Sunday, March 22, 2009

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Evangelical Catholics

An old friend of ours, Rich Maffeo, has commented on one of Jailbreaker's recent posts, and brings to light a phenomenon many call "Evangelical Catholicism". This term can be interpreted variously, but here I refer specifically to former Evangelical Protestants who convert to the Catholic church. While the tide of conversions has generally flowed in the other direction, those who have moved from Evangelicalism to Catholicism have had a pronounced and outsized effect on the "Church of Rome" in recent years.

I'd like to introduce this topic for broader discussion first by highlighting a couple of thoughts Rich and I have traded already in the comments of a previous post:
[Jailer] At best, as you imply, tradition may represent the collective wisdom of godly people throughout ages past, and there may be much good to be drawn from it. A wholesale abrogation of its traditions may leave the church unnecessarily adrift. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity was not fully developed within the New Testament timeframe, though it is clearly drawn from New Testament Scriptures. But the work of the early saints, the Council of Nicea, etc. are important to this day in giving the church an expression of that Scriptural truth that has stood many tests throughout the centuries. At worst, however, the pitfalls of tradition are nothing short of catastrophic. The Pharisees are an example, as was the Roman Catholic church itself throughout the Middle Ages. The effective exaltation of Divine Tradition over Scripture, together with the unfortunate union of spiritual and temporal authority in Rome, brought about the horrible corruption that made the Reformation so very necessary. Okay, well to quote Mr. Potatohead from Toy Story II, "Oh, you had to bring THAT up!" So let's dwell on more present realities. I can agree and attest that the alphabet soup which is present-day Protestantism leaves much to be desired insofar as its squishy and polyglot doctrinal foundations, and this is, in part, due to its disdain for tradition as being of any value whatsoever. This is also tragic, and leaves much of the church unable to wrestle with a variety of false and silly teachings as they slosh through our pulpits and Christian book stores and media outlets. On the other hand, I would argue that Catholicism, though certainly in a better place now than in much of its history, continues to struggle with some basic theological problems that its tradition has frozen into place. I would especially list among these the problems of other mediators between God and man besides Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5)--or shall I say, other mediators between man and Christ--and ultimately the overlay of human tradition as supplemental to (and therefore displacing of) the authority of Scripture. Yes, Scripture does--and will always--suffer from various human interpretations. By necessity, some of those must be incorrect. Some of them are even irredeemably heretical. But I will take that authority over the exaltation of our very fallible human tradition.

[Rich] Jailer, it might surprise you that I agree with virtually everythig you said. My only disagreement might center on your comment about mediators. Let me explain. Yes, absolutely and positively, there is only one mediator between God and man . . . Christ Jesus. And it causes me a great deal of consternation when my fellow Catholics elevate, (de facto, if not de jure), others -- including the Blessed Virgin -- to a place reserved only for Messiah Jesus. However, the Catechism and other Catholic Church documents instruct the laity against doing so, quite clearly. Problem is, the laity either don't fully comprehend Church teaching, or they go beyond that teaching due to their own will. What the Church DOES teach (and of necessity I simplify here) is that because those who have died in Christ (for example, the Saints) . . . because they are not dead (for "all live unto God"), they are in that "great cloud of witnesses" and in a position to pray for us who are on this side of the grave, in much the same way as I might ask you for prayer. The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church teaches we all have the privilege to ask saints such as St. Monica, or St. Thomas, et. al. to pray for us. The OT (as well as the NT) is replete with examples of holy men who prayed (mediated) for others (e.g. Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul . . .) So the term "mediator" as used in that sense is not at all extrabiblical. Unfortunately, there is often a distance between an official position of a Church and how the sheep interpret (or are taught) that position. Hence, the significant need for being "instant in season and out of season [to] reprove, rebuke, exhort" others in God's word (and, in my case, Church teaching).
Please note that though Rich and I are naturally theologically opposed on some important issues, I am fully persuaded of his sincere faith in our Lord Jesus, and rejoice to confidently call him my brother in Christ. He maintains his own blog devoted to equipping Catholics to understand the Scriptures.

