Must-read of the week: Six conversion-to-Catholicism stories.

The Christian Century has an interesting story this week about six Christians and their journeys to Catholicism.

I’m probably asking for trouble here, but I’m interested in hearing from you… after you’ve read the story:

  • If you’re a Christian, but not a Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Catholics? Have your views changed?
  • If you grew up Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Protestants and other traditions? Have your views changed?
  • And finally… how important is it to you to commit yourself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church? I know a lot of “living question marks” who prefer not to don any particular mantle, but would rather leave that question open in case God decides to reveal something further, or differently, to them.

I ask because, in the last few years, many of the things I had been taught by other Protestant Christians about Catholics have proven untrue, and my Catholic friends have been dismayed, but not surprised, by the things I’ve shared with them.

Likewise, I’ve seen some painful blog posts and other writings by Catholics that make gross generalizations about Protestants, roping all of us into the foolishness of some misguided individuals.

There’s a tendency toward patronizing and condescending comments on both sides, and that’s sad, because we all flinch when the mainstream media makes generalizations about Christians.

Full disclosure: I grew up in a Baptist church, and I’m currently a member of a Presbyterian church. But I wouldn’t say I’m a “convert” to any particular Christian tradition. Let’s just say I’m in a “studying” phase regarding the history of the church, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and more. So I’m fascinated by these stories of conversion, education, and conviction. Some of my closest friends are Baptists, some are Presbyterians, and some are devoted to their Episcopalian, Catholic, or Orthodox traditions. Some have converted, and then converted yet again. And I’ve even felt some nudges, even a bit of shoving, in different directions… but I refuse to believe that God wants me to come to any hasty conclusions about this. So I’m looking forward to hearing from all of you.

CAUTION:
I’ll say this once and only once: If you comment and share your experience here, I’ll welcome that. But no snarkiness. Please share your experience. And if you comment on other people’s experiences, do so with respect and grace. I will delete responses that even look like they’re going to stir up trouble. If there’s to be a conversation, let’s enjoy it in a community of grace and respect.

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  • Anonymous

    $110 for Crisis of Doubt!? Ouch!

  • jasdye

    personally, i’m very jealous of anyone who is able to publish a best-of books list in the same year all of the books were published.

    mine tend to be, ‘what i read and really liked this year, but not necessarily published within the last, say, five years.’

  • Anonymous

    I have been amazed by the thoughtfulness of each of these comments.

    I grew up in various Protestant denominations, and I am in the process of becoming a Catholic.

    The decision to become Catholic was not difficult for me. I do not like to use the term “conversion” to describe this decision. For me to say that I “converted” suggests that I adopted new dogmas. This is not the case. My beliefs are unchanged. This decision was something that I grew into. It was not a process of finding the “right” religion or denomination, but rather a process of discovering my own faith in a most unexpected place.

    I was always very critical of the churches in which I grew up. I have learned as part of this journey, however, that my dissatisfaction had much more to do with myself (excluding the deficiencies common to all churches). What I had identified as shortcomings within the churches were in fact recognitions that these denominations were not my home.

    The Catholic church is my home. Discovering this fact was no more than discovering (more and more each day) my place within the body of Christ.

    I find this process of seeing and discovering the beauty and richness of Christ’s body so exciting. For the same reason, I am exhilerated by reading these conversations, so rationally and carefully thought out. Thanks to the moderator.

  • Catherine

    Seven years ago as I was driving down a street I had driven over a thousand times before, I saw a sign I had seen a thousand times before. The sign said “Want to learn more about the Catholic faith? All are welcome!” For some reason, this time it got my attention, and I decided it might be interesting to learn more about my Catholic brethren.

    With no expectation that I would actually become Catholic, I went to the meetings/classes, and all of a sudden it was truly as if the scales fell from my eyes. I not only realized that a lot of things I thought I knew about the Catholic Church were not true, but that the Catholic Church had sensible reasons for their positions on almost everything. I was shocked. I also found a sense of peaceful relief as I realized there WAS a source of truth and light in all the confusion.

    I became Catholic because I couldn’t NOT become Catholic. But one of the more interesting things that has happened is that I feel more loving and understanding toward other Christians than I ever did before. Even though I disagree with them (and now I understand why I disagree with them), I feel a loving unity I never felt before. I had resented my Baptist upbringing, but now I see all the good that it did for me. I believe now more than ever that God has heard my prayers to give me light, help, and understanding.

    I have not “arrived” in the sense that my journey is over. But my journey is now on turbo. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and I now really understand why it was called The Good News, and the pearl of great price.

    Catherine

  • Teresa Wannabe

    I was raised in a non-religious home, but we went to various fundamentalist churches in occasional spurts, usually when my folks were trying to hold things together. I had almost zero understanding of spiritual things, or the basics of Christianity. My first memory of Catholicism was finding a rosary that was buried in our backyard. Wow – treasure! I was given a brief explanation of my find, which included the words; idol and Catholic. I wondered at that because, I was given no explanation of either. And I also wondered why I couldn’t have a cool name like, Teresa. I was told that too was Catholic. And, then I wondered how Catholics could have such a corner on cool names and buried treasure. When I was 12 we moved to a small, mostly Italian town. Many of my friends were Catholic, and my mom didn’t say they were bad or idols. In fact, I would sometimes go to catechism and mass with them. And I wondered why they got special things like; an unintelligible language that gave me goose bumps, and ashes on their foreheads, and guilty feelings when they did something wrong. I came to the conclusion that I’d have to convert to Catholicism, if only to get married in my small Italian-Catholic town.

    But, the Lord brought His love to me in a tiny charismatic church, in our small Catholic town. Although, I don’t believe the charismatics ever thought I was truly saved, since I was the only one present that didn’t speak in tongues. We moved soon after, and I encountered real Catholic prejudice in the Baptist church I was obligated to attend. I also encountered prejudice toward every other denomination in town, even the other conservative Baptists. I was not excluded. How could I have been saved in a charismatic church, in a small Italian-Catholic town? I missed my Catholic friends, but most weren’t that into their faith, and none told me how to get there. It seemed like a club, or society, and I didn’t have the secret password.

    Over thirty years have passed, and the wonder at Catholicism continues. But, perhaps, my questions have deepened.

    - Where does authority lie? How can we keep creating denominations; vesting ourselves with authority – then tell others, when they want to start their own church, that they don’t have the authority to do that? Someone has to have authority. Is it an institution, or the Holy Spirit alone? If it is the Holy Spirit, does he contradict himself by giving authority to opposing views? I personally have seen horrible abuses by churches wielding their authority scepter. I ask myself if I would feel more comfortable under a church with the authority of apostolic succession, rather than someone appointed/anointed by a small band of “like-minded” brothers with less than 100 years (sometimes with less than 10 years) of tradition and experience. This plays to the question of committing oneself to a particular tradition/denomination, because ultimately we are submitting, as well as, committing.

    - Why can’t the Protestants (for the most part) seem to create beauty in the arts? What is it in their theological construct that almost prohibits it? Is it, as Thomas Howard points out in, Chance or the Dance, that the Reformation was a rationalistic movement? We Protestants birthed the modern world that we now look to escape? I used to think it was just the “end-times” doctrine that kept Protestant Christians from making things of lasting beauty. Now, I’m more inclined to think it is the lack of an incarnational and sacramental understanding.

    - Why does my heart, soul and mind leap for joy and inspiration when I read: G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Thomas Howard, Flannery O’Conner, or Singrid Undset? I’ve never experienced that with any evangelical/fundamentalist author. Instruction? Yes. Brain-dancing inspiration? Never. (And, yes, I know Lewis was not Catholic, but very like.)

    My husband and I have taken the Anglican path at this point. We found a small parish and feel deeply connected through liturgical worship. We love the Eucharist, and I personally believe in the Real Presence. I suspect if I ever do find my way into the Catholic fold, it will not be through lengthy, scholarly studies of Catholic theologians, (as many of our friends are currently doing) but through the door of art and literature. I usually find myself connecting the dots, on my map of questions, through those means.

  • Joe

    Read ‘The Cheshire Christ’ over at crowhill.net. The best conversion piecce I have found.

  • A M Hildebrandt

    I don’t know if I can actually add much to this thread because most of what I have read and see now in these posts I can relate to. I feel like my story is a collage that God has made up of other peoples stories.

    But for the parts that do differ I will relate.

    I consider myself like Richard Baxter, and CS Lewis after him, to be ‘mere Christians”

    My parents both came from a Mennonite background but veered away from it before I was born. I don’t remember the church my family went to when I was real young but the Church I do remember and still am a member of today(though I no longer feel connected to it) started out as a Baptist Church, but was quickly hit by the Charismatic Holy Spirit and became non-denominational, and then we were quickly picked up by the Vineyard. We had much success as a “conference hall” but many problems as a “church”. We then were asked to no longer call ourselves a Vineyard and now are after fifteen years a non-denominational again.

    I never grew up hearing much about any other denominations and such things like Catholicism, Anglicism, Orthodox, or anything. All I actually knew was that the Baptist church and other non-charismatics had a hate on for our church, and I was some what proud, thinking I had the Holy Spirit and they didn’t. It wasn’t until the conference fad quickly blew over for me and I felt I wanted to be “On Fire” for God all the time and not just on certain weekends that I started to expand my beliefs.

