[Intro] [Brian: Why E/evangelical (1a) | Not Catholic (2a)] [Me: Why Catholic (1b)]
I also begin by thanking Brian. Let me say from the outset that Brian is my brother in Christ—no doubts about that in my mind. I very much appreciate him and the influence he’s had on my life. Over the years, through his blog posts, our emails, and in the get togethers we have had in Portland, Brian has been instrumental in helping me think through and form my views. It is no less the same in this dialogue.
I appreciate the evangelical movement. Many evangelicals I know have a tremendous love for God and do a wonderful job of living out the gospel. I went to an evangelical seminary and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I can agree with the evangelical ethos of which Brian wrote; I would even say that such an ethos describes me. So here is why I am not an evangelical. Let me just say that the points below are not necessarily a critique but that these are why I did not become evangelical.
Again, let me begin with some background. The closest I became to becoming evangelical was when I played music for the International House of Prayer Northwest (IHOP). At that time I was transitioning out of Oneness Pentecostalism; I wanted to branch out into the larger Christian world so I joined a group that was charismatic but was unlike Oneness Pentecostals in that IHOP believed in the Trinity. I did not always agree with they way IHOP expressed some of its beliefs but I enjoyed the opportunity to be a minstrel to God and to others while contemplating on the mysteries of God from 10 pm to midnight every Friday. To me, IHOP was quite evangelical but to others IHOP was considered heretical even though they all believed the same core doctrines. This leads me to my first point:
Ultra-diversity in Evangelicalism
I think diversity is a great thing, but great things can be taken too far. One of the reasons evangelicalism did not appeal to me is because within the evangelical umbrella there appears to be groups with distinctly contrasting views. For instance, some evangelical groups do not believe music in a church setting is biblical but some other groups do. Other groups believe that tithing is necessary—and sometimes even a matter of salvation—but others do not. Some evangelicals teach a health-and-wealth prosperity gospel and and others would say God never promised temporal prosperity in the New Testament. Furthermore, it seems evangelicalism encompasses even those like T. D. Jakes who espouses a modalist view of God, and of course, some evangelicals would consider Jakes a heretic.
The term evangelicalism itself is used in ways that are ultra-diverse. For example, I have heard Oneness Pentecostals lumped into evangelicalism. It seems that it is difficult to define with precision what evangelicalism is as it appears that everyone has her or his own version of who evangelicals are. I am not sure if I would enjoy continually explaining what type of evangelical I am when others ask and then having to answer any charges of heretic that might appear at any point of my explanation. At least as a Catholic, I can be prepared to be called part of the Whore of Babylon.
Lack of Daily Worship
I do not mean to say that evangelicals do not worship God personally every day. What I am referring to is the lack of daily community worship. IHOP is the only group of which I know that has daily prayer and song and perhaps some evangelical groups do have a daily service but weekend services seem to be the norm—and maybe a midweek evening prayer. Since becoming a committed Christian in 2002 worship has been an important part of my life. The Catholic church offers daily Mass and so that appealed to me. I understand that not everyone, even Catholics, has time to convene to sing praise together, hear Scripture together, pray together, and meet Jesus together daily, but the Catholic church offers such an opportunity to do so every day.
Aversiveness toward Intellectual Pursuits
I have noticed this trend more in conservative circles, but even among some moderates. In Oneness Pentecostalism, there were many anti-intellectuals. Many pastors were against having an education from a secular college or university and some pastors were against even their own Bible colleges (stepping into their shoes, I do not blame them as many of their flock who went to Bible college never returned). Even in seminary I had noticed a few who, although not anti-intellectual, were ambivalent about things like exegesis, even though they were thinkers. The intellectual life is important to me, and having been brought into the faith by priests of the Dominican order, the Catholic church is a place where I am able to nurture that life. Just last Sunday, the priest mentioned in his homily that John’s Gospel had two endings. He believed the both endings were written by John, but, of course, having been influenced by Paul Anderson, I mentally disagreed with him. My point is not that I think he was wrong but that I think that in an evangelical setting to have heard about John’s two endings in a sermon or homily would have been unlikely. The priest mentioned that because his homily had to do with love (reading was taken from John’s Gospel) and the second ending of John was reemphasizing what love is like.
