Book review: Catholics and Protestants–What Can We Learn from Each Other?

I’m reading Peter Kreeft’s book, “Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn from Each Other?” So many gems and great discussion starters here. I think it will be a great help to both sides. Kreeft is a convert to the Catholic Church, from Presbyterianism. It might be tempting for Protestants to think he is going to be very partisan, and to make a case against Protestantism, but he doesn’t do that. Among other things, he describes what is excellent in Protestantism, and how (some, perhaps many) Catholics need it. He is rather critical of the Catholic Church for not doing a good enough job emphasizing the need for a personal relationship with Christ, but he does not downplay what the Catholic Church brings to the table.

Probably the most important point he makes is to say that the issue of justification has been solved. In other words, Catholics and Protestants don’t believe differently about justification, even though we thought we did going all the way back to beginning of the Reformation. It was, in fact, the impetus for the Reformation. So the central issue that sparked the Reformation has been solved.

People of good will on both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide will benefit from this book. At the very least, it can provide many talking points for people to use as spring boards for open and honest discussion.

 

I had a dream about Jesus

Back in February while I was staying with my mom in Vegas for a few days, I had a dream about Jesus. He was standing in front of me, and I thought, “It is the Lord.” For some reason I didn’t associate his name with his face until I work up. But it was him. Nothing else happened that I can remember.

On the value of suffering

One “Thanks be to God,” or one “Blessed be God,” in adversity, is worth more than a thousand thanksgivings in prosperity. –Father M. d’Avila

St. Bridget once received and bore patiently a succession of trials from various persons.. One of them made an insulting remark to her; another praised her in her presence, but complained of her in her absence; another calumniated her; another spoke ill of a servant of God, in her presence, to her great displeasure; one did her a grievous wrong, and she blessed her; one caused her a loss, and she prayed for her; and a seventh gave her false information of the death of her son, which she received with tranquillity and resignation. After all this, St. Agnes the Martyr appeared to her, bringing in her hand a most beautiful crown adorned with seven precious stones, telling her that they had been placed there by these seven persons.

Source: https://saintlylives.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/suffering-part-3-of-5-2/

When the religious view is the just view

Here is a question I’ve seen posed many times and in many ways when it comes to abortion (or marriage, for that matter):

“Why is it that the United States is one of the very few countries where large numbers of people insist that their religious views become the law of the land?” (Source)

Answer: because the religious view is the just view.

Don’t defend your “religious” beliefs directly. Go straight to justice. Make it an argument about justice, and how your religious views on the matter uphold justice better than the alternatives. That is one of the points of religion, after all. See, for example, Micah 6:8:

He has showed you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

God cares very much about justice, so make the argument about justice.

The Eucharist is literal: John 6:22-71

The following video has some great Biblical exegesis as to why the Eucharist is literal, not figurative. Among other things, it compares the “bread of life discourse” in John 6, to other Bible passages where Jesus was speaking figuratively, people thought he was speaking literally or they did not understand him, and he corrected them (“We brought no bread,” “I am the door,” “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.”). No correction happened in John 6 when the people indicated that he was speaking literally, but correction happend at those other times.

Plus, in every other passage regarding the Eucharist (ie, Last Supper, Paul’s admonition at 1 Cor 11), there is no indication that that the Eucharist was figurative. 1 Cor 11 is especially interesting to me. Since St. Paul was correcting the Corinthians anyway for the way they were treating the Lord’s Supper, it would have been a good time to explain or at least indicate somehow that it was not literal. But he didn’t do that.

I don’t know who this guy his, but I’ve watched a number of his videos. The name of his YouTube channel is “How To Be Christian.” He argues each topic thoroughly, and completely from the Bible. Check him out and see if you agree.

The Wolves

lion witch wardrobeSetting: My son Joel’s bedroom. About 9:30 pm on a Wednesday night. I’m there to tuck him in. He’s been in bed for at least 15 minutes before I get there.

Joel: I can’t stop thinking about the wolves.

Mom: What wolves?

Joel: The wolves in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I keep thinking about them chasing me and attacking me.

Mom, pensively: Hmmmm.

I’m wondering how to help him over this. I remember being that age, when things like this are very real. I spend several minutes thinking about it, to no avail. I decide to “go fishing,” to ask him questions and see if his answers can help me help him.

Mom: How do we make the wolves go away? What can we do?

Joel: I don’t know. I just want them to disappear.

A swing and a miss. Spending more time thinking about it, an idea springs to mind:

Mom: Is my love stronger than the wolves?

This is an honest question: I do not know what is true for him. I want him to answer honestly.

Joel: Yes.

This is spoken without hesitation. Slightly puzzled, I proceed:

Mom: Is Daddy’s love stronger than the wolves?

Joel: Yes.

Again, spoken without hesitation. I need to know if this is his truth, or if he’s just telling me what he thinks I want to hear.

Mom: Are you sure?

This time he looks puzzled.

Joel: Yes.

Inside, I hope he’s told me the truth, because if he has, I’ve found the key.

Mom, with determination: Ok, I want you to remember something: love is stronger than the wolves. Love always wins against hate, because love is stronger. It always wins. Always. Can you remember that?

