Holy Church: Finding Jesus As a Reverted Catholic; A Testimonial Response to Chris Castaldo

Jan 27th, 2013 | By Casey Chalk | Category: Featured Articles

This is a guest article by Casey Chalk. Casey was born and raised in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. Casey was baptized into the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion before leaving the Church with his parents for evangelicalism at the age of eight. Casey attended the University of Virginia, where he was introduced to Reformed theology. Upon graduation in 2007 (B.A. History, Religious Studies; Masters in Teaching), Casey became a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary. However, an intensive period of study of the “Catholic question” ultimately resulted in Casey’s reunion with the Catholic Church in October 2010. He was confirmed at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia at the Easter Vigil in 2011. Casey works for the federal government, and joyfully also received the sacrament of marriage in August 2012 with his wife Claire.

There is an interesting exchange that takes place all the time in evangelical churches, organizations, and Bible studies, especially in the United States. It is that moment when former-Catholics discover an ally, a fellow journeyman who found his or her way out of the Church and into evangelicalism, someone who can relate to the many negative experiences or unbiblical beliefs they endured during their time as Catholics. These conversations can be a great source of encouragement, discovering that others had experienced what we experienced in our path of following Christ.

As a former Catholic who spent years in evangelical and Reformed circles, I myself had my fair share of those conversations. So has Chris Castaldo, an Italian American and former Catholic who worked full-time in the Catholic Church for several years, and has published a book, Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic (Zondervan, 2009). In this book Castaldo explains his own conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism through a series of chapters assessing what he believes to be the five predominant reasons why Catholics leave the Church for evangelical Protestantism, based on two years of research interviewing Catholics and former Catholics across the United States. Castaldo is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as Director of the Ministry of Gospel Renewal for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

As a descendant of Catholic Irish and Polish immigrants to the United States, I too was raised Catholic but ultimately chose evangelicalism, and later Reformed theology, in my desire to follow Christ faithfully in my search for biblical Christianity. Except, unlike Castaldo, I’ve come to realize that the five reasons typically given by former Catholics, though I am sympathetic to them, are not sufficient to warrant leaving the Church Christ founded, nor were any other reasons I sought to employ in rejecting Rome’s claims. In sharing some reflections on my reversion to Catholicism, I would like to contrast briefly my own experience with that of Castaldo and those he describes in Holy Ground in order to demonstrate the inadequacy of their reasons for abandoning Catholicism and identify a few concerns with their manner of assessing Catholicism’s claims.

Encountering Christ in Evangelicalism

I was born into a Catholic family, though both of my parents would readily admit that they were not devout, did not accept some Church teachings, and were both drawn to elements of evangelical Protestantism. Following my first communion at age eight, my parents left Catholicism and eventually landed in a non-denominational evangelical community. Their decision was at first disconcerting to me, given that their departure from Catholicism was upsetting to our Catholic extended family. However, I witnessed throughout my adolescence a profound change in them as they fell in love with Christ and His Scriptures and appeared to be transformed into more loving, patient people. I too, in my senior year of high school, was exposed to a classmate whose suffering and personal trials were so overwhelming that I cried out to God to make sense of such evil – and found the answer in Christ’s death and resurrection. As for Catholicism, it was something I had come to distrust and question, especially based on the sermons I heard at our evangelical church declaring the Catholic Church to be in grave theological error. By the time I left for college, I was a fervent evangelical, convinced that I had found the purest form of Christianity.

That fervor met a rude awakening in religion classes at the University of Virginia where I was exposed to strong academic criticisms of the historicity and coherence of Scripture by religion professors who took a particular delight in turning the worlds of evangelical students upside down. Unfortunately, I think many evangelical college students come to grips with the disconnect between what their secular university religion classes teach and what they grew up believing, by embracing the modern, almost Kantian dichotomy between academia and their personal faith. I suppose it’s an easy way to avoid the dilemmas we confront in the wake of several centuries of Protestant scholarship defined by historical criticism, source criticism, and form criticism, as well as a strong distrust of the supernatural.

However, I did not view such a dichotomy between the intellectual and spiritual life as intellectually coherent. Either Scripture was historically reliable, Protestant theology logically consistent, and evangelicalism a defensible form of Christianity, or it was time to abandon the whole project. I took it upon myself to go in search of evangelical scholarship that could provide me with an adequate defense of Scripture. What I found was a wealth of evangelical scholarship, some apologetic, some more scholarly, presenting a formidable defense of Scripture’s historicity and veracity. I confess, of course, my natural bias – within evangelicalism I had experienced a dramatic spiritual communion with Christ through prayer and meditation on Scripture, and matured in my love for others. I wanted to prove to myself and others that my faith was not some sort of wish fulfillment.

This leads me to a reflection that would be influential in my eventual return to Catholicism: neither I, nor I doubt many evangelicals, have systematically engaged every single attack on the historicity or veracity of Scripture. At least for myself, I read enough to be satisfied that there were reasonable defenses of Scripture, and moved on with my life. Was that intellectually lazy? Possibly, but we all must do it, to some degree. It is simply impossible to reserve judgment until we address every single challenge presented against Scripture, or any other belief, for that matter. I think to a degree I justified my lack of comprehensiveness by noting the flawed reasoning of those who attacked Scripture: they refused to accept the possibility that the supernatural could exist, and this predisposed them against the content of Scripture, and inclined them to seek flaws within it. To me this seemed intellectually dishonest and unfair. This reflection would in turn be helpful as I considered the claims of Catholicism several years later.

Amidst my studies to defend Scripture, I was introduced to Reformed theology through the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), as well as through authors like R.C. Sproul, D.A. Carson, and J.I. Packer, among many others. This marked a transition in my faith journey. For one, the Reformed faith seemed to make more sense of Scripture in its entirety than did my non-denominational evangelicalism, and explained many passages neglected by other evangelicals. Secondly, the Reformed faith introduced me to Reformed writers such as John Calvin, John Piper, and Michael Horton, whose reflections on Christ, the gospel, and the Scriptures were far more inspiring and intellectually robust than what I had previously experienced. Finally, the Reformed faith and its links to Calvinist scholars of the previous centuries was the answer to my concerns as a history major that American evangelicalism seemed largely disconnected from the history of Christianity. I became a passionate defender of Calvinism, and upon graduation, enrolled in Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) and became a member of a PCA church. I was ready for a lifetime of theological study and service in the Reformed tradition, and had no doubts or concerns with Reformed theology. To put it simply, I was more proud of being Reformed than I was of anything else in my life.

Encountering Problems in Evangelicalism

Several years later, however, I was confronted with an unusual dilemma when my best friend, a student at Covenant Theological Seminary (PCA) in St. Louis, Missouri, started to question the Reformed faith shortly before finishing his Master of Divinity degree. His concerns with the Reformed faith and his interest in Catholicism led me to employ all the tools at my disposal to counteract what I perceived as one of the gravest theological errors, and to prevent my friend from making what I perceived to be possibly the greatest mistake of his life. I should know, of course, because I myself had been a Catholic and had grown up around many Catholic extended family. So I read Reformed critiques of Catholic faith and practice, engaged the faculty at RTS, and consulted the pastors and elders at my PCA Church, several of whom were, like myself, former Catholics. The enterprise, was, I admit, entirely biased. I was seeking to find the “silver bullet” to demonstrate the errors of Catholicism. However, in less than a year, the tables had turned and I was consistently finding myself on the defensive, seeking to defend numerous theological and historical issues, including sola scriptura, sola fide, and the supposed connection between the faith and practice of the early Church and that of the Reformed tradition.

Catholicism, meanwhile, was at least plausible, if still a very unappealing option for a number of theological and personal reasons. Some concerns seemed larger than life. How was I suppose to assess the Catholic claim that Catholic tradition and the the teaching of the Magisterium had authority that was binding on the conscience? Did I have to read, study, and assess prayerfully every official Church document ever written in order to determine whether its doctrine was compatible with Scripture? I’d have to quit my job and devote the rest of my life to such a pursuit. And meanwhile, was I suppose to abstain from communion or resign from my PCA church and become some sort of “independent” Christian until I had resolved these dilemmas? That certainly seemed contrary to Scripture’s calling to unite ourselves to a visible community of Christians (e.g. Hebrews 10:25). I could spend the rest of my life in some sort of theological limbo, only to find some new scholarly analysis throw the whole Protestant experiment into flux, as the New Perspective on Paul has done since the 1970s. Is this really what Jesus intended for us, that every Christian study Scripture, theology and Church history until we are each able adequately to resolve such controversies as justification? And adequate to whom, exactly? The short history of Reformed denominations such as the OPC and PCA and their own battles with the Federal Vision should be enough even for the casual observer to recognize the complexity of these issues. The complexity certainly seemed at odds with the Reformed understanding of the perspicuity of Scripture, where the ordinary individual Christian is supposed to be able to determine from a “plain reading” of Scripture what is necessary for salvation. (WCF 1:7).

My work sent me overseas to Qatar and Thailand for a time. I viewed the trip as an opportunity to clear my mind, read a number of books and articles that Calvinists and Catholics had recommended, and pray through the theological issues apart from the increasingly emotional conversations at church and seminary. While in Thailand, I journeyed to the historic capital city of Ayutthaya for a day-trip, walking among the ruins and exploring the architecture of Buddhist shrines, an unlikely and entirely unfitting location to reflect on Christian theology, I admit. However, by the time I was on the train back to Bangkok, I had concluded that Reformed theology is not an accurate or adequate explanation of Scripture or Christian history. I returned to the United States, and within two weeks had submitted my formal resignation to my PCA church, received the sacrament of reconciliation (my first in about 18 years), and entered into an RCIA program at a local Catholic parish.

Although there were many reasons that precipitated my return to Catholicism, I think the most foundational were my growing concerns with the Protestant understanding of the formation of the canon, and the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. Concerning the formation of the canon I doubt I can add much to Tom Brown’s analysis of the canon question (see his “The Canon Question“), but I will add that I encountered a very unsatisfying answer to my question of why Protestants do not accept the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament as Scripture, as Catholics and Orthodox do. The Westminster Confession of Faith’s proof-texts (i.e. Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 3:2; and 2 Peter 1:21) for the rejection of the Apocrypha in WCF I.3 are puzzling and easily refutable, given that none of the passages address the Apocrypha and its inspiration or inerrancy. More substantively, many Protestant and Reformed scholars argue that the Apocrypha contains historical errors and that its theology directly contradicts the rest of Scripture. The claim that the Apocrypha contains historical errors seemed oddly similar to what more liberal Protestant scholars have been saying about the Old and New Testament for several centuries, as I discussed earlier. And the claim that the theology of the deuterocanonical books is at odds with Protestant doctrines such as sola fide (e.g. Tobit 4:11, 12:9) only begged the question, and would have applied no less to James’ epistle in the New Testament. (e.g. James 2:24)

My study of the canon also led me to read and study the Apocrypha myself, something that most Protestants in my experience have never done. What I found was at times notably different in style and content from the Hebrew Bible. However, I also read passages such as Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-20, which would be difficult not to see as a prophecy fulfilled in the passion narratives of the gospels. Indeed, the following passage inspired in me a deeper love for Christ:

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end. For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With violence and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” [RSV]

Concerning sola scriptura, I wish to tread lightly, doubting whether I am able to add to Bryan Cross’s, Neil Judisch’s, Matt Yonke’s, David Anders’, and Michael Liccione’s arguments critiquing sola scriptura as neither scriptural, historically defensible, or logically consistent.1 However, I would like to add a few of my own reflections on the inadequacy of sola scriptura. First, Reformed and other Protestants will often argue that it is better to trust in the authority of Scripture alone as opposed to the Magisterium and Sacred Tradition. However, I found that as a Protestant I trusted the authority of historians, biblical scholars, and theologians to provide me with the most reliable texts, the most accurate translations, and the most historically and culturally faithful interpretations of those texts. And yet I had never met any of these individuals, had only indirect access to how they had gone about their research, and was largely ignorant of the biases they may or may not have brought with them in their work. I started to realize that as a Protestant I was just as much trusting in a “magisterium” of Protestant historians, scholars, and theologians as the Catholic who trusts in the Church.

This has become even more noticeable as evangelical scholars have begun to cast doubt on the inspiration of certain texts in the New Testament, such as Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-9, because those passages do not appear in the earliest New Testament manuscripts. This assessment of debated passages of Scripture places a problematic emphasis on palaeographist’s present best determination of the chronology of manuscripts as the primary determinant of authentic Scripture, an imperfect science to say the least. Such a method undermines sola scriptura by seemingly placing the equivalent of magisterial authority in the hands of archaeologists and New Testament scholars, and may influence what future generations of evangelical Protestants view as authentic, inspired, Scripture, especially if further archaeological developments unearth further manuscripts, or Protestant scholars decide to employ some other criteria to determine what is true Scripture.

On a more psychological level, I came to realize that no Christian can possibly approach Scripture without a host of predetermined data points that inform his or her interpretation. There can be no “Scripture alone,” because our interpretive lens will be inherently defined by the sermons we’ve heard, books we’ve read, or theological concepts we’ve been taught. The Reformed Christian, in essence, believes in Scripture plus whatever interpretations he inherits from Calvin plus Warfield plus Bavinck plus whomever has informed his interpretive paradigm. The same can be said for the Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and even Catholic. However, only the Catholic’s interpretive paradigm allows him to reply to such a charge by saying “yes, exactly, that IS how I interpret Scripture; how could I do any other?”

In turn, although I had many strong reservations about the Catholic Church, I had read enough to see the Catholic interpretation of Scripture as plausible, at the very least. However, more fundamentally, I became persuaded that Jesus Christ was actually bodily present in the Eucharist, a belief informed by Scripture, the writings of Catholic apologists, and the testimony of Catholic friends experiencing spiritual transformation through the sacrament. It was an incredibly strange, but ultimately enlightening experience to observe some of the most intelligent and pious people I knew bowing before and worshiping what I had assumed were simply bread and wine. In the midst of my many remaining doubts, I sensed His call in the sacrament, a pull very similar to my initial conversion to know and love Christ when I encountered evangelicalism. I wanted to receive Him, to be united to Him and to His Church.

Initial Reflections on Castaldo’s Project

Given this short background, let’s consider the reasons given by Castaldo and many other Catholics for their rejection of the Catholic faith in favor of Protestantism. They are: (1) former Catholics want a “full-time faith” rather than Catholicism, which draws a sharp distinction between the responsibilities of the clergy and the laity; (2) former Catholics want a “personal relationship with Jesus,” as opposed to a set of rules; (3) former Catholics want “direct access to God,” rather than accessing Him through the papacy and the priesthood; (4) former Catholics want “Christ-centered devotion,” as opposed to what Castaldo argues are the “aspects of Sacred Tradition [that] can eclipse the Christ-centered message of Scripture; and (5) former Catholics want to be “motivated by grace instead of guilt.” Although Castaldo does not state explicitly that these were his own “top five” reasons for leaving the Catholic Church, he intersperses personal anecdotes related to all five reasons, and never raises any objections to these reasons, suggesting that these were very much at work in his own conversion, and may be considered his own.

As a preface, some of Castaldo’s reasons resonate with me given our similar experiences, but for the reasons I explain below, they are largely irrelevant to the more foundational issues dividing Catholicism and Protestantism. Most notably, much of Castaldo’s research demonstrates that peoples’ experiences in the Catholic Church are incredibly varied, and that what they often experienced as Catholicism was in some sense an inadequate or inaccurate reflection of authentic Church teaching. Multiple times, Castaldo refers to some bad experience in a Catholic parish that pulls someone away from Catholicism and toward evangelicalism, but then qualifies the story by noting that the experience or doctrine is not what the Catholic Church formally teaches. Such bad experiences or poor catechesis are unfortunate, but an assessment of a religion’s veracity should not be based on the subjective experience of individuals in a particular place, but on that religion’s official doctrines and authentic practice. Castaldo may not believe such experiences are sufficient grounds for abandoning Catholicism, but these anecdotes consistently obscure , rather than clarify, the true lines of division between Catholic and Protestant doctrine. If I were to reject Catholicism because a priest tells me Scripture is inconsequential in Catholic doctrine, I would not have rejected Catholicism, but a faulty depiction of it. Likewise, if I were to reject Reformed theology because the female pastor at a PCUSA church encourages me to pray to “mother, child, and womb” instead of the Trinity, all the OPC and PCA pastors who hear of it would likely start pulling out their hair. We are all called to seek the truth in honesty and charity, even when it is obscured by poorly-informed or even dissenting religious practice.

Secondly, Castaldo’s project is not so much a systematic analysis of the historical and theological debates between Catholicism and Protestantism than it is a cultural analysis, discussing the values and practices that shape American Catholics and lead many to become evangelicals. Though this presents an interesting vignette of the Catholic-Protestant debate, it suffers from an inherent weakness: examining what former Catholics want from a Christian community or religious experience, rather than what is true or what they truly need. Castaldo recognizes this weakness, acknowledging that evangelicals sometimes form their beliefs to their own tastes, rather than to Scripture. He even jests that some evangelicals act as if they believe in a Jesus “in running shoes sporting a Sergio Tacchini sweat-suit jogging beside us on the treadmill.” Castaldo’s answer to this problem seems to be a more theologically-robust, biblically-informed, and tradition-friendly evangelical Protestantism, built upon the core tenets of the Reformation (pp. 61, 94-96, 103). Yet Castaldo’s research exposes the degree to which Protestant religious experience suffers inherently from a problematic ecclesial consumerism (see “Ecclesial Consumerism“), according to which one is guided by what one perceives one’s spiritual desires to be, and what one perceives to be the best way to satisfy those spiritual desires, according to one’s own interpretation of Scripture. Fundamentally, this project starts with what the individual Christian consumer wants in his spiritual life, rather than “What did Christ establish?”