Breaking from Tradition while Having a Tradition
Some evangelicals like to throw away tradition as if all of church history up until the founding of their particular group or denomination was false. Part of the irony to me is that within their respective denominations or groups there is an established or becoming established tradition. For instance, some groups’ tradition is to wear the Sunday’s best to church. I myself enjoy donning a suit (sometimes with a tie), but I also appreciate that I can show up to church with a nice pair of jeans and shirt and not be judged by that or thought of as an outsider. Then there is service order which often becomes predictable, and so forth. I can understand why some would like to consider themselves as having no tradition except that of the Bible but in practice that is hard to avoid. The worst that happens when a group decides that all of Christianity around them is part of the wrong traditions is that group becomes sectarian.
Of course, Catholics are not immune to the above points, with the exception of the second point. Some Catholics believe that the throne of Peter was vacated starting with Pope John Paul II and so there is the real Catholic church and the false Catholic church. I am sure some Catholics are anti-intellectual and some reject some of the Catholic traditions. In my experience, however, these seem to be on a lesser scale than within evangelicalism. Nonetheless, I do love my evangelical brothers and sisters (and schismatic Catholics siblings, too) no matter how and where we may differ.
Wow… To me, you are a breath of fresh air.
David: Thank you, I appreciate it. I’m glad you liked this post.
I pray that you find deep, abiding faith.
It sounds to me that he HAS found “a deep abiding faith”
If the ‘deep abiding faith’ is rooted in Christ – that more than church affiliation is what is really important. I am neither a Catholic, nor an “Evangelical” (as in the label) because Christ does not require me to be ….
Why would you even make such statements? Do you have some inside knowledge about Catholics that I, a devout Catholic, do not have?
Which statement are you questioning?
” If the ‘deep abiding faith’ is rooted in Christ – that more than church affiliation is what is really important. “. My question is why would you even say this? Everything he posted indicated to me a “deep abiding faith”.
David, I’m not sure what you’re reacting to.
I offered the observation simply because one’s loyalty to one’s church is not the same as one’s loyalty to Christ. I was pointing out that the only faith that matters ultimately is faith in Christ. One can switch churches, indeed denominations, like one’s switches socks (such as say going from Oneness to RC through some circuitous route). To simply say one has a “deep abiding faith” must be relative to something. It could be a ‘deep abiding faith’ the NY Mets will will the world series, or a deep abiding faith the Roman Church is the one true church.
In pegging faith to Christ (rather than something else) I was reinforcing the idea that ultimately evangelical or Roman Catholic – it matters not so long as one’s faith is rooted in Christ.
Is this insight ‘inside knowledge’ not possessed by Catholics? You tell me.
Oh, I suppose I was also pointing out that because Christ doesn’t require me to become a Catholic, call myself ‘evangelical’ or to agree with Calvin – I do none of those things. They are all unnecessary.
I see what you’re saying Andrew. However, there are times when a person finds Christ because of the style of worship within a particular denomination. That can make the particular Church incredibly important. For myself, the Sacraments sustain me.
Ah, but at what point does one’s preference for such unimportant things override one’s responsibilities to Christ? The debate between reformers and Catholics during the reformation is a great starting place for asking questions like this.
Real, God believing Christians (who valued the supremacy of Christ above all else) were ex-communicated, or worse burnt at the stake, for affirming primary allegiance to Christ, denying ‘Church’ but not biblical doctrines such infallibility of the Pope. As a church the Roman Church was certainly working against the interest of God’s Kingdom in doing this. Incidentally, I’m not taking the reformers side here – I’m asking a theological question though. Based upon the conduct of some reformers, I would reformers are also as subject to the same scrutiny (during the reformation and counter-reformation) – Calvin for example, was a hypocrite for having his own ‘heretics’, such as Michael Servetus, killed (see Calvin, Letter to Farel, 20 August 1553; in Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet’s book Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Volume 5: Letters, Part 2).
This discussion between Brian and JohnDave is ultimately a peripheral concern, in some sense – fluff. It’s like arguing about table-cloths instead of menus. If someone is an ‘evangelical’ but doesn’t in fact have a living relationship with Christ first and foremost, it doesn’t matter they are evangelical. If someone thinks being a Catholic grants them salvation … again – problem. On the other hand, if someone has a relationship with Christ, whether or not they take sacraments, express affinity for some particular church/denomination, or pray a certain way, it is this relationship that matters.
With respect to this debate – I’ve known Catholics who were Christians, and ones who weren’t. The Catholics I knew who were Christian’s made being ‘Catholic’ subordinate to knowing Christ, as they should. Brian and others will readily attest to the actions of some evangelicals who may be evangelicals by label, and by the things they say, but don’t appear to exhibit Christ-likeness as one of their qualities (implying they don’t have a relationship to Christ). Nevertheless, we would be hard-pressed to deny that there are many good evangelicals who love the Shepherd before all else, worshipping him as Lord and Saviour.