To dig further into this issue of Evangelical Cathoicism, I'd like to take an extract from a Catholic priest's blog (emphasis mine):
One former Presbyterian minister told me the story of how he was received into the Catholic church, and how one of his first Catholic pastors welcomed him and wanted him to help make the liturgy more relevant. The Catholic priest thought this convert clergyman could help out. The former presbyterian pastor was shocked and dismayed. He said, "This is exactly what I do not want. For ten years as a presbyterian pastor I tried to make up my own services, preach on what I wanted and devise some sort of 'liturgy' or 'worship experience' for my people. I became a Catholic because that just won't do. I want the Cathechism. I want the liturgy. I want the lectionary. I want the Liturgy of the Hours. I want the spirituality of the saints. I want the Church. Most of all I want the Eucharist."
There are several lines of discussion here, but what I'd like to focus on is what drives people from their Protestant churches back "home" to Catholicism. One theme comes out for me in both Rich's comments and the unnamed minister: a desire for something more doctrinally solid and methodologically consistent than much of the fluffy feel-goodism that poses as postmodern Evangelicalism.

I ask for your thoughts below as we develop this further ...

15 comments:

  1. Hmmm. I must tell you I enter this water with some trepidation. I have had sad experiences when I have told some of my Protestant acquaintences of my Catholic faith.

    But, since Jailbreaker opened the discussion, I will test the waters here.

    A number of things drew me into the Catholic Church, not the least of which (believe it or not) was the Scriptures.

    In retrospect, I realize it could not have been any other way for me. When I first came to Christ in 1972, the Lord brought across my path Hal Lindsey's first book, The Late Great Planet Earth. The first several chapters in that book addressed OT Messianic prophecy. I was raised Jewish, and would have disdained reference to the "Christian" scriptures, but God brought me first to the Jewish scriptures -- "MY" bible . . . and through it led me to Jesus.

    Likewise, if someone had tried to convince me of the efficacy of Roman Catholic theology by using the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), I would have walked away. But God led me to a Catholic man who (surprise, surprise) knew his bible fairly well, and we were able to have discussions about NT theology in light of the Old and New Testaments, as well as the CCC.

    When I read passages in the NT such as Mt 16:16-18; John 6:48-58; 1 Cor 10:16-17, 1 Tim 3:15 and many others, I began to understand them in a new light. . . as if the Holy Spirit re-wired my understanding of those passages to see them as a Catholic would interpret them.

    PLEASE DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND MY INTENT HERE. I am not at all trying to prove the validity of Catholicism. I am simply explaining why I came to the theological understanding that I now have.

    Something else was going on in my heart as well. I was looking for a deeper relationship with Christ. I was growing more discontent with the way Protestant services were run (again, not that there is anything wrong with the way they are run. It was just FOR ME, I was longing for something of intimacy with Christ that I was no longer finding in the Protestant churches my wife and I were attending). I was also growing discontent with what I perceived as watered-down gospel and a clear lack of holiness among those in the pews with regard to dress, talk and activities -- all of which mirrored unbelievers more than the clear teaching of Scripture.

    And then there was the Eucharist. I suddenly realized (according to "my" interpretation) that Christ's very body, blood, soul and divinity were actually transubstantiated in the host and wine.

    And I longed for it.

    Those are only a few reasons for my move into the Catholic Church. I could cite others. But if asked to summarize my reasons, I would narrow it to interpretation of Scripture -- how I now interpret them and how the Church has historically (prior to the Reformation, anyway) interpreted them.

    Again, please accept what I say when I say I am not trying to be argumentative. One thing I will not do is argue about these issues which, to me, are secondary to the main purpose of the Church -- that being the winning of souls through, and only through, the precious blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

    God does things according to His purposes -- His ways are not ours, nor His thoughts our thoughts -- and I am privileged to call everyone who names the name of Jesus as resurrected lord, savior, master, king, redeemer and friend my brother or sister.

    I only hope to be received as a brother by my non-Catholic brethern.

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  2. Rich,

    I appreciate your willingness to join in the conversation.

    Kindly help me with this passage out of Lumen Gentium:

    "14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved."

    And this from the Catholic Chatechism:

    "846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it."

    This would seem to indicate pretty conclusively that non-Catholics stand condemned in Catholic theology. As one who seeks to be received as a brother by your non-Catholic brethren, what is your interpretation of these doctrines?

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  3. Jailer, you are kind to have cited only those two passages.

