Why Evangelicals Convert to be Catholic, and Why Evangelicals should Care

Many of my friends are drawn to the Catholic Church.  This may seem strange to many as the Catholic church presently seems to be perpetually rocked and beaten by church scandal worldwide.  Many of my friends and former students converting were raised evangelical low-church protestant, some converted to become evangelical at some point.    This phenomenon of evangelicals converting to Catholicism is not unusual, and has been written about.  One good thinker who has written on it is Scot McKnight, who in 2002 published an article in the Evangelical Theological Journal about it entitled “From Wheaton to Rome”.  (Wheaton College is a prominent evangelical college in the chicago suburbs, and this is a reference to the many Wheaton students who convert from evangelical low-church to anglican, and then in many cases on to Catholic)

Michael Vlach, in a nice summary article on why evangelicals become Catholic summarizes McNight well. (see the link to his and mcknights articles at the end)  McKnight says there is one of four reasons which are usually behind an evangelical’s conversion to Catholicism.  Here I simply am quoting in its entireity about 9 paragraphs of Vlach summarizing McKnight:

(1) Certainty
First, the desire for certainty and a full knowledge of truth spurs many ERC’s (Evangelicals who convert to Roman Catholic) to reject what they consider to be the “doctrinal mayhem” and “choose-your-own-church syndrome” of Protestantism. ERC’s often have a desire for certain knowledge, something they believe is possible within Catholicism but not within Protestantism.

For example, on The Journey Home program, former Episcopalian, David Mills, told of an encounter he had with eleven evangelical scholars concerning the issue of marriage and divorce. According to Mills, these eleven evangelical scholars came up with nine different views on this important topic. Mills contrasted this uncertainty of the evangelical scholars with the alleged certainty that can be found within Roman Catholicism. For Mills and ERC’s, when Rome speaks on an issue, that’s it. There is absolute certainty.

(2) History
Second, McKnight observes that ERC’s often feel a “historical disenfranchisement” with Protestantism. They have a desire to be connected to the entire history of the Christian church and not just the period since the Reformation. In addition, ERC’s often see the early church Fathers as “the aristocrats of the Church, the elite thinkers, and the inner circle who knew best.” This desire to be connected with church history leads many ERC’s to Rome.

(3) Unity
Third, ERC’s emphasize unity and are disturbed by the divisions and countless denominations within Protestantism. McKnight quotes Peter Cram who describes Protestantism as “one long, continuous line of protesters protesting against their fellow protesters, generating thousands of denominations, para-churches, and ‘free churches,’ which are simply one-church denominations.” ERC’s try to transcend this disunity by seeking refuge in the perceived unity of the Roman Catholic Church.

(4) Authority
Fourth, McKnight points out that many ERC’s reject the “interpretive diversity” found within Protestantism, opting for the authority of the Catholic Church. Instead of trying to sort through the numerous interpretations of Protestant pastors and theologians, ERC’s believe they have found their authority in the Catholic Church’s Magisterium. For them, as McKnight puts it, “The [doctrinal] issues are now settled: the Church can tell us what to believe. And it does so infallibly.”

Becoming Catholic
According to McKnight, the road from ‘Wheaton to Rome’ is usually “long” and “tortuous.” It often involves painful separations in relationships and “massive shifts in theology.” He also notes that most ERC’s end up in Catholicism as a result of “massive amounts of reading and research.” Reading pro-Catholic books and coming under the guidance of influential Catholic leaders or mentors are also important factors in the conversion of many ERC’s.

Upon conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, ERC’s often assume the rhetoric of the Church. This takes two directions: (1) they positively argue for Catholic doctrines such as papal infallibility, the Eucharist, and Marian dogmas; and (2) they negatively denounce evangelical Protestantism.

In conclusion, this article has been mostly observational, thus a full discussion and evaluation of the issues raised here are topics for another article. Yet, those who are Evangelicals must take the issues raised by ERC conversions seriously. The topics of certainty, history, unity, and authority are causing some from the evangelical camp to convert to Roman Catholicism. As such, these are issues that Evangelicals must address.”  

