Today is my first full day after becoming a Catholic. It has been an amazing journey for me especially since last fall.
I thought that today I might want to write an answer to “Frequently Asked Questions”. However, that is a bit gutsy since that assumes I have a long standing blog with frequent correspondents for it. So I am titling it as “likely Asked Questions” though there may be a few that I have been asked or someone has asked my wife (who is currently a Protestant at this time).
1: So does this mean that anything from Protestantism is worthless?
No. I still have on my to-read list Dietrich Boenhoffer (a courageous Lutheran theologian who was martyred for taking part in a plot to kill Hitler) and more of C.S. Lewis (a long-time Anglican). If I hear about someone accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior at a Protestant crusade I am truly happy for them.
I appreciate the former because truth is truth. There is little if anything that the above examples would say that would contradict the Catholic Church. Much of what they say complements it like C.S. Lewis having an entire chapter in Mere Christianity supporting the intercession of the saints.
I appreciate the latter because Jesus is Jesus. Scripture says that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit of God. Catholicism and Protestantism both get there but with different semantics. A repentant sinner coming to a Catholic mass can say with the congregation “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof. But say the word and my soul will be healed” (and that is not counting the Eucharist). The same person coming to a Billy Graham crusade would be able to repeat “The Sinners Prayer” with meaning.
2: Aren’t you trading in grace for law? Like a bunch of rules you have to be weighted down with?
For that I would say a few things about rules. One is that rules direct us to our inevitable callings smoother, faster or both. How does a train move best? On the rails.
Next I would say that Protestantism has as many or more rules than Catholocism except Catholocism writes theirs down in the Catechism. What do I mean? The “Sinner’s Prayer” is not in the Bible but the unwritten rule in Protestantism is that it should be the standard.
3: But aren’t the traditions that you are buying into the “traditions made of men” that Jesus or Paul warned about?
First I should start with the nature of tradition and where it is found. In the Christian walk we have for discernment Biblical, Anti-Biblical and Extra-biblical lenses for seeing life. The first two are ideally going to be no-brainers and the last is often going to be hard to pick out from man as if you don’t know where the Bible ends and man’s ideas independent from the leading of Jesus truly begins.
My suggested criteria for many years before that fateful night I stumbled on Scott Hahn on the Catholic channel is that if your standards for interpreting truth or morals is Extra-biblical be honest about it. Next, try to relate it to the character and calling of Jesus. One tradition writes it down and the other does not and sometimes meet in the middle.
An example is my friend Lance. He was a Christian brother who I had not seen in years. I was glad to fellowship with him but was troubled when he told me about how he enjoyed living with his “wife”. I had a frank couple of conversations about his contention that “in God’s eyes we are already married”. He cited the scripture that Isaac did not have a ceremony when he took Rebecca to his tent to be his wife. I struggled with this, but had to tell him that he knew the nature of God better than that and stopped fellowshipping with him until he repented. I even dared him to sit down with me and his pastor so he could declare his revelation that a ceremony before the Body of Christ was not needed. If all traditions that are made from men are worthless, then he could have a valid covenant, right? If Protestantism is true, then you and your honey can “feel” like a covenant until your next revelation.
This is where I would agree in a sense that Lance was right: if Protestantism is right in that Scripture is all we need. I had no scriptural line of reasoning to back up what I had to say. Through my life that started without actively Christian parents and going through a Protestant maze I have had my own frustrations with traditions and still do: except for Sacred tradition.
4: Isn’t the Bible the first standard for truth? In a word, no.
1 Timothy 3:15 “if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
2 Thessolonians 2:15 “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings[c] we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
But why not the OT? At least that cannon was already put together. It’s because that there was an already established continuity of the apostles teaching. There is not enough space it today’s blog to expand on this, but from the first century until now there is a consistent apostolic succession in the Catholic church that provides needed perspective and a call to unity whenever it stays close to the grace of Jesus and Simon Peter’s conversation we know as “upon this rock”.
That same Sacred Tradition does not override Holy Scripture any more than the right eye would the left. But if one is blind in one eye then the right will lose depth of perception, you get a headache and the wiring of the brain changes for cognitive function. The same goes for the Body of Christ with each schism in Church history. But when Sacred
I can expand the example on the issue of depth. Did Jesus really mean that the bread and wine becomes His body and blood? The Early Church Fathers who were disciples of the apostles definitely said yes to a T. And on more than just that they sounded very Catholic. Without that scholarly work that uncovers their passing of the baton we are left with confusion or an empty void for conjecture that leads to division. Such that we later have Uncle Marty (my name for Martin Luther) throwing out the Eucharist.
Tradition works in tandem with Sacred Scripture correctly we have what I would call “Sacred Balance”. We as individuals or corporately in the Body of Christ can lose our way. That is why we as individuals can repent (which reminds me of my first Confession last week. Loved it!) and the Catholic Church seeks God in special councils for a re-orientation (Council of Nicea, Council of Trent, Vaticans I and II). The key is to keep an attitude of humility and to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.