    I would have to same my greatest teachers in those times came from books. I read a lot of C.S. Lewis, who joined the Church of England but I don’t think ever really believed himself strictly Anglican. His writings appealed and went beyond certain denominations, and I felt that is what Christianity was supposed to be. Chesterton too, he was Catholic but his writings were for every one, not just the Catholics. George MacDonald and Richard Baxter also took influences from other faiths to make up there own. I soon realized that I was supposed to be a follower of Christ, and it bothered me if I was to take the name of some one else, I didn’t want to be a follower of Martin Luther, or Menno Simmons, or any one and I didn’t want to be labelled the follower of anyone but Jesus Christ.

    But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a “student” of Martin Luther, or St Therese or St Augustine, or St Patrick, or Brother Lawrence or Thomas A Kempis, and so on. I can learn from all these wonderful Christians for we serve the same God. I may disagree with Chesterton and Lewis on some of their beliefs but both of them would be hard presses to let that get in the way of a good relationship. I believe that God made every one differently and speaks to everyone differently and teaches everyone differently, but “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind… like unto it, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself.” which is every person Jesus brings into me life at every moment.

    I might say I lean towards the more traditional view points and “orthodox” teachings as the most contemporary writer I’ve read in a while is C.S. Lewis. I seem to just have a natural pull towards the older Christians and teachers. There is something comforting in tradition and I like weighting what they said back then with what is being said now. But I don’t want to be too caught up in being to much traditionalist because the traditions of the early church had to start somewhere and Jesus himself spoke out against many of the traditions of or Jewish brothers.

    Whether this adds to the discussion I am not sure, but it felt good to write it out.

    God Bless & Cheers

    Adam Mark Hildebrandt

  • David

    as for the question on the orthodox church, i confess that in my conversion experience, i didn’t really consider orthodoxy until the last minute when someone asked me, “hey, what about orthodoxy?”

    the real answer to that was probably that i had too much invested in catholicism at that point, but i also felt (and i didn’t and still don’t know if this actually works) that we live in the jurisdiction of the bishop of rome and so if i was to take the assertions of the ecumenical dialogue seriously (specifically that both traditions are valid), i should submit to the one in whose jurisdiction i reside unless, of course, that one is heretical.

    if the question had arisen earlier in the process, i probably would have done some research to see if my uninformed opinion actually held and maybe i’m still obliged to do so. the thing is, i’m no theologian and it’s difficult for me to make any informed judgment on the matter. in fact, my understanding of the situation is largely political, having read that one of the major obstacles to the ecumenical talks is that the russian orthodox patriarch strongly objects to the presence of eastern rite catholic churches because he feels that it’s proof that the catholic church doesn’t really recognize the legitimacy of the eastern orthodox church and is trying to proselytize its members by its continued presence. i can understand the argument; if it’s true that the russian orthodox church is valid, why isn’t it good enough to minister to catholic parishoners? socially, there would be some discomfort for eastern rite cathiolics of course, but doesn’t this suggest that ultimately they do believe themselves superior to their orthodox bretheren?

    slightly off topic, i recently learned that the russian orthodox church established the orthodox western rite which operates here in the united states which made me wonder, isn’t this roughly analagous to the problem of eastern rite catholic churches in russia? it made me realize that not only do i not understand the debate, i don’t understate what’s being debated!

  • David

    i found this article on a catholic blog i read from time to time and i thought i’d pass it along since it deals directly with the questions you brought up in this thread, especially on the importance of belonging to a specific faith tradition.

    as a bit of a disclaimer, though, al kimel, a former anglican priest who was received in to the catholic church a couple of years ago, is a bit abrasive. he’s also extremely intelligent, well-read, and eloquent, but i almost didn’t pass this along, actually, because i wondered if you would have taken issue with it had it had been posted as a comment on this thread. but ultimately it seemed too on-topic to not pass along (and also it seems to me that re-posting a link is a slightly different form of communication).

    it reminded me of a christianity today article (perhaps you read it) on c. s. lewis and why he never converted to catholicism. according to the article, lewis found it so offensive that catholicism would claim superiority to protestant traditions that he was unable to convert despite catholic theology largely being the best fit for lewis (or so the author seemed to be claiming).

    personally, i found that article to be supremely depressing. to me, it made it seem like lewis was lost in eeyore-ian despair: “well, it’ll just be as bad over there so it’s probably not worth the trouble”. certainly every faith tradition equal insofar as none of them perfectly reflect the perfect truth of god, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t be closer to objective truth than another.

    and that’s why i felt that the pontifications article was worth passing along, i think. catholicism (and orthodoxy) differ from protestant faith traditions in that they assert that there is a living, authoratative medium through which god interacts with the world today that exists apart from any person’s personal judgment and that that medium is the church. and that’s why belonging to this specific faith tradition is important; because it represents a more perfect submission to god.

    so really, i think ultimately the question for anyone considering conversion to traditional christianity is whether he or she believes traditional christianity’s claim that god invested divine authority in the institution of the church such that church teachings are authoratative in the same way that biblical mandates are authoratative. if so, then it must be true that submission to the church is a more perfect submission to god. if not, it’s merely a matter of personal judgment — finding a denomination or local congregation that best fits one’s theological leanings and personal needs and desires — which, of course, may or may not lead a person to traditional christianity, depending on the person.

    lewis considered it supremely arrogant that catholics proclaimed the catholic church was (more or less) the most right. but to me, it seems the opposite. to me, it’s an act of humility, surrendering my personal judgment to what i believe is god’s legitimate teaching authority. it only seems arrogant insofar as christianity itself is arrogant: we claim to have heard the divine gospel of jesus christ and because we believe it to be true, we submit ourselves to the authority of god in the way the gospel teaches us to.

  • Jim Sanders

    I grew up in a protestant Charismatic church, a church that is Charismatic in its worship style and Reformed in its theology, which is an unusual combination. This is the church I grew up in, then I left town after graduating from college, and went through a phase where I had a different Charismatic church experience, a church that was influenced by TBN and so-called “prosperity” teaching. Now I’ve moved back to my hometown and I’m back in church I grew up in. I found this detour to be a learning experience, and makes me realize how poor my own theological understanding was before I left college, and makes me appreciate a church with strong roots and a respect for theology. I believe it is important of studying the theology one’s church teaches and studying the Bible.

    I appreciate that my Protestant background places a strong emphasis on personal Bible study and evangelism. But I acknowlede our weaknesses on utilizing the arts in faith and in worship, and our weaknesses in knowing and respecting church history. These are things we can learn from the Catholics. This is the most valuable thing about ecumenical movements: in theory they can bring the strengths of different faith backgrounds together and we can help each other improve our weaknesses. In practice, our ideals often fall far short of being realized, but I think we need to keep trying the best we can.

    Growing up, I heard a number of disparaging comments about Catholics. I live in a city (St. Louis) with strong cultural Catholicism, and a number of people came to my protestant church after some negative experiences in the Catholic church. So I understand concerns about nominalism in some Catholic churches. But you can say the same thing about some Protestant churches. What changed my opinion of Catholics was interacting with people from different religious backgrounds, including Catholicism, through Internet discussion boards: people who understand their traditions and study them. I respect the history of Catholicism, and though I don’t agree with some of the theology of Catholicism, the Calvinist side of me realizes that God chooses us to reveal his love to us, rather than us choosing God. Therefore, God could choose people who worship him through the Catholic faith. The body of Christ is larger and deeper than a holy huddle of people who think the exact same way I do.

  • sharon

    Oh, and to answer the last question about the importance of committing oneself to a tradition. I do think it’s important, in part because it seems to me that one needs at some point to be grounded so that the tradition can be “taken for granted” and one can focus on Christ and not on the question “where should I be?” But mostly, as a mother of young children, I’ve realized how important it is for a family to be committed to a tradition/ denomination. Just as children need stability in a household, they need stability in their faith. Of course it’s a different story for those who are making a decision only for themselves; but (IMO) parents need to decide, commit, and settle, and not flit from one church to another, dragging their children with them.

  • anne

    As a cradle Catholic, I wasn’t too aware of Protestants growing up. If anything, I thought anyone who didn’t go to Mass must be like the folks I saw saw shouting on TV. I admired their energy and their certitude about what they were saying, but the lack of liturgy/reverence led me to think that it was more like a school for studying God than worship. I grew up in the hazy late 60s and 70s of the Church, so, for many years I was like one of those sleep walking Mass attenders described by others. But conversion is a lifelong process, and, in time, the grace of the sacraments drew me deeper into the love of God and lit a fire of zeal for Christ and His Church. Interestingly enough, it was the witness of an Evangelical co-worker that was a significant step in beginning the interior conversion. I have since become good friends with many non-Catholics. There is so very much to admire in their faith traditions, but, in the end, I find them all lacking. The stress of being my own pope would wear me out – I love the freedom of submitting to the teaching authority of the Church (“he who hears you, hears Me”), and, of course, I can’t imagine life without the Eucharist (and confession). Sharon beautifully expressed much of what is in my heart about the Church. God bless you on your journey.

  • sharon

    I grew up in a nominally Christian, actively skeptic-secular household, where churchgoing was occasional but actual belief was derided as superstition for the simple, death-fearing masses. The hypocrisy annoyed me into atheism when I was in my teens; in fact, I was pushed all the way into atheism by happening to read, of all things, The Screwtape Letters, where Lewis cautions (in reverse, of course) against believing things not because they’re true, but for some other reason.

