51% Protestant


#1

Hey guys,

Some of you may remember me from a couple of years back. I was here for about 5 months trying to learn “from the horses mouth” about Catholicism. It was a great time of gracious fellowship and I appreciated so much the answers that you gave me concerning Catholics. I am an Evangelical, but I appreciate much of what Catholics have contributed and continue to contribute to broader Christianity.

As a result, my ministry, Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, has been hard at work at trying to teach theology and dispel misconceptions about all traditions, creating a united front (where there can be) in theological disciplines.

Anyway, there is a blog on the Reclaiming the Mind Blog, Parchment and Pen, which was written by Evangelical scholar and New Testament Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dan Wallace. It is about Roman Catholicism and its relationship to Evangelicalism. I believe that it has a good tone and much to add to a discussion that must begin to take place on a different level. Would you all mind taking look at it and telling me what you think. I would be interested to know. It is called “51% Protestant.”


#2

BTW: The direct link to the post is here: reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2007/07/03/51-protestant-2/


#3

Interesting.

Of course, I disagree that the Catholic Church teaches or requires for belief anything that is “non-essential.” The debates on these issues have been held, and the results are in; there is very little point in continuing to debate points that have already been solved, years ago already, and it is always “essential” to believe whatever is true. We cannot make spiritual progress if our beliefs are founded on false information.

Each generation is not required to re-debate every issue. We can build upon what we have learned in previous generations, and move on to the next level. That’s what “development of doctrine” is all about. :slight_smile:

He asks,

If the theological distinctions between Catholics, Orthodox, and evangelicals don’t define the boundaries of heaven and hell, then what do they do? What is the value of such distinctions? What purpose do they serve?

There is value in making these distinctions even if we take the attitude that everyone is doing his best, and all are on the road to Heaven, because if we don’t make distinctions, then we could fall into the trap of “false advertising”.

It would be false to say that an Evangelical church teaches the same things as a Catholic Church. It’s true that they have some very important things in common, but the experience of each is very, very different, and it is different again in the Eastern Orthodox church.

If a person were to go to an Evangelical church expecting a Mass, he would be deeply disappointed, and likewise with the person going to a Catholic Church expecting a praise and worship experience. And the person expecting either Mass or praise and worship, just as long as it’s in English, would be disappointed to find himself at Divine Liturgy in an Eastern Orthodox church.


#4

Interesting. Thanks for the comments.


#5

I applaud your effort. The thing that finally got me to leave Christianity were the divisons. 24,000 or so denomominations believing drastically different things. As a Muslim missionary at my door told me a few years back - or asked me - does not that prove the prayer of Jesus that “they be one” was not efficaciois and, if so, how could he be God?

Well, I did not become Muslim but the absolute contradictions I found in Christianity finally led me to leave.

I’ve said it before, if you could combine the witness of my evangelical BMF friends with the Christian theology as so well taught by Scott Hahn then Christianity might be a force in the world again. As it is, it seems the battle is coming down to Western secularism vs Islam with Christianity hardly a player.


#6

Well, let’s hope that those committed to the God-man on both sides can do something in the coming years that has not been considered possible for the last 500 years.


#7

Hope and pray because the dis-unity of Christianity is why Islam is growing and gaining converts so much faster. It presents a universal vision - one salvation so to speak. In my city a mosque is a mosque wherever you go - Shia and Sunni pastors and congregations share the same building. Can you imagine that ever happening in Christianity - Mormons, Baptists, JW’s catholics, Epsicopals and Unitarians sharing a building - yet that is the precise witness Islam is providing and its why its winning so many converts in the US and Europe. The unity, the single message the “one truth”. There was an article out of Texas a while back about all the fundamentalist Southern Bible Belt conversions to Islam and the reason, again and again, was the unity and the witness thereof of Islam.

Christians are left with works or not works - though neither side really seems to get the simple answer here - infant baptism or not, the real presence or not, a Trinity or not (Oneness Pentecostals - forget Unitarians), gay marriage or not - you know many Christians in support of that say the Spirit is guiding them there just as the Spirit is guiding you somehwere else. Which Spirit is one to beliive?

