What Evangelicals Owe Catholics: An Appreciation

Catholics — By on March 12, 2007 at 12:55 am

As a child I had almost no direct contact with Catholicism. My family attended a small backwoods fundamentalist congregation — The First Church of Hellfire and Damnation, or something to that effect — and the preacher would often mention the Pope and Catholicism in one of his “Identifying the Antichrist” sermons. The Antichrist was hard to pin down and his identity invariably rotated between one of the select “heathen” groups: Chinese communists, the Russians, secular humanists, New England Senators. The Pope, though, was the favored candidate for ushering in the End of Days. And the “Whore of Babylon” was indisputably the Catholic Church.
This Jack Chick-style anti-Catholic bias was regrettably prevalent in rural Texas during my childhood. Fortunately, it never took root and as I grew up, I became more intrigued by both John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Over the years I’ve engaged more directly with Catholics and the teachings of the RC Church and my admiration and appreciation continues to grow.
Indeed, I’m often amazed when I consider how my thinking is shaped by Catholic social thought, the Just War tradition, and Natural Law theory. Although I do not always find myself in complete agreement, the Catholic perspective often causes me to rethink my views on such matters as contraception, IVF, just wages, and the death penalty.
As attached as I am to my own theological traditions (Reformed, Baptist, evangelical) there are many issues where they have historically come up short. In fact, I would argue that there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of areas in which we evangelicals should acknowledge a debt owed to our Catholic brothers and sisters.
Consider, for instance, three areas in which our fellow Christians within the Catholic faith have led the way:


On Mary, the mother of God — Many evangelicals suffer from a mild case of Maryphobia – the fear that any appreciation of Mary will be viewed as a sign that we’re closet Catholics. Oddly, while we are quick to defend the virgin birth, we are often hesitant to praise the virgin mother. Even during Christmas we often pay more attention to the magi than we do to the woman who gave birth to our Savior.
Our complete renunciation of Marian theology, however, often causes me to downplay the importance of Mary herself, indisputably one of the most incredible humans who every lived. How can we not be in awe of this woman when we realize she held God in her womb? Our Catholic friends remind us that Jesus wasn’t just the son of God; He was Mary’s son too.
On the Sanctity of Life — In a 1971 resolution on abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that “society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life.” The largest Protestant denomination in America had a peculiar definition of “sanctity of human life”, however, for the very next sentence called upon Southern Baptists to “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion” under such conditions as “fetal deformity” and damage to the “emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Three years later—and two years after Roe codified this position—the SBC reaffirmed the resolution. It wasn’t until 1980 that the SBC finally condemned abortion as a grave evil, a position that has always been maintained by the Catholic Church.
For nearly thirty years, evangelicals have been working to catch up to our Catholic brothers and sisters on issues of the sanctity of life. Even today, the Catholic Church is more consistent in its application. Sadly, many evangelicals are willing to turn a blind eye to embryo destruction when it occurs for purposes of in vitro fertilization or for biomedical research. We still have much to learn from the Catholics about how to respect the life that God has created.
Ecclesiology — One of the first principles of Reformed ecclesiology is that there is but one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Because this principle is difficult to square with the existence 10,000+ different Protestant denominations, we claim that this refers only to the invisible church. But what about the church that is visible? After all, it is Jesus desire to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51-52)
Although the split with the Catholic Church was tragically necessary, the reconciliation into one visible body should be an ecclesiological goal. In this area Catholics have often taken the lead in imparting a spirit of ecumenism. Documents such as Ut unum sint reflect the seriousness which Catholics approach the “call for Christian unity.”
Such unity, of course, must be predicated on acceptance of Biblical truths. Evangelicals can never abandon our commitment to such doctrines as sola fide (salvation by faith alone) in order to achieve consensus. We should, however, be constantly praying that the Spirit will reconcile the invisible church into one holy, catholic, apostolic, and visible Body of Christ.
Unlike Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Professor Steve Bainbridge, I won’t be crossing the Tiber. Because the theological differences I have with Catholicism are deep-rooted and currently irresolvable, I’ll remain an unabashedly Reformed evangelical. Yet I, like many evangelicals, have a deep love, respect, and admiration for my fellow believers in the Catholic Church. However much we might disagree, we evangelicals owe them a debt of gratitude for being co-belligerents, fellow servants, and exemplars of the faith.



  • http://www.mereorthodoxy.com Matt Anderson

    Joe,
    Great post. Perhaps we can persuade Jimmy Akin to write a catholic appreciation of Protestants. I would do it, but as a Protestant I think it (rightly!) wouldn’t be taken very seriously.
    Incidentally, as I read your thoughts about Mary, I wondered whether the resistance to thinking hard about Mary stems from the neo-gnostic strain that seems to afflict much of evangelicalism. It seems that Jesus’ humanity (including his corporeality), Mary, and a robust ecclesiology are interconnected. After all, the Church is (on some accounts) the “hands and feet” of Jesus on earth now. Mary reminds us that he had real hands and feet–neglecting her may cause us to forget that.

  • http://www.raceisrun.typepad.com/weblog vynette

    “Oddly, while we are quick to defend the virgin birth, we are often hesitant to praise the virgin mother.”
    The doctrine of the ‘Miraculous Incarnation’ is ‘indefensible.’ It is an invention of the Graeco-Roman church fathers who had no psychological stomach for the fact that the New Testament states plainly that Jesus of Nazareth was born out of wedlock.
    They were also ignorant of Hebrew modes of thinking and expression, and this ignorance, together with a predilection for their own national religions, facilitated the creation of ‘Jesus Christ’, a new god-man, born of a virgin, fashioned according to their image, their likeness, their values, and their delusions of grandeur.
    The New Testament writers did not try to hide the facts about the ‘humble’ birth of Jesus – they were committed to ‘truth.’
    Matthew provides a genealogy to demonstrate that Jesus was not the son of Joseph (for a very compelling reason) while Luke’s genealogy provides the name of Jesus’ biological father to prove his descent from King David, one of the criteria for ‘messiahship.’
    Out of the necessity to explain away the birth of Jesus was born the entire doctrinal structure of Christendom.
    After promulgating the ‘virgin birth,’ the said fathers subsequently encountered scriptural problems which could only be addressed and answered by promulgating yet more false teachings – divinity, trinity, etc.
    In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, these ‘cover’ stories continued all the way to the 19th Century and the adoption of the doctrine of the ‘Immaculate Conception’.
    The Roman Catholic Church is not only the great defender of this unscriptural teaching but also the great proponent of the idolatrous ‘marianology.’

  • http://www.this-land.com Mike Hickerson

    vynette,
    Um, which New Testament are you reading? In mine, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary she will give birth to the “Son of the Most High,” she asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Gabriel replies, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:34-35) Matthew writes that Mary was “found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18). As far as I can tell, that is the New Testament “plainly stating” a virgin birth. You’re free to disagree with belief in the virgin birth, but claiming New Testament support for your argument is a bit much.

  • http://backofthedesert.blogspot.com/ Fabio

    Joe: great post. Blogged something similar recently, concerning more temporal debts we owe them. Namely, while we evangelicals were busy “praying down” the Berlin wall, it was John Paul who gave Ronald Reagan the blueprint. Also, Catholic leadership–especially on issues like abortion and gay clergy– is virtually the only existing check against a complete leftward free fall in Europe.

  • http://www.conservativebrunette.com Anna

    That was a good selection of attributes to admire of our Catholic family.
    “How can we not be in awe of this woman when we realize she held God in her womb? Our Catholic friends remind us that Jesus wasn’t just the son of God; He was Mary’s son too.”
    Around Christmastime, during a sharing/testimony time at our small church, I shared about how Mary said “Yes” to God to bear Jesus into the world through her womb and how we should do likewise in bearing Christ as a Light to the world. My emphasis was on the saying Yes part to God. Well, my pastor got up right after I finished and then gave a disclaimer to the effect, “If Mary hadn’t said yes, God would have found someone else. Mary as a particular person was not that important.”
    I was a little bruised over the comment but realised it was just a symptom of the Maryphobia. Hmmmph, I wonder if those who discount Mary would say something similar about Paul or any of the apostles?

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I agree with you Joe that Catholics have a more consistent position on pro-life issues. Catholics reject IVF mostly for the reason that it creates ‘surplus’ embryos that will effectively be flushed down the toilet (a tiny fraction will be ‘adopted’ and most others will sit in frozen containers so long that they will become less and less likely to survive if ever implanted). I find it amazing that the pro-life industry attacks IVF in only the most gentle ways when it is, in fact, a entirely optional procedure AND it probably has no protection under Roe.v.Wade.

  • Kaffinator

    For another view on ecclesiology, see Phil Johnson’s excellent series of posts on unity. I think Phil would say that the kind of unity Christ prayed for was spiritual and based on a common recognition of revealed truth, rather than organizational and based upon worldwide submission to the chair of Peter. So, before you pray for an organizational and hierarchical unity, consider whether Christians should be identifiable by their common submission to God’s word, or by their common submission to a certain fallible human bishop.
    I add that if you think the doctrine of an invisible, spiritual unity is a mere reaction to embarrassment over denominationalism, then you have an impoverished view of a doctrine clearly attested to by scripture and shared by many notable early church fathers.

  • http://opine-editorials.blogspot.com/index.html Fitz

    What Catholics Owe Evangelicals: An Appreciation
    (by no means an exustive list)
    #1. Keeping direct Biblical references alive in American culture.
    Sometimes we Catholics get so sidetracked into the reason portion of “Faith & Reason”, become so immersed (and unduly proud) of our ne0-thomist natural law traditions, that we forget that going directly to the source of revealed truth has tremendous value.
    If it had been left to us, direct biblical citation and invocation would be dead letter within American culture. We all owe a debt of gratitude to evangelicals for consistently invoking the Gospels and Biblical Texts. The Word of God has tremendous moral authority, as well it should. It invocation should not be reserved to Papal encyclicals – We can thank evangelicals for keeping His Word alive in public debate and common parlance.

  • Ken

    Another thing you Evangelicals owe us Romish Papists:
    The only reason you have a Gospel to preach is the bishops of my Church stopped the local Shirley Mac Laines from rewriting it in their image back when calendar years AD were in the low three digits.

  • http://www.raceisrun.typepad.com/weblog vynette

    Mike, there is no New Testament support for ‘virgin birth.’
    (Luke 1:34-35) Joseph was descended from King David through a line debarred forever from any claim on David’s throne. A knowledge of this genealogical background is critical to an understanding of the most misused and abused question in scripture.
    When Gabriel told Mary of the future greatness of her son-to-be, especially that “the Lord God would give him the throne of his father David” the question that immediately leapt to Mary’s mind was…
    “How can this be seeing I don’t know a man?”
    Mary did not know a man who could father a child entitled by birth to sit on David’s throne…who was not ‘disinherited’, as was Joseph. In essence, Gabriel responds to this question by telling Mary that God will take care of everything…a way will be found…she will protected
    (Mt 1:18) This verse from Matthew cannot be used to justify a ‘virgin birth’. Luke records that John the Baptist was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.’ (Luke 1:15) He also records that a few months before John was born, his mother Elizabeth was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Luke 1:41)
    We learn from the Old Testament that the word of YHVH came to the prophet Jeremiah saying: “Before I (YHVH) formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jer 1:5)
    A consistent biblical theme is that the ‘Holy Spirit’ is the agent of every human birth. To use this theme in a ‘particular’ or ‘exclusive’ way only where it refers to Jesus is to wrest the words of gospel writers who were just availing themselves of commonly understood terminology.
    As I stated in my previous comment, it was through an ignorance of Hebrew modes of thinking and expression that the doctrine of ‘virgin birth’ came into existence. It has always been ‘unscriptural.’

  • Rafael

    Stumbled on this through a link, sorry to hear you won’t be crossing the tiber. I’m sorry but I disagree with sola fide. it is unscriptural and goes against the Bible.
    Romans 2:13
    James 2:24
    James 2:20
    Matthew 7:21
    Matthew 19:16-17
    Hebrews 12:14
    Philippians 2:12-13
    Ephesians 2:10

  • ex-preacher

    The warming relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics is truly remarkable in view of their long history of antagonism. Protestants and Catholics engaged in open warfare from about 1520 to 1648. Intense anti-Catholic bigotry persisted in the UK and the US through the nineteenth century. A softer anti-Catholic bigotry continued well into the 1950s. It is really only since the 1960s that most Evangelicals and Catholics could even think of each other as fellow believers.
    Still today, many conservative Protestants do not consider Catholics to be Christians, while many traditionalist Catholics do not consider non-Catholics to be Christians. Southern Baptists send more missionaries to Brazil, the world’s most Catholic country, than they do to any other nation.
    I’m curious, Joe. Do you consider Catholics to be saved and fully Christian – that is, in no need of conversion to your version of “true Christianity”?

  • http://www.aarondtaylor.blogspot.com Aaron D. Taylor

    Joe,
    Great post. I don’t think people realize what a great leader Pope John Paul II was, especially when you consider that he appeared on the historical scene at the same time many fundamentalists Christians were still trying to figure out if the civil rights movement was a good thing or a bad thing-(and I say that as a fellow Bible believing evangelical Christian) Not too shabby from a man representing a Church that carried out the Inquisition in the not too distant past.

  • http://www.thingswesaid.blogspot.com Marie

    Idol worship. Bible banning. Indulgences. Salvation by works. Inquisition. Institutional transfer of molesters. Complicity with totalitarian regimes. Baptismal regeneration. Denial of half the sacrament to their people. Pronouncing anathemas and killing many of the greatest Christians that ever graced this fallen earth.
    No, I’m not feeling a connection.

  • http://no8wire.blogspot.com peasant

    Interesting how many people decided to jump on Joe, and who seem to prefer division, factions, and majoring on negatives. But the values, history, and scholarship that Catholics share in common with the rest of Christendom far outweigh our differences. I’m thinking of the Beatitudes, Matt 5 “blessed are the peacemakers”. I didn’t see anywhere “blessed are the righteous crusaders for truth justice and condemnation of people”

  • ANON

    Next Joe will be saying the Democrats have good ideas….

  • Mike, the Catholic

    As a Catholic, I don’t like Fitz, an alleged Catholic, saying that the Church has anything against the Bible. The Vulgate Bible was translated from Hebrew to Latin in the 5th Century. The Douay Bible used by English- speaking Catholics
    came about the same period as the King James Bible. Old and New Testament quotations are used in all Catholic services. The primary difference with Protestants is that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox do not believe in the concept of “Sola Scriptura.” This is something developed by Luther, Calvin, and others, in recent centuries, especially Protestant Fundamentalists in the U.S. Catholics don’t believe that the Bible is only source for Christian theology, and they don’t take a literal intepretation of all biblical passages.