    There were multiple elements that, looking back, I can see as having led up to my eventual belief that the Christian faith was the only response to the tuggings I felt: a charismatic Protestant friend and her kind and generous family; a few years in Europe and the impassive mystery of the great art and cathedrals; the increasing emptiness of a secular worldview where guilt was a pathology rather than a healthy response to the recognition of sin.

    But at 18, away from my family and making my own decisions, and determined to commit myself to a Christian community, I ended up choosing Catholicism–or it chose me. My dear friend’s church was close-knit and warmly welcoming, but the charismatic antics repelled me, and I was utterly unable to join in. I spoke to as many Christians as I could–easy enough at a big state university where religion was a common topic–and in the end, it was the desire for holiness that pulled me to the Catholic Church.

    It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that it was the much-played-down doctrine of Purgatory that convinced me. When I spoke to evangelical or baptistic Protestants, they would emphasize that God accepted me just as I am, and seemed very anxious about striving for holiness as being “works-salvation.” But the last thing I wanted was to be in God’s presence just as I was. I wanted the Catholic God, the consuming fire that would burn away all impurity in His beloved. I wanted to learn to pray and fast, and worship a God impossibly, tangibly present, to be consumed Himself.

    I’ve sponsored several candidates through RCIA, and have frequently observed this same phenomenon. The “converts” from other Christian traditions are very interested in doctrinal matters; those from a secular background (genuinely “converting”) are very uninterested in the minutiae of doctrine. They want to learn how to be holy, how to pray (the classes on prayer are packed and intensely eager), and how to be crucified with Christ so that it will be Christ, and not they, who live.

    Since then I’ve understood that none of this is absent in the Protestant tradition. But it was very hidden. I’m not sure that many well-intentioned Protestant evangelizers realize that the Good News they present is often not what the longings of the Christ-absent world cry out for. The world is all about ease and convenience; it’s the Via Crucis that draws the heart.

  • Chris Lake

    Oh boy– my history with Catholicism and Protestant Christianity– here we go! :-) My journey has been that of nominal (i.e. not genuine) Protestant Christian “faith” as a child, agnosticism as a teenager, a sadly brief (in retrospect) studying of church history and embracing of Catholicism in college (to the point of actually going through RCIA and becoming a member of the Church) and then, finally, through a deeper study of Scripture, church history, and both Reformed and Catholic theology, reaching a firm conviction that historic Reformed Christianity is the Christianity most closely reflected in the actual teaching of the Bible. Whew, that was a long sentence! :-)

    Concerning Catholicism, in the Baptist church of my childhood, I actually don’t remember being taught much about Catholicism at all. My family attended in a Baptist church in the Deep South (U.S.). From what I remember of the atmosphere of the church, it was fairly anti-intellectual and legalistic, distrustful of the creative mind and of “secular culture,” including the arts. Theologically, there was an emphasis on “getting right with God,” but at the time, that primarily seemed, at least to me, to mean mentally accepting certain Biblical teachings and then trying to change my behaviour in accordance. I was young, however, and I would like to think that the church was more careful, theologically, and more loving, in practice, than I remember it… but I do have some disheartening memories. As for Catholicism, I only began truly learning about it much later as a spiritually curious college student. I had tired of my self-destructive, empty life of sin, but all that I remembered from my brief experience of Southern, “hard-shell,” Protestant Christianity, from my childhood, left a bad taste in my mouth– legalism, anti-intellectualism, suspicion of, and/or antipathy to, the arts, etc. I began to study church history and eventually reached the conclusion (at the time) that the Catholic Church was the first church, and therefore, the true Church. I was cautioned, at the time, by Protestant friends, that Catholics “worshiped Mary” or “followed the Pope” (rather than following Jesus and the true teachings of Scripture). I rejected those claims then, and I still reject the first one. The Roman Catholic Church simply does not teach one to worship Mary. As for the second claim from my old Protestant friends… I don’t believe that one can accurately make such a categorical, sweeping statement about each and every individual Catholic… but after many years and much, much more study of the Bible and Catholic theology, I do now believe that certain crucial Catholic teachings are not in agreement with the Scriptures. However (!), I do also think that many Catholics are true Christians. This is a complicated issue… perhaps for another time.

    As a young adult convert to Catholicism, I loved what I saw as (and truly believed, at the time, was) an historical and theological continuity with the apostles. I loved the quiet solemnity of the Mass. I loved that so many Catholics, and the tradition of the Church itself, were more open to the inherent validity of the arts than most of the conservative Protestants that I remembered from my childhood. However, I regret now that I spent so much more time, as a Catholic, studying Catholic theological works and certain accounts of church history, and far less time studying the Scriptures themselves. I still love certain aspects of Catholic tradition and culture. I love that there is a definite place in the Church for those who love the “life of the mind.” I especially love the Church’s respect for the power and sacredness of the arts. I appreciate the “quietness” of the Mass (if not some of the theology undergirding it). However, after years of having seriously studied what the Church, and the Scriptures, teach, respectively, on the exact nature of the believer’s justification before God, his/her eternal security in salvation, and marriage as a valid option for all believers, I sincerely, lovingly think that the Catholic Church, in its teaching tradition, is mistaken. I love my Catholic brothers and sisters who truly follow Christ. I love my Protestant brothers and sisters who truly follow Christ. In terms of agreement with the Bible itself though, I believe that the theology of the Protestant Reformation– as Charles Spurgeon said, the theology, not just of Luther and Calvin, but (much more importantly) Paul– is that which is truest to the teaching of the Scriptures.

    In college, and for a time afterwards, I was impressed, in large part, by works such as Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating, and Fundamentals of the Faith, by Peter Kreeft. They helped to correct my superficial and ill-informed misunderstandings of at least certain aspects of Catholic teaching. I converted to Catholicism myself, enthusiastically studied Catholic apologetics, and even contemplated becoming a priest. The more that I carefully studied the Bible itself though, I simply saw irreconcilable contradictions between what the Church has taught, historically (and still teaches, in the Catechism), and by careful comparison, what the Scriptures teach, about justification, about the eternal security of true believers in Christ (as taught in Romans 8:30), and about marriage as a legitimate option for all believers, including, by clear implication, clergy. Paul says, in 1 Timothy 1:1-4, that anyone who forbids marriage for any Christian, espouses a “teaching of demons.” I say these things, not at all in a spirit of rancor or dispute for dispute’s sake, but rather, a spirit of love for all true Christian brothers and sisters, in both the Catholic Church and
    in Protestant churches. Most of all, I speak sincerely out of concern and love for what the Bible itself teaches, from my own study, as first, a non-Christian, then, a Catholic covert, and now, a Biblically convinced Reformed Baptist (which bears little to no resemblance to the teaching and preaching of the Baptist church which I remember from my childhood). And I still love the arts, which is why I continue to frequent this page and savor its reviews and articles! Many thanks and much appreciation to Jeffrey and to all who contribute! :-)

  • FritzPhoto

    Jeff—

    Thanks for opening this door; it’s a frightful one to enter, and I do so with hesitation. But there are things I could say that, to be honest, have been on my mind for several years, yet which I’ve shared with no one. Perhaps this is an appropriate forum.

    I’ve never been Catholic, and, to be honest, I also have little desire to be considered Protestant. It appears that these labels are largely meaningless; as they say: “A word that can mean almost anything means almost nothing.”

    What is a Catholic? Well, are you referring to the type Phill mentions above, the Catholic/Superstition/Pagan variety? Or the North American Educated/Cultured variety? The Committed-to-Jesus-at-Any-Cost variety? Or the Social Club variety? Or the French variety? Or the Italian Mobster variety? Or the (fill in the blanks) variety?

    Is to be Catholic defined by theology or culture?

    I could repeat that paragraph for Protestants: Are you talking about Reformed Protestants? Orthodox Reformed? Presbyterian? Charismatics? American? Chinese? Indian? Black? White? Committed? Marginal? Cultural?

    I can’t debate matters of theological difference between Catholic or Protestant views with the kind of studied thoroughness that you can, having read more widely on the subject. Rather, let me relate a troubling experience I had a few years back.

    I have a dear, dear friend that conversed with me, via email, about their conversion to Catholicism. I’ve never spoken with anyone about this, because, to be honest, it was a bewildering and painful experience. Some of the most memorable difficulties in those emails had to do with a few arguments for converting (and I beg pardon if I have singled these out unfairly, giving them too much importance; but they seemed to think them important, and they’ve stuck with me). I will forego listing them at length (unless someone asks), but I was essentially told: You should convert to Catholicism because it’s the true church, and apart from being part of the true church, you probably aren’t saved.

    Obviously, I had a little trouble with this line of reasoning. Especially since Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” He didn’t say any particular church or leader or theology was The Way. He didn’t say the Pope or Billy Graham, Mary or Mother Theresa, the Charismatic Church or the Liturgical Church, Orthodox, Catholic, or Episcopalian. He said He was the Way. I cling to that.

    I was so bewildered by these and other things, that really all I could reply was this: I’m really pleased that you’ve found something that is helpful to you, and that helps you know Jesus better. I trust that it makes your love for Him grow and deepen, and that it makes you bear more good fruit. Meanwhile, I guess I’ll have to remain a non-Catholic (I think I jokingly used the word Pagan) that loves Jesus.

