April 2, 2020

Riffs: Scot McKnight on “Why I Am Not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox”

Read Scot Mcknight’s post, “Why I Am Not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.” A model of ecumenical integrity, but an impassioned evangelical. A great post. Honest and not without some controversy, but there is no one more about the task Robert Webber left us than Scot.

Normally when I do a “Riff,” I have something to say.

Here’s what I want to say: Thank you, Scot. I have hundreds of emails from Catholics and a few from Orthodox urging me to join their churches. I have far, far fewer from fellow evangelicals encouraging me to believe I am right exactly where God wants me. So I have to write the encouragements to myself, and disguise them as posts for the audience.

While this post wasn’t written for me- I don’t have the anxieties that your writer has- I have simply been worn down by the constant appeals for me to come over. Your words reached me right when I was most receptive and gave me the encouragement I needed by putting my own feelings and thoughts into words.

I’m sure you’ll hear it hard for writing this, but I know your heart and that you have the highest regard for other Christians. I know that you and I are about the same thing in the evangelical world, and I’m sure we carry some of the same weariness sometimes. But we both believe that God has placed us where we are to write and teach for his glory and the good of his people and purposes.

Your post picked me up and helped me when I needed help. Thank you, brother. Thank you.

Comments

  1. Well said, Michael. I also referenced SM on my blog.

  2. Michael,

    As one formerly beating down the door to become Eastern Orthodox, and now a very content associate pastor in a Baptist church, I do believe that Jesus is quite happy with you staying right where you are. Glory in the gospel you have been called and equipped to proclaim.

  3. I can not tell you that I am happy with you being where you are, however I am a man and I tend to think as men do and not as God does.

    In the grips of my soul I wish I could for a blink of an eye pull you and every other Protestant back in to the Church no matter what the damage and no matter what the cost. However, I know this not to be right. I can not use the devils’ tools in order to do God’s work.

    Something that I have learned to say since I came back to the faith, is that I must let HIS will be done, not mine.

  4. Giovanni:

    While I appreciate your ultimate sentiment, the rest of your post represents what continues to puzzle many of us.

    I can understand lamenting the fragmenting of the church, but Protestants ARE part of the church. Your own church teaches that plainly in the Vatican II documents on ecumenism. Protestants are not in communion with Rome, but they are joined to Christ, they are possessors of the Holy Spirit and they are destined for the Kingdom of God. The fragmentation that exists is lamentable, but I can’t understand why some Catholics seem to view us as if we are cut off from Christ (an error just as wrong and sad among Protestants in regard to Catholics.) Even from within your own system, we are your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    Further, it is the providence and sovereignty of God that has brought someone like me to where I am. I have known next to nothing of the Roman Catholic church for most of my life. I was nurtured, saved and made useful for ministry among Protestants. My ministry is real. My service to God and his Gospel are real.

    Were I to go to Rome, I would never preach again and never teach again. I would be a Wal-Mart greeter with 37 hours of doctoral study all for the sake of being in communion with a sacramental system once a week.

    In the fragmented and broken state of the church, Protestants such as myself are made useful to Christ where we are, not by closing our churches, renouncing our ministries and closing our Bibles.

    I agree with you: let the Holy Spirit be sovereign. Perhaps even ask him to open our eyes that we might see his work among those from whom we are separated.

    peace

    MS

  5. Quotes from McNight:
    “I believe in ongoing discernment of what the Spirit is saying to the Church.”
    (and)
    “I long for the day when evangelical Christians are united through the authority of the Spirit as that Spirit has guided the revelation of Scripture and shaped the Church in history.”

    I long for that day, too, but I don’t think it will dawn until Christ returns. As you (iMonk) have stated recently, we all do this theology stuff so imperfectly – even when we think we are being guided by the Holy Spirit.

    What McNight is saying deserves to be heard, but not just as a reason to remain evangelical. I am concerned over the current spirit of skepticism/cynicism which concludes that the Holy Spirit can’t speak to us without some infallible authority – be it a pope, denominational leader, prosperity teacher, or faith healer – intervening or speaking on His behalf. Because we fail to hear His voice perfectly, I think we need the creeds and authorities which can expose the wolves that are picking off the flock. But when these safe-guards reduce Christians to mindless, heartless, soul-less robots, then it becomes (what some theologians have called) demonic. The safeguards cease to perform the task for which they were created (sabbath for man vs. man for the sabbath). When our theology becomes so logical and clockwork that there is no room for thinking, soul-searching, or doubt, I believe that it, too, becomes demonic.