  • http://www.marriagedebate.com/mdblog.php Fitz

    Mike…
    You should read my statement again. We don’t have anything against the Bible (of coarse not) However we don’t tend to quote it as much (chapter & verse) and invoke its authority (chapter and verse) as much as evangelicals do. (out side of mass)
    I was complementing their rigor in keeping a CULTURE of scriptural authority alive in popular parlance. (Not making a slight at Catholicism…I am one also)
    If you want to hop on someone – Hop on Mary’s warmed over archaic view of Catholicism (above)

  • Pars

    About the whole ecumenical thing…
    What about the Orthodox churches? They have just as strong of a claim to be the “original” Christian church as the Catholics do. The only reason that the Christian Church was split in the first place was because the Roman bishops (popes) were arrogant enough to claim complete supremacy over all other bishops (The Great Schism of 1054). The Catholic Church continues to believe that popes have divinely sanctioned authority over all Christians. Wanting a united church isn’t quite as praiseworthy if it is intended just to bring all Christians under the pope’s control. If that’s ecumenical, then count me as against ecumenicism.

  • A Catholic

    Mary,
    Putting aside the arguments about the history, numbers, proffered justifications, etc. for the Inquisition, your focus on it in the here and now sounds a little like Muslims’ obession with Andalusia.

  • JS

    Interesting and thought provoking post. I left the Roman Catholic Church in my teens because, frankly, I was introduced to Christ only outside of it. I was led to a saving relationship with Jesus by a non-Catholic and was dismayed that as a Catholic in good standing, I was completely unaware of the possibility of such a relationship. After a sojourn through some of the more anti-Catholic hinterlands of evangelical Protestantism, I am coming back to what I consider equilibrium. Christians are defined not by their relationship to any human institution, but by their relationship to God. Like any church or denomination, the Catholic church is essentially a religious club. Being a member neither assures nor denies one salvation. Based on my experience, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone join. But I certainly know, love and deeply appreciate my Christian brothers and sisters who are part of that institution.

  • Elwood

    Thanks Joe – great post. This is my heart. For Catholics, like myself, to learn from Protestants and Protestants to learn from Catholics. As one who grew up Catholic, left for 7 years as an Evangelical Christian (mostly Baptist Gen. Conf.), and then was led back into the Catholic Church, I see clearly how much both sides could benefit from the other. When we look at Jesus’ last prayer before the crucifixion, we see unity is very central to His heart as well.
    In addition to what Fitz wrote, I’ll add a couple of things I really value about my life in the Protestant world:
    1) Emphasis on evangelism
    2) Music
    3) Encouragement and opportunity for lay missionary work or local outreach
    4) Taking big “steps of faith” and trusting in God to bless the work.
    5) Separation of Church & State – which was good for the first 200 years or so, but it might be turning into a bad idea after all in the next century.
    A note to any fellow Catholics that might be defensive about my list: There are caveats to the above, obviously, there is beautiful music in the Catholic tradition, there are more and more opportunities for lay activism or lay “ministry” apostolates in the Catholic world, Catholics have evangelized entire nations in the past and are regaining that skill in the western world once again. But, in my time, in my place, I’ve been blessed by Prostestants in these ways.

  • Elwood

    Boonton:
    “Catholics reject IVF mostly for the reason that it creates ‘surplus’ embryos that will effectively be flushed down the toilet ….”
    I wouldn’t say that is “mostly” the reason. That’s part of it, but even if it could be guaranteed that all embryos were successfully implanted in the mother, the Catholic Church would still be opposed.
    The primary principle they teach is that the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital embrace should not be divided. So both contraception and IVF are frowned upon because they both break that bond. Contraception removes the procreative aspect from marital lovemaking, IVF removes the “one-flesh union” aspect of lovemaking from procreation. There is no doubt that God designed those two aspects to go together when He first came up with human sexuality/reproduction. The Catholic Church, some might say is erring on the side of caution, but maintains that it is not up to man to separate them. I’ve never read this verse in connection before, so don’t take it as a proof text to be shot down, but it just came to mind “What God has joined together, man must not separate.”
    What’s interesting is that many of the logical arguments currently being used by homosexual lobbyists and embryonic stem-cell research advocates cannot be used against the Catholic ethic (for those few that follow it, even within the Catholic Church). In fact, if it wasn’t for the IVF industry, would the embryonic stem cell industry even exist?
    Granted, even if America had not changed course and accepted contraception in the 1930’s – 1960’s, abortion itself would still happen in America, but Big Abortion industry would not exist either. Heck, most of us would probably never have heard of that wonderful organization Planned Parenthood which performs so many abortions.
    The sad fact is that contraception, abortion, IVF, embryonic stem-cell research are all linked in a linear fashion.

  • DGS

    Thank you for your carefully concidered post. Who’d a thunk it? Catholics who invented the inquisition and protestants from whom sprang the “Know Nothings” being able to appreciate each other. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is up to something.
    I am struck by the fact that the things you appreciate about us are the things that the our liberal elements ignore, disent from or seek to abandon. Should any of them read your post, I hope they find it thought provoking.
    Pax vobiscum.

  • http://breakmechrist.blospot.com kay

    Great post. :-)
    Am a new reader and would like to second what Fitz said. I actually appreciated the Bible more through Protestant friends— that appreciation made me more Catholic though!
    God bless..

  • http://www.catholicbydesign.com Jason Gennaro

    As a Catholic, I want to say thanks. This is a great post, Joe.

  • Some Day

    Admiration is very important in the spiritual life.
    St. Thomas Aquintas argues that a person, when he sees something greater and superior to himself, and loves it for its greaterness and superiority, he is baptized.
    I can only hope this admiration for the Catholic Church, will one day turn into a complete love for the Church aquired by the Holy and Adorable Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
    In Jesu et Maria
    RG

  • Joe

    If the Blessed Mother Mary is the Mother of Jesus, if she is the creation of God the Father, and finally if she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Then does not she deserve a little love, respect and admiration?

  • John Henry

    Joe,
    Thank you. And may your tribe increase.
    As a Catholic, I have to say that my favorite comment so far is that of Marie. Marie, may God bless you. May his love always and ever penetrate your heart, deeper and deeper, until that great Day.
    Praise to Jesus Christ, King of endless glory!

  • Dave

    Wonderful post! I am a Catholic and have Protestant in-laws. I try to find common ground to discuss the faith and this article provides some additional points to discuss. :)

  • http://www.gotgrace.net Brian John Schuettler

    Thank you, Mr. Carter, for your generous and very gracious remarks regarding the Catholic Church. As a first generation Catholic on my father’s side (My family was Lutheran going back to the Reformation) I appreciate the differences that divide us ecclesially and doctrinally but also know that Our Lord Jesus Christ desires that we may be one. You give me hope that the love for the Lord that we share as brothers in Christ far exceeds the differences that keep us currently apart. God bless you!
    Yours in Christ,
    Brian John Schuettler

  • Barbara

    And what we Catholics appreciate about our non-Catholic brothers and sisters, are their zeal for the faith, and their love of the Lord. Having been raised by a convert to Catholicism (my mother grew up Presbyterian), I grew up with that zeal, and wish more Catholics demonstrated it.
    One note: I could be wrong, but as far as I understand it, we are actually in agreement that salvation is by grace alone (Sola Gratia). Where we differ is on the subject of justification and sanctification.

  • http://www.timothyjonesfineart.net Tim J.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post.
    I was raised an evangelical Protestant, as well, and our backgrounds sound similar in regard to the Roman Catholic Church.
    I DID swim the Tiber, however, and what I found was that as a Catholic, I did not cease to be an evangelical, or a Bible Christian, or anything. In becoming a Catholic, all I lost of Protestantism was the protest.
    The Catholic understanding of Sola Fide is articulated very well by Jimmy Akin in his book The Salvation Controversy, which I recommend you read. The Protestant and Catholic understandings may not be as far apart as you imagine.
    God bless you. I certainly appreciate my faithful Protestant brothers, too.

  • Barbara

    Elwood,
    That is just about the most succinct, and articulate, explanation regarding birth control, that I think I have ever seen. Hope you don’t mind if I keep a copy.

  • JoAnna

    Joe,
    I’m here via a link on Jimmy Akin’s blog. I was raised Protestant (ELCA Lutheran) and “crossed the Tiber” in 2003; however, I still have and always will have a deep appreciation for my Protestant background.
    Thank you for this blog entry. Many of your list items were aspects of the Catholic Church that drew me to Catholicism – especially the Church’s continuous respect for life. It’s nice to know that the Church is appreciated by some our seperated brethern, even if they can’t quite yet “cross the Tiber.”
    To those of you who wish to debate Catholic theology, I really don’t think that Joe’s comments box is the appropriate place to do so – especially given the spirit of ecumenicism in which this post is written. However, feel free to drop on by the Catholic Answers forums (http://forums.catholic.com) and I’m more than happy to engage in a spirited debate about any facet of my faith. :)

  • http://www.decentfilms.com SDG

    (not to be confused with DGS above!)
    I was raised Evangelical and Reformed, and while I have become thoroughly Catholic to my bones, my Evangelical heritage is still stamped on my DNA, as it were.
    My debt to Evangelicalism is incalculable. It was as an Evangelical that I learned to love Jesus and the scriptures, and to be able to communicate this love to others. Of course Catholics love Jesus, but they aren’t always able to communicate it in the ready way that Evangelicals are. (Sadly, this has led to a communication gap between Catholics and Protestants in which Evangelicals perceive tongue-tied Catholics as “not saved” because they can’t articulate their faith with the same fluidity.)
    It was as an Evangelical that I learned to sing in church. We Catholics really stink at this. At least at the parish I currently attend we have great hymns that we don’t sing. At a lot of Catholic parishes they have tuneless 1960s pablum that they don’t sing. It’s the worst of both worlds. You could go to a trendy Bible church and have cotton-candy praise tunes, but at least they would belt them out.
    Having said that, of course I believe that I have gained enormously by becoming Catholic. Far from losing anything essential, I’ve found the fullness of what I always believed and loved as an Evangelical.
    But I appreciate this appreciation because I think it’s important to recognize that the Catholic Church and Protestantism are not simply separate, rival alternatives. Historically, theologically, culturally, we are linked. Protestantism, one might say, exists in relation to Catholicism.
    Although the two cases are far from parallel, Protestantism can no more be understood apart from Catholicism than Christianity itself can be understood apart from Judaism. Let me repeat, the two cases are far from parallel; one could even draw the opposite parallel in some ways. As an Evangelical turned Catholic, I feel not unlike a Jew who has discovered Jesus the Messiah.
    But this makes me value my Evangelical heritage all the more, not spurn it. And I’m grateful for appreciation of the Catholic Church from the confessional tradition of my upbringing. It’s only a small taste of the unity we’re called to, but even a little taste is sweet, and may spur us on to press forward toward greater unity.

  • http://brettandjulie.blogspot.com Thank you for reaching out.

    Thank you, Joe, reaching out to us Catholics. We very much appreciate it. God bless you. I pray that we would all follow God’s will to seek unity as you have done. I very much respect and admire faithful Protestants who are filled with the Holy Spirit, immersed in the Holy Scriptures and on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you to all my Brothers and Sisters in Christ for your daily witness.

  • http://www.naturalfamilylife.blogspot.com JimmyV

    Thanks for the nice words about Catholicism. Jimmy Akin was right to speak well of you.

  • http://chadisnotenough.blogspot.com/ Chad Toney

    Great post!
    I was raised in the Evangelical Protestant tradition with a Bible Church/Plymouth Brethren emphasis and came into the Catholic Church this past Summer. The writing of Thomas Howard was quite helpful, and I’d highly recommend him.
    During the week of Christian Unity, I wrote a similar piece from the other side of the Tiber.

  • http://www.catholicpillowfight.com Tony

    Mary said: Idol worship. Bible banning. Indulgences. Salvation by works. Inquisition. Institutional transfer of molesters. Complicity with totalitarian regimes. Baptismal regeneration. Denial of half the sacrament to their people. Pronouncing anathemas and killing many of the greatest Christians that ever graced this fallen earth.
    No, I’m not feeling a connection.

    Archbishop Fulton Sheen said: “There are not one hundred people on the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are thousands who hate what they think the Catholic Church is.”
    Oh, and Joe, thanks for the commentary. I don’t know enough about your brand of Evangelical Protestantism to comment, but I believe we have more in common than different.

  • Elwood

    Barbara,
    I first heard the explanation of the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital embrace belonging together from a lecture by Dr. Janet Smith called “Contraception, Why Not?” She is at University of Dallas. If you search the web on her name or the name of the lecture, you’ll easily find somewhere you could order the CD. It’s widely distributed.
    She also described the unitive and procreative aspects as “babies and bonding” for alliteration.
    Feel free to use my summation though, I just can’t take credit for the original discourse which she got from the church.

  • Some Day

    I am 17 and I want to become a priest. I will never accept Protestants!

  • http://thecrockery.blogspot.com TeresaHT

    Joe,
    I just came over to reassure you that, contra your note to Jimmy Akin, you DO have Catholic readers. I read your blog regularly.* So regularly, in fact, that I get sad when there are no new posts. ;-)
    * I probably don’t count, though. Staunch Catholic though I am, my husband is a Presbyterian, so I could be said to have a vested interested in understanding Reformed Evangelical perspectives.

  • http://www.geocities.com/thecatholicconvert/easternorthodoxy.html Ignatius of Antioch

    Pars,
    I invite you to see that the Eastern Orthodox churches are not the “original church” just as much because the beliefs that set them apart from the Catholic Church were not held in the early church. Study of the Early Church Fathers is a must for any self-proclaimed Reformed Christian if they are truly interested in getting back to the purity of the Apostolic faith.
    http://www.geocities.com/thecatholicconvert/easternorthodoxy.html
    Mr. Cartner, I’d like to thank you for your fairness. Since you respect Jimmy Akin enough to share this post with his readers, I’d second the recommendation of his book, “The Salvation Controversy”. In his book, as always, Mr. Akin is a gentle man in the best sense of the word and writes with admirable clarity.