    In the end, isn’t that what it is really about? I am not a fan of the perverse idea that truth is relative, and those who say you can believe anything you want as long as it works for you are mistaken and foolish. But there is the sense in which you can truly say, in the context of the practice of knowing Jesus in Spirit and truth, “If it works for you, great! I’m happy for you!” Shouldn’t we all be saying, “I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship in sharing in His sufferings…”? If someone finds that knowledge and power and fellowship in the Catholic practice, great! If in the non-denominational neighborhood church, great! In house church, great! In the underground, persecuted church, great! In liturgy, great! In loud worship music, great! Shouldn’t we, with Paul, be happy that Christ is being preached, that His love is being known deeper, no matter how it happens?

    If the point of all of our searching is to have everything right, and to convert and join the right club, I think we are sadly mistaken. Such an attitude leads to arrogance, self-righteousness, and complacency. Jesus used some pretty strong language to tell off people with such an attitude. They really pissed Him off.

    However, if our searching among Christian traditions is an effort to better know our Lord and to be known by Him, in the company of other committed believers, I respect that. Then we’re getting somewhere. We’re then on our way to a deeper relationship with Him, and real relationships involve not having everything right, but rather, being righteous. There’s a real difference. There is a transcendence to this attitude, this desire for more of the Lord; it transcends Christian traditions and denominations. Among such people there is a grace and unity that allows them to work together in common purpose, no matter their label. When you are among others in the company of the committed, you know.

    One day I was at the Grotto, a special place here in Portland, covering many acres with gardens and chapels. It’s a Catholic-run space, a place I love to go and pray and think. I was heading to the upper garden—which is atop a towering cliff—via elevator. Another gentleman stepped in beside me, and I hit the button. About halfway up, he turned to me, pointed to the sky, and in a thick German accent, said, “One day, we will go all the way Up, yes?” I smiled, and nodded. “Yes.”

    I don’t have perfect doctrine. Or rather, I should say, I think I have great doctrine, but I’m humble enough to know that’s not true. I don’t have perfect doctrine, but I do have Jesus. We talk. He loves me. It’s pretty amazing, really.

  • Jason Panella

    There are tons of great, interesting and encouraging stories here, folks.

    I grew up Catholic, in an area settled by Catholic immigrants. I’d always heard that Protestants were Christians too, but sad and pathetic ones; they hated Mary, they jumped around in their pews (they weren’t reverent!), and so on. Both of my parents (Catholics both)actively taught me the Gospel message, and I gradually–and earnestly–put my faith in Christ as a youngster. Still, my learning process was slow, and I knew little about my faith outside of the basics.

    When I chose a college, I picked a local Christian school; it was Reformed in doctrine. I didn’t know what that meant. Calvinism? Huh? Long story short(er), I switched to Protestantism by the end of my freshman year, attended various churches (mostly Anglican and non-denom) before finally settled at and joined a Reformed Presbyterian church (the college’s offical church, in fact). It felt like home, theologically and, well, on every other level.

    I’m very defensive of Catholicism and Protestant traditions to their naysayers. I left the RC church for various reasons, but I defend the aspects that I really respect and see good in. There are bad apples in every tradition and denomination, and you can’t lump all of them in the same catagory.

  • pamflute

    Thanks Jeffrey for posting this topic. It has been a favorite one of mine for several years now.

    My background was in an independent fundamentalist Baptist preacher’s home. I love my dad and I think he is wonderful, but I never fit into that mold. From an early age I wanted to be either Anglican (because of C.S. Lewis) or Presbyterian. I never wanted to be Catholic! Like others here, I thought all Catholics were idol worshippers, sinners of the worst sort, part of a cult, etc.

    After surviving two years at Bob Jones University, I just about gave up on my faith. I was tired of all the rules and regulations and felt like I was wearing a straight jacket. Fortunately for me, God sent many wonderful people my way who convinced me that I could be a Christian without being a fundamentalist fanatic.

    Later on, my Presbyterian Church was involved in a worship music war and I was feeling torn. I am a classically trained musician and I hated to see the old hymns being thrown out. I also loved much of the Catholic music (Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, etc.) though I would not have called it that at the time.

    I started looking into early church worship and was fascinated with what I found. I found a liturgical church centered around the Bible and the Eucharist. It was an amazing discovery. My church was nothing like this! I started reading about Orthodoxy and was smitten. I told my husband that if everything fell apart at our church we would become Orthodox. Then we attended an Orthodox service and I wasn’t so sure. Several years later, my husband got over his “Catholic” phobia and we started attending a Catholic church. I don’t know if this is the place for me either. I am convinced that I need to be a church that believes in the real presence but I don’t know which one to go to. The Catholic Church has awful music and tepid homilies, but they the Eucharist. Our Presbyterian Church has wonderful hymns, wonderful sermons and a symbolic Eucharist. At this point in time, I am fit to be tied and even looking for suggestions. I would be Anglican but I just feel the church is too liberal. I would be an Anglican Use Catholic if such a parish existed around here or possibly a Western Rite Orthodox. I live in south Florida and we don’t have any of these options – trust me, I’ve looked.

    My feelings about Catholics have changed from disdain to appreciation. I have met some wonderful, devout Catholics who I believe love Jesus with all they have. Unfortunately, you meet many Catholics who don’t know what they believe and look bored and restless in church. I would like to see them get excited about what they believe! The Eucharist is supposed to be the source and summit of their faith. Maybe their just reticent about sharing that fact, I don’t know.

    I also believe that it is important that I make a decision about where we end up. Like many Protestants, church was not that important to me. It was a place to show up and worship and fellowship but it was not a real, literal body of Christ. I believe that there is a literal body of Christ now and I want to belong to it! Even if it is not what I first hoped for, I’m hoping that I will learn in time to appreciate it.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Phill Lytle wrote:

    Would you mind sharing some of those flaws?

    For me, it all began around the time I read Robert Jewett’s Saint Paul Returns to the Movies: Triumph Over Shame in 1999; Jewett makes a convincing argument to the effect that the standard western interpretation of Paul’s epistles has gotten it all wrong by harping on the themes of guilt and forgiveness rather than the much bigger issue, which is honour and shame. I also came to dislike the evangelical emphasis on God sacrificing himself to himself in order to satisfy a law — or exploit a legal loophole — that he had made himself. This emphasis on legal categories seemed, to me, to have very little basis, if any, in the New Testament. I get into some of that here, in a post that I wrote to the OnFilm discussion list six years ago — long before I ever would have dreamed of visiting, let alone attending, an Orthodox church. Since then, I have come across the writings of some Orthodox who argue that the western understanding of the atonement is rooted more in the teachings of the 11th-century Catholic scholar Anselm than it is in the Bible, per se. Kind of like how Rapture theology is rooted more in the teachings of the 19th-century minister John Nelson Darby than it is in the Bible, per se.

    Apart from that, a few quick comments on the comments about Orthodoxy, if I may:

    I, too, used to think it was really arrogant for any church to call itself “the one true church”. By the same token, I might have also considered it arrogant for anyone to try to define who the “real Christians” are. But in the last few years, I reached a point where I realized that it was now Conrad Grebel and the other Anabaptists who seemed arrogant to me. I had always considered my baptism “valid”, in a sense, because I was baptized by a minister who had, in turn, been ordained by other ministers, and so on and so on down the line. But if the line comes to a stop in some living room in Switzerland less than 500 years ago … well, I’d really want to ask those guys just who they thought they were.

    And I came to realize that if we, as evangelicals, were to truly take the 1st century rather than the 21st century or the 16th century as our starting point, then we would have to look at things like baptism and communion and so forth very, very differently. To borrow a concept from Romans 11, as I considered the flow of chuch history, I came to see myself as a branch that had fallen off the tree. And I wanted to be grafted back into that tree.

    Re: the different “culture” of Orthodoxy. I actually find this one of the Church’s appeals. One of the first services I ever attended was a midnight Pascha service (i.e. an Easter service), and I vividly remember leaning over to my sister and saying that the candles and the nighttime procession, etc. etc., reminded me of Fiddler on the Roof. As a kid, I always admired Judaism and kind-of wished I could be Jewish, and it seems to me that Orthodoxy is kind of the next best thing (or, rather, it is even better, because it revolves around the Jewish Christ).

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to make an idol of culture. But I also don’t want to assume that the winds of the outside culture must always be heeded when they blow; the constant striving to be “relevant” is one of the primary weaknesses of evangelicalism (and of certain sections of Catholicism, especially post-Vatican II, based on what I hear from some Catholics).

    (And FWIW, not all Orthodox priests have beards; there is one Orthodox jurisdiction in particular that permits its priests and bishops to be cleanshaven, but it is also considered a tad “secularized” by certain other Orthodox folk, so make of all that what you will.)

    Re: “evangelistic passion”, the parish I attend is making converts all the time, and I am involved with a mission that is just beginning in the city of Vancouver itself. But I think we might need to unpack the words “evangelistic” and “passion” a bit before we could pursue that any further. One of the many things I find appealing about Orthodoxy (and this would hold true for Catholicism, too, I suspect) is that it isn’t as numbers-oriented or as hooked on “moments of decision” as evangelicalism is. It’s more about marriage than matchmaking, if you know what I mean.

    FWIW, a part of me wants to respond to Jon’s comment on the “absolute necessity of the papacy”, but I am not sure how to do so in a way that would meet this thread’s mandate. I’ve wrestled a bit with the role of the papacy, but what it all boils down to, for me, is how the Church as a whole understood the role of the Bishop of Rome, and I ultimately don’t see history or tradition pointing in the direction that the Catholic church took it. The fact that so many changes have taken place in the Roman church since it split off from Orthodoxy (I allude to some of them above), and the fact that the Vatican does not always speak as “clearly” as it ought to on “contemporary moral issues”, also caution us against putting all the eggs in one basket like that, I think.