(all the italicized was quoted directly from Vlach)

An interesting evangelical-turned-Catholic example is that of Tom Howard, whose book “Evangelical is Not Enough” explains why he went from evangelical to Catholic: http://books.google.com/books?id=ELECURWBxRMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=tom+howard+wheaton&source=bl&ots=1CMKY12UTf&sig=lSL2CQVGB0Ce6RUOaJSzPX51kPs&hl=en&ei=vGxrTK3eAoH58Aati5XAAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

Howard explains that when he went into a Catholic church as a child, he could see the meaning of all the symbols of the Catholic church.  In other words, he had been given the Christian background to rightly understand and see the material expression of spiritual truths and his own Christian spirituality in and through the Catholic church and its practices.  Howard came to find the lack of meaningful symbolism in his own evangelical church to be a result of an unnecessary reaction against all things spiritually symbolic– a result of the protestant reformation against what was then seen to be the excesses of the high-church (Catholic) establishment.  In speaking of his own evangelical church upbringing, he says, “My own church encouraged a nonsymbolistic line of thought.  We distrusted the symbolism of colors and shapes and gestures, at least when they were applied to worship, since this seemed to bring things very near to idolatry.  We invoked the commandment forbidding graven images.” (p23 of “Evangelical is not Enough”)  Ultimately, Howard sees the evangelical pietism he grew up with to be obsessed with an anti-physicalism which denies the bodily, and focuses only on the spritual.  The problem with this, as I understand Howard, is that it tends to lead us to live lives which do not unite our physicalness in the world with our spirituality.  In some sense, our physical activities and doings in the world are seen by definition to be non-spiritual, and that keeps us from living a fully integrated spiritual life, or, to put it another way, this leads us to not allow full sanctification of our lives in all aspects of our living in the world as physical beings. 

Howard knows Christians can worship in storefront churches with no symbols and still encounter Christ– he has no issue with that.  His point though is that a Christianity like what he grew up with in his evangelical church as a child left him devoid of a real healthy way to integrate his life with his spirituality, and he sees the Christianity of his adopted Catholic faith to be able to help him connect his life as a physical being with his Christian spirituality. 

I think this is a point evangelicals must deal with.   As evangelicals we often see the symbolism and ritual of Catholicism or Anglicanism or any high church as devoid of meaning, empty, rote, and mindless.  Of course there have been cases or even tendencies at times for people to lose track of the meanings of their religious practices, and to do them without thinking about why they do them– but protestants do this too– sometimes even with their prayers, devotions, church-going, etc.  To say that all symbolic ritual in the Catholic church is rote and thoughtless ritualism is as uncharitable as someone saying that evangelicalism is legalistic unthoughtful literalism which practices bibliolatry with no concern for making a concrete difference in this world.

Evangelical churches do have a tradition of engaging and changing the world.  Their work to fight slavery and fight for womens rights and civil rights are legendary.  Their work to fight for the unborn child and other justice-causes has been powerful.  Yet today evangelicals are more likely to be categorized as part of the ‘religious right’ (which is strangely lumped in with Glen Beckism) in their opposition to immigrants, their opposition to welfare, and their unwillingness to charitably listen to viewpoints other than their own.  That is not an entirely fair characterization of we evangelicals, but it has caused many young evangelicals to not be willing to speak of ‘we’ evangelicals, but to more and more think of evangelicals as ‘other’.  In other words, more and more young evangelicals feel somewhat disenfranchised and disconnected from the churches of their parents because they simultaneously are coming to feel that their church lacks a historical grounding, a mature understanding of the power and meaning of historical symbols and practices of the church, an over-focus on ‘getting all the details straight’ in ones theology without trying to understand other points of view, a tendency to use scripture in a haphazard manner without paying enough attention to context or background,  and a general lack of concern for doing things to transform culture and society for the sake of Christ.  They feel like any concerns raised about the environment or the earth for the sake of Christ are dismissed with a slash-and-burn-theology which expects that “it will all be burned up anyway, so why waste our time ‘worshipping’ the earth?” 

This is the situation of many young evangelicals who feel homeless.  And when one feels homeless, and sees a lot of satisfying answers in a longstanding tradition of the Catholic Church, it may seem easier to charitably interpret some doctrines which were at one point real sticking points– papal authority, immaculate conception  of Mary, Mary as Queen of heaven,  an apparent lack of focus on the personal work of the spirit as evangelicals are familiar with, priest scandals,or previous egregious acts of the Church in other eras, etc. 

