If you or another Protestant don’t believe, please tell me why.
I am a Protestant convert to Catholicism, and I previously believed Jesus founded “the church”, i.e., every person collectively who was a Christian worldwide, but not a singular institution that itself was the “one true Church.” I thought the Catholic Church was simply the creation of pagans being forced into Christianity shortly after the reign of Constantine. Before that everything was “Protestantish”. But lo and behold, that was most emphatically not so… It was further history and Scripture study that changed my mind.
Yes, this is exactly what my husband and I believed when we were Evangelical Protestant.
We also believed that during all the centuries before the Reformation, that there were lots of “true Christians”–not Catholics–who were “underground” and kept the “True Faith” and the “True Bible” (the one with only 66 books) pure from the Catholics who had taken over and corrupted the Church of Jesus Christ.
We didn’t study any history. We studied the Bible a lot–a LOT! But no history. So we didn’t know.
I think three things happened that have encouraged Evangelical Protestants to study Catholicism and convert.
**1. Legalized Abortion. **
Yes, as awful as it sounds, I do believe that God has used legalized abortion in this country to get Evangelical Protestants working alongside Catholics. Many Evangelical Protestants were essentially separatists before 1972 and didn’t know any Catholics except in the most casual way. Also, most Evangelical Protestants didn’t realize for many years exactly what Roe v. Wade was doing to the U.S. I can remember our pastor’s wife telling all of us 8th grade girls that it was better for babies to be aborted than to be born into abusive homes.
But then Dr. James Dobson started speaking up and telling Evangelical Protestants the TRUTH about abortion, and along with him, singer Keith Green and his “Last Days Ministries” were publishing graphic and scathing tracts about the evils of abortion and the need for Christians to rise up against it.
Catholics, remember that when accusations of “anti-Catholicism” come up against Dr. Dobson and Keith Green! I testify that these two men and their organizations were the main impetus for Evangelical Protestants to wake up, recognize that abortion was a terrible sin, and start fighting it! Many Evangelical Protestants thought that Dobson and Green were “too political” and tried to ignore them, but then other Evangelical Protestant leaders and musicians got on board and spoke out against abortion. But it all started with Dobson and Green. I was there and I know.
Evangelical Protestants got busy, and realized that Catholics were already there fighting abortion and had been for years!
For many of us, it was the first time we had ever stepped foot into a Catholic Church–to hear good speakers like Joe Scheidler and to attend classes in counseling at the new “pregnancy life care centers” that were springing up in our cities all over the country. Many of these centers were run by Catholics, and we Evangelical Protestants had to work with them!
And many of us learned that Catholics are true Christians and have deep love for Jesus and the Bible.
That paved the way for us to become open to accepting Catholics and the Catholic Church as “truly Christian,” not a pagan cult.
2. The Priest Scandals.
We Evangelical Protestants lived in a fortress of love, wholesomeness, and safety. We trusted our pastors and teachers and all of our fellow church members. It was FUN being Evangelical Protestant! There was lots to do and great people to do it with.
We shook our heads when the scandals about priests were on the news.
And then we learned, to our horror, what our own pastors, teachers, and fellow members were capable of. My husband and I realized that in every Evangelical Church were had been involved with, some kind of sexual abuse had happened to someone.
There was/is a lot of joking around in Evangelical Protestant churches about “pastors running off with the piano player or church secretary.”
We learned that these aren’t just jokes. It happens all the time and it’s hushed up.
Unlike Catholics, Evangelical Protestants don’t retain pervert pastors. We just quietly ousted them and they never came back. And no one else in the church, other than the victim and their family, knew what had happened (gossip is a sin).
Once we learned what sin our pastors, teachers, and fellow church members were capable of, we started losing trust in not only their moral intergrity, but their scholarship. This allowed us to step back from the bubble that we lived in and actually do some study of Catholicism.
