Loomis415: An Answer

You asked three questions:

1) What made you be a Catholic, coming from a Protestant perspective?

One thing that you will find is that, if you come into full communion with the Catholic Church, that question can be answered in a million different ways. And that each new day brings with it, upon further reflection, new reasons. But I will try to be brief for now.

I started Baptist. Then Presbyterian (PCA). Then non-Denom. Then Presbyterian (PCUSA). The Episcopalian. Then, finally, Catholic. So you might say I was a bit of a seeker, always overjoyed at knowing Christ Jesus, but never quite at peace with the place I was worshipping him. The first thing that was one of the many reasons I eventually became Catholic was the issue of authority. And the issue presented itself to me as follows. Having hopped around a lot from one denomination to another, it had occurred to me that these various denominations all taught different things. Sure, there were similarities between these denominations, insofar as all of them sought to use the bible to point me to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for salvation. But things like baptism, as an example. Is infant baptism licit? What are the effects of baptism, if any? Is sprinkling OK, or is only full immersion the way to go? Each of the groups I had been a part of taught something different on the subject of baptism. So one was either forced to conclude that these issues didn’t matter (which I didn’t believe) or that a) someone was right or b) no one was right. One thing I was certain of was that they couldn’t all be right. And option b didn’t seem right either. If everyone was wrong about baptism, something which seems very important in the scriptures, what else were we all wrong about? Had Christ really left us all alone to interpret this book, when he knew full well that, eventually, we would all have no idea what the initial meaning of the book was intended to be? Doesn’t seem very likely. So I was left with the question: if someone was right about baptism (and other similar issues), who was it?

This led me to question the methods by which I was being taught that God had revealed himself, namely through the bible. Had God really only left us with a book, inspired as it is, subject to our own varying interpretations? If the brilliant minds (moreso than my own) coming out of seminaries couldn’t agree on what the bible meant, how was I supposed to figure it out? What about illiterate peasants…how were they supposed to come to know God? What about all the people who lived before the advent of the printing press? How were they supposed to know God? You’ll note that, with that last question, one has entered a period of history BEFORE the Martin Luther and the Reformation. The answer is that, before the Reformation, the bible was not viewed as the *only* authoritative source of knowledge about Jesus Christ. In fact, the Church was viewed as being the authoritative interpreter of Sacred Tradition, both oral and written (cf. 2 Thess 2:15). In fact, looking even further back into history, one finds that the Table of Contents of Scripture (i.e., the canon) was not formally and finally proposed until about the year AD 400. STOP HERE. Re-read that last sentence. Sure, before that time, much of what we now call the New Testament was known and reverenced as “inspired”, but there were nevertheless a few books (3 John, Hebrews, Revelation, Jude) that were still being hotly debated as to their inspired nature. How did the Church survive for 400 years without the bible if the bible was really supposed to be God’s only means of communicating himself? The answer is that is wasn’t. The Church was (cf. 1 Tim 3:15). The Church is the pillar and bulwark of truth. Not the bible alone.

Now that I was immersed in the history of the early Church, as it really existed, not the figment of some pious imagination, I was able to see that the early Church believed many things that the Catholic Church of today believes, but that Protestants totally rejected. To name a few: a Church hierarchy with the bishop as the central authority; that a person becomes a Christian (i.e., is justified) through baptism; that the Eucharist “IS” the body and blood of Jesus Christ; that one’s salvation can be lost through “grave sin”; that the Eucharist is a sacrifice; that those who have died and gone to heaven can pray for us; that we are to pray for those who have died; that Mary was the New Eve; that she was always a virgin, even after Jesus was born…etc. There’s a lot more of these too. Tell me. What Protestant church believes these things? None that I knew or know of. Why don’t they believe them? Because, it turns out, they are limiting their knowledge of God to only what can be found in the scriptures. But that was not God’s plan.

Just now, I implied that these various things that the early church believed are not found in the scriptures. And that’s what I thought when I was first confronted with them. But in truth, every last one of those beliefs can be amply demonstrated from scripture. But the trick is that the scripture has to be rightly interpreted. And now we have come full circle. How do we know what the effects of baptism are? How do we know who has the right interpretation of scripture? The answer is that you look to the Church that has been around since the time of Jesus Christ, who he endowed with infallibility, so that she would not be destroyed over time (Matt 16:18). Only by coming to the Church that Christ has established can one come to know with certainty the fullness of the truth about Jesus Christ. And that’s why I became Catholic.

2) Why is the Catholic Church superior to other denominations?

I’ve touched on that a bit (a lot) already. I believe she has the fullness of the truth. She has the pedigree that goes all the way back, in something called apostolic succession. You read in Acts that the followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. Well, when other Christian groups started teaching things contrary to the revelation, the Christian Church started referring to herself by a different name to distinguish the orthodox from the “heretics”. The name that she used to refer to herself was the Catholic Church (i.e., the universal church). You find attestations to that name as early as AD 107. Jesus founded a Church. It is still here. It is full of sinners. It is the Catholic Church. Other denominations have “great worship”, “great sermons”, “great fellowship”, but they do not, nor could they ever, have what the Catholic Church has, as they were founded in 1517 or later. What we have is 2000 years of (sometimes ugly) history. Because we have been around for that long.

3) Some basic doctrines: I’ll focus on some distinctive ones. Justified by grace alone in baptism (1 Peter 3:21). The distinction between venial and mortal sins (cf. 1 Jn 5:16). The necessity of confession to remit mortal sins (John 20). The real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist (John 6). Mary as the immaculate and perpetual virgin Mother of God. The necessity of living a life of holiness, empowered by grace. Consequences to sin. This question is really too vague as I could go on forever.

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO POST A COMMENT ASKING FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS OR EMAIL ME AT MELLO_SMELLO AT YAHOO DOT COM.

God bless you.

P.S. I will quickly add one of the first thoughts that hit me like lightning, and eventually spurred me to look very closely into the Catholic Church:

1) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Marcionites were heretics.

2) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Arians were heretics.

3) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Nestorians were heretics.

4) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Monophysites were heretics.

5) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Pelagians were heretics.

6) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Donatists were heretics.

7) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Manicheans were heretics.

8) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Albigensians were heretics.

9) I agree with the Catholic Church that the Gnostics were heretics.

10) Why do I not agree with the Catholic Church that the Protestant Reformers were heretics? What are the odds that she was right all those times and wrong this time? And how very coincidental it is that the one time the Catholic Church was wrong happens to be the time when she says that my faith tradition is wrong. Or is there another explanation? Could I be wrong?

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~ by Rob on January 17, 2007.

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