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My (Imminent) Reception into the Roman Catholic Church
Right Reason ^
| May 17, 2007
| Robert Koons
Posted on 03/20/2008 8:55:06 PM PDT by annalex
Several weeks ago, I learned through a mutual friend that Frank Beckwith was intending to return to the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time, Frank learned that I myself have been moving in the direction of Rome for the last several years. I am very pleased to be able to announce that I intend to be received into the Church on May 26th, at St. Louis King of France parish in Austin. My own story is quite different from Frank’s, although our reasons for entering the Church of Rome are strikingly parallel.
I was baptized through the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod, and I have been an active member of the church body ever since. As a Lutheran, I’ve never thought of myself as “Protestant”, nor have I ever embraced the kind of extreme sola-scripturism that has been much in evidence in responses to Frank’s announcement. I always recognized that the Scriptures are themselves the foundation of, and very much a part of, a divine Tradition. Although I believed that only the Scriptures were infallible, I nonetheless assigned great weight to the ‘rule of faith’ established by the continuous tradition of teaching by the Church, and as reflected in the writings of the Fathers and the decrees of Councils. Insofar as I accepted a form of ‘sola scriptura’, it took the form of insisting that all doctrines must have their source in the Scriptures as interpreted by the Church, or in the universal practices and teaching of the early church. This is the only sort of “sola scriptura” principle that can hold up to logical scrutiny, since the Scriptures themselves provide no definition of the canon and no clear statement of any sola-scriptura principle (both of these can be found only in the Fathers and Councils). Extreme sola-scripturism is, given these facts, self-refuting.
How, then, could I have remained Lutheran? I did so because I believed that the late medieval church (in the form of both the Scotists and the nominalists like Ockham and Biel) had distorted the doctrine of salvation or “justification”, embracing a kind of “Pelagian” error: that is, the notion that human beings can save themselves through the exercise of unaided human reason and will. I still believe this to be so (as do many, if not most, contemporary Roman Catholic theologians). I also believed that the Church erred in its brusque condemnation of Luther’s early protests (again, a view I still hold), and that the Council of Trent solidified a kind of apostasy from the true faith (this is where my current view departs from my former one). I believed that the teachings of the church popularly known as “Lutheran” or “Evangelical”, as codified in the sixteenth century Book of Concord, constituted the defining characteristic of the one Catholic Church in its fullness, in continuity on all essentials with the teachings of the Church from the first century until at least the twelfth. The logic of my position was a simple one: the modern Roman Church clearly embraced an erroneous doctrine of justification, which nullified its otherwise strong historical claim to continuity with the apostles (especially on the matter of ecclesiology, the theory of the Church), depriving modern Christians of any good reason to embrace late-medieval and modern developments in Roman Catholic doctrine (including the immaculate conception and papal infallibility).
Those of you who know more about theology and the history of theology than I did then can easily see how untenable a position I held (although I think this untenable position is one still held by many, if not most, thoughtful Lutherans and Reformed Christians). My confidence in this position was shaken by three blows: (1) new scholarship (primarily by Protestants) on Paul’s epistles, which raised profound doubts about the correctness of Martin Luther’s and Phillip Melanchthon’s excessively individualistic and existentialist reading of Paul’s teaching on justification by faith, (2) the fruits of Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue on justification, expressed most fully in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1997, that greatly clarified for me the subtlety of the doctrinal differences between the two bodies, and (3) a more thorough exposure to the writings of the early Church fathers, especially those considered most “evangelical”: Chrysostom, Ambrose, and (above all) Augustine of Hippo. I began to realize that many Lutheran and Protestant polemicists have been guilty of two fallacies: a straw-man version of contemporary Roman Catholic teaching, and a cherry-picking of quotations from the Fathers, ignoring the undeniable contradiction between the teachings of those Fathers, taken as a whole, and the one-sided version of the faith-alone doctrine on justification embraced by the second generation of the Reformation (especially Martin Chemnitz). The Joint Declaration and the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church aided me in giving a closer and more charitable reading to the anathemas of the Council of Trent (which I still believe to be have been written in an unprofitably provocative way).
This is a very brief summary of the considerations that led to my theological transformation. I have available a set of private notes that began as a purely intellectual exercise: an attempt to exorcise my doubts about Lutheranism by putting them to paper and exposing them to critique (both on my part and on that of others). As it turned out, the more I wrote, the more reasons I found for changing my outlook. The notes can be downloaded HERE.
Bear in mind that I am no professional theologian, and I claim no special authority for my conclusions. I welcome feedback to these notes, but I would ask that my readers take a look first at John Henry Newman’s book, An Essay on the Development of Doctrine (1845). Newman’s book is essential background reading for my notes, because he provides the decisive rebuttal to the argument that the supremacy of the Pope and other contemporary, distinctively Roman Catholic doctrines constitute objectionable “innovations”. Newman convincingly argues that the recognition of genuine development in Christian doctrine is inescapable, as anyone who knows the history of the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ must recognize.