  • http://thecrawfordfamily.net/blog/ Ken Crawford

    Great post Joe. God bless you for your charity and thoughfulness. I took Matt Anderson’s suggestion for Jimmy Akin to heart and wrote a Catholic response:
    http://thecrawfordfamily.net/blog/?p=364

  • Tim Powers

    Joe, excellent post! Certainly all Christians have far more in common than at odds, and we should all be praying for actual unity. At least we’re united in most political issues!
    Marie, a bit of good news: the Catholic Church never has banned the Bible or tried to prevent the laity from reading it. This is one of the great “Christian myths” — if you try to find an instance where any Pope forbade reading the Bible, you come up with nothing. It’s like George Washinton and the cherry tree.

  • T. Shaffer

    As a Catholic I must say how grateful I am to Joe for this thoughtful article. We need to be reminded sometimes that we have much more in common than we often realize. As Christian brothers and sisters we need to come together to re-evanglize the western world and be the light that Christ asks of his body, the church. Thanks again, Joe.

  • David B.

    “I am 17 and I want to become a priest. I will never accept Protestants! ”
    Some Day,
    This is neither the place nor the hour for such talk.
    Joe, I’d like to thank you for an awesome post, and your readers (most of them, anyway) for the respectful comments about the Catholic Faith. God Bless!

  • Ken

    Mary said: Idol worship. Bible banning. Indulgences. Salvation by works. Inquisition. Institutional transfer of molesters. Complicity with totalitarian regimes. Baptismal regeneration. Denial of half the sacrament to their people. Pronouncing anathemas and killing many of the greatest Christians that ever graced this fallen earth.
    And what measuring stick does Mary use to measure this? “Scripture (TM)”? i.e. a canon that was originally established by Councils and Bishops of the Catholic Church? Protected from error by those Councils and Bishops from being rewritten in the image of some Shirley Mac Laine of the time? Not dropped pre-printed and pre-bound from Heaven (in Kynge Jaymes Englyshe) and protected from error by some sort of miracles?
    Chesterton has an example of somebody watching a Catholic ceremony — priests in robes and vestments, some swinging incense burners, some carrying holy books, chanting in an ancient tongue, holding high various ritual objects (like processional crosses) as they pass in procession.
    And asks if the atheist’s conclusion — heckling from the side saying “All of this is bunk!” — does not make more sense than the Protestant reaction: rushing into the middle of the procession, ripping the holy book out of the priest’s hands, then holding it up and proclaiming “THIS IS *THE* WORD OF GOD! WORD FOR WORD! AND IT SAYS ALL THE REST YOU PRIESTS DO IS OF SATAN!” (Using the words of *the* holy book taken from the same procession he denounces.)

  • John

    I’m not a Catholic (or a Christian for that matter) but it’s obvious to me that Protestants either don’t know what the Catholic Church really teaches or they willfully misconstrue what the Church teaches. Probably a healthy mixture of both and are not responsible for it up to a point, I guess you can’t control where you’re born & what influences you. And, to cut both ways, I don’t think members of the Catholic Church have proven worthy role models. But to the point, I think Protestants are in the wrong for essentially blowing up the Church with the Reformation. Hardly what Christ had in mind when He prayed for unity in the Gospel of John.
    I stopped going to church about 20 years ago but have maintained a fascination with religion and have read widely on the history of Christianity, the Reformation, etc. From what I can tell, the split basically boiled down to pride, ego and a land grab by the opponents of the Church all wrapped up into one big pile of trouble. Plus Luther’s editing the Bible to suit his own purposes just goes to show he wanted it his way or no way in the end (a fitting motto for Protestantism from my perspective). Additionally, without the C.C., there wouldn’t be any Bible for him to edit, and that’s a plain fact. And, really, to prey for God’s Kingdom to come but bristle and buck when He sets His Church up like a hierarchy? Seems a contradiction.
    As for me, I’m not sure if religion is true or not or if people are just hardwired to believe in “something”. All this “my tribe versus your tribe” mentality somehow falls short of any glory of God. What is it that St. Paul said: don’t get mixed up in a debate over words for they lead to division. And that leads me to what St. Francis said: Preach continually, and use words only when necessary.
    Best,
    John

  • http://www.timothyjonesfineart.net Tim J.

    “I am 17 and I want to become a priest. I will never accept Protestants! ”
    Some Day,
    Please, tell me you did not really write this!
    It is intolerant, intemperate, and just rude. The man has gone out of his way to give the Catholic Church some props on HIS blog, and you drop a bomb like that?

  • http://www.thingswesaid.blogspot.com Marie

    Some Day’s statement is consistent with RC teaching. Unless I am mistaken, all the Protestant churches are officially “anathema.”
    My comments about the history of RC theology are not made in hatred. I think the history is important and should not be washed away with a general “feeling” of good will. There is serious doctrinal error in the RC church which has resulted in terrible suffering for, I’d say, probably millions of people.
    That doesn’t mean they do everything wrong. They read the Bible (now), although they read the Apogrypha, too. They have performed untold acts of mercy. They are consistently pro-life. I won’t deny any of these things. I think they are positive and of great value.
    I just don’t believe all that seriously bad doctrine should be looked at as inconsequential.
    I am also disturbed that when these issues are brought up, instead of being addressed, they are ignored. Was the reformation at all necessary, my fellow Protestants? Did Zwingli, Cranmer, Wycliffe die in vain?

  • http://www.raceisrun.typepad.com/weblog vynette

    Given the history of the Catholic Church and the Reformation, consideration for the sensibilities of commenters just cannot be measured against the necessity to speak on matters of grave import and consequence for Christians past and present.
    Ken, you said: “And what measuring stick does Mary use to measure this? “Scripture (TM)”? i.e. a canon that was originally established by Councils and Bishops of the Catholic Church?”
    The earliest churches in Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Caesarea, Antioch etc. were all separate entities and from the earliest times were in possession of the various letters and ‘gospels’ which form our present canon.
    The formation of the canon was due to a growing grass-roots consensus rather than a decision that was handed down by ecclesiastical authorities. The canon was not imposed by church leaders or by councils. They stand at the end of the process rather than at the beginning.
    No action of a council or a synod was early enough to have had a decisive influence on the course of events. The council decrees have the form: “This council declares that these are the books which have always been held to be canonical”.
    It would therefore be more accurate to say that the canon selected itself, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, than that any Church selected it.
    As regarding the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, all ecumenical Councils before 900 AD were held in the Greek East and all were convoked by the Emperor from Constantinople.
    At these Councils, where the ‘Nature of God’ was defined and determined for all generations, Latin bishops were numerically insignificant and made an insignificant contribution.
    For example, out of a total attendance of 318 at the Council of Nicea, the Latins could boast of only 7 representatives.

  • John Henry

    Unless I am mistaken, all the Protestant churches are officially “anathema.”
    You are correct in that you are mistaken. See here:
    http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0004chap.asp

  • John Henry

    vynette, in #53, says:
    “[Some things]”, many of which are true, some of which are a stretch, many of which are irrelevant, none of which (necessarily) lead to the conclusion to which he/she aspires.
    But this is neither the place nor the time.

  • Elwood

    Marie,
    As a Catholic, I agree. Our disagreements should not be swept under the rug. But perhaps a better place to start is where we find agreement, and to better understand what each other REALLY believes.
    Pope Benedict agrees with you about ecumenism not being about just a general feeling of good will. This is from an address to Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholics in Germany:
    “Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. As you just said, bishop, it is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one baptism which makes us all members of the one body of Christ (cf. I Cor 12: 13; Gal 3: 28; Col 2: 12).
    Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man (cf. I Tm 2: 5), and we emphasize that together we are members of his body (cf. “Unitatis Redintegratio”, n. 22; “Ut Unum Sint”, n. 42). ”
    He went on to say in this address that we should not deny one’s own faith history. “Absolutely not!” he says.
    In another address, he says something challenging to me, but in line with what your point is, Marie:
    ‘”Ecumenism is certainly a slow process, sometimes even discouraging when one gives in to the temptation to hear, but not listen, to mumble rather than to proclaim with courage” the truths of the faith, Pope Benedict said.’
    There is a temptation to gloss over our differences. We can’t do that. But in response to this movement of the Holy Spirit, we can’t let those differences keep us from some tough, charitable, and honest dialogue.
    Lord, make us one.

  • John Henry

    I just don’t believe all that seriously bad doctrine should be looked at as inconsequential.
    Lastly, I will also say that I don’t think anyone here, least of all our host, has said that our “bad doctrine” is “inconsequential”.

  • R. Chavez

    >
    Somebody’s not up on her history…Thank you for the quality post. One thing I appreciate about Evangelicals is their love of Scripture on a personal basis. While the Catholic Church has preserved, guarded, and even encouraged the reading of Scripture on a pastoral level, the sad reality is that for 40 years or more, Catholic Bibles have been collecting dust on the shelves of the laity. Evangelicals, by engaging us, have awoken a sleeping giant who now acknowledges its hunger for Scripture.
    I think that Peter Kreeft had it right. Protestants will become Catholic when Catholics become more Protestant than the Protestants. In other words, when we take the realities that are Truth in Protestantism and integrate them into our sacramental body, the allure of the Church will be too great to resist. However, the Divine mail carriers cannot alter God’s mail. We will all meet at the one ‘place’ called Christ one day. The essence of Evangelicalism is to be one with Christ and that’s the best reason to be a Catholic. It’s Jesus ONLY. It’s always been Jesus only. He is sufficient and we both agree on this. Mary, the saints, sacraments, etc. are not an obstacle or intermediary but the body of Christ himself. The Body of Christ is not an obstacle to Christ–we’re not Gnostics.
    But until they see the Christo-centric nature of the Catholic Church, Protestants rightly should protest. And unless Catholic show it to them, how can they see it? And how can Catholics show it to them unless we see it ourselves? And unless we have a teacher, how can we see it? John Paul II was not only a strong man but a great Christo-centric one. Benedict is every bit the equal of John Paul II.
    When Catholics are evangelized, Protestants will be sacramentalized…Peter Kreeft again.

  • g

    Ok, I came over to this post at Jimmy A’s recommendation and, while the post is thought provoking, the comments make me wish I hadn’t. We’ve obviously got a long way to go before we can see the Lord’s (whom we ALL adore) prayer to our Father for unity be accomplished! Geez.

  • Barbara

    From what I can tell, the split basically boiled down to pride, ego and a land grab by the opponents of the Church all wrapped up into one big pile of trouble.
    Kind of reminds one of the split in ancient Israel after the death of Solomon. Some things never change.

  • http://www.decentfilms.com SDG

    “Did Zwingli, Cranmer, Wycliffe die in vain?”
    Um.
    Wyclif died of natural causes. Zwingli, who died in battle in a Swiss civil war, mercilessly persecuted Anabaptists. Cranmer was martyred for his Anglican faith, but not before having a hand in the martyrdom of a number of Catholics, including Thomas More and John Fisher.
    This is a pointless style of argument, Marie. I believe you when you say your arguments are not made in hatred, but you must believe me that they are made in ignorance. You throw around words like “indulgence” and “anathema” when you show no evidence of having found out what Catholics actually mean by those words.
    We do have differences that are important, and they need to be discussed. But understanding comes first. Until we talk to each other and make a real effort to understand one another’s positions, as opposed to just accepting whatever we’ve been told about the other by our own authorities and mentors, we will continue to talk past each other, and think we are standing up for truth when really we are misunderstanding.
    We need less heat, more light.

  • http://www.votelifecanada.ca Eric

    Thanks Joe. I appreciated your posting. As a former Baptist and evangelical I do understand well some of the dynamics involved in Evangelical-Roman Catholic relations.
    What I valued most was your honest and sincere effort to see past the prejudice which haunts most of our dialogue and to express appreciation for your Catholic brethren.
    Also, as one keenly involved in defending the unborn from being killed in their mothers’ wombs, I appreciate your willingness to put their rights and safety ahead of “denominational” bias. This is absolutely essential if Christians in today’s society are to secure justice for “the least of these my brothers,” and so rescue them for God’s purposes and also to avoid the condemnation of the Son of Man when He divides goats from sheep.

  • Matthew

    Hello,
    I am a Catholic, and I too appreciated reading this article. I think that before we can ever have true unity again we must first respect and appreciate one another–even if we disagree. This article was a step in the right direction.
    I have a question for my non-Catholic and also converted brethren though. As you’ve seen from the responses posted from Catholics many of them are converts TO Catholicism. They obviously still have great love and respect for their evangelical background and they seem to have fond memories that they take with them as they come home to the Catholic Church. However, the flip side of this is when a Catholic leaves the Church to join a non-Catholic church he or she seems to have such angst and almost hatred toward the Catholic Church. It seems as though these people are running away from the Catholic Church with much prejudice versus non-Catholic converts running toward the Church with much joy. These same people who leave the Catholic Church then become “experts” on Catholic theology and seem to feed the ongoing anti-Catholic bent. It is sad and I wish there were a simple answer to this. Regardless, I wish all of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters the peace of Christ and I pray that we will be “perfectly one” as Christ would have us.
    In Truth,
    Matthew

  • Matthew Kennel

    I’m glad that Jimmy Akin linked to this post. As a former Mennonite Evangelical who is now Catholic, I believe that we Catholics are also very indebted to our Evangelical brothers and sisters. They are, in general, so zealous for the truth and for the spread of the Gospel. I know that I personally am indebted to the many faithful Protestants who taught me the basics of the Chrstian faith, the importance of love for and obiedience to Jesus Christ, and who still support me as wonderful Christian friends.

  • kevin

    marie,you talk about history I think you need to recheck your history starting with some good Catholic recources, such as catholic .com.Regarding the behavior of catholics it’s true there have been very sinful catholics in history but aren’t we all sinners and history shows that many bible believing,God fearing prostestants have committed horrible attrocities such as the founders of our great nation many of whom were slave owners and slavery was a staple of the people of this land for hundreds of years,a land with a overwhelming majority of protestants,and how can we forget the puritans and the Salem witch trials…In sum we are all sinners and let’s not forget we shouldn’t leave Peter because of Judas.Anyway thank you Joe for the great post!!!

  • Mary Kay

    Very thoughtful and well written post, Joe. Of the evangelical non-Catholic Christians I’ve known or read, I’m thankful for who they were in my life, people who loved the Lord, acknowledged the Trinity and endeavored to live the Gospel the best they could.