    For the sake of openness, I will cut and paste a few more . . . and then attempt to answer your question:

    Saint Peter Canisius (died A.D. 1597): "Outside of this communion - as outside the ark on Noah - there is absolutely no salvation for mortals: not for Jews or pagans who never received the faith of the Church, nor for heretics who, having recieved it, corrupted it; neither for the excommunicated or those who for any other serious cause deserve to be put away and separated from the body of the Church like pernicious members...for the rule of Cyprian and Augustine is certain: he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his mother." (Cathechismi Latini et Germanici)

    St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716) "There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes."

    St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori (1696-1787): "We must believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true Church; hence, they who are out of our Church, or they who are separated from it, cannot be saved."

    Those are the harsh comments. On the other side of the issue are these more conciliatory comments by the Catholic Church:

    From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church --

    171. What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?

    846-848

    This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.

    And, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    1267 Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ: "Therefore . . . we are members one of another." Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body."

    1268 The baptized have become "living stones" to be "built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood." By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light." Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.
    ------

    I have probably given more information than you wanted, (and I could offer much more . . . I have studied this issue at some length in the past because of its potentially inflammatory nature) but I thought it necessary to share at least as much as I did to provide some perspective.

    One the one hand, some documents of the RC church state unless one is a RC he or she cannot be saved. On the other hand, some documents stte ALL baptized persons are members of the Body of Christ (which is the universal Church, of course).

    I wonder if it is providential we are having this discussion because I just concluded an email discourse with a Catholic priest friend who was responding to my wife's blog. She is not Catholic, but attends Mass with me. She has chronicled her journey with me through the Catholic Church at www.protestantandcatholicatcriticalmass.blogspot.com (you might want to take a look at her last post to help you understand the priest's comments that I will cut and paste in a moment).

    The point I am trying to make by including the priest's comments (with minor editing for clarity) is to hopefully illuminate the question you asked (and I have asked). Here are his comments:
    ----------
    The key word here is “knowing.” What does it mean to know that something is true? It includes many things. There’s a human act of belief, which includes facts, logic and understanding. Cardinal Newman identifies another element called the “illative” sense: the ability of the human person to sift all the issues in there head AND their emotions and heart, the “tipping” point that is different for every person that makes everything finally click so you “get it.” Then there is the Divine element: the gift of grace and the gift of faith. Then there is the response to that grace of faith with the human act of faith that by grace becomes the divine act of faith.

    Many people know the “facts” about the Catholic Church, including the teaching, “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” Do those same people UNDERSTAND that to be a fact of TRUTH? NO. Many things prevent people from seeing that the Body of Christ must have a seamless garment, both inwardly and outwardly. Does that [mean they] are going to hell? . . . . NO, because you cannot be held accountable for something you do not understand or comprehend.

    The official teachings of the church regarding faith and salvation need to be understood in the light of how people understand them. You can’t expect someone to believe in something they see no truth in, even though the lack of truth is in their seeing and not in the truth. Truth is universal. Perception is not.

    Church laws primarily deal with the external forum, what we do on the outside that indicates, usually, what’s going on in the inside. . . . So again, the question is knowing. Do people outside the [Catholic] church really understand? If they do, then do they really believe….ahh that is the question…and that’s something only God knows, hence Christ told us not to judge. But the Church has an obligation to teach the truth; teachings are often misconstrued as judgments.

    ------------

    Jailer, you asked at the beginning what I believe about non-Catholic Christians' eternal destiny. I hope my opinion is clear from the foregoing, but in case it is not, let me restate it: I believe all who are washed in the blood of the Lamb, who seek His face, who turn from their sins, who strive to enter the narrow gate, who fight the good fight of faith, who confess with their mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead . . . they are all children of God.

    A somewhat long answer to a very important question.



    rich

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  4. Rich--I appreciate your opinion on this, and thought Nan's most recent blog post was incredibly interesting. Thanks for passing that site along.
    As you know well, one of the "advantages" of being a Protestant (bear with me) is that I can easily disown another Protestant church's teaching ... or even my own church, if I believe it's clearly non-Scriptural, since we believe that only God's Word is infallible. Naturally this leads to a certain amount of chaos and a rather low view of church authority in too many cases, but it also has been the enabler of some necessary rejection of error throughout history, to include New Testament history (I think here of Paul opposing Peter "to his face").
    It would seem to me that Catholics face a rather more difficult problem, with your very high view of church authority and elevation of tradition, so that when you have a church position you disagree with, you face a problem in distancing yourself from it. Am I correct?
    In this case, I'm referring to the position we've been discussing (the eternal condemnation of non-Catholics). It would appear to me that your attempt to "square the circle" by excusing us from some responsibility for not knowing enough is something of a rationalization. I myself feel as if I know enough about the Catholic church to make an informed decision, and rather more than a lot of lifelong Catholics I know.
    What's your opinion of this? Do you feel as if you have to stretch credulity in order to make your beliefs fit with Catholic doctrine?
    (By the way, although there aren't others who have joined this particular conversation, I have heard privately from several who are closely following it with great interest.)
    Respectfully in Christ,

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  5. Most excellent discussion, and it again spurs my interest in Catholicism. But I must relate a personal story.