  6. I too appreciated Scot’s post immensely, with just one concern: the “wiki framework” of revelation.

    To those of use in the computer field a “wiki framework” implies that ANYBODY can produce updates, not just the original Author, and that further, there are no safeguards that the updates will be consistent with the original content.

    And we can see this worked out in reality today: in one manner, in The Episcopal Church with its heavy-handed revisionism; in another manner, in the multitude of quasi-evangelical churches and groups going off on one tangent or the other. The basis is always the same: that happens to be the way WE have updated the wiki of revelation.

    I am not suggesting, of course, that Scot favors such inconsistent updates; but it is a weakness of the analogy that it can be used to support them.

  7. Great thoughts Michael.
    The clarification from Scot was very encouraging. Likewise, you should not sell yourself short on how much encouragement you regularly provide. Your posts are appreciated.

  8. I am not going to publish posts that deny the creeds and reject Catholics as Christians. There’s plenty of room for that in the blogosphere, but not here.

    Sorry.

  9. When Scot said,

    I believe deeply in the need for personal rebirth, for the new birth, and I don’t think either communion emphasizes this enough.

    — he put his finger on something that has been hovering around in my subconscious but hadn’t managed to articulate yet. One of those cases where something was bugging me but I couldn’t figure out what it was… Like everyone, I know scores of RC’s who are decent people, and others who have a traditional affiliation with the church, but seldom meet one of either kind who has much concept of the notion of “conversion”. At least, not as I understand it as a heart change (personal rebirth) rather than a rite of acceptance into an institution. For them, being baptised into the RC church was really all that mattered. This is particularly true of some of the less devout, which from my perspective imbues them with a false sense of assurance.

    Don’t get me wrong, I accept Catholics as my brothers/sisters, but I think Scot’s point that I quoted is a very important one.

  10. In the EO, RCC, Anglicanism and Lutheranism, Baptism equals the new birth, and there is scriptural language to that effect. It is a point that needs to be clarified. (I am not accepting infant baptism btw.)

  11. Clay of CO says

    Thanks, Michael. Scot’s thoughts were very helpful and encouraging. At 57, I remain an evangelical because it best represents the truth that I see in Scripture. I hate what has happened to the term in our culture, but I refuse to discard it because others have distorted it. For me, my identity as an evangelical is drawn from the Logos of John 1 (which, as we all know, should be the first book of the New Testament). Being evangelical is all about “the Word”–the Word incarnated in Christ, the Word inspired in Scripture, and the Word indwelling in the Spirit. It’s a shame something like “evangelogos” doesn’t have any etymological raison d’etre since it would nicely capture the heart of issue–I believe in “the good news of the Word” that has come into this world in Jesus, the Bible, and the Spirit. I think, therefore I am…an evangelical.

  12. I read Scot’s post. It was interesting. I agree, the “wiki” thing was confusing. If he’s talking about the fact that Scripture is in constant need of re-understanding in light of current life contexts, then he should have no problem with how the Catholic Church sees Scripture.

    We could all argue all day long about how or how much Tradition weighs in, or should weigh into how we interpret or read Scripture, so I’ll leave it at that. Well, I’ll say that I’m not sure I see how he seems to view the way the Catholic Church “wields” Tradition to be altogether accurate.

    Thanks for making the clarification point, Michael, about the Sacramental effectiveness of Baptism as “new birth” or at least the beginning of being born from above. I hadn’t read that yet over there, even, so that being said, we still seem to have a good bit of a communication gap going on. When Evangelicals say something like McKnight said and in the supporting comments about no emphasis on “the new birth” or on “conversion,” they seem to be overlaying their particular understanding of those concepts and words onto the Catholic (or Orthodox) way of seeing these concepts. That old dog is barkin’ up the wrong tree. He may be in the right section of woods, but, well, anyway, it’s not quite apples to apples.

    Now, there may well be a lack of emphasis on conversion of life in certain circles of the Catholic Church, in parishes all over. I’m sure. As there is in many Protestant churches. This doesn’t equal an inherent defect though. It only says what it says. Add in the understanding gap as concerns what constitutes “new birth” and on-going conversion of life, and it’s even less of an indictment. Now, I could come up with some indictments about a few things (in the Catholic arena I mean), but I’m not sure the way Scot puts it is anything more than a disconnect in how we understand one another’s theologies.