    That said, as I indicated in my earlier post, I agree that the Catholic church has always been in a better position than Orthodoxy — for geographical reasons, if nothing else — when it comes to addressing some of the challenges posed by modernity. It is greatly appealing that the Vatican can come right out and say, definitively, that Catholics are allowed to believe in evolutionary theory or use the historical-critical method; and any religion which goes out of its way to embrace a degree of skepticism by creating an office like “the devil’s advocate” is bound to be at least somewhat attractive.

  • Rich Kennedy

    I grew up Baptist and close, if not actually, to being fundie. My view of Catholics was that some of them actually seemed to have a personal walk with God (but why then were they still Catholics?!), but that their church seemed to emphasize all the wrong things rather than studying the Bible and working on your faith. They even had wine every single time they went to church!! The lack of bible knowledge really got to me as an adult, even as I was becoming more accepting of Catholics.

    Ironically, I was becoming more dissatisfied with Baptist and evangelical POV’s. The one thing I still like about classical Baptist teaching is of a sort of congregational ratification of all big questions and moves by the church, but most are even forsaking that for elderboards.

    Fed up with long sermons of often iffy quality, I walked away. Later, I fell in love with Anglo-catholicism. A nice, high liturgical Catholic/Protestant compromise that shrinks the sermon and lingers over liturgical self-abasement before God and lingers as well over repentance and forgiveness and mercy. A desperate need on my part that was never well examined in my meditation, and there it was as a salve just as I became aware of the deficiency.

    The controversial aspect of all of this is that as an American, I have found my place in The Body in the Episcopalian Church, itself little deserving of the loyalty of devout orthodox believers. My loyalty is not necessarily to ECUSA, so much as the ideals of high Anglicanism and the worldwide Anglican Communion. So long as my bishop is cordial to our parish and solicitous of our way of doing things within his diocese, I can comfortably be Episcopalian. If we are forced to modify and be like many others in the diocese, that is a different matter and it will be addressed if it becomes necessary. ‘Til then, my parish is content to be Daniel and the other Israelite youths newly captive in Babylon. Let the diocese see us thrive on our diet that is a bit different than theirs!

  • Jeff B

    I grew up Baptist and still go to a Baptist church that is largely non-denominational. Although it’s not perfect, it fits me and my family.

    Growing up we were pretty much taught that Catholics weren’t Christians and the ones that I knew largely reinforced that opinion. Catholicism seemed to be an “inherited” religion that didn’t have much to do with getting to know God through Jesus, but instead leaned towards works-based salvation.

    Since then, I’ve come to know believers in all denominations and I tend to think that THIS is the “Catholic church” – just as we all are members of the same body, etc. I have good friends across multiple denominations and that helps me keep the proper perspective on my walk and beliefs, as well as helping to rid old prejudices.

    As far as personal journey is concerned, I find parts of the liturgy quite beautiful and poignant but other parts quite confusing or lifeless (this could be my fault rather than the content). Some doctrines like transubstatiation, perputual virginity, etc. still leave me cold – they don’t point or draw me into fellowship with the Father in my thinking or Spirit at this point in my walk. I understand those who feel it draws them into history/continuum/and-so-on. There is beauty in that. However, the thrust of the Reformation resonates strongly with me. I can see the work of God through it. Luther’s theses I agree with, so at this point in my walk, I’m happy to be associated as a Protestant.

  • Alan Thomas

    If you’re a Christian, but not a Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Catholics? Have your views changed?

    I didn’t grow up as a Christian; I became a (Protestant) Christian in my late teens. I didn’t really have much of an opinion of Catholics at that point.

    How important is it to you to commit yourself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church?

    This is an interesting question. In some ways, however, I’ll subvert it. I think it *may* be important to commit to an historica stream of Christianity (and stick with it) because so many have lost their way by church hopping. I was just following the thread on John Tavener, who journeyed from Presbyterianism to Orthodoxy to…whatever. How sad, and how much better for him to have remained where he started.

    One can switch for truth, but I would argue strongly against switching for personal preference, emotional, or aesthetic reasons.

    I remain basically a Reformed Protestant Christian, but the most important of those terms is the last. There are many serious, historic, and well-known problems I would have with Catholic theology, and to a lesser extent Orthodox theology. But as a student of history, the one thing I would say that He Who unites us is much, much, much…much more important than what divides us.

    More than anything else, I admire the evangelistic passion of evangelical Protestants. When I see Catholic and Orthodox Christians taking evangelism as seriously, then I’ll take their theology more seriously.

  • Andy Whitman

    If you grew up Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Protestants and other traditions?

    I grew up as a Catholic, attended Catholic schools for 12 years, was an altar boy, thought for a while I might become a priest, etc.

    I was taught that Protestants were (or at least could be) Christians, but that they were missing out on the fulness of truth offered by the Catholic Church. Certainly Protestants were not welcome to take communion, precisely because they were not a part of the Catholic Church, the one true Church.

    Have your views changed?

    Considerably. I’m now a part of a non-denominational Protestant church. Theologically, I’m in a very different place, but beyond that, I’m in a very different place in terms of what might constitute the best church model — how to live out the truths upon which both Catholics and Protestants would agree. I am much more concerned these days about aligning myself with a group of people who can articulate their desire to follow Jesus, and who live that out in community in tangible ways.

    My problem — with Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and mainline Protestantism — is nominalism. It’s not my place to judge people, and I’m trying not to do so. But I know that the world and its temptations are too strong for me unless I can be a part of an intentional community where I can be both encouraged in my faith and held accountable for the way I live my life. I want to avoid cultural Christianity. Recognizing that every church has its accompanying culture, including mine, I nevertheless want to be a part of a church where it’s fairly clear that most of the members are serious about following Jesus.

    And finally… how important is it to you to commit yourself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church?

    Not at all. I’ve been Catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and non-denominational Protestant, and I’ve seriously investigated the Orthodox Church. There are wonderful qualities in each tradition, and not-so-wonderful qualities. But, to slightly mangle a quote from the philosopher Pogo, I have met the enemy, and the enemy is me. I thought that it came down to adhering to the right theology, and I kept looking for it, and what I found out is that the right theology, whatever it was, didn’t help me at all in terms of avoiding some of the same sins and addictive traps that have ensnared my family for generations.

    I needed to be set free. And I am slowly being set free, although I still drag the carcass of the old man around with me. But my church, from now on, will be that place where following Christ wil be a consuming passion. I have no doubt that that can be found in a variety of theological traditions. But I’ve played church among people who have played church, and I don’t have time for it anymore.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    One thing the Orthodox get right and Catholics don’t: all the priests have beards!

    Amen! Let’s hear it for big [insert Eddie Izzard modifier here]-off beards!

  • Jon

    And likewise, others can note what it is about Orthodoxy that causes them to draw up short.

    Pretty much the only reason I chose Catholicism over Orthodoxy was that I came to believe in the absolute necessity of the papacy. There’s a lot to both love and hate in either Church, but I saw Catholicism as possessing something that was unfortunately lacking in Orthodoxy: the ability to wrestle with the ever-changing world, and to speak clearly on contemporary moral issues. (I’m sure many Orthodox Christians would disagree, but this is the perception I developed after a fair amount of study.)

    One thing the Orthodox get right and Catholics don’t: all the priests have beards!

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Great to hear from you on this, David. Wish you were here and we could talk over dinner.

    Thanks so much for posting the poem. That’ll be “ringing in my ears” all day.

  • Blumberg Fan

    Hi Jeff,

    This is fascinating thread so far, as was the original article that sparked it. I’ve given quite a bit of thought to some of these issues as well over the years. Here’s my own experience: I grew up low-church Protestant, although my family never identified itself all that closely with any particular denomination – we happened to attend the Church of the United Brethren Christ (UBC) for most of my growing up years, but as I recall, that was more out of convenience than conviction.

    I think the first time I really began to think more seriously about “high church” forms of worship was at SPU with Janet Blumberg’s classes on English medieval and Renaissance literature (which got us into the Catholic-Protestant debates of the early modern period). I remember writing a term-paper for one of those classes on John Donne’s brilliant Holy Sonnet “Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear,” which is an excellent articulation of one man’s struggle to figure out which church was the “right” one:

    Show me, dear Christ, thy spouse so bright and clear.
    What! is it she which on the other shore
    Goes richly painted? or which, robbed and tore,
    Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
    Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
    Is she self-truth, and errs? now new, now outwore?
    Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
    On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
    Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
    First travel we to seek, and then make love?
    Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sights,
    And let mine amorous soul court thy mild dove,
    Who is most true and pleasing to thee then
    When she is embraced and open to most men.

    I remember Blumberg talking about how one of the chief differences in approach between the Protestants and Catholics was that the former tending to believe that the really important stuff was what went on in the mind, whereas Catholics tended to take a much more holistic and incarnational view, where what went on with the physical body and what the physical body perceived was just as important as what happened in the mind (hence the much greater stress on physicality, kneeling, incense, visual iconography, etc.). I’ve been intrigued by this ever since, although it has led me so far not to the Catholic or Orthodox churches, but to the Anglican church (see below).