Cataldo seeks to combat this tendency by urging individuals to base their conversions to Protestantism on Scripture, rather than on spiritual preference. But implicit even in this model is the assumption that individuals have the interpretive authority to determine for themselves from Scripture how best to worship Christ and form Christian communities. Whether one is determining what is most spiritually beneficial or what Scripture teaches, if one is treating oneself as Scripture’s highest interpretive authority one is implicitly taking to oneself more authority than any semblance of Church hierarchy. In essence, even Castaldo’s attempts to avoid ecclesial consumerism in evangelical Protestantism fail, because not believing in a hierarchical Church founded by Christ makes everyone an authority unto him or herself. Yet if following Christ means following Him not according to our own whims or personal interpretations but via the authorities and shepherds He has established, it is spiritually dangerous to establish religious markers based on personal preferences or private interpretations, lest we become like Cain or Korah, two Old Testament personalities known for prioritizing their own preferences in their worship. Choosing to leave a religious faith or join another based on what we want is in that way a subtle form of idolatry, insofar as one creates ‘church’ in one’s own image, according to one’s own judgment of what one needs spiritually and how best to worship God.

Finally, Castaldo invests notable energy in emphasizing the importance of the visible Church to Catholicism’s theological self-understanding. On several occassions Castaldo summarizes the centrality of the risen Christ’s continuing role in the visible Church to Catholic theology, referring to the Catholic understanding of totus Christus, “total Christ,” according to which Christ is manifested through the Catholic Church and her members (pp. 30-31, 97-98, 132). Castaldo further acknowledges the Catholic critique of Protestant tendencies toward individualism, calling this individualism a “legitimate flaw within evangelicalism,” and urges Protestants to take the importance of the visible Church more seriously (133). However, Castaldo fails to provide a positive Protestant alternative to what is or isn’t the visible Church, something that Jesus (John 17:11) and Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10) seem to have believed was a reality.

At times Castaldo appeals to the divergent doctrines that many Protestants have argued separate the orthodox (historical Protestantism) from the heretical (Catholicism), doctrines such as justification, in order to bolster his five reasons. But then he approvingly cites examples of devout Catholics who followed Christ, such as Ignatius Loyola (pp. 77-79). Castaldo appears to waver between viewing the Catholic Church as a perpetuator of heresy or alternatively as just one of thousands of Christian denominations that compose the visible Church. If the Catholic Church is a legitimate part of the visible Church, Castaldo leaves unresolved how this is to be reconciled with five hundred years of Reformed Protestant theology that has argued otherwise. Moreover, if Castaldo approves of these five reasons, it seems reasonable that evangelicals are free to leave their evangelical denominations or churches if they cease holding the five reasons Castaldo outlines in his book. Indeed, it is possible Castaldo has not provided an exhaustive list, and that there are other things individuals are entitled to receive from their Christian religious communities that, if not provided, justify their exit from the Church for a different religious institution. The absence of a Protestant alternative to Catholicism’s recognition of the necessity of the unified visible Church, and what, if anything, obligates Christians to remain united to it calls into question the role this doctrine plays in Castaldo’s thinking.

Full-Time Faith

The first reason Castaldo gives in Holy Ground for Catholic conversions to Protestantism is that former Catholics want a “full-time faith,” something which Catholicism, with its sharp distinction between the responsibilities of the clergy and laity, supposedly cannot provide. Castaldo argues, “for many, the unfortunate result of such a sharp Catholic clergy-laity distinction is an undermining of Christian calling and purpose.” He qualifies this statement by saying that “this is not to say that Catholics can’t enjoy a lay vocation. Indeed some do. However, for many, encouragement to engage in ministry was nonexistent.” He adds, “from Scripture they came to believe that in Christ they are actually spiritual priests whose ministries are on equal footing with ordained clergy” (p. 39).

It is worth noting firstly that Castaldo’s objection is question-begging in that it assumes that every Christian is called to an ecclesial ministry, and that therefore the Catholic clergy-laity distinction prevents lay Christians from fulfilling their ministerial calling. Catholic teaching indeed does not share this assumption. That issue aside, Castaldo readily admits that Catholicism teaches a form of the “priesthood of all believers, which applies to the entire church.” He even notes two documents from Vatican II that addressed the need for more lay ministry participation: Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity and the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World. Although Castaldo is indeed taking issue with Catholic doctrine on the role of the clergy in the Church, he seems more concerned with the poor or varied application of Catholic doctrine at the parish level.

In my own experience, I have been encouraged by Catholic priests, laymen, and literature to view my family, my work, and the entirety of my life as an “apostolate” where I am called to love, serve, and proclaim the gospel. The Arlington Diocese (where I live) is full of opportunities for laymen to invest whatever skills or passions they possess in the work of the Church: to name but a few, Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, Regnum Christi, Opus Dei, RCIA, CCD; the opportunities for service are practically endless. The mission of Opus Dei, in particular, is to “spread the message that work and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society,” and is found in nineteen cities interspersed throughout the United States. Of course I am well aware that I am fortunate enough to live in a diocese well known for being one of the strongest, most devout dioceses in the United States, which may give me an unfair advantage over those in parts of the country with less of a presence of devout Catholics. However, as discussed above, to eschew Catholicism because of its varying practice geographically fails to engage Church teaching adequately and creates a standard for determining religious truth based on an assessment of the relative spiritual strength of a Christian community, rather than the trustworthiness of that religious community’s doctrine and authentic practice. It may be the case that some dioceses offer more opportunities than others for lay ministry – but this is an experiential, rather than a doctrinal concern.

On a different level, however, I can relate to Castaldo’s concern with the alleged Catholic clergy-laity distinction. When I was considering the claims of the Catholic Church, I was put off by the high esteem given to the priesthood and consecrated life – it sometimes did feel, as Castaldo argues, that those unconsecrated Catholics could never reach the degree of holiness or importance reserved for those embracing the religious life. Indeed, one will often hear people refer to the religious life as a “higher calling.” However, I came to see that my fears were illogical and overlooked scriptural distinctions between clergy and laity. For one, Christ himself appointed twelve men as apostles, whom Protestants themselves argue had a level of authority unequaled among the rest of the early Church – as their writings were believed to be inspired by God and inerrant. Was the special authority given to the apostles a threat to the role and significance of other early Christians? Or am I jealous that the apostles received such a high calling I cannot attain, something that remains true for all eternity (Revelation 21:14)?

Furthermore, the Church has never taught that the distinction between the clergy and laity means the work of the laity is unimportant or cannot be spiritually significant and rewarding. Indeed, there is a significant distinction between a calling to Holy Orders or religious life, and the calling to sanctity. We are all called to sanctity, and Holy Orders does not guarantee greater sanctity, nor does a lay vocation entail lower sanctity. The Church teaches that all have the opportunity to grow in sanctity and virtue, and Church teaching on the higher calling of religious vocation does not preclude those called to the lay vocation from receiving the grace needed for sanctification or heroic virtue (CCC 1803-1845). An examination of the many saints revered by the Church demonstrates this clearly. Take for example, Saint Germaine Cousin – a poor French girl in the late sixteenth century who prayed the rosary, attended Mass, and was abused by her father and mother-in-law until the point of death at the age of twenty-two. Her life consisted of no formal “ministry” as we might understand it, and she leaves us no writings. Yet her humility and acceptance of suffering stand as a testament to her faith; so much so that a friend of mine who came into the Church last Easter chose her as her confirmation saint. Or examine Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian wife, mother, and physician in the twentieth century who refused to undergo an abortion despite a fibroma in her uterus that threatened her life and the life of the child. She died in childbirth, a testament to her faith in the value of human life. These saints, and many others, demonstrate the clergy-laity distinction does not prevent the Church from honoring lay Catholics for their role in the “priesthood of all believers.”

Castaldo’s first objection to Catholicism thus fails on several grounds, including the question-begging nature of assuming that all Christians are called to ecclesial ministry, elevating the subjective experience over doctrine and authentic practice as a means of evaluating Catholicism’s truth claims, and failing to recognize the strong and ongoing tradition of the spiritually significant roles of the laity in the Catholic faith.

Relationship with Christ or A Set or Rules

Castaldo secondly claims that many former-Catholics want a “personal relationship with Jesus,” as opposed to a set of rules, which is what many former-Catholics experience during their time in the Church. From not eating meat on Fridays to confessing one’s sins, the Church has seemingly created an intricate, overbearing system of regulations that are often seen as straying far from the Bible. Instead, Castaldo claims that in their encounter with evangelicalism Catholics find an intimate and inviting relationship with Christ, where He is a close friend (John 15). As before, Castaldo is quick to note that many Catholics have also taught and exemplified the idea of a deep and personal relationship with Christ, including Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Blaise Pascal, Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, Therese of Lisieux, and many others (p. 81).

I can easily resonate with Castaldo and other former-Catholics on this subject, because I remember the great freedom I felt in believing that my status before Christ was determined not by my strict adherence to a long list of Church-concocted rules, but by His work on the cross and my trust in it. However, in returning to Catholicism I have found just as much teaching and exhortation to pursue a deep and personal relationship with Christ. When I meet with my spiritual director on a monthly basis, his response to my reflections, concerns, or anxieties is often simply to ask “have you brought it before the Lord?” Castaldo notes the presence of Catholic saints, priests, and writers who fostered an incredibly intimate love for Christ – there are many such people in dioceses throughout the country. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing in Catholic teaching that discourages us from such a pursuit, and everything in Catholic doctrine is ultimately aimed at achieving the deepest possible communion with Christ. For example, the prologue to the Catechism begins:

God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

So what then of the many rules the Church mandates? Is this not a hindrance to our relationship with Christ, in that we will lose sight of knowing and loving Him in the midst of all these rules? As a former “Christ-Centered” Reformed Christian, I think it is easy to hold this assessment, and I have certainly felt this tension as a Catholic. However, it is worth noting that there are only five precepts of the Catholic Church in the United States: (1) attending Mass on Sundays and the six Holy Days of Obligation; (2) receiving the sacrament of reconciliation once a year; (3) receiving the Eucharist during the Lenten season; (4) observing the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence; and (5) providing for the needs of the Church (CCC 2042-2043). Are these rules “heavy burdens, hard to bear,” unnecessarily laid on the shoulders of the faithful, as Christ condemns in Matthew 23:4? Some of them, such as Sabbath observance and church attendance, are familiar to evangelicals and Reformed – indeed, I knew many Reformed folk who were far stricter in their observance of the Sabbath than what is mandated by the Catholic Church. Other precepts could hardly be considered burdens – to receive the sacrament of reconciliation once a year is unlikely to require more than one or two hours of one’s time, depending on one’s distance from a Catholic parish. Indeed, many Catholics are happy to go to confession monthly, if not more often, as a means of grace in their battle with sin. Likewise, to view the precept to receive the Eucharist during the Lenten season (especially if one is already attending weekly Mass) as a burden would be a strange assessment, especially if it is indeed the body and blood of Christ, the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324).

Furthermore, on what basis are these Church-mandated rules to be rejected? If it is because there is no explicit scriptural mandate for Holy Days of Obligation or days of fasting and abstinence, this again begs the question, because it presumes sola scriptura, a problematic doctrine that Called To Communion has addressed elsewhere. As an aside, there is indeed scriptural precedent for the five Catholic precepts mandated in the United States – especially if the Church hierarchy is instituted by Christ and has authority to mandate areas of discipline such as mass attendance or fasting (cf. Acts 15:28-29).

Finally, the Church urges us to view every rule as a means by which to foster closer communion with Christ. The sacrament of confession, rightly understood, is a means by which Christ Himself offers forgiveness, operating through the priest. As the Catechism teaches, “reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament” (CCC 1468). Participating in fasts, be they from meat or otherwise, are a means by which we can unite ourselves more deeply to Christ in His sufferings, deepening our spiritual understanding and union with Him, as well as removing ourselves from undue affections for this world. Fasting helps us “acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart,” freeing us to more fully love and appreciate Christ (CCC 2043). Holy Days of Obligation are also intended to deepen our relationship with Christ, as evidenced most recently in the Solemnity of the Mother of God, celebrated on the first day of January. Though Mariological, it is also deeply Christological, with its scriptural reflections on the sonship Christians acquire through Christ (Galatians 4:4-7) and the wondrous circumstances of the incarnation (Luke 2:16-21). Any and all of these precepts holy Mother Church, acting on behalf of Christ, has the authority to establish as a means of forming the spiritual life of her children, thereby sanctifying them through habits of religious practice.

Who Needs a Priest When I Can Pray to God Myself?

The third reason Castaldo gives is that former-Catholics want “direct access to God,” rather than accessing Him through the papacy and the priesthood. He explains that ex-Catholics have concerns with the “visible authority structure rooted in the popes and bishops,” and the pope’s “clerical function, his relationship to the priesthood” (pp. 72-73). He goes on to provide several scriptural proof-texts to argue that in order to “access God’s presence,” we need only the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). The argument, essentially, is that the Catholic hierarchy of priests, bishops, and popes is an unnecessary hindrance to direct access to God, and there is no scriptural warrant for the mediatory nature of the priesthood as Catholics understand it.

I confess that this issue was not a major stumbling block in my return to Catholicism, although I remember an elder at my PCA church telling me that he was concerned that in returning to the Catholic Church I had embraced a form of “sacerdotalism” that he viewed as unbiblical and unjustified. Contrary to what non-Catholics, or unfortunately ex-Catholics may believe, there is nothing in Church doctrine that suggests that Catholic laypeople cannot pray on their own, read Scripture on their own, or foster spiritual intimacy with God on their own. Of course ordinarily the sacraments can only be administered by priests or bishops, and the Church does indeed teach that these sacraments are the place where we most fully meet Christ, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Castaldo’s objection was of less concern for me for a few reasons. First, I recognized that the entire Old Testament spoke to a priestly system where some individuals served a mediatory role between God and His covenant people. As one steeped in covenant theology during my time as a Reformed seminarian, it became increasingly strange to believe that with Christ’s role as the perfect great high priest, the priestly system was done away with entirely. Wouldn’t it make more sense, and foster more continuity between Old and New Testaments, for a priesthood to continue, now only greater than that of the old covenant? Indeed, whereas in the old priesthood, priests offered bloody sacrifices for the sins of Israel, and were unable to effectuate God’s redemptive power, priests in the new covenant offer a non-bloody sacrifice, Christ Himself, which is fully effective to forgive sin, unite us to God, and change us within. As I made that intellectual transition, much of the New Testament began to elucidate this idea of a continued priesthood (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:18; Hebrews 10: 19-22).

Secondly, I was excited, rather than dismayed at the prospect that the priest’s mediatory role could extend to me graces I had hitherto lacked while Protestant. For example, the sacrament of reconciliation does not simply forgive sins. By grace it also strengthens the Christian against whatever sin he or she is struggling with – a very exciting proposition I have found to be true in practice! If Christ established the sacraments, then there is more grace available to us through communion with the Church than through an individualism that makes the Church quite unnecessary.

Finally, I recognized that as a Protestant I had another mediator between myself and God, though few Protestants would ever look at it as such. Whenever I sat down to read Scripture, I read a particular translation offered by a particular group of scholars with a certain theological bent (the NIV, evangelicals; the ESV, Reformed scholars). I had essentially accepted their mediatory role as translators, bringing the vernacular language of the Old and New Testaments to me as an English-speaking American. Not only that, but I had also accepted their mediatory role in determining what is and isn’t Scripture – for example, they had determined to exclude the deuterocanonical books accepted by the Catholic Church. In turn, I had trusted other scholars, theologians, and pastors to mediate to me the meaning of Scripture, especially those passages that were confusing or appeared contradictory. They may not have been priests, but I certainly needed them both to gain access to Christ in His Word, and to understand it properly.

”Christ-centered Devotion”

Castaldo’s fourth reason is that ex-Catholics want “Christ-centered devotion,” as opposed to what he argues are the “aspects of Sacred Tradition [that] can eclipse the Christ-centered message of Scripture,” which he claims is that Jesus is “the one intermediary between God and humanity,” referencing 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 Timothy 2:5 (p. 103). Castaldo is referring particularly to such devotions in Catholicism as praying to saints, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that of the rosary.

I can very much appreciate this argument, as it was a central stumbling block to my return to Catholicism. Even after I started to be convinced that Catholicism had a better explanation for the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and a more biblically faithful theology, when I looked at the Church’s practices, it seemed like Christ often took a backseat to other devotions. To one who wholeheartedly accepted Michael Horton’s “Christ-centered Christianity” as gospel, Catholic devotional life seemed to muddy the waters, if not lead people away from Christ. I wondered, “if we as Protestants have enough trouble keeping our eyes and hearts focused on Christ, won’t devotions to saints and Mary complicate things further?” Even after I had come to accept that asking for Mary’s intercession in the rosary was not a violation of Scripture, I remember thinking “There’s six ‘Our Fathers’ and fifty-three ‘Hail Marys’? How can this be right?” However, a few concepts re-aligned my thinking on Catholic devotion such that I came to realize that Christ still remains the very center of Catholic devotional life.

First and foremost is the centrality of the Eucharist to Catholic devotional life, what the Church has termed the “source and summit” of the Christian life, a topic I intend to address in further detail in a subsequent article. From a Catholic perspective, the Eucharist is Christ himself, and receives far greater honor and attention than anything else in the liturgy or popular devotion. Indeed, unlike Mary or any other saint, the Eucharist is worshipped as God. From the very beginning of my exploration into Catholicism, I came to realize how very central the Eucharist is – it is quite simply impossible to speak too highly of the Eucharist. It is “our daily bread,” the means of salvation, the source of all grace, the remedy for every ill, anxious thought, or sinful habit… and most radically, it is Jesus Himself. There is a reason why every priest and parish is required to offer Mass daily, and why so many spiritual directors, Catholic literature, and Church documents urge Catholics to receive the Eucharist as frequently as possible, and to spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. If the Eucharist is Christ, it’s hard to imagine getting more Christ-centered than that.

As for the rosary and devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary or other saints, it is important to keep in mind that the rosary as well is a Christ-centered devotion. In it, the Catholic asks Mary to pray for him or her to meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s life. Although the Catholic verbally says many “Hail Mary’s” the purpose is not to elevate Mary above Christ, but to allow the repetition of the prayers to enable the Catholic to enter into a meditative form of prayer, focused particularly on Christ. Once I understood this, and tried to pray the rosary with this in mind, I saw Scripture and Christ’s life in a way that richly deepened my knowledge and love of Christ. Certainly in Catholicism one may find misapplications or misinterpretations of Marian devotion, or devotions to other saints, that obscure the centrality of Christ. But to reject Catholicism for misapplications of its teaching is to reject a straw-man, just as if I were to reject Reformed theology because some Reformed theologian or pastor advocated something at odds with traditional Reformed theology or practice.