  • Bill Farley

    My thought about Evangelicals I know is “why aren’t they Catholic?” It would be a win-win situation. I know the Church would be better off with them, and I believe they would have a fuller, more beautiful experience. I know that they just love Jesus with their whole heart and soul, and if they could have an open mind to come to understand the depth and beauty in the way the Catholic Church worships our Lord.
    I also feel sad for them because of what they miss. I was thinking of this a couple of days ago. As far as I know, Lent doesn’t mean anything to them. For Catholics it is the most important part of the year. Fasting, Stations of the Cross, etc. I think of inviting them to come to Stations of the Cross. I always end up with tears in my eyes. How could you not when you reflect so on what our Lord did for us? I think with their deep love of Jesus they would have a powerful experience.
    Or the symbolic beauty of Good Friday to Easter, how Jesus is removed from the church after Good Friday Mass and the church is darkened because our Lord is not with us, with no Mass on Saturday while we wait until Easter vigil when the Light of the World reenters the church. Every year I love that experience.

  • Mary Margaret

    I am a Catholic. I spent my life from 13-20 with an Evangelical family after my parents passed away. Those people were so kind to me that I can never thank them enough (they have also passed away). Those parents became grandparents to my children, and were there rejoicing for their first communion, confirmation, etc. I am grateful for the evangelical church because they treated me kindly, loved me, and loved my family. Thank God for them, and for you, Joe. You can see that we are more alike than different, as I do. Your post gives me hope that we can grow together, rather than further apart. I could never leave the Catholic church, but I am forever grateful to my Evangelical brothers and sisters. May God bless you all!

  • DH

    Here is a site that many of you all might find interesting: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/
    Marie, in particular, might find interesting Justin Martyr’s writings in his First Apology (written circa 155 AD), chapters 61 (on “baptismal regeneration”) and chapter 66 (on the Real Presence). See:
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/justinmartyr-firstapology.html
    Also noteworthy: Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Smyrnaeans. See chapters VII & VIII.
    http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-01/anf01-21.htm#P2233_373220
    (Ignatius wrote ~ 110 AD.)
    Reading the Anti-Nicene (before Nicea) Fathers may not turn a Protestant into a Catholic. Indeed, many Protestants find support for their positions in the writings of the early Fathers. But reading the Fathers will at least disabuse a person of the simplistic myth that the sacramental system & the understanding of the church as a visible hierarchy were accretions of the “medieval church” or the result of the corruption of Christianity at Nicea. The fact is that a great many of the things that some Protestants find weird about the Catholic Church have been there since the inception of Christianity, although they may have grown more elaborate over time.
    I just veered off too much into an apologetic argument. Sorry. My main point was to make everyone aware of EarlyChristianWritings.com, which seems to be inter-denominational. Thanks for the respectful post, Joe Carter. I love & respect faith-filled Protestants. May we all continue humbly & prayerfully to seek the Truth.

  • Kyl

    Great post Joe (I’m Catholic)! Your perspective shows your wisdom. In his book See The Gods Fall the brilliant Protestant/philosopher/ethicist Francis J. Beckwith writes, “Although it is certainly true that the Christian church in its three major branches (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy)” Your view of Catholicism seems to go well with Beckwith’s view of Catholicism. Beckwith seems to hold that Catholics are Christian. I hope that Catholics continue to show their appreciation to you. We must all unite on the pro-life issue too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris D.

    As a fallen away Catholic, who regained his faith in college with the help of Evangelical Protestants… and after subsequent study, returned to the Catholic faith, I have tremendous respect and appreciation for my Evangelical bretheren. For one, they tend often to be more “evangelical” than we Catholics… that is, they are less reserved in expressing their faith and taking the risks necessary to spread the Gospel. Also, my evangelical friends reawoke in me a passion for daily devotional reading of the Holy Scriptures–THE ancient devotion within the Catholic Tradition (but one which falls by the wayside among some Catholics–though this is changing in recent years). I, too, pray for unity. I would also never ask a Protestant brother to compromise their beliefs on salvation sola fide, as Joe warns,–though, I would ask them to study to see what the Catholic teaching is… for example, what kind of faith in Christ saves us? Can a “dead faith” save us?… by no means, the faith that saves is one that is alive and inseparable from charitable works (as a response to the grace of God, of course) (James 2:14-26).
    Laudetur Iesus Christus! (Praise be Jesus Christ!)

  • Blaise

    I am Catholic — What I love about Evangelical Christians is their courage to offer prayer as a viable first step in dealing with a serous problem. I belive this to be the case but unfortunatly I hesitate to tell non-believers about this. Evangelicals: No fear! Some of the best people I have ever met were Evangelical Christians. I imagine meeting St. Francis of Assisi would be similar to meeting one of these great people. I wish I could explain the Eucharist better — they really would dig it if they could see it the way Catholics see it. I dig how the best Catholic apologists are former evangelicals and not cradle catholics (tim staples, scott hahn, jimmy akin, etc…)
    Evangelicals are super!
    +peace!!!

  • http://radicalcatholicmom.blogspot.com RadicalCatholicMom

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I have worked with many Evangelicals in pro-life work and I appreciate and admire the deep love for Christ they illustrate in their lives.

  • http://vitaro.wordpress.com Rob V.

    My wife’s uncle and his wife recently “Crossed the Tiber” after 30+ years in Evanglical churches. While we were concerned initially that they were “reverting” (they were raised Catholic) to hide from God by attending church in a less emotional and private atmosphere, it now looks like they were always quite earnestly seeking God. Which is good.
    Their attitude however has become decisively anti-Evangelical now, which is most unfortunate since we really never had a problem with them becoming Catholic – they’re still Christians, afterall.
    There have been heated discussions of doctrinal issues that they are now espousing which we disagree with strongly, and things do get ugly at times.
    The whole thing is sad, really. I was raised Catholic myself and have always looked at Catholicism in much the same way your post describes. Lately, due mainly to the aforementioned heated discussions, I have found out some things that have disturbed me greatly. I’m not sure what to think of Catholicism anymore.

  • http://www.thingswesaid.blogspot.com Marie

    Kevin,
    I tried to deliberately stick to official Catholic doctrine in my arguments, not pick on individual sinners. Of course we are all sinners, and I would not condemn the RC church for acts of individual RCs just as I would not condemn the Protestant church due to acts of individuals Protestants.
    The issues I brought up are official, Catholic doctrine.
    SGD, I know what “indulgence” and “anathema” mean.
    Elwood, I wish “Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man” were true. However the Catholic doctrine of mediation by Saints – Christians whose merits are greater than their bad deeds, and whose intercession is sought, so that some of their credits might be given to us to shorten our time in purgatory – in not consistent with the statement that Jesus is the one mediator between God and man.
    We have been asked for less heat and more light. I am not speaking with “heat.” I think that when one is contradicted one often feels like anger is directed at them. This is not the case.
    I am flabbergasted, however, at the few commenters who seem to be willing to admit the extreme differences between Catholicism and Protestantism.
    The pope as the head of the church. The Apogrypha. Salvation by works. The existence of purgatory. The ability to atone for one’s one sins by recitation of Hail Marys etc. Veneration of idols, relics. The mass ( a constant re-sacrifice of Christ ). Trans-substaniation. Half-sacraments (no wine). Extra sacraments. These are not small issues. We are not straining at gnats, here. To teach, for instance, that Christ must be constantly re-sacrificed in the mass, is a direct denial of the gospel.
    Some have directed me to certain sites and books to illuminate me. Let me recommend “Roman Catholicism” by Loraine Boettner, who systemically lays out, line by line, the differences between us and the changes that would need to be made before we are all indeed one.

  • http://www.fraterslibertas.com/ chad the elder

    Joe-
    Nice post. Even though it may never become official (although you should never say never–ask Neuhaus about that), you should know that some of us consider you an honorary Catholic already.

  • http://www.decentfilms.com SDG

    “SGD, I know what ‘indulgence’ and ‘anathema’ mean.”
    It’s SDG.
    And I know you think you do, Marie. But you also think, e.g., that “merit” means the saints’ merits are “greater than their sins.” (In fact, the Church’s teaching is that the guilt of our sins is atoned by Christ alone, not by us, and that his sacrifice is the sole meritorious cause of the grace that justifies us. There is something called merit in Catholic theology, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means.)
    And you think that Boettner is a credible source for what the Catholic Church teaches. He’s not. There is hardly a page in his book free of distortion, misrepresentation, and wholesale error.
    Believe me: I read Boetter while still an Evangelical Protestant. The complete wrongheadedness of his book opened my eyes to how much anti-Catholic argumentation is claptrap.
    Look at your approach. Elwood quoted a declaration of faith, officially endorsed by the Catholic Church, that declares “Jesus Christ is God and Lord… we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man.” Rome says to you, officially: “This is our teaching.” (And they didn’t endorse this statement of faith lightly.)
    But you answer: “Wrong, Rome, that isn’t your teaching. I’ll tell you what your teaching really is.” How can there be any hope of discussion or understanding under such circumstances?
    Until you are willing to accept that you may not know what you think you know, and make the effort of simple honesty to find out what the other side really believes instead of just accepting what you’ve been told, you will never know what Catholicism is — and why our host is right to say that we have more in common than is commonly appreciated by many on both sides.

  • giggling

    Marie:
    I am flabbergasted, however, at the few commenters who seem to be willing to admit the extreme differences between Catholicism and Protestantism.
    Well, part of the reason is that people think it’s polite not to in the context of this post. Hence JoAnna says “To those of you who wish to debate Catholic theology, I really don’t think that Joe’s comments box is the appropriate place to do so – especially given the spirit of ecumenicism in which this post is written.”
    Of course, JoAnna simply demonstrates her newbieness here, as commenters often go on all sorts of tangents which Joe doesn’t mind as it generates visits and even productive civil discussion.
    So I’ll thank JoAnna for her politeness and nonetheless carry on to the content.
    The reason why there is division between Catholics and (Reformed) Protestants is because the differences are important. Marie is correct in essentially saying that the Catholic gospel is no gospel from the view of Reformed Protestants.
    Which means that however many people in the RCC are saved by the true gospel and don’t actually believe Catholic teaching concerning it, the RCC teaches a false gospel according to real Reformed Protestants.
    Does that prevent Reformed types from appreciating the good that the RCC does? It shouldn’t, just as Reformed Christians should appreciate Jewish cultural achievements.
    But the fact is that Reformed types do not have the Lord’s Supper with Catholics, and Catholics will not have Mass with Reformed types.
    So whatever historical and contemporary commonalities unite Reformed and Catholic Christians, there is a gaping difference in what matters most, a difference that greatly dishonors Christ, even if some Reformed or Catholics don’t feel the impact of it.
    Joe:
    I’m curious about Joe‘s comment about Jesus’s mom, Mary, though. What do you think should be a good response to a faithful, but sinful Mary carrying a human baby? It can seem almost neo-Gnostic to think it was humanly different than carrying any other baby. It’s not as if rays of divine holiness were emanating from her womb.
    Mary had an incredible experience when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, but after that it was probably in keeping with a normal human pregnancy, according to the doctrine of the Incarnation.
    I agree: her faith and the outworking of her faith in life and love during that time must have been incredible though. I bet she was a fantastic mom.

  • Finlay

    Sometimes these conversations end up sounding like what happens when an attempt at dialog is made with a Mormon. There is a lot of dodging and deflecting of questions. Namely, there is never an explanation of what the true Catholic belief in Saints, Mary etc is all about.
    To give an example. When confronted with an honest challenge, too many here are saying, oh you simply don’t understand what catholics believe about the saints. Well then why won’t anyone step up to the plate and clarify those beliefs for us poor evangelicals here.
    Maybe I don’t know enough catholics, but my experience has been twofold:
    First, there are far too many in the catholic church that are simply catholic by birth and it is merely ritual for them.
    Second, I’m not confident that if I asked the average catholic they could explain the core of what it means to be a Christian: the grace of God saving us through faith in the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • John Henry

    Finlay,
    Provide a forum, and many of us will be happy to discuss this. The person who sent us over here requested that we Catholics be charitable, in keeping with the content of the original post. So we are honoring his request.

  • http://decentfilms.com SDG

    “the RCC teaches a false gospel according to real Reformed Protestants.”
    Given my personal family background in the Reformed tradition (my father was an RCA/CRC pastor, my brother teaches at a very conservative Reformed school), I don’t think this is an adequate assessment of the range of opinions held by those who subscribe to the Heidelberg Catechism and other touchstones of Reformed thought. (Of course, one can always define “real(TM)” to exclude whomever one likes.)
    For example, Marie brought up baptismal regeneration. The Reformed author of the section on baptism in the Heidelberg Catechism believed in baptismal regeneration. The Heidelberg Catechism’s teaching on baptism was not meant to exclude or condemn baptismal regeneration.
    Now, if you want to say that not all the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism were Real Reformed Protestants(TM), well, that’s your privilege.
    Would you also exclude the Lutheran signatories to the Joint Declaration as believing “no gospel”?

  • http://www.absolutedominion.blogspot.com Coram Deo

    What evangelicals owe Catholics is to lovingly preach the true Gospel of the Bible to them and pray that they might be saved from their heretical and apostate religious system.
    All ecumenical roads lead back to Rome.
    Sola Scriptura!

  • http://www.originalfaith.com/ Paul Martin

    I suppose being raised in a tradition you have more of a feel for its range. Being brought up Catholic in a predominantly Catholic hometown in New England, I remember being puzzled by my first contact with anti-Catholicism around the election of JFK.
    Even as a kid, I knew perfectly well that there was a tremedous range of social, political, and religious viewpoints among my own relatives. They ranged from “fire and brimstone” to very liberal. I didn’t know anybody who marched in lockstep with the pope, including my Sister of the Holy Cross aunt.

  • http://romancatholicbychoice.com Chris

    Coram Deo, your thinly veiled anti-Catholicism seems poorly placed here. The Catholics here are trying to be charitable. Let me challenge you to read the apostle’s creed and figure since this is a basic statement of faith, what do you disagree with?

  • http://www.absolutedominon.blogspot.com Coram Deo

    Chris,
    I’m not anti-Catholic, I’m Pro-Gospel.

  • misspeaches

    Dear Joe: I was horrified to learn that the Southern Baptist Convention encouraged the passage of pro-abortion legislation in 1971. That was news to me! Thank God for the change in 1980. I wonder what other positions might be changed someday?
    And thank you for this Appreciation. As a former Southern Baptist who now rejoices to be a Catholic, I will add my appreciation: I am grateful every day for the Scripture I memorized as a Baptist. Thank you, Sunday School teachers of my youth, and thank you, Beth Moore, for Scripture-saturated Bible Studies.

