our Protestant experience can be filled with Christ, the legacy of the whole church and the distinctives of both evangelicalism and catholicism.

We are “Happy Enough Protestants” because we believe that God, in his providence, called us to this part of his one, holy, catholic and apostolic body/church. We accept, even celebrate, his providence in allowing us to hear the Gospel clearly and simply in Protestantism, to be taught in its churches and schools, allowed to serve in its ministries, sit at the feel of its scholars and pastors, be inspired by its mission’s legacy, learn from its saints, be challenged by its openness to the Spirit and renewed by its ability to return, again and again, to the Bible for authority, nurture and truth.

We recognize the checkered, broken past of Protestantism, but we are happy in much of what we find in that past. We believe that though they were sinners, Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, Whitefield, Cramner, the Puritans, Spurgeon, Asbury, Ryle, The Baptists, Edwards and many other Protestant lights were called and gifted of God for the building up of his church and the equipping of his saints. We believe that within the Protestant tradition, God continues to call, equip, build, empower and demonstrate the presence of the Kingdom through his people.

We are “happy enough” to not despise ourselves or torture ourselves over what is missing in our tradition. We will, in a joyous spirit, work for restoration and the strengthening of the church. We pray that the work of the Spirit will unite all churches with the riches of Christ, but we believe those riches are accessible to us all by grace through faith and in the humble reception of the word of God.

We are “happy enough” to rejoice in the many statements of gracious inclusion and respect that have been offered in the ecumenical spirit, most particularly by the Roman Catholic church in Vatican II. But we are also “happy enough” to say we view the reformation as those who have benefited from it, and feel the responsibility to treasure and protect what was good and continually necessary in it. We believe that a tragic necessity need not remove all joy and mutual affection, nor abrogate the presence of all that is of value. We are determined in generosity and charity, to not allow all that the Reformation recovered to vanish in debates about authority and antiquity. God has sovereignly and graciously been at work in Protestantism, as well as in all Christian traditions.

In a spirit of mutual respect, we intend to be “happy enough” to tell the truth. As we repent of much in our tradition and as we see what is valuable in other traditions, we are unapologetic that much in our tradition exists more robustly and helpfully in Protestantism than elsewhere. It serves no good purpose to ignore the participation of laity, the starting of new churches, the extent of theological education, the use of congregational music, the depth of rigorous scholarship, the faithfulness in persecution, the emphasis on reform, the use of innovation in ministry or the healthy focus on personal evangelism. We will be “happy enough” to say these Protestant legacies are not to be abandoned or minimized, but should be gifts to the whole church.

At the points of our greatest disagreements, over authority, sacraments and justification, it is our prayer that we will all be “happy” in our convictions, and that should we find ourselves speaking over the greatest points of our separation, we will now have no agenda beyond living in the fruit of a joyful, “happy” experience of the truth. That someone should disagree with us should not send us into a tailspin of uncertainty or an attack-mode of anxiety. We are determined to be “happy enough” to speak of our convictions positively, winsomely and certainly without embarrassment before other Christians

I believe there are likely thousands of us who are “happy enough” Protestants and will remain so throughout our lives. We are not preparing to go to Rome, nor are we asking Rome to become Protestant. Our conversations should not be dominated by such an agenda and we repent of those occasions when such has been the case. We seek the day we can recognize Christ in one another, stand in the church of Jesus on both sides of the Tiber (and elsewhere) and be grateful to God for what he has done and what we all appreciate in our varying and various traditions. May all of us grow in the grace and goodness of Jesus and the mission of his people.

Comments

  1. Steve Skinner says:

    Wow! Oprah could not of said it better!

  2. I am not sure that I agree with the use of the term “Happy Enough” Protestant. Mainly because I am not “happy enough.” I am just happy with my protestantism.

    Otherwise, IM’s theme of inclusiveness and love is very important. And I hope that all Christians will allow themselves to be open to learning from those of other backgrounds. Although the actions of the Reformation fathers created a rift, I don’t think anyone will disagree that those on both sides of the rift have been deeply affected by the actions of those men.

    Let us all be ready in the future to listen and respectfully consider others. Besides preventing future rifts, we may be able to heal current ones.

    Thanks Mike and Mike for providing this for us!

  3. The problem with the “we are happy enough ____” argument is that Mormons could say “we are happy enough Mormons”; Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, agnostics, atheists, etc. could each say the same about their own tradition or position. That argument turns away from the question of truth, to the internal subjective degree of self-perceived satisfaction. But the question regarding Christ and His Church has always been about truth, not about how good it makes us feel. It may require suffering, rejection, loss, and even death on our part, to follow the truth.

    (Michael, we’re continuing to pray for your health.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    • I think the gist, as you know, is that we are happy enough to co-exist peacefully. I think the root of it comes down to what Imonk gets at is that we are convinced that we do not need to be in the RC church to be in the “church.”

      Works for me.

      Peace,
      Austin

      • Seriously, my lovely LDS friends are convinced TRULY that they do not need to be in the RC Church to be in the “church” also.

    • I have to agree with Bryan. I always applaud a spirit of ecumenism, but never at the expense of truth. And the truth is that the broad term “Protestant” encompasses thousands of denominations, often teaching mutually-exclusive interpretations of scripture; and all of whom are at odds with the Catholic Church on any number of points.. They cannot all be true – so someone is, in fact, wrong in their interpretation. And there is no sense in pretending that this is OK. It’s not. In fact, it’s devastating to evangelization. When Christendom is divided against itself about virtually every article of the great creeds – Christ’s message is drained of its’ credibility to a lost and perishing world. Shall we call the lost out of secular relativism, only to invite them into Christian relativism? And what of scriptures repeated exhortations to unity of doctrine among ourselves? Christ Himself, sweating blood and in the last hours of His earthly life, took time to pray that we might be one with each other precisely “so that the world may believe…” (John 17:21)

      • Carolyn,

        The “thousands of denominations” argument is not really valid. I will be the first to agree that Protestants too often seperate themselves from other Protestants over trivial matters, but when you get right down to it, matters of division in Protestantism are few and even those tend to revolve around the not neccessarily “central” points.

        For example, a rural methodist, and a rural baptist will have little disagreement over what salvation looks like in reality, they will difer in vocabulary and on church governance. That’s about it.

        It’s not as if the baptist and methodist have mutually exclusive claims to the “truth” and say as much. At least not anyone but the hardest of the Landmarkers maybe.

        Peace,
        Austin

        • I disagree that it’s not valid. It’s valid because it shows a manifestly non-united face to the world, and that includes where “Speaking Truth to Power” is concerned. Could a local pastor of an independent bible church have had as much ability (relatively speaking) as, say, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan to “Speak Truth” to Emperor Theodosius I, after the massacre in Thessalonica?

          • I disagree strongly with your disagreement. Not only is the “thousands of denominations” untruthful, it is also not presenting the non-united face you put forward to those outside of it. If you ask a non-christian about their perception of religion, they aren’t going to tell you about thousands of different groups of christians who all think different things. There might be two or three groups that they see, if they are actually the sort to pay attention.

            Try it. Ask someone who comes from a non-christian background about christian denominations. For the most part, we’re all the same. And lying by intentionally misunderstanding and exaggerating the number of actual denominations does nothing but make us liars.

          • And by “we’re all the same” of course I meant from a PR standpoint. Not talking about theological differences, but purely the public relations aspect since that was where the objection stemmed from.

          • I will submit to you that the fact that we disagree about this is but one indicator of just how fragmented the faith really is, at least from the POV of a person who espouses the “Four Marks of the Church” (one, holy, catholic, apostolic) and what those terms mean to a knowledgeable and orthodox Roman Catholic.

      • So, why don’t you return to the ecumenicism of the first Church Councils and become Eastern Orthodox, rather than split Christendom into those who are under the Bishop of Rome and those who are under any or all other Bishops? 🙂

        • Louis Winthrop says:

          Because the Eastern Orthodox became heretics after their so-called “Third Ecumenical Council” rejected St. Nestorius.

          😀

    • It’s not an argument that turns away from truth. It’s an argument that has already discerned the truth, and sees no need to continually bash it against the heads of others who can’t/won’t see it the same. It’s an argument that has moved on to something more useful, since the person making it has already searched out the truth and is satisfied in their own conscience that they have found it.