”Grace Instead of Guilt”

Castaldo’s fifth and final reason for the exodus of Catholics to evangelicalism is that ex-Catholics want to be “motivated by grace instead of guilt” (p. 105). In describing another ex-Catholics’ move to evangelicalism, Castaldo explains that “unlike his rules-oriented experience of the Catholic Church, Andy now enjoyed a personal relationship with Christ by faith.” Other ex-Catholics tell Castaldo, “instead of religion, I now have a relationship with God.” Castaldo asserts, “it’s not necessary for one to first get right with the Catholic Church by observing the sacramental stipulations before receiving salvation from Christ. Rather it comes by faith alone” (p. 111). Castaldo then goes on to explain how the Protestant doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone serves as a counteractive force to guilt, by enabling the Christian to rest in God’s salvific work through Christ’s death and resurrection (p. 116-120).

Of Castaldo’s five reasons, I find this one most compelling, as I reflect on the great comfort that came from my acceptance of the Protestant doctrine that I was saved by grace through faith alone. To accept the Catholic position, an internal spiritual transformation had to occur so as not to be overcome with guilt in the face of the depravity and continuance of my sin. It would be impossible to explain fully my spiritual transformation in rejecting the Protestant model that Castaldo and so many ex-Catholics have come to accept and love, but a more modest endeavor would be to highlight a couple key points. First, it is worth noting that the belief that we are saved by “faith alone” in Christ’s redemptive work may be a doctrine that brings great spiritual consolation, but as other CTC contributors have argued, it is a faulty methodology that compares competing versions of the gospel based on how good they seem to us.2 Moreover, if the Protestant conception of justification by faith alone is a novel interpretation that departs from the ancient tradition (cf. “Tradition I and Sola Fide,” and the Catholic understanding is fully compatible with Scripture (cf. “Does the Bible Teach Sola Fide?“), then it seems we should follow the traditional understanding of justification preserved by the Church at the Council of Trent and more recently in the Catechism.

Furthermore, Catholicism does not teach that being “right with the Catholic Church by observing the sacramental stipulations” is the only way one may receive grace from Christ. It teaches that the sacraments are the “ordinary means” by which this takes place. As CCC 819 teaches, wherever Christians participate in the sacraments, or read, meditate, or preach Scripture, they may access the grace of Christ. Reformed theology likewise has a doctrine of “ordinary means,” claiming that Christ comes to Christians through the preached Word of God, but noting the possibility that Christ may use other means as He sees fit, given His sovereignty.

These issues aside, I think the claim that Catholicism presents a theological model more motivated by guilt than grace is a penetrating one that deserves attention. Although the Church does indeed teach that guilt may be a beneficial force in encouraging Christians to avoid sinful behavior, this is seen as the lowest form of obedience to God – as one who “stands before God as a slave, in servile fear” (CCC 1828). Rather, it is far better for the Christian to act as a free son out of a love for God and love for virtue, precisely because the Christian in fellowship with God is filled with thanksgiving and understanding of God’s gracious movements toward the Christian, and wants to worship Him in thought, word, and action (CCC 1822-1828). Former Catholics do Catholic teaching a disservice when they claim that disregard for Church mandated fasting or Holy Days of Obligation should engender guilt by adding to “Jesus’ suffering on the cross” (pp. 115-116). Any rule in Catholicism is oriented towards deepening our love of Christ, growth in holiness, and participation in the divine nature — the exact “personal relationship with Christ,” ex-Catholics yearn to acquire. Adherence to the law, rightly understood, should be a means of growing in the blessed life, rather than a deterrent to it. Furthermore, the Church encourages consistent return to the sacrament of reconciliation – not simply because it is a great blessing and benefit to receive consistently both absolution for sins and the grace to fight sin, but also because it enables Catholics to better form their consciences precisely so they are not racked by guilt or confusion when they fail to honor a fast or forget to attend Mass on a Holy Day of Obligation. The longer I am Catholic, and the more I go to confession, the more I understand my sin, its gravity, and what it does to my relationship with Christ. Again, we must carefully distinguish between the misapplication or poor catechesis often found in Catholicism, and authentic Catholic practice in accord with what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

Finally, Castaldo’s charge seems to place Catholicism and its alleged guilt-inducing rules at odds with the Protestant faith and its emphasis on God’s gracious acceptance of the sinner, not based on adherence to a set of a religious obligations but solely on the basis of divine favor. Yet Castaldo and other former Catholics could hardly be implying that God accepts even the defiant sinner who has no intention of repentance, and intends to continue actively disobeying God’s commands. Certainly even the Protestant would hold that the converted sinner must desire holiness and seek to reject sinful patterns of behavior. It seems then that Castaldo and other former Catholics equate “rules” with “guilt,” in that one “feels guilty” more often in Catholicism, because there are seemingly more rules to violate, or that there are more opportunities to “incur guilt” in Catholicism because of its rules. Determining which system of doctrine to follow based on which offers the fewest rules or incurs the least guilt again returns us to fashioning a religion according to one’s own desires, rather than receiving the religion Christ has revealed through the Church He founded.

”Final Reflections”

In assessing the conversion stories of those who have left Reformed theology for the Catholic Church I have witnessed a trend. Before I returned to Catholicism, I had my own assessments of these Catholic conversions – assuming they were due either to a desire for the “smells and bells” of a deep, historical liturgy, or the possibility that the convert didn’t really understand the Reformed faith. There were many theories I and others proposed to negate these Catholic conversion stories. Now that I am on the other side, I realize how such hypothesizing failed to further ecumenical dialogue, in the same way that accusing Castaldo or other former-Catholics of not understanding Catholicism, or conjecturing as to their hidden motives would be counter-productive. The reasons given by Castaldo’s study are reflective of general trends in the United States, and Castaldo appears both to have his finger on the pulse of this particular subset of evangelicals, and to possess a much more nuanced view of Catholicism than do many evangelicals. I might also add that upon reading his book, I am inclined to believe that Castaldo is a devoted Christian with a serious mind, that he is after the truth of Scripture and of Christ, and that he is desperate to know Christ more.

That said, the two most apparent problems throughout Castaldo’s analysis are (1) the disconnect between what many experience in Catholicism and what the Catholic Church formally teaches, and (2) evangelical ex-Catholics appear to place their own personal interpretations or consumerist demands over the models of religiosity established by Christ in His Church. Regarding the first, that Catholic catechesis in the United States and elsewhere has been so poor for so long is a very sad reality, and I empathize with my many former Catholic brothers and sisters who found great spiritual benefit in evangelicalism since leaving the Catholic Church. However, evangelicalism presents a new series of intellectual and theological dilemmas that are not easily addressed, including the nature of the visible Church, and what reasons may justify severing oneself from the Church. I think Castaldo would agree that choosing a church is not like choosing one’s favorite ice cream – something formed simply by preference. If there is indeed a visible Church, and that Church is the Catholic Church, and if what that Church offers is Christ and what that Church teaches is scriptural, we must beware of abandoning it for any reason, let alone the five offered by Castaldo.

Regarding the second problem, the assessment Castaldo and other Catholics have made in their decision to choose evangelicalism over the Catholic Church reveals an implicit form of ecclesial consumerism that fails to address the possibility that the Catholic Church is the institution founded by Christ, and that what former Catholics think they need may in certain respects be opposed to what Christ Himself wants for them. If Christ has established a clergy-laity distinction, then wanting a Christianity without such a distinction is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ through His Church has given us precepts to obey, then wanting a spirituality without such precepts is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ has established a priesthood in the New Covenant by which His grace is given to us through sacraments, then wanting a Christianity without sacraments or without any other human beings acting as channels of divine grace is wanting something contrary to what Christ has established. If Christ through His Church has provided devotions that incorporate the communion of the saints, then wanting a Christianity devoid of such devotions is contrary to the form of religion Christ has provided to us through His Church. And if Christ has established laws that induce guilt when they are disobeyed, then wanting a Christianity in which there is no guilt is wanting something other than what Christ has established.


Claire and Casey Chalk

In each case, therefore, we return to the question of whether or not the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, and whether Christ teaches and guides the faithful through His Church. I believe evangelicals truly want more of Christ, but our love and desire for Christ should lead us to follow Him and grow in Him in the way He has established. I hope even my Protestant brothers and sisters would agree that Christ knows better than we do what we need. If the Catholic Church is Christ’s Church, then we should follow Him by following His Church, and we may find, surprisingly, that what He provides us through His Church is ultimately what we truly need and want.

  1. See “Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority,” “The Tu Quoque,” “Mathison’s Reply to Cross and Judisch: A Largely Philosophical Critique,” “Some Preliminary Reflections on Mathison’s Dialectic,” “Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture,” “Sola Scriptura vs. the Magisterium: What Did Jesus Teach?,” and “Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue Between Michael Horton and Bryan Cross.” []
  2. See the blockquoted section in comment #39 of the “Is the Catholic Church Semi-Pelagian?” thread. []
Tags: Evangelicalism

313 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. The problem that Castaldo talks about, of Christians who have a divide between religious life and secular life, is very real. It is not, I think, a special feature of the Catholic Church; it is endemic in any well-established mainline denomination – and, surely, exists in evangelicalism as well. It is less prevalent there because of the self-selection aspect of being an evangelical.

    Still, it is a real problem – but his implied solution – ecclesial ministry – is precisely wrong. Indeed, it seems to me a real misunderstanding on the part of much of today’s Catholic leadership to assume that Vatican 2’s ‘active participation’ means that. It does not, and the place of the laity is in transforming the world. Becoming an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may – or may not – be a worthy thing for the layman to do (it seems that they are not very extraordinary in most parishes in my experience) – but it is precisely not a call to the laity.

    I remember vividly, when my wife and I had been Catholics for only two years – from an previous Reformed commitment, and, before that, evangelical – one which had been greatly helped by Campus Crusade for Christ – that I went to my first Opus Dei retreat. I was very excited. I came home and told her, “It’s just Campus Crusade for Catholics!”

    It is, in fact, much more than that, as Campus Crusade’s emphasis is very heavily on formal evangelism. That retreat was in 1997. She is now a super-numerary, I a lowly cooperator. We have been so blessed as Catholics to see the Christian call to a call to holiness of life and the oblation of every aspect of life to Jesus.

    Thanks for your article – and God bless you both in your marriage!

    jj

  2. Let me just piggy-back on John’s comment. First, though, excellent review and welcome home Casey!

    The solution to the “part-time faith” problem is precisely, pace Castaldo, the distinction between married/religious/priesthood. In other words, the way to live your faith full-time is to first know what your vocation is. As a father and husband, my vocation is to have children and to lead them to heaven, and to love my wife as Christ loves the Church. I don’t need to play a guitar in the church to “do ministry” — I do it every day of the week when I faithfully work for my family, care for their needs, and lead them spiritually. Failure to do that in any way, in the name of “church work”, is a disservice to my calling by God. Catholicism has cleared this up for me.

    In evangelicalism, the confusion or lack of distinction between married/religious/priesthood leads to many fathers and mothers feeling guilty about their “lack of involvement” in the church. For others, this failure to appreciate the ministry of the married, positively contributes to the contraceptive mentality, embracing less children in the name of doing more of God’s work — implying family is something less than God’s work (evangelicals could live a “full-time” faith by putting down contraception). Still yet, we all know about the infamous “preacher’s kid” — left to himself every Friday night when dad — preacher/pastor/father/ball-coach/mentor/friend extraordinaire — is out with his ministry, and his son picks up the bottle.

    All this to say, I have personally reached balance in my life because of Catholicism. I know, as a father, I have a duty to care for my family — materially and spiritually — and that giving that vocation, that calling by God, 100% of my attention is not a failure to do ministry. I don’t need to look in the bulletin for a way to serve God, I only need to look down my own pew.

    Now, I’m just trying to give it that 100%. Pray for me!

  3. Brent,

    Your first paragraph is absolutely on the money! Beautiful . . thank you.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  4. An excellent article, Casey! I, too, was raised Catholic, found Christ in an evangelical congregation and, after dipping my toe in many different brands of Protestantism, ended up in a Reformed denomination, the PCA. During my time there, I eventually became a small group leader. Our group wanted to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together but I was told by leadership that only an ordained minister could administer the sacrament. I realize now that, with all the complaints of a Catholic “sacerdotalism” thrown our way, there exists within the Reformed tradition a de facto priesthood, that of the ordained clergy.

  5. Gents:

    I’ve actually worked with several guys like Chris Castaldo: ex-Catholics who have become Protestant ministers. The one thing I noticed they all had in common, other than the fact just noted, is that they said they wanted to do full-time ministry while being married. Ironic, considering the difficulties that Casey and Brent point out.

    Best,
    Mike

  6. What is ironic to me is that the Church does have a home for qualified lay people to serve the Church teaching theology, leading Bible studies, RCIA, Adult Education, and a whole host of other types of catechetical and evangelical formation.

  7. Thank you for all the kind comments thus far – it’s an honor to receive from CTC folks who have been so influential in my own growth in the Catholic faith.

    In regards to Castaldo’s religious/secular life distinction, I do agree that many evangelicals err in failing to find their calling in their secular vocation, be it in the family or their work, thinking that anyting less than some form of “ministry” reflects a spiritual deficiency on their part. However, to be fair to the Reformed faith, I do think that Reformed theology historically and in many respects to this day maintains a more nuanced understanding that is closer to the Catholic understanding than more mainstream evangelicalism. I think my seminary professors and the leadership at my former Presbyterian church would be a bit offended if I didn’t acknowledge that they too have a high view of the secular calling to work, family, etc. and that holiness and sanctification can be gained through those callings. So I wonder where, more specifically, the distinction between the Reformed and Catholic perspectives on the secular v. religious life would lie?

    One thing I did notice when Reformed was there didn’t really seem to be a very well-defined place for the single, chaste life in Reformed communities, because of the heavy emphasis on holiness achieved through the family. I knew of a man with a degree from a respected Reformed seminary who could not find a position as a pastor in any Reformed denomination because he was single. I don’t know the specifics, but that does seem far removed from the honor and respect given to those who seek a calling to remain single as a religious in the Catholic Church.

  8. One of the major issues I have this book is his research methodology. It consisted of interviews with ex-Catholics who left the Church. In reality, a Catholic who leaves the Church for protestant denomination has not embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith. Chris Castaldo states that authority is a major reason why people leave. These are Catholics who do not wish to submit to the authority of the Church which we believe is ultimately submitting to Christ. If a Catholic leaves the Church because he doesn’t accept that the Church should dictate to him norms of morality and behavior, than they are a Catholic who has not fully understood their faith.
    I can’t understand how he calls himself a devout Catholic with attending mass for a total of 150 minutes a year since his confirmation (Christmas and Easter). The casual reader will give much more credibility to the conclusions of this book based on Chris self appellation and I am not sure it is accurate, given evidence that he actaully was not devout.

  9. Thank you for sharing your story, Casey, and congratulations to you and your wife!

  10. Great article. Thank you for sharing and welcome home!

  11. Great post Casey. Thank you. You have been bold and courageous on your journey and God will use it to bless others. Congrats to you and your wife as well!

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  12. Casey,

    So enjoyed your story. I kept finding myself nodding and saying “yup”:) You highlighted what the Christian will receive by being in full communion with the Catholic Church and that is bright and encouraging.

    Thank you!

    Susan

  13. I am in Virginia going through RCIA for the first time and planning to join the Church at Easter. I am glad people are writing these articles, because I am married and both sets of parents are PCA. In fact, one parent is an elder and has been a staunch Calvinist. He is not opposing us but does leave Tabletalk and Modern Reformation magazine around for us and tends to put down Catholic faith.

    Because of his high level of learning–he is a lawyer and well read, especially in Scripture–it is so good to read others’ perspectives on the defects of the Reformed faith.

    I am not as articulate, but I can intuit real feelings of overwhelming spiritual shortcomings in the Reformed church structure. Also, is it just me, or is there a great deal of pessimism in Protestantism?

    I also feel like the power structure of the PCA is geared toward “successful” males who have the time and interest to study scripture and feels quite exclusive at times, although I don’t think it is necessarily intentional. The nature of the priesthood, by the fact that they have no “family” but the Church, and that they are/should be celibate, is so different than men who are in the world with families. Brent expresses that so well.

    I guess this is highly personal of my experience, but I think perhaps others could identify, especially in the South and female?

  14. Hello EHB – thanks for sharing your personal experience. I’m glad to hear some other folks in the PCA in Virginia, a state with a proud and noble Presbyterian tradition, are coming into the Catholic Church! I am sorry to hear about your experience with some of your Reformed family who are less than thrilled with your decision. Something that I found helpful as I moved into the Catholic Church was that I at one time had been one of those critical of the Church, who might have sought ways to disaparge others from converting or engaging the Church’s claims. That allowed me to a bit more understanding and sensitive to those who opposed my conversion. Furthermore, as Castaldo points out in his book, there are plenty of cradle Catholics who have acted passive aggressively, or simply aggressively, to family members who abandon the Church for evangelicalism or the Reformed faith. So it cuts both ways, unfortunately. I remember when I was evangelical playing a sermon of a well-known evangelical pastor for my cradle Catholic grandfather – a sermon that had been inspiring and influential in my own spiritual journey – and my grandfather refused to listen. He said the pastor sounded like a used car salesman! In retrospect, he might have been on to something… Be that as it may, following Christ whereever He leads us will inevitably bring conflict – and certainly if and when He leads us back to His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Thankfully, you are not alone in that fight!

    I think you’re definitely on to something regarding the PCA and “successful men” – quite a bit could probably be written on Reformed theology’s relationship to gender roles and social class. I’m sure your experiences and thoughts would be helpful to others, especially women, who get the feeling that the PCA might have skewed perspectives on gender or class…

    I hope that God blesses you with abundant graces as you prepare to receive His son in the sacraments of Penance, Holy Communion, and Confirmation. This is a very exciting time for you!

