Questions from a Protestant Who Doth Protest a Little Bit


#1

Hi! So I’m Cheyenne and I am a Protestant.

A little bit of backstory: I’ve spent most of my time as a Christian at some Evangelical Free church or another. My home church is EFC with Reformed theology and most people there do not believe that Catholicism is legitimate Christianity, though they believe some Catholics can be saved if they aren’t “true Catholics” and essentially believe in Sola Fide. I used to hold this view as well. However, while I was at college, I took a Christian Wisdom and Vocation class, a Christian Classics class, and did my senior project on beauty, with a main thinker being Hans Urs Von Balthasar. I saw the depth, reverence, love, beauty, and life in many writings by people who were definitely Catholic, and was forced to question whether or not I believed they were Christians, and if they were, was it because of or in spite of the Roman Catholic Church. This questioning really came to a head when I got back home and resumed attending my home church. They had a lot of theological arguments, and I figured I owed it to see what was right.

I’ve been researching Roman Catholicism for several months now, along with Eastern Orthodoxy, as it also claims to be the one, holy, apostolic Church. At this point, I no longer believe in Sola Fide, and my understanding of Sola Gracia is more in line with the Catholic perspective. I found that the dichotomy Protestants typically make between faith and works is incorrect and theologically harmful; it unnerves me to think that while Protestants affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, we have no reason for its infallible canon, as we don’t hold to Church Councils unless it is convenient or we think they got “at least something right;” I love the way that the physical and spiritual are seen as good, and are both important ways of knowing God, whereas Protestant spirituality usually has little to do with the body and is rather nebulous at times; and redemptive suffering has fundamentally transformed how I view suffering and how I experience it. I believe it is likely that Mary was sinless and assumed, and do believe in the communion, intercession, and veneration of saints. I believe and love the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Reading some Church Fathers and having a better understanding of what Catholics actually believe, I found myself hard pressed to claim that “my brand of Christianity” that started 500 years ago (and for Evangelicalism, 200-ish years ago) had more wisdom than Christians who were disciples of the Apostles, or living within a few generations of them.

In short, the reason I am still Protestant is because I am still researching between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and because there are certain Protestant objections to Catholicism that I am having a hard time getting past. To be honest, I want to be Catholic, but I want to research with fairness the different branches of Christianity and not just convert because it felt good in a given moment.

(Questions Below)


#2

As far as my questions go, here are the few questions in the forefront of my mind, but if anyone is willing to have a longer discussion, there are others I might ask, but that are less vital, in my opinion:

  1. This is kind of a few questions that all tie together: What is the nature and function of a priest? Are priests necessary for our relationship with God? If so, why is that? To me, if that is the case, it seems to be putting an unnecessary constraint/position on on the laity, especially when Christ has already established himself as Mediator. What would be the function and biblical justification for a necessary priesthood?
    I understand that priests were a part of the Early Church and am ready to affirm that structure, and don’t really mind a celibate priesthood (I went to a Christian university and saw how many pastor’s and minister’s kids felt like their parents neglected them for the ministry. I see the wisdom in a celibate priesthood), this bit above just concerns me and I’m not really sure how to find a solid biblical reason, if that is the case (Lord knows most of my objections in the past with Catholicism have just been misunderstandings), or justify to others who bring it up.

  2. The Pope: specifically, why is he sometimes referred to as the “Head of the Church”? The Bible talks about Christ being the Head of the Church. Isn’t this blasphemy? Why/ How does the Catholic Church use this term?

  3. From the Eastern Orthodox perspective, Roman Catholicism makes the mistake of making specific metaphysical speculations about different mysteries/spiritual realities into actual doctrine. Sometimes, it does seem like this complaint holds true.
    The division between Mortal and Venial sins, the function of Holy Water, days of obligation, and even specific doctrines about Mary (I don’t necessarily disagree with them, but I do question the means by which these mystical, metaphysical realities can be understood). In not-so-short: what do all of these mean? Why are they the way they are? How are they known, when some things don’t seem to show up in the Church Fathers (does the Church at a later point in time know more than the disciples of the Apostles?)? Why are there holy days of obligation? It doesn’t seem to me that the Bible justifies making a lack of observance/fellowship on specific days a sin, but my understanding is that the Catholic Church does.