    Maybe I’m in an unusual parish, but I hear tons about a “personal relationship with Jesus” in our homilies. Our youth hear it as well. Are we having altar-calls to get people “saved” every week? No – not really. There is an undercurrent view of “journey” in the Catholic consciousness. We’re members of the family, now it’s time to grow up, to continue growing. We’ll mess up, yeah, but then we come back in, get our selves situated and get back to the work of being a part of the family. Personally, I would see a huge advantage in parishes being formed more along the lines of monastic communities. There are definitely deficiencies – no argument about that.

    I’m certainly not saying that if everyone just saw these things clearly, all you guys would just become Catholic and all would be right with the world. Not hardly. I think you know that’s not what I’m getting at. But, if I see what I perceive to be inconsistencies and it sort of is relevant to me, I may want to chime in about it. The big one here, to me, is saying “Catholics are my brothers and sisters in Christ” and at the same time saying that they don’t emphasize the “new birth” – logical conclusions for a statement like that are that there really aren’t very many Catholics who are actually “born again” for me to be a brother or sister to. I hope that made sense. It’s a disconnect, like I said.

  13. Alan,

    I can’t speak for Scott, but I can speak for myself.

    Evangelicals do not believe that the new birth occurred at Baptism.

    Calvinists believe that the new birth precedes faith but is evidenced by faith in Christ. The difference between a Charles Spurgeon and a hyper Calvinist is the conviction that there is a Biblical warrant to appeal to the conscience of the unbeliever with an appeal to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Hyper Calvinists believe that God’s sovereign regneration makes such appeals nonsense.

    Wesleyanism (or Arminianism) believes the New Birth is simultaneous with placing one’s personal faith in Christ NOW. This opened the door to Finney and the abuses of revivalism, but it also resulted in the massive evangelical outpourings, the growth of the modern missions movement, the rise of Pentecostalism as a force for world evangelism, evangelism training, crusades, parachurch ministries and so on.

    Those of us who are evangelicals deeply feel the absence of the Spurgeon-Wesley-Graham aspect of the Gospel in our interactions with Roman Catholics. The RC view that the church mediates salvation by way of the sacraments has resulted in an undeniable awkwardness on the subject of evangelism. (And among Protestants who believe infant regeneration via Baptism, it has led to a precipitous drop in churches, members and conversion evangelism.

    My Catholic students all consider themselves Christians and nothing really shakes them in that. My Evangelical students can be led to doubt their salvation and to get resaved with one sermon. That would seem to say the Catholic view is superior.

    But I believe, like Scott, that the Wesleyan revival caught ahold of something deeply characteristic of Jesus and of early Christianity: the passion of evangelizing THE LOST and of appealing to the lost with the facts of the Gospel and the need for personal commitment and decision in the present moment.

    Catholicism has that invitation to a journey. It invites its sheep to the table, and to reconciliation and renewal. And it has the appeal to the Protestant to come home.

    But evangelicalism has been defined by its passion for the evangel as the message we take to the world and to all persons. I am sure that Scott and I are alike that leaving the atmosphere of evangelicalism for the atmosphere of the RCC on this matter is unthinkable.

    My whole life is focused in evangelizing my students. I know that if I were a Catholic, I would still evangelize, but how would I be perceived in the RCC? If my focus were not on the church, but on taking Christ to the lost in gospel proclamation, what kind of RC would I be?

    When I was a young person, I was around Catholic families and Catholic peers all the time. In their homes and close friends. I was never evangelized in any way.

    In those same years, the one and only concern my parents church had for me was that I would become a Christian, and many of them- adults and peers- undertook to evangelize me.

    peace

    MS

  14. “I have simply been worn down by the constant appeals for me to come over.”

    I’m sorry to hear that. Some of it is out of a genuine feeling that “We have so many riches, let us share them with you!”

    But yes – I’m Catholic or nothing. I sometimes joke that if I wasn’t a Catholic, I’d be a Tibetan-style Buddhist. But that’s not true – if I wasn’t a Catholic, then I’d probably be a (very unhappy) atheist.

