Catholic-Protestant Common Ground (Esp. Re Good Works)

Catholic-Protestant Common Ground (Esp. Re Good Works) February 21, 2018

A Lutheran wrote, in response to my paper, “Gratefulness For My Evangelical Protestant Background and its Wonderful Teachings and Blessings”: “It is comforting to know that you still have respect and good memories from your years in the Evangelical Protestant church.”

I’m delighted that this was edifying for him. I’m not an exception to the rule, by any means. I would venture to guess that probably 90% (if not even more) of Catholic converts have essentially positive feelings and great fondness toward their backgrounds.

It’s the former Catholics who too often have a vastly different attitude: oftentimes they despise their Catholic past or feel little about it one way or the other (apathy). Many become anti-Catholics.

Not so for Catholic converts and reverts! This becomes obvious, the more conversion stories one reads. I think that’s a really good thing, because that’s the seed for continuing ecumenism and fostering of Christian unity. It’s precisely because I remember (like it was yesterday!) my personal experience within evangelicalism, and because I know what was in my own heart and mind then, that I can respect all the more my Protestant brothers and sisters. I know what motivates them. I know Whom they serve.

It is impossible to not be thankful for what we all learned in the evangelical Protestant environment. Whoever is not thankful for that doesn’t understand, I submit, the vast areas of common ground that continue to exist.

Both sides agree, for example, that good works are not an optional part of the Christian life. The differences are in how the works are categorized and their relation to salvation. But as to the works themselves: very few Christians have ever denied their supreme importance. And Catholics believe in Grace Alone just as Protestants do. When we deny Faith Alone it is never in a sense that would deny Grace Alone (i.e., Pelagianism). It is in the “James” sense.

So on a very practical, day-to-day level of discipleship and living the Christian life in service to our Lord Jesus and our fellow man, Protestants and Catholics profoundly agree. I never tire in pointing this out, because I love common ground wherever it can be found.

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(originally 4-8-08)

Photo credit: Yours truly, back in my Protestant evangelist days (October 1987: age 29).

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