    After college, I seriously considered joining the Orthodox Church – I had studied Russian history and language in college, read Fr. Kallistos Ware’s “The Orthodox Way,” and was intrigued by the writings of the 19th-century Slavophiles. I attended an English-speaking Orthodox church in the D.C. area for a number of months in a effort to learn more about that branch of the Christian faith. In the end, however, I decided that this was not for me.

    I think two things ultimately caused me to decide against that path:

    (1) To become Orthodox, I would have had to believe that the Orthodox Church was the One, True Church. I know that the Orthodox are fond of saying “We know where the true church IS, we don’t claim to know where it ISN’T.” Still, I just couldn’t (and can’t) bring myself to believe that one church is The Right One, period – I feel the most I can say is which church I feel the right one is FOR ME. I’ve heard it said that the Church Universal is a large house with many rooms, and it’s up to you to figure out which room you feel is the most comfortable for you. Perhaps this just shows how deeply steeped I still am in the Protestant mentality – still, it’s what I think at this point in my journey.

    (2) I felt that, at the end of the day, to be part of the Orthodox Church would just mean having to adopt ways of worship from a culture that is not my own. Perhaps if I had grown up in, say, a Greek or Russian or Serbian family, I would feel more at home there. However, even the English-speaking services I’ve attended in the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) just feel too “foreign.” Now, don’t get me wrong — I have devoted much of my adult life to the study of Russia, its history, language, and culture, and I have a deep and abiding admiration for many aspects of that culture. I just feel that when it comes to finding a church home, the Orthodox Church is just too “Eastern.” (By the way, I do think this is one big point of difference between the Orthodox and Catholic churches in the U.S.: the Catholic churches I’ve attended in the States have felt much more “indigenous.”)

    The “room” that has ended up feeling the most comfortable to me is the Anglican Church. I say “Anglican” and not “Episcopal” deliberately, since I do feel that the mainline, “liberal” strand of EC-USA has strayed too far from orthodox (small-o, in the Chestertonian sense) Christian beliefs in some of its beliefs about the divinity of Christ, the reality of the resurrection, and the authority of Scripture. My wife and I currently attend what I would call an “evangelical Anglican” church in Washington, D.C. Some of the things that really attract me to this “room” of the Church are the liturgy, the music, the rhythm of the church calendar, and the deep sense of history – that the church can celebrate feast days of people as diverse as Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 20th century, to St. Augustine in the 4th century, and from places as diverse as the British Isles, Russia, Africa, and Armenia.

    There’s of course much more that could be said about all this, but I’ve already gone on far too long. In any case, those are some of my initial thoughts on your question.

    David H.

  • Gene Branaman

    Excellent posts from everyone here!

    I grew up Catholic in a rural Northern California town. I didn’t know until I was 12 or so that there were Christians other than Catholics. (I guess I just figured they went to a different Mass!) It wasn’t until one of my older brothers had a powerful experience & became Evangelical that I realized the true lay of the land. His conversion caused a number of problems within my family, & my brother caused many of them through his confrontation proselytezing. I had, for many years, a negative view of him but not other Evangelicals. Since the Catholic Church teaches that those who are baptized in the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit are all brothers & sisters in the Body of Christ, I never thought that any denomination was any more or less Christian than I was. Granted, I was fairly naive about what other Christians believed. I thought they were all pretty much just like me. I can’t honestly say what I might have thought had I known the differences.

    I still believe what I believed when I was a kid. (Perhaps that’s because my return to faith was due in no small part by writers like Mark Shea, Karl Keating, Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, Jimmy Akin, etc. Not to mention the works of St Thomas Aquinas & St Agustine, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, & Flannery O’Connor.) Frankly, I know many non-Catholics who are far, far better Christians than I am. And I know some who, like some Catholics, only pay lip service to thier faith & don’t really live it. Every denomination has its share of the shallow. At times, I recognize that I am one, too (probably a lot less than I should).

    How important is it to me to commit myself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church?

    Extremely so. In Scripture, Christ repeatedly exhorted His followers to “be one as I and the Father are one.” By many counts, there are in excess of 30,000 to 36,000 Christian faith traditions existing now. Even if we are conservative in such an estimate, it can easily be shown that there are 10,000 to 15,000 of them. It has been found that the rate of increase between one count & the next is approximately 5 a week & the vast majority of these faith traditions have appeared in the 20th Century. I have no doubt that each & every one of the founders of these communities love Christ, seek to do His will, & believe they have been guided by the Holy Spirit. But, the fact is that many of these faith traditions hold beliefs that are diametrically opposed to other faith traditions. Some of these faith traditions were even founded in reaction to specific teachings of other traditions.

    Bearing in mind Christ’s own desire that His followers be as united to each other, as in full communion as He & the Father are, how does even 10,000 different Christian denominations serve the Holy Spirit?

    That’s the question I asked myself at the point of my adult conversion after I’d studied the first 1000 years of Christian writings. That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m Catholic; I guess that’s the “sense of historical continuity” David spoke of above. The other major reason is John 6. But that’s another discussion!

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    If Peter feels comfortable listing things that, in his perspective, seem troubling or incomplete or lacking to him in other traditions, that’s fine, so long as he makes it clear that this is his perspective… it is what keeps him from taking those paths.

    And likewise, others can note what it is about Orthodoxy that causes them to draw up short.

    But keep it in the context of your personal experience and personal journey.

    If anyone here takes on a tone of “attack,” that’s where I’ll have to get out the scissors and start snipping. And if the thread turns into a back-and-forth between two participants that narrows the focus, I’ll recommend that those two re-start their dialogue somewhere else, so we can read it without losing the more general scope of this thread.

    Thanks, everyone. So far, this has been wonderful.

  • Phill Lytle

    Sadly, most Catholics that I know believe and live out a “works” salvation. I’m not grouping all Catholics with my acquaintances, I’m just stating what my experience has been.

    Peter Chattaway said:
    But I was also convinced that there were fundamental flaws in the western churches’ interpretation of the New Testament that stemmed back at least as far as Augustine and were thus pretty much common to both Catholicism and Protestantism.

    Would you mind sharing some of those flaws? Perhaps that will be a little too inflammatory. Jeffrey, you can decide if that is appropriate. I would simply like to see what “flaws” Protestants and Catholics are currently practicing.

  • Jon

    I’m a convert from Calvinist Evangelicalism (an odd mixture if there ever was one) to Catholicism, a conversion which took place a little over three years ago at the age of 24. I don’t know if I have any insights into Protestantism in general, just the rather mainstream, non-denominational Evangelicalism I was raised in.

    If you’re a Christian, but not a Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Catholics? Have your views changed?

    Since I was raised non-Catholic, I might offer a few observations. We believed, quite frankly, that most Catholics were unsaved and on their way to hell, unless they believed in the true gospel despite their Church’s perversion thereof. I never believed that the pope was the anti-christ, but I suspected he might be the false prophet in Revelation. We were taught that Catholics tried to save themselves by good works, and that they worshipped idols. Obviously my views have changed significantly since then. :-)

    If you grew up Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Protestants and other traditions? Have your views changed?

    I didn’t grow up Catholic, but I’ve imbibed a fair amount of anti-Protestant apologetics preceding and following my conversion. There is a tendency to lump all Protestants together, because all such denominations are seen to be sharing in the same basic philosophical errors. This occasionally leads to confusion about which denominations believe what doctrines, and who practices what. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to see Protestantism as one large thing, but there definitely needs to be more nuance when dealing with such a wide variation of belief.

    And finally… how important is it to you to commit yourself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church?

    Very important. Back in my Calvinist/Evangelical days, it seemed largely unimportant which church I belonged to, as long as they didn’t teach anything I considered to be outright heresy, like a denial of Christ’s divinity. Coming to believe that the Catholic Church was the Church made for a huge shift in this kind of thinking. If that were to be accepted, all question of personal preference had to be put aside, and I could only accept the Church as it was, not as I would have liked it to be. Few Protestant churches would make the claim that they are “the” Church, and this is perhaps the most essential difference when it comes to Catholicism (and other such churches like Eastern Orthodoxy).

  • eucharisto

    I grew up in non-denom churches. My family pretty much ran the gamit. Presbyterian, Baptist, Bible, Calvary, and etc.

    For most of my growing up years, I knew little to nothing of the Catholic faith beyond what I saw in history books and such. At one point, I participated in a state boy’s choir. I remember visiting a sponsoring Catholic church, and being surprised at how similar it seemed to the Presbyterian church I went to at that time.

    At one point, we went to an anglican church, after having grown tired of the non-denom structure. We grew to love the format, the emphasis on tradition, and the eucharist, which before, had only been a once a quarter experince with grape juice and crackers.

    It’s probably the closest to Catholic I’ve been able to experience. I feel there are things in Catholicism I can’t reconcile with my own beliefs, but like others, have quite a few Catholic friends who I feel share more in common with my faith, than some of my non-denom friends.

    I probably started actively believing Catholicism as Christianity, a year and a half ago. It was right after John Paul II had died. I was unintentionally pulled into a nasty argument with a friend about what kind of person John Paul II was. I was shocked to hear this self-proclaimed Christian say these insidious things about this person I’d always admired. Even more surprising to me were the cool responses of other Christians to the conversation. It effectively turned me in the opposite direction of most of my Christian friends. It helped me to study, and understand, and support Catholicism as a part of Christianity in the world.