One more thing about my notes: they were written with an audience of one (myself) in mind. In writing them, I gave no thought to being diplomatic or irenic. My only point was to try to sort out which of the two traditions was more likely to be the fullest expression of the Gospel. They are deliberately one-sided: there is much that I could have said about the virtues of the Lutheran tradition and the need for the reformation of the 16th century Church not included here.
Please bear in mind also the distinction between the reality of justification and our theological theories about that reality. As a Roman Catholic, I will trust no less in Jesus as my Savior, nor more in my own works, than I have as a Lutheran. I’m certainly fallible and thus capable of trading in a better theory of justification for a worse one, but I urge my Protestant brethren to remember, before making any judgments about the state of my soul, that sinners are justified by trusting in Jesus and not by believing a theory of justification.
TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism
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posted on 03/20/2008 8:55:07 PM PDT
To: Alex Murphy; Salvation; NYer; narses; MarineBrat; RJR_fan; papertyger; sockmonkey
posted on 03/20/2008 8:58:45 PM PDT
To: AlaskaErik; Pyro7480; Not gonna take it anymore; ArrogantBustard
The bump list from the recent Resources thread.
Blessed Holy Thursday to you all.
posted on 03/20/2008 9:05:42 PM PDT
To: annalex; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...
Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:
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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of interest.
posted on 03/20/2008 9:17:09 PM PDT
(...the spirit of Trent is abroad once more.)
I converted to Catholicism at the age of 12 because of a girl that I thought I was in love with. She left the church and I never saw her again. I stayed in love with the Church.
posted on 03/20/2008 9:18:19 PM PDT
(Vote for the Person who will do the least damage to our country.)
Thanks for the post but I don’t understand exactly the doctrines of the Catholic church, being the Protestant Christian that I am.
A priest in my city said this in his homily from last week’s mass: “....if I get to heaven”.
Thist statement has greatly troubled a Catholic friend of mine who was at that service.
She asked another Catholic friend about this statement....basicaly wondering how could a Priest say that? i.e. He doesn’t believe he IS DEFINITELY going to heaven?
The other friend talked about mortal sins and what the Catholic church believes about that....
I would like any and all Catholics here who would like to offer an explanation for this Priest’s comments.
Does it mean, is it true, that Catholic Christians are not assured of their eternal life with Jesus Christ in heaven immediately after they die...and if not ....why not and when will they receive this assurance of eternal life in heaven with Jesus Christ?
Thanks for the exlanations. Will check back in tomorrow late.
“explanations” - correction
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This looks great. Will read in later detail in the morning. Just returning from Adoration after Holy Thursday Mass.
posted on 03/20/2008 11:32:32 PM PDT
(†With God all things are possible.†)
No, Catholics - priests or otherwise, -- do not believe we definitely are going to heaven.
Something is required of us -- in fact, quite a bit (Mt 25). To presume we will be judged as justified before we actually are reminds us of the pharisee who made that presumption (Lk 18:10-14). This is the road to justification as outlined by St. Peter:
2 Grace to you and peace be accomplished in the knowledge of God and of Christ Jesus our Lord: 3 As all things of his divine power which appertain to life and godliness, are given us, through the knowledge of him who hath called us by his own proper glory and virtue. 4 By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world. 5 And you, employing all care, minister in your faith, virtue; and in virtue, knowledge; 6 And in knowledge, abstinence; and in abstinence, patience; and in patience, godliness; 7 And in godliness, love of brotherhood; and in love of brotherhood, charity. 8 For if these things be with you and abound, they will make you to be neither empty nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he that hath not these things with him, is blind, and groping, having forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore, brethren, labour the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time.
(2 Peter 1)
"Make sure your calling and election" -- that comes in the end.
Excellent question, that cuts to the heart of the Catholic faith.
posted on 03/21/2008 1:11:00 AM PDT
The typically Catholic response to the question "Are you saved?" is, "I was saved, I am being saved, and I hope one day to be saved." In other words, we were saved at baptism, we are saved every day as we are perfected by the grace of Jesus Christ, and we hope to be saved at the end of our lives, when we are judged. (Revelations 20:12,13)
In Catholic theology, salvation bears very little resemblance to the somewhat legalistic event it sometimes appears to be in some (only some!) familiar Protestant approaches. It is not a single event, in which the sinner recites a formula prayer, or otherwise declares that Jesus Christ is his or her personal Lord and savior, and from that point forward, they are saved. Rather, in the Catholic Church, salvation is all about being in relationship with Christ. Mere belief is not sufficient - after all, even the Devil "believes" in God. Without a personal relationship with the Lord, you have a "faith" which is dead and which avails you nothing.
In Catholic Christianity, going through your life convinced that you are going to Heaven regardless of how you conduct your life or whether you walk in the paths of the Lord is treated as a particular kind of sin, called presumption. It is considered a very depraved form of arrogance. I don't mean to suggest that Protestants who think "once saved, always saved" are arrogant, I am just explaining the Catholic perspective.