      It is a profoundly NON-catholic thing to say of course, but we shouldn’t really be surprised by that, should we?

  4. Christian says:

    Many of us have heard and read and studied at length both sides of these issues.

    We’ve heard and watched and listened to the testimonies of our Evangelical brethren who have become Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

    Yet we remain convinced (or have become even more convinced) that the Orthodox and Roman Catholic teachings about the Eucharist and the priesthood and the Church are perversions and misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the Gospel.

    It’s not a stubborn refusal or lack of desire to heal the “rift” that makes us unable or unwilling to become Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

    It’s not because we are “happy enough” to be and remain Protestant that we don’t become Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

    It’s not because we believe “God himself sovereignly brought us into” our particular churches or denominations that we don’t become Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

    It’s because the Truth for us as we have learned it and come to know it in Jesus does not allow us to confess and embrace that which we believe and know is contrary to the Truth we know and believe.

    • Agreed. I think, as others have pointed out, that it’s too dangerous to think in terms of “happy enough.” The phrase automatically, at least in my mind, congers up ideas of settling. As soon as that creeps in, my enthusiasm and conviction is lost.

      I don’t believe what I believe because it’s the best possible answer. I believe it because I believe it’s true. There’s a difference in there, even if it seems subtle.

      -Marshall Jones Jr.

    • Nicely stated.

    • “It’s because the Truth for us as we have learned it and come to know it in Jesus does not allow us to confess and embrace that which we believe and know is contrary to the Truth we know and believe.”

      So much for the Holy Spirit.

      • Christian says:

        So much for the Holy Spirit.

        ?????

        Just Who do you think revealed and made known and taught the Truth to us? It wasn’t Casper the Friendly Ghost.

        It was that other Ghost. The Holy Ghost.

        Take… and read.

  5. David Cornwell says:

    Very insightful piece. We hear a lot about Protestants converting to Catholicism, however I personally know Catholics who are converting the other way. Some are doing so simply because of disgust with the current Pope. I have talked with some of them, and know the depth of their disagreement with the direction of the Church in this era.

    • Honestly, if anyone is leaving Rome because of Pope Benedict XIV, they’re not very knowledgeable in the true Catholic faith. Not that I’m surprised. The post-Vatican II local church has done a poor job of that, partly owing to uncorrected misunderstandings of what the 2d Vatican Council taught. In traditional circles we refer to two factions of Catholicism being the “Hermeneutics of Continuity” group and the “Hermeneutics of Rupture” group. The former believes that the Traditions and theology of the RCC did not fundamentally change with Vat II, and the latter believes either that a. they did, and shouldn’t have (ultra-trad anti-Vat II, anti-new Mass crowd) or b. did and/or should change or change more (liberal, anti-old Mass crowd). The current Pope’s motu proprio Sumorum Pontificum which liberalised the use of the old Mass (aka Tridentine, now called “Extraordinary Form”) is just one of the things that set off the folks in group b. The people that are leaving the church and going Protestant over the current Pope are probably theologically protestant anyway, so the reality is they have only just now made it official.

      The link that my board handle goes to in this post is the board called What does the prayer really say? by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a convert from Lutheranism. His board concerns, first and foremost, the translation of liturgical prayers from the originals written in Latin to English for official church use. His more literal translations are usually in stark contrast to what the current English translation has: a much watered-down prayer in most cases, which is contrary to “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi” (the law of prayer is the law of belief).. The translation was produced by the previous ICEL (International Committee for English in the Liturgy) group. The current ICEL group that worked the new translation has more episcopal oversite. We’re currently in a long drawn-out process of getting the newest missal translation out, and some folks in group b are against that. They tend to be more vocal and more public. this translation was due out originally in 2002, although some say we were supposed to get a better translation almost 30 years ago. Seems they played hurryup on the 1970 missal, and never got a handle on things at the episcopal and dicastery (Rome) level.

    • I agree that disgust with the current Pope is not a valid reason to leave Roman Catholicism.

      But as many learned people have said, and many other less learned people have concluded, to be deep in history and the Scriptures is to cease to be Roman Catholic. 🙂

      YMMV

      • One Anglican, after much serious study at Oxford, seemed to think it the other way around. After all, was it not John Henry Newman that penned the original phrase? Touche.

      • Actually, I pre-touchéd your touché by trumping Newman before you even made your post.

        But just as Newman had his opinion and drew his conclusion, so have many others drawn a different conclusion, one with which I agree. I.e., Roman Catholicism is not as historically and Scripturally valid as many of its proponents and many Evangelical-to-RC converts proclaim.

        Again, YMMV.

    • Just out of curiosity, disgust because he’s a reactionary fossil trying to drag the Church back into the Dark Ages and crush the Spirit of Vatican II, or disgust because he’s a milk-and-water bleeding heart liberal who is allowing all manner of gross heresy to run riot, instead of cracking down and excommunicating all and sundry with bell, book and candle?

      I’ve read both views forcefully expressed on teh interwebs 😉

      Me, I was happy when I heard who was going to be our new Pope back in 2005. I’d have loved if Cardinal Arinze had been elected, but Benedict XVI is pretty good too 🙂

  6. Michael,

    I’m in class with Professor Rah (North Park Theological Seminary) and he brought your name up. So, I stopped by to say hello. Blessings to what you’re doing

  7. There are times when I’m not not particularly happy being Protestant (being a High Church English Anglican – it’s always going to be a problem). On the other hand, until the coming of the Kingdom, I don’t believe that Christ’s revealed truth will ever be entirely held in one church tradition, what ever Roman Catholics or anyone else may claim.
    On vexed issues such as sexuality and women’s ministry, I’m glad I’m in a tradition where there’s argument, painful though it is for everyone. Better that, than being given a line to follow.

    • Christiane says:

      Jon, what do you think about the possibility of the return of the ‘high-church’ Anglicans to Rome under a special arrangement honoring their uniqueness as a Christian tradition ?

      • tree_and_leaf says:

        Butting in a bit to say that there are lots of reasons why you can be a high church Anglican, and indeed long for re-union, and not like the Vatican’s offer.

        Of course I can’t speak for Jon, but this is my perspective. I’m also a High Church Anglican. Indeed, I definitely wouldn’t describe myself as a Protestant – I’m a catholic and an Anglican. I’m also very much in favour of the ordination of women and gays. Obviously that’s one reason why I’m not going over to Rome. But even if I were more conservative on those points, I don’t think I’d be inclined to go. While my doctrine is very catholic in lots of ways, I don’t like the authoritarianism and centralism of Roman Catholicism, and the ways in which debate on certain issues is frowned on by the powers that be. I believe that the Church of England – and the rest of the Communion – is a valid church and that our orders are valid; I wouldn’t want to repudiate that, as I’d have to for Rome. (I also don’t agree with the Immaculate Conception being dogma). While being able to use our own liturgy rather than the modern Roman Catholic one would make the consequences of going over less painful, the rest of the package is still unattractive and I don’t imagine large numbers will go, even of the people who are opposed to women bishops. Particularly as RC priests are paid significantly less than Anglican ones (which sounds cynical, but it is a genuine consideration if you have children), and the parishes probably won’t want to go, either.

      • I thought about that alot, and I just don’t see there being that much traffic from Anglicanism to the RCC here in the States. Theologically, the conservatives within American Anglicanism tend to be more Evangelical.

        But American Anglicanism aside, when I look at the BCP’s catechism, the 39 Articles, etc. I just have problems seeing a large number of Anglicans moving to the RCC, not matter what their country/culture of origin is. While Anglicanism’s not very dogmatic theologically, the few areas that are more dogmatic just don’t seem to mesh well with some of the core dogmas of Roman Catholicism. Papal Authority and the lack of (or at least blurry) distinction between sanctification and justification within the RCC are the two issues that immedeately come to mind.

        That is, I don’t see the RCC allowing Anglican Rite Liturgy as really bridging the gap in anything more than a superficial way.

        • Oh, and the Table. Anglican ideals of an Open Table are pretty central to Anglican philosophy. A closed table just isn’t Anglican, no matter what liturgy you’re dressed in.

    • Jon, I know it’s a painful topic at the moment, but can you really say that Anglicanism isn’t been given “a line to follow” as regards certain matters?

      From the ruffled feathers over the consecration of women bishops in the CoE to the whole Episcopalian warfare over same-sex blessings/ordination of clergy in same-sex partnerships, there does seem to be one line being pushed as the official one which all must accept or be cast out as Intolerant and Uninclusive.