No one can know for sure what God has in store, and to predict is presumptuous, but I do not see a road ‘home to rome’ in my own future.  I don’t see myself ever becoming Catholic.  But I do see myself adopting certain practices and lifestyles from the historical tradition of the church (many of which are misunderstood or not practiced by a lot of Catholics themselves).  I find liturgy meaningful and refreshing, I appreciate the book of hours (full of prayers and responsive readings for devotions), I appreciate the teachings of some Catholic thinkers, and I like the integration of the physical practices into spirituality (I’ve become a fan of fasting, and contemplation, and observing lent).  But all this to my mind doesn’t make me more Catholic, it just makes me more aware of the historical practices of the church.  Many Catholics learn a lot from Chuck Swindol, focus on the family, and like Billy Graham.  They often enjoy participating in Intervarsity Christian fellowship, and they like evangelical worship songs sometimes.  They are often challenged by the enthusiasm they see among evangelicals who really seem to ‘know Jesus’.  In these ways they draw on evangelicalism.  I am finding that this can go both ways, and I can draw fr0m aspects of Catholic practice or thought, as well as other high church forms, which make my walk with Christ and my life for Christ more meaningful, powerful, and rooted.  In this sense I thank God for the Catholic church. 

It is a difficult era for evangelicalism as it asks questions of itself and as young evangelicals try to figure out how to maintain a vibrant faith.  I sympathize with my former-evangelical friends who are now Catholic, although I will not follow them.  I pray that God will continue to direct them towards Himself, and continue to give us who stay low church evangelicals wisdom and insight to know how to better bring about the kingdom of God in this world– in word and deed. 

McKnight’s four ‘reasons’ why evangelicals become Catholic are very important for us to reflect on: Certainty, history, unity and authority.  They present to us a challenge to have a more thoughtful view of our own history, a tendency to take unity seriously, an explanation of where the authority of our own beliefs comes from, and a reason for our certainty.  Hiding our head in the sand is no answer, but it also doesn’t require that we leap into the open arms of Rome as a solution to these questions, although I definitely love and respect my friends who feel convicted to go in that direction.  These are difficult questions for most of us to answer, but good challenges as we go deeper into a more thoughtful and meaningful Christian commitment. 

May God have mercy on us all.   

Andy Gustafson   

PS: I don’t mention this enough in the posts, but anyone is welcome to come join us for our service on Tuesdays at 7 at our place (3126 Chicago), which is about 50 minutes of study of the Bible together, then doing liturgy together, then getting prayer requests.  The guys and women split up after just to talk, and people have accountability partners for the week.  The guys also are doing prayer breakfast on Saturday mornings, and the women are reading through a book together on discipline.  Finally, we are just about to start up a new book for the fall in our book study group, so let us know if you are interested.

Bibliography: Scot McKnight: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3817/is_200209/ai_n9129514/

Michael Vlach: http://www.theologicalstudies.org/page/page/1572353.htm

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22 responses to “Why Evangelicals Convert to be Catholic, and Why Evangelicals should Care

  1. Good post. I myself am a young evangelical who feels isolated from the movement to the point I no longer identify myself with it. I once really felt the appeal of Catholicism, but something turned me sour to it. It was how the Church handled the child abuse scandal. Any other organization would have apologized and given the offenders over to the authorities. This led me to conclude that the Church leadership sees itself to high above the rest of the world, papal infallibility ties pretty heavily into this. Probably the best thing to come out of the Reformation was the view of the priesthood of all Christians.

  2. Brandon Wall

    This was a nice piece. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on this issue. Also, thanks for summarizing McKnight’s book.