In this sense, if the Roman Catholic Church lays claim to being the Kingdom of God (or possessing a monopoly) standing between the bridegroom and bride as some type of intermediary – I would argue she is the whore of Babylon. Any protestant denomination doing or claiming the same thing however would be met with the same accusation.
For I don’t care about smells, bells, sacraments, priests, pastors, traditions, or labels. I care about whether the bride recognizes her bride-groom, and whether or not she is covered under a glorious, magnificent, gracious, astounding new covenant contract her bride-groom offers. I believe this approach is biblical.
Andrew, do you see anything nefarious about the reforms started by the so called “reformers”? We’re their motivations pure? Just as an example, how many vows did Martin Luther break in his reformation? Obviously, he broke his vow of obedience. Obviously he broke his vow of chastity.
Here’s my view of all this.
Catholic doctrine is not 100% accurate and Prot doctrine is not 100% accurate. IF we could take the best of say Aquinas( maybe the best theologian we have) and some excellent Prot theologians, we’d probably be as close as can be.
Zwengli, modern Catholics like Lonergan, Ben Meyer, Anglicans like NT Wright and Bauchomb, Karl Barth, Moltmann. Heck, I think some great stuff is emanating out of Wheaton lately, too.
I’m not Episcopal, but, I love NT Wright and agree with most his theological views. I just don’t care anymore about denominations. I have a book by Pope Benedict on the “infant narratives” and I loved it, I’m not a Catholic either.
Thomas Merton…..he was awesome…
Thanks JohnDave, these are exactly my reasons for breaking with evangelicalism as well. Especially the breaking with Tradition and having a tradition and the ultra-diversity. I would add the view expressed by Andrew as another reason: the absolute hostility to ecclesiology.
For the most part, I’ve noticed that a large percent of the discussions on Near Emmaus show a decided hostility toward Roman Catholicism.
I agree with your points. These have been some of my biggest struggles with Evangelical thought. I am interested to see where our dialogue goes from here, especially since our commitments to our traditions have little to do with each others critiques or even what most traditionalist would argue are the central identity markers of these traditions.
Thanks for this post. I haven’t had the luxury of conversing with many Catholics so I appreciate your blog. I always thought evangelicals were people who preached the gospel…you know from the greek word for the good news.
Can you explain to me what this means when you say, “At least as a Catholic, I can be prepared to be called part of the Whore of Babylon.” Does that mean that the very least Catholicism does is prepare you to be the whore of Babylon? If so, what is the most it does?
I consider myself evangelical because I preach the good news to whoever will hear, but I also know that unbelief, disobedience, and for sure idolatry will lead me to be part of the whore and not the bride.
Interesting observations, but I think rather than throwing all of evangelicalism out the window, you might need to find the denomination or church within which you feel the most affinity and maybe that is Catholicism since as a whole it doesn’t have the diversity in belief and practice, by and large, that you find within evangelicalism, which it sounds like was disconcerting to you.
Patricia, that’s simply not true that Catholicism lacks the same diversity as Protestantism. Catholicism as practices in America’s Bible-belt is not the same as that practised in Central America (where you see Mary worship for example) which is not the same as the Catholicism practised in Africa or the Philippines. Catholicism is as diverse, if not more so, than any Protestant congregation, except that Catholics like to convince themselves this is not the case. If it were not not the case, what would it matter from whence hailed the Pope?
David, yes of course I see nefarious agendas in the Reformation. The Reformation was a revolution. As a revolution it has all of the hallmarks of a revolution. All revolutions have, at their base, true grievances. The Reformation had at its base, true grievances (abuses and anti-Christian practices) against the Roman Church. Most reasonable Catholics would agree that precipitating the Reformation were real Church abuses that needed rectification.
But like all Revolutions, once set in motion – there can be no moderates. That’s not to say there were no moderates in thought, rather it is to say no category existed by which moderates could be fit into. Revolutions are polarizing – ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’. So moderates are fit violently into a categories (or labels) they don’t belong because of this polarization effect.
This effect also produces the revolutionary extremists and the counter-revolutionary extremists. So too with the Reformation. If you’re going to push for change, why not push for extreme change (ala Calvin and Zwingli). So too, if you’re going to resist change, why not deny the need for change altogether (Pope Paul III, Council of Trent)?
Luther was Catholic. His intent was to ‘Reform’ the church, from within the Church. Luther would have been great at Vatican II. However Luther was opposed by unreasonable men, and Luther was followed (in the Reformation) by unreasonable men.
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