Tomorrow is going to be my fifth Easter as a Catholic. These years, from when I first investigated into the claims of the Catholic Church to my entering it, then my wife and now nearly two years of college level formation has been a whirlwind. It has been a great ride and I am excited for what the Lord is going to do in the years to come for my family and I. I see conversion as a continual call as a Christian to take up ones cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads.
I would like to address my anniversary as a Catholic with a different reflection for a moment. Yes, I have a bias that the Catholic Church is awesome but I am also aware that for many Christians who are not in communion with Rome they have not yet discerned that this is their spiritual home. So what is the meeting place I should have with Christians of good conscience that are tied to the same basics of the historic Christian faith?
I like Nicea as a meeting point. What that is for theologians of both the Catholic and Protestant persuasions is where a council took place that elaborated on the Apostles’ Creed. This was especially a referendum on the theology of who Christ is.
God from God, light from light, True God and True Man begotten not made. Consubstantial with the Father He came down from heaven and by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary He became man
As Rich Mullins said about this creed, “I did not make it. No it is making me”.
There could be a reader of what I am writing that still is persuaded that Catholicism is not true Christianity. For me, that is sad. I would suggest to all of my Protestant brothers and sisters two points: I have grown closer in my relationship to Jesus Christ in these last several years and that there is more that unites us than divides us. My love for Jesus and my neighbor has only increased. My prayer time is better and I have a renewed love for the scriptures in engaging my faith with a good breadth of what the Catholic Church teaches.
Now more than ever, it is important that Christians learn to stand together as we consider the growing wave of persecution against Christianity across the globe. In fact, last year there was a crucial meeting between Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kiril in Cuba about how to find a defense for their flocks mutually. This is a good development when I consider how the one unanswered prayer of Jesus is “that they all be one” (John 17:21). Or in the words of Peter Kraft about ecumenism “Brothers tend to stop fighting when there is a mad man at the door”.
The Nicene Creed addresses four marks of the Church. These are applicable for discussion whether one sees Church of church in it. The first is “one” which I addressed above.
The second is “holy”. This has many facets to it and in light of a recent event it worth exploring particularly with the sacramental point of view. Recently a lifelong Protestant known as the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hennegraff, was received into the Greek Orthodox Church. Some are editorializing that he has left biblical Christianity. For me, I admire his courage even though I am a Catholic. Some may object to my wording but at some point he must have thought , “Here I stand, I can do no other”. He speaks of theosis which is where Christians partake of the divine nature through communion with Christ. He connects that in context with the Eucharist particularly. The sacramental perspective can be verified with an open mind by reading the early church fathers and their interpretation of the New Testament which was written closer to their time than that of the reformers.
There is Catholic and then there is catholic. Either way, I hope that Christians of good conscience can see that there is a universality to the gospel, how universally it should be proclaimed and universally experienced.
Apostolic can seem like a scary word. Really, it does not have to be. When the Pharisees asked Jesus by what authority he said or did things, one could say that this was healthy skepticism. Who really wants to follow someone who made himself pastor and has a close circle of fans? How far is that from a cult? Apostolic succession simply means that one can trace in the authority that hands were laid on them with a sacred imparting of an anointing that started in the upper room when Jesus breathed on his apostles the Holy Spirit to represent the redemptive aspect of Him. With the Bible Answer Man, he is going to a source that I as a Catholic would affirm has a history of guarding the deposit of faith including in the sacramental expression of Christianity.
But this is not to put down my Protestant history. It is from my Protestant experiences I can talk about my love for bible memorization, my first zeal in pointing to Jesus and time in prayer. I am thankful for the pastors and other loved ones that invested into me so much that I am an evangelical still albeit I believe fulfilled in that in the Catholic Church. With a renewed fervor, I hope that increasingly my Protestant and Orthodox brothers can join me in loving each other as Jesus prayed and telling the world He is risen indeed!