  15. Exceptional article and comments. This is the sort of positive engagement that gets people to listen.

  16. Great story Casey! Good luck and God bless you and Claire!

  17. I haven’t felt so saddened reading a personal story in a long time. To see someone who was so close to the truth for such a long time, and yet abandoned it for doctrine that tickled their ears after their own desires – this story is the perfect example of 2 Timothy 4:3-4. It’s like actually watching the birds swoop in to snatch up the seed. It’s like reading the personal testimony of Demas himself. To watch someone leave Christian teaching to enter the Roman Catholic Church – it feels like getting sucker punched in the soul. So heart wrenchingly sad.

    Casey, I will pray that God will open your eyes to the truth in His word. And I will pray that He will grant you faith to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  18. Jonathan,

    It was through reading God’s Word daily and systematically, Genesis through Revelation, year after year, studying it, in prayer, that I came to see that the doctrines I was taught in Evangelical Protestantism were not in accord with God’s Word, and that the truths of the Catholic Church were right there in Scripture all along, either explicitly or implicitly.

    I pray that you will come to see this, too. Be open to God’s Word.

    Grace and peace,
    E.J. Cassidy

  19. Jonathan (re:#17),

    Thank you for your comment, and welcome to CTC. I am not one of the official contributors to this site, but all of them, and many of the regular commenters (including myself) are former Protestant Christians who held to the “Five Sola’s of the Reformation” and to five-point Calvinist theology. (In my case, I am a former “Reformed Baptist.”)

    In your comment, you make a very serious assumption about Casey– that, in returning to the Catholic Church, he was going for doctrine which “tickled (his) own ears after (his) own desires.” How do you know that he was not returning to the Church which he honestly believes to be Biblically sound and faithful to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and to all of the teachings of Christ and the apostles? Why do you assume that Casey was simply returning to the doctrines which tickled his ears after his own desires?

    I used to be a Catholic, and I left the Catholic Church, partially due to challenges from non-Catholic friends that I could not answer and that shook my own faith (largely due to poor instruction that I unfortunately received from more than one person in the Church). I eventually became an evangelical Protestant, and when I found Reformed Christianity, in particular, it was as if a whole world of Biblical theology opened up to me that seemed (at the time) to make better sense of the whole Bible that anything else I had encountered. I jumped right in, joined a Reformed Baptist congregation, and happily found myself in an intense and joyful atmosphere of serious Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism. This was, it seemed, what I had been looking for for years, because I wanted nothing more than to trust in God alone for my salvation, and to follow hard after him, with the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ, growing in obedience and holiness, while spreading His Gospel of justification by faith alone.

    I could not have been more happy as a Reformed Baptist Christian. I had no desire to “justify myself by my own works” or to go after “doctrine that ticked my ears.” I firmly believed that justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone *was* the Gospel, and I shared this Gospel with others, including meeting with a Catholic man and his wife for months, trying to show them the “Biblical, Reformed Gospel” from the Scriptures and praying for them to “see the truth.”

    As the years went on though, I began to be increasingly troubled by more and more Scripture passages that created serious problems for my Reformed, “faith alone,” “imputed righteousness,” “limited atonement,” “Perseverance of the Saints” Calvinistic Biblical paradigm. I could go into all of these passages in this comment, but to do so would require a virtual treatise. (I can go into *some* of them in subsequent comments if you would like).

    Despite being troubled by these passages, I knew that Reformed exegetes knew more about the Bible than I did, and, thankful for their knowledge, I delved further into Reformed exegetical and apologetic works which dealt with these “problem passages.” After reading these works, with my Bible close at hand to make sure they were “Biblically accurate,” I would be encouraged and reassured that Reformed Protestant Christianity did, indeed, still make sense of the whole Bible. Through all of my study, I never doubted that justification by faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone *was* the Biblical Gospel– and it was my Gospel, the Gospel for which I lived, and for which I would have died, if I had been asked to do so.

    Eventually, through continued Bible study, prayer, and the discovery of the writings of the early Church Fathers (which include Biblical exegesis that far predates the Reformation), I began to sense that if I wanted to be truly honest with what God was showing to me, I had to make a commitment to re-study the entire Bible– but this time, setting aside my cherished Reformed presuppositions which I had long brought to the texts.

    To be clear, I had originally *come* to these Reformed views *through* Biblical exegesis (of my own and others), but now, Biblical exegesis (of my own and others) was leading me to question some of these Reformed views, so to be honest with God and myself, I felt that I needed to re-study the Bible without my “Reformed interpretive lenses.”

    After a careful, even agonizing, process of this Biblical “re-study”– involving serious prayer, and regular, lengthy meetings with one of my Reformed elders, and study of both Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox sources–, I realized that I could no longer, in good conscience, be a Reformed Baptist Protestant, or *any* kind of Protestant. The Bible itself had convinced me out of my Protestantism. In particular, through study of the four Gospels, the letters of Paul, 1 John, and Hebrews, I had been convinced that both justification by faith alone and the “Perserverance of the Saints” (the “eternal security” of Calvinists) were/are simply not the teachings of the Bible.

    I had not *wanted* to reach these conclusions. I *wanted* to be reaffirmed that the “Reformed, Biblical Gospel” that I had embraced and spread for years *was* the teaching of the Bible. Reaching a different conclusion, *from* the Bible, was severely humbling, and even shattering, to me on many levels. It meant that I had been wrong about very serious teachings of the Bible for years, and that I had spread these errors to other people. It meant that I could not stay in my current congregation. I already had a strong sense, from my experience with these friends, that in renouncing my former beliefs as “unBiblical,” I would lose most of these friends– and lose them I did (as well as many, many Reformed friends in other parts of the U.S.) . I also lost a hoped-for career in Reformed “Biblical Counseling.”

    Even after reaching my carefully studied, and prayed-through, conclusion that Reformed Protestantism (and Protestantism, period) is not Biblically accurate, I still was not completely convinced of the claims and teachings of the Catholic Church. I knew, though, that I had to leave my Protestant community, in good conscience, so I painfully did. It hurt so much to leave, but being firmly convinced that I was following God and Scripture in doing so, I found a measure of peace.

    For about two months, I didn’t know *where* I belonged, ecclesially speaking, so I stayed home on Sundays and continued to study. On about 85% of what the Catholic Church teaches, I had found her to be Biblically accurate– far more so than any Protestant congregation–, but I had to ask myself, how long was I going to continue subjecting every ecclesial entity in existence to *my* own Biblical scrutiny, when I had once been an Arminian, and then a Calvinist, and now, a “non-Protestant” of some sort, having reached these conclusions through *my* own Biblical study, with other Protestant Christians, and with other sources (including the writings of the early Church Fathers), but still holding the Bible to be my final authority (at least on the matters that I deemed to be “Christian essentials”)? Was this really the way that the early Christian Church operated?

    From reading the early Church Fathers (not as opposed to reading Scripture, but *while* reading Scripture), I had learned that “Sola Scriptura” was most definitely *not* how the early Church had operated. It was not how Jesus and the first apostles had operated– so why should I continue doing so? From 189 A.D., the words of St. Irenaeus rang in my ears:

    “It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about” (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).

    “But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:2).

    (Source: http://www.churchfathers.org/category/the-church-and-the-papacy/apostolic-succession/)

    I still was not 100% convinced of some of the teachings of the Catholic Church, but again, I had found her to be far more Scripturally accurate than any Protestant denomination (or “non-denominational church”), and the early Church had not operated through “Sola Scriptura” anyway. In that light, was I going to heed what the Spirit had shown me in Scripture (which was, emotionally, *not* what I had wanted to find there), and in the early Church Fathers, and in Church history, or was I going to stay with Reformed Protestant doctrines that, in a sense. tickled my own human desires to not have my life be so incredibly disrupted (by returning to the Catholic Church)?

    I knew what I had to do. I had to follow God, my own desires for career and comfort and the affirmation of friends be damned. Therefore, I returned to the Catholic Church. It was *not* easy, and it has not *been* easy. It was, and is, the right thing to do though, because this Church has the fullness of Christian truth– which is only fitting, because Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church.

  20. Hi Jonathan – thanks for taking the time to read my article and for your contribution. Thanks also to Christopher Lake for sharing his own experiences wrestling with the Reformed/Catholic debate – your story if very much my own, and I resonated with much of what you shared.

    For Jonathan, I have a couple quick comments and questions for you. You compare my conversion story to several passages from the New Testament involving those who believed the truth, or heard the gospel, but ultimately chose to follow a teaching or lifestyle that was more pleasing to them. I would however suggest that such a characterization would be unhelpful at furthering the discussion forward. First, the characterization ignores the arguments explicitly given for the conversion: I argue throughout my paper that my conversion was based on a reflection of scripture, logic, and the history of Christianity. If you find these arguments unpersuasive, please offer why you think so. Second, the characterization presumes to know the “real reason” why someone left Protestantism for Catholicism. Of course, we could make the same characterizations about Luther, Calvin, or anyone who was raised Catholic and then abandoned the Catholic Church for Protestantism. We could suggest that they had abandoned the Catholic faith for a teaching that “ticked their ears.” I would however prefer not to psychologize as to the “real reasons” anyone leaves one Christian tradition for another, but to charitably take their reasons at face value, and then analyze the validity of those reasons.

    On a personal note, it is hard not to chuckle at your suggestion that I abandoned the true gospel of Jesus Christ for the false gospel of the Catholic Church because it was more pleasing to my desires (and presumably not my desires for truth or to know Christ). Among the many things about Catholicism which decidedly did NOT “tickle my ears” would be devotion to Mary, the sacramental system, and purgatory. As a Reformed Christian, I found all of those Catholic doctrines abhorrent, and they were far more a deterrent to my conversion than something appealing to my desires. However, just as the first Christians had to come to grips with a God that took on human flesh, a savior who died on a cross, or a religion that included Jews and Gentiles, so through prayer and reflection I came to the see the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith.

    Finally, thank you for prayers – I’ll gladly take them from whomever will offer them! In light of your encouragement that I “believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” I would like to ask you what is the true gospel, and how are you sure that you, as a Protestant, believe that gospel, and I, as a Catholic, do not?

    in Christ,

    Casey

  21. Christopher Lake,

    Sadly, pretty much my exact comment to Casey applies to you as well. It’s just so devastating to read such testimonies. Short of using more biblical sounding terminology, this letter could just as easily have been written by a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness. It’s still the same thing: giving up the word of God for the word of man, the authority of God for the authority of man, the teachings of God for the teachings of man, and the gospel of God for a gospel of man.

    Just so sad.

    I came to this site (and many others like it) because a friend that I work with is Roman Catholic. I’ve been witnessing to him for a number of months, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with him and hoping he will trust in Christ and His gospel for salvation. He’s a good friend, and I truly love the guy, and it saddens me to no end that he follows a false gospel that can’t save him. I’ve spent the last 4 months reading and studying as much as I can about Roman Catholicism, it’s doctrines, it’s history, and I’ve been contrasting that with Christianity, and it’s doctrines and it’s history. I’ve probably spent an average of 2-3 hours a day studying the topic during that time. The more I learn about Roman Catholicism, the more clear it gets about how far from Christianity it really is, and has been since it’s inception approximately 1700 years ago. Rarely does a day go by where I don’t learn something new that Roman Catholicism teaches that is contrary to Christianity. The list is just simply massive.

    Quite honestly, Roman Catholicism is the perfect example of the adage “the most dangerous lie is the one that is closest to the truth”.

    I realize that I’m not likely to change the hearts and minds of those here, since it seems like a very close knit, tightly supportive group. I guess it’s just the verbalization of my sorrow that some seed simply does get snatched up by the birds so easily. And my recognition that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the power of God unto salvation – whether that be for the atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Roman Catholic, Muslim, or anyone else. It simply reaffirms my need and desire to continue sharing the gospel – because there is no end of people who need it.

  22. Jonathan (re:#21),

    Actually, my “reversion story” to the Catholic Church cannot be legitimately compared to the story of a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, because my story was based largely in study of Scripture, and not in a mangled “translation” such as the “New World Translation” of the JW’s and not in the “burning bosom” and the Book of Mormon that are key parts of Mormon theology.

    Did I read writings of the early Church Fathers? Yes. Did they do the “heavy work” of bringing me to the point of seeing that justification by faith truly might be unBiblical? No. Jesus, St. Paul, St. John, the author of the book of Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit had to do that for me. Moreover, I was working from “sound” Protestant translations, such as the ESV, and I was exegeting the texts, according to the principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture.

    The fact that, from what I could tell, *none* of the early Church Fathers, *when* read in context (not as quoted out of context by Protestant polemicists), teaches the Protestant understanding of justification, was certainly more than a bit interesting to me, especially given that most of those Fathers actually predate the collecting of the New Testament books into a definite canon– but in the end, it was study of the Bible (and the Holy Spirit, of course) that brought me to the point of giving up justification by faith alone.

    You claim that the inception of “Roman Catholicism” was “approximately 1,700 years ago.” How did you arrive at that timeframe ? It seems arbitrary, given that in 107 A.D., St. Ignatius was already writing about “the Catholic Church,” and in 189 A.D., St. Irenaeus was writing that all churches everywhere, in the entire world, must submit to the church at Rome, which has apostolic succession and the teachings of the apostles (and again, the New Testament had not even been collected into a canon yet).

    You write about CTC as though it is such a (in your words) “very close knit, tightly supportive group,” that we could not seemingly be willing to seriously listen to your comments. However, we were willing (some sooner than others– it took years for me) to consider that we might be wrong in our embrace of Reformed exegesis and doctrine. That took some painful humility and openness to truth on our parts Are you willing to admit that you might be wrong about your interpretation of the Bible, and about the Biblical interpretations of your leaders and favorite exegetes, which together, have apparently led you to believe that the Catholic Church is a false church teaching a false gospel?

    About your co-worker who is Catholic, and to whom you are witnessing, I will pray for both of you. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, when I was a Reformed Protestant, I, too, met with a Catholic man (and his wife) for months, reasoning with him from the Bible, and pleading with him to accept the “Biblical” (i.e. Reformed) understanding of Sola Fide. He liked my concern for Biblical truth, I think, but looking back, he did seem more than a bit uncomfortable with what I was urging him to accept. Now I understand why he was uncomfortable. He already had a more truly *Biblical* understanding of justification, and I was trying to get him to accept Luther and Calvin’s *misinterpretation* of the Biblical teaching on justification, which I had (sincerely but very mistakenly) accepted as the “Biblical Gospel.”

  23. P.S. to #22: Jonathan, I unintentionally left out a key word in my above reply to you.

    I wrote of the early Church Fathers, “Did they do the ‘heavy work’ of bringing me to the point of seeing that justification by faith truly might be unBiblical? No. Jesus, St. Paul, St. John, the author of the book of Hebrews, and the Holy Spirit had to do that for me.”

    However, I left out the word “alone”– and that makes all the difference, because the Biblical writers and the Holy Spirit brought me to point of seeing that justification by faith *alone* might be unBiblical. Now, I know that it *is* unBiblical. Luther’s misinterpretation of St. Paul in Romans led to the Reformed Protestant understanding of “Sola Fide.”

    You have probably already heard this, but the only place in the Bible where the words “faith alone” are actually used (in James 2), they are *specifically denied, and specifically in relation to justification.* Now, as a former Reformed Baptist, I know very well that there is a Reformed explanation for this seeming exegetical dilemma. James is writing about about faith as pure “head faith,” intellectual, non-saving belief, and he is writing about works as simply being the “justifying evidence,” before man, of one’s already having been justified by God by faith alone. Meanwhile, Paul is writing about being justified before God by faith alone– even though he never *uses* the words “faith alone.” That is the Reformed explanation of Paul and James on justification, faith, and works that I was taught by my Reformed leaders, and I accepted it and believed it for years. However, after having made a conscious effort to re-study the Bible without those “Reformed interpretive lenses” (well before I ever returned to the Catholic Church), I could see that Reformed explanation as, unfortunately, little more than Reformed *eisegesis*, not exegesis. If God had wanted to tell us clearly in Scripture that believers in Christ are justified by faith alone, it is certainly perplexing that God, the Holy Spirit, inspired James to write man is not justified by faith alone.

    I know that Reformed Christians love to read the letters of Paul. I certainly did, as a Reformed Baptist, and I still do, as a Catholic. The Church has been exegeting those letters for almost 2, 000 years. He is “St. Paul” in our Church after all– and I can assure you that we would *not* so honor Paul if he, in actuality, teaches things in Scripture that are opposed to Catholic doctrine! :-) In truth, he does not teach anything opposed to Catholic doctrine, because Paul himself was/is Catholic. http://pauliscatholic.com

  24. Jonathan,

    A lot of commentors here have sacrificed an awful lot to become Catholic. Some lost their jobs as protestant clergy. Others lost friends. Others saw their relationship with their families suffer a bit. So coming here and inferring that they moved to Catholicism because it was easy (tickled their ears) is to trivialize a lot of seriously challenging things these converts have gone through.

    I’d love to see you interact with some of the actual content on this website, starting with some of the arguments that Casey used. Since you’ve been studying Catholicism so much I think you’ll be able to offer some interesting challenges to our faith. I hope you’ll stick around.

  25. This may be of interest to some here: Chris Costaldo writes, at the Gospel Coalition site, about “Calvin on Lent and Ministry to Roman Catholics.” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/02/18/calvin-on-ministry-to-roman-catholics/

  26. EJ Cassidy (re #18)

    I still always find this so difficult to fathom, but God does say that there will be those who hear His word but do not understand. It still shocks me when someone spends that much time studying the bible and yet still falls for the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church. Quite frankly, hundreds of what you call “truths” of the Roman Catholic Church, (which I am going to call doctrines, since I can not call false teachings “truths”) are nowhere to be found in scripture. In fact, many are explicitly condemned, multiple times. To deny such condemnations, and then go through the most fanciful and imaginative reinterpretations to even find the slightest implicit “support” for such doctrines just boggles my mind. But when one submits to a manmade authority that claims to be the only interpreter of scripture, and demands trust and support of it’s interpretation, it shouldn’t surprise me that this is what we end up with.