    My grandfather was very close to me; we enjoyed politics, studies of economics (most relevantly, the Great Depression) and moral and social issues. He was a classic liberal; he would be what would today be described as a neoconservative in the likes of JFK.

    After he and his wife of 65 years retired to Arizona, they went "back" to the Catholic Church. My mom had been raised "evangelical" under the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. As a new Christian I really wished to understand this choice. Mixing his favorite drink (the dirty martini), he sat me down and in his most eloquent law-school patient voice, explained in the most simplest terms.

    "Because evangelicals threw the baby out with the bath water." Describing his own Christian walk, he related how undisciplined the evangelical church had become in the 70s-80s-90s; he could not understand why the liturgy had been reduced to touchy feely singing; the presence of the Lord at worship had been all but disregarded as shown in dress, late arrivals, casual chitter-chatter...
    He agreed that the Catholic church had effectively alienated a generation of Christians (the pre-relativism of the 60s) and that change was needed (and was, in Vatican II) but the aire of reverence was completely missing from the evangelical church, and he did not like it. He wanted to think, contemplate, focus on Christ--not seek some feeling each Sunday.
    Am I growing that way? Tough to say.

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  6. Hi Jailer. You wrote:

    "It would seem to me that Catholics face a rather more difficult problem, with your very high view of church authority and elevation of tradition, so that when you have a church position you disagree with, you face a problem in distancing yourself from it. Am I correct?"

    In times past, yes. But not today, especially in America. It might surprise many non-Catholics to know there are large numbers of Catholic Churches and priests who hold a variety of orthodox and unorthodox positions, such as regarding abortion. So, for example, the official teaching of Rome is abortion is an intrinsic evil. Yet, President Obama garnered 53% of professing Catholics. I believe the reason for that is so many priests and bishops did not speak out forcefully against Obama’s stated position. I can only speculate as to why.

    But in not speaking out in favor of Rome's teaching, they gave tacit approval to those in the Church who disagree with the Church. Hence, Mr. Obama's election. (I understand the percentage of professing evangelicals who voted for Obama neared that same 50% . . . but that's a different story for a different discussion).

    So, back to the question of being able to distance oneself from a disagreeable position, those (for example) in a parish who disagree with their pastor’s tacit position on anything --including theological/moral questions -- they simply leave their parish in search of another more orthodox Catholic Church.

    As for your comment about how Protestants tend to have a lower view of authority than is perhaps good -- I think you are correct, and I think that lower view has clear disadvantages. If there is no accountability to an ecclesiastical hierarchy, then doctrinal chaos can result. Such is the reason why many Protestant denominations maintain an authority (in varying degrees) -- to keep their doctrines pure. Assemblies of God and Southern Baptist come to mind immediately. I know there are many others.

    You wrote:

    "It would appear to me that your attempt to "square the circle" by excusing us from some responsibility for not knowing enough is something of a rationalization. I myself feel as if I know enough about the Catholic church to make an informed decision, and rather more than a lot of lifelong Catholics I know . . . Do you feel as if you have to stretch credulity in order to make your beliefs fit with Catholic doctrine?"

    It might appear to you that I am rationalizing. But I am not. Nor am I stretching credulity. Nor am I attempting to excuse -- or judge -- anyone. I was asked to explain why I became a Catholic, and that is what I am trying to do. I am really sorry if I have failed to be more clear.

    I did not make my decision overnight. It might surprise you and anyone reading this, but I have a BA in Bible and a Masters in Biblical languages from A/G schools. I have been a Christian since 1972, have memorized scores and scores of Scripture and can paraphrase hundreds more. I’ve read the NT literally dozens of times and the OT nearly three dozen times. I've, taught adult bible studies for years and written hundreds of articles for Christian publications as diverse as SDA, Nazarene, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic and non-denominational churches.