      I genuinely have great sympathy for Archbishop Rowan Williams, trying to steer along the traditional Via Media and being roundly abused by parties on both sides of the questions.

      • In the Global South, Anglicanism is much more conservative, which is why many of the splinter groups in the US sought episcopal oversight through African provences. It seems what we really have is TEC in the US, the Canadian Anglican Church, and liberal forces in the UK trying to push that more liberal view through. But the majority of Anglicans are ironically no longer in the English speaking world but are rather in Africa. Or so I’ve read.

      • Jon Goode says:

        I don’t believe we’re being given a line to follow as such. I do think we have to take on board the reality of being a wide and diverse communion ( a typical Anglican is now a black African woman).
        Cultural factors have always influenced theological decisions from the Acts of the Apostles, through the Council of Chalcedon and up to the present day. How different church traditions have dealt with this reality has varied – I have faith in open and robust debate, I think its something Christianity has given the world. There have been some serious problems in the past – but major disagreements have usually been expressed without necessarily killing each other.
        I personally believe that the present issues which bedevil not only Anglicanism but every major Christian denomination, when looked at in the context of church history are not that major.
        To pick one recent example – slavery. I find it fascinating that in the 19th Century, Evangelical Protestant Christians, both in the UK and in the USA were the leaders of the anti-slavery movement, often in the face of entrenched political and religious interests. Especially when there are a number of texts in the Bible that appear to condone slavery or at the very least recognise it as a cultural norm.
        In the UK, I don’t see a huge number of Anglicans crossing the Tiber as a result of the Pope’s recent pronouncements – rather I see the major loss as being to non-belief (or rather anything-belief), which of course is hitting the Roman Catholic church here just as much.
        I rather wish the church as a whole, both Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant would get back to doing what it does best. Being a sign of the Kingdom and rubbing salt in the wounds of this corrupt, wealth obsessed, indolent society

    • “Better that, than being given a line to follow.”

      I don’t understand this line of thought. It’s not as if having lines to follow is anything at all unusual in Judeo-Christian teachings..

      • And it also isn’t as if we Catholic have a narrow yellow strip that we have to follow identically. It really isn’t a “line.” It’s more like the bumpers on the bowling lanes or the boundaries in any field sport – there are limits, but there is a lot of room in between to safely play.

  8. I like the spirit of this article very much, though as others have said, the phrase “happy enough” does seem to connote some sense of “settling for” Protestantism, which is certainly not why I’m a Protestant. I’ve known many, many Catholics who came over to this “side of the aisle” and fewer though not an insignificant number who have gone the other way (and they tend to be more high profile). I think moves in either direction are not a bad thing and can only help to address whatever failings cause the moves in the first place.

  9. The Catholics and Orthodox are right on one count against the contemporary evangelical church: sanctification is a necessary process to see the Lord at the end. Just like I can understand why many evangelicals (esp. from more traditional denominations) rail against the works-righteousness system of Rome and Byzantine; I can also understand, from their perspective, why they rail against contemporary evangelicalism for its insipid spirituality. As a person who has invested a lot of time, money, and heart to the church and the theological academia (a PhD), I am sometimes appalled at what I observe among modern evangelicals and their spiritual life (if they have any). Many have either jumped on the prosperity heresy bandwagon or the postmodern emergent church 21st century hippie spirituality or they just bind God by shaping their own Christianity that suits their agendas. It is rare to meet an evangelical Christian these days who are truly born again, knows the biblical gospel, embraces the five solas, has a personal relationship with the Lord, and knows and does what God calls them to do in this world.

  10. very interesting article, this debate has been going on for quite some time.

  11. Just had to post one more thing – anyone who thinks that “to be deep in history and scripture is to cease to be Catholic” has not read the apostolic fathers. There, in the writings of men who knew the apostles personally, we find the Eucharist; the authority of the bishops and many other distinctly “Catholic” teachings. If you don’t believe me – visit the website “Scripture Catholic” and you’ll see what I mean.

    One more thing about being “deep in scripture” – it was within the Catholic Church that the canon of the NT was developed and confirmed. One cannot call into question the Early Church without calling the canon of scripture itself into question -as well as the great creeds.

    • Just had to post one more thing – anyone who thinks that “to be deep in history and scripture is to cease to be Catholic” has not read the apostolic fathers.

      Actually, I – who made the statement you are critiquing/citing – have indeed read The Apostolic Fathers. All of them. More than once, too. And some of them in the original Greek, FWIW.

      It was my continued reading of the Church Fathers and church history (many, many books) and the development of the liturgy (again, many books) that led me first toward and then eventually away from the Orthodox and Roman Catholic teachings and practices related to these things.

      Again, as I wrote above, YMMV. But don’t think that all one has to do is “read The Apostolic Fathers” and then one will see that Rome is The Church established by Jesus Christ.

      Ask Everett Ferguson. Or Michael Holmes. Or Christopher Hall. Etc.

  12. I would be gracious if someone here could help me think, I’ve been mulling this over for a while and I struggle with wondering what to do.

    I am a protestant, but my parents were never very committed to any particular branch. I was raised through elementary school in a Lutheran church and school, throughout middle school in a Episcopalian church, and spent highschool in a hardcore fundamental Baptist private school while attending a non-denominational church.

    All this lead skipping around instilled in me a very strong belief in no-one-is-righter-ism, at least among protestants. I sympathize with my non-denominational church’s leaders, who are all “happy enough” protestants.

    However, I feel a very strong pull towards the Catholic church. Here is why: I see many “progressive” Catholics, such as Stephen Colbert, Kevin Smith or Andrew Sullivan, people who I respect very greatly not for their theological right-or-wrongness but for their ability to keep their faith in the most absurd of arenas (American politics and media). They definitely fall somewhere closer to Orthopraxy than Orthodoxy, and that is a point of contention for most, but I believe very strongly in the power of right actions to lead to a righter understanding of God (even if I also believe in sola fide 😉 ). Also, they readily admit they have a more mystical than literal view of the bible, which I know is a huge turnoff for most protestants. And I know of no stronger testament to the power of Catholic faith than my Uncle, who’s faith kept him sane (and happy!) through fourty years of working at the DMV.

    I guess I’m rambling. What i’m asking is, for anyone who knows Catholics well, or who is Catholic, how strong is the emphasis on having a correct Catholic theology within the Catholic church? Although I know quite a bit of Catholic dogma and theology, the Catholics I know and have seen seem more than willing to parse what they see as “biblical” and “dogmatic”, adhering to the book over the tradition. If there are groups of Catholics like that, it would make Catholicism all the more enticing; at the end of the day, I think I could do worse than having a Protestant “doxy” while having a Catholic “praxy”.

    Again, sorry for rambling 🙂

    • Yeah, ask the easy question, Kevin 🙂

      How strong an emphasis on the correct theology? There’s a fine kettle of fish! Depending on what parish/diocese/church you find yourself stuck in, that could range from “Not at all, now we’re going to process round the labyrinth” to “You don’t know the difference between Ember and Rogation Days? Heretic!”

      Formally, you must agree with the teachings of the Church. In practice – oh, brother. Lots of us cradle Catholics ae also, I have to say, cultural Catholics who are very influenced by the world around us and drop/ignore/wink at the parts we have trouble with. I’m not going to comment on the American situation, since it would be gross cheek for me as a foreigner to point at prominent American Catholics in public life who have been given a belt of the crozier by their bishops.

      Let me just say that – speaking purely hypothetically and not at all with the intent of lurking around to lasso you with my rosary beads and drag you off to the nearest RC church so you can be forced to worship statues of Mary – if you or anyone else were thinking of investigating Catholicism, then it is important that you can agree with and believe the doctrines as a whole.

      If there were any question of “Of course, no-one can be expected to actually believe this particular thing in this day and age, so just say the words but we won’t hold you to them”, then you’re better off staying where you are. Even if it’s “98% of this makes sense and I believe it, but this one thing I just can’t see rhyme or reason for” – then better to be a faithful Protestant than a conflicted Catholic.

