Leading Evangelical Becomes Catholic

Amy Welborn posts here about leading Evangelical scholar Francis Beckwith returning to the Catholic Church. There are good comments and links.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05084900772909843170 The Recusant

    I’m confused…I thought an Evangelical could already be a Catholic? So, is he a Catholic or an Evangelical Catholic? :-) Just kidding.Doug

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Well its like this, a Catholic can be an Evangelical Catholic (because Catholicism is naturally inclusive) but an Evangelical can’t be an Evangelical Catholic because Evangelicalism is naturally sectarian…quite simple really.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05084900772909843170 The Recusant

    Oh, I get it now. ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Longenecker,Catholicism is not simply “naturally inclusive.” If you think so, you need more theology classes. Protestants by now have centuries of their own theology, culture and history and the Roman Church does not want to accommodate all of it, nor can it, based on its own theology, history and culture. Current Protestantism is not simply a “piece” of Roman Catholicism broken off. Your attitude breeds syncretism and sectarisn, since Protetant converts would assume, given your position, that they could retain their Protestant views, while still being part of the Catholic Church.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05983835520470686424 Fr Jay Scott Newman

    Susan,As usual, you miss the point. Fr Dwight is saying that Catholicism (as the name implies) is universal, and Protestantism is (by its nature) sectarian. Of course there is error of many kinds in Protestant doctrine, but there is also much of Catholic truth still to be found in Protestantism of every kind (e.g. the divinity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture, the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, etc.) Accordingly, Catholics must refute the errors taught by Protestants, but we must also acknowledge and celebrate the truths they believe. As the Second Vatican Council teaches us, these truths held by non-Catholic Christians move them (even when they know it not) towards full communion with the Catholic Church. That is not syncretism; it is the solemn teaching of an ecumenical Council.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Anonymous, I suggest you ponder the mysterious saying, “A person is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies.” It’s a corker!

  • Jeron

    Oh golly here we go again!

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Newman, as usual, you’re uncivil.Anyway,this is a direct quotation from another blog. I wish I had written it. “Being Catholic is not just a “top-up.” Protestants, though they do wonders with what little they have, are truly on a starvation diet of bread and water, but so we don’t hurt their feelings I think many Catholics have led them to believe they are possessed of a knowledge and degree of holiness and a closeness to God that is just not there. It is not just about what, but about how. Catholicism involves a total shift in how one thinks, not just an increase in the raw data.”It’s not simply a matter of extracting the “good” data from the erroneous. Protestant converts have to re-orient themselves and all too few of them actually do this.What you celebrate, Fr. Newman, is “inculturation,” the notion that you can extract a set of beliefs and insert them into another cultural entity, here the Roman Catholic Church, without any change in any other element. What you fail to appreciate is that Roman Catholicism has her own culture, history, and identity and Protestant converts have to convert to this as well as to the faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Anon, how many converts from Evangelicalism do you actually know? It sounds to me like your just theorizing.

  • Anonymous

    It has nothing to do with theorizing. It’s a matter of adapting to a different ecclesial culture, one which must be respected. Evangelicals would expect converts to their groups to respect their culture. I don’t see what the problem is. “Interculturality,” to quote the Pope, is simply the recognition that the Church itself has a culture and is not just a set of beliefs, which float around in the air somewhere. The value of this culture is objective, not a matter of opinion. Inculturation implies that only the incorporeal ideas are important; it’s actually anti-incarnational. The way the liturgy is celebrated, the use of Latin, the continuity with the Tradition, is another instance of the cultural and historical heritage of the Church. To see only dogma or doctrine without accompanying history and culture is rather gnostic. I think many Protestant converts dislike the “culture” of the Catholic Church or find it difficult to adapt to it. I think evangelicals are particularly prone to this because they lack so many of the elements that Catholics take for granted: the Eucharist, the divinely-ordained hierarchy, the sacraments, etc., as well as the notion that it’s all of a package, i.e., you can’t pick and choose.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Back to my question anon. How many converts from Evangelicalism do you actually know well?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05983835520470686424 Fr Jay Scott Newman