  27. Casey (re #20)

    // I would however suggest that such a characterization would be unhelpful at furthering the discussion forward. //

    Casey, although you may find such a characterization “unhelpful at furthering the discussion forward”, that presupposes that the proper way to deal with things like this is by avoiding such characterizations and simply furthering discussion. I’m quite comfortable in the biblical support for shining a truthful light on those who follow after false teaching, and calling them out. I can quote Old Testament law, the wisdom found in Proverbs, the examples of Christ, or the instructional teachings of Paul in this regard – but we all know these verses already, don’t we? Would you have me coddle people as they discard truth and follow after manmade doctrines that deny the gospel of Jesus Christ? Let’s be honest now, Casey. You could die in a car crash tomorrow. If you do, when you stand before God in judgement, and you try and convince God that you’ve done enough to merit the graces needed for the attainment of eternal life, you’ll be denying the only advocate you can possibly have in Jesus Christ. I care too much for your soul to coddle you.

    // I argue throughout my paper that my conversion was based on a reflection of scripture, logic, and the history of Christianity. If you find these arguments unpersuasive, please offer why you think so. . //

    Quite simply, scripture does not in any way point to the Roman Catholic Church. Logic does not in any way point to the Roman Catholic Church, since it contradicts itself repeatedly. And the history of Christianity consistently points AWAY from the Roman Catholic Church. The history of the Roman Catholic Church may point to the Roman Catholic Church, but that’s just begging the question. I believe that you are simply confusing the history of Christianity here with the history of the Roman Catholic Church – they are not the same thing.

    But even further, there are very disturbing things that you have written in your paper. You freely admit that your turning point came during a visit to a centre of idolatrous paganism. That’s absurd. Even if you weren’t specifically trying to learn new things while walking around ruins and Buddhist shrines, intentionally exploring spiritual things, while in what is certainly a demonic stronghold, is just plain foolish. That’s like saying “I’m just going to wander through Canaan for a while to ponder the Law of Moses.” Or “I’ll hang out with the Pharisees for a while to see if I can discern what Jesus said.” Or “I’ll just wander around the temple of Aphrodite while considering what Paul preached.” Or even “I’ll just watch this voodoo ceremony while I decide what’s true about God.” Opening oneself up to a place of demonic influence is possibly the most foolish thing to do when searching for truth about God. Is there an easier way to possibly let Satan influence you? Literally, that’s the point in your testimony where I just began to shake my head and cry. And it only got worse from there.

    In discussing your thoughts on sola scriptura, you talk about realizing that you trusted Protestant historians and scholars, so why not trust Roman Catholic scholars instead. The fact that you were living in error on the Protestant side and following man’s authority instead of the Holy Spirit’s in no way justifies crossing over to Roman Catholicism to make the same error! Yet even worse, to make the same error under the guise of authoritative dogma!

    As to the points specifically about Castaldo’s book, I honestly haven’t read it, so I won’t spend the time diving into your response to his individual points.

    // I would however prefer not to psychologize as to the “real reasons” anyone leaves one Christian tradition for another, but to charitably take their reasons at face value, and then analyze the validity of those reasons. //

    You may prefer to do so, but quite frankly, I’ll stick with scripture. Jesus tells us in the parable of the sower reasons why people will hear the gospel but then leave it behind for something else. The epistles in the New Testament also tell us why some will leave the Christian faith to follow teachers of their own desires. No offence, but I’m going to take the truth of what God says over what you claim. Just like when an atheist tells me that he doesn’t believe God exists, and the bible tells me that he absolutely KNOWS God exists and he is simply deluding himself (Romans 1:18-21) – I’m going to believe the bible and not the atheist.

    You also presuppose that such people are leaving “one Christian tradition for another”. But this is not true. Quite frankly, Roman Catholicism is not a Christian tradition, since it denies the gospel of Jesus Christ. But even if we were to leave that aside for the moment, and even if I were to grant you that Roman Catholicism were the one true church of Christ, on your own terms you shouldn’t be calling Protestantism ‘another Christian tradition’, since Roman Catholicism has denied the reformation as being Christian, and has pronounced anathemas on literally dozens of foundational Protestant ideologies. If you truly embrace Roman Catholic teaching, you really shouldn’t be considering Protestants as Christians, now, should you?

    // However, just as the first Christians had to come to grips with a God that took on human flesh, a savior who died on a cross, or a religion that included Jews and Gentiles, so through prayer and reflection I came to the see the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith. //

    Interesting. And yet every single one of those things that you listed that the early Christians had to come to grips with, were ALL in the scriptures of the Old Testament. They were ALL argued for and proven from the scriptures. Jesus Himself alludes to this fact. Luke writes in Acts that Paul argued constantly from the scriptures. The New Testament epistles quote the Old Testament non stop in regards to these issues. This makes two points: 1) the principle of sola scriptura is unequivocally and undeniably in effect here, and can be seen clear as day being practiced by Jesus and the apostles; and 2) since many Roman Catholic doctrines can’t be similarly found in scripture, either Old Testament or New Testament, they shouldn’t be something people ‘come to grips with’. There is no truth and there is no beauty in the Roman Catholic ‘faith’.

    // I would like to ask you what is the true gospel //

    I’m sure you likely know the answer, but since you ask, I’ll give it to you in a condensed version here.

    There is one God, who is the Creator of all things. He created mankind to have a relationship with Him. We have sinned against God and His holiness by disobeying his law: both generally, by inheriting a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, the first humans, who disobeyed God originally; and specifically, by our own rebellion against God’s law which we have all broken, and of which our consciences condemn us. This sin creates an unbridgeable chasm between us and God that we can not cross. It causes death – both physical death and spiritual death. This punishment is an eternal separation from God. This is a situation we can not fix.

    In God’s grace and mercy, he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, to atone for that punishment. He took it upon Himself to bridge that chasm. Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and was crucified on a cross. He was buried, and on the third day He rose again. He took the punishment of death for the sins of those who would believe in Him. He ascended up into heaven, and will one day come again to pronounce a final judgement upon all the world.

    As such, God calls all people to repent of their sins and place their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. To repent means to have a change of both mind and heart, and to turn away from sin and towards God. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to accept that there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right with God, but to accept that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin in our place, and He could do so because of the completely perfect life He lived. God calls us to these two things, repentance and faith, and from these He grants eternal life with Him.

    // how are you sure that you, as a Protestant, believe that gospel //

    By the testimony of the Holy Spirit within me, confirming the promises found throughout the bible.

    // and I, as a Catholic, do not? //

    Casey, I don’t know what you believe. I don’t know your heart, and can’t tell you one way or another. However, I can tell you this. Roman Catholic doctrine does not hold to that gospel of Jesus Christ. It may have many parts of it in place, but it specifically denies that it is sufficient. Roman Catholic doctrine adds many things on top of that gospel which actually deny that it is enough. Even further, Roman Catholic doctrine pronounces anathema, a curse, damning people to hell, on people who actually hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As such, the Roman Catholic Church does not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and explicitly denies it. So I can, with full confidence and the complete backing of the word of God Himself, say that if you put your faith in the Roman Catholic Church and believe what it teaches, you are not believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I’ll leave that with you to judge on your own.

  28. Christopher Lake (re #22)

    // my “reversion story” to the Catholic Church cannot be legitimately compared to the story of a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, //

    My comparison wasn’t based on the specific issues that you mentioned in regards to these false religions, but in the general methodology behind them. As mentioned, Roman Catholicism shares many generalities with these false religions, despite differences in the specific applications. Things like claiming to be the only authority that can provide true knowledge or interpretation, or claiming that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the bible aren’t enough and more teachings need to be added. Things like that are common themes from Roman Catholicism, Mormonism and JWs. That’s the comparison I was making, and it holds true.

    // *none* of the early Church Fathers, *when* read in context (not as quoted out of context by Protestant polemicists) //

    This just begs the question. I can easily claim that it is Roman Catholic polemicists that quote the fathers out of context. If you want to get into an “early church father quote war” about any given doctrine, you know we can both throw back and forth dozens of quotes of support from both sides – in context on both sides. So what? Is truth determined by who can quote the most church fathers? Honestly, that’s absurd. The simple question you need to ask yourself is this: Are the church fathers fallible? I hope you answer yes. Is the bible fallible? I hope you answer no. If those aren’t your answers, we have other issues. But if those are your answers, then the final word becomes what the bible says, based on it’s infallibility. And the bible is overwhelmingly clear on the teaching of justification by faith alone, without adding works to it. Overwhelmingly clear. It’s not even close.

    //… teaches the Protestant understanding of justification, was certainly more than a bit interesting to me, //

    Honestly, on this point, I just don’t believe you. If you seriously think that “none” of the early church fathers believed in justification by faith alone, you have sold yourself a lie. I would encourage you to go back and read them again, but I’m not sure if it would matter. Instead, pick up the bible and read it – it will scream justification by faith alone without works as loud as it possibly can!

    // especially given that most of those Fathers actually predate the collecting of the New Testament books into a definite canon //

    Irrelevant, since scripture is based on it’s own ‘God-breathed’ self-attesting authority, not on when people actually had a complete collection (though this was centuries earlier than the Roman Catholic Church claims, and long before the Roman Catholic Church really came into existence in the fourth century)

    // but in the end, it was study of the Bible (and the Holy Spirit, of course) that brought me to the point of giving up justification by faith alone. //

    I’m going to tell it to you straight, Christopher. Pull the bandaid off quick, so to speak. The truth of the matter is this – there is absolutely no possible way that the Holy Spirit brought you to the point of giving up justification alone. The Holy Spirit speaks only truth, and will not contradict Himself. Since He inspired the biblical authors, from Genesis through to Revelation, to write about justification by faith alone without works, and He did it over and over again in an unerringly blatant and clear fashion, there is just no way that the Holy Spirit would ever lead anyone to give up the belief of justification by faith alone. Period.

    If your conviction to give up justification by faith alone and trade it in for a false gospel of justification through faith plus works (being “perfected by the flesh” as Paul warns) – if that conviction came from an actual spiritual source, then quite simply it was demonic. Christopher, I would strongly encourage you to search the scriptures again, and pray that God would remove the scales from your eyes.

    // You claim that the inception of “Roman Catholicism” was “approximately 1,700 years ago.” How did you arrive at that timeframe ? //

    The seeds of where the Roman Catholic Church began to go off the rails and away from Christianity were around before that, but the foundation of what the Roman Catholic Church is today really came about when Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. True Christians resisted and stayed true to the faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who didn’t, who embraced the merger of paganism and Christianity, were the seeds of the Roman Catholic Church. And let’s be honest – you can’t merge Christianity with paganism. Christ says you are either for Him or against Him. So what resulted was simply a Christian-like paganism, and has remained until this day.

    // It seems arbitrary, given that in 107 A.D., St. Ignatius was already writing about “the Catholic Church,” //

    You confuse the generic and original meaning of “Catholic” (i.e., universal) with the idea of Roman Catholic. They are not the same.

    // and in 189 A.D., St. Irenaeus was writing that all churches everywhere, in the entire world, must submit to the church at Rome, //

    Just because false teachings are ancient, that doesn’t make them any more correct!

    // which has apostolic succession //

    This phrase never ceases to amaze me. By definition, this is an oxymoron. Paul defines what an apostle is quite well in the bible – one who received the gospel message directly from Jesus. So by definition, there can be no succession!

    // and the teachings of the apostles (and again, the New Testament had not even been collected into a canon yet). //

    Despite the fact that much evidence shows the books of the New Testament were already completely in use: the Muratorian Canon, Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians, over 30,000 quotations from the New Testament in the writings of the church fathers in the first and second century, long before the timeframe that the Roman Catholic Church has convinced you they gave you the bible. But even putting aside the fact that you are wrong here, it’s still entirely irrelevant, since scripture is its own authority on the basis of what it is, not by the declaration of any manmade authority. And scripture, on it’s own self-attesting authority, doesn’t support the Roman Catholic Church.

    // However, we were willing (some sooner than others– it took years for me) to consider that we might be wrong in our embrace of Reformed exegesis and doctrine. That took some painful humility and openness to truth on our parts //

    Although I don’t doubt you found it painful, it was not “openness to truth”, my friend. It was openness to false teaching that leads away from the bible.

    // Are you willing to admit that you might be wrong about your interpretation of the Bible, and about the Biblical interpretations of your leaders and favorite exegetes, which together, have apparently led you to believe that the Catholic Church is a false church teaching a false gospel? //

    There are many things that I am open to being wrong about. There are things that I am quite up in the air about. For example, I’m quite on the fence on the issue of infant baptism. I lean towards adult believer baptism, since it seems quite clearly taught in the bible. But at the same time, the concept of infant baptism in covenant theology makes some very good points. I honestly don’t know. I plan to research it a lot more. If I ever have a child of my own I will probably spend months reading tons on the issue. As for now, if someone invited me to the baptism of their newborn under a covenant theology premise, I would probably attend. However, if they were doing it under the clearly unbiblical and clearly heretical idea that baptism actually affects justification and is required for salvation, I’d simply say no thanks.

    So there are some things I am absolutely open to. But there are also some things I am absolute closed to. We should be open minded when we don’t know truth. But we should also be closed minded when we do know truth. Closed minded is typically just a pejorative term for confident, but I’m okay with wearing it either way. I admit that I’m closed minded on the fact that 2+2=4, and on the fact that the sky is blue, and on the fact that my mother loves me, and on the fact that God exists. There’s nothing anyone can do to change my mind on these things, because I know they are true. And in the same way, I am closed minded on the fact that justification is by faith alone without works, because that’s what the bible clearly teaches and that’s what the Holy Spirit confirms. For that reason alone (despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of others) I have no problem admitting that I am not wrong about the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is a false Church teaching a false gospel.

    Now, just for clarification, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’ll clarify to make it evident, I am not claiming that all Roman Catholics are condemned to hell. This isn’t about the individual, it’s about the false doctrine of the Church. There may well be many Roman Catholics who are Christians and whom I will meet in heaven. But they are Christians in spite of Roman Catholic doctrine, not because of it. In the same way, it wouldn’t surprise me if there were Christians in the Mormon church. Not because they teach anything remotely close to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but because such people may simply read their bible and believe what it says, without really getting into the details of Mormonism.

    // He already had a more truly *Biblical* understanding of justification, and I was trying to get him to accept Luther and Calvin’s *misinterpretation* of the Biblical teaching on justification, which I had (sincerely but very mistakenly) accepted as the “Biblical Gospel.” //

    And therein lies a large part of the problem – the belief that it was Luther and Calvin who came up with this. It wasn’t. It is clear as day in Paul’s writing. It is clear as day in Jesus preaching. It is clear as day in the Old Testament prophets. It is even as clear as day all the way back to the book of Genesis. All the way through the bible, from beginning to end, and all the way through history, from the fall of man until now, God’s message has always and consistently been simply this: repent and believe.

  29. Christopher Lake (re #23)

    // Luther’s misinterpretation of St. Paul in Romans led to the Reformed Protestant understanding of “Sola Fide.” //

    You keep thinking that this teaching is new, it began at the reformation, and that the Roman Catholic teaching is correct simply by being ‘older’. And yet the teaching of faith alone has been around explicitly for approximately 4000 years, and implicitly since the fall of man. It seems that you’ve really bought into the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching all the way on this one. But it just simply isn’t true.

    // James is writing about about faith as pure “head faith,” intellectual, non-saving belief, and he is writing about works as simply being the “justifying evidence,” before man, of one’s already having been justified by God by faith alone. //

    Yes, this is true, and easily discernible by the context of James’ message in such overwhelming clarity that most 12 year olds can identify this. It is affirmed in many places in the bible. It parallels Jesus own teaching on the issue when claiming that you will know a tree by its fruit. The fruit in no way affects the life of the tree, but it does evidence the life that is in the tree. Similarly, good works in no way affect our justification, but do evidence the reality of our justification.

    // Meanwhile, Paul is writing about being justified before God by faith alone– even though he never *uses* the words “faith alone.” //

    Irrelevant, and quite honestly, you know that this is deceitful reasoning. For as a Roman Catholic, you’ve been trained well enough that, if I told you that the bible never uses the word “Trinity” or the words “hypostatic union”, your response would be . . . . . . the same response that I will now give to your underhanded point. The bible doesn’t need to use the words “faith alone” to teach the concept of faith alone. It is more than sufficient to say that justification is by faith, and not by works added to it – which the bible does teach repeatedly, non-stop, over and over and over again. Jesus teaches it in its basic simplicity (John 3:16, John 6:28-29, John 6:40, Mark 1:15, among others). Paul gets very explicit about it (Galatians 3:1-7 especially verse 3, Romans 4:1-5 especially verse 5, Ephesians 2:8-10, Philippians 3:9, Romans 11:6, Galatians 5:4). King David sings about it (Psalm 32, Psalm 51). Moses testifies to it (Genesis 15:6). The author of Hebrews teaches it (6:1, 9:14). I could go on and on here, but you likely know the verses. The doctrine of faith without works is simply overwhelming.

    // I could see that Reformed explanation as, unfortunately, little more than Reformed *eisegesis*, not exegesis. //

    When a doctrine of faith without works is repeated so many times, in so many different ways, by multiple authors, spanning many centuries, there’s no credible way you can call that eisegesis. If such a fundamentally obvious doctrine weren’t true, there would be no way anyone could ever believe anything from the bible. It’s just blatantly obvious to those who read the bible. Forget “reformed interpretive lenses” – just read the text!

    // If God had wanted to tell us clearly in Scripture that believers in Christ are justified by faith alone, it is certainly perplexing that God, the Holy Spirit, inspired James to write man is not justified by faith alone. //

    This is out of context oversimplification at it’s very worst. Not to mention that you are implicitly stating that you know how God should write His holy scriptures. Honestly, Christopher, if this is how you approach the bible, you are not listening to what it says. You are allowing your own reasoning to get in the way of listening to the Holy Spirit through the very clear word of God. This kind of selective out of context biblical interpretation is not loving God with all your mind – it’s loving your mind.