3. The Internet.
Evangelical Protestants are uber-involved in their fortress churches. My husband and I were at church or at home doing a church-related activity 5-6 days/evenings a week. We would not have been able to attend a class at the Catholic church in apologetics, history, etc.
Also, we didn’t dare visit Catholic churches, because we probably would have been called before our Church Board and asked, “Why are you spending time with the heathens?”
As for learning about Catholicism from Catholics in our workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods–well, sorry everyone, but most Catholics had no clue about Catholicism. They just did it because…well, they didn’t know why. And many of them were coming to OUR Evangelical Protestant churches for the good music, the fellowship, and the good preaching.
But once the internet came along, Evangelical Protestants could investigate and study in the privacy of their own homes. And Catholics could actually LEARN about Catholicism and be better equipped to testify to us about their faith.
CAF and other good sites are so valuable!
What an awesome response Cat!
I will also add that before I studied Catholicism when I was an Evangelical I assumed and had been taught that the original Christians were Protestant like and that the Catholic Church had added the Sacraments much later. I occasionally help a fourteen year old girl with her homework from her “Christian” High School. Her church history information labels the first few hundred years as “Early Christianity.” She asked me if Catholics celebrated Christmas. So not everyone has a good understanding of Church History.
It took me years of struggle to come to believe that the Catholics were right. Yes, the internet helped. I came to RCIA pretty much converted.
What started me on my inquiry was that the church that planted the church that I attended simply left the denomination we belonged to because they wanted to ordain women elders. I was shocked that how easily a particular church could just change what they believed.
I’d like to share with you what I “learned” in my Freshmen world history class several years ago.
The teacher, Mrs. Uselmann, was a Southern Baptist who was married to a former Catholic, so she considered herself a self-proclaimed “early Church” historian. She gave us a talk about the “origins of Christianity”. According to her, the Church consisted of a bunch of little congregations spread throughout the East, and they all studied the Bible in their houses. After Constantine had a “mythical vision” he declared himself the first Pope and called all the congregational bishops together, then forced them to set up the Catholic Church as a political tool for the Roman Empire, by incorporating pagan practices to increase membership and tithing. One congregation didn’t join the Catholic Church, and that congregation is today known as the Baptist “Church”.
I wish I had the zeal and knowledge to correct her at the time, but all I could do is sit back with my head down and hope no one realized I was Catholic.
The history textbook also refers to the Catholic Church as the “early Christian Church” up until 1054, when the “Roman” Catholic Church left the “Christian Church” and the “Christian Church” was renamed the “Eastern Orthodox Church”. You should’ve heard the teacher describe the Great Schism. According to her, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople was mad that the Pope was hogging all the power and declared himself the new Pope, then the two excommunicated each other and there was no real pope.
THIS is why the vast majority of Protestants (and non-Protestants) don’t believe there is any validity in the Catholic Church. Anti-Catholic bias starts at a young age.
As a Lutheran, my church history looks a little different from some of the Protestant understandings described in earlier posts.
I was always taught that since Pentecost, the Church was unified - it was both Catholic and Orthodox and consisted of what came to be called the Eastern Church and the Western Church - which eventually split. Lutherans were part of the Western Church, the Catholic Church; until Luther and his followers called for reforms and were accused of heresy instead and excommunicated.
Since then, Lutherans and Catholics have lurched between hurling anathemas at each other and earnestly seeking a common ground.
May God have mercy on us.
Does the ‘R’ stand for Roman? Another thread had Catholics getting a bit heated over being called Roman.
The Catholic (Universal) Church is often called “Roman” because its’ leader is the Bishop of Rome. The name “Roman Catholic” originated as a derogatory term in England to differentiate English “Catholics” (the Anglican communion) and the “papists”.
The Catholic Church is not Roman. It’s catholic. Universal. The Latin (Roman/Western) rite is one of 20-some other rites within the Church.
Most Catholics don’t take offense to being called “Roman Catholic” but if you’re aiming for political correctness, we’re just Catholic.