    Susan,There is nothing at all uncivil in pointing out to someone who makes erroneous public comments about the nature of the Catholic Church that he simply does not know enough to be making those comments. Your opinions on this and other blogs regularly reveal that you do not think with the Church on key questions of our time, and yet you persist in declaring that others are unfaithful to the Church. I once suggested to you that a careful study of the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the teaching documents of the last three popes would be beneficial to you, and now I renew that suggestion. You responded before that you had read them, but I must say in all sincerity that I see not one sign that you have either read or understood those documents. Now I concede that perhaps you have already studied them carefully and simply decided that they are teaching falsehood. Many other Christians are in that position, but they are usually called Protestants.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15268829740071788802 Kat

    Oie Vey, much of the modern church is mashugana goyim anyway. Catholicsm is latin for “here comes everyone” There is no one catholic culture, there are many because there are many cultures so naturally there are many Catholic cultures. Unless of course you are refering to white western european catholic culture, well then we have problems because that is religous racism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Interesting observation Kat. One of the things that delights me about Catholicism is that it transcends social, historical and political cultures. There is indeed, a Catholic European culture from which the others draw their inspiration, but even within Europe the Polish, Spanish, French, Italian and Celtic Churches have very different cultures. The Eastern churches in union with Rome also have very different cultures. When you add the emerging Catholic cultures in the developing world there are many many Catholic ‘cultures’. The beauty is that we have enough discipline to have unity, but are not so strict as to impose uniformity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15268829740071788802 Kat

    That is why I don’t understand all this kevetching about what is “catholic” and how all converts need to give up everything and follow one way. It drives me bonkers. I still burn sage when I pray at home as it is part of my history and culture being N.A. and I Have been to Catholic churches that do it as well who have a good population of NA parishners. Anyway I could go on and on, this is one thing that bugs me to no end.

  • DGus

    Dear anonymous,Anonymous, disembodied, without identity, without connection, you speak to us about culture. Perfect.I take your point: One must receive the RCC in toto, or not at all. Pope, Mary, sacraments, creed, dogma–and, at the same level of significance, scapulars, rosary, Infant of Prague, bleeding statues, saint cards, bingo, etc. The whole package.Thanks for the warning.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    DGus, thank you for being so affirmative about Catholicism, but I think you slightly misunderstand anon’s real point. He/she is not so much concerned about what the potential Catholic convert must accept, but what this person must reject. Not one scrap of Protestantism is to be allowed into Catholicism, neither is any little bit allowed to illuminate or instruct Catholicism. Have you a splendid Anglican musical tradition? Keep it. We’ll manage on Hail Holy Queen and an Italian tenor warbling ‘Ave Maria’. Wesleyan hymns? We don’t want ‘em. Bible studies? We have the rosary and the missal thank you. Call to personal conversion and a relationship with Christ? We have confession and the Mass.You get my drift.

  • Jeron

    Calling for a personal relationship with Christ is the ONE thing I’m so grateful to Protestants for, because I never heard about it in my home nor in my parochial school growing up. Without that little bit of “Protestant” education, my faith would be severely lacking.

  • SM

    No, father, as a Catholic I choose not to be “illuminated” by Protestantism. The Church provides all the illumination necessary for my salvation. That’s why I’m, you know, Catholic. You see, I was taught that the fullness of the Christian faith IS Catholicism. Obviously, you see things a little differently. Catholicsm in your view (and not only yours) is the best of sects, if I understand you, but still only a sect which is in need of instruction from all the others, without which it would be lacking something.I happen to believe–as the Church has always taught–that the Church would be complete if there were no Protestantism whatsoever. You seem to be suggesting that the Protestant Reformation has added to the store of Christian knowledge and wisdom, whereas I believe that Protestantism is in error of its very essence, by its very rejection of the Church. Inasmuch as any Protestant doctrine is correct, it is only because it accords with Catholic truth. You seem to suggest that without Protestantism to inform it, the Church would be lacking something. If so, you’re simply wrong.

  • SM

    dgus, that you lump the Rosary in with bingo says much about your view of Catholic tradition. It is not less than dispiriting to read such a thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15268829740071788802 Kat

    SM;So is what you are saying that protastans have no truth?