    // The Church has been exegeting those letters for almost 2, 000 years. //

    Christians have been correctly exegeting those letters for 2000 years. The Roman Catholic Church has only been exegeting them for approximately 1700 years, and has been doing it wrong, against the overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching, for most of that time. But don’t worry – your Church will disagree with me and the bible on that point, and will reinforce your faith in the Church.

    // He is “St. Paul” in our Church after all– and I can assure you that we would *not* so honor Paul if he, in actuality, teaches things in Scripture that are opposed to Catholic doctrine! //

    Sure the Roman Catholic Church would! That’s how they keep people deceived and following the false gospel! They can’t very well turn around and boot Paul out, that would be too blatant. They can’t very well change the text of the bible (even though they have slipped in a few minor changes to support unbiblical doctrines, but a complete overhaul like changing justification by faith alone would be too noticeable) If they did, it would also be too blatant. So what’s the alternative? Reinterpret what the bible clearly says to claim that it doesn’t actually mean what it clearly says, and then remind people that they can’t understand the bible on their own, but can only accept the bible as interpreted by the Roman Catholic Church! Problem solved!

    They’ve done it all over the place. They honour Jesus, despite denying many of His teachings; they honour Mary, despite denying clear biblical teachings about her, even contradicting what she says and does herself; they honour Peter, despite denying his teachings – it goes on and on and on. When you have a manmade organization that convinces people that they are the only ones that have the real truth, and that salvation can only be achieved through them, and that they are the only ones that can interpret scripture, then we end up with honouring people but denying their teachings, because they just claim that those people actually teach something else.

    // In truth, he does not teach anything opposed to Catholic doctrine, because Paul himself was/is Catholic. http://pauliscatholic.com //

    If Paul was alive today to see the Roman Catholic Church as it is right now, I’m sure he would likely tear his clothes and cry out to God in utter despair. I’m sure he wouldn’t even begin to fathom how the things he taught had been twisted so badly into a Church that wouldn’t even be recognizable by the apostles. And I’m sure he would be completely offended that his name was used to propagate such false teachings. But then again, he saw the same things while he was alive. He struggled against false teachers in his own day, even those who claimed to come under his authority. Solomon was right – there is nothing new under the sun.

  30. Jonathan, (re: #26)

    Welcome to Called To Communion. I have a question about something you said in#26. You wrote:

    It still shocks me when someone spends that much time studying the bible and yet still falls for the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Could you specify exactly which “contradictions” you have in mind, and show how they are contradictions? Thanks.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  31. Jonathan (#27):

    You summarize the Gospel thus:

    There is one God, who is the Creator of all things. He created mankind to have a relationship with Him. We have sinned against God and His holiness by disobeying his law: both generally, by inheriting a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, the first humans, who disobeyed God originally; and specifically, by our own rebellion against God’s law which we have all broken, and of which our consciences condemn us. This sin creates an unbridgeable chasm between us and God that we can not cross. It causes death – both physical death and spiritual death. This punishment is an eternal separation from God. This is a situation we can not fix.

    In God’s grace and mercy, he sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, to atone for that punishment. He took it upon Himself to bridge that chasm. Two thousand years ago, Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and was crucified on a cross. He was buried, and on the third day He rose again. He took the punishment of death for the sins of those who would believe in Him. He ascended up into heaven, and will one day come again to pronounce a final judgement upon all the world.

    As such, God calls all people to repent of their sins and place their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus. To repent means to have a change of both mind and heart, and to turn away from sin and towards God. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to accept that there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right with God, but to accept that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin in our place, and He could do so because of the completely perfect life He lived. God calls us to these two things, repentance and faith, and from these He grants eternal life with Him.

    As a Catholic, I can and do fully subscribe to all that. So how can you say that Catholicism does not teach the Gospel?

    The answer, I suspect, lies in how we interpret the statement: “…there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right with God.” Although we agree that, if God the Son had not done what you describe, there would be no way for humanity to get right with God, the disagreement is about precisely what “getting right with God” consists in for the individual believer, and what comes after it for him. Like the Orthodox, we Catholics are synergists; you Reformed are monergists.

    Libraries have been filled with disputes about that difference of soteriology, just as countless pixels have been expended on it even at this site. I do not propose to debate the matter here. All I shall point out is that our disagreeing with how you interpret one statement in your own summary of the Gospel hardly suffices to disqualify us as Christians. To imagine that it does would be the rankest sectarianism.

    Best,
    Mike

  32. Howdy Jonathan!

    I’m Benjamin. I know this might fulfill your prediction that we are a “very close knit, tightg ly supportive group”, but I think you’re being quite unfair to Christopher. (Full disclosure: I’m facebook friends with Christopher, so I’m honor bound by the Secret Catholic Code to defend him to the death against any Protestant criticisms, no matter how well-argued they are). ;-) “But seriously, folks”, a couple things you write strike me as being seriously off-base. You write:

    …[Q]uite honestly, you [Christopher] know that this is deceitful reasoning.

    Wow! Such judgment of a soul you’ve never met. Seriously, you (think you) know that Christopher is aware that his reasoning is deceptive and he (Christopher) is still using it anyways? Just call him a lying knave and get it over with (I mean, you’ve accused him of knowing true reasoning yet still using deceitful reasoning, so I think Christopher’s being a lying knave is entailed by your accusation). Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Christopher knows that he’s using deceitful reasoning? If so, give it. If not (and you’re using rhetorical bluster) you’ve impugned Chris’ character and I think you owe him an apology. You could do so privately, but since you publicly claimed that he knowingly uses deceitful reasoning, I think you at least owe him a public retraction of your claim, or you need to “put up your dukes” (i.e., provide some evidence to show that Christopher has knowingly used deceitful reasoning).

    You also wrote

    The Roman Catholic Church has only been exegeting [the Pauline epistles] for approximately 1700 years, and has been doing it wrong, against the overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching, for most of that time.

    Dude (can I call you dude?), do you think Catholics are retards? I mean, you know the list of people who exegete the Pauline epistles in a way consonant with Catholicism is significant, right? And that a nontrivial number of those persons weren’t idiots? Take St. Augustine, take Aquinas, take de Lubac, take Benedict the 16th, for crying out loud – none of these guys were idiots and they all found support for Catholicism (not Protestantism) in the Pauline epistles. And you think all of these folks (and plenty more!) didn’t understand the “overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching” of scripture? I hate to tell you, but when lots of smart people disagree with you, probably the best way out isn’t to imply that they’re too dumb (or biased) to understand the obvious self-evident teachings of scripture. Probably better to assume that what you thought was obvious and self-evident, in fact, isn’t quite so obvious and self-evident as you thought. That’s okay – that doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong, fr’instance, but it does mean that you’d have to take Catholicism as an intellectually serious option. But so long as you think your interpretation of scripture is obvious and self-evident, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if you concluded that everyone who disagreed with you was either ignorant or willfully deceptive.

    Going forward, I’d second Bryan’s advice. You’ve alleged that there are contradictions between what Scripture teaches and what Catholicism teaches. If these contradictions are so obvious and self-evident as you think, it should take you about 15 seconds to blow Catholicism out of the water. So don’t throw around assertions; give us your arguments. Show that, obviously and self-evidently, the Bible teaches X and Catholicism teaches ~X (not-X). I would suspect that the Bible does not, in fact, obviously and self-evidently teach X while Catholicism teaches ~X; rather, your interpretation of the Bible teaches X and the Catholic interpretation of the Bible teaches ~X, and you think the correctness of your interpretation is obvious and self-evident. But then you’ll have to explain why your interpretation is obviously and self-evidently true and the Catholic one isn’t – and if you have to explain something which is (purportedly) self-evident, I’m pretty sure that means it ain’t self-evident, or at least it ain’t self-evident to us.

    Yours Sincerely,
    ~Benjamin

  33. Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments/questions. You’re getting a lot of other responses and questions, so I’m going to try and be brief and reply specifically to a couple comments directed towards me (#27). I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by comments from too many angles at once or as if you’re being “ganged up on.”

    My request to move the converstation forward was by no means a request for you to “coddle” me. I’m half Irish, and I typically love a good fight, be it a charitable one. I was simply requesting an explanation for why you find Catholicism to not be in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and why you find your own tradition, which I presume to be Protestant, to be in accordance with Christ. We can both bang our fists on the table and claim the other side is not obeying scripture or Christ, but if we’re going to have a discussion that helps us get closer to the truth, we need to move beyond polemics to specifics. Thankfully I think we’re starting to do that now.

    In ref. to your concern for my soul: you can rest assured that if I were to die in a car crash, my hope for eternal life would definitely be in Christ’s atoning sacrfice for my sins. But I do not take lightly your concern for me, nor your desire that I believe in Christ, so thank you.

    As for my decision to convert to Catholicism while in Thailand – the location of my decision was more anecdotal than anthing else. I did not find any appeal in Buddhism at that time, nor do I now. I just happened to be walking around Ayyutthaya when I was thinking about the Catholic faith. Do you have a set list of appropriate geographic locations to convert to Christianity? Hopefully, like me, you believe God is powerful enough that the Holy Spirit could move any man’s heart, at any place or time, to deeper understandings of the gospel, Jesus Christ, or the Church. There are probably much worse places in this world where people have had some powerful spiritual Christian experience.

    In ref. to my comment about “trusting” in Protestant scholars: I presume you use a Protestant Bible, maybe the NIV or ESV? There are differences between those translations, and plenty of other translations. Which translation is actually God’s Word? Plus there’s the whole issue of what books to include in that Bible and which to exclude. So how exactly do you go about wading through all of those decisions? I presume you haven’t translated the Bible yourself from the original languages, nor gone through the differences in various tests, nor authoritatively decided which books should be in the Bible and which not, in order to create your own “Jonathan’s Standard Version (JSV)” Bible. So you are left trusting those who have made those decisions. So why do you trust certain scholars, and not others?

    As for the Catholic Church’s current teaching on the status of Protestants, I think you may be misinformed – I was told similar things about what the Council of Trent declared concerning Protestants when I was a Reformed Christian. I would encourage you to read the Catholic Catechsim 817-822, which summarizes very briefly how the Catholic Church views Protestants.

    I would humbly disagree that uniquely Catholic teachings cannot be found in the Old and New Testament. Such doctrines as purgatory, the priesthood, the Eucharist, and many others can be found in the scriptures. Other CTC contributors have written on these extensively, and these articles are available on this site, or many others, for that matter.

    I know you’re being asked a lot of questions on CTC, but I would encourage you to reflect on or answer what Bryan Cross and Michael Liccione have written, as their penetrating questions were the kinds that helped me see the issues more clearly when I was myself a Reformed Protestant. God bless,

    Casey

  34. Jonathan (re:#28 & 29),

    Thank you for your replies to my comments. (Thank you for the comment to Jonathan, Benjamin– you might indeed be furthering Jonathan in his suspicions about our supposedly “close-knit, supportive” ways at CTC, but he already believes much worse things about me, seemingly, so I appreciate your engagement!) Jonathan, I note, with interest, as Benjamin also noted, that you spend some time in your comment making the emphatic points that I am, supposedly, knowingly using deceitful reasoning, being underhanded, and not following the self-evident teaching of Scripture.

    However, as Benjamin *also* noted, there are many, many Catholic and Orthodox readers of Scripture (and St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Henri de Lubac, and Pope Benedict XVI are only the tip of the iceberg!) who have not found *your Reformed interpretations* of Scripture to be *at all* self-evident. Now, you can certainly continue to pound the table and simply assert that your interpretations are the self-evident teaching of Scripture. That is what I did, for a time, as a Reformed Baptist. Then, over time, I began to actually attempt to make *exegetical arguments* for my interpretations. This was progress, and it did not, in and of itself, lead me to the Catholic Church.

    Actually, my movement from Reformed table-pounding to genuine attempts at Biblical exegesis helped me to better defend the Reformed understanding of the Gospel– so much so that I admit, with regret, that some of my exegetical arguments may have helped some Catholics to leave the Church and become Protestants. Of course, you would think this to be a good thing– although, according to your statements about me, it also seems that you would virtually have to believe that, in these situations, God was using a knowingly deceitful person (i.e. me) who didn’t *really* believe Reformed theology to argue *for* Reformed theology, *from* the Scriptures, so as to lead Catholics and others to “Sola Fide,” and to the other aspects of Reformed theology!

    Jonathan, when you are dealing with a person who used to be a passionate Reformed Baptist Protestant, who was *firmly convinced*, from his reading of the Bible, that the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Gospel is unBiblical, *and* who seriously attempted to convince others of this view (in other words, when you are dealing with a person who used to hold your views, every bit as passionately as you now hold them!), your reasoning that I am *now* engaging in knowing deceit and not following the self-evident of Scripture is, simply, problematic.

    To be completely clear, seven years years ago, I would have made very similar kind of polemical statements about someone like me (a Reformed Baptist who has “reverted” to Catholicism) that you are now making. I would have said that such a person is obviously deceived and not following the clear teaching of Scripture.

    I don’t know if I would have said, even in my Reformed Baptist years, that a reverted Catholic is being *knowingly* deceitful and *knowingly* not following the clear teaching of Scripture… I might have simply cried for that person’s “descent into heresy,” as you have cried for Casey, and, as mistaken as I believe you to be about Catholicism being heresy, I commend you for your tears for Casey, as they obviously show that you do care about his eternal soul, and that is a very good thing!

    Back to the self-evident teaching of Scripture though! You dismissed my statements about Paul and James on faith and works. Actually, from what you wrote, you appeared to *like* my recounting of the Reformed exegesis (to which I used to hold) of James 2, and your liking is understandable, because that exegesis supports your interpretation *of* James 2! :-) If nothing else though, my recounting of my former position should prove that I can explain and even *defend* the Reformed position, even now, as a Catholic– but I will not do so, because that *would be* deceitful on my part, because I no longer believe that the Reformed position is the true teaching of Scripture! I have no interest in deceiving anyone here. I am interested in people coming to see and embrace the truth of Scripture, as you are interested in the same. We obviously disagree, though, on some important aspects of that Scriptural truth, including certain matters of ecclesial authority. /2009/06/christ-founded-a-visible-church/

    On the matter of the Church, you responded to my question about the time-frame for the “inception of the Roman Catholic Church” in this way:

    The seeds of where the Roman Catholic Church began to go off the rails and away from Christianity were around before that, but the foundation of what the Roman Catholic Church is today really came about when Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. True Christians resisted and stayed true to the faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who didn’t, who embraced the merger of paganism and Christianity, were the seeds of the Roman Catholic Church. And let’s be honest – you can’t merge Christianity with paganism. Christ says you are either for Him or against Him. So what resulted was simply a Christian-like paganism, and has remained until this day.

    Jonathan, your above theory about the Catholic Church is the exact one to which a friend of mine, a serious student of the Bible, holds– although he goes further than you. He believes that the Catholic Church is an heretical blending of some Christian beliefs and much paganism. He believes that the Catholic Church is responsible for most professing Christians around the world being deceived into heretical error (in his view, from his reading of the Bible). However, he includes Reformed Protestants, and Protestants in general, with Catholics, in his view of *all* of them being deceived by the “paganism” which the Catholic Church supposedly introduced into Christianity! He isn’t a Mormon, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Seventh-Day Adventist. He is simply a serious student of Scripture who, *through his study of Scripture* (such as the NASB), has come to the conclusion that both Catholics and Reformed Protestants, and non-Reformed Protestants, are *all* not following the teaching of Scripture on essential points!

    As one doctrinal example (there are many others), my friend believes that the doctrine of the Trinity is part of the “Catholic paganism” into which Reformed and non-Reformed Protestants have fallen. I have seriously tried to reason with him *from Scripture* on this subject. I have given him passages and verses which I believe clearly support the doctrine of the Trinity. He has responded with other verses– verses which, he equally believes, “clearly disprove” the Trinity (such as John 14:28).

    Now, I could respond to my non-Trinitarian friend as you have responded to me, by table-pounding and insults– or, I could honestly try to engage him exegetically. I have chosen the latter path, and at this point, it has not, *thus far*, helped him to accept the doctrine of the Trinity as being a Biblical one– but is simply telling him that he is deceived and not following the self-evident teaching of Scripture going to help him see the truth? Of course, I know that, ultimately, *anyone* who comes to supernatural, saving faith in Christ comes to that faith through the grace of God and the work of Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit, but good exegetical arguments can help. Table-pounding and insults likely will not help.

    On the matter of the Biblical canon, you mention the early Church Fathers including tens of thousands of quotes from Scripture in their writings. This is true, but it does not mean that the *entire Biblical canon*, as such, was *humanly settled* at the time of those early patristic writings. Of course, the canon was already settled in the mind of *God*, as He inspired Scripture infallibly, and He knows all things, including the contents of the canon, before those contents were ever even written– but it took centuries for the canon to be humanly settled by Christian leaders, as guided by the Holy Spirit, in the Catholic Church. That “human settling” of the Biblical canon happened at Church Councils in 382 A.D. (Pope Damasus presided over it) and 397 A.D.

    Also on the matter of the early Church Fathers’ extensive quoting from Scripture, they accept, as books of the Bible, books that Protestants do not accept. The canon that was approved at the Council in 397 A.D. includes the books that the Catholic Church still accepts today. It is a Protestant myth (that I accepted, myself, for years) that, at the Council of Trent, the Church somehow “added” books to the Biblical canon. The truth is that Martin Luther *removed* books from the Biblical canon, books that had been accepted since 397 A.D.– and even long before that, as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus, and His apostles, and the early Church Fathers *quote from* some of these books of the Bible… books that Luther, and today’s Protestants, following him (whether knowingly or unknowingly), do not accept.

  35. Jonathan – a general comment on your approach. I – like, I think, many other Catholic converts – find the most hurtful thing of all in dealing with our Protestant friends, the fact that so many of them appear simply unable to believe that we became Catholics because we believed the Catholic faith to be true and that God demanded of us our submission to the Catholic Church. My Reformed friends – those who have not, as some have, become Catholics – have said that I became a Catholic because of resentment against some in the Reformed Church; that I became a Catholic for the ‘bells and smells’ (a visit to our not-very-well-done local parish Mass would cure them of that!); that I became a Catholic for reasons unfathomable to them, but not because I believe it to be true. I am, some say, ‘wilfully self-deceived.’ I am, one said, a ‘high-handed traitor’ to God.