    My Mom worked in communist Poland for Campus Crusade for Christ, when John Paul was still known as Wojtyla. He worked in conjunction with crusade staff to spread gospel tracks and promote the gospel. I can’t speak for him personally, but if that’s the way most of Catholicism is, then I support it wholeheartedly.

    So overall, I went from uneducated to supportive.

  • T.C. Truffin

    Thanks, Jeffrey, for the link to the article. And thanks for offering a place for discussion. What I share below are the experiences of my youth; I quite understand if you’ll want to delete them as I myself have become somewhat embarrassed by the attitudes of various adults from my youth. They are mostly good people with a huge blindspot in this area.

    * If you’re a Christian, but not a Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Catholics? Have your views changed?

    I grew up in a variety of evangelical churches–Friends, Wesleyan, and Christian & Missionary Alliance. In general people talked about the Roman Catholic church as if it were a cult. Books on the Roman church in the church libraries were always filed under “cults/world religion,” and people regularly talked about the need to evangelize Roman Catholics as though they weren’t Christians. Even thought the bald-faced hatred of the Jack Chick tracts unsettled many in my circle, they didn’t really disagree that much with his basic ideas, just his methods. Even today, when I talk to my evangelical friends and family members about friends I have who are Catholic, there is a tension there in having to remind them that Roman Catholics are Christian. I’ve had people in those conversations say things like, “You know what I mean, a real Christian.”

    In my very young years, I didn’t have much, if any, real contact with actual Roman Catholics. The few I did meet gave me the impression that the only real difference between them and I was that they were allowed to swear, smoke, and drink. And they went to church on Saturday night. As you can imagine, this didn’t give me much of a positive picture of the Roman Church. In college, I came into more contact with Catholics, but even then, my impression of their spiritual life was more of what they didn’t do. When a Catholic friend noticed that my girlfriend (now wife) and I were going to a bible study, she commented that we must be extremely devout; in her experience, “normal” Christians didn’t actually read the Bible. Having at this time been exposed to Flannery O’Connor, I wondered if her experience were “normal.”

    Part and parcel with the antipathy towards Rome was also a strong distrust of ANY church that used liturgy. In fact, the pastor of the church I spent the most years in often told the story of how he had been a Lutheran minister for years before he became a true Christian. So, in truth, Protestants weren’t safe either from being labelled lesser Christians. But the anti-liturgical urges of the sub-culture also fed into its negative few of Catholicism. The phrase “mindless repetition” got tossed about alot.

    I can’t say, however, that all these outside influences describe what I actually believed about Catholics. I never bought into the entire antipathy towards Catholocism that my fellow evangelicals reveled in. I couldn’t quite shake the notion that, historically, we came from them, that they also worshipped Jesus, and that at one time there was no Roman Catholic Church; there was just The Church. Also, I found the arguments against liturgical repetition lacking; was it not just as easy to mindlessly repeat a praise chorus 10 times? In the end, I believed that in terms of “mere Christianity” Roman Catholics were little different than the Christians I grew up with: some were devout, some were not. I guess I was more consistently the American Individualist than those that were teaching me.

    * And finally… how important is it to you to commit yourself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church?

    On this question, I am ambivalent. Another aspect of my Christian upbringing was a strong sense of what I’ll call “congregationalism.” We moved alot, and when we did we never looked for a specific denomination; we looked for a “good church.” Thus, we were never associated with any denomination for very long until my father decided to enter the ministry when I was a teen. So, now, I find myself wrestling with this very question on a rather deep level. We currently attend a small Episcopal church. (I got over my anti-liturgy upbringing.) While I am committed to this small band of people, I am very troubled by the larger denomination, and I (like Jeffrey I suspect) have no idea how to deal with the relationship between church and denomination. On the one hand, I’ve never before given two-bits what the larger organization did as it had very little bearing on the churches I attended. On the other hand, now that I’m attending a kind of church that is very hierarchacal, doesn’t that association with the national body mean more? So, I end up feeling very conflicted every Sunday. Of late, my approach to denominations has been something of a “pick your poison” thing, which doesn’t take away the feeling that church life shouldn’t be this way. I am increasingly attracted to streams of Christianity with long traditions, but I find contemporary expressions of these streams to be less than their past. Or is it that I am hung up on the predjudices of my upbringing?

  • Peter T Chattaway

    If you’re a Christian, but not a Catholic, what did you grow up believing about Catholics? Have your views changed?

    In some ways, yes; in some ways, no.

    I grew up Mennonite, which is to say Anabaptist, which is to say an heir to the tradition of the “Radical Reformers” who believed that Luther and Zwingli and all the others didn’t take the Reformation far enough. I grew up among people who, in some cases, declined to call themselves “Protestant” because our forebears had been persecuted by Catholics and Protestants alike.

    So, I grew up in a tradition which was very skeptical with regard to a lot of Catholic traditions.

    But I also grew up Mennonite Brethren, which is to say I grew up as part of a movement that, in many ways, tended to emphasize the things that evangelicals have in common more than the things that set us apart. And a lot of the people with whom I grew up were quite happy to concede that some Catholics were probably Christian. Movies about nuns — The Sound of Music, especially, though my family also got a kick out of The Trouble with Angels — were very popular, too, so much so that I sometimes thought it a shame that Mennonites had no monastic orders.

    About ten years ago, I found myself growing apart from my M.B. roots and wanting something a little deeper; I was also redefining a lot of my beliefs, almost from scratch, and I wanted to worship in a place where there would be “room to roam” (to borrow George MacDonald by way of the Waterboys). So I began attending Anglican churches. And let’s just say that, the first time I sat through an infant baptism, I cringed in my seat. But even then, I felt my resolve weakening, because it seemed perfectly plausible to me that, when the Bible said the apostles baptized entire “households”, this would have included the children (and slaves!) as well. So if baptizing infants was wrong, I had to believe the apostles were wrong to do so, and all the Christians down through the ages — until the Anabaptists came along in the 16th century — had been wrong to do so, too. And I was reluctant to do that.

    In butting heads with Catholics over the years, mostly online, I also began to sense that there was something corrosive in my post-evangelical approach to the faith that just wasn’t right.

    But I was also convinced that there were fundamental flaws in the western churches’ interpretation of the New Testament that stemmed back at least as far as Augustine and were thus pretty much common to both Catholicism and Protestantism. The thing is, I still didn’t like the thought that all the Christians had gotten it wrong, done through the ages, until little old me came along and figured everything out on my own.

    So imagine my relief when I voiced some of my concerns in an online forum, and an Orthodox e-pal said that the Orthodox had the exact same problems with those aspects of western Christianity — aspects that I had assumed, until then, were common to all the churches.

    Long story short, I converted to Orthodoxy earlier this year, and the two main appeals were theological and historical. I still disagree strongly with Catholicism on a number of points, not least where matters like indulgences and the papacy are concerned (and I think it was a mistake to bar married men from becoming priests, to withhold the chalice from the laity, to prevent children from partaking of the Eucharist until they were a certain age, etc., etc.). However, there are many points where Catholics and Orthodox are in basic agreement — points like the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or the ever-virginity of Mary, where I have had to unlearn some of my Protestant skepticism. And there are a few points where I even tend to think that Catholicism has a slight edge over Orthodoxy, mainly in the way it appreciates the more positive elements in modernity — including high-tech artforms like film! But modernity is a product of secular western culture, which in turn was influenced by Protestantism and Catholicism, so the western churches have had more time to figure out what to make of it all.

    And finally… how important is it to you to commit yourself fully to a particular demonimation or tradition within the church?

    Very. But it’s all rooted in how you understand “communion”.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Kris,

    I’m reading books by Mark Shea, who is also a dear friend. He’s written books about his journey from Protestantism to Catholicism regarding his perspective on the Real Presence, on Mary, and on church authority. His blog is a daily delight.

    The writer who has had the most profound effect on me when it comes to this journey is Thomas Howard. “Chance or the Dance?” is a brilliant piece of work, and so is “Christ the Tiger,” but recently my wife and I read “Evangelical is Not Enough,” and it brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, as he put into words things I have felt for many years. He is a guiding light for me, whether or not I end up making the same decisions he did.

    The book “Catholicism and Fundamentalism” by Keating is a monster of a book, shining lights on common misconceptions of Catholicism within Protestantism, and tracing where those misconceptions began and how they became so prevalent.

    I’m also reading about journeys into Orthodoxy by Frederica Matthewes-Green, and I’m reading a book called “The Orthodox Way” by Kallistos Ware.

    I read the poetry of Scott Cairns, who has converted to Orthodox Christianity. His work often takes readers on journeys into the mysteries of Christ. He is a poet of profound vision, and he is also a good friend with a dangerous sense of humor.

    And, of course, there’s G.K. Chesterton.

    Others who have played important parts in this exploration: my colleague in criticism Steven Greydanus, bloggers Kathy Shaidle and Amy Wellborn, and my lifelong friend Marianne Potter (once Marianne Congdon). And I received some wise counsel from Eugene Peterson recently.

    Anyway, I’m still exploring and praying and reading and praying and questioning and praying.

    I believe that in the story of the Garden of Eden, the devil tempted Adam and Eve with the prospect of suddenly becoming like God. Truth is, they were already made in the image of God. And they were already in intimate relationship with him. Satan was offering them the chance to “arrive.” He tempted them with the idea that you could “do this” and “become” something. That’s not the way God works. He leads us. He is in relationship to us. It is a journey, a process.