    I did think about this when I was eleven or so, in a (shallow) attempt to look at things from a Protestant viewpoint and say “Okay, so if Protestants disagree with Catholics, could I be a Protestant?” which ended up with me going “No, I can’t deny (insert typically Catholic thing here) because I do believe it to be true.” So that’s something I have my Protestant brethren to thank for 🙂

  15. Martha: I was enjoying the riches before I met my first EWTN/CA apologist 🙂

  16. “If my focus were not on the church, but on taking Christ to the lost in gospel proclamation, what kind of RC would I be?”

    One that the Pope would approve of, from the message in May for the 82nd World Mission Sunday :

    “Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    On the occasion of the World Mission Day, I would like to invite you to reflect on the continuing urgency to proclaim the Gospel also in our times. The missionary mandate continues to be an absolute priority for all baptized persons who are called to be “servants and apostles of Christ Jesus” at the beginning of this millennium. My venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, already stated in the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi”: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity” (n. 14). As a model of this apostolic commitment, I would like to point to St Paul in particular, the Apostle of the nations, because this year we are celebrating a special Jubilee dedicated to him. It is the Pauline Year which offers us the opportunity to become familiar with this famous Apostle who received the vocation to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles, according to what the Lord had announced to him: “Go, I shall send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22: 21). How can we not take the opportunity that this special Jubilee offers to the local Churches, the Christian communities and the individual faithful to propagate the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the world, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Cf. Rm 1: 16)?”

    One that we very badly need; we have a dreadful tendency to leave evangelising up to the priests and religious, or lay attempts like the Legion of Mary and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Joe and Mary Catholic do tend to think “Ah no, that’s not my job at all. Sure, it’s as much as I can do to save my own soul.” We forget that we are part of “all baptized persons” who are called on to spread the Good News.

    It’s a good point: Catholics do tend to automatically think of ‘the Church’ rather than ‘what can *I*, me, myself, personally do?’ in these situations.

  17. Thank you Martha. You are a rare person. God bless you.

    You see, I agree with Bouyer that Catholics have much of what we are looking for.

    But I also believe vice versa.

  18. Now we can talk at least some about this tomorrow but once again, I think we’re having a disconnect of terms. I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate disagreements. I’m just talking about this particular conversation.

    I do know that Evangelicals do not accept that there is regeneration in the Sacrament of Baptism. That’s not really the crux here I don’t think. It seems like we’re talking about seeing it as a “final act” as opposed to an “initiating act.” In Catholic thought about whether someone was “evangelized” or in a “NOW” active, real and transformative relationship with Jesus, the fact that they’ve been Sacramentally baptized is only the beginning – the first installation of Sanctifying Grace.

    So, then begins the journey of faith, whether that initiating moment comes as an infant in a Christian family or later. The rest is about decisions that person makes either toward or away from God – accepting His Love and Grace, having faith, acting by the power of that Grace, or.. not. If we’re talking about one time when a person makes a sort of crisis decision an that’s it, they’re “evangelized,” then we’re not talking about the same thing. I’d think most Methodists, most in the Wesleyan tradition in general would think in this vein as well, at least to an extent.

    In a view like this, evangelization is not finished once one joins the Church. It’s an on-going job. It’s not getting someone to a point of decision. It’s keeping them in a state of constant openness, so they are constantly saying “yes” to God. This is done both well and poorly in the Catholic Church. And I don’t want to caricature all Evangelicals as “get ’em saved by walkin’ the aisle and that’s it” thinkers either. I know that’s not true. I know there’s lots of talk and working out of what it means to disciple people.

    Just one more thing: when you said (and it’s your experience, I know that), “I was never evangelized in any way.”, in relation to the Catholic family you hung around – this may well be the case. I don’t know these people at all. But as a concept, I would say, maybe you were and maybe you weren’t. Maybe you just weren’t “evangelized” overtly in a “convince or convict you to make a decision” kind of way. There may well have been some kind of Life transfer and Love transfer “evangelism” going on. So maybe, in some way. Woo hooo! Peace.

  19. Alan: I mention that illustration from my past not to be overly general, but to say that I don’t believe this family had any idea what evangelism was. Their priest and nuns probably did, but they didn’t.

    Meanwhile at my church, our theology of lifelong Christian growth sucked, but there was real passion for evangelism and it was always part of your experience with those Christians.

    This is with me today. I feel a strong responsibility to evangelize my students. I even use a “tract,” Two Ways To Live.