  • http://themandalapage.blogspot.com LaMamaLoca

    Rob wrote:
    “Their attitude however has become decisively anti-Evangelical now, which is most unfortunate since we really never had a problem with them becoming Catholic – they’re still Christians, afterall.
    There have been heated discussions of doctrinal issues that they are now espousing which we disagree with strongly, and things do get ugly at times.”
    I’m sorry to hear that, but I would urge you to compare your Aunt and Uncle’s own stated beliefs with those of the Catholic Church – in the Catechism or other official writings. Quite frankly, an “anti-Evangelical” attitude is sinful at best, and may be based in a heretical belief such as “Feeneyism” which can be found commonly among some “traditional” Catholics.

  • John Henry

    I know what “indulgence” and “anathema” mean.
    The very context in which you initially used the word “anathema” (#52) strongly argues against your stated position that you know what the word means. Why not accept that Catholics might know more about Catholicism? Why not read the link I gave you? Then you would understand that Protestant churches are not under anathema. In case you persist in refusing to read, here’s the short of it:
    Anathema does not mean “damned” (i.e., only God can damn). It is a form of solemn excommunication. When the Church sets up an anathema, she is establishing a law. To use an analogy, if one breaks the speed limit, one does not automatically incur the penalties of breaking that law. Rather, one only incurs the penalty after due process (i.e., the cop cites you, you come before the judge etc). Same with anathemas. No one is under anathema who has not been the subject of the due process of a canonical trial. And here’s the thing: anathemas happened so infrequently over the course of history that they were completely dropped from the Church law books in 1983. There no longer exists the penalty of anathema in the Church. And even if it did exist (which it doesn’t), it would not apply to people who are not under the jurisdiction of the Church (i.e., non-Catholics).
    So rest easy. The Catholic Church has precisely zero interest in pronouncing your (or anyone else’s) damnation.

  • Matthew

    giggling wrote:
    “I’m curious about Joe’s comment about Jesus’s mom, Mary, though. What do you think should be a good response to a faithful, but sinful Mary carrying a human baby?”
    I have a question for you “giggling.” Can sin co-exist with pure grace? Can light co-exist with darkness? No it cannot! Just as Mary, if not protected from sin by God, could not have bore Christ in her womb. Christ cannot and could not be defiled or tainted with sin in any way either before his birth or afterwards.
    In Truth,
    Matthew

  • Barbara

    Finlay writes:
    There is a lot of dodging and deflecting of questions. Namely, there is never an explanation of what the true Catholic belief in Saints, Mary etc is all about.
    Well then why won’t anyone step up to the plate and clarify those beliefs for us

    O.K., since the request was made, I will begin with the Communion of Saints. This is based on the principle that there is only one Body of Christ. There aren’t two bodies. All Christians are members of that one Body, whether here on Earth, or having received their heavenly reward in heaven. Each of us is called upon to stand in the gap, and pray for one another. That makes all of us mediators. We aren’t mediating between God and man, but between Jesus, His Son, and man.
    We can see a couple of examples of heavenly intercession in the book of Revelation:
    “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;” ~5:8
    “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne;
    and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.” ~8:3-4
    While it does not specifically say whether these prayers, are the saints in heaven, or the saints on Earth, since Rev. 8:4 says “all the saints”, lets say for the moment, that it’s both.
    “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne;
    they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” ~6:9-10
    In the above verse the souls of those who had been slain, were the martyrs. They were aware of the fact that their blood had yet to be avenged. Not only do we see that the souls of the faithfully departed are aware of events on Earth, but they are praying concerning the events taking place here.
    In Heb. 12:1, Paul writes: “Therefore being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. Let us put aside every weight of sin that besets us, and run the race before us, lookin unto Jesus, the perfector and finisher of our faith”.
    Paul had just finished listing Old Testament faithful in ch. 11. These same faithful surrounded Paul as he wrote the book of Hebrews.
    The communion of saints is like being in a giant Olympic stadium. We are running a race that those in the stands have already gold-medaled in. They aren’t just sitting there saying, ‘oh, tough luck, she fell again’. Rather they are jumping up and down, yelling ‘come on, you can do it. “Look unto Jesus the perfector and finisher of our faith”.
    We have older brothers and sisters in the Lord who pray for us, just as we pray for each other here on Earth.

  • John Henry

    Matthew,
    I am Catholic. But I disagree with your defense of the sinlessness of Mary for the following reason. Clearly, Christ *can* “co-exist” sin, as he does that very thing in every Christian, in the person of his Holy Spirit. Furthermore, God is omnipotent and can do whatever he pleases. So, while I agree wholeheartedly that Mary was preserved, by the merits of her Savior Jesus Christ, from all stain of sin, I disagree that it *had* to be that way, for the reasons stated. In fact, one finds the Church using words such as “fitting” to describe her Immaculate Conception, as opposed to words like “necessary”.

  • http://www.decentfilms.com SDG

    John Henry is correct. Catholic theology holds that the Man Jesus was necessarily sinless by reason of the Hypostatic Union, inasmuch as He is a Divine Person who cannot be stained by sin.
    In Catholic belief, it was fitting that His mother Mary was redeemed by His grace and merits from the first instant of her existence (note: Mary was redeemed; she was not exempt from the need of a Savior), but it was not necessary. Had he wished, Christ could have chosen a prostitute for his mother (and actually that just might be the next most fitting option).
    The larger point of agreement, of course, is that Jesus is the one Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, Mary included, and that His sacrifice is the sole meritorious cause of the grace that justifies us all, Mary included.
    Mary is among the redeemed; her cooperation in and benefit from God’s redemptive plan is unique and glorious, but in no way does she add anything to, or detract anything from, the work of redemption accomplished by Christ alone (Lumen Gentium 60ff).
    There are Catholic-Protestant differences of belief with regard to Mary, but they do not affect our shared faith in Jesus the one Savior Who alone accomplished the work of our redemption.

  • Elwood

    Marie, Finlay, and giggling,
    I’m more than willing to discuss these issues right here. But as you know, they’re not easy and it takes a while. I’ll be around for the next 2 months if you’d like, but I can only devote so much time per day. If the other Catholic commenters can stick around, I’m sure they’ll have great explanations too and correct me if I misspeak. Let’s keep it going.
    Marie, you mentioned that you’d been referred to books already, they really are the best source for something like this. Authors like Scott Hahn, David Currie “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic”, “Surprised By Truth” edited by Patrick Madrid are my favorites. Websites like http://www.catholic.com are good too. But – it’s easier to talk right now, so here goes.
    Barbara gave a great primer on the communion of the saints. I just want to add this thought about one mediator between God and man.
    What does it mean to mediate? In the dictionary, it talks of bringing about a reconciliation between two parties. First and foremost, this is what Jesus did. After we ourselves are reconciled, Jesus then offers us a part in His mediation.
    What if the church, you included, didn’t proclaim the gospel? What if no one told anyone about what Jesus did? When you share the gospel, you are acting as a mediator between God and the unbeliever because you are helping to bring about reconciliation. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Jesus is the one mediator, for you would have no authority to speak for God except for what He’s given you. If Christ had not come and died and been raised to life again, you could still proclaim God’s forgiveness, but it wouldn’t mean anything because Jesus hadn’t died. Your mediation is 100% dependent on Jesus’ mediation.
    Paul says that we are ambassadors for Christ, “as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
    An earthly ambassador is a mediator between two governments. He doesn’t have any power separate from what was given him.
    When you pray for a friend to become a Christian, do you believe your prayers have any effect? Of course, or you wouldn’t pray. So, in that situation, you are also acting as a mediator. Does praying for someone and sharing the gospel with them have any effect on their salvation?
    Catholics don’t use the term mediation to describe our relationship with the saints, although Mary does have such a title. But I am drawing the parallel between intercession of the saints and mediation, since you mentioned the mediation of saints. I know that sharing the gospel and praying for someone are not exactly the same as all that’s involved with the Catholic understanding of the communion of saints. But I use those as an example of how you yourself “mediate” without taking away from the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. Likewise, any mediation that Mary or the Saints are involved in does not take away from Jesus as the one mediator. It’s not as if Mary was a “different” way to God. It’s one in the same because it’s all dependent on Jesus Christ.
    Sidebar: Marie, you mentioned the merits of the saints being applied to us. The main presupposition to that concept is that there is a difference between eternal punishment (the wages of sin is death) and temporal punishment. Bear in mind that what you reference in regards to the merits of the saints, purgatory, penance, etc., all deal with temporal punishment and not forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins is only by Jesus’ sacrifice. This article is long but it leaves no doubt that making a distinction between eternal and temporal punishment is very Biblical. Read especially Principle 2 & 3.
    http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1994/9411fea1.asp
    In Protestant terms and understanding, you might say that our relation to the merits of the saints, purgatory, penance, etc., deals with our sanctification, not our justification. (Just a way to talk about this issue, not meaning to get into the Catholic/Protestant understandings of the difference or likeness of justification and sanctification.)

  • Tom

    The BIG problem with the Catholic church is salvation by works. I’ve read with interest the comments, here and otherwise, that maintain that the Catholic church teaches salvation by grace. I never heard this in 8 years of Catholic grade school nor in four years of Catholic high school (Jesuits, by the way). So, I’m forced to conclude either that (1) the Catholic church does teach salvation by works, as I heard loud and clear for 12 years, or (2) its teaching ministry is the most incompetent in the history of mankind.

  • Elwood

    Tom,
    I’d say your #2 is closer to the truth than #1. I do definitely find a disconnect between what I read in Council or papal documents and what the average Catholic on the street might tell you. The Catholic Church, being as large as it is, moves slowly. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes it causes the Church not to be able to communicate in a new generation’s language in a way that they understand. However, individual Catholics also bear responsibility, especially today.
    That’s our challenge… why is it that the beautiful truths so well explained by Vatican II docs, by recent popes, and by Saints throughout the history of the Church not trickle down to Joe Catholic? However, when you look at Barna research polls of Protestants, you see that they have the same challenge. High percentages of “average Protestants” also have faulty beliefs on things like the virgin birth, the resurrection, the Bible as the infallible Word of God, etc., that are standard doctrinal beliefs for most Protestant denominations.
    Here’s why your #1 point is not true. Salvation by works is basically the Pelagian heresy. The Catholic Church condemned that teaching a long time ago.
    I agree that salvation by works/faith/grace is the BIG issue. It was my main issue I needed resolved before I’d come back to the Cath. Church. What I found in my study is that grace does not equal faith. Many Protestants use the phrases “saved by faith” and “saved by grace” interchangebly. However grace is not the same as faith. I’d venture that you’d agree with me that we are saved by God’s grace. What we disagree on is how we appropriate that grace. I believe that both our faith AND our works are our response to God’s grace, whereas you would say it’s faith alone.
    What I learned in coming back to the RCC is that the only place in the Bible where the words faith and alone appear next to each other is in James where it says we are NOT saved by faith alone.
    I view my works the same way I view my faith. Without God’s grace, my works would be worth nothing. Just as, without God’s grace, my faith would be worth nothing.
    God has chosen to make His offer of salvation to the whole world. But just imagine if He’d have made an exception, saying “My grace is available to all except for white males born in Minnesota in the 1970’s.” I would be bereft of God’s grace, and no matter how much faith I had in Christ’s death on the cross to pay for my sins, it wouldn’t matter.
    So “faith alone”, is not sufficient.
    I can no more “boast about my works” before God than you can boast about your faith. Just as I couldn’t have faith, without the gift of God, neither would I even desire to do any good works without the grace of God.
    Grace and mercy is God’s initiative to save us, faith and works are our response in accepting His grace.
    There’s much more to be said about Romans and Galations and the context of those epistles and what was meant by “works” in those books. I don’t believe when the Bible speaks of “works” it always means all manner of good deeds. Sometimes it is all inclusive, but other times, I believe it’s speaking specifically of works of the OT Law such as circumcision.

  • Bill Farley

    Tom,
    I personally have come to the conclusion that the faith v. works issue is a big dust-up over nothing. What I mean is that you can label it whatever you want but in substance I think Protestants and Catholics get to the same place. As Elwood said, both our faith and our works are our response to God’s grace. Evangelicals have explained to me that their works are an outflowing or reflection of their faith. Is that not saying about the same thing? Don’t both get to the same result?

  • Lily

    “Some have directed me to certain sites and books to illuminate me. Let me recommend “Roman Catholicism” by Loraine Boettner, who systemically lays out, line by line, the differences between us and the changes that would need to be made before we are all indeed one.”
    Marie, Marie!!! Please, do take up the challenge! Come on over to Catholic Answers forums, & be educated….The ramblings of Lorraine Boettner are nothing more nor less than the religious equivalent of the National Enquirer.
    Well, actually, Boettner is worse than that, but I can neber remember the name of that cheesy little rag that says that Elvis & Hitler are alive & well, & living with the “Bat Boy”, somewhere in the Hollow Earth.