      • I Think “MAJ Tony” below hit it on the head when he said that “cafeteria Catholicism …is no different from non-denominationalism”, but to be fair, I am a non-demoninational-ist, and that same lax view of theology is very commonplace in American churches (i speak out of my own experiences, of course. I’m sure there are many churches which are stricter)

        I’ve already come to terms with the fact that I may never really believe that I have the right theology. Somewhere in between not wanting to be prideful in thinking I am right, and being raised to be judiciously skeptical about my theology, I just can’t seem to pin myself to any one protestant group.

        Which is all to say, even if I eventually decide to attend a Catholic church, I would likely never become a “good Catholic”. I would probably be as conflicted about being Catholic as i am about being Protestant. But I agree with your hypothetical point completely, if there are things I disagree with, they will come back to bite me.

        Lest I sound bitter, I do think i’m trying to find the greater of two goods, not the lesser of two evils 😀 The forces which make Catholicism seem attractive don’t make Protestantism seem like unwashed masses.

      • “…lurking around to lasso you with my rosary beads and drag you off to the nearest RC church so you can be forced to worship statues of Mary…”

        *Chuckle* Martha, your sense of humor (or wit, should I say) never ceases to give me a laugh. Truly, that phrase is the most tongue-in-cheek way I’ve heard of “forcing” someone to convert to Catholicism. I appluad you, mi’lady.

    • Kevin:

      Related to your question and your ultimate/eventual decision, I think a person’s view of the Eucharist should be an important factor in whether they become or remain a Roman Catholic (RC), an Eastern Orthodox (EO), or a non-sacramental Protestant Christian.

      For example, if a person believes that:

      1. The bread and wine do or must become the Real body and blood of Christ (i.e., there is a change in the bread and wine), and

      2. An integral part of one’s salvation process is the regular preparation for and act of eating and drinking the flesh/body and blood of Deity, and

      3. An Apostolically-traceable ordained priesthood is a required component in authorizing and overseeing and effecting the salvific change in the bread and the wine, whether by the priest’s pronouncing the words of institution (RC) or by the priest’s calling upon the Holy Spirit to effect the change (EO),

      then I believe they will have to be in either the RC Church or the EO Church, for they believe that they need the above to be saved and to be in the Body of Christ. (Or if not the RC Church or the EO Church, one of the so-called “Oriental” Orthodox churches, if they accept or don’t have a problem with their non-Chalcedonian Christology.)

      While I personally think it’s possible to believe in points 1. and 2. without believing in point 3., to be RC or EO one must also believe and accept and affirm point 3., for in these churches the mystery (sacrament) of the Eucharist is not separable from the mystery of the priesthood.

      IMO, if you don’t or won’t believe what Rome teaches about the Eucharist – i.e., points 1., 2., and 3. above – I don’t think you can truly be a Roman Catholic.

      While some may think it’s a bit extreme, can a Catholic reject or deny what The Curé of Ars (St. John Vianney) says about the Priesthood and its relation to the Eucharist: http://www.catholicforum.com/saints/stj18011.htm

      • Eric, I’m uncomforable with several statements, but especially, “An integral part of one’s salvation process is the regular preparation for and act of eating and drinking the flesh/body. . .”. We really do believe that we are saved by faith. I’ve always understood reception of communion and going to confession to be the means of grace by which we are more fully conformed to the likeness of Christ. What you wrote is like nothing I’ve heard any Catholic claim. By going to communion and cofession we are not be “resaved” over and over again because we’ve lost our previous salvation. We are being transformed more and more into the image of Christ by the grace he imparts through the sacrament.

        • Rick:

          I’m speaking of salvation holistically, not simply of the “faith” part of salvation. Isn’t partaking of the Eucharist part of the soteriology of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches? Don’t Catholics and Orthodox believe that Jesus was referring to partaking of the Eucharist when He said “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves”?

        • Rick:

          Read:

          CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH – SECOND EDITION
          PART TWO – THE CELEBRATION OF THE CHRISTIAN MYSTERY
          SECTION TWO – THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS OF THE CHURCH
          CHAPTER ONE – THE SACRAMENTS OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION
          ARTICLE 3 – THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST

          http://www.scborromeo.org/mobileccc/p2s2c1a3.htm

          I.e., #1322 – #1419 – and you’ll see why I say what I do in point 2. in my post – i.e., the part you say you’re especially uncomfortable with:

          2. An integral part of one’s salvation process is the regular preparation for and act of eating and drinking the flesh/body and blood of Deity

          • Eric, I guess my concern is that the way you are voicing Catholic teaching just seems inaccurate. You’re summarizing a great deal of complex information with language that is vague and open to misinterpretation. I’m probably judging you by assuming that the vague language is a prelude to a slam. I’m probably over-reacting. Sorry.

          • Rick:

            Actually, it’s not a prelude to a slam. It’s from something I once wrote re: the subject of Eucharist and Church – i.e., how the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (of which I was at one time a member) view and define these things vis-a-vis non-sacramental Protestantism.

            You may be right that it’s a bit simplistic, but I don’t think what I wrote is actually incorrect.

          • And as you know, the Catholic Church teaches that in the Eucharist one has the whole Christ, all of Him, body, blood, soul and divinity. (The Orthodox Church tends not to define or describe these things as precisely or technically.) So I don’t think that it’s incorrect to describe the Catholic (and perhaps Orthodox) view of communion as eating and drinking the flesh/body and blood of Deity.

            That’s surely more accurate than saying that all one eats in the Eucharist is the body and blood of the human nature of Christ, isn’t it?

            Or is “eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood” only referring to consuming the non-deity parts of Jesus?

            I’m not joking. I’m asking a serious question, because if my statement about “eating and drinking the flesh/body and blood of Deity” is indeed not what is said to be consumed or partaken of in the Eucharist, I need to retract or correct what I wrote.

            But isn’t it because of His Divine nature, and not simply His human nature, that He via His body and blood is able to give eternal life, per Catholic thought and teaching?

            Feel free to correct me or offer further comment.

            Either way, my main point was that Kevin understand that his decision to become Catholic really must include his accepting and believing what that Church teaches about the Eucharist. IT IS THAT IMPORTANT.

          • Hey, Eric, my concern about your comments are probably petty–but they come from conversations I’ve had with other non-Catholics that we believe that by simply “engaging in a ritual” we receive grace or salvation. I’d drop the word integral and fool around with your language slightly . . .
            From:
            “An integral part of one’s salvation process is the regular preparation for and act of eating and drinking the flesh/body and blood of Deity”
            To:
            “An important part of growing in christian holiness is receiving the eucharist in a state of grace (i.e. not being in a state of serious sin), and in faith and love.”

            The word deity is too broad–while we are receving the whole Trinity, they are undivided, it is the body and blood of Christ that we receive. On top of that it is a “sacramental” presence of his resurrected body and blood that stands before the Father, not the bloody muscle and sinew of Calvary.

            Sorry for being pedantic–I’ve just run into too many people who want to reduce my beliefs to something offensive or absurd. Sorry that I thought you were headed in that direction.
            Rick

    • Kevin, I was where you are.
      Two books that helped me were by Garry Wills, the guy who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book on the Gettysburg Address. The books are “Papal Sins.” and “Why I Am a Catholic.” If you read only one, read the latter, which Wills wrote to explain why he remains a Catholic, though he’s been critical of papal decisions. Wills’ book on the Rosary is also worth reading.

    • It would make no sense to become Catholic (or whatever) if you didn’t believe in the tenets of the faith. Catholicism has defined certain doctrines which “are to be held by all, at all times, everywhere.” As far as “Book” vs. “Sacred Tradition” vs “human tradition,” I would advise one studying Catholicism to study the early Church Fathers. The Faith of the Early Fathers by William A. Juergens is the seminal work that covers the early Church. It covers all the key Christian disciples who were followers of the original Apostles, and so on, for the first few hundred years.

      If you are a “cafeteria Catholic” and want to pick and choose, you just became your own pope, which is no different from non-denominationalism, if you think about it. You can see the effect of everyone becoming his own pope. If you’re going to be Catholic, be CATHOLIC. Otherwise, you’re lying to yourself, God, and everyone else. Being a Catholic isn’t easy, but Jesus didn’t promise us a bowl of cherries.

      • Or just read the writings of the fathers online at http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

      • But isn’t that “cafeteria Catholicism” the norm here in the States? I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it seems to be typical of American Catholics.