    Everyone knows that I am critical of evangelicalism and have lots of things I admire about the RCC, but what Scot is talking about is this evangelical understanding of appealing to those we can influence with the evangel, and to do so directly, not via entering the institutional church.

    It is a significant difference, and one that provides lots of room for conversation and mutual learning.

    (I’m the first to say, btw, that there are many people who will only be evangelized by the RCC and its approach. God be praised.)

    peace

    MS

  20. The conversation about Evangelism reminds me of this selection from a Ecumenical speech by Peter Kreeft:

    “Why should God let Protestants become Catholics when many Protestants, perhaps most, already know Christ more intimately and personally than many Catholics, perhaps most! How can God lead Protestants home to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church until the Catholic Church becomes that fullness that they knew as Protestants plus more, not any less! When Catholics know Christ better than Protestants do, when Catholics are better Protestants than Protestants, then Protestants will become Catholics in order to become better Protestants!

    When Catholics are evangelized, Protestants will be sacramentalized. But not before! Evangelizing comes first.

    So I think we Catholics have to change first. But that change involves not the slightest compromising with anything Catholic: no dumbing down of the faith and no addition from without, no paganization nor secularization nor negation not weakening. Only a rediscovery of our own essence from within. Frankly, it is the Protestants who are going to have to add to the doctrines they rejected by seeing them differently. What we have to add, or rather, rediscover is something even more important then doctrines: namely the relationship that we have neglected. A truer relationship with a person is even more important than a truer concept about him. So that point will probably make many Protestants cheer.

    But any good Protestant who is hearing this ought to protest one thing I said a few moments ago: namely that Protestantism is essentially a protest movement, essentially negative. Protestants defend Protestantism as essentially positive. Why? Not because it doesn’t have a pope or Transubstantiation or purgatory or rosary, that is negative. But because it knows Christ, because its essence is the absolute all-sufficiency of Christ.

    But that means that good Protestants are Protestants for exactly the same good reason that good Catholics are Catholic: out of fidelity to Christ. So if the Protestant and the Catholic are both totally sincere about this Christocentrism, If both sections of Christ’s orchestra want only to follow the baton of Christ the one conductor, and if they never yield on this holy fanaticism of love and loyalty to Christ, then they will play in harmony. For we know that Christ’s will is harmony, and unity. Look at that most intimate glimpse of the inner life of the Trinity that we have in Scripture: Christ’s high priestly prayer to His Father just before His death in John 17. Unity is central to it. Departure from Christ was the fundamental cause of the Church’s tragic divisions in the first place. Another word for departure from Christ is “sin.” Therefore, return to Christ will be the cause of the Church’s return to unity. That is simple logic. I could put that into a syllogism. It is also simple sanity and sanctity. Another word for “return to Christ” is “sanctity.”

    When bishops and theologians become saints, then Catholics will become Evangelicals and Evangelicals will become Catholics. When both Protestants and Catholics become saints they will become one. For a saint means only an “alter Christos,” another Christ, a little Christ, and Christ is not divided. Christ’s body is not divided. When Christ comes at the end of the world to marry His Church, He will not be a polygamist. The Church will not be His harem.”

    The whole talk can be heard here: http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/03_ecumenism/ecumenism_transcription.htm

  21. That’s a wonderful, provocative talk by Kreeft. One of the few things I’ve heard from convert apologists that was really helpful.

  22. Michael,

    You are not the only one frustrated with the way the Catholic Church evangelizes. I think that I retained my Baptist ideas when I converted. Not the “Wretched Urgency” methods, but let’s do something.

    The answers I get are: “We have religious orders that do that.”
    “We don’t want to offend anyone.”
    “Baptists do that, not Catholics.”

    But, just how hard is it, to have some people to help the newly registered members find a place to serve, and to have friends, or groups so that newly returned Catholics don’t leave because of not getting some needs met. (Including decent adult education.)

  23. I can’t really add much to this discussion except that I really want to affirm what Alan and Peter Kreeft by-way-of-Sam-Urfer have said about Catholicism and Protestantism, and offer this:

    My dad spent 13 years in Chile as a Trappist monk. He’s not a theologian or a mystic, but he’s an honest, sincere guy who always, no matter what, tries. One thing he’s always, always told me, having raised us Catholic: “Most Protestants are better Catholics than we are.”

