MOD: Thank you to all who contributed comments on this post. Obviously we are not going to resolve all of our questions about church history, Roman Catholicism, the Reformation, and Eastern Orthodoxy in a single blog post about a day of listening to Catholic media. The journey will continue, but for now, comments on this post are closed. Peace.
Thanks for prayers for health. I am feeling God’s goodness and kindness each day. Still several days away from any kind of information I can share. Continue praying. I love you and count myself blessed a thousand times to be surrounded by so many who will pray for me.
I spent the entire day yesterday listening to Catholic radio. I took in EWTN and Ave Maria in about equal portions, along with a couple of archived hours of Catholic Answers. I thought it would be interesting to the IM audience today to hear some of my thoughts on the â€œCatholic radioâ€ experience.
Let me say a couple of things. First, some good Catholic friends have told me not to do this. Not because it is counter-productive as much as simply a bit distorted in its picture of the Church. EWTN is one kind of American Catholic experience, but itâ€™s very much its own culture and flavor. There is lots more going on, some not as conservative, some far deeper and richer in flavor. I hope I counted all of this as I reflected on what I was hearing.
Secondly, Iâ€™m very open to what Catholicism has to say. Iâ€™m about as soft a sell as you could find right now. My own evangelicalism has made its case to me and while I remain part of the evangelical community, I am not manning the ramparts with weapons. Iâ€™m opening windows and doors, actively inviting in the voices of non-evangelical Christians and their experience of Christ.
Third, it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception yesterday, so I heard a lot of discussion of Mary.
So here are some of my reflections. No particular order or significance to placement.
1. The broadcast of the mass of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. was very impressive. With all the theological questions that come along with this emphasis, the beauty, majesty and antiquity of the Catholic faith comes across. Evangelicals these days, given an hour or so of similar time, would….what? Contemporary music with a celebrity sermon? We could, within our resources, present a wonderful and beautiful worship experience, but one wonders if it would ever get past the discussions of contemporary music. etc.
2. Likewise, there are some embarrassing and ignorant goof-balls who have managed to corner an hour of Catholic radio. If anyone thinks that evangelicals or fundamentalists have a corner on this market, you are quite wrong. They are waiting for you on the other side.
3. It doesnâ€™t seem that a majority of the voices I heard on a day of Catholic radio have a sense of how the church itself, and the mysteries of Christ, the church and personal faith, are experienced differently in Roman Catholic spirituality as compared to Protestantism. The reformation isnâ€™t just a historical and doctrinal event. There has developed a significantly different experience of the church, the Gospel and the Christian life in these two traditions. Itâ€™s not simply a multiple choice question, but two very different ways of living, trusting and being a Christian. Overlooking this is a real mistake. It isnâ€™t easy to talk about, but Iâ€™m convinced that, at the end of the day, it has to be counted far more important than most make it.
4. Catholic Answers’ apologists answer a huge number of marriage related questions. Itâ€™s simply quite extraordinary. Sometimes half the questions offered to a Catholic Answers apologist are marriage related. Is there a better place to work these things out than the radio? The impression this leaves with a Protestant is poor.
5. Catholic Answers’ apologists, at least as I have heard them on this day and many others, vary widely in quality, and some of them are quite weak. Jimmy Akin is CAâ€™s senior apologist. A caller asked him about Maryâ€™s behavior toward Jesus in Mark 3. He was stumped. Speechless. He sounded as if he hadnâ€™t read up on this passage in years. Eventually, after a couple of extended silences, he resorted to appealing to â€œnuances in translation,â€ a far too frequent apologetic hide out for the unprepared. I know this passage well from teaching Mark. I could have answered- in a Catholic friendly way- in a minute. Unimpressive and indicative that, as Iâ€™ve said, the wrong emphasis is often implied in this kind of Catholic argumentation.
6. Fr. Benedict Groeschel did an hour long presentation on the Immaculate Conception. Heâ€™s simple and quite excellent, and I say that counting in what scholarship has to say, what the early church fathers contribute and where the teaching authority of the church steps in to define dogma. Fr. Groeschel understands them all, gives them the proper emphasis and never- never!- tries to argue an evangelical into seeing that this doctrine is plainly taught in scripture. Even Luther and Calvin believed it by way of Augustine. When one meets a Catholic who deals with his/her own beliefs in the context of how the Catholic church actually holds the faith, everything works much better. The voices that act as if these things are simply matters of argument about scripture and thatâ€™s all are not helpful.
7. Scott Hahn may not be the scholarly heavyweight that the RCC in America make him out to be, but he really is a gift to the RCC. Few people in evangelicalism could do what he does with scripture, tradition and experience in such a winsome way. His evident joy in his journey goes along with his enthusiasm for the Bible in Catholicism and results in a very glad witness.
8. More than a few people at Catholic Answers/EWTN need to re-read the Vatican II documents on ecumenism and make up their minds whether they plan to present the churchâ€™s views accurately or not. At times, it seemed to me that some persons were ready to go to the rack rather than say â€œseparated brethren.â€ Bizarre.
Your thoughts and responses to my impressions are welcome.