A Socially Catholic Evangelical Protestant, that’s me.
Blogger Terra Mork (pictured right) has written 2 great posts, “Confessions of a ‘socially Catholic’ Protestant: Part I” and “Confessions of a ‘socially Catholic’ Protestant: Part II,” which pretty much describes my thinking to a tee. I want to thank Terra for developing thoughts and putting into words what I could not. I feel so much more…. together, complete.
I could cite almost everything Terra wrote but will highlight…
From Part I…
In the last year, I have been richly blessed with many new friendships in the Catholic pro-life community. Their devotion to the cause is infectious and inspiring. Through a variety of interactions, many of my false conceptions about Catholics have been corrected, while at the same time, my Protestant convictions have been reaffirmed. I am not alone in this experience, David Neff writes in the introduction to The Gospel of Jesus Christ: an Evangelical Celebration, that:
… through collaboration with Catholic and Orthodox activists in the prolife movement, many evangelicals have discovered a genuine appreciation for and developed friendships with them. This deeper friendship has required that Protestants know their Protestantism (and that Catholics know their Catholicism and the Orthodox, their Orthodoxy)….
In fact, it might surprise some Protestants to realize on how many things we do agree on: the divine and human nature of Christ, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, etc. The entire Apostles Creed could be agreed upon by many Catholics and Protestants alike.
So where does that leave us? Can we all climb comfortably back inside that big tent?
Again, not so fast!
The fundamental difference between Roman Catholicism, and orthodox Protestantism is found in the Reformers’ favorite word: sola, or “alone”. The easy, and admittedly over-simplified way to view the two faiths is through the lens of the Reformation’s five Solas:
Orthodox Protestants: Saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Special revelation is found in scripture alone, and glory is due to God alone.
Catholics: Saved by grace, through faith, in Christ. Special revelation is found in the scripture, and glory is due to God.
From Part II…
The whole thing. I can’t pull anything out. I hope you’ll read the entire post.
Thanks to Terra, I now understand myself a little better. She spoke in Part II of being “converted” to “Catholic social values,” such as its teaching on contraception and IVF, etc. So was I.
Now that this has happened there are certain elements of the Catholic faith, as Terra described, that are also mine. I now understand why I took Obama’s speech at Notre Dame so personally, for instance. I was as sickened and offended about that as my Catholic friends, because the ND administration and Obama violated that part of the Catholic faith, its social teaching, that is now mine.
That said, I realize, as Terra wrote, “Either you are a bona fide Catholic, or you are not. I am not.” I am not either. And I never will be. Ultimately, as Terra wrote:
Given the virtue of its integrated approach, it is not surprising that many former Protestants are first attracted to Catholicism because of the church’s teaching on relationships and sexuality. Though I can sympathize with this sentiment, and remain grateful for the contributions Rome has made in clarifying the issues of human life, I cannot embrace the core doctrines of Catholicism with any peace of mind.
My own “faith journey” has consisted largely of seeking an answer to my problem of guilt – the reality of my own sin and my inability to repay my own moral debt. I learned early on that I could find no hope in “thinking positive”, denying my guilt, or “trying harder” to satisfy the demands of a holy God.
My sole relief, and continued assurance of salvation comes only through understanding the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, as defended emphatically by the apostle Paul in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. (“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” Romans 3:28) Having tried – and failed – to make my salvation secure by relying on my own works of righteousness, I see nothing to gain, and much to lose in a conversion from “grace alone”, to “grace plus works”.
This was the deal breaker for Luther, and it is for me. I write this not to start a quarrel. I don’t want to quarrel about this. I won’t quarrel about this. I lost one friend over this disagreement, and I won’t lose any others. That quarrel is 500 years old and is irreconcilable. I understand Catholic teaching on grace and works and simply disagree. I write this so as not to raise the hopes of my Catholic friends that I may someday convert (as well as reassure nervous Protestant friends).
That said, I much more identify with Catholic social teaching than Protestant social teaching.
So I’m some sort of half-breed. But in my mind I carry the best attributes of both parts of my Christian heritage.
Fittingly, in closing, here’s the Apostles Creed set to music by well-known Protestant songwriter and singer Rich Mullins, who was also attracted to the Catholic faith and frequently attended daily Mass right before he was prematurely killed at age 41 in 1997 in a car accident not too far from me…
BTW, Terra has graciously agreed to check in at the comments section of this post, which I really appreciate.