        • poorly catechized, muddled thinking, and a large dose of absorbing ways of thinking from both the relativist secular world and the American Protestant Evangelical ‘national religion’ all come together in making a mess in the Catholic Church in the USA. Some of that can be called “Cafeteria Catholicism” but a lot of it is just plain ignorance.

          But you are correct, a healthy percentage (majority) of Catholics in the USA ignore Catholic teaching on contraception, premarital sex, and divorce in particular. Also, many of them are “in favor” of various changes in Church practice or doctrine that will simply never happen.

          Essentially the logic these people follow (where there is enough thought to be logic) is a mish mash of protestantism, democracy and relativism. So I agree with what Maj Tony says above. To be a Cafeteria Catholic is to really not BE Catholic.

          The short of that is that it is very likely that something between 20% and 85% of people who identify as Catholic are Protestants in the making. My prediction, is that if God graces the Church with another 5 years of BXVI we will see a pretty significant fraction of them formally jumping ship.

          • Because he’s more tranditional than JPII? I guess the question is whether that’s a good thing or not for American Catholicism. Is it pruning of dead branches or losing valuable parishioners?

          • Obed, BXVI actually posited the question of whether a smaller RCC wouldn’t be better, but he hasn’t tried to ramrod anything down anyone’s throats, contrary to what the “progressivist/modernist” faction would have us believe. He’s done everything in typical Vatican fashion: slowly, deliberately and charitably. The only people who say otherwise either have not read his writings, or having read them, chose to disregard them for whatever reason.

            As far as why JPII did or did not do whatever, much of that can be chalked up to background. Take, for example, the priests abusing young men (mostly teenagers, for the record). One of the tactics of both the NAZI and Communist regimes to get rid of problem Priests was to make claims against them such as homosexuality. JPII was preconditioned to believe that the people making such claims were doing so disingenuously. So was his “Polish Mafia” of clerics that surrounded him in Rome. That doesn’t explain it all away, but it puts the situation in perspective. In fact, if you really look at JP II and traditionalism, he was much more of a traditional than most folks assume, and his later episcopal, and ESPECIALLY cardinalate appointments bear that out, hence we have B-XVI as the current Pope.

          • I’d say it’s a bad thing in the sense that people are waking away from the truth :), but I think it’s a good thing that people acknowledge where their faith is, and what they believe in rather than going through the motions.

            For the Church it’s a bad thing in terms of PR and finances and souls. But, with grace and prayer God can turn it to good and it can be a moment of renewal and strengthening for the Church. Like you said, pruning the dead branches, you have some familiarity with what the Holy Father wrote before his elevation to BXVI.

            The reason they leave, in my mind, isn’t strictly because BXVI is more ‘traditional’ that JPII. Many will say that.

            In my thinking, the real reason they will leave is that they don’t accept or believe in what the Church IS. Just as you don’t. It could be that a slight shift towards restoring a bit more of the tradition and some liturgical tightening up will be the spark or the last straw. Also, I predict that at least 3 “Catholic” pols (including Pelosi) will be excommunicated before the 2012 election. So that will be another ’cause.” There will be a beatification of Piux XII. The SSPX may return (mostly) into the barn. Who knows what else will happen.

            These external will create the firestorm of frustration that gets people to make a decision, but they aren’t the real reason. None of this would ever be even close to worth leaving over, unless one doesn’t believe that the Church is the true Church founded by Christ and that the Magisterium in conjunction with the Holy Father has the Authority to teach.

    • Kevin –

      As a Catholic, I found your idea of “having a Protestant “doxy” while having a Catholic “praxy” ” interesting , but unrealistic. It doesn’t really work like that. Just on one matter – EricW makes good points about beliefs in the Eucharist, and I’d go further and say that if you do not, will not or cannot believe these points then you really must not become a Roman Catholic.

      • Protestant “doxy” with Catholic “praxy” eh? Sounds like Anglicanism to me. Or at least SOME parts of Anglicanism (they’ve got a pretty big tent).

    • Kevin, I got a kick out of your, “And I know of no stronger testament to the power of Catholic faith than my Uncle, who’s faith kept him sane (and happy!) through fourty years of working at the DMV.” The thing it, there is a lot of truth in that. I look at people not only tolerating, but seemingly happy helping out obnoxious, annoying people and I want what they have. And I like how you put: “at the end of the day, I think I could do worse than having a Protestant ‘doxy’ while having a Catholic ‘praxy.’ “

      I think I am one of those 98% Catholics that Martha mentions in her wonderfully Martha way. From what I have seen, there are lay folks who believe more conservatively than the priest of their parish. I think some priests feel…hampered?….in that they have to answer questions in the Catholic way, but they don’t always really want to. I think some priests refer folks with difficult questions to books or other people who they know will direct them in the way the priest really wants to direct them. I am not saying the priest wants them to do something horrible! I am saying the priest may not want to tell a woman who may die if she has another child that she is committing a serious sin by using birth control. Stuff like that.

      There is nothing in the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed that I disagree with. I even agree that at the end of the day, you need a Pope. There needs to be someone who gets to have the formal final word in a matter. There are a few things I disagree with that the Pope says and that the Catholic Church teaches. But I won’t put my theology out there as being the Catholic teaching. I have to think there is a possibility that I am wrong in what I believe. But I also hold out a faint hope that I am correct and that maybe decades or centuries from now, my take on an issue will be the Catholic one!

      Eric W…that link you gave is not working about St. John Vianney, but if it is the one we discussed before, I do NOT believe he is speaking accurately. He is saying the priest is to be seen the same as we see Jesus. Yet, during the Mass, the priest says he is a sinner and he washes his hands because he is a sinner. Jesus was not a sinner. The priest tells us during the Mass what Jesus said and what Jesus did, but he is not the same as Jesus. There are some great priests and theologians trying to help us understand what is going on in the Mass and in the Eucharist, but I, for one, will not be referring to St. John Vianney for my understanding of it all!

      In the end, I am not a very “good” Catholic, but I really do try to understand and agree with what the Catholic Church teaches me and for the most part, I do, but there are things that just don’t sit right with me and I understand my Protestant brothers’ and sisters’ reasons for why they stay where they are. I certainly think the Holy Spirit will work wherever the Holy Spirit chooses to work.

      • “I think I am one of those 98% Catholics that Martha mentions in her wonderfully Martha way.”

        Ah, JoanieD, but you’re already Catholic. That’s different 😉

        And I like what you say about submitting to the Magisterium while hoping that in a century or two your point of view will be accepted – that’s the properly Catholic way to do things.

        As regards the 98%, of course the important thing is exactly what the 2% of disagreement may be. If it’s “I really can’t see myself ever saying the Rosary”, that’s fine. If it’s “What do you mean, I have to go to Confession at a bare minimum of once a year?”, weeelll….

      • I too like what you said about hoping down the road your view will be accepted. I think, silently, that’s kind of the Protestant way of doing things as well 😀

        • Only, not so silently, we often continue hoping we’re vindicated even after we’ve gone, taken four of our friends, and formed a new denominational branch over our conviction about carpet color or whatnot.

          • I tried to reply to something Eric said above, Kevin, but there was no Reply there, but he said, “Either way, my main point was that Kevin understand that his decision to become Catholic really must include his accepting and believing what that Church teaches about the Eucharist. IT IS THAT IMPORTANT.” He is right that the Eucharist is an incredibly important aspect of the Catholic Church. Here are a couple links I just went to that have quotations about the Eucharist from early Church Fathers:

            http://www.theworkofgod.org/Devotns/Euchrist/Topics/Fathers.htm

            http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/father/fathers.htm

            I have not reviewed them all, but they look like they could be helpful. You may have already been on those pages.

            Personally, I am not a Catholic who believes that “nothing can happen” in Communion in churches that are not Catholic. (Too many “nots” in that sentence.) I have taken communion in non-Catholic churches and I do believe the Holy Spirit works there too. We try to limit God who has limitless love. I am not saying that all churches are just as “good” as any others. I believe some churches do not teach the love, grace, forgiveness of God. Avoid those churches. Some churches teach hate and fear. Avoid those churches.

            I wish you well, Kevin, whatever you decide. God be with you and guide you!

        • Kevin – which is why Luther continued to be an Augustinian monk under holy obedience, hmmmm?

          😉

          • From what I understand Luther didn’t want to form a new denomination originally. He just wanted to see some changes. Which is why I (as a Protestant) see the Reformation more as a tragic necessity than something to rejoice in.