  24. Thank you for that compliment, Michael. I’m slowly getting mellower as I get older; it also helps that the Pope has said “No more yelling at them that they’re heretics who are going to burn; they’re our separated brethern who are Christians in good standing”. Cue pouting and “Aw, man, that takes all the fun out of it; okay, okay, you’re the boss, we haveta be nice to Protestants, got it” 😉

    I imagine it was a combination of good manners and uncertainty that kept your Catholic neighbours from trying to convert you as a kid; probably felt your parents would hit the roof if they tried it, didn’t want to sound as if they were saying “You, heretic, will burn unless you convert!” and very likely didn’t want to get you trying to convert their kids in turn.

    It’s also intensely awkward; it makes you feel like you’re saying you’re better than the other person, that they’re not a real Christian, it’s only going to cause a row and stir up trouble between neighbours, etc. etc.

    But yeah – those are not good enough reasons to fall down on evangelisation.

    What would have happened, hypothetically, if they had tried saying “Hey, Michael, ever think about being a Catholic?” Would your family and church have dragged you away from them so fast your feet wouldn’t touch the ground?

  25. Kreeft is the cream of the crop when it comes to professional apologists, in my view. He’s not so much interested in scoring points as, you know, finding the truth. He played a pretty significant role in my own journey. His other talks and books are excellent as well.

  26. My church taught me that all other persons in any other church were lost, so I would have been confused.

    I actually took them to a Billy Graham film once, and they were completely confused. So they took me to my first mass (wedding), and I was so terrified I left.

  27. I have far, far fewer from fellow evangelicals encouraging me to believe I am right exactly where God wants me.

    Here’s a Catholic who believes so. Protestants are part of the Church, and they need good pastors, too. I’d love to see the body unified, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t a-gonna happen this side of the Second Coming. If all the Protestant clergy switch sides, that leaves a lot of Protestant laity without good shepherds.

  28. Michael, I’ve only posted on your blog a couple of times in the years I’ve been reading it. However, I really appreciate your continuing interaction with things Catholic.

    As a former Southern Baptist pastor (with a strong strain of Reformed theology) who has become an Anglican, I continually wrestle with the claims of Catholicism. Though there are hurdles I’ve not been able to get over in order to become Catholic, I have never been put off by Catholics who want me to “come home.” In fact, I wish more of them were concerned about those they believe are outside the true Church.

    One of my hurdles (there are many) is exactly one of the things that concerns you: if I were to swim the Tiber I’ll never be able to preach again. If Peter Kreeft is right, we Protestants have treasures/gifts to bring to Catholicism as well. One of those is the gift of preaching and teaching God’s word. Sadly, none of my more evangelistic Catholic friends can assure me that I’d ever get to exercise my gift if I made the move. Though there are other problems, the inability to preach is one of the bigger ones.

    Thanks again for the forum to discuss these things in a sane way.

  29. I see his work, that is God’s work in you Mr. Monk, I see it every day on all Protestants that preach Christ and his Gospel. I see it in this website when I see you write about how we must get people involved in ministries act like a Christian should.

    All this I admire and I feel thankful everyday that of all the things that Protestants took with them it was the sence of the transending Gospel that stuck the most.

    Look I dont agree with 100% of the things that are said but I do often agree with 90% and usualy it has to do with being a Christian or to be more specific being for Christ. I go to my wives’ Church quite often except on days that they are having communion, and it is almost amazing how often the pastor at her church and the priest at mine are talking about the same passage of scripture, and it is even more amazing how they seem to arrive at the same conclusion and give the same message.

    Of course you are part of the Church from the moment you are baptized you are part of the Church. However it is the separation that I lament. It is the lack of adherence to the Pope, the lack of constraint, the lack of adherence to historical Christianity (teaching tradition). That I find troubleling some of the conclusions that people in Protestant places seem to find, the gospel of wealth is prob the most mainstream example I can give.

    Its a sad situation, and I don’t mean that I feel sorry for you or for people that are not in communion. I mean its sad that we have to remain separated. It tears my being in two sometimes, I think about it and I can not stand it.

    I see churches pop up and I wonder sometimes what it is they are teaching, what lie are they spreading about the Pope? What wierd interpretation are they giving the gospel? What fruit will they produce?

    I have great respect for the fact that you want to teach and you want to preach, and you want to spread the Gospel, and that you feel like you would be pushed to the sidelines in the Catholic Church. I feel the same way, everyday I look for ways in which I can get involved, but if I did I would neglect my wife and I would go back in the calling that I was given by God which was to be a husband to her.