  • Kyl

    Because I’m Catholic, I would like to share how Protestants developed my interest in Christian apologetics. Protestants like William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Francis Beckwith, Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas, Scott Rae, and Alvin Plantinga almost single-handedly developed my interest in apologetics. The apologetic contributions of the aforementioned apologists are extraordinary. The apologetics of the aforementioned apologists must be studied intensely by both Catholics and Protestants. The above Protestants have given all Christians (Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism) many apologetic arguments that will help Christians refute secularism in our century. If we don’t follow their lead (on many general apologetic issues), the US will turn out as secular as Europe and Canada. For example, Dr. Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman write, “[William Lane Craig] Craig is the leading evangelical theorist in at least three areas of academic research. The first is the cosmological argument…Craig is also widely viewed as the leading evangelical scholar in the historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus…Craig is arguably the leading evangelical researcher…the philosophical analysis of the attributes of God.” Francis Beckwith has written the top book on the pro-life position http://www.cambridge.org/us/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521691354 Here is a page http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/03/how-catholics-view-protestants.html that shows how the Catholic Church views Protestants. “Vatican II says (note how Protestants — and Orthodox — are repeatedly referred to as “Christians” and part of the Body of Christ):”

  • John Henry

    For Tom (#94),
    I would agree with other posters who have said that your #2 option is the more likely one. There is indeed no denying that the Catholic Church has done a most *horrible* job of teaching the truths of the faith over the last 40 years, as well as at other times throughout her long and storied history. I would also add that learning the Faith at a Jesuit institution is not a very highly regarded thing anymore. In fact, Catholics who want their education taken seriously typically try to cover up the fact that they were educated by Jesuits. For any Jesuit lovers here, this is not a blanket condemnation. Many do good work. But heavens, many are so far in left field they left the ballpark a while ago.
    In fact, the Catholic Church does not officially teach “salvation by works”. I say “officially” because the average Joe Schmoe on the street might not be able to make distinctions adequate enough for a Protestant to grasp what he is getting at. There are certainly and undeniably differences between the Catholic and Protestant positions. The 16th century didn’t happen for nothing! However, I believe the differences are not as *huge* as many think. Much (but by no means all) of the issue is semantical.
    To keep this as brief as possible, the Catholic Church teaches that we are justified in baptism. Now, obviously, that is one of those clear differences I was talking about (unless you are a certain type of Anglican). However, note that, however different this might be to your beliefs, the Catholic Church does not teach salvation by works. Again, unless you are of the stripe that considers baptism a “work” (but in that context, note that faith is also a “work” then). It is certainly not a work by which we hope to gain enough merit to please God. It is simply the submission of ourselves to what he has told us to do.
    Having been freely justified by the merits of Christ in baptism (because the two are not opposed), Catholics consider themselves to be further justified through our free response to God’s grace in good works. Now, this is one of those semantical differences I was talking about. Because what the Catholic is here talking about is nothing other than what the Protestant refers to as “sanctification”. The Mass, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation etc, all that stuff are just means of sanctification, in Protestant terminology.
    In Catholic terminology, however, we also refer to these things as “means of salvation”. This is understandably confusing to the Protestant who has a certain way of using the word “salvation”. However, the Catholic is using the word “salvation” in another way. Let me explain. The Protestant tends to limit the word “salvation” to that moment when the person is first justified, when the person goes from being a child of Adam to being a child of God (which, as noted before, the Catholic believes happens in baptism). The Catholic, however, uses the term to refer to the whole process, including our sanctification. And indeed, if you look at the New Testament, you see the word “salvation” used in such a variety of ways. For instance, Ephesians 2:8 states that we were saved by faith apart from works. Philipians 2:12 says that we are now working out our salvation. And Romans 13:11 indicates that our salvation can also be considered a future event. So it seems that the New Testament (especially Paul) is fluid in its use of the word salvation. As is the Catholic Church. But I think that as long as we are clear about what we mean, Catholics and Protestants, though clearly differing in some important respects, can also come to a better understanding of some vast similarities. And as long as we are willing to not quibble over the words we use to represent the reality we believe.
    This is much longer than I thought it would be. Sorry. And God bless you!

  • http://themandalapage.blogspot.com LaMamaLoca

    This is what the Baltimore Catechism, the catechism that American Catholic children memorized up until the 1960s, says about salvation.
    9. Q. What must we do to save our souls?
    A. To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity; that is, we must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.
    Is this not what Protestants mean by Faith, when they speak about salvation by Faith alone??

  • http://www.travisboudreaux.com Travis

    An excellent post. As a Catholic, it warms my heart to see someone from outside the church realize the beauty of her teachings.

  • Elwood

    Tom,
    John Henry has spoken well. Our discussion above covers salvation issue for the majority of people who come to faith, but then remain alive for years after. To build upon what he said, let me add a couple of terms:
    Initial Salvation, Final Salvation (or Final Perseverance),
    Ordinary and extraordinary means of grace.
    Another key difference between most Evangelicals and Catholic belief is the possibility that one can lose their salvation. (some Protestants would agree with Cath. on this possibility. There are many NT Bible verses which discuss this which I’m sure all Protestants are aware of, Matt. 10:22 for one.) This brings up a distinction in Catholic thought between Initial salvation and Final Salvation. I’d contend that the Protestant and Catholic are practically identical in their beliefs on initial salvation. For example, we agree that the thief on the cross expressed his faith in Jesus, and had no occasion to fall out of that state of grace before he died, and had no opportunity to perform any good works.
    Now, in ordinary circumstances, we believe the Bible instructs us to utilize the gift of baptism (as John Henry said, not considered a “work” by us, but a gift from God administered by the church, just as even hearing the Gospel proclaimed is a gift from God sent through the church). However, in the extraordinary circumstance the thief on the cross found himself, God made an exception from the requirement of physical water baptism. Hence, an example of an extraordinary means of salvation.
    All that we’ve said about purgatory, penance, temporal punishment for sins, etc., does not apply to initial salvation. Faith and baptism takes away all of that. Repentence is required before baptism, but penance is not a part of baptism.
    It may seem confusing and overly “thought out” when one is used to the simple (I mean that in a positive sense) gospel message that Protestants proclaim. I think it is helpful for both sides to understand the Catholic position, though, for 1 of 2 possibilities:
    1. If Prots are correct and Caths are wrong, you can find easier agreement with us on what we call initial salvation, and build from there to show us where we are wrong on final salvation.
    2. If Caths are correct and Prots are wrong, breaking down the issue into these 2 parts of initial and final salvation will remove some of the confusion, show points of agreement, and help convince the Protestant of the Catholic position.
    Personally, I’ve found that the Catholic teaching on salvation is more complex, certainly. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’ve also found that it is very consistent with Scripture. As a Protestant, I was aware of many verses that just didn’t quite fit with my soteriology, and left a sense of unease. For every verse that seems to clearly teach salvation by faith alone, there’s another verse that seems to teach the necessity of baptism or of perseverance or of works. Of course, I knew how to reconcile those by saying that perseverance and works was a *sign* of true faith (rather than a dead faith). But, it was like doing a 1000 piece puzzle and putting some pieces together that seemed to maybe fit, but just didn’t slip into place as snug as they should. After learning the Catholic position, it was like when you find the place in the puzzle where that piece REALLY belongs. You know the sense of satisfaction I’m talking about if you’ve done puzzles in your life. Multiply that exponentially when you find these beautiful truths and how it makes the Bible verses fit so much more perfectly with each other.

  • Tom

    Well, some interesting responses to my recollections of Catholic teaching. Let me just make a few responses to your thoughtful points:
    1. The Pelagian heresy was condemned by the church (there was only one back then) centuries ago. Would the RCC condemn Pelagius today? Maybe not. Since Catholic doctrine does change from time to time, maybe this condemnation would no longer hold. It is not Catholic policy to affirm all of the decrees of past centuries, and maybe this one would not be reaffirmed.
    2. In looking at James 2, be sure to read it in context. James 2:14-26 is a unified text, and it is introduced by James 2:14: “A man may say he has faith.” We should all be able to agree that there is a big difference between having faith and merely saying that you have faith. In short, James is talking about a fake. Our Lord said that there would be these types in the church (parable of the wheat and the tares), and James is reiterating the point. When you read James 2:14-26, you shou put quotation marks around “faith.” James is describing and exposing a fake faith that saves no one, and he doesn’t want anyone to be deceived. He is not talking here about genuine faith (Protestant or Catholic, read James 2:14-26 and see if you think James is talking about a truly saved person. I think you will not.)
    3. (I’ll write more later because you all have been so prolific and thought-provoking; but it’s been a long, long week, and I’m tired), with regard to the interpretation of “works” in Romans as perhaps referring to ceremonial works rather than moral “good works.” Again, read in context. When Paul writes (Rom. 3:20-21) that we are saved apart from the works of the law, he is referring, in context, to what he has just said in Rom. 1-3. Romans 1-3 refers in graphic detail to breaking the moral laws, not the ceremonial laws.
    Finally, some of the remarks about the Jesuits sort of make my point about the Catholic church’s teaching. I gather you don’t agree with them–but are they not an official order of the Catholic church? Doesn’t the Father General report directly to the Pope? Aren’t their schools set up with the express permission and approval of the church? If what they taught me was wrong, by what standard are they to be judged wrong? And who is the authority? My guess is that it would have to be the Pope, and no Pope in the last 200 years has condemned or suppressed the Jesuits to my knowledge. Yet I hear here that I shouldn’t claim them as educators…again the confusion of the teaching of the RCC? Well, I am tired. I will write more later. Thank you all for your responses.

  • John Henry

    To Tom (#103),
    Taking your points in order:
    1) As the Catholic Church teaches that man cannot be justified without the grace of God, the Catholic Church is still contra-Pelagian. That is, after all, what the Pelagians were teaching. The first canon from the Council of Trent is: If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema. Not Pelagian.
    2) James 2:14-26 is indeed a unified text. But even that is besides the point. The text clearly and unambiguously states that we are “justified by works” (2:24). Now…to be clear, the Catholic Church does not teach that this verse applies to how we are grafted into Christ. The Catholic Church only uses this verse to demonstrate that we are “sanctified” by grace, through our works (see chapter 10 of Trent’s decree on justification).
    3) Even if Paul isn’t here referring to works of the Mosaic Law, it doesn’t affect the Catholic case, because Catholics believe we aren’t grafted into Christ by our works. We only believe we are “sanctified” through works. Here Paul would be understood to be speaking of the moment we are grafted into Christ. However, I still think he is speaking of the works of the Mosaic Law. Look at 3:28. We are justified by faith apart from works of the law. Then look at 3:29. Or is God the God of the Jews only? This rhetorical question gives us a clue as to what “works” Paul is speaking of. Paul’s point seems to be that God is not only the God of the Jews, therefore he justifies everyone apart from the Mosaic Law, by faith in Christ. Either way though, the Catholic Church does not teach, as said in a previous post, that we are grafted into Christ by our works.
    Regarding the Jesuits, they are an official order of the Church, who have done much good over the centuries. However, they are going through a rough spot right now. As is much of the Church in general. It only makes your point insofar as it makes the point we’ve all been making. The teaching of the Church over the past few decades has been spotty, to put it mildly. But there are signs that we have weathered the storm, and things seem to be turning around. This also underscores the fact, contrary to popular Protestant opinion, that the Catholic Church is decidedly not monolithic. The set-up is not one of a King merely enforcing his will through a bunch of middle men. The Catholic Church is a communion of local Churches, all in communion with the See of Rome. A bishop is the head of the local church, not the Pope. Thus, sometimes communion between certain bishops (and sometimes some of Jesuits in their diocese) and the Pope is sometimes somewhat strained. In any case, the likelihood is that the Pope has precisely no idea what goes on at ground level.
    Anyway, God bless.

  • Elwood

    Tom,
    Ironically, I just read an article a couple of days ago about Pope Benedict cautioning against 2 books written by a prominent Jesuit priest.
    There are also some very good Jesuit authors/priests that I know of, so I don’t disparage the entire order.
    http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2007/03/15/vatican_condemns_writings_of_jesuit_priest_in_el_salvador/

  • http://themandalapage.blogspot.com LaMamaLoca

    “Since Catholic doctrine does change from time to time, maybe this condemnation would no longer hold. It is not Catholic policy to affirm all of the decrees of past centuries, and maybe this one would not be reaffirmed.”
    While Catholics do believe in the development of doctrine, we do NOT believe that a doctrine can reverse itself. That is, if a doctrine has been declared in an ecumenical council (the usual form of infalliblity), then no later pope, bishop, etc. can change that.
    Also, with regards to Romans, please note that Paul is contrasting the “works of the law,” and specifically circumcision, to “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). He is pointing out that both Jews and Gentiles have sinned, even if the Jews have been circumcised and followed the ceremonial law, they are still sinners along with the Gentiles. Romans 2:7 even states: “7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” The issue in Romans is NOT “Faith vs Works” but “Jew vs Gentile.”

  • Elwood

    I have never heard or read any official Catholic teaching on this idea of re-examining the context of Romans and Galatians. I actually first heard the idea from a Protestant teacher. So, I’m not sure at all what the true Catholic position would be on Romans and Galatians is.
    However, the previous poster is correct that the Jew vs. Greek controversy was the key context of those books. If you read Galatians chap. 2, 5, 6 it’s very clear. Except for that one teacher, I have never heard a Protestant preacher expound on the context of Galatians and Romans, yet those are the 2 most quoted books to support salvation by faith alone.
    I don’t say that the Jew vs. Greek & circumcision context totally takes good works off the table in the determination of what “works” Romans & Galatians speaks against. I think it may very well come into play when considering initial salvation vs. final salvation, but I just don’t know. And I think this is a key missing piece in the disagreement between Catholics and Protestants. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard much about context on Romans & Galatians from either Protestant or Catholic sources.
    I concede that Galatians 3:17 makes it clear that it’s not ONLY circumcision that is being dealt with, it also deals with at the very least the Jewish dietary laws. But it’s also easy to make the case that Paul is not always talking all-inclusively of circumcision, OT Law, and good deeds.

  • Elwood

    Tom,
    RE: whom can one trust as a Catholic authority.
    Not me!
    Just kidding, sort of. It is sometimes tough to know who you should listen to as an authority. Just because someone is a priest doesn’t mean they are more reliable than me or the other Catholic posters here.
    Personally, I find it easiest to check the recently published Catechism of the Catholic Church. This online version has the index so you can easily find topics.
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc.htm
    It’s a pretty encompassing summary of Catholic doctrine and is designed to answer these questions.
    Other sources available at http://www.vatican.va would be Vatican II and Council of Trent documents and papal documents.

  • Beth

    I am a cradle Catholic who learned to truly love and obey the Lord in a protestant church. I am back home now but I will forever be grateful to my brother and sister’s in christ who lead me back to a full relationship with Jesus. My heart aches when I hear fellow christians cutting each other down. Our division is loved by our true enemy, Satan and is not from God. Bless you, and my daily prayer for christian unity will continue until the day that I am with my LORD!!!!!

  • http://www.crossed-the-tiber.blogspot.com tiber jumper

    Thanks for the kind comments Joe.
    It is refreshing to find that evangelicals can look beyond the stereotypical misrepresentations of Catholicism.
    I too always wondered, if it was truly Satan’s invention as JTC always proposed, why were the Catholics so unabashedly pro life from conception to natural death, from the very start?

  • giggling

    SDG:
    For example, Marie brought up baptismal regeneration. The Reformed author of the section on baptism in the Heidelberg Catechism believed in baptismal regeneration. The Heidelberg Catechism’s teaching on baptism was not meant to exclude or condemn baptismal regeneration.
    No, it seems to me that the Reformed author of the section on baptism in the Heidelberg Catechism did not believe in baptismal regeneration. We can tell from reading the sections on baptism in the Heidelberg Catechism:
    71. Q. Where has Christ promised that He will wash us with His blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
    A. In the institution of baptism, where He says: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). This promise is repeated where Scripture calls baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16).
    72. Q. Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
    A. No, only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.[1]
    [1] Matt. 3:11; I Pet. 3:21; I John 1:7.