    I do not mention that to boast. Not at all. I only mention it to try and demonstrate that I have a good grasp of doctrine, and that my decision to become a Catholic was a well-thought, well-prayed, well-considered decision.

    Yes, many Protestants I meet think I’ve gone over to the dark side. I cannot help what they think. I only do my best to follow my Lord as I believe He has led me.

    I hope that answers your questions(?)

    rich

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  7. Ah, Patrick. I so understand your grandfather's point. I, too, had grown ill at ease with the Protestant services as they had changed during that period. I wanted reverence when I entered a sanctuary. I wanted to pray, but found it impossible to do so when people had gathered around me in their pews and talked about everything from the baseball game the day before, or their lastest fishing trip. I wanted reverent worship, but forced my eyes shut to I would not be distracted by scantily clad or tightly dressed women swaying to the music in the pews in front of me.

    Now, thankfully, I can enter the sanctuary of my Catholic parish church 40 minutes before Mass begins, and spend the entire time in the pew in prayer. And no one distracts me during the liturgy. The choir sings hymns . . . many from Protestant hymnals and choruses . . . but without the swaying bodies and drums and bass guitars.

    There are some things I miss . . . don't get me wrong. I still miss the wondrous choruses I used to sing during worship, and the meaty messages from the pulpit. But the Holy Spirit has given me other things in place of what I miss . . . an oh-so-wonderful sense of His presence, an increased intimacy in my prayer life, and a continual unveiling of a deeper understanding of His word.

    Frankly, I do not remember enjoying the presence of the Lord as consistently during "church" as I have since I came into the Catholic Church.

    Once again let me say this is how God is dealing with "me". He deals with others differently, according to His purposes for each of us and -- most important -- His Church universal.

    rich

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  8. Patrick -- you mentioned that your grandfather didn't want to "seek some feeling each Sunday". This makes me wonder how much of our church culture (whether Protestant or Catholic) is based on our Sunday experience. While clearly important, perhaps our trip to the "church building" takes on an importance that's much larger than it should be.
    Even for myself, I recall with chagrin my various experiences trying to "find a church" as I travel from assignment to assignment. So much of my evaluation has focused on the Sunday experience. Yet when I look out over my life, 90 minutes a week in the "sanctuary" makes up a much less important part of my journey than the rest.
    This is not to disparage Sunday worship, but to attempt to put it into context. Thoughts?

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  9. Evangelical Catholics, this is just my view as this as a former Catholic and I became a Born Again Christian 1983. I grew up and educated in my elementary and high school years with Sister, Brother and Priest. I was told during that time that the Bible was considered as a dead book. During growing up and being schooled by them I was never told to bring the Bible and I dont remember reading it. I was even an altar boy.

    With that premise, I would say that Evangelical Catholics and evangelical for their religion and not for Christ.

    Anyone who has seen the Light in Jesus Christ would realize, just as I have, that one has to leave the institution of Roman Catholicism and would seek a CHURCH that completely follow the true doctrines of Jesus.

    I dont profess to be a theologian nor anything close to it. I am speaking out of what I grown up before and have experience.

    It was mentioned that the Catholic church has peace and quietness in worshiping God. My question is do they really worship Jesus Christ or do go to other so called MEDIATOR. The Roman Catholic church has many belief system that is contrary to the Bible. They pray to many saints, they have so called novenas to gain favor. They have the transubstantion, they have other many rituals that I disagree.

    I hope not to offend but if you were to ask me the Roman Catholic Church, just like the Jehovah Witness or the Mormon, are for me cults because they worship other people.

    If you were once in the Light and went to the Catholic chuch, I feel and this is my opinion, is that you have regressed.

    You may not agree with what I said but I strongly feel about what I have said.

    Again, there is only one mediator between God and us and that is Jesus.

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  10. Many so-called Christians prefer to be ignorant and not know what the Word of God says as to avoid accountability...this cannot be so. We must continually pick up the Bible and read, study, pray over, and meditate on what we read and studied. As long as they stay away from the Biblical issues, they can get along with the world. Jesus refuses to work with luke-warm people as stated: "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."--Revelation 3:16.

    Being a Christian is all about your relationship with Jesus once you have been redeemed. It's not that the Catholics or any religion does anything different than any other religion, it's the lack of Spiritual maturity and the lack of the knowledge of sound doctrine that run people out of the "arms of the Master" and into the "arms" of the enemy (not saying Catholics are the enemy; they're not). If you ran from, let's say from the JW or LDS, then Catholicism is a step toward Christ but the opposite is a complete denial of Christ's Deity.

