“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Twelve years ago, Pope Benedict met with Latin American bishops to discuss, among other things, "a surge in Pentecostal Protestantism." At about the same time Christianity Today reported that the President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) had rejoined the Roman Catholic Church to the horror of many ETS members.[1]  According to Nelson's New Christian Dictionary (2001) The Evangelical Theological Society was founded in 1949 and is comprised of "North American Protestant theologians who promote conservative biblical scholarship and the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scriptures." In 2017, Hank Haanegraff, the evangelical Bible Answer Man and host of a popular radio program converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church (in doing so he lost about a thousand radio stations). I am constantly hearing about Protestants becoming Catholics[2] and Catholics becoming Protestants.[3] 

[In this post I will not address Catholics leaving the Catholic Church over the sex abuse crisis. That's a topic for a different post.]

What's going on with crossing the Catholic-protestant divide of faithful Christians? Does it matter? My thought is this: Not particularly. Are we more concerned with protecting denominational empires than building God's kingdom? As a former evangelical Protestant and now an evangelical Catholic I have noticed each has something to offer.


Before I go any further, let me draw a distinction. Within Protestantism, there is a further breakdown between evangelical and liberal denominations. The gulf between the liberal and evangelical churches can as wide or wider than the Protestant-Catholic divide! In my opinion, much of the liberal Protestantism has deviated away from historical biblical Christianity to the point of being reduced to secularism expressed in theological terms.


Evangelical denominations have differences amongst themselves but unite in that they are Bible-based and emphasize personal salvation solely through being “born again.” The Nelson Dictionary I mentioned above says they have an “uncompromising commitment to the person of Jesus Christ.” As an evangelical Catholic, I have the same uncompromising commitment. In fact, it is my first concern.

I believe it is this aspect of evangelical Christianity that is most attractive to many Catholics. Having a
personal relationship with Jesus, that is so eloquently illustrated by evangelicals, including Pentecostals, that concerned Pope Benedict. It is that personal daily encounter with the risen Christ that brings the Sacraments alive for Catholics. I want to help you not to overlook this point.

Relationship with Christ

The relational aspect of Christianity has always been its greatest strength. It is that personal relationship, or friendship if you will, with the person of Jesus Christ that gave early Christian church martyrs the ability to face persecution, torture and death throughout history and up to this day. 

A spiritual relationship between man and God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can transform the most despicable human being into a saint. Bishop Fulton Sheen put it this way: “No character, regardless of the depths of its vice or intemperance, is incapable of being transformed through the cooperation of Divine and human action into its opposite.” C.S. Lewis said that every prison is filled with potential saints and every monastery with potential devils. It is a relationship with Christ (or the lack of one) that makes the difference in human lives.  

History has borne witness to this. As a tax collector, Saint Matthew was considered a traitor to his own people. After meeting Christ he left his profession of collecting the exorbitant and hated Roman tax and became a great patriot of Israel. In his Gospel, Matthew went back time and again to remember the glories of the Jewish people. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He was present at the martyrdom of Stephen. After a dramatic encounter with post-resurrection
Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul became a fervent Apostle and missionary to the Gentiles. 

History is replete with countless examples of miraculously transformed people, and it continues to this day.


This is where Catholicism shines! Not only do we hold sacred Scriptures dear as the inerrant word of God, we have sacred Traditions and a linear, successive connection to Christianity’s beginning. Catholicism has a highly developed Eucharistic
theology.  This encourages a fuller interior understanding for open and tender hearts that culminates with the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

My evangelical brothers and sisters may disagree or take offence. Please don't. There will always be differences in theology and practices between faithful Christians, not just evangelical and Catholic Christians. But our unity is in Jesus, not theology. We have so much in common—as succinctly laid down in the Apostle’s Creed. 

If there is any genuine ecumenical dialogue and unity to be had between Catholics and Evangelicals it must center on the lordship of Jesus Christ. Christians who have a daily relationship with Christ—regardless of how its expressed—will discover our Lord’s heart for unity. Just prior to his death, Jesus prayed:

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who
believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father. Are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17.20-21).

[1] "ETS Resignation Triggers Tradition Discussion - Executive Committee: Roman Catholics may not join" May 9th 2007, Christianity Today, 09 May, 2007 https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2007/may/119-32.0.html
[2] See The Coming Home Network online https://chnetwork.org/converts/
[3] Thomas Reese, "The hidden exodus: Catholics becoming Protestants" 18 April 2011, National Catholic Reporter, https://www.ncronline.org/news/parish/hidden-exodus-catholics-becoming-protestants

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