  • DGus

    Dear SM:Bingo and the rosary must indeed be distinguished, as must all those things I listed. They are not all of a piece. E.g., the Rosary is not on a par with the sacraments; the papal tiara is not on a par with the Rosary. Right? Surely not everything in Catholic “culture” is non-negotiable; if that were so, the whole thing would be ridiculously brittle, and it wouldn’t have suvived two centuries, much less two millennia. It’s certainly not for me, as a non-RC, to say what is essential to Roman Catholicism, but I can’t help having some impressions and hypotheses. What I observe is NOT that the RCC’s missionary effort imposes its culture on peoples, but rather that it is very adaptive. Its critics even say that it is syncretistic–e.g., morphing local pagan deities into Christian saints, putting a Christian veneer on pagan observances, etc.Even if that is NOT true, it must still be true (a) that the RCC has an eye toward what is essential about itself (and must be perpetuated) and what is NOT essential (and may be modified or set aside), and (b) that the RCC distinguishes between what is good in a non-Christian culture (and may be “baptized” and retained) and what is bad (and must be suppressed).The RCC would have to have the same discrimination as it views Protestantism: Suppress what’s bad, and redeem what’s good.No?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    DGus, you are the best non Catholic apologist the Catholic Church has…

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Newman,You make the assumption that the documents of VII speak for themselves. They need INTERPRETATION. That’s why Benedict XVI speaks of two kinds of interpretation: 1) that of discontinuity and rupture and 2) that of continuity and reform. Those of us who subscribe to the second definition use ressourcement theology as our hermeneutic because we believe the Catholic Church is complete in Herself and our reform is based on going back to the sources, Scripture and the Fathers, and posing new questions to them and gathering insights from them. Protestantism does not offer new insights or correctives to Catholicism. Evangelical sects, in particlar, do not offer anything. They are as far from the Truth of Jesus Christ as the edge of the expanding universe is from the sun.DGus,For your information, the Rosary is essentially a Christology meditation. It is a sacramental. Yes, it’s not on the same level as a sacrament, but it is intrinsically part of Catholic culture and something we intend to keep. Your idea of the “contingent” and the “essential” is the same hermeneutic that the cafeteria Catholic liturgical scholars of the 60s and 70s tried to impose on the Church and failed.

  • DGus

    Dear anonymous,Remarkable. So it really is ALL essential: the plaster Madonnas, the Creed, scapulars, the Eucharist, bingo, Baptism, Fatima, the Trinity–all one flat undistinguishable set, each piece as important as the other. Okay.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Anon, DGus is too modest to say so, but I thought I would inform you that he is the co-author of a book on Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He’s actually not only a very smart guy, but a very knowledgable one. As such he is well aware of the difference between a sacramental and a sacrament and is very knowledgable about the rosary. I don’t know if you noticed, but he was using something called ‘irony’ to make his point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15268829740071788802 Kat

    Anon;I am trying to understand something, so help me out. Do you think that Prots. Have no truth whatsoever?

  • Anonymous

    As Dominus Iesus indicated, Protestants have glimmers of the truth. But the fullness of the truth is contained in the Catholic Church. As such, it does not need Protestant contributions or corrections or add-ons.DGus, thanks for the irony and claptrap. I didn’t say everything was of equal stature, but of course you would distort that. There is nothing wrong with sacramentals. If you were so knoweldgeable, you would know that. Why ridicule them?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15268829740071788802 Kat

    Anon;You say that the Catholic CHurch does not need “Add ons”, how ever the Church has for centuries taken on cultural norms and practices of the groups that come to the church and made them her own. Ie: Easter Eggs, Evergreens at Christmas, the very celebration of Christmas in December replacing Saternalia a pagan festavle, and thousands of other cultural aspects. So to say the Church doesnt and hasn’t adapted, well that really is an isolationist ideology. If the Church hadn’t adapted and changed with the cultures it encountered the church wouldn’t be so rich in diversity. The thing that makes us Catholic does not rest in What type of music is played at Mass, weather Mass is in Latin, German, English, Tagalong, or Lakota; weather it is N.O. or TLM or Anglican Use. The thing that makes us Catholic is the Eucharist, that is the fullness of the faith summed up. The Apostles delt with this very issue in this last Sunday’s Readings, re read them. We are no longer called to the old law but to the new, no longer called to be ‘circumsized’.


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