    What drives a Protestant to Catholicism or any other religion many times is their poor understanding of doctrine. Many don't know what they believe or believe in. They don't normally know Who to follow. When I preach and make it clear that I don't want anyone following me. Check EVERYTHING said against the light of the Word of God.

    Defending the faith!!!!!

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  11. Hmm ... well, it needed to come to this eventually.

    With respect to Rico's comment, I see this quite often. I worship in an ethnic church, where most of the people were "raised Catholic" and, whose religion was part of their cultural identity--hence, we speak of "Catholic countries" more often than we do of "Protestant countries". The sad fact of the matter is that whenever a country is dominated by Catholicism or any single brand of Protestantism (Church of England, for example), it generally leads to a slide away from any meaningful religion. My church is filled with former Catholics who rejoice to finally learn about Jesus Christ.

    WRT Doc's comment, I would say that Rich certainly doesn't suffer from ignorance. I don't think he's made the correct choice, but he certainly hasn't made an uninformed one. What I do think is that, as I mentioned to Patrick, there exists a craving for a meaningful corporate worship experience.

    Much that passes for Protestant worship, because it is largely outward focused (evangelism) rather than upward focused (actual worship) eventually leaves the growing Christian cold. There's so much show, stagecraft, etc. I myself long for the simplicity of traditional Reformed services--no band, no "special music", no applause ...

    I think this is a methodological problem, though it is also doctrinal insofar as we believe we need to trust in our methods in order to fulfill the Great Commission.

    Having said all that, for me to turn to Catholicism to find a more meaningful Sunday experience would be straining out a gnat and swallowing a doctrinal camel.

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  12. I agree, Doc, with your exhortation to check everything about our faith against the Word. I am not sure, however, that your opening statement is necessarily true. I think many people simply do not understand how valuable and necessary God's word is to their life.

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  13. I think it is a very balanced article. Many of my spiritual heros (Mother Teresa, Archbishop Romero, Saint Francis) loved the Catholic Church and certainly were 'fruitful trees'. I also had the privelege of meeting the team at a charismatic Benedictene monastery in New Mexico when living there. Amazing faith, amazing worship. My sister-in-law has recently moved from protestantism to catholicism for the very reasons mentioned in the article. She is very evangelical.

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  14. Joe, what article are you refering to?

    And thanks for bringing up those names. While I was seeking God's direction regarding my move into the Catholic Church, I came across the works of Catholics such as St. Augustine, Thomas a Kempis, Francis De Sales, Brother Lawrence, Pope John Paul II, and others who absolutely unsettled me by their godly spirituality, knowldege of Scripture and cry for biblical holiness.

    I remember thinking to myself (pejoratively, I might add), "These are Catholics??!!" I never realized or considered Catholics could have a real sense of what biblical Christianity is all about, or that any of them could really have an intimate relationship with Christ (shows you how prejudicial I was).

    One of my major concerns is for unity of Christ's Body. There is a vicious and voracious enemy at the gates of the Church -- called radical humanism, atheism and radical Islam. Under the guidance of Satan, who roams about, seeking whom he may devour, each group wants to destroy the Church. But meanwhile, I see and hear the Church wasting its strength and resouces in-fighting among ourselves instead of uniting against a most formidable foe.

    Am I advocating Protestants and Catholics abandon our theological positions. No, but I am hoping we can focus on the things we agree on - the Nicene Creed, for example -- and agree to disagree on things we don't see eye to eye about . . . and then march with our full spiritual armor against the gates of hell.

    I believe it was John Hancock who said at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, "If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately."

    God help us!

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  15. Jailer,
    My grandfather was a lawyer and a forerunner to the MBA by trade. He loved debate, and believed it continually sharpened his intellect. I remember debating with him for over 5 hours one afternoon on each of the Articles of Impeachment in 1998.

    He really lived by the words in Proverbs 27:17 - "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (NIV)

    To answer your question: I believe he grew more by discussing with his priest, debating other fellow lay leaders, or by writing in his journal--and talking to God. In that regard, 90 minutes on a Sunday was not how he grew -- but how he spent time in corporate worship. I can empathize with the challenges a PCA/S deliver in finding a church. I would argue this blog is doing what a cup of coffee with the priest did for my grandfather...

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