    73. Q. Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?
    A. God speaks in this way for a good reason. He wants to teach us that the blood and Spirit of Christ remove our sins just as water takes away dirt from the body.[1] But, even more important, He wants to assure us by this divine pledge and sign that we are as truly cleansed from our sins spiritually as we are bodily washed with water.[2]
    [1] I Cor. 6:11; Rev. 1:5; 7:14. [2] Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:27.

    So, baptism does NOT wash away sins NOR does it regenerate (regeneration = God taking out of a heart of stone, putting in a heart of flesh which is PURELY God’s act that may OR may not accompany external signs like baptism) but it is a sign of internal regeneration and consequent faith; baptism strengthens faith because it reminds the baptized of our union with Christ through FAITH alone by the GRACE of God in the shedding of blood and imputation of perfect righteousness (not infusion).
    Even for the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism or Lutherans, baptism itself does not regenerate. God regenerates and baptism is not required for regeneration. The problem is of course that Catholics think a word that means something to Protestants means what it means for them.
    So John Henry and SDG, if someone is not water baptized, can they be a believer? It seems that Catholic teaching says no: that if you do not physically undergo baptism, you have not been regenerated and therefore are not a believer. On the other hand, if one is baptized in a church as an infant or adult, she has been regenerated by the act of baptism even if she doesn’t have faith. So a second question would be: can they lose their regeneration after baptism when they become an adult?
    In Catholic belief, it was fitting that His mother Mary was redeemed by His grace and merits from the first instant of her existence (note: Mary was redeemed; she was not exempt from the need of a Savior), but it was not necessary.
    So… Catholics believe it was fitting but not necessary that Mary was sinless. To me, this seems kind of silly to believe if you don’t have to, since Scripture doesn’t say Mary was sinless and it pisses Protestants off. It’d be like saying it was fitting that Mary said “I believe in God the Father” three times each morning, and we’re going to have a whole doctrine over it even though it’s not necessary and not in Scripture (and even denied in Scripture since all have fallen short). Sure you can believe it, but what does it say about how Catholics view Scripture?
    John Henry
    To keep this as brief as possible, the Catholic Church teaches that we are justified in baptism. Now, obviously, that is one of those clear differences I was talking about (unless you are a certain type of Anglican). However, note that, however different this might be to your beliefs, the Catholic Church does not teach salvation by works. Again, unless you are of the stripe that considers baptism a “work” (but in that context, note that faith is also a “work” then). It is certainly not a work by which we hope to gain enough merit to please God. It is simply the submission of ourselves to what he has told us to do.
    The key is justification and sanctification. One question to flush this out with respect to baptism is: can you be justified apart from baptism by faith in the person and work of Christ or not? I think Catholics say not, because baptism is necessary for justification, and Protestants say yes, justification is by faith and baptism should be done in obedience to Christ out of love (1 John 5:3). Of course, baptism is a major commandment and so of course should be done as a sign of the inclusion in the Church, but it does NOT justify you (or regenerate you) though it does sanctify you IF faith is present.
    The Protestant tends to limit the word “salvation” to that moment when the person is first justified, when the person goes from being a child of Adam to being a child of God (which, as noted before, the Catholic believes happens in baptism).
    No, for Protestants, salvation in the fullest sense is not just justification, but justification, sanctification and glorification. But what would happen if a believer trusted in Christ by faith and then immediately was run over by a truck and died? He would not be sanctified because sanctification is working out one’s salvation by grace and there was no time for that to happen. But he would nonetheless be saved by his faith in Christ, even though he was not very sanctified, because justification means that Christ’s righteousness has been legally credited to a person by God so that the inheritance of life (full salvation) is guaranteed to him apart from anything he does (like baptism) on the basis of Christ alone.
    This is the problem with Catholic theology. Both Catholics and Protestants will say that a person’s obedience is by God’s free grace. BUT Catholics also say that a person’s obedience (e.g. by obeying the command to be baptized) is MERITORIOUS in that it is NECESSARY for his justification, while Reformed types say a person’s obedience is NOT meritorious in being necessary for justification, but necessary in sanctification only as a product of the FAITH through which God justifies and sanctifies.
    To make this clearer, let’s discuss the two senses in which salvation is used. In one sense, salvation means the full completion of ultimate recreation through justification, sanctification and glorification. No one on earth right now is saved in this sense. In the other sense, salvation means the guarantee in time of that full future salvation.
    Justification by faith alone is salvation in this second sense, but not in the first.
    In sum, God does not save in either sense of the word apart from faith even by grace. God does save in the second sense of the word through faith alone in Christ apart from sanctified obedience. Baptism does not contribute to the legal standing of Christians before God on the basis of which the inheritance of life in Christ is given. Sanctification is a post-requisite of justification rather than a pre-requisite OR synonymous with justification like Catholics believe. Moreover, post-requisite means that it will happen in this life if the believer lives or when he dies as our flesh will be released from the law of sin.
    Similar to salvation, there are two senses of being “justified.” One sense is used by Paul when he says that “God justifies the ungodly.” In biblical Hebrew legal culture, justification is a legal term that means the “counting as righteous.” God therefore justifies the ungodly by counting them as righteous because they have faith in Christ. Faith does not earn justification (legal accreditation of righteousness), but God mercifully regards those with faith as righteous for Christ’s sake. It’s like if I were to give 100 friends raffle tickets, and pick 10 numbers and award them candy because they had the number. In no sense did they earn the candy by having the ticket; they were simply given candy because they had tickets. Obviously, God doesn’t do it this way, but it was simply to illustrate that something could be the basis of an award without the award being earned.
    The second sense is used by James in the oft-cited passage by Catholics who believe in justification by faith plus works. We can distinguish it because instead of “God justifies,” the word is usually used as a passive verb “is justified.” In this sense, it means “vindicated” or “shown to be true.” For example, “The suspect is justified by eyewitnesses corroborating his account.” Here, justification is not a legal term, but means “vindicated or corroborated.” Jesus himself uses this sense when he says “Wisdom is justified by her children.” He means that wisdom is shown to be true wisdom by the consequences or the fruits. James uses it to say that a person’s faith is shown to be true by the works, not that a person is legally justified in the eyes of God because of his works.
    Okay, that’s enough for now. I’m not going to apologize for the length; those who love God and are intelligent enough to raise these issues should read it.

  • http://www.adorotedevote.blogspot.com Julie

    Thank you. I am Catholic, and part of the reason I’m Catholic is through anti-Catholic attacks on my childhood faith while I was in my rebellion against God. It was actually an Evangelical Christian who came to my defense and who helped bring me back home while I was being attacked by a very mislead Southern Baptist…and the funny thing was that I wasn’t really a “Catholic” at the time! LOL!
    I followed you over from “Crossing the Tiber”.
    I did not read through all the comments, but I can say this; Lorraine Boettner knew nothing of Catholicism. What he wrote is nothing but a lack of intellectual integrity. We do not “re-sacrifice Christ” at every Mass. What complete foolishness. He was Jack Chick’s inspiration and I pray that God has mercy on both of their souls for the lies perpetuated against Jesus Christ and his followers.
    So for those who really want to know the truth about the Catholic Church, please shun the lies you were told about us and do some real seeking with true spiritual and intellectual integrity. I recommend the following websites and books:
    http://www.catholic.com
    http://www.catholicculture.org
    http://www.scripturecatholic.com/
    http://www.salvationhistory.com/
    Books:
    Anything by Patrick Madrid – he has a great series of books called, “Surprised by Truth”
    * Where we got the Bible – Henry G. Graham
    *Four Witnesses – the Early Church in her own words, Rod Bennett
    * The Catechism of the Catholic Church, also be sure to reference the Didache, which is the early teachings of the Apostles. Everything in that document is in the Catechism.
    I would encourage people that, before saying ignorant things about the Catholic Church, please come to understand what we REALLY teach because you’ll be a lot less embarassed when you are proven wrong. The re-sacrifice of Christ? Please. Jesus died once upon the cross, and yes, we do take Jesus to be our personal Lord and Savior. Extremely personal Lord and Savior.
    It was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said it best:
    “There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics “adore statues;” because they “put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God;” because they “say indulgence is a permission to commit sin;” because the Pope “is a Fascist;” because the Church “is the defender of Capitalism.” If the Church taught or believed any one of these things, it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.”
    I would also like to take some time to thank all the Evangelicals I know who provided a witness of Christ to me in my rebellious years. I would not have found my way back to Jesus without any of them, and now I enjoy a full life within the Mystical Body of Christ.
    I have nothing but respect for my Evangelical brothers and sisters, and I pray that those of you who really want to know what the Catholich Church teaches, please ask your questions of people who really know their faith or find the good sources that explain what we really believe…not the sources that propagate lies. On my part, I’ll do my best to do the same.
    God bless you.

  • http://http:www.the-porters-lodge.blogspot.com Pilgrimsarbour

    Joe, I read your article which was reproduced on my friend Tiber Jumper’s blogsite. I think you speak for me to a high degree, and I hope there are many other evangelicals who feel the same. I was raised Catholic but abandoned Rome as a teenager for evangelical fundamentalism. It wasn’t until many years later, after embracing the Reformed Faith (Presbyterian) that I began reassessing Catholicism. Although I have many doctrinal disagreements still, I think being Reformed has actually freed me to be more open and less knee-jerk in my reactions to other Christians, especially my Catholic brethren. To abandon Catholicism entirely is to miss out on the essential continuity with our own past and with the brethren of old, who we will see on the great day. In addition, we have a lot to be humble about when we see how Rome has carried the ball for us on the social front all these years. Thanks for your article.

  • tatterdemalion

    There’s Catholic doctrine and Catholic action. I would hazard a guess that evangelicals are much more reliable conservatives on social issues than Catholics in numbers, principle and fervor. The Church doctrines are admirable in many respects, but the doctrines never quite make it to the voting booths.

  • http://themandalapage.blogspot.com LaMamaLoca

    giggling, I found your long response very interesting to read.
    You wrote:
    “Even for the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism or Lutherans, baptism itself does not regenerate. God regenerates and baptism is not required for regeneration.”
    “Baptism itself” only regenerates, in the Catholic view, because God is working through this action that He has instituted. Your statement above makes it seem like there is a choice: baptism regenerates OR God regenerates. In the Catholic view, God, working through baptism, regenerates us, adopts us into His family, and dwells within our souls. “Baptism now saves us.”
    Your post seems to show some other misconceptions about the Catholic doctrine on baptism.
    “So John Henry and SDG, if someone is not water baptized, can they be a believer? It seems that Catholic teaching says no: that if you do not physically undergo baptism, you have not been regenerated and therefore are not a believer.”
    Catholicism would define “believer” in a more fluid sense than this. We believe that grace can be active and present in the life of an individual before baptism, as God draws them closer to Himself. Indeed, graces must be at work for some time in the life of an adult convert before he will even be moved to ask for baptism. In the Early Church the period of the catechmenate (preparation for baptism) could be as long as three years. I doubt that anyone would say that someone who was studying, struggling and praying during this period of time was not “a believer.” Moreover the Church has always understand that a catechumen who dies before baptism HAS been saved. Their very death while seeking baptism is a kind of regeneration: “baptism of desire” for those who die a natural death before baptism, and “baptism of blood” for those who die a martyr’s death.
    “So a second question would be: can they lose their regeneration after baptism when they become an adult?”
    Yes and no. An individual may reject God’s friendship and thus reject salvation, but baptism leaves “an indelible mark” on the person’s soul. You can’t be “unbaptized.”
    Finally, the act of baptism is never sufficient without Faith. The Catholic Catechism says: ‘
    1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith.54 But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!”‘
    We understand that Baptism itself grants Faith, which is only and always a gift from God. If that gift of faith is opposed then baptism cannot “work,” it is not a true baptism but an empty outward ceremony. So an adult who is not seeking Christ and faith in him cannot be baptized.
    I think a great deal of the misunderstanding of baptism lies in a difference in our understanding of justification and salvation. In baptism, God does not simply declare a person righteous. Rather:
    1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,”69 member of Christ and co-heir with him,70 and a temple of the Holy Spirit.71
    1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
    – enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
    – giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
    – allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
    Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.
    In our understanding, a person is made righteous because the very righteousness of God, indeed the Trinity themselves, is now indwelling within the person’s soul.
    In addition, we do NOT believe that baptism is a work of man, or even something we submit to out of obedience to Christ, but a work that God performs Himself through His Body, the Church.
    You write:
    “To make this clearer, let’s discuss the two senses in which salvation is used. In one sense, salvation means the full completion of ultimate recreation through justification, sanctification and glorification. No one on earth right now is saved in this sense. In the other sense, salvation means the guarantee in time of that full future salvation.
    Justification by faith alone is salvation in this second sense, but not in the first.”
    Catholics would agree 100% with what you write here, which is why the Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification along with some Lutherans.
    I think that you would understand the Catholic position more clearly if you read this article, from the Catechism, on justification, grace and merit. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c3a2.htm
    And this is an interesting article by Jimmy Akin on whether a Catholic can say he believes in salvation by Faith alone. Akin’s answer is yes, if you watch your definitions. http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/faith_al.htm
    Akin has many terrific articles on the Catholic understanding of salvation, justification, etc. on his website, as well as a terrific little book called The Salvation Controversy, which also looks at what Catholics may believe about predestination (there are numerous acceptable positions).

