Reposting this from last year. A brief synopsis of my personal experiences within Protestantism.
I am mainly posting this here for my own reference.
There are deeper issues between Catholics and Protestants than disagreements about this or that doctrine or dogma. I recommend starting with the bolded part, then reading the whole thing.
Both the Protestant and Catholic positions affirm the authority of Scripture as the divinely inspired (“God-breathed”) written word of God. So the Catholic teaching concerning the authority of Scripture entails that Scripture has authority over the Church, because the Church affirms both that Scripture is God’s word, and that God is the ultimate authority over His Church. Therefore the Protestant-Catholic disagreement concerning Scripture is not as simple as saying that according to one side Scripture has authority over the Church and that according to the other side Scripture does not have authority over the Church. Rather, the actual disagreement regarding Scripture is over four points that are not per se about the divine authority of Scripture. They are: (a) whether Christ also gave teaching authority to men, (b) whether that teaching authority continues through the succession of ordinations, (c) whether that teaching authority includes the authority to determine what is the authentic interpretation of Scripture, so as to determine for the Church what is orthodoxy and what is heresy, and (d) whether the deposit of faith is not limited to what was included in the Scriptures but also includes the Apostolic Tradition which the Apostles preached orally, and is preserved in the Church Fathers. The Catholic position answers yes to each of those four. Protestantism answers no to one or more of these four.
Source: Authentic and Inauthentic Reform
I’d like to talk about grace. Specifically, how grace is given and the mechanism for how it flows into the life of the believer.
I was a Protestant/Evangelical for a short time, but definitely not a theologian. So I might not represent the Protestant/Evangelical view on this point correctly. On the other hand, there may be multiple views since there isn’t one governing body among them to define orthodoxy on this point. Even so, I am open to being corrected.
It seems to me that under Protestant/Evangelical theology, there is no explicit “vehicle” to impart grace, no explicitly defined way that grace flows into the life of the believer. It is just sort of like an invisible cloud that somehow appears, surrounds, or is absorbed into the believer’s soul once faith in Christ is exercised. If faith in Christ ceases, the cloud departs. For those who believe in Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS), the cloud never departs.
Protestants/Evangelicals reject the necessity of the sacraments. I have had the impression that they reject the physicality associated with the sacraments. They seem to recoil at the idea that God has instituted something physical as a way to channel grace into the life of the believer. To them, grace is only imparted in an unseen, spiritual manner, like an invisible cloud.
As I have mentioned before, I spent a lot of time in a gnostic cult, where we actually studied different gnostic texts by famous gnostic authors (such as G.I. Gurdjieff and his most famous disciple, P.D. Ouspensky). So I am very well acquainted with it. Gnosticism has two main ideas: 1) there is special, hidden knowledge which is only given to certain people, and this knowledge is what saves people. 2) the physical realm is undesirable, evil, and/or ultimately unnecessary. It needs to be shed and discarded the way a snake sheds and discards his skin.
Because of that experience, anytime I see people rejecting the physical, claiming it is unnecessary or bad, my alarm bells go off.
The Church does not teach that special knowledge saves people, and she teaches that the physical is good. So good, in fact, that our physical bodies will be resurrected. Because of this, the sacraments make sense to me precisely because they are physically based.
The Church teaches that the sacraments are the normative “vehicle” through which grace is given to Christians. This physicality speaks to the goodness of the physical creation, to Christ’s humanity and his physical body, to the idea that the physical is good, that God loves the physical, and he uses it for our good.
I take the physicality of the sacraments as evidence for the the Church’s claim about who she is, not as evidence against that claim.
Edited to add: this post is based on a comment I left on a blog called Orthodox Christian Theology.
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.
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.
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.
5/19/2017: Catholics say “divine law,” and Protestants say, “Biblical principles.” Not a perfect overlap but they are similar ideas.
9/1/2017: Catholics have an Act of Spiritual Communion, Protestants pray to receive Jesus into their hearts. See here for details.
The Parable of the Unjust Steward appears in Luke 16. It is also referred to as the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. It is part of the mass readings for yesterday. This parable always confused me, but recently I think I might have made some sense of it in light of Catholic teaching. I have not seen this explanation elsewhere. Let me give a shot and see what you think.