  4. Physical objects that bestow grace, e.g. holy water and the Rosary. How does this not fall into the “superstitious-charm” category?

I know these are a lot of questions, but I greatly appreciate anyone who is willing to answer even one of them. Thanks so much!

Blessings!


#3

I’ve converted recently to Catholicism from Protestantism and also researched Orthodoxy in my process of finding the Truth, but I believe I faced different issues than yours.

I’m not able to give a detailed explanation to that question but I think the following Bible verses may shed some light on the question: “11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” Acts 19.
As you see St. Paul and the early christians had no issues with blessed objects.
Side note: I love native american culture! My grandma is a descendant of the Goyaz Tribe (They lived in the central region of Brazil until most of them were assimilated or exterminated by portuguese explorers).


#4

A priest offers sacrifice and leads the people of God to holiness. Catholics believe that every baptized Christian participates in the ‘ordinary priesthood of believers’, while some are called to the ministerial priesthood.

I would say ‘yes’, for two reasons:

  • First, the Bible talks about God’s people being a “kingdom of priests.” It seems that this is precisely what God has in mind
  • Second, in terms of the ‘ministerial priesthood’, I would assert that, if Christ founded His Church as a means of transmitting grace to His people, then priests are necessary in order that this grace be given to the Body of Christ.

I would think that the official term might be “the Vicar of Christ”. I haven’t heard him referred to in the way you mention, at least not in an official way.

If one of the roles of the leadership of the Church is to provide Apostolic Teaching, is it reasonable to say “they’re wrong when they provide this teaching”?

There’s Scripture to back that up, no?

“Keep holy the Sabbath”, no?

Check out what the Mosaic covenant says about Jews who don’t observe the Passover. :wink:

Sacramentals don’t “bestow grace”. They help dispose people to receive the grace that the sacraments themselves transmit.


#5

Ergo John Henry Newman’s phrase he made popular while he was still a Protestant

to be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant

for 20 years, I’ve asked the following question with no answer …yet. And I’ve asked everyone. Particularly the Orthodox visitors to C.A.

So While you’re doing your homework, maybe you can see if you come accross the answer to this question,

When is the first time, in history, in writing, properly referenced, we see the name "Orthodox Church"

Like what?

Here’s a highly condensed history of the first 4 centuries. I posted these 2 links as responses on the following thread. All the internal links are operational.

"Trail of Blood" Baptist link 1

"Trail of Blood" Baptist link 2


#6

Hello.

Read anything by Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman?

He’s a good one to read and read about.

Many blessings and keep up the research.

Also, you may want to get a copy of the Catholic Catechism, it will have some of the answers you are looking for as well as 2 other books: Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft and Handbook of Catholic Apologetics by Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli.


#7

#3. There has always been a difference between the Western and Eastern parts mainly due to language (Latin-Greek difficulties in translating from one language to the other and still maintain exactly the same meaning) but also because Eastern Christianity based their philosophy mainly on Plato while the Western part used the language and thoughts of Aristotle. This is why Orthodox can say “It’s a mystery and no further discussions.” while the Western dig into everything and analyse to the tiniest letter. One example would be: “Exactly when does the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ?”. Sacraments comes from the Latin meaning mysteries, which is the word the Eastern use when they talk about the Sacraments and so on.


#8

Other apostolic churches are:

  • Assyrian Church of the East

Oriental Orthodox:

  • Armenian Apostolic Church
  • Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
  • Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
  • Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
  • Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
  • Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Within the Catholic Church are the eastern Catholic s_ui iuris_ churches corresponding to those given above as well as eastern orthodox correlated sui iuris churches plus the Maronite and Byzantine Catholic Church of Italy, which have no specific correlatives.

See: http://www.cnewa.org/default.aspx?ID=123&pagetypeID=9&sitecode=HQ&pageno=1

Also see diagram: Differences between Eastern Catholic rites/liturgies?


#9
  1. John 20:23. Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive/retain sins. This is pretty important. Although we can have a relationship with God without having a priest in ways such as praying, God made it so that a priest is ordinarily required for salvation because that is ordinarily how we receive salvific graces through the sacraments. Now, that’s only ordinarily. In cases where one cannot get to confession, for example, it will suffice to make a perfect act of contrition and our sins will be forgiven if we resolve to go to confession as soon as possible. God does not expect us to do the impossoble, so there are no unreasonable expectations in making priests required.