  • Tom

    Well, I’m back, refreshed by a good night’s sleep and a good morning of Sunday school and church.
    I appreciate the citations from Trent and other places, but I repeat: How many Catholics think that they are saved by works? I have known the Lord for over 30 years now and have made a point of presenting the gospel to people that I meet. I usually begin with 2 questions: (1) If you died tonight, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven? and (2) If you died and God asked,”Why should I let you into my heaven,” what would you say? I have NEVER had a Catholic give me the ansers (1) yes, and (2) because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. With one exception, the answers have always been some variation of what good persons they were. Now I realize that perhaps I should retract my remarks about the Catholic church not teaching well; it seems that it does teach one thing that every Catholic in my acquaintance in several cities across the US has picked up: salvation by works. (The one who did not give a works-based answer was a universalist!! And she taught the catechism class for new mebmers in the local parish in Chicago. Universalism!! Even I was surprised at that one). So I would submit that the Catholic church effectively does teach salvation by works. And let me encourage you to do a couple of things: (1) take your own survey at your parish, and (2) wonder how it could be that if the Catholic church teaches salvation by grace, and if there are these formal documents from Trent etc., how the completely, exactly opposite message gets communicated with such regularity?
    John Henry: How can you reconcile the schema from Trent denying Pelagianism with the interpretation of “justified by works” that you gave? James’ wording calls for some care in interpretation; but if you want to mention that one verse in isolation, it’s hard to square with the Trent citiation. Of course, James helps us to understand what he means by “works” when he mentions Abraham and Rahab. REad the accounts of their lives in Genesis and in Judges and decide whether you think it is the conventional “works” that people talk about. Rahab’s works, in particular, involving deceit and treason, are sort of hard to square with our usual understanding of what “works” are. So some careful thought is called for.
    LaMamaLoca:
    You said that Catholic doctrine cannot reverse itself! Well said! But there have been several U-turns just in my lifetime. For example: How do we worship God? What is the proper way, and what is forbidden, in our worship of God? Can we use the Mass that was prescribed at the Council of Trent, or not? Just in my lifetime, it has been (a) required, then (b) forbidden under pain of excommunication…as it was one of the articles mentioned in the excommunication of Bishop Lefevre (1982 or thereabouts if I remember correctly), then (c) optional. Now the question of how to worhip God is not a trivial one. But there are (I suppose) people burning in hell for using a rite that is now OK to use…and also people burning in hell for not using the same rite…but in the future, no one will burn in hell for using it or not using it…I think.
    By the way, my sources for all the things I know about the Catholic church are the nuns who taught me for 8 years in grade school and the priests who taught me for 4 years in high school…after that, Catholic relatives and friends. I rely on the correctness of their views.
    Interesting comments. Since my job requires travel, I won’t be able to comment again until 2 weeks from now, by which time all this will probably be forgotten. But feel free to respond, and I’ll catch you in 2 weeks.
    Sola Gratia! Sola Scriptura! Sola Fide!
    Tom

  • http://themandalapage.blogspot.com LaMamaLoca

    Tom wrote:
    “I usually begin with 2 questions: (1) If you died tonight, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven? and (2) If you died and God asked,”Why should I let you into my heaven,” what would you say? I have NEVER had a Catholic give me the ansers (1) yes, and (2) because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. With one exception, the answers have always been some variation of what good persons they were.”
    Tom, the reason you get these answers is because Catholics speak a different language. I believe that if I asked these questions of nearly any Catholic, except one especially knowledgable of Protestantism (and thus of what you are asking), then I would get the same answers. The answer would be “no” to the first question, because the Catholic would realize that he could choose to turn against God, sin mortally, and reject salvation before the evening, even if this possibility is so unlikely as to be absurd. He would likely speak of “hoping” to get to Heaven. This does NOT(!!) mean that he is uncertain of reaching heaven. Catholics understand hope to mean: “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” So when a Catholic says that he “hopes to get to heaven” he means that he is “placing his trust in Christ’s promises and relying on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” to get to heaven. Sounds a lot like the Protestant idea of Faith, eh?
    As for answer #2, the Catholic will almost certainly assume that we are speaking about a Christian who has already been granted a free gift of justification through the sacrament of baptism. The question “Why should I let you into my heaven?” would seem to a Catholic to imply NOT that God wants us to tell him what He has given us (grace and justification), but that he is asking *what we have done with what he has given us,* ie. how have we used the gift of grace to follow him? How have we responded to his gift of grace?
    The next time you ask a Catholic this question, please ask him one more: “Would you be able to enter heaven without the free gift of grace, won for us by Christ Jesus?” Then he’ll actually understand what you want to know, and you’ll get a response much more to your liking.

  • http://themandalapage.blogspot.com LaMamaLoca

    Tom, as to your other question.
    The things which have changed in the Church are disciplines, not doctrine. We don’t believe the Church is infallible on matters of discipline, nor that they are unchangeable.
    Ie, the mass. We are required under pain of sin to attend mass (or the divine liturgy) on every Sunday. In the roman church, priests are required to say a currently approved rite of the mass. Lefevre was excommunicated for ordaining bishops without papal approval (as is currently required under canon law) not for using the Traditional mass. Excommunication means that an individual or group is not in communion with the Church Universal, not that they are going to hell.
    Also, unfortunately just because you have attended Catholic schools does not mean that you have learnt the faith correctly. Besides misunderstandings, I would assume that you were educated since the mid-60s. Basically from that time until just recently, Catholic catechesis in the US was in a horrid state in many places (another ball dropped by the bishops). Here’s an article on a bishops’ report from 1997 that discovered (as concerned parents had been saying for decades!) that the religion books were woefully deficient in teaching even the basics of the Catholic faith.
    http://www.wf-f.org/NCCBSpring97.html

  • Elwood

    tatterdemalion,
    I hate to bring politics into it, but I’ll respond because it brings up a broader point. I’d agree with you that most Evangelicals tend to vote more conservatively on issues like abortion.
    1. The political winds are changing. It can be seen in the fact that Catholics like me identify and root for a new brand of Catholic politicians like Senators Sam Brownback, fmr Sen. Santorum, and are embarrassed by Cath. politicians like Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi. We are also rather proud of justices like Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas all Catholic. You like them too, right?
    2. It’s not quite accurate to compare the votes of Catholics and Evangelicals since dissident Catholics don’t tend to leave their church, they just stay and fight :-).
    Also, Evangelical is not a denomination. Evangelicals tend to be made up of the most conservative Baptists, the most conservative Presbyterians, the most conservative non-denominationals, etc. If you compared the voting records of all Catholics to say, all Episcopalians, you might prefer the Catholic vote. Likewise, if you took the subset of Catholics that are most enthusiastic about being Catholic and not hiding it, they will tend to vote more conservatively.
    Neither is all of Protestantism one denomination, but it might be a more relevant comparison. Then, if you look at all Catholics and all Protestants, the voting patterns are not that different.
    I think it was Chuck Colson who said that an evangelical is likely to have more in common with a conservative Catholic than he will with a liberal member of his own denomination.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith Francis Beckwith

    Kyl:
    You are so kind in mentioning my work. I am honored to know that my writings have had an influence on you.
    You may soon hear of my journey home.
    Sincerely,
    F. Beckwith

  • Elwood

    Tom,
    I’d like to address the 2nd question, God asking why should I let you into heaven. Let’s look at the times that such a scenario is talked about in the Bible, you’ll see that we are judged according to our deeds. I’m not aware of any description of God looking strictly at one’s faith. The arguement that many Protestants make about James is that of course other humans cannot *see* if another has true faith because you can’t see faith, you can only see deeds or good works. So Protestants contend that James is only talking about good works insofar as they demonstrate true saving faith. But, God knows the heart and judges the heart, so He would have no need to look at our deeds, only our faith when we stand before Him at the end of our life. That is the idea that the 2 questions you present is based on.
    However, we see in Scripture that God judges us according to our deeds. There are verses that talk about judging our hearts, our inner thoughts, or motivations, but those don’t exclude our deeds. We don’t see God saying we’ll be judged at the end of time by our faith.
    Matthew 25 Sheep & Goats, you know the story well. Divided into sheep and goats according to what you did and didn’t do.
    All of Matthew 7, but especially vs. 21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
    Rev. 20:12,13 “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.”
    I’ve heard a Protestant interpretation that there are two different judgements at the end of time. One for believers (the saved or elect) and one for the damned, and that the description in Rev. 20 is only for the damned and they will indeed be judged by their sins. The idea was put forth that believers won’t be judged for their bad deeds, only their good deeds that would lead to the crowns in heaven that Paul speaks of. Our bad deeds or sins would be covered by the blood of Jesus, and God will not take them into account. Part of that reasoning is based on Psalm 103:12. That interpretation does not square at all with 2 Corinthians 5:9,10
    “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
    Paul is speaking of himself and says that he will have to give an account of good AND bad things he has done. So, we as Christians will not escape judgement. God won’t ask us only 1 question, “what did you do with my Son?” as some have suggested.
    But again, the Catholic position does not mean that we are works based. For the sins that we have to answer to, we will have only God’s grace and mercy, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as our hope. Our good works won’t tip the scales on the balance in our favor. That I will admit to you, there is a bad understanding by many Catholics. They may say, “well, I hope my good will outweigh the bad that I’ve done. I’m not as bad as THAT guy over there.” Such a person needs to be evangelized, and we Catholics better get on the ball and evangelize our own. It’s one part of the reason that John Paul II called over and over for the New Evangelization. Sometimes referred to as Re-evangelization. This is a reminder that all babies that are baptized still have a need to be fully evangelized later in life and that for many Catholics, that full evangelization never occurred.

  • Elwood

    Tom,
    To follow up on my last point, here’s a link and a quote from JPII’s 1990 encyclical “Redemptoris Missio – The Mission of the Redeemer”.
    http://www.christlife.org/evangelization/articles/C_newevan.html
    “… it is painfully clear that many Catholics (and other Christians)
    have not been effectively incorporated into life in Christ.
    Baptized as infants many have never made a personal commitment
    to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
    As adolescents and adults many drift away from the Church.
    Evangelization must be directed to the Church itself.”

  • http://causa-nostrae-laetitiae.blogspot.com Leticia

    I can tell that your post is an outgrowth of years spent in the trenches of the pro-life movement, Joe! We have to give a left-handed compliment of the purveyors of the Culture of Death; they make us appreciate one another.
    Here’s my tribute to your wonderful post on my blog: http://causa-nostrae-laetitiae.blogspot.com/2007/03/ecumenism-in-trenches.html
    I was at the “Blogs for Life” Conference at FRC, and not only did I ‘feel the love’ from my Evangelical brothers there, but I ‘felt the heat’ from the abundance of news media, who, apparently are listening to us. Look out Culture of Death, the Christian soldiers are uniting to march against you!

  • Kyl

    Dr. Beckwith,
    Thanks for the great post.
    Kyl

  • John Henry

    I’m sorry. I wrote a response to the various questions that were raised, but I see that the website ate my response. So be it. Anyway, I see that others have addressed the questions in my stead, and so I think I’ll leave it at that.
    God bless.

  • John Henry

    James uses it to say that a person’s faith is shown to be true by the works, not that a person is legally justified in the eyes of God because of his works.
    Except that the subject of the sentence, in James 2:24, is *not* the person’s faith. The subject is the person. The person is justified by their works, not their faith. Or else the sentence makes no sense: you see that a man’s faith is justified by works and not by faith alone.
    I ask honestly: is this really the Reformed or Protestant or whatever exegesis of this verse? If so, I must say that I am stunned. To quote you, giggling, what does *this* say about how Protestants view Scripture?

  • PHC

    So many comments! I’ve gotten only through the first 1/3, lol! I will be returning to read the remainder.
    However before resigning for the evening I wanted to add my brief comment that I happened upon your blog entry (love that Google blog search feature!) and the timing is perfect for I just recently had been hit head to head by a “The Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon” person. I was open to dialogue and discussion, but it wasn’t very long before it was made clear that facts and scriptures was not going to sway this individual from their belief. After showing proof from the Catholic Church’s catechism, and supporting it with Scripture, I was repeatedly told that I worship Mary and that (insert your usual anti-catholic rhetoric here). I quickly shut down the interaction after doing my best to encourage the individual to look at the Early Church Fathers at some point in his life.
    So therefore, I appreciate your post Joe, and all of the comments I have been reading here. There has been some disagreement, but it has not been hard-headed as far as I can see.
    What do I appreciate from the Protestants? The fact that they have given many people direction to Scripture. My Catholic mother did what she was supposed to do, read from the bible to my brother and I every night, a practice I do with my own children now. Unfortunately many Catholics have become apathetic in their faith (something I have witnessed to be not necessarily limited to Catholics, I know many Protestants who are apathetic also)and parents are not keeping with reading Scripture to their children as they should be doing, a practice that the Catholic Church does encourage and support.
    Also in our parochial schools, Scripture is read daily to the young. We just don’t have memorization. Through my youth I would say “somewhere in the bible it says something along the lines of such and such” but because I didn’t have anything memorized, my Protestant peers assumed I didn’t know the bible.
    Despite the regular reading in elementary schools, I was surprised in High School that my Catholic peers did not know their bible. This is where the parents were to come in, but did not.
    I know of many parents though, that read through the mass readings with their children before or after mass and have discussions about them.
    Much higher on the comment section a person mentioned about Catholics not being able to be fluent in the speech about Christianity, that Protestants are more fluent. I would like to shed a different light on this. I think we speak a different language. Many Protestants have been brought up to know that they are “saved”, we have been brought up knowing that we are “baptized”. It is the same. For in baptism we are saved. So for the longest time when I was asked “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal saviour?” I gave, like most Catholics, only a confused look. The person asking assumed this confused look meant that I had not, when actually, I did not understand their language. I later was able to translate and formulate an answer which was “Asking me if I have accepted Jesus as my personal savior is like asking me if I have accepted my mother as my personal mother. I was brought up knowing He was through my baptism!”
    oops, I said this was going to be brief.
    Sorry.
    Well, anyway, thanks for the posting Joe, although I have experienced a lot of anti-catholic abuse from people, I know that most Christians recognize we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
    God bless you in your walk with Him.

  • J.P.

    Thank you for the kind words about us Catholics!
    Peace,
    J.P

  • http://www.buybackwarehouse.com BJ

    Hi! I thought you and your readers might be interested in some post-Easter news about Pope Benedict XVI…
    The Pope’s car is being auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity:
    http://www.buyacarvideos.com/popecar.htm
    The bidding is already more than $200,000! Personally, I think this is a really fun and creative way to raise
    money. The auction goes until April 14th if you and your readers want to check it out.

  • http://www.buybackwarehouse.com BJ

    Hi! I thought you and your readers might be interested in some post-Easter news about Pope Benedict XVI…
    The Pope’s car is being auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity:
    http://www.buyacarvideos.com/popecar.htm
    The bidding is already more than $200,000! Personally, I think this is a really fun and creative way to raise
    money. The auction goes until April 14th if you and your readers want to check it out.

  • Pastor Billy

    Just came across this page after using google.
    Very simply, Christendom has been divided by misinformation and propanganda for too long. Come join me at spero forum for more discussion.
    addendum: pastorbilly monker is a parody of poor Protestant prpreaching.

  • Pastor Billy

    Just came across this page after using google.
    Very simply, Christendom has been divided by misinformation and propanganda for too long. Come join me at spero forum for more discussion.
    addendum: pastorbilly monker is a parody of poor Protestant preaching.