He nods his head and sets it on the pillow. I wait by his side, my hand on his arm. Without saying another word, he’s asleep within five minutes, and stays in bed all night. Next morning….

Mom: So, how did you sleep?

Joel, smiling: Fine.

Mom: What happened to the wolves?

Joel, puzzled: What?

Mom: The wolves. Remember, last night?

Joel, still smiling: Oh yea! They went away.

Mom: Wow! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it Joel?

Joel nods his head, still smiling. I say a silent prayer of gratitude. The wolves have never returned.

[Note: I don’t remember exactly when this happened. It probably happened a year or two before 2006, which was when I wrote this.]

The public institution of private property

If you go to a friend’s party, and decide to take something from his home without permission, that’s called stealing.

Let’s say you saw a laptop computer tucked away in a corner at the party, and decided to take it without saying anything to anybody.

You stole it.

Let’s break this down to understand the dynamics a little better. Why was it stealing?

One reason is that we have something that I call “the public institution of private property.”

We all understand what private property is. In that sense, our collective understanding of private property is a public institution–we all agree to the rules that establish what constitutes private property. That agreement, to live by those rules, is a public action.

We don’t get to decide for ourselves what constitutes private property. There is no “privatizing private property.” If we all got to decide for ourselves what constitutes private property, then it should be obvious that chaos would be the result. Anybody could take anything they wanted at any time.

It would be hard to accumulate goods and wealth. It would be hard to even take care of your own family. Trust would decline dramatically, being replaced by suspicion and fear.

The strong would prey upon the weak. It would become a might-makes-right culture.

Privatizing the rules for private property would not strengthen private property rights. It would eliminate them.

 

Catholic/Protestant Dictionary

There were many steps involved in becoming Catholic. I found that theology was only one of those steps. As I’ve mentioned before, Catholic culture was an unexpected and rather large hurdle.

Our_Mother_of_Perpetual_Help
Catholic art and culture intimidated me at first.

Maybe I already told this story. I’m not sure, but if so, please indulge me for a moment. Catholic culture is a very real thing, and I first discovered this when I attended a Catholic conference several years ago, before I converted. Many vendors were selling all sorts of Catholic artwork that was very ornate and elaborate. Many of them had images of Mary and other saints. All of these things were difficult to get past in my mind. The closest Protestant equivalent is a Christian bookstore that sells gifts and artwork, and even then it’s just different.

I finally realized that this was just the cultural part of Catholicism–it was not dogmatic. In other words, there was no requirement for me to display Catholic art in my home as a step to becoming Catholic. It was a big relief for me to realize that. I wish somebody had explained it to me though. Unfortunately, I had to figure it out on my own. I am not sure why that is.

Even so, there is a cultural transition. Part of it has to do with Catholic words, phrases and ideas. Many Catholic terms sounded very foreign to my ears… but only at first. At some point I realized that the terms only sounded foreign—the ideas behind them were not foreign at all. Here is a chart I made that is sort of like a Catholic to Protestant Dictionary. It is amazing how many Catholic ideas reside in Protestantism. But of course all that makes sense to me now, since Protestantism has its theological and historical origins in Catholicism.

catholic-protestant-dictionary

I take credit for some of these, since I genuinely figured them out on my own. But I got a few of them from Mark Shea, and a number of others from the Coming Home Network forum. So I’m not alone in making these kinds of observations. Other converts have as well. And just to be clear: I am not saying that there is 100% equivalence between the every item on this list. In some cases there is, but in other cases there is not. Even when there is not, they are close enough to convey the meaning.

I hope this chart helps Catholics and Protestants understand each other better.

*For elaboration on the confirmation/baptism equivalence, see here. For elaboration on the merit/reward equivalence, see here.

5/19/2017: I thought of another one. Catholics say “divine law,” and Protestants say, “Biblical principles.” Again, not a perfect overlap but they are similar ideas.

Today’s Version of the Cathar Heresy

There’s nothing new under the sun.

The Five Beasts

The Chateau de Montsegur, a Cathar stronghold The Chateau de Montsegur, a Cathar stronghold

Catharism was a dualist heresy that swept through Latin Christendom during the High Middle Ages; its growing popularity alarmed Church authorities. It was called by many names (the Catholic Encyclopedia lists twenty-two) but historians prefer to refer to them collectively as Cathars (“pure ones”, or “puritans”). They believed the physical world was the creation of the evil God of the Old Testament and the spiritual world was formed by the God of the New Testament. It was just the latest version of the recurrent dualist heresies like Gnosticism and Manichaeism, but also resembles elements in contemporary secular society in disturbing ways.

This heresy’s primary requirement was the repudiation of marriage and family. Since the evil physical body was only meant to entrap spirits, marriage and procreation were forbidden. Their spirit-liberating ritual known as consolamentum, similar to the Catholic Last Rites, would be denied to children and pregnant women. Their distain for the human body was so extreme…

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Today we celebrate the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

There are many Ave Maria’s, and this one is one of my favorites. Ave Maria means Hail Mary. It’s taken from Luke 1:28.

If you’d like to read more about the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I recommend this link.