    I have noticed that many ERC tend to be overly critical of the Evangelical church, and while raising some objections is legitimate, most end up being straw-mans that apply equally, if not more so, to the Catholic church. I think it is important for any one considering becoming Catholic from an Evangelical church that they not do so on a reactionary bases–i.e., simply trying to escape the Evangelical church. I think in the end they might be a bit disappointed. The Catholic church as many problems facing it today (you named some of them), but also they have a lot of lax Christians that can discourage young ERC if they are simply trying to fine something other than their families church. In fact, i would argue that the only legitimate reason to convert is the testimony of the Holy Spirit binding your conscience. The “four reason” you gave above can be supporting reasons, but they are not conclusive in and of themselves, and without the testimony of the Holy Spirit they are but mere opinion (i.e., opinion in the Aristotelian sense of lacking philosophical certainty, not in the modern sense of subjective thoughts or feelings) that have the stability of the first little piggies house. It is a product of rationalism to think that we can prove or demonstrate the articles of the faith. Certainly, I believe the “four reason” stated above support the Catholic church, but this is not necessary or sufficient for a conversion, unless we all wish to be semi-Pelagians. While I certainly don’t want to undermine the need for apologetic or from people asking provocative questions about Catholicism and Evangelicalism, I simply want to remind us all that reason not guided by the Holy Spirit in faith and charity will perpetuate this division in Christ’s Church longer than it need be. I don’t see this as a naive piety either, for one thing I learned at Cambridge is that Thomas Aquinas agrees with what I just said (or maybe it is better to say I agree with Thomas Aquinas).

    Cheers,

    Brandon Wall

  3. Greetings,

    Thank you Andy for an article that I recommend you publish in EFCA Today. They need to see this thinking. I am very familiar with Dave Howard, whose departure from Evangelicalism took place in the 70s I believe. Just for the record, he and his sister, Elizabeth Elliot, were brought up among Plymouth Brethren. It may interest you that others brought up in the PBs went in divergent directions. For example: Bruce McLaren (of the Emergent Church movement), Sharon Gallagher (of Berkeley Christian Coalition), and Jim Wallace (of Sojourners and now advisor to Pres. Obama). I know where they come from and have my own issues with the PBs.

    However, having said that, what was really beautiful about the PBs was the REALITY of a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is undeniable. It is unfortunate that a movement of the Spirit would descend into fractional, picayune, doctrinal, extra-biblical agendas. I will never forget the strength of the worship among the Brethren who did NOT have pastors, and who expected only those led by the Holy Spirit to stand and share in the “Lord’s Supper.” I was moved by their worship then and I am today. Dr. Murray Harris (translator of II Cor. in the NIV) said, in a class at Trinity, that no one has ever exceeded the Brethren in worship. Incidentally, for those who think this “lay movement” lacked in academic understanding and cogent theology, I encourage them to read F.F.Bruce of Manchester University (a PB) and consider the excellence in education going on at Regent College in Vancouver, BC (under James Houston who was also Brethren).

    Brandon Wall, the previous responder to your article, challenged reason that is unguided by the Holy Spirit. I agree. Rationalism….and Modernism…have taken their place among Evangelicals and displaced passion for Spiritual Formation and piety. If that is all that is left, there is good reason to leave. But, knowing that there has been much more in Evangelicalism I consider it tragic that the baby is being jettisoned with the bath water!

    I am so pleased to see your balance, Andy. I know of very few who could speak from such an informed position as you. Having been brought up among Evangelicals, educated by them, and then educated by Jesuits and now teaching among them, your voice should be heard.

    One final example of PBs: Garrison Keillor. In spite of all the problems in Evangelicalism, something got through to him that he still clings to today.

  4. Good article Andy! As a recent convert to Anglicanism I consider myself to be both Catholic and Reformed, a position which has a lot of (healthy) tension built into it. Also, as an Anglican I find N. T. Wright’s thoughts on this subject interesting…

    http://trevinwax.com/2009/10/31/n-t-wright-on-protestant-catholic-relations/

  5. John Montag SJ

    I appreciate especially your apologia toward the end, Andy, and your explication of Vlach was insightful and helpful. I would take issue with his first topic of certitude, however. I think anyone converting to Catholicism with an eye to its certitude has a shallow understanding of that reality. the Catholic Church is a great ocean, compared to any of the individual Protestant communities. these smaller communities often provide a surer sense of certitude than Rome can provide. it’s easier to stand on such rocks than to tread water. Roman certitude is not catholic certitude. we are all, as Christians, sure of the same Nicene creed; not much else.

    In fact, there is little in the RC tradition to link authoritative magisterial statements with absolute certainty, the kind that brooks no further inquiry. Cardinal Newman’s thinking on the development of doctrine has seeped deeply into the Church over the last hundred fifty years. It was Luther, after all, who first regarded revelatio as ‘Offenbarung’–the kind of publicly accessible, self-evidently certain truth that has come to characterize the attitude of many Protestant Christians. the Church defines carefully what it has received in faith; this is not, in itself, a claim to certitude. Rather, faith itself is the only such claim, and that’s the same for all Christians. the Catholic Church is simply willing to hand on (traditio) more of what is received than its Protestant brethren are. anyway, perhaps I should give more thought to this before I say more, but those are initial reflections.

