theology

Flirting with Catholicism

I’ve been flirting with the idea of converting to Catholicism. (Converting doesn’t seem like the right word though, since it is still Christianity, just not Protestantism.) The key point holding me back: I want to be a pastor, and the Roman Catholic Church does not allow married men to become priests. (A concept I understand their reasoning behind, but do not agree should be the only way.)

I grew up Protestant, but attended Catholic schools for grades 4-12. Our school wasn’t very different from the public one, it’s not like we wore uniforms or were taught by nuns. Everything was pretty much the same with the exception of Religion class and liturgies. Religion wasn’t an official class until high school, and even then there was only one 3-credit class per semester.

At school we had liturgies and assemblies. Assemblies are the same as public schools. Liturgies were usually precided over by the local Bishop and included various Catholic-type things like prayer and whatnot.

This past semester I started attending classes at a local Christian (Protestant) university, and took an Intro to the Bible, and History of Christianity. In these classes I really began to question the Protestant church. I mean, I know guys like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (among others) had their reasons for challenging the practices of the Roman Catholic (RC) Church, but their intention wasn’t to create an offshoot from Catholicism, but to attempt to fix the problems (Luther anyway, I’m not as studied on Calvin and Zwingli).

See I don’t think divisions within the church is God’s plan for the church. Verses like 1 Cor 1:10 and others speak specifically to this:

“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”

Now these verses can be interpreted in various ways, but to me they specifically speak to divisions in the church, ie. denominations. The more I study the Bible, and the more I learn about the history of the church and the history of Christianity, the more I feel that Protestantism has become a bastardization of what God intended for the Church. Now this isn’t to say that the RC Church has it right either, as is painfully obvious from this latest abuse scandal.

Part of my problem with the Protestant church is the fragmentation. While the Reformation challenged problems within the Church, they set Christianity on a slippery slope of fragmentation. Don’t like something your pastor taught you? Check the church down the road, they might have something a little more to your liking. Now I think personal interpretation is important, but when people start using the same passage to defend opposing views, there is a problem.

There is just something that speaks to me about the RC Church. Something about being part of the original Church. The Universal Church. This is something I mentioned on Twitter one day and received the response that the church in Rome has no more claim to the Universal Church than does the church in Geneva, Wittenberg, or Nashville. That the Universal Church is spiritual, and seen by its actions and not confined to any one place.

I gave this some serious thought, but haven’t come to a satisfactory conclusion. On one side I totally understand where he is coming from, and agree. But another side of me thinks that the physical church, the people, the Church with a capital “C”.

I would say my primary draw is the unity of a single Church, though this is far from the only reason.

A question that comes to mind is, “Is it better to be part of a church that you have (minor) theological difficulties with, then to be part of this fragmented church that is obviously not God’s intention?” Some would even call this fragmentation a sin, as it is not following God’s original plan. (I wouldn’t go this far though)

This question is where I get hung up. What constitutes a “minor” theological difference? There are a lot of things about Protestantism that I quite like, mostly because of the freedom to do as I choose, and the power of personal interpretation.

I’ve started making a list of likes and dislikes, and as I did so it got me thinking, quite a few of the dislikes aren’t specific to the RC Church, but more about Christianity in general. But as a Protestant it is okay, because I am allowed to pick and choose. Now this seems very elementary, but helps me see things on a larger scale.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and is dynamic, prone to additions and deletions as I learn and grow and change. And it is very preliminary. Many of these things I don’t know everything about and can’t rightly make an educated decision on. Nor can I always back up my choices with concrete reasons or scripture (something I believe to be important in the decision making process, especially when it comes to theology).

I’d also like to go into detail about each item on these lists as I learn more about them. To provide insight into where I am, and the conclusions I am drawing. This is to help me solidify things, and hopefully incite response, comments, advice, opinions in case I’ve missed something or to show another view.

Likes:

  • Reverence and Liturgy
  • Unity of one physical church
  • Transubstantiation
  • Veneration of Mary and the Saints (not worship)
  • Tradition
  • No loopholes; answer for almost everything (whether I agree with the answer or not, I appreciate having things laid out like this to avoid the wishy-washyness I see so often)
  • Structured prayer (eg. Rosary)
  • Importance of the Creeds

Dislikes:

  • Priests cannot marry
  • Purgatory and Indulgences
  • The ability to lose ones salvation
  • The need to be absolved of sin by clergy
  • literal interpretation of the Bible
  • Complementarianism (that women can’t be members of clergy)
  • Stance against the use of contraception

And I understand that many of both the likes and dislikes aren’t specific to either Protestantism or Catholicism and can be found elsewhere.

So this is a lot, I know. But it is where I am at right now. I’m making the slow transition to Pastor, but have encountered a slight bump in the road which I am now trying to navigate.