Summary: the master hears a bad report about the steward squandering the master’s property. So he demands an accounting and fires the steward. But the steward needs a place to go after he’s fired. So he contacts some of the debtors and reduces their debt. The master commends him for this. Presumably, the debtors then welcome the steward into their homes.
Here’s what I think:
- The master is God.
- The steward is the pope.
- The debtors are souls in Purgatory.
- The steward reducing the debt represents indulgences that are possible due to the pope’s possession of the keys to the kingdom and the treasury of merit (reward).
When I say, “the pope,” I am referring to the office of the Pope and not any one particular pope.
Catholics believe in two kinds of punishment for sin because there are two kinds of sin. There is mortal sin which leads to eternal punishment if it remains unrepented, and there is venial sin which leads to temporal punishment. Eternal punishment is hell. Temporal punishment happens here on Earth and also in Purgatory.
Because of the keys of the kingdom given to the pope by Jesus, and also the treasury of merit (reward), the pope through the Church can reduce (or even eliminate) the temporal punishment of sin. He can do this even though he himself might be doing bad things or have bad character.
Then, the holy souls in Purgatory will be grateful for receiving a reduction in the amount of temporal punishment they receive that came from the pope’s possession of the keys to the kingdom and the treasury of merit (reward). God is obviously happy with the debt being reduced, since he wants people with him. Once they are out of purgatory, they will pray for the pope, since he will be in Purgatory for being an unjust steward. Once he is out of Purgatory, they will receive him into their dwellings (John 14:3).
Having said that, I’m struggling what appears immediately following the parable. For example, immediately after the parable Jesus says:
..for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.
I’m not sure how that part fits into what I’ve said.
Here is a similar explanation, but it places Jesus himself as the unjust steward. I think it makes more sense to put the Pope as the steward. What do you think?
Here is a video of two Catholic apologists addressing the question of the bad popes. Both are very well known in Catholic circles, and I’ve met them both. The man on the left in the red shirt is Patrick Coffin, and the man on the right is Tim Staples. They don’t address Luke 16; I linked the video as a way of showing that, possibly, bad popes = unjust stewards.
Just a quick little thought-exercise. What’s the difference between these three groups:
- orthodox Catholic
- Orthodox catholic
- orthodox catholic
Which am I? Which are you?
One of the gals I follow here on WordPress posted an excellent essay called:
I hope you read it.
I’ve been out of the cult for over eight years, and in that time I’ve seen so much about what was wrong there. One of those things has to do with his influence regarding our parenting practices, especially when the children were infants. He told us that they had to be afraid of us, that they needed to fear for their lives! Yes, this is what he told us, not an exaggeration. Bible verses were used to justify this advice. And we followed it. I had to override my gut almost constantly, which, unfortunately, I was completely used to doing due to my chaotic childhood, where I had to override my gut on a daily basis in order to get along.
I remember my husband joking about spanking our newborn daughter, right after she was born (we were still in the hospital!). Oh my God I felt so angry and even said, No. He said he meant it as a joke, but now I believe that he was “virtue signaling,” meaning, he was letting me and our friends know that he was on board with the corporal discipline regime. We all “virtue signaled” at different times about different things so my intention is not to single him out. It’s just one example of what went on there.
I remember seeing one of the boys, as an infant, get spanked with a wooden paddle that was probably 18 inches long and at least one inch wide. This happened at a meeting; everybody saw it. The infant was maybe a year old or less. The cult leader openly commended the dad for doing this, saying that he was a good example of how to discipline a child. There are many other examples I can give, and people didn’t just do it to their own kids, they did it to others’ kids too. Unfortunately, I also participated in this inappropriate use of the Bible to justify taking out my anger onto my children, and other people’s children as well. It was wrong and when I think back on it, I feel sad and ashamed. So much pain, so much missed opportunity to express love, patience, forbearance, gentleness. Missed teaching opportunities, missed opportunities to forge meaningful connections.
Infants need to know they are safe and loved. That comes first and it takes time. I completely agree with this pyramid, which appears at the post linked above:
Years later, while the cult leader was in the midst of an affair with one of the married women in the cult, he retracted those remarks in an attempt to please her. This all came to light when he disclosed his affair. That is when the spankings stopped. The eldest of the children were probably around 10-11 years old. It was the summer of the year 2000.