    I am not yet old enough but I plan to become a permanent deacon when I can, that means that I would be able to give homilies if permited by the priest who I would serve and I would be able to serve the Church in greater capacity that I could have as a layman including heading Church ministries. Lay ministries are out there, its not all closed to laymen. For now I take seriously my responsibility as a layman in what I can do, and I give thanks to God for everyday that he gives me the Church.

    My Mom always used to say “Man proposes and God disposes.”

    In whatever I do today or in the future I always keep in mind that it is HIS will that must be done.

  30. *I* have a stupid question. If a Protestant who went to Catholic School, and hence went through all the religious training Catholic children do, decides as an adult to formally become Catholic do they have to do catechism classes anyway, or do they just go inform the parish priest of their intention?

    I still remember the priest for the church of the school I went to saying that he really wasn’t sure who was Catholic and who wasn’t – because every Sunday at 12:00 mass there we ALL were. Because for so many of us (including me up until age 12) the Catholic Church was the only real exposure to Christianity we had, and THAT was our church.

  31. Aliasmoi,

    The questions that would have to be answered first are:

    Baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

    Confirmed by the Catholic Church?

    First Communion?

    Any marriage issues, such as divorced and remarried?

    You would probably be wise to go through an RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), because even many of those who were baptized Christian need to learn more about what the Catholic Church teaches, etc. Not to mention, all the cultural stuff about being Catholic.

    Unfortunately, there is not a good way of screening those who need just a little specialized instruction and those who need all the basics.

  32. Anna – I’m not even remotely thinking about converting. But, if I were, I don’t think there’d be any point in my going to a RCIA considering that I’ve got 10 years of Catholic Religious Education to my credit – including having gone to confirmation classes with my piers. I just didn’t get confirmed.

    We went through all of the preparatory classes our Catholic class mates did. We just didn’t go through with the actual rite – although some of us went to watch our friends. I didn’t know my family wasn’t Catholic until two days before First Communion when I was told I wouldn’t be going too. Lemme tell you, I was more than a little upset. It was that way all the way through school – we did everything our Catholic classmates did. We just didn’t do the actual rite.

  33. Aliasmoi – It would all depend on the individual priest. It is ultimately up to him to make the descision. Though when people say RCIA classes that can mean different things.

    There is people that realy have to go to actual classes for several months while most only have a couple of talks with their priest before they are received.

    It is my believe that what iMonks wife is going through is quite excessive.

  34. I don’t think there’d be any point in my going to a RCIA considering that I’ve got 10 years of Catholic Religious Education to my credit – including having gone to confirmation classes with my piers.

    Heck, Aliasmoi, that might make it more necessary. I’m a convert myself, so I don’t have direct experience, but my experience has been that the people who did are much more likely to either lose their faith or have a dumbed-down idea of it than those who didn’t. I’m not aiming that at you, mind you; you seem to have your head on right. But the most lukewarm and undereducated Catholics I’ve known have been Catholic school kids.

  35. Well, even the priest who did our confirmation classes lamented that it was the Protestant kids who sat, listened, took notes, and asked real and thoughtful questions. It was the Catholic kids who threw spitballs, didn’t listen, and asked questions that were meant to be disrespectful.

  36. aliasmoi, technically then, I think you’re still kind of Catholic..?

    Sorry?

    Actually, I’m not confirmed either. It doesn’t keep me up at night.

    (I’m lazy and I don’t want to get Confirmed, really + went to a Church of God college = sort of Protestant?)

  37. Okay, my friend who went to Catholic school with me and then decided to become Catholic said she had to do the RICA classes AND get baptized again because the RC wouldn’t recognize her baptism at a Baptist church.

  38. That’s a violation of plain RC teaching. You can read it in any catechism.

    If your friend wasn’t baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (maybe at a Jesus Only Pentecostal Church) there might be an issue.

  39. Greg DeVore says

    I knew a woman who married an RC (she must have married him 60-70 years ago) and was rebaptized as an RC even though she had been baptized as a Lutheran. She was my neighbor growing up. I think this was her choice so that she would not have to confess sins before her RC baptism. She would only be obligated to confess sins after baptism.