  2. The Pope is called the “head of the Church” because he is the Vicar of Christ. Christ is ultimately the head of the Church, but since Christ is away right now, he left a second-in-command: Peter (the Pope). Sort of like how in the Old Testament, whenever the king left the country, he left his second-in-command in charge. His second-in-command has full control while the king was out. Likewise, the Pope is in control of the Church while (only while) Christ the King is away.

  3. The Bible does say that Jesus gave the Apostles (and therefore their successors) the ability to bind and loose. For this reason, it is biblical for the Church to decide on Holy Days of Obligation. Also, the Church dogmatically defines dogmas that have been revealed. We’re not necessarily claiming that we figured out what the mysteries mean, but that they were revealed to us.

  4. It’s not superstition because we don’t believe the objects themselves give us grace. The prayers and devotions, if done sincerely, give us the graces. We don’t need the physical objects. We can still pray the rosary without actual rosary beads, for example. God gave us ten fingers for a reason. :slight_smile:


#10

I am curious which early writings you read. Do you mind sharing which writings influenced you?


#11

:thinking: Hmm…

However, Aristotelian thought generally only began to enter into Catholic theological discussion around the time of Aquinas. Before that time, there weren’t any good translations of Aristotle in Latin, and precious few in the West could read the Greek version well.

I might suggest that the divisions between East and West preceded Aristotelian influence on the West. As you say, language differences were at the heart of it.


#12

:popcorn:


#13

The Pope: specifically, why is he sometimes referred to as the “Head of the Church”? The Bible talks about Christ being the Head of the Church. Isn’t this blasphemy? Why/ How does the Catholic Church use this term?

If I could recommend two links:

This blog post of mine, just posted yesterday, speaks to the objection you have about Jesus being the “head.” In short, there is no contradiction, because Peter/the Pope and Jesus are head of the Church in different sense: Just as Jesus is the Good Shepherd and yet also made Peter shepherd, telling him to “tend” and “feed” his “sheep” (John 21).

Here’s a more technical post regarding Catholic and Orthodox differences and the Pope of the early centuries:

http://www.catholicbridge.com/orthodox/pope_bishop_of_rome_primacy.php#history_primacy


#14

Read “Why We’re Catholic” by Trent Horn.

Most if not all of those questions will be answered.


#15

If the Spirit’s calling you to the RCC, then I pray you are rightly served in Word and Sacrament. Meet with a priest to discuss your concerns. Take RCIA classes - there is no pressure.

Please be careful during your conversion process, however, not to portray all “Protestants” as if they shared the beliefs of your particular Reformed upbringing… Modern Evangelicalism, with its novel teachings, is quite distinct from Classical Reformation bodies. While Rome may have anathematized some Classical Reformation beliefs, those beliefs were not without some evidence from the early church and councils (this is why Lutheranism, for example, is often playfully ridiculed as “Catholic Lite” or “lacking the fullness of the faith”-- the case can be made that it didn’t add novel teachings or practices as EFC’s do today, but excised what it considered extraneous dogmas or medieval superstitions). Not necessarily saying that’s the case, mind you. Just saying it can be made if one is feeling ecumenical. The more you know, the more fulfilling any conversion will be. Anyway, just a few friendly notes:

The dichotomy some “Protestants” make. Lutherans make a distinction between faith and works only insofar as it concerns Justification. Works are still necessary in their view. Luther himself said, “It’s as impossible to separate faith from works as heat and light from a flame.” You may also be familiar with the phrase, “Grace is free, not cheap,” from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

One need not buy into an “infallible canon” to affirm the inerrancy of Scripture. Many “Protestants” reject the dichotomy that, as one writer put it, “you either believe in an inerrant Protestant canon of 66 books based on their self-evident, internal witness to their own divine inspiration, or you believe that the infallible Church inerrantly defined the canon, and that it is accepted only on that authority.”

