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. 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 and
Catholics becoming Protestants.
[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
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.
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
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
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,
“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.”
Post a Comment