    When we start putting labels on things, saying that if you cross this line, sign this contract, claim this denomination, you’ve “arrived” and the deed is done, we put God in a box.

    But I don’t think I believe that. I don’t think if I suddenly “convert” to anything that I finally “have it right.” I think the conversion is an ongoing process, a relationship that grows and changes and then grows some more. That’s one of the reasons I balk at the idea of suddenly “converting” or “declaring” anything.

    Further, I know if I make anything about this truly formal, and declare anything, well, I have just handed masses of people a label by which many will immediately dismiss me. I believe God placed me in a particular community to play a particular role at this stage in my life, and I do not believe it is wise to complicate or jeopardize that by suddenly alienating myself from them with a few choice words.

    And I have witnessed and experienced enough to know that God is busily at work in the lives of people in many different territories of the church. I also have experienced enough to know that the same human failings are flourishing within all of those territories as well. When I read a Catholic making fun of ridiculous, tacky, Protestant merchandising, I roll my eyes and think of all of the ridiculous, tacky, Catholic merchandising I’ve seen. And vice versa.

    So, that’s a little bit of information about where I am in th journey right now. I have faith in God’s grace, that he will forgive my blindspots. But I also yearn to draw closer to him, whatever the cost. So I’m not going to ignore these questions.

    I’ll close with a few lines from Sam Phillips:

    “I’ve tried, I can’t find refuge in the angle / I walk the mystery of the curve…”

    “Burning light inside my dreams / I wake up in the dark / The light is outside my door… Love is everywhere I go…”

    It’s a mystery. Something is drawing me and won’t let me stay still. God moves. We follow, and who knows where it will take us. Some regions are richer than others. But far be it from me to define where and when the Holy Spirit can work.

  • axegrinder

    JO,

    I am in the Anglican Continuum, which is a group of traditional-minded Anglicans who are not in formal communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury but who do maintain Apostolic Succession. I know that sounds pretty stale but I’m trying to be brief.

    I attended a Presbyterian church in high school where I was baptized.

    I became a raging, Pentecostal, counter-culture, street-preaching iconoclast when I was in college. I utterly hated the Roman Catholic Church and was very vocal about my antipathy.

    I eventually left Pentecostalism and ended up at a Wesleyan seminary. Seminary opened up the world for me. I now find the greatest theological and liturgical comraderie with other traditional Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

    I am of the opinion that we should evaluate other groups by their best representatives, rather than their worst. That seems to be the way of charity and the most likely road to fruitful interaction.

    All the best,

    Jason Kranzusch

  • kris rasmussen

    Jeffrey , I would love it if you would post some of the books you have found helpful in your reading.

  • Jeff Miller

    I’m in a different category.

    I grew up atheist with an athiest father and a mother who never talked about faith and for most of my life totally ignored religion.

    I was as ignorant of Protestantism as I was of Catholicism. My journey into the Catholic Church was through Protestant radio and I certainly learned not to think of Protestantism as a monolith so I don’t make generalizations about Protestantism. I became Catholic simply because I found it to be true. Though I will always be thankful to what I learned from Protestants and the fine example os some I knew that helped me towards Christianity in the first place.

  • Justin

    I grew up in a Reformed (RCA) church in a town made up of mostly Dutch people. I grew up with the understanding that Catholics were Christians, and there was little reason to doubt this. As I observed the Catholic’s traditions that conflicted with mine (Lent, Mary, Purgatory) some I gained respect for while others left me feeling bewildered.

    One Sunday School class (5th grade?), we got into a discussion about other Christian traditions. Since we all had Catholic friends and the churches got along fairly well, they were the topic for a week or two. We discussed where we agreed and where we disagreed — which was taught at least one week by a former Catholic who had family members convinced she was hellbound (she did not hold the same view about her family members). We even took a week off to go over there and attend Mass, which was a great learning experience and helped us have more respect for their traditions and beliefs.

    I don’t know if a lot has changed, except my later experiences that taught me how much some Christians think the Catholic church is a cult. I never understood this concept. Still, as I read more about the church and had more Catholic friends, much of the traditions I gained respect for while other aspects I still think are quite problematic. Oddly enough, my Catholic friends tend to agree with that assesment (if for different reasons).

    I don’t know how important it is to “commit fully” to a denomination. I love my Reformed church back home, even if some theological aspects still make me scratch my head. However, the people seem to be such an important aspect to the church that I don’t think the community can be discounted. I was a “missionary” at a Lutheran radio station in a remote part of the country for awhile, and we disagreed often, we loved each other loved the Risen Christ. That grace made up for a lot of the differences we had.

  • Kris Rasmussen

    I am SO thrilled you posted this because I thought I was the only one going through this thought/ decision process. No one is more shocked than me that after being such a poster child of Gen X interdenom protestantism, I am more and more drawn to aspects of Catholicism and am considering more serious study.

    Growing up I didn’t take Catholics seriously because the ones I new didn’t take their religion seriously.

    Fast forward to adulthood and the influence of several Catholics who know more about their faith than many protestants. I have been profoundly influenced by the likes of Barb N and Karen Hall, as well as a professor I had who is devoutly Catholic and a wonderful physical therapist who heped my mom who has also talked to me about his journey in the Catholic church. This come at a time when I am decidely in a place of frustration and feeling a lack of challenge and depth in the church community I am used to and in the protestant culture at large.

    It was awesome that at this year’s CITA conference, Catholics were part of the teaching there, a real presence and the protestants didn’t panic. It shows a paradigm shift , I think.
    Anyway this is a great topic to discuss.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Sorry… didn’t mean to make it sound like Christians who had converted to Catholicism were giving up being Christian.

  • Darrel Manson

    Wait a minute — the title here Christian to Catholic ??? I usually work with the assumption that Catholics are Christians.

  • The Aesthetic Elevator

    Protestant also, growing up fundamentalist and non-denominational.

    What I grew up believing:

    Catholics are almost always liberals and no more than social Christians — that is, they aren’t really Christians. Now, there are some things they had right, but they are overshadowed by all of their wrongs.

    What I believe presently:

    I don’t know if I can articulate what I believe about the Catholic church per se, but I can say that I’ve had three good Catholic friends over the last 5 years.

    One was a fellow student, a Chinese-American who I had a poetry writing class with.

    Another was an middle aged lady who had become a Christian through influence outside the Catholic church, and was coming to the Bible study I was in.

    The third is a friend of ours who just converted from the same background as myself to Catholicism last year. I haven’t, unfortunately, talked to her since. I hope I can see her in December. I’m curious to know why, but don’t have any concerns about her faith.

    When I was in college (6-7 years ago) I read an article that talked about how people of my church “stripe” were moving into more traditional and mainline denoms from the non-denom stripe. For various reasons, many of which I could identify with.

  • David

    i grew up in the assemblies of god but converted to catholicism a little over two years ago. there were a lot of factors that played in to my decision but probably the most important one to me was the visible unity that the papacy represents.

    coming to spu, i became increasingly concerned by the way religious faith is often encroached upon by nationalism. it seemed to me that if the christian gospel is true, then americanism isn’t. furthermore, it seemed that the only way to prevent religion from being annexed by politics was to have some sort of stable, authoratative teaching office that exists independently of any one nation to make sure that political, military, or economic power couldn’t be leveraged to weild undue influence in the global christian community.

    briefly, some other things that were important to me: the rich tradition of christian ethics which allowed me to think clearly about the rightness of me actions as opposed to trying to follow a series of seemingly arbitrary rules which, like the general prohibition of alcohol in the tradition i grew up, seemed much more socially constructed than ratinoal or even biblical.

    i liked the narrative of catholicism (and orthodoxy) better. it makes a much better story, i think.

    like yourself, i found that many of my conceptions of catholic theology were in fact misconceptions. after understanding the actual doctrine, i found i had no theological objections and that in many ways i preferred the catholic beliefs insofar as they form a complex but coherent system. i cannot tell you what a relief that was, coming from a tradition that’s so heavily experiential.

    the sense of historical continuity was really big, too. it was important to me to feel united not just with the christians living today and the christians living during the apostolic age, but also those that came in between.

    …and many, many more.

  • clare

    I’m Catholic — and I spent six years being a non-denom Protestant. Lovely church, still love the people, but oh, I am happy to be back home with the Eucharist (sidenote: my husband of 20 yrs converted to Catholicism this year). Interesting to me that most Protestants (that I met) do not know the theology of the church they belong to (or what they’re Protesting…) beyond Jesus as Son of God died for our sins and rose again (a great base of course — and one can certainly get by on it).
    Anyway, in my experience it seems we tend to judge each others’ denominations on how the culture of that particular denom plays out(as phill said) rather than on the actual theology of the thing itself.
    Great blog, btw.

  • Phill Lytle

    I’ll make this brief:

    I am a Protestant Christian. I will probably always be a Protestant Christian. I have issues with much of the Catholic belief system, but that is a very complicated issue that should be reserved for another time and place. I am a Missionary Kid who grew up in Latin America, where Catholicism is huge. But, Catholicism in Latin America is a whole different thing than in North America. It is very much a mix of Catholic teaching and local superstitions and pagan beliefs. Due to those factors, I have always had a suspicion of Catholicism as a whole. As I matured, I realized that not all Catholics were like those that I grew up around.

    I am very interested in hearing some other people’s perspectives on this matter.

    By the way, very interesting article.


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