          • I see it the same way (as Obed)—a tragic necessity, not something to rejoice in. And I think today’s evangelical church is also in need of a reformation for (interestingly) many similar reasons.

          • “which is why Luther continued to be an Augustinian monk under holy obedience, hmmmm?”

            What are you talking about, Martha? From what I know, Luther was at some point (can’t remember exactly when at the moment) was released from his vow by his superior. I want to say that it was when he was sent to Wittenberg, though don’t take that as the correct answer (again, can’t remember).

  13. Imonk–I’m a recent reader, and haven’t read any of your previous posts with regard to your exploration of protestant/catholic issues.

    I would agree with many of the above commenters who are hesitant to compromise truth, so I am curious to see where your thinking is coming from and how it has progressed. If you have a moment, please direct me to the relevant posts.

    Thanks.

    J.

  14. Well, hear we go.

    The very fact that those outthere are ‘turning from’ a protestant ‘stance’ to a Roman catholic ‘stance’ should be;

    Of great concern to the wider Christian population – it means rank ecumenicalism is in full swing.

    And that, many are simply reactionary in there theology.

    Sure, there are some very wacky ‘evangelicals’ outhere. Many in the pentecostal/charismatic movements are prosperity preaching heretics etc. You just need to need to watch TBN for just a moment and you will cringe at what is done in the name of Protestant evangelicalism today.

    Fair enough too, that stuff is vile and should make one react.

    Another reason would be that a certain church somewhere has ‘offended’ them – perhaps reasons unbeknowns to many other than the ‘victim’. Sure, thier are glossy and fake fellowships that reek of artificial flattery [these are more often than not false gospel preaching churches anyway].

    Reactionary theology can and does get us all from time to time [myself included] but to run to the RCC for comfort will only result in apostosy. Like the great theologian of our day Dr. R.C Sproul says, “At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution.”

    To see such weak and interfaith undercurrents is of great concern to those who stand on nothing other than the Truth.

    • Something I’ve come to realize is that true Ecumenism is completely impossible because some parties at the discussion table are theologically incapable of being in unity. On the one hand, you’ve got folks like Sproul (quoted above) who see Catholicism as apostate by definition. On the other hand, you’ve got the Roman Catholic Church that requires all genuine reconciliation to be on their terms. I.e. you really can’t be in communion with Rome unless you play by Rome’s rules. There is no real compromise. The best we can hope for in Ecumenical efforts is that we all recognize each other as brothers in Christ and agree to play nice for the duration of the discussion. But real unity? Actually being in communion with each other? Not possible as too many players require the other side to do all the compromising.

      I believe I understand Catholic theology pretty well for a Protestant. And while there are parts of the theology that I’m uncomfortable with, I think Sproul’s statements (and similar statements by others) show a profound ignorance of Catholicism. For me, the dealbreakers as far as me ever joining Catholicism are the celebate preisthood and the closed Table, not the other stuff. The former is because I don’t think I’m called to singleness, yet I do think I’m called to the Ministry. The latter is because my views of Christian Unity and the Eucharist require an open Table.

      • Obed,

        You say “The best we can hope for in Ecumenical efforts is that we all recognize each other as brothers in Christ “.

        So, I am to embrace somebody who preaches another gospel as a brother? Does this not fly in the face of Galatians 1”

        [“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

        Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. “]

        I believe it does. I am not to simply embrace somebody as having the same Father in heaven as I do, simply for the sake of peace. [*Nor am I to hate another person]

        That in and of itself is ‘rank ecumenicalsim’.

        If the only reason you will join the RCC is celibacy and the closed table I urge you to relook at what exactly the differences are in Roman Catholic theology.

        • It’s semantics, not another Gospel. This is the classic problem with not using similar definitions.

          • Obed,

            It is NOT semantics friend. Semantics would be easily indentified.

            Another gospel is anathema. I concur with John Napier;

            “The god of Roman Catholic doctrine is not the God of the Bible; therefore, that leaves only one alternative, the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). Thus, the vast majority of those in the Roman Catholic Church are lost. However, those in Roman Catholic churches who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and do not embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in their heart may be saved.”

          • Not do beat a dead horse here, but from my experiences in the RCC both as a child and as a visitor with friends and family (not to mention as a student of theology and religion and whatnot) it seems that Napier’s statement is coming from a place of ignorance of Catholicism. I mean, he’s basically inferring that the RCC worships Satan disguised as God. I don’t see how someone can go to Mass and not see Jesus worshiped and glorified. The Roman Mass is so much more Gospel-centered than any non-denom Evangelical service I’ve ever attended. Not that I agree with Roman Catholic theology in every point. But give me the Gospel over rank consumerism anyday.

          • Matthew, Sproul and Napier just prove what +Sheen said about people thinking they hate the Catholic Church are really just hating what they THINK is the Catholic Church. IMHO, if you really KNEW Roman Catholicism, you would KNOW that. You only know what you THINK is Roman Catholicism, and that “knowledge” is tainted by Sproul, Napier, and other like-minded individuals.

          • Obed,

            Really? You actually believe that ” don’t see how someone can go to Mass and not see Jesus worshiped and glorified. The Roman Mass is so much more Gospel-centered than any non-denom Evangelical service I’ve ever attended.”?

            I would submit to you, that your statement is outside of biblical Christianty’s view of Jesus teachinsg on both the gospel and the Lord’s supper.

      • Obed, I am Catholic and yet I wish that priests (most of them) were not required to be celibate. I can see the positive aspects of remaining celibate and yet I think that the Catholic Church is missing out on some wonderful men becoming priests by putting this celibacy thing on them. The apostle Peter was married. AND…although I understand wanting people to fully comprehend what they are doing when they receive Communion, I STILL would also like an “open Table” as you refer to it. I think of Sara Miles walking into an Episcopalian church and not even being a Christian. She received Communion and her life was changed forever. Now, if I was a “good” Catholic, I guess maybe I would not think this way, but the truth is that I DO think this way. It would be a lie if I said I didn’t think this way. But I still love receiving Communion at my little Catholic Church in rural Maine and as long as I remain in the Catholic Church, I accept that things are the way they are at this point in time.

        • Sara Miles’ story was one of the things that really got me thinking this way. And then there was some crazy intra-family drama at my grandmother’s funeral. She was Catholic, and while her two sons and their families remained Catholic, her four daughters and their families are protestant. My uncle was pretty insistant that his sisters and their families not take communion at the funeral and even asked the priest to mention that it was only for the Catholic family members (which he “forgot” to do). It was and is a major sore spot in the family, as some of the Protestant family members didn’t respect the Catholic position. Me, I went up, but got the blessing rather than communion.

          • It would be a sore spot for me, because taking communion says “Amen” to the sacramental theology of whatever church you take communion from. If a PROTESTANT partakes of the Eucharist in a Catholic, Orthodox, or Oriental Church, that person said “Amen” to the Real Presence, however defined by the particular church. For most folks, that’s a lie. If it’s not a lie, then there are other issues, such as whether or not you should join that particular church since you believe what it professes. There are enough CATHOLICS that shouldn’t be partaking of the Eucharist, having mortal sins not confessed, who still partake for whatever reason, be it poor catechesis, disbelief in RCC theology, or fear of being asked about why they didn’t partake by friends/family/Priest.

          • I guess I’ll side with the Anglicans when I say that I think the Eucharist isn’t about theological hair-splitting, but is rather about Jesus and partaking of Him together. But hey, like I’ve said, I’m an Open Table guy. And that’s typically the reasoning for Open Table folks.

    • “(T)o run to the RCC for comfort will only result in apostosy”

      Matthew, of course one of the disputed points between us is just who apostatized from whom back when 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Here we go again…

      Matthew, the Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Wars in 1648.

      It is now 2010. Sorry you never got the word.

    • And thank the Lord Jesus one mere theologian does not a two millenia magesterium make!
      Interestingly enough, it was PRECISELY this statement I came across while homeschooling (flashcard on the Council of Trent) my children years ago that led me on my journey into the Catholic Church, “says who?!”.

      My God, how can one man declare such an enourmous pronouncement upon the world!