On the other hand, being called “Romish” is a whole 'nother thing…
I don’t. I don’t think He meant for there to a be church that could say “We’re it” but they “aren’t.” I don’t think the world, life, God, and Christian doctrine is as cut and dry as believed within the Roman Catholic Church. I respect it and really enjoy it’s beauty, services, and people though.
How many churches do you think He meant for their to be then?
When you say “I don’t think”, it sounds like you are not absolutely sure, you don’t sound too definite about it, which is reason for you to study up a bit more on the subject so you can be absolutely sure about it. Let me say this, God did not intend for his church to be splintered up into the thousands like they currently are. There are not thousands of “right” or “acceptable” pathways to salvation, each teaching something different, even if it’s slightly different, in their doctrines. God intends for all men to be saved, but he is doing it with “one” true church that has within it all correct teaching. The Catholic church has that.
I don’t think it’s a meaningful claim, historically. As historical phenomnena, churches change.
Do I believe that the “RCC” is in continuity with the Church Jesus founded? Yes, definitely.
Do I believe that it is in more significant continuity with the Church Jesus founded than any other Church? Probably, with the Eastern Churches close rivals (Eastern Christianity is in most ways less changed from early centuries–but early centuries aren’t the same thing as the time of Jesus; there is Eastern Christianity within the Roman Communion; and the Papacy just by itself is a vitally significant element of continuity).
But do I believe that other Christian communities are also in continuity with the Church Jesus founded? Yes, definitely. So I hesitate to say simply “the RCC is the Church Jesus founded.” That’s certainly true in one sense, but it can be taken to mean a lot of things that clearly aren’t true (for instance, that in every way in which Catholics differ from Protestants, it’s because Catholics are faithful to Jesus’ intentions and Protestants aren’t–that obviously isn’t the case).
That’s my dilemma. (I’m currently in RCIA, by the way, but have not yet been received and am still struggling with whether this is the right thing to do–as I have been doing for nearly 20 years now.)
No one (well no reasonably orthodox Christian) disputes that there is or ought to be one Church. The question is: what degree of organizational and theological diversity is appropriate within the one Church?
As the two Orthodox Communions, the Assyrian Church and the Catholic Communion show, there is room for unity in diversity. As long as the faith is the same.
Well, technically it is not correct to say that protestant Churches are in continuity with the Church Jesus founded when they either take away or change key doctrines that are not up to opinion. It really is the case to say that protestant beliefs that undo Christ’s teaching are not faithful to Jesus’ intentions. The biggest problem that plagues most protestant Churches is the “faith alone” doctrine that is not biblical or historical, and is vital to our understanding of God and man. Saints, especially Eastern saints like Basil, John Chrysostom, and later Maximus all explain the twofold way in which we were created, in the image and likeness of God. The image is purely a gift and grace of God to make us in a way that we have no control over, a mighty creation with great potential. The likeness truly requires “us”. We must strive to use our God given reason to “become” truly victors over the flesh. We really do earn a crown as scripture says. Of course the greater part is completely given to us by God and is believed in by Faith alone, but the second part is crucial for us, since it does involve a lot, namely taking up our own cross and following Jesus. That this whole understanding is not taught and is actually spoken against by many protestants, and sadly even by many Catholics that don’t know any better, makes protestant belief not in continuity with the Church.
Technicaly its not the same.
Origanaly you had JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF on earth leading the church.
Nothing can be THE SAME as that.
If we change the question to… can we trace the churches lineage back to the apostles…then the answer is yes. You can also trace it back to the Orthodox churches.
If you don’t know more than all your RCIA instructors combined I’ll be shocked.
Hope you’ve found a truly extraordinary parish for instruction!
There wasn’t an established Catholic church until the Romans adopted Christianity.
Just lots of Christian communities mainly scattered around those parts where the early apostles were able to travel to spreading the teachings of Christ.
Pauls writings mention much about those earliest places.