  6. I was raised catholic,Jesuit hs and worked within the catholic tradition even after being baptized with His Holy Spiri in 1976.We left the church after hearing 2 many pre vatican 2 priest preaching about the mother of God,yes she is blessed but is not the matrix of all grace.I believe st augustine wrote 4 years,and then suddenly said to disregard everything he had written up to that point bc he was born again.O fellow christians ,do not b so concerned with form or ritual,but surrender to Jesus and get to know the Father and His holy Spirit who will teach and love and console u on a daily basis.The Father is looking for sons and daughters who desire to surrender to His love so He can form us into His imagine so this new life within us will reveal his love to others.It took me years of meditaion on his word bc of my stuborn self,where it could have taken 6 months to surrender my life so I could realize that His holy Spirit would move me into a place where I could g
    ive and receive love.I could not go back to a hierachey that is mainly run by men who r trying within their unrenewed minds,and unspirit filled spirits to relate to the Father of all.My sheep hear my voice and they will follow me.I hear the Shepherds voice saying we r 1 in Jesus and there r no denominations within Him.So love 1 another as I have loved u.

  7. There is hope that there would be those reading this who have “seen” organized ‘religion’ for what it is, and not what it pretends to be, and have realized, not just read, that “the natural man does not receive the things that are of The Spirit of G-D, for they are foolishness unto him and he can not know them, for the things that are of The Spirit of G-D need to be Spiritually discerned”…….

    As for “Pure And Undefiled Religion”…….

    “Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father is this, to visit the fatherless(children who know not Their Father[Creator]) and widows(those not joined together as One with Our Father and HIS Son[natural jews rejected and yet reject HIS Son]) in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world…….” (James 1:27)

    Simply, all other religion is impure and defiled…….

    And notice that “pure and undefiled” religion is “oneself(personal)”, The Brethren of The Messiah doing The Will of Our Father, as they are led by The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit…….

    Simply, corporate “religion” is pagan and of this wicked world ;-(

    “Brethren” is not “religion”, for what are The Brethren of The Messiah and sons of Our Father if not Family?

    And would not The Family of The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL, “The Body of The Messiah”, be much closer than a natural, fleshly family?

    And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on “The Narrow Way” have had to “forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters” and all others who will not follow The Messiah because they “love this wicked world and their own life in and of it”…….

    The Brethren of The Messiah have “forsaken all for The Kingdom of Heaven’s sake”…….

    They are truly “strangers and pilgrims while on the earth”…….

    Father Help! and HE does…….

    What is declared to be “religion” today is the ‘d’evil’s playground indeed…….

    Simply, Faith will not create a system of religion…….

    Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to “Come Out of her, MY people”!

    For they will “Come Out” of this wicked world(babylon) and it’s systems of religion, and enter into “the glorious Liberty of The Children of The Only True G-D”.

    And so it is that they will no longer be of those who are destroying the earth(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Mercy, Grace, Miracles,,, All that is Truly Good)…….

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one” (1John5:19) indeed and Truth…….

    Truth IS, a lie is not…….

    Abide in The Truth……. francis

  8. My response may came across as too harsh toward Catholicism when I gave it a second read through, I apologize if I conveyed that.

  9. simplefreechurch

    Thanks to everyone for these really insightful comments. Brandon, I agree with you that the 4 reasons are not sufficient, and that most of my friends who convert have a strong sense of the leading of God’s Spirit, so its good to emphasize that point. You know my apologetics is not evidentialist in nature, so we are on the same page there too. I’m looking forward to learning more about some of the wealth of knowledge you must have gotten studying Aquinas in Cambridge.

    Jesse, thanks for the NT Wright link– I will give it a thorough look soon. I really appreciate him.

    Fr. John, thank you so much for taking time to give your insights! I know that what you say is true about the breadth and variety found in the Catholic church. Its easy for us protestants to focus on the magisterial authority and the certainty which may seem to come from that. But obviously the unity is around some very small list of specifics, as you point out, so there is likely much more diversity of opinion and thought on most issues in the Catholic church, in distinction to splinter group evangelical churches who may be in much more agreement.