I came to the conclusion that I could not believe any of the “Spirits” of Christinity.

Sorry for being so blunt, but this is why so many are leaving Christianity for other faiths or no faith at all. There is no coherence, no consistent truth, no single message - IMO anyway.


#8

I understand the discouragement you feel and don’t really offer any advice or “correction,” just a testimony as to how I deal with this issue.

I do believe that the Christian faith is correct, not because of unity, but because I can’t get by the resurrection. However, the “unity” that Christ prayed for I would define as an organic rather than purely creedal. Just as my children fight over many things, this does not make them cease to be sibling, they just don’t act like it. I also look at the basic creeds that have unified the historic Christian faith (who Christ is, what he did, the authority of Scripture and its clarity on many things, etc). I don’t look at the exceptions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormon to be part of the historic Christian faith by definition. Therefore, their advant does not discourage me.

Well, anyway, with understanding I leave you for now.


#9

I appreciate your comments.

And frankly I feel liberated and not discouraged at all since leaving Christianity. More free, more at peace than I have ever felt.

I don’t condemn any particular faith anymore. I feel all have their place and are paths but there are other paths as in not belonging to a formal religion.

Like I said, it was a liberating experericne for me and made me a better father, son, brother and friend. Not denying that you or others of other non-Christian faith traditions can be as good fathers, brothers, sons and friends.

I absolutely believe in God and an afterlife, but I don’t think we humans can in any way preach or teach what is four dimensions in 3 dimensions.

This will get me into trouble but I believe in universal salvation. We do go on, we will see our passed loved ones again and there is a journey here far more abundant than any religious traditoon teaches or can conceive of.

But I still love discussing theology having beenbrought up in a devout Christian home with many relatives still embracing Christianity.

Do I believe Jesus is God - no. Do I believe I am condemned for not beliiving that - no.

Is religion evolving - as in human understanding - absolutely. Christians are at an all-time low as a percentage of America’s population,. But belief in God, an afterlife, something better on the horizon is as strong as ever. IMO that is where the future lies.


#10

MichaelP,

Welcome back to the forums. The 51% Protestant blog is interesting to me in so far as it represents a positive ecumenical spirit. Moreover, this kind of thing will encourage the average person to learn more about what others of different faith traditions really believe.

The responses to the blog seemed to be generally positive, but it is clear to me that the respondents still have much to learn about Catholic teaching. This is often problematic because even when something is properly articulated the existing preconceptions and biases can be extremely difficult to overcome. This also holds true for Catholics in their attempts to understand the beliefs of their non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ.


#11

Hey Michael, :wave:
I read the whole post and printed it out and jotted down the following comments.

To some Catholics, once they hear that a person is an evangelical, they have the same posture.

True. However, the official and authoritative Catholic position is stated in CCC # 836-838 and 846-848

Yet, the three major branches of Christendom all embrace the truths that Jesus Christ is fully God, that he died for our sins, that he was raised from the dead, and that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith. There’s so much right with other groups that it’s impossible to claim that they’re all wrong!

Agreed! And I think that is what the Church is saying in the Catechism.

But I also believe that it is flawed and that we can learn from Catholics and Orthodox.

A refreshing statement…

And just as it is possible

for someone to be saved and be an evangelical, I think it’s possible for someone to be saved and be a Catholic or eastern Orthodox.“Possible”. This is important because it is a rash generalization to assert that all of any group is saved.

A) The issue becomes one of willingness to accept another’s profession of faith. Since none of us can know the heart of another, how can one validly reject the profession of faith of someone who says they assent to the profession statements that you have outlined?

B) The issue becomes one of individual specific points of belief that define “being saved”.

In other words, it becomes that individual’s response to to the question, “Men, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Individuals accept or reject based upon their respective criteria. :shrug:

This, of course, raises a significant issue: If the theological distinctions between Catholics, Orthodox, and evangelicals don’t define the boundaries of heaven and hell, then what do they do?

Define the boundaries of perceived truth.

What is the value of such distinctions?

Much. In that they offer us a premise of possible truth that can and should be honestly researched and examined in an ongoing effort to ascertain the fullness of truth.