At the same time Catholics can and should have confidence in the mercy of God. God is love and went so far as to die for our sins; He does not go around damning repentant sinners, no matter how horrible their sins might be. I am certain that the priest in your story is pretty sure he is going to go to Heaven, but at the same time he is not going to "presumptuously" say that his journey with Christ is complete or that he does not still need to grow in the Lord. We live in faith and trust, but we acknowledge that we have to respond to the call of Jesus every day; we can't just point back to one time however many years ago when we claimed the Lord as our own. (Matthew 7:21)
I hope that this explanation is helpful and unoffensive...
posted on 03/21/2008 2:10:36 AM PDT
“I converted to Catholicism at the age of 12 because of a girl that I thought I was in love with. She left the church and I never saw her again. I stayed in love with the Church.”
I married my Catholic wife, she was patient with me as I didn’t convert initially. She seemed to know that eventually I’d see the Truth. She was and is a gift to me in many ways.
posted on 03/21/2008 2:55:31 AM PDT
("bigger government means constricting freedom"....................RWR)
I read this last year - great explanation. In my parish in a small Southern town, we have over 20 coming into the Church on the Easter Vigil this year. We had close to 30 last year.
And of course, as wonderful as it is to celebrate the reception of new Catholics at the Easter Vigil, there are others who come into the Church more quietly, often through a pastoral provision. I know of one such case in the past week. A lifelong Episcopalian who had long considered herself “Catholic” in belief, felt driven from her church due to all the “happenings” in TEC. As an older adult, she had been attending Mass for over a year. With our pastor’s guidance, she made her first confession and a profession of faith just this week. Truly, new Catholics are born every day. ;-)
To: annalex; Freedom'sWorthIt; Magdala
Excellent responses to Freedom's question, to which I would like to add:
Heb. 9:12 - Christ's sacrifice secured our redemption, but redemption is not the same thing as salvation. We participate in and hope for salvation. Our hope in salvation is a guarantee if we are faithful to Christ to the end. But if we lose hope and fail to persevere, we can lose our salvation. Thus, by our own choosing (not by God's doing), salvation is not a certainty. While many Protestant churches believe in the theology of "once saved, always saved," such a novel theory is not found in Scripture and has never been taught by the Church.
Rom. 5:2 - we rejoice in the "hope" (not the presumptuous certainty) of sharing the glory of God. If salvation is absolutely assured after accepting Jesus as Savior, why would Paul hope?
There are many scriptural passages that re-inforce the fact that we are not guaranteed salvation. We hope for it.
posted on 03/21/2008 5:51:25 AM PDT
("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
The others have answered the question very well. All I can add is salvation is a gift Christ laid out for all, but like any gift we as an individual have to accept that gift. By accepting that gift it means living a life for christ, choosing to do good, loving one another, etc.
At any time we have choices, good or evil and if we choose evil, we are choosing to tell Christ thank you for the gift, but I reject that gift.
His grace is great enough to allow us the freedom to reject that gift. His grace is also great enough to leave the gift lying there for us to accept over and over again.
Look at the apostles, they all rejected the gift one way or another and except for Judas they all came back and accepted the gift again.
posted on 03/21/2008 6:07:26 AM PDT
by CTK YKC
Someone earlier made a great post for you. I just wanted to add a few things. Catholics do not believe in OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved). We believe we can lose our salvation if we commit serious sins and thereby cut off ourselves from God or by losing our faith.
I have noticed that many Protestants who believe in OSAS say that if someone loses their faith, he must never have had faith in the first place. They simply don’t believe back slidding is possible. This seems to contradict common sense to me. There are formerly fervent Christians who are now Buddhists or Muslims or athiests. Am I really to believe they were all faking it when they claimed to be saved Christians?
Catholics believe there are really two ways to be presumptuous. 1) You’re presumptuous when you assume you’re so sinful that you can’t be saved as if God’s grace isn’t powerful enough to help you. 2) You’re presumptuous when you assume you’re saved no matter what you do - including when you choose a sinful life. We believe these presumptions are sinful for the one presumes God can’t help you and the other presumes you don’t really need His help at all or that a feeling equals salvation itself.
Here are two links. One is to an article by former Evnagelical who is now a Catholic while the other is a link to a a site run by a former Catholic now a Protestant (and rather anti-Catholic) who wrote a mammoth book against OSAS:
(also see this http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2002/0203sbs.asp)
I hope this helps!
posted on 03/21/2008 6:30:38 AM PDT
(Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. Jerome)
| "Since Your Majesty and Your Lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer.
Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason, and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.
I cannot, and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other.
God help me."
- Martin Luther, from the Eric Till film Luther
posted on 03/21/2008 6:32:32 AM PDT
by Alex Murphy
("Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -- Galatians 4:16)
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