    I do think that as an evangelical cut off from a historical and authoritative tradition there is a sense of heaviness and a burden of responsibility in some sense to be the authority on your own– to judge what is an appropriate view or reading etc. The Catholic Church does provide some remedy to this– a series of pronouncements and history giving a tradition to help answer the questions which each generation faces. For many evangelicals, we feel very much in the existential situation of what Kierkegaard called ‘subjectivity’ where we feel that we have to make choice on our own, because we are cut adrift from tradition and in some sense left in an authoritative vacume with only their Bible and their sense of the Holy Spirit to guide them– at that point, questions can be at times hard to bring to a final answer.

    And Fr. John, I think you are also right when you say (as I understood you) that the protestants do have tradition, but don’t hand it on like that Catholic Church does. We are not good at that, and thats why the wheel seems to need to be constantly reinvented… I mean, as a small example, when I was in jr high we had a Bible Insruction Class (a type of Catechism) but that tradition-handing-down was dropped somewhere around 15 years ago in the church I grew up in. Its not that people don’t have opportunity to learn about the Bible, etc, but there isn’t a lot of opportunity in many evangelical churches to really understand theological truths that we believe systematically, or in comparison to other viewpoints.

    Angus, thank you for your encouraging words brother!

    I really do appreciate you all taking time to read and respond…thank you.

  10. Keep it coming Andy!!!

  11. Mervin Bunter

    Oops! I just noticed this new post after I commented on your previous post regarding my decision to become Catholic. Mea culpa! Another excellent post.

  12. “To be deep in history is to cease to be protestant” – Newman, Anglican convert to the Church.
    Study the early church fathers, early christianity, ecclesiology, and go wherever TRUTH takes you. If you remain protestant fine, but don’t choose your beliefs without reason and deep UNBIASED investigation.

    Where in the Bible is sola scriptura?

  13. Interesting article. Yes, there are many doctrinal reasons why some Evangelicals are attracted to Catholicism, but there are lots of practical reasons why they should resist the temptation.

    Here’s an article about one man’s experience.

    http://dontconvert.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/why-conservative-evangelicals-should-not-become-catholic/

  14. Quoted above, McKnight says “the road from ‘Wheaton to Rome’ is usually ‘long’ and ‘tortuous.’ It often involves painful separations in relationships . . .”

    The loss of relationships is indeed regrettable, but if a person’s shift from a Protestant denomination to the Catholic faith really end that person’s relationship with other Christians? What does that say of Christianity collectively?

    Dave, as a Catholic, I entirely agree with your observations on the sexual abuse scandal—it was beyond regrettable, and nothing can be said or done to right the wrongs. I would hope, however, that you would agree that Rome has taken extraordinary steps to move the clergy, particularly the American clergy, in the right direction and has insisted on accountability.

    But I would ask, Dave, why you felt the appeal of Catholicism? Did you see some Truth? Did the sin of some clergy make that truth less valid? I would suggest that a Christian’s relationship should be with Christ, not with men who, while ordained, are the instruments of His grace (through the sacraments).

    By the way, Dave, we Catholics also believe that baptized Christians do indeed “share in the priesthood of Christ.” (CCC 1268)

    Peace.

  15. In reply to Jesse Nigro, my self and other Catholics I know tend to feel much closer with Anglicanism, Episcopalianism, and other churches with Apostolic Succession.

    I am always glad to come to a website like this one of real evangelical. It is refreshing to realize that those that the media only covers the loudest and most aggressive- of all types of people.

    Two things that for the life of me I’ve never understood about Evangelicalism:

    1) The Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus started… isn’t that enough to want to join it?
    2) Does it really seem plausible that one person, working alone, can really build a better thought-out theology than a 2000 year old, worldwide Communion? There were basically 1000 years where anyone who could read would devote all of their energy to thinking about theology.