What purpose do they serve?

Many. Among them, to give us a valid reference point (hopefully- providing one is unflinchingly honest.) for (at least) beginning a dialog.
[LIST]
*]Definitions of terms used in such dialog.
*]A path to greater knowledge as one actually examines sources and determines their veracity or lack thereof.
*]Ultimately they (should) lead one to deeper and more sure faith.
[/LIST]

I hope these are helpful. :slight_smile:


#12

I believe Pope Benedict said that the Church must get smaller. Do you see this as a problem for Christians?


#13

Smaller is not irrevelant and I don’t think that is what the Pope meant to say. But the church and Christianity in general is becoming irrelevant more and more in the day to day lives of folks in the West - IMO.


#14

Hey Pax, good to see you! Thanks for the comments. I agree about the general positive response from the blog. Most seem to be open to new dialogue. This is very exciting!


#15

Michael. Great to see ya. You guys are all still here!!

Thanks for the helpful comments, as usual.


#16

Good will towards each other is essential. Only when we have good will towards each other, and honestly try to understand what the other side means, will we be able to enter into fruitful dialogue.

When one comes into a discussion/debate without good will, or without trying to understand what the other side means, it results merely in straw men and dialogue stalls-- for instance, how far can I go in a conversation if my opponent insists that I believe something I don’t?

This is a very worthy endeavor if for that reason only-- we need to see ourselves as more alike than dislike. That won’t be too hard-- in this secular world we have few other allies. In the face of difficulty and hardship, we’ll have to learn to like each other or get worse from our secular foes.

-Rob


#17

Let us love one another.

smileys.smileycentral.com/cat/17/17_1_29.gif


#18

Hopefully you are not leaving the narrow path for the wide path. I read a good book called Getting the Gospel Right by RC Sproul and that went through the Evangelicals and Catholic Together Documents - as well as the document by Evangelicals called The Gift of Salvation (I think??). Have you read this??


#19

I saw this post on that website:

"One of the most neglected aspects of the Christian faith within Protestantism is communion. Some churches observe it only once a year; most, once a month. But in the beginning of the Christian faith, it was observed daily. After abuses, the practice fell to once a week, the Lord’s day. Many churches still observe the Eucharist weekly. This is the biblical pattern, and I believe that it is one that should be continued even now.

One theologian noted, “Christians must attend [the communion]; and this they do not as a duty, but as a distinct privilege. They may feel unworthy to attend it, and yet they know that they are welcome by our Lord, Who numbers them among His chosen people….” No, this wasn’t written by John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Hodge, or even John Wesley. It was written by Nicholas Elias, a Greek Orthodox priest. Continue Reading »"

I think more discussion about the Eucharist and its importance is certainly needed between Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics. While a lot of people are concerned with other theological issues, in my view this is probably one of the real ‘foundational’ issues Christians need to agree on before there can be serious re-union between churches.


#20

The RC and EO tended to more exclusionary and require 100% adherence to their dogma/doctrine even if it was way outside the essentials and out on a hermeneutical limb. For me to be a Roman Catholic I have to agree with all of their more questionable beliefs not just the essentials (which I agree are really the only important ones when it comes to are of the Faith or not).

I think to myself, Were the Apostles required 100% adherence to the dogma/doctrine of Jesus, even if it was way outside the essentials and out on a hermeneutical limb of how they interpreted the old testament, or the way the pharisees and sadducees taught?

The biggest division between Protestants and Catholic is Sola Scriptura, does the Church have authority to infallibly teach, or is that left to the Bible only?
If that is left to the Bible only, then how do we know what is out on a hermeneutical limb or not?

[LIST]
*]Is your own personal interpretation?
*]Is it the teaching of your pastor?
*]Is it the confession of the your particular faith?
[/LIST]

And who was it that determined what is essential or not, was that determination infallible?

No matter what, every Christian is using an outside authority to interpret scripture.

I ask this, is your outside authority infallible or does it claim to be infallible?

Would you want an infallible outside authority, or does the concept scare you?

Would this kind of bind you, and not leave you wiggle room, if at some point your interpretation of scripture should change when some other interpretation sounds better?


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