Saturday, August 16, 2008

On Protestants and Catholicism

I found this article on one of the blogs I like to visit (click here to view), and I'd like to share it with you.

On Protestants and Catholicism
I’ve been corresponding lately with Gina, a former Baptist presently belonging to the Anglican mission, who recently has taken an interest in Catholicism. She’s not at the point of converting, has only recently begun looking into Catholicism, but I am struck by the intelligence and intellectual honesty of her inquiry. It’s very refreshing.
She wrote to me,
The accusations I've seen hurled against the RCC or the Orthodox churches have come up unfounded in the course of my research thus far. I feel as though I've been deceived. Friends, who are concerned about my research, are finding poorly managed website addresses to link me to with a fair amount of unfounded anti-Catholic rhetoric.
I'm not close to conversion, but this does perturb me, since the foundation of this prejudice is the promotion and maintenance of ignorance.
“I feel as though I've been deceived.” “The promotion and maintenance of ignorance.” Boy, can I relate. I went through this exact same process during my own conversion process. I remember at one point a pastor of mine at my old church gave me two supposedly excellent textbooks on Catholicism, written by Protestants. At that point I had already studied Catholicism extensively on my own, using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Magisterial documents, and respected Catholic authors, and was at the point of converting.
But I read the books anyway – and found them to be full of errors, inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and hearsay stories presented almost as official Church teaching. In short, they were hatchet jobs – and academic travesties. Another book I read on my own, written by a very respected Protestant author, went so far as to quote parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church out of context (parts I had already studied, so knew what they meant), and make them look like they meant the opposite of what the Church teaches - which tells me the author is either really dim, or intellectually dishonest.
When I returned them to my pastor, I told him what I had found, and asked him, “How could these authors have gotten it so completely wrong about Catholicism?” He replied, “Well, most Protestant authors don’t actually study Catholicism. They just repeat what other Protestant authors say. There’s very little actual original research out there.”
They just repeat what other Protestant authors say. Wow. How totally unoriginal – and irresponsible. But in retrospect, I suppose the reason why there’s not much actual research out there in the Protestant world is that those who actually honestly research and learn what Catholicism actually teaches wind up converting! After thorough study, regardless of their views at the beginning of the process (and I've heard of some who actually set out intending to disprove Catholicism), they were left with no objections to write about, and only reasons for becoming Catholics – more, strong desire to become a Catholic, once they really understand what it is all about. As happened to me, a contented Evangelical at the beginning of my own process.
Gina wrote a post about her process on her own blog, in which she recounts some of the controversy she’s encountered with her friends. From her blog post:
The life of Christ reflects an attitude of submission, community and faithfulness in the midst of turmoil, rather than ceaseless divisions, and that's a fact I can't avoid as I research and meditate on these matters.
That was also one of the things that led to my study of Catholicism – the ceaseless, biblically unsound divisions within the Protestant world that supposedly “takes the bible literally.” She then recounts several different objections raised by her friends, and her responses. My favorite is the first:
1) Unity is all well and good, but Catholics have reprehensible doctrine
It's fine with me if someone holds this position, if it's well researched beyond a few clicks at a anti-Catholic website or a side comment a pastor made once. The reason why I've chosen to give Catholicism a second glance, besides the influence of a former roommate who is also grappling with these issues, is because many who have impacted my faith the most were Catholic or related in some fashion. Flannery O'Connor, JRR Tolkien, Peter Kreeft, Brennan Manning (excommunicated, I think, so I suppose he doesn't count), Rich Mullins (very close to officially joining the Roman Catholic Church before his untimely death in '97), St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, and Mother Theresa are just a few that spring to mind.
If these people, who I credit with having a deep, correct understanding of depravity, grace, salvation, faith, and the Scriptures, can unequivocally align themself with a church that Protestants claim teaches an unbiblical perspective on the aforementioned issues, then who is amiss? These spiritual and intellectual giants, or my limited exposure to the fullness of church history and teaching? Certainly these "reprehensible" teachings deserve a thorough second glance, to be handled charitably, as I handle the views of Protestants charitably, seeking to understand instead of further dividing in my ignorance. An in-depth study of church history and theology is a daunting journey, but one that I believe is necessary at this juncture. The church wasn't dead from Pentecost to the Reformation. Things were happening, and I find my roots in the church of that time whether I wish to admit it or not.
Wow. Impressive. Honest. Clear-eyed. Rising above prejudice to look at the actual facts of history, and the actual facts of Church teaching. As she says, “An in-depth study of church history and theology is a daunting journey, but one that I believe is necessary at this juncture.” That was exactly where I found myself standing, all those years ago, as I realized that I needed to understand what really happened in history, what really happened during the Protestant Reformation, and where my own Evangelical theology really came from. It was the history of the Body of Christ, and I realized that since I was a member of the Body, it was my history, personally. So I needed to know it, and know where I stood in relation to it. And in the process of studying I found, through no fault of my own, that I was standing in the wrong place, and needed to change where I stood.
So I did. I became a Catholic. A change I have not regretted to this day, and do not believe I ever will. I thank God for making me a Catholic. It is the greatest blessing of my life, second only to knowing Christ my Lord Himself personally – and bringing me ever so much more deeply into Him, and Him into me, in and through the Church, because of receiving all that the Church has to give, more than I ever could have imagined when outside the Church.
So, I pray that God will bless Gina in the same way, as she makes this journey of discovery, that He will bless her for her faithfulness and honesty and willingness to find out the truth for herself, regardless of the cost – for to do so truly is to give up our all, and follow Christ Himself, wherever He leads.


Batjacboy said...

One of the dangerous things about the "Bible alone" philosophy is that is wrongly implies that the Bible was the only Christian literature written at the time.

There were an enormous number of historians and Early Church fathers who wrote extensively about the Christianity practiced in the First Century. And what do those writings teach us?

That NO ONE at the time believed in the "Bible Alone" philosophy.

Not Christ.

Not St. Paul.

Not the Early Church.

But those who believe in the "Bible Alone" philosophy often don't study the history enough to know that. If they did, they might be like John Henry Newman, a famous Anglican bishop, who attempted to DISPROVE Catholicism by appealing to Early Church history. The result: he converted to Catholicism, saying, after his in-depth study of Church History:

"To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant."

Rita said...

The story about JHN sounds interesting. Can you recommend some reading material on him?

One of things I found to be interesting about this post was how sneaky non-Catholic people could be when given converts/potential converts information on Catholicism in the hopes that they'll change their mind.

Rita said...



Batjacboy said...

Sure! Try this one:

Batjacboy said...

Oh, and by the way: the literature that those non-Catholics hand to converts/potential converts all contain the same re-hashed misrepresentations that were put forward 500 years ago, only to have their misrepresentations picked to pieces by the Church. I've never seen any new arguments, just the re-hashed old ones.

Aunt Laura said...

This is so interesting. I will also read the link you provide on more material. Thank you batjacboy for the link.

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