  40. Greg,

    When I converted, (with 2 valid baptisms), I was told that I only needed to confess the sins that I did after the rite of acceptance. (That’s early into the process, when the person is basically placed under the protection of the Catholic Church.)

    Another reason for a rebaptism in the Catholic Church is when a person doesn’t have documentation of their first one. (and the priest is supposed to add some words to emphasize that it is just a conditional baptism.)

  41. That might be it Anna – since my friend would have been baptized in a Baptist church, so I’m sure it was done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I also don’t have any documentation of my baptism. I don’t think that particular denomination even keeps baptism records. I know the AG doesn’t.

  42. My Wife who is a Southern Baptist does have her baptism records.

  43. John O'Leary says

    iMonk wrote: “Were I to go to Rome, I would never preach again and never teach again. I would be a Wal-Mart greeter with 37 hours of doctoral study all for the sake of being in communion with a sacramental system once a week.”

    T’aint necessarily so.

    http://tinyurl.com/5guksb

  44. When I converted, (with 2 valid baptisms), I was told that I only needed to confess the sins that I did after the rite of acceptance.

    Really? I did the whole 22 years going back to my baptism at age 9. I stepped into the confessional and said, “Bless me father, for this is going to take a while.”

    And my baptism in a Baptist church was perfectly acceptable, even though I didn’t have written records. I probably could have gotten them, but nobody was all that insistent on it, as long as it had been trinitarian.

  45. Interesting, John. I knew Lutherans and Piskies were sometimes granted dispensations, but this is the first I’ve heard of a Baptist. Baptists don’t have the same concept of holy orders those churches do, so it seems strange.

    I stand by what I said before, though. Protestants need good pastors, too. If Michael believes he’s where God wants him, we’ve got no business trying to convince him otherwise. If God decides different, He knows where to find Michael.

  46. Thanks so much for this. I love my reformed church but have watched dear friends walk on over to the Greek Orthodox parish down the road. I admit it has produced great anxieties within me as I suddenly realized I was pretty much completely ignorant of church history and why I believe what I believe. My church is probably halfway filled up with eager -and awesome- Southern Seminary students and i’ve always struggled just a little bit (i’m the stubborn argumentative type). I’m ok with not agreeing 100%. I claim neither Calvinism nor anything else… only Christ. I do feel a lack of tradition. I get tired of hearing quotes from Stott and Piper and the like when my heart is usually quickened and encouraged by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Merton, the Saints… however, my church preaches the Gospel every Sunday… a life changed by the Gospel – every facet of it. We are heavily involved in the community and have ministries from the arts to music to street clean-up to mentoring in order to engage and “evengelize” the community we’re in. We call each other out and push each other towards Christ and towards a sacrificial life. Jesus + nothing else. I don’t think I could ever leave that no matter what my discontent.

    I do still carry a lot of confusion though. Most of this conversation seems to stick in the RC vs. Protestant camp. Scot’s article seemed to lump RC and EO together. But, of course, EO do not claim that at all. Each claims to be “the one true church”. And it seems to me, in my incredibly light and bare study of the two, that EO would claim the more moderate stance… not in terms of their confidence in succession, etc. but in terms of certain doctrinal beliefs (purgatory, Mary, etc.). There are certainly great similarities to the Protestant eyes though. How is one to really separate the two fairly? or where do they seem to speak the same thing?

    Also… I was wondering if you could expound a little more on the difference between reading Scripture WITH Tradition vs. Scripture THROUGH Tradition.

    Finally, are there any resources, biblical passages, what-not that speak confirmatively of the Church as the invisible universal body of believers?

    (i apologize for my wordiness. if only one question can be answered. i will be very grateful)

  47. Aliasmoi,

    While the AG may not keep centralized baptism records in Springfield, or even at each district office, I’m sure many local churches have them for people baptized there, and I believe most of them do provide a certificate of baptism stating the date of the service and signed by the pastor.

  48. Glad you’ve also pointed to this post. McKnight’s thoughts got me thinking – the mark of a truly excellent blog – and I’ve posted my thoughts in a recent post, “Why aren’t you Catholic?” The difference between Scott and I, however, is that I’ve struggled with the draw to swim the Tiber for years and the urge is, of course, becoming stronger. But I am – and it appears that I will remain for now – fully within the Protestant fold. Alas, this whole Christianity thing gets more complicated by the day.

    Peace & blessings,
    Andrew