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12 thoughts on “Flirting with Catholicism

  1. The Church of Rome is no more the original Church than the Church of Constantinople.

    Or the Christianity from the Celts that still has a place in Anglicanism.

    Also, what most consider the (Roman) Catholic Church is actually the Roman Rite. There are other types of eastern “Catholic” rites that acknowledge Benedict XVI as their pontiff.

    Continue working out your faith with fear and trembling, for it is God working in you.

  2. “Don’t like something your pastor taught you? Check the church down the road, they might have something a little more to your liking. Now I think personal interpretation is important, but when people start using the same passage to defend opposing views, there is a problem.”

    Growing up Protestant this was very apparent – but it wasn’t until we moved to our current Parrish [i converted when Pooldad and I married] we have two Catholic churches – which in such a small area it is unheard of – but we ended up attending the one that wasn’t close us to us [kind of a no-no] because we found the one close didn’t suit us – we did pick and chose based on the way the church was run and their ideologies and [hate to say it] tatics. I guess what I want to say is all church do what you say regardless of denomination – it is human nature and politics.

    As for you likes and dislikes – they are almost absolutely like mine and I can tell you like the rote, memorization, routine of the Catholic church, but not so much the teachings and beliefs [I went to a Catholic uni and I loved the Catholic part the best lol] and while I don’t think there is anything wrong with liking a church for their structure and repetiveness shouldn’t there be more?

    And yeah, that marriage thing is kind of stickler for you and momma bean, now isn’t it? I can’t imagine a calling would strike you to ever leave such an important part of your life – NOT that i doubt your faith.

    I love you. Thanks for the nice Sunday post. Hope i made sense 😀 love to the Mrs. and Bean too.

  3. Consider for a moment my friend, the event that changed the disciples course of action and sent them out to change the world. The moment that Jesus appeared to them in the upper room following the crucifixion showed them that they MUST believe on the One who was sent. Now, at no time during this initial commissioning did Jesus once instruct any of them to go and begin this religion or that; nor did they ever receive guidance on ensuring that bulletins were created properly; or that the hymns were only to be sung with 1st, 2nd, and last verse only.

    The doctrine that you follow is what lines up with your internal beliefs; but at no time did God ever intend for His church to be so divided. Now, this is not an argument for or against any religion — but having been raised Roman Catholic and THEN finding the truth as an adult (the truth being that I needed to confess my sins to Jesus and NOT to a man in a booth) led me to change my doctrine and worship to Southern Baptist; but for no other reason than that this church showed me the Way, and so I aligned with it. It had nothing to do however with my desire to hold this position or that (and as you know I am currently a Pastor in the SBC); but my changing was to align with the believe that “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; and no man comes to the Father but through Him” (John 14:6 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] paraphrased).

    Consider your options my friend, and follow the true and risen Savior. The rest, is just this world’s doctrinal nonsense to keep the Church (capital “c”) separated and apart from God. God said it, and that settles it. Whether we choose to believe or not is our problem … but our worship must be on the One who died and redeemed us to the Father. Blessings.

  4. You may not have caught the significance when I mentioned there are various other rites with Benedict XVI as their pontiff. Only the Roman Rite requires priests be unmarried.

    http://www.byzcath.org/

    This is an unofficial website, but links to official sites. This is for the Archeparchy of Winnipeg of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which retains highly cultural connections (shall we say).

    http://www.archeparchy.ca/

    Moving on to those in communion directly with the Roman pontiff, there are several eastern rite church bodies. I would normally suggest first visiting either an Antiochian parish (but there appears to be none in Manitoba for, http://www.antiochian.org/), or an OCA parish (http://www.oca.org/) because these two bodies tend to be less ethnically-centered.

    Here is a listing of parishes in Winnipeg in the various Orthodox bodies making up the Standing Conference of the Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the Americas.

    http://www.scoba.us/directory.html?parish=&clergy=&city=Winnipeg&state=62&searchType=parish

    Finally, have you ever looked at the Anglican Church? You may find the cultural familiarity and realism coupled with historic Christianity to feed your soul.

    If anything, I hope you come to understand that there is no such thing as an undivided, original church. What you will find is that there are varying cultural and historic bodies that maintain a close(r) tie than some other Christian bodies.

    (If you really want to get confused, there is always this explanation of “Western Orthodoxy.” Have fun. http://www.westernorthodox.com/western-rite )

  5. Hello again,

    One thing to keep in mind is that, while if you are married it is true that you cannot become a Roman Catholic priest, you could become a deacon. I’ve considered whether God might be calling me to the diaconate: they preach homilies during Mass, baptize, marry, visit the sick, imprisoned, etc. etc.