The error of neglecting the body (along with its soul-neglecting over-correction) has plagued the Church since Gnosticism in the 1st Century. While common in some “Protestant” groups, it never was an issue for Lutherans, many Calvinists. Their doctrines of ‘vocation’ didn’t allow a lazy dualism between soul and body. Faith was to be lived in one’s life’s work. For example, the Christian shoemaker demonstrates his faith not by carving little crosses on the shoes, but by simply making quality shoes and selling them honestly to his neighbors.


#16

Absolutely! Christ, being the Eternal High Priest, ascended into Heaven and is no longer on Earth in the capacity that he was during His Earthly life. Therefore, He ‘Ordered’ chosen men to act in His Person to make present His paschal mystery until He comes again, through the Holy Spirit. Also, Christ the Head bestows His Mystical Body, i.e. the Church, to share and participate in His mediation, especially by choosing men to share and participate in His priesthood!

There is nothing inherently wrong with married priests/bishops, as it is not doctrine but only practice for a non-celibate/celibate priesthood. However, Our Blessed Lord, as Eternal High Priest, chose to remain celibate and it is more fitting for those who share in His priesthood to do likewise at the request of the Church, as it is in the Latin Rite.

Where have you heard this term?


#17

What would be stopping you from taking RCIA classes? That is, if you have not already.


#18

But, not for justification, which is unbiblical, no offense.

May I ask why? Scripture alone states:

“Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

These verses obviously deal with justification and make no distinction between ‘works’ and ‘faith’, but rather explicitly unites and commingles them regarding the doctrine of justification.


#19

So I want to thank everyone who is replying to this. I enjoy your comments and find them extremely helpful. I know it’s been a few days without a response from me, so I want you to know: I intend to respond to each of your comments tomorrow. I recently got a new shift at work that has just made the last couple of days unavailable for me. Not ignoring you guys.


#20

[quote=“Chereek, post:1, topic:476601, full:true”]Hi! So I’m Cheyenne and I am a Protestant.

A little bit of backstory: I’ve spent most of my time as a Christian at some Evangelical Free church or another. My home church is EFC with Reformed theology and most people there do not believe that Catholicism is legitimate Christianity, though they believe some Catholics can be saved if they aren’t “true Catholics” and essentially believe in Sola Fide. I used to hold this view as well. However, while I was at college, I took a Christian Wisdom and Vocation class, a Christian Classics class, and did my senior project on beauty, with a main thinker being Hans Urs Von Balthasar. I saw the depth, reverence, love, beauty, and life in many writings by people who were definitely Catholic, and was forced to question whether or not I believed they were Christians, and if they were, was it because of or in spite of the Roman Catholic Church. This questioning really came to a head when I got back home and resumed attending my home church. They had a lot of theological arguments, and I figured I owed it to see what was right.

I’ve been researching Roman Catholicism for several months now, along with Eastern Orthodoxy, as it also claims to be the one, holy, apostolic Church. At this point, I no longer believe in Sola Fide, and my understanding of Sola Gracia is more in line with the Catholic perspective. I found that the dichotomy Protestants typically make between faith and works is incorrect and theologically harmful; it unnerves me to think that while Protestants affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, we have no reason for its infallible canon, as we don’t hold to Church Councils unless it is convenient or we think they got “at least something right;” I love the way that the physical and spiritual are seen as good, and are both important ways of knowing God, whereas Protestant spirituality usually has little to do with the body and is rather nebulous at times; and redemptive suffering has fundamentally transformed how I view suffering and how I experience it. I believe it is likely that Mary was sinless and assumed, and do believe in the communion, intercession, and veneration of saints. I believe and love the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Reading some Church Fathers and having a better understanding of what Catholics actually believe, I found myself hard pressed to claim that “my brand of Christianity” that started 500 years ago (and for Evangelicalism, 200-ish years ago) had more wisdom than Christians who were disciples of the Apostles, or living within a few generations of them.

In short, the reason I am still Protestant is because I am still researching between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and because there are certain Protestant objections to Catholicism that I am having a hard time getting past. To be honest, I want to be Catholic, but I want to research with fairness the different branches of Christianity and not just convert because it felt good in a given moment.

(Questions Below)[/quote]
It’s too late, you know too much. I’t just a matter of time now. :smile:


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