  16. hi – is it just me !! can any one explain why when i type in the bing browser “simplefreechurch.wordpress.com” i get a different site yet whe i type it in google its ok? could this be a bug in my system or is any one else having same probs ?
    sadensy

  17. Barbara Cumby

    Thanks so much. This article put into words what I myself am going through and have gone through but ultimately believe it is the Holy Spirit causing me to dig deeper and really know what I believe as the world is really changing. I could go on but I would be repeating what was already said in the article.. Comforting to read…thanks again! Barb

  18. Dave,

    I just read your posts and I thought it was so refreshing when you felt the need to apologize just in case you sounded too harsh.
    I am an evangelical Christian and a schoolteacher. Our youth need to see more examples of this kind of humility in the church.

    I do have occasion to have fellowship now and then with a Catechist friend and the local priest here in this small remote northern native community. Just tonight I asked him that very question about what he thought about what the bible says about the priesthood of believers.
    His face lit up and he said “It’s a wonderful thing the Lord has done. All true believers are prophets, priests and kings”.

    There are many presumptions, we evangelicals have and until we sit down with a Catholic and be willing to “listen” instead of spouting off our endless memorizations of scripture, we won’t “hear”. One example is when Jesus commanded us to call no man “father”.
    Well.
    What do you and I and millions of other evangelicals and Catholics call their “dads”? Why does the scriptures themselves refer to Abraham as being “father” etc.
    If the scriptures tell us that there “is only one mediator between God and man and that is the Christ Jesus” why do we ask each other for prayer?
    You pray for me and I pray for you. The scriptures exhort that we pray for one another. But does not that mean if we do, we contradict the scripture that says only Jesus can intercede for us to the Father?

    Ah! The wisdom of God! There will be many surprises when we get to heaven no doubt. We will be accountable for all the things we have been so presumptuous about. Let us, like Job, declare “Now my eye has seen You and I repent in dust and ashes”.

    I enjoyed your post, dear brother.
    God Bless you.

  19. I actually like that there’s a divergence of opinion in Catholicism…..For me I’m Catholic because we can have a variety of opinions but if something is a big issue we have a means of settling the doctrine. I think its a good thing

  20. In the end this ability to “settle” was a big one for me. Also to be quite frank the idea of my belief is in Scripture, just didn’t work for me anymore either. Because I was finding a multitude of divergent opinions. For me finally in the subject of Communion I had quite enough…And decide well what was the FIRST opinion. For me the fact that in a lot of issues Catholicism takes a stand against Protestant about. The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox also take a similar stand. Ie apostolic succession, scripture/tradition/ free will/faith and works/7 sacraments. Christ being truly present in the Eucharist. Was a very big one for me. I mean the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox split in the 5th century but you find some very similar beliefs. That says a lot to me. I choose Catholicism over the two because I believe the Petrine office is needed…. But I love the concept of we received the faith from those who have come before us, and its our job to protect it. I.e the idea of who are we to come around and centuries/thousands of years later start saying Communion should be interpreted differently. I find a humbleness to this understanding that frankly allows Scripture to be Scripture. Because once we start getting into my opinion and your opinion is wrong than Scripture becomes very subjective….

  21. Awesome read. Until now, I didn’t know another evangelical besides me that had a high respect and love for Catholics. I follow the Pope on twitter (I’m not being a pushover, am I?) and love what he has to say.

    I don’t think the question is “Who’s right and who’s wrong?” but rather: Are we able to work together for the unity of Christ, despite our theological differences? Catholics and Protestants have so much to learn from each other!

    There are things I strongly disagree with, when it comes to the Catholic Church, but I have to ask myself: Do I have perfect theology? Do I have all wisdom? No, I don’t. Never on this earth will I know everything.

    It’s strange, I’ve never thought of myself as belonging to a particular denomination. I used to do drugs and be a party-er before I knew Christ. When He did step in and save me, He never said, “Here is the true denomination.” Rather, He leads me to overcome my sin, share my faith, serve, and bring Him glory.

    I think we can all thank God that Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians will be in heaven, with no wall to divide us! There will simply be a vast multitude worshipping Him. And so, I try to learn from many different godly men and women.

  22. Thank you for the post, Andy. I’ve read parts of Scott McKnight’s article including his conclusions. They’re very honest and interesting for Catholics.

    Do you or do you find that Protestants in general read Christian books or writings from before the Reformation (besides the Bible of course)? Is there an era of Christianity that’s “too Catholic” in the Protestant’s mind to be worth the time and study of the average Protestant?

    Thanks again.

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