    What none will do is to interact regarding the actual reasons we became Catholic – I mean, the reasons that we think are why we became Catholic.

    You will find more profit, I believe, in dealing with people as though they were honest, as though they were not simply the dupes of some unacknowledge psychological force, as though they really meant what they said – that the Word of God, in the Bible, that the history of the early Church, that the Spirit of God in them, led them to the Catholic Church.

    jj

  36. Jonathan,

    You said: “…when one submits to a manmade authority that claims to be the only interpreter of scripture…”

    ME: You have submitted to a “manmade authority”; your own interpretation of the Bible. You do not believe in Scripture Alone, you believe in Scripture and your interpretation of it. You can stand up in a pulpit and tell me what the Bible says. I know what the Bible “says.” Any 12-year-old can tell me what the Bible SAYS. It’s when you start to tell me what the Bible “means” that you set yourself up as a teaching authority, a magisterium.

    You said (to Casey): “And yet every single one of those things that you listed that the early Christians had to come to grips with, were ALL in the scriptures of the Old Testament. They were ALL argued for and proven from the scriptures.”

    ME: One of those “things” mentioned by Casey is “…a religion that included Jews and Gentiles…”

    Please show me where in the Scriptures of the OT the Apostles found the truth that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to become a follower of Christ.

    You said (to Christopher): “…Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity. True Christians resisted and stayed true to the faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    ME: Please provide historical evidence that:

    1) Constantine tried to merge paganism with Christianity.

    2) That there were “true Christians” who resisted.

    EJ

  37. Fr. Bryan O. (re #24)

    // A lot of commentors here have sacrificed an awful lot to become Catholic. Some lost their jobs as protestant clergy. Others lost friends. Others saw their relationship with their families suffer a bit. So coming here and inferring that they moved to Catholicism because it was easy (tickled their ears) is to trivialize a lot of seriously challenging things these converts have gone through. //

    No offence, but such an argument doesn’t really hold much weight. Take your statement and change the term “Catholic” to the term “atheist”, or “Mormon”, or “Muslim”, or “voodoo priest”. It could just as easily apply, but would you still say the same thing? If people lost their friends by embracing voodoo, how diplomatically neutral do you think Jesus would respond to them?

    The issue is not what people went through. I won’t deny that people may have suffered for their conversion to Roman Catholicism. But the issue is a person turning their back on the gospel of Jesus Christ to accept false teaching. Any empathy that I may have for specific pain someone here may have felt because of their conversion to Roman Catholicism is drowned out by the need to speak the truth in love – which sometimes hurts. Let’s be honest – there were likely some Judaizers who went through some difficult times and suffered some persecution when they returned to a belief of practicing salvation through the law. What was Paul’s response? Did he coddle them? No. He spoke the truth in love, pointing out their foolishness:

    Galatians 3:1–3 “1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

    The tone of these verses is just as relevant to Roman Catholics today as the message is. Even more so to a community like those here, who claim to have come from a Christian background and then turned to Roman Catholicism. As Paul says, why are you leaving the truth of faith to attempt to perfect yourself by the flesh?

    Bryan Cross (re #30)

    // Could you specify exactly which “contradictions” you have in mind, and show how they are contradictions? //

    Well, Bryan, I fear this is simply going to explode the number of points I am having to respond to beyond a number of my capability, but I will give you an abbreviated answer that I trust will be sufficient to see what I mean. Here are just a few of the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church, from vitally important core doctrines, down to seemingly trivial side issues that the Roman Catholic Church turns into large issues:

    1) The Issue of Justification by Faith – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” ( Council of Trent – Session 6, Canon 9) The apostle Paul says these very things in multiple places: Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”; Ephesians 2:8–9 “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”, and many others. So the Roman Catholic Church promotes one teaching in the bible, but the opposite teaching in it’s official decrees. Also, the Roman Catholic Church holds Paul up as a saint on the one hand, but pronounces anathema on him on the other hand, contradicting itself twice here.

    2) The Issue of Meriting Grace – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “…we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life…” (Catechism 2027). The bible says that grace is not something that can be merited: Romans 11:6 “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”; Romans 4:4–5 “4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” The Roman Catholic church promotes one teaching in the bible, but the opposite teaching in it’s official doctrine.

    3) The Primacy of Peter – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “a primacy of jurisdiction over the whole church of God was immediately and directly promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ the Lord”; and “we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical council of Florence, which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, true vicar of Christ, head of the whole church and father and teacher of all Christian people. To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ to tend, rule and govern the universal church.”; and “if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed by Christ the Lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head of the whole church militant; or that it was a primacy of honour only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly and immediately received from our Lord Jesus Christ himself; let him be anathema” (First Vatican Council – Session 4, Chapters 1 and 3). However, the bible gives no such elevation of primacy to Peter. Peter himself is never seen elevating himself above the other apostles in any way in the bible. He specifically counts himself as only one among elders in 1 Peter 5:1, showing that he does not believe he holds any primacy. Paul shows in 2 Corinthians 11:5 and in two different places and situations in Galatians 2 that he does not consider Peter to have a place of primacy. Both Paul and James don’t show a position of primacy for Peter in Acts 15, nor does Peter exercise such. In Matthew 18, supposedly after Jesus had already promised Peter a position of primacy, the disciples ask Jesus about who is the greatest in heaven. Obviously, the disciples didn’t consider Peter to have a position of primacy, otherwise they would not have asked the question. So none of the apostles viewed Peter as having such a position of primacy, and neither did Peter himself. Yet the Roman Catholic Church states that this is a doctrine that “must be believed by all faithful Christians.” Thus, the Roman Catholic Church is denying that Peter and all the other apostles were “faithful Christians”. Not only that, the Roman Catholic Church states that those who deny Peter’s primacy are anathema – and thus the Roman Catholic Church places anathema upon all the apostles, including Peter.

    4) The Perpetual Virginity of Mary – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary remained a virgin her entire life (Catechism 499, 500, 510, 721). Yet the bible clearly teaches that Mary had other children. Three of the gospel writers confirm it (Matthew 12:46-47, Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, John 2:12, John 7:3-5). Luke, the only one who doesn’t confirm it in his gospel, confirms it in Acts 1:14. The apostle Paul confirms it in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19. Furthermore, Psalm 69 is identified as a Messianic prophecy in 4 different spots in the New Testament: by Jesus in John 2:16-17, referencing Psalm 69:9, which all his disciples recognized; by Jesus again in John 15:25, referencing Psalm 69:4, by a direct quote; in Matthew 27:34 & 48, referencing Psalm 69:21; and by Peter in Acts 1:20, referencing Psalm 69:25, again by a direct quote. So it is quite clear from multiple sources that all the disciples and Jesus Himself claim that Psalm 69 is prophetically referring to Jesus. And in Psalm 69:8 we have “I have become estranged from my brothers And an alien to my mother’s sons.” So Jesus himself, and all the disciples, are clearly claiming that, not only did Jesus have brothers, that they were Mary’s own sons. The prophecy in this verse is fulfilled in the gospel verses already mentioned above. The bible clearly, unequivocally teaches that Mary was not perpetually a virgin, multiple times over, in multiple places, in multiple ways, and in no way even hints about her perpetual virginity. Yet the Roman Catholic Church contradicts this by teaching Mary’s perpetual virginity as doctrine.

    5) The Immaculate Conception of Mary – The Roman Catholic Church teaches that “By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” (Catechism 493), and “from the first instant of her conception, she was totally preserved from the stain of original sin and she remained pure from all personal sin throughout her life.” (Catechism 508). There are similar references in the Catechism 491 and 722. But the bible teaches that Mary was sinful. Even apart from clear doctrinal verses like Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, which would cover Mary, the bible also teaches that Mary herself knew she was sinful. She verbally confesses her need for a Saviour in Luke 1:47 “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”. And in Luke 2:22-24 Mary’s actions confirm that she knew she was sinful. She attends the temple “to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” ” (Luke 2:24). This is a fulfillment of the need for a burnt offering and a sin offering, according to Leviticus 12:8. This is done specifically for atonement for the mother, and as such Mary is clearly acknowledging and admitting her own sin. So the bible teaches that Mary, by her words and her actions, knew she was sinful, and it also teaches by doctrinal statement that Mary was sinful. And yet the Roman Catholic Church contradicts this.

    Now, in each of these cases, I have only listed a couple of specific verses. There are much more, and when all are read and understood in context, the doctrines are immanently clear. I don’t have time to dive into thesis length argumentation on each of these, but the verses referenced are sufficient enough to prove the point made. The Roman Catholic Church contradicts itself on numerous issues, from the foundational gospel issues to otherwise irrelevant issues that it turns into large contradictions. There are just so many similar things like this that I find it so hard to believe that someone can spend years intently studying the bible and not see such glaringly obvious contradictions.

    Michael Liccione (re #31)

    // As a Catholic, I can and do fully subscribe to all that. So how can you say that Catholicism does not teach the Gospel? //

    If you truly subscribe to that, I find that wonderful. It makes me happy to hear that. But Roman Catholic doctrine does not subscribe to that. Roman Catholic doctrine claims that such a statement is not sufficient, and other things are necessary. They deny the effectiveness of such a statement, and they require more beyond the gospel of Christ. If you truly do subscribe to such a statement, I’m glad. However, you would be an anomaly in the Roman Catholic Church, and you would be at odds with Roman Catholic doctrine.

    // Although we agree that, if God the Son had not done what you describe, there would be no way for humanity to get right with God, the disagreement is about precisely what “getting right with God” consists in for the individual believer, and what comes after it for him. //

    As you say, that’s really the point. For the purposes of justification (i.e., salvation, attaining eternal life) there is nothing necessary that comes after this. God’s grace is sufficient, and mankind’s faith is sufficient. But the Roman Catholic Church denies these things are sufficient.

    // Like the Orthodox, we Catholics are synergists; you Reformed are monergists. //

    Once again, labels aside, I’ll stick with the bible. It teaches a monergistic theology, and God is a monergistic God.

    // All I shall point out is that our disagreeing with how you interpret one statement in your own summary of the Gospel hardly suffices to disqualify us as Christians. To imagine that it does would be the rankest sectarianism. //

    So, would the dozens and dozens of Roman Catholic anathemas, (which have condemned me to hell so many times over I have lost count), all based upon disagreeing with one certain statement of Roman Catholic doctrine, also be classed as rankest sectarianism?

  38. Benjamin (re #32)

    (Christopher, since I am responding directly to Benjamin here, I will occasionally refer to you in the third person. This isn’t meant to be demeaning in any way, it is simply for grammatical convenience in response to what Benjamin has written)

    // Seriously, you (think you) know that Christopher is aware that his reasoning is deceptive and he (Christopher) is still using it anyways? Just call him a lying knave and get it over with (I mean, you’ve accused him of knowing true reasoning yet still using deceitful reasoning, so I think Christopher’s being a lying knave is entailed by your accusation). Do you have any evidence whatsoever that Christopher knows that he’s using deceitful reasoning? If so, give it. If not (and you’re using rhetorical bluster) you’ve impugned Chris’ character and I think you owe him an apology. //

    First I would like to point out that my comments about Christopher using deceitful reasoning were narrowly focused on the one issue being addressed at that time – the issue of the phrase “faith alone” not appearing in the bible – and not in regards to his entire comments towards me.

    From Christopher’s multiple posts, he claims that he has spent much time studying the bible and vast amounts of biblical literature, both in reference to Catholicism and Reformed theology. He claims to have years of study on both sides of the issue. He claims to have reasoned with people about these issues from both sides. From this, I am willing to submit that he has a lot of theological knowledge, a lot of doctrinal knowledge, a lot of evangelistic knowledge and a lot of apologetic knowledge. He writes that way, and seems to have the background to back it up. So that’s the way I’m going to treat him.

    On the point at hand, Christopher was making an argument of the form “If the words of doctrine X aren’t stated in the bible explicitly, then it shouldn’t be held”. He is planting the seed that the phrase “faith alone” not being in the bible in a positive sense is important, and by the end of that paragraph, his argument is fully stated. The fact that justification by “faith alone” isn’t explicitly mentioned word for word in the bible means that it isn’t actually taught in the bible. This is a faulty argument, and I’m confident in my claim that anyone with Christopher’s background, level of study, and knowledge knows this. I clarified this by comparing the same formulation of argument in reference to the Trinity. “If the words of doctrine X (i.e., the word Trinity) aren’t stated in the bible explicitly, then it shouldn’t be held.” Now, I’m confident that Christopher can identify this as a faulty argument, and would know the proper way to respond. (I’d be shocked if he hasn’t come across this argument multiple times already) The word Trinity itself does not need to be explicitly included in the bible for the doctrine to be clearly taught. My point is simply that Christopher is doing this exact some thing with his argument for the phrase “faith alone”, and he should know it.

    It’s a faulty argument, and Christopher would never allow someone else to use it against him, so to try and use it here is intentionally using an argument that Christopher knows is fundamentally flawed. I consider that deceitful and underhanded.

    // You could do so privately, but since you publicly claimed that he knowingly uses deceitful reasoning, I think you at least owe him a public retraction of your claim, or you need to “put up your dukes” (i.e., provide some evidence to show that Christopher has knowingly used deceitful reasoning) //

    I feel I have provided more than sufficient evidence to show that Christopher would have known what he was doing. But in the spirit of good faith, I’ll put out a conditionally apology:

    Christopher, if you were unaware of the faulty reasoning behind arguments of this form, hadn’t encountered such arguments before or needed to defend against them, or didn’t make the connection from the general form of argument that is faulty to the specific argument which you made, and you honestly made the comments in good faith to attempt to make your point, then I apologize for claiming that you were using deceitful reasoning and were underhanded. If that is the case, I am sorry. Simply let me know if that is actually the case, and you have my humble apologies.

    // Dude (can I call you dude?), do you think Catholics are retards? //

    No – just mistaken. Sometimes willfully, many times not.

    // I mean, you know the list of people who exegete the Pauline epistles in a way consonant with Catholicism is significant, right? //

    And the list of people who exegete them in a way contrary to Roman Catholicism is also significant. The size of the list is irrelevant – truth is not decided by majority vote.

    // And that a nontrivial number of those persons weren’t idiots? Take St. Augustine, take Aquinas, take de Lubac, take Benedict the 16th, for crying out loud – none of these guys were idiots and they all found support for Catholicism (not Protestantism) in the Pauline epistles. //

    And yet a nontrivial number of those persons also wrote about and supported ideologies that are found in biblical Christianity and which are held in the core foundations of Protestant ideology – contrary to Roman Catholicism. Again, we could get into a quote war of the early church fathers, but it’s irrelevant. They are fallible, the bible is not.

    Take just a single example – the Doctrines of Grace that most people would call Calvinism (I’m not a fan of the term Calvinism, since he’s nowhere near the first to teach it – it could just as easily be called Jesusism or Paulism, since they both expounded on the topic quite a bit). St Augustine wrote extensively on the Doctrines of Grace and the issues of predestination, election, irresistible grace, total depravity, etc. Calvin quotes him constantly. These are decidedly non-Catholic doctrines, yet exegeted extensively by one of the early church fathers who is held up as an in-step Roman Catholic through and through.

    There are many other examples that we could find – for every Roman Catholic exegesis you can find from people throughout the ages, I could find opposite examples just as well. But as mentioned before, the first and final word is always going to be the word of God. Because it’s infallible, and those other people are not.

    // And you think all of these folks (and plenty more!) didn’t understand the “overwhelmingly obvious and self-evident teaching” of scripture? I hate to tell you, but when lots of smart people disagree with you, probably the best way out isn’t to imply that they’re too dumb (or biased) to understand the obvious self-evident teachings of scripture. Probably better to assume that what you thought was obvious and self-evident, in fact, isn’t quite so obvious and self-evident as you thought. //

    And yet the bible says that God allows, and even causes, a darkening of the mind of people on issues like this. He specifically says that some things that are clearly evident, people will still deny. I can have many people smarter than me tell me that the bible doesn’t teach a literal resurrection, or a 6 day creation, or a literal hell – when they start denying things that scripture clearly says, their intelligence becomes much less relevant.

    // That’s okay – that doesn’t mean they’re right and you’re wrong, fr’instance, but it does mean that you’d have to take Catholicism as an intellectually serious option. //

    I can’t take it as a seriously intellectual option for any number of reasons. One large one is that it is simply too self-contradictory, as I have outlined previously. To ignore such glaring contradictions, I would have to give up the intellectual side and submit to a manmade authority and put my trust in them instead of God. And for another reason, I’m not looking for the most intellectually serious option – my intellect is not the determiner of truth. God is.

    // But so long as you think your interpretation of scripture is obvious and self-evident, I’m wouldn’t be surprised if you concluded that everyone who disagreed with you was either ignorant or willfully deceptive. //

    I don’t set myself up as the final authority of biblical interpretation. And there are many things that I freely admit I don’t have a clue about. I’m single, not dating, not pursuing a relationship, and so I don’t really spend much time studying what the bible says about marriage and instructions for husbands or parents. If you asked me a question on those topics, I’d have little by way of a scriptural answer for you, and I’d barely begin to have an opinion. Those aren’t things I have studied, and as such have no interpretation of biblical passages on such texts.

    My comments about scripture being obvious and self-evident in this thread have specifically been geared mainly towards the issue of justification by faith alone and not by works added to it, and in minor ways to other various Roman Catholic doctrines as well. And on these issue, the bible is very obvious. Often overwhelmingly so.

    // You’ve alleged that there are contradictions between what Scripture teaches and what Catholicism teaches. If these contradictions are so obvious and self-evident as you think, it should take you about 15 seconds to blow Catholicism out of the water. //

    Well, probably more than 15 seconds, since the Roman Catholic Church has had literally centuries to build up a fortress of arguments supporting their doctrines! But as per your request, I have already provided 5 abbreviated arguments above showing clear contradictions.