    Christ did establish a visible Church. Protestantism views “the Church” as a set of (more or less equally valid) branches, but the Catholic and Orthodox Churches believe that there is _the_ Church (which they each claim to be) and then there are schisms _from_ that Church. The Church’s unity does not disappear when one person or a group break’s in schism form her. For an article about that, check out Called to Communion: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    God bless!

    The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have the strongest claim as to being in organic continuity with the earl Church.

  6. This is going to be bullet style and hopefully it will follow your thoughts.

    1.Divisions in Church:
    – Mark 9:38-40 speaks against divisions in the church and also forbids any claim by any one “church” to be the exclusive church. “38And John did answer him, saying, `Teacher, we saw a certain one in thy name casting out demons, who doth not follow us, and we forbade him, because he doth not follow us.’ 39And Jesus said, `Forbid him not, for there is no one who shall do a mighty work in my name, and shall be able readily to speak evil of me:
    40for he who is not against us is for us;

    The Catholic Church is not absent divisions. Different rites, orthodoxes, Methodist, Episcopal Churches all have liturgies claiming to be the Holy Catholic Church.

    There’s also divisions in theology among the Catholic faith just like Protestant with Catholics who are Pro-Choice, in favor of women priests and priest marriage.

    Fragmentation was evident even in the early church where Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them not to put other churches down or to put other Christians down because they didn’t speak in tongues or didn’t have certain spiritual gifts.

    2. Likes and Dislikes:
    -Transubstantiation: In Luke 22:19, Jesus tells the Disciples to have communion “in remembrance of me.” If the Wine and Bread literally transform in to the actual blood and body of Christ, then why would there need to be a remembrance? Christ is literally physically present. It was a remembrance that His death was a new covenant with man, and his blood became the new passover blood.

    -Veneration: I understand that the Bible says that Mary was blessed among women, but I don’t know about this as a whole. Sainthood is something I don’t really get because we’re all called and equipped to do the things that “Saints” do. Maybe they’re “Saints” because they actually do them? What if God uses someone to live life as a homeless man so that he can speak one word of encouragement to one other person under a bridge one night, and that’s his calling in life? Would he be considered for sainthood? He’s certainly done much for God.

    Protestants do it as well. Francis Chan, Rick Warren, and other like people have achieved a level of “Christian Celebrity” that I personally believe is unhealthy and can lead to worshiping men rather than God.

    3.Loopholes:
    I’m not sure what this means. We’re covered by grace. We’re humans and our falleness says we will screw up. God knew we would screw up, that’s why he sent a redeemer.

    4. Structured Prayers:
    Faith in Christ and following Him is about your relationship with Him. God is our Father. What if you called your Dad and said “My father, who art in Washington, Bill is your name…” If you structure and repeat, meaning is lost and the prayer is no more than a duty and ceremony. You’ve lost out on discussion between your heart and God’s.

    Your dislikes would be a major roadblock to me.
    I also can’t get past Matthew 23:9 “and ye may not call [any] your father on the earth, for one is your Father, who is in the heavens…”

    I’m not an expert on any of these things…it’s just opinion. I also am not against the Catholic church. I believe Catholics serve the same God I do and therefore were are brothers in Christ.

  7. I just read this and the following post and didn’t know which to post on. I went with this one. Here are my main thoughts:

    I like unity. Romans and the books to the Corinthians are excellent examples of Paul talking directly about this. Unity is the primary negative casualty of the Reformation.

    Among other doctrinal issue, the main deal breaker for me is, how are we saved? I believe it’s by grace through faith – works have NOTHING to do with salvation.

    That’s something you’ll have to seriously consider. I think that’s way more than a minor issue. It’s what Christianity is really all about, so getting that wrong means getting Jesus wrong.

    I think the issue of grace vs. works is much more substantial than any of the other dislikes you proposed here anyway. Romans in chapters 4 and 11 have some excellent passages on this (the whole thing does really).

    So overall, that’s where I’d encourage you to consider where you stand.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    1. No Christian Church or Community (that I know of) teaches that we are saved by works. The Catholic Church certainly does not.

      The question of _justification_ (how we are made righteous before God) is different (though related) with the question of _salvation_, and conflating them leads to confusion.

      Catholics affirm that we are saved BY grace THROUGH faith, which works in agape love (also by grace).

      To understand the paradigmatic differences between Catholics and Protestants on justification, see this article: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/10/a-reply-from-a-romery-person/

  8. Thanks for the comment, Marshall. This is something I never really thought about until I read Will’s post in response.

    I don’t really understand the whole faith vs. works argument. Where did it come from? What is the big deal? I understand works isn’t required as part of the salvation equation, but why do people get so upset about the issue?

    It just feels like I’m approaching this issue blind.

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