  15. But… what becomes of Truth? I came away with the feeling that Truth was not so important as how we FEEL about our respective faiths. It smacks of defeatism, to be honest. It causes the perception that you’re willing to settle, and are no longer interested in finding Truth, but in “co-existing” so that the difficulties of differences no longer need to be addressed. But Christ said that He came to tear father from son, etc etc. We are not called to walk an easy road of co-existence, are we? Yes, we are called to treat each other in love, despite out differences, but that doesn’t exclude the never-ending search for what Christ truly taught, and who God truly IS.

    I couldn’t agree more with the gentleman above, who said, “That argument turns away from the question of truth, to the internal subjective degree of self-perceived satisfaction. But the question regarding Christ and His Church has always been about truth, not about how good it makes us feel. It may require suffering, rejection, loss, and even death on our part, to follow the truth.”

    • This argument does not turn away from truth. It is an argument which happens after one has already determined truth, to the best of one’s ability, and is now deciding not to beat others who think differently with the same dead horse that has been circulating since the Reformation.

      If you are still discerning truth (on the major points of disagreement between the RCC and the rest of the world), then you’re not here yet.

      Come back when you’re older, maybe?

  16. Looking at the various statements on “Truth” I can’t help but giggle a bit. When I was studying historic theology (i.e. Pre-Reformation Church History via theological discussions and developements rather than events), an impression that I came away with was that the Church in the West had this deep “need” to figure everything out, while the Church in the East was content with rejoicing in the mystery of it all in many instances.

    In other words, the statements on “Truth” above are oh, so Western.

    Does adhering to the truth require monolithic agreement on everything? The RCC obviously permits diversity in liturgy, but what about in theology? That is, are there no theological and ecclesiological areas where it’s OK for followers of Christ to agree to disagree? Or is unity to be equated with uniformity?

    The concept of progressive revelation in Scripture is that God doesn’t give us the whole picture all at once. Indeed, there’s some serious tension between different parts of Scripture because of this. For example, are the Jews to be inclusive as in Jonah or Esther or is it to be exclusive as in Ezra and Nehmiah? In the NT we’ve got Paul’s focus on grace in Romans contrasted with James’ focus on good deeds. As a student of Scripture and follower of Christ, these are issues we have to deal with. And if the Scriptures aren’t monolithic, can we really expect Christianity to be monolithic?

    I, for one, am OK with the diversity. If we can agree on the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, that’s good enough for me.

    • Obed
      That is, are there no theological and ecclesiological areas where it’s OK for followers of Christ to agree to disagree?

      Oh believe me there are plenty of areas in theology where Catholics are free to disagree. In fact, on the whole I think there is more room to disagree about theology in the Catholic Church than in many Protestant denominations. There are certain things that are pinned down, and a few more than in the East, but still, there is much diversity in theology, and even more diversity in spirituality.

    • Obed, I don’t see much evidence of the Church in the East being content to rejoice in the mystery of it all in regard to the Emperors (and more importantly, the Empresses) exiling and/or executing bishops for disagreeing with them on theology, or in matters such as the Iconoclast controversy, or even the various Councils which dealt with everyone from Arius to Origen.

      Even the Nicene Creed was hammered out in an atmosphere of “What do we believe and what is necessary?” rather than “You say potato, I say potato, but let’s both agree that the Two Natures of Christ are too great a mystery for us to quibble over”.

  17. I have personally known quite a few folks who have “changed sides,” some converting from RC-ism to protestantism, others vice versa.

    And often they find themselves in an adversarial position to their former expressions of faith. Appreciating diversity may be helpful.

    At the same time, recent research has shown that nominal Christianity is more prevalent in the RC tradition (i.e., less willingness towards evangelism, fewer people engaged in spiritual disciplines, etc.). I don’t want to come down too hard, other than to say that for me, I’m happy to be involved in a community that embraces a life of missional, gospel-centered Christianity. I would hardly suggest that Catholicism is devoid of these experiences, only that there has been less emphasis.

  18. I think that the efforts of the Catholic Church to feed the hungry, aid the sick, and comfort the afflicted are our way of being a missional, gospel-centered Christianity.

    • I would agree trooper, that often ‘gospel centered Christianty’ can be out of balance.

      But let me tell you – you can feed the poor till the cows come home and it wont make one differnce to their eternity. The true and singular gospel must be proclaimed.

      There really is no mission without a message. Jesus said “preach!”

      • Matthew, maybe so, but only if you picture ‘feeding the poor’ as the equivalent of a McDonalds drivethrough – anonymous and utterly impersonal. It seldom is that in fact, and the Gospel is proclaimed very loudly indeed.

        • Addendum – Matthew, I’m genuinely curious. What, in your eyes, is the role of a Christian in Haiti right now?

          • Margaret,

            re: your first comment

            I agree that one must be initamtly involved in the feeding of the poor etc. You rightly state that that is indeed a part of the Gospel.

            To address your secoond post and in summation of both;

            I would concur with D.L Moody when he said, “A loving deed costs very little but done in the name of Christ it will be eternal”. [ That is on our fridge]

            Christians in Haiti should do two things. – the above and “whether they eat or drink or whatever they do , do all to teh glory of God.” That includes sharing the message of salvation by grace through Jesus Christ alone and meeting the needs of those suffering.

            My prayers go out to those in Haiti.

      • Jesus also said “Love one another as I have loved you.” The mission sometimes IS the message, and the people being served by the Catholic missions are being preached that Gospel, the Gospel of Love, HIS Love (Caritas). With respect to 1 Corinthians 13:13, it seems Faith begets Hope, which begets Love, which is the greatest of the three.

  19. In Matthew 13, Jesus gives an interesting parable. He says that every teacher who has been instructed about His kingdom is like a homeowner who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.
    For me, it’s the relative freedom to discover and explore new things that God might be revealing that is Protestantism’s strongest asset. In a situation where everything has been codified, systemized, and all the answers have been set in stone to the exclusion of further argument, there’s not much room for God to teach His people something new or to express Himself through them in new ways.
    On the other hand, the abandonment or rejection of all things “old” often leads to religious fads, rampate error, and the loss of practices and beliefs that God wants to preserve.
    The problem is that people tend to be drawn exclusively toward one or the other. Some people embrace tradition and established structure to the point that their mental default setting is to reject or resist anything new — while some are so captivated by new things or so frustrated with the current, inflexible state of affairs that they adopt the policy of attacking just about anything traditional or historically founded. One could easily break down Christian history as a struggle between these two kinds of people. The keepers of tradition gain control and create a stifling and oppressive state of affairs, while the radicals and pioneers lead revolutions against the establishment. And, in the course of time, the products of religious revolutions become “established” and “traditional”, and cries for change and reform arise once again.
    What Christendom seems to lack most is a sense of balance between things old and new — and the capacity to embrace the paradox of both God’s unchanging and unmovable nature and His love of creating and birthing new things into existence. If God is the potter and His people are the clay, I can only imagine how frustrated He must get with us when we either resist His efforts to change and mold us or else try to mold ourselves according to our own plans and preferences.
    As His discliples or students, Jesus wants us to retain the lessons and instructions He has given us in the past, while, at the same time, remaining flexible and teachable enough to receive new information and instruction. I suspect He also wants to instill in us some heavenly wisdom and discernment, so that we can look at things both old and new, both traditional and innovative, and be able to tell the difference between those things that come from Him and those that come from some other source.
    For all its failings, divisions, and excesses, I think the realm of Protestantism leaves more flexibility and freedom for Jesus to bring His Body into balance.

    • “For me, it’s the relative freedom to discover and explore new things that God might be revealing that is Protestantism’s strongest asset.”

      Oh, Ron! Doesn’t that sound awfully like the dreaded “Development of Tradition” which is one of the marks by which we can tell that the wicked Roman Catholic Church is the reasony why – how did that theologian Matthew quoted put it? ah, yes – “the vast majority of those in the Roman Catholic Church are lost.”

      😉

      • No, they’re not the same thing.

        • Was being slightly facetious in that first, but come on No – instruct this lost sheep.

          If Catholicism develops anything from disciplines to doctrines to dogmas (and these three things are not the same thing) over the long span of its history and drawing forth from the ever-unfolding understanding as we go on through time of the boundless depths of the richness and wisdom contained in the revelation of God, that’s been condemed as ‘human inventions’ and unBiblical. If Catholics back up reasons for why we do/say/believe X, Y or Z with Scripture – and it’s been said to me myself in one of these online discussions – “Oh, that’s a Catholic way of reading the Bible”, with the very strong implication that it’s the wrong way at best and deliberate twisting and lying at worst.