    // I would suspect that the Bible does not, in fact, obviously and self-evidently teach X while Catholicism teaches ~X; rather, your interpretation of the Bible teaches X and the Catholic interpretation of the Bible teaches ~X, and you think the correctness of your interpretation is obvious and self-evident.//

    But this can be claimed by anyone for any reason for anything. I could claim that the bible says Jesus died on a cross, and you could claim that’s just my interpretation. You could claim it’s not obvious and self-evident. You may laugh at that, but that’s precisely the argument a Muslim would put forth – Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, that’s only our interpretation. Or I could claim the bible obviously teaches that God exists, but an atheist would just say that’s my interpretation, and it’s not obvious, because God is really just a metaphor for the sun, or for knowledge, or for existence itself. But this just destroys all level of communication and knowledge on the subject. It makes a mockery of the concept of something being obvious.

    I guess ultimately it comes down to each person’s standard of what ‘obvious’ means.

    // But then you’ll have to explain why your interpretation is obviously and self-evidently true and the Catholic one isn’t – and if you have to explain something which is (purportedly) self-evident, I’m pretty sure that means it ain’t self-evident, or at least it ain’t self-evident to us. //

    Not being self-evident to a set group of people does not mean that it’s not actually self-evident. As mentioned previously, the bible itself says that people can suppress the truth on some issues, even when the truth is actually self-evident.

  39. Casey

    (re #33)

    // I don’t want you to be overwhelmed by comments from too many angles at once or as if you’re being “ganged up on.” //

    No worries – though I fear I may have already done that to myself here!

    // I was simply requesting an explanation for why you find Catholicism to not be in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and why you find your own tradition, which I presume to be Protestant, to be in accordance with Christ. //

    I’ve clarified this in other posts a fair bit by now, I think. If you still feel that I haven’t, please feel free to ask me to expand further more specifically.

    // As for my decision to convert to Catholicism while in Thailand – the location of my decision was more anecdotal than anthing else. I did not find any appeal in Buddhism at that time, nor do I now. //

    Although this may be true, I don’t think it is something that you should take as lightly as you seem to. Spiritual warfare is a very serious thing, and Satan and his demonic forces are alive and well just as much today as they were in the New Testament times. I have read numerous, well documented encounters of demonic influence that came about from such seemingly harmless and insignificant encounters. And I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing such things firsthand, involving people that I knew quite well. I’ve read things like a 12 year old who had her palm read at a county fair and from that point on suffered horrific migraines for the next 20+ years of her life, or a woman who watched a documentary about aliens and became intrigued by them, and then started having visits from ‘aliens’ who convinced her to join a cult. In situations like this, the demonic influence may be extreme, but in other cases in may be quite minor, just a slight nudge. But it shows how simple and innocent an initial influence can be, and yet how profound the final result can be.

    As such, whether you meant it or not, I think exposing oneself to such areas of influence, especially when contemplating spiritual things and thus being more open to spiritual influence, is a much more dangerous thing that most people imagine. For example, all you need to do is read some of the works by someone like Neil T Anderson or Gary Bates to see how simple and subtle such demonic influences can be.

    I’m not trying to scare you with this – it’s just one of those things that jumps out of your story. You mentioned it in passing, and you still don’t think it’s a big deal, and yet it seemed to be the time when you had your turning point, and well, I guess I’ll just leave it at that.

    // Hopefully, like me, you believe God is powerful enough that the Holy Spirit could move any man’s heart, at any place or time, to deeper understandings of the gospel, Jesus Christ, or the Church. There are probably much worse places in this world where people have had some powerful spiritual Christian experience. //

    This is absolutely true. Jesus can save anyone at any time in the middle of any situation. But that doesn’t mean we should actively go out and open ourselves up to situations that we should otherwise know are ungodly.

    // So you are left trusting those who have made those decisions. So why do you trust certain scholars, and not others? //

    To dig into the answer to this question would likely get quite deep, and I simply don’t have the time at the moment. Ultimately, I trust the Holy Spirit. He can and has used many people throughout the ages for many things. But Jesus says His sheep hear and recognize His voice. The word of God is self-attesting on it’s own authority, and this is confirmed to believers by the Holy Spirit within them.

    // I would encourage you to read the Catholic Catechsim 817-822, which summarizes very briefly how the Catholic Church views Protestants. //

    But this does little to help. First, it still identifies that heresies must be distinguished from unity, and the Roman Catholic Church still has on the books as official doctrine that many Christian doctrines, which many Protestant churches hold to, are heresies, such as justification by faith alone and not works, or the denial of baptismal regeneration. The anathemas pronounced by the Council of Trent are still held as irreformable doctrine, regardless of what the Catechism says here – Trent was affirmed as recent as the Vatican II council, where Pope John XXIII stated “I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent.” So the Roman Catholic Church still anathematizes those who claim that justification by faith alone and not with the addition of works.

    Second, point 816 immediately proceeding states “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained”. So regardless of any ecumenical statements in 817-822, the Roman Catholic Church is still saying that ‘you can’t actually completely have salvation unless you come to us’.

    // I would humbly disagree that uniquely Catholic teachings cannot be found in the Old and New Testament. Such doctrines as purgatory, the priesthood, the Eucharist, and many others can be found in the scriptures. //

    Not to open up even more points to completely explode this conversation, but this simply isn’t true. There is nothing in the Old or New Testament that talks about purgatory at all (without committing serious linguistic gymnastics and eisegesis of the highest order) and there is much in the bible that specifically denies the doctrine of purgatory. The priesthood of the Old Testament is specifically abolished in the New Testament under the New Covenant. It existed in the Old Testament to point to Christ, and He fulfilled it’s purpose. This can be see through the tearing of the veil upon His death, through many teachings in the writings of Paul. In fact, the entire book of Hebrews systematically destroys the concept of a continuing priesthood under the New Covenant. As for the Eucharist, although there is some discussion in the New Testament which can support it, the language used in clearly symbolic, and is specifically identified as such by Jesus Himself, along with others such as Matthew and Paul, and implicitly by Peter and James.

    Such Roman Catholic doctrines as those you’ve listed really don’t come from the scriptures, but come from the ‘authority’ of the Roman Catholic Church, and are then read back into the scriptures. But I doubt that’s a point we’d ever agree upon, since I can only assume that you actually accept the authority of the Roman Catholic Church to do that anyway.

  40. Christopher

    (re #34)

    // Jonathan, I note, with interest, as Benjamin also noted, that you spend some time in your comment making the emphatic points that I am, supposedly, knowingly using deceitful reasoning, being underhanded, //

    As I mentioned to Benjamin above, I have clarified that these comments apply only to the specific point you were making in the argument at hand at that time. I have explained and expanded upon my comments above in my response to Benjamin. Also, I have asked for clarification of your point, and put a conditional apology out there if you were not acting in the way that it strongly seemed you were.

    // and not following the self-evident teaching of Scripture. //

    This is a point I will continue to stand upon, as any Roman Catholic who whole heartedly accepts the Roman Catholic Church’s authoritative doctrine accepts teachings which do not follow various self-evident teachings of Scripture.

    // so much so that I admit, with regret, that some of my exegetical arguments may have helped some Catholics to leave the Church and become Protestants. Of course, you would think this to be a good thing //

    Yes, I will freely admit to smiling with joy as I read this. It warms my heart immensely anytime I hear about someone accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    // although, according to your statements about me, it also seems that you would virtually have to believe that, in these situations, God was using a knowingly deceitful person (i.e. me) who didn’t *really* believe Reformed theology to argue *for* Reformed theology, *from* the Scriptures, so as to lead Catholics and others to “Sola Fide,” and to the other aspects of Reformed theology! //

    And I would have no problem with this, since Paul himself says in Philippians 1:15-18 that, even if people preach the gospel with a less than stellar motive, that mattered not to him. If the truth is preached, he’s happy. And that makes sense – God would deal with those in verse 15 who preach out of envy and strife, and He would use the truth that is spoken for His good purposes. I have no doubt that there have been times and places in this world where even atheists have read the bible in order to mock it, and someone has heard it and God has opened their heart from that hearing to move them to faith in Him. God is truly a remarkable, fantastic God who does amazing things, and there are as many unique ways that He has saved people as there are people saved.

    // when you are dealing with a person who used to hold your views, every bit as passionately as you now hold them!), your reasoning that I am *now* engaging in knowing deceit and not following the self-evident of Scripture is, simply, problematic. //

    Again, this is only in reference to that one point you were making, and I have clarified the issue above.

    // Of course, I know that, ultimately, *anyone* who comes to supernatural, saving faith in Christ comes to that faith through the grace of God and the work of Christ and the witness of the Holy Spirit, but good exegetical arguments can help. Table-pounding and insults likely will not help. //

    Your example is valid, yet I don’t believe it precludes ‘table pounding’, since there is a biblical model for such ‘table pounding’. The Old Testament prophets did this all the time, Jesus pronounced many woes and warned the Pharisees on many occasions, and Paul used strong language in his letters to point out errors to Christians. I’m happy to follow their examples.

    But at the same time, I’m not simply table pounding here. I’ve provided quite lengthy explanations at times here, and a fair bit has actually been ignored. In fact, I provided a large number of verses, from various locations in the bible, supporting the doctrine of justification by faith alone and denying the addition of works as necessary for salvation. And yet, here I am right now, in the middle of responding to 7 different commenters, some of which wrote quite lengthy replies, and yet it appears not one of those responses wanted to address those numerous bible passages I posted.

    // but it took centuries for the canon to be humanly settled by Christian leaders, as guided by the Holy Spirit, in the Catholic Church. That “human settling” of the Biblical canon happened at Church Councils in 382 A.D. (Pope Damasus presided over it) and 397 A.D.//

    First, nothing had to be “humanly settled”, only humanly recognized by the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. You present a false need for a human authority to confirm what God has already declared. That’s extremely dangerous ground to be treading.

    Second, as mentioned, there is substantial evidence that the 27 book New Testament was widely accepted about 200 years before the councils you mentioned, making the Roman Catholic argument about ‘giving us the bible’ entirely irrelevant, again.

    Third, the councils you mentioned were not councils of the entire Roman Catholic Church, and as such didn’t have authority over the entire Roman Catholic Church, and as such were not binding on the entire Roman Catholic Church. The declaration of the council in Carthage in 397 even included the caveat that their pronouncement upon the canon required confirmation by the church in Rome. That confirmation did not finally come until the council of Trent – the first time the Roman Catholic Church made a complete, authoritative, binding, church-wide declaration upon which books should be in the Roman Catholic bible. The details of the true story of the Roman Catholic bible are not as pretty and neatly wrapped up as the Roman Catholic Church likes people to believe.

    // It is a Protestant myth (that I accepted, myself, for years) that, at the Council of Trent, the Church somehow “added” books to the Biblical canon. //

    As just mentioned, it is a Roman Catholic myth that the Roman Catholic Church had an authoritative, church-wide, binding declaration of the canon prior to the Council of Trent. So it’s not an issue as to who added or subtracted what – the Roman Catholic Church didn’t have a binding decree of what the canon was up until that point. That’s why John of Damascus could write in the 8th century that the canon did not include the Apocrypha, but did include the canons of Clement – there was no binding decree. Once that decree came, then, as the Roman Catholic Church often does, people simply went back to find evidence to support the doctrine, and hence the constant pointing to the councils of Rome in 382, Hippo in 393, and Carthage in 397.

    But once again, we don’t even need to look at the Protestant side of things. Let’s just look at the early Christian Church, for which we’ve already seen there is significant support that they had and used the entire New Testament long before the Roman Catholic Church came along and tried to make an authoritative decree. From the first and second century writers alone, hundreds of years before any council got around to making a pronouncement on the issue, there are enough quotes from the New Testament by church fathers that, even if every copy of the bible we’ve ever had went missing, we could reconstruct the New Testament word for word almost in it’s entirety – missing only 17 verses. That alone is enough support to show that the New Testament was widely known as, and widely used as, scripture long before any human council tried to claim the ability to make an authoritative declaration on the issue.

    // as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus, and His apostles, and the early Church Fathers *quote from* some of these books of the Bible //

    Quite frankly, Jesus and the apostles don’t quote from those books. Every time the New Testament writers quote from the Old Testament it is either exact word for word, or only has a very slight adjustment for what would have been a translation or semantic issue. But every time someone has shown me a verse that they claim is a quote from the Apocryphal books, it’s nowhere near close enough to be considered legitimate. It’s either at least half different, or too short to be considered anything more than coincidental. Calling it a quote is so arbitrary that such a method could be used to claim that Jesus at one point quotes Aristotle, or even Euclid’s Elements!

    But even still, a New Testament writer quoting a source does not mean that it is scripture, otherwise our bible is missing out on a book of Enoch and some Greek poetry.

  41. John Thayer Jensen

    (re #35)

    // Jonathan – a general comment on your approach…..…..What none will do is to interact regarding the actual reasons we became Catholic – I mean, the reasons that we think are why we became Catholic. You will find more profit, I believe, in dealing with people as though they were honest, as though they were not simply the dupes of some unacknowledge psychological force, as though they really meant what they said – that the Word of God, in the Bible, that the history of the early Church, that the Spirit of God in them, led them to the Catholic Church. //

    I have addressed this to some extent elsewhere, but I will expand a bit further here. First, I will sadly agree with you that many people may write you off without dealing with you in any viable manner, let alone on the details of ‘actual reasons you became Catholic’. But your comment unfortunately presupposes a Catholic approach to begin with. In effect, it is as if you are asking me to approach you the way you want me to, instead of the way God would have me do so.

    To take it away from the personal, and view it in a third party paradigm, let’s look at the example I mentioned before about atheism. Let’s suppose I have a good friend named Steve who used to casually go to a Baptist church. Then he tells me one day that he has left his church and become an atheist. He says he doesn’t believe that God exists. He’s become convinced that the big bang theory is true, evolution is true, there is a naturalistic explanation for everything and he just doesn’t see evidence for God, but he does see evidence against God’s existence.

    How should I approach Steve? He claims to only accept things on the basis of evidence. He wants me to give him evidence that God exists. He claims that he doesn’t believe in God and can’t believe in God until he has enough evidence that God exists. What approach should I take? Should I accept him on his word? Should I believe his reasons?

    Here’s my dilemma. The bible makes it quite clear that everyone knows God exists. God says in Romans 1 that He has made His existence so self-evident that everyone knows it. He says in Romans 2 that every has a conscience that confirms His moral law. So, Steve tells me that he DOESN’T believe God exists. God tells me that Steve DOES believe He exists. Who’s word do I take?

    I could take Steve’s word, and approach him on his own terms, and try to prove to him that God exists. I could use some natural theology, appeal to design, or causality, or moral objectivity. I could appeal to Steve’s reasoning and his ethics. But all the time I’m doing that, I’m denying what God says about Steve. I’m giving into Steve’s false claim about himself that he doesn’t know God exists.

    Instead, I think it would be much more God honouring to accept what God says about Steve, and approach Steve on God’s terms. I think it to be a much better approach to, instead of trying to prove to Steve that God exists, simply shine a light on the fact that Steve already knows God exists. Appeal to the truth that God declares in his word that Steve already knows God exists. I think the most God honouring approach would be to show Steve that he knows God exists simply by the way he interacts with God’s creation, by his own reasoning reflecting the image of God, and his own conscience confirms the existence of God’s moral law. God says that his law is a tutor to lead us to Christ, so I should use Steve’s own conscience to show him he needs repentance. And God says that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, so I should share the gospel with him to bring him to faith.

    I think that’s the best way to approach someone like Steve. That’s not to say I shouldn’t address him where he is. I should be willing to answer questions that he has and I should deal with issues he brings up. But I should never waver from the truth that Steve knows God exists and I should constantly come back to this point, approaching him from God’s point of view.

    Now, let’s bring it back to your comment here. I’m happy to discuss certain issues that people say led them to leave a Reformed church and enter the Roman Catholic Church. But ultimately I’m going to approach if from the same type of biblical viewpoint. The bible talks about people who leave a Christian belief of faith to pursue salvation by works. I would consider this an almost exact parallel to leaving a Reformed church to enter the Roman Catholic Church. The bible presents some underlying reasons as to why this may happen. Paul addresses this in Galatians 3 and asks “Who has bewitched you?”. He’s wanting to know why people have gone after other teachers who didn’t teach the gospel of faith that he originally taught them.

    So when I’m talking to someone who used to be in a Reformed church, but has entered Roman Catholicism, I’m going to consider such reasons as underlying causes, just like Paul did in the bible. I understand that people on the receiving end may not find it the most useful for them, but on my end I’m trying to approach it as best as I can in line with God’s word.

    Hopefully that clarifies things a little as for where I am coming from. I won’t pretend to speak for others who approach you the way you mentioned – I have no doubt some probably don’t have good intentions, but some probably do.

  42. EJ Cassidy

    (re #36)

    // You have submitted to a “manmade authority”; your own interpretation of the Bible. //

    I’m not sure if you are getting the point about the self-attesting authority of the word of God, and the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus said, I want to read it and hear His voice and know it and follow Him. That’s not “trying to interpret it by oneself”, that’s “trying to listen to what God says and confirms”.

    // You do not believe in Scripture Alone, you believe in Scripture and your interpretation of it. //

    I’m also not sure if you understand the concept of scripture alone. It’s not that scripture is the only authority, it’s better understood as being the final authority. It is the only authority that is objectively infallible, and it is the measuring rod by which everything else must be tested. Including any interpretation I ever have of it.

    It has this quality due to the very nature of what it is – the word of God. God’s very words are self-attesting truth upon their own authority, and need no other authority to authenticate them. And when God wants His word to get through, it gets through. “My sheep hear my voice.”

    // It’s when you start to tell me what the Bible “means” that you set yourself up as a teaching authority, a magisterium. //

    First, much of it, including all the major doctrines, are simple enough that they ‘mean’ what they say, and say what they ‘mean’. Second, Jesus Himself encourages study of the scriptures to know what they mean, as do Paul, Peter, and Luke in their various writings. And third, I’ll be completely honest with you – feel free to deny that I have any teaching authority or self-magisterium. In essence, don’t believe a word I say. I have no such authority. But I would encourage you to take everything I might say and compare it to what the bible says. It is the authority, and you should compare any teaching or doctrine to what is in the scriptures. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;”

    // One of those “things” mentioned by Casey is “…a religion that i