          If a Protestant denomination, or an individual from a denomination or non-denominational, decides – for example – that dancing is a mortal sin that will send your soul to Hell without exception and backs it up by pulling a verse out of Scripture, that’s – “the freedom to discover and explore”?

          What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            If a Protestant denomination, or an individual from a denomination or non-denominational, decides – for example – that dancing is a mortal sin that will send your soul to Hell without exception and backs it up by pulling a verse out of Scripture, that’s – “the freedom to discover and explore”?

            No, that’s GOD SAITH (TM)…

            (Anyone remember the Gnostics? They were always finding weird-ass “God Saiths” all over the place. And didn’t this one Rabbi Yeshua have a LOT of things to say about a group of Rabbis who were expanding Torah and Leviticus to the point of absurd micromanagement?)

    • RonP writes, “What Christendom seems to lack most is a sense of balance between things old and new — and the capacity to embrace the paradox of both God’s unchanging and unmovable nature and His love of creating and birthing new things into existence.”

      Nicely said, Ron.

  20. “We are “Happy Enough” Protestants. A strange title…”

    Yes indeed, and in my simple mind, this formula invites to conserving heresy and protecting schisms and divisions.

    I would rather search for truth, whatever it may cost – even to leave the cozy cabin. When these questions arise in our minds, we should rather ask: “not my will, but Your will, not my kingdom but Your kingdom”.

  21. Whoo boy Michael, you are stokin’ the bonfire today!

    You know it has never been about catholic vs protestant. It has always been about do you have the Spirit of God in your life.
    I don’t care where you go, I don’t care who you hang out with, do you know Jesus?
    Are you willing to be guided by Him instead of by the foolish wisdom of men?
    Jesus will not be asking you if you know Jean Calvin or Thomas Aquinas. He wants you to know Him, and know Him well enough to grow, know Him well enough to not be taken in by human foolishness.
    Don’t seek Pat Robertson
    Don’t seek Dave Ramsey
    Don’t seek the Pope
    Seek Jesus

    • Now ya talking!

    • “Don’t seek Pat Robertson.” Oh, yeah.

      But when you pick up a Bible to “[s]eek Jesus,” you’re submitting to the wisdom of the Church, which established the canon. And when you identify Jesus by the orthodox definitions of Him as God and man, you’re submitting to the Church’s conclusions. Unquestionably, God wants us to know Him, but such knowledge comes from the Church. “Go into all the world, and teach all nations,…” He told His apostles. Matthew 28. If you want Chist, go to His Church.

      • That is the Roman Catholic’s problem;

        “Anything Christian is not Christian cause the Bible says so, something is Christian beacuse the Church says so”

        That is NOT why something is Christian. Something is Christian beacuse the Bible says so.

        • Christiane says:

          Isn’t the Bible ‘saying so’ because it was carefully, prayerfully compiled according to the traditional canons based on the the liturgy of the Church?

          Which came first?
          ‘on this rock I will build my Church’?
          or
          the formation of the canon of Scripture?

          • The Bible was compiled by the LORD Himself – soveriegnly.

            See that is the problem – to much authority in the traditions of men & the power they were given ;
            ie. ‘Not allowing laymen to have thier own copy of Scriptures and not allowed to intepret them themsleves’

          • Christiane says:

            Matthew: “The Bible was compiled by the LORD Himself – soveriegnly”

            Honestly, have you read any Church history ?
            Or anything at all about the formation of canon ?

            So the Bible dropped ‘out of the sky’ like the stone tablets came to be ?
            No inspired scribes ?
            No inspired council of the Church deciding on the canon of Scripture ?

        • Christiane,

          A question right back at you: Have you, do you , understand the absolute sovereignty of God?

          That would allow you to answer your question you put to me…….

  22. Donald Todd says:

    Happy enough Protestants attaches a group of Protestants to a transitory emotion. .

    However I am caught because Christianity involves a Person Who self-identified as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Happiness does not appear to have been part of that equation, perhaps because it is a transitory emotion.

    I am not sure if Peter was happy with whatever fate he was facing, so he asked about John’s fate. Jesus’ response was, “What is that to you? You follow Me.” Again, no reference to happiness.

    If history can be gleaned from the yellow pages of the phone book, a look under Church or Churches would indicate that – right or wrong – people were making an effort to find the Truth. Unfortunately they often appeared to accept their own authority as the means of interpreting what was and what was not true. They followed Luther’s dictum that any man inhabited by the Spirit of God was capable of interpreting and expounding Scripture unaided (even as they left Luther behind).

    Later, a Danish Lutheran theologian, Nicolai Grundtvig noted that he had found a truth. You do not discover the church in scripture, you discover scripture in the church. It was a very apt recognition. Grundtvig discovered Luthers interpretation of scripture in the Lutheran Church. Others discovered their beliefs (name a brand) in the church that they attended.

    However, what if individual interpretation (with or without inspiration) was not the means to make such a decision? The woman at the well noted that her people worshipped at the Samaritan Temple while the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem. Ergo, what if I am not the decision maker and what if God has not made me the arbiter of Truth?

    I was an evangelical Pentecostal. I was aware of the serious divisions inside of Christianity. The local hard-shell Baptists were often like shock troops (at least in comparison to us) and often it seemed to me that we permitted them to be Christians as a sort of questionable tolerance. They did not believe that the charismata was exstant in the world, because charismata died out with the death of the last apostle according to their interpretation of Scripture. Yet here we were, praying in tongues, experiencing interpretation and prophecy, and praying for the healing of our sick. Clearly we were doing things that Scripture indicated we needed to do.

    The Assembly / Baptist split was clearly evident.

    Later, the Assemblies of God split. There were the classical pentecostals, who maintained the name Assemblies of God; and there were the Baptists-who-speak-in-tongues branch which took another name, often Christian Life Center or something similar.

    Using the phonebook for our quick history lesson, we are not limited to various Baptist or Pentecostal groups, but rather a series of steps forward toward or back away from the Truth – depending on one’s interpretation, and where one started from – always in competition with others, and often for much less reason than the Baptist / Pentecostal split noted above.

    This contrasts badly with John 17 where Jesus’ prayer for unity occurs. Jesus’ prayer for us suffers because when everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.

    John Henry Newman noted that when he left Anglicanism for Roman Catholicism, his concerns about difficult doctrines disappeared. He noted that the Church was created by Christ Jesus to complete His work on earth, and that Jesus had given it the authority necessary to combat the evil it would confront in bearing His message.

    The sacraments? The papacy? Mary?

    Newman was right. I found I believed Catholic beliefs that I found in scripture, and was in conflict with my own church. I did not want to leave the pew at the place I was at. I did not want to lose the music I had grown to appreciate. I did not want to depart from my brethren. I did not want the things I thought distasteful or worse in Catholicism. “What is that to you? You follow Me.”

    If asked now, I can explain the sacraments. I can explain the papacy. I can explain Mary and I have a profound appreciation and admiration for all of them, especially the sacraments which bring Christ and His grace to the individual.

    The Assemblies did not exist when the last apostle died. The Baptists were not there to record the end of charismata when the last apostle died. The Church was there. Oh happy day when I arrived and was received into the place I had been searching for. Thank you Lord.

    Am I always happy? Nope. Do I particpate at Mass and go to confession? Yes. Is the Author of everything on my mind and heart? Daily. Does He do everything I ask of Him? Not noticeably. Does He love me? Indeed. Does He want the best for me? He wants me near Him, so that is an unqualified yes. Am I always happy? Nope, but often enough I have the privilege of Joy, accompanied by wonder, and a great recognition of my smallness. I waived the right to private interpretation and continue to be relieved of that burden. Thanks be to God Who does not depend on me to be the arbiter of Truth.

    • “Happiness does not appear to have been part of that equation, perhaps because it is a transitory emotion.”

      Happiness and love: not the same thing.

      If the kid who was finding himself drawn to Catholicism reads Donald’s comment, he’ll be better off.

  23. Nicely said, Donald

  24. Louis Winthrop says:

    You could change “Protestant” to “gay” without losing much in the way of tone.

    Poor Protestants–always being victimized by those mean Catholics, etc. who refuse to accept them just the way you are…!