An Ecumenical Ministry in the Parish of St Patrick's Catholic Church In San Diego USA

米国サンディエゴの聖パトリックカトリック教会教区におけるエキュメニカル宣教

Friday, March 1, 2024

Why Protestants Convert to Catholicism

Why Protestants Convert to Catholicism

March 1, 2024 by

Some Protestants have been converting to Catholicism.  (Similarly, some Catholics have been converting to Protestantism, but that’s another topic.)  Why is that?

The Reformed scholar Brad Littlejohn (whom I know) and the Reformed pastor Chris Castaldo take up that question in their book Why Do Protestants Convert?  Basically, they argue that a major factor is the failures of contemporary Protestantism, the sense that the Roman Catholic Church has something that today’s evangelical congregations lack.

Nathanael Blake interacts with their book in The Federalist.  Here is how he summarizes the issues:

The basic problem is, as Carl Trueman observed in a brief forward, that “the idiom of the rock concert with added TED talk is scarcely adequate to convey the holiness of God, the beauty of worship and the seriousness of the Christian faith.” Generations of evangelical leaders have embraced the idea that casual, entertaining, “seeker-sensitive” church services are the key to a growing congregation. Some succeed, but they leave a lot behind in the attempt. This is why it often seems that nearly every intellectually or aesthetically sensitive American evangelical will at some point feel the allure of Catholicism — the road to Rome often begins with a sense that one’s Protestant church is missing something important, if not several things.

Blake quotes from the book and summarizes its arguments:

Catholicism offers paternal authority “in an age that has all but blacklisted the very word” and that “precious few of our Protestant churches give their worshippers a sense of being in the presence of the holy.”
Instead, evangelicals in particular are encouraged to “waltz casually” before God “with gym shorts and a latte.” It is no wonder that some are “captivated” when they witness the Catholic Mass, along with the rest of the aesthetic heritage of the Church of Rome — even when wealthy evangelical congregations build large churches, they look like convention centers, not cathedrals.
Catholicism also offers an intellectual and cultural tradition that is appealing to many Protestants, especially those whose churches seem anti-intellectual and sold out to contemporary pop culture.
Theologically, Catholicism offers certainty and historical continuity, in contrast to the plethora of Protestant theologies, some of which were recent innovations, depending on the minister.  And this is what most struck me, Lutheran that I am:

Evangelical converts also appreciate Catholicism’s sacramental focus. For example, the Catholic reverence for the Eucharist is a stark contrast to an evangelical culture in which communion, for example, is just a symbol that is poorly explained, infrequently administered, and irreverently received.

The book is addressed not so much to Protestants contemplating swimming the Tiber but to Protestant pastors and church leaders, exhorting them to address these issues.  It claims that Protestantism has the resources to address these perceived weaknesses that drive some evangelicals to Rome.

Protestant worship can be beautiful, reverent, liturgical, and sacramental. Protestant preaching and teaching can be authoritative, intellectually formidable, and historically informed. . . .

As Littlejohn and Castaldo bluntly put it, evangelical churches need to follow the Reformers’ example in trying to carefully balance “Word and Sacraments in worship, bringing together mind and heart, soul and body, individual and community” rather than focusing on the “right balance of Coffee Hour and Praise Band Hour.”

“Word and Sacraments”!  That’s music to a Lutheran’s ears.

“The Reformed heritage can meet the needs that lead many to look toward Rome.”  Maybe it can.  But the Lutheran heritage already does! 

Let me add a few points. . .

(1) A common line of thought cited by Protestants who’ve gone over to Rome–or to Eastern Orthodoxy–is this:  The church selected the books that make up the Bible.  Therefore, the church is prior to the Bible.  So the authority of the church is more foundational than the authority of the Bible.

But this is a confusion of what the Word of God is.  The Bible is the Word of God written.  But the Word of God was active before the books of the Bible were written and collected.  God created the universe by His Word.  Christ is the Word–the very expression of the mind of God–made flesh.  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word whenever the good news of Christ is proclaimed.

As an apologist of the Reformation put it, how would a first century convert to Christianity even know about Christ unless he heard someone’s words explaining who He is and what He has done?  Those words that conveyed the Gospel were words uttered by a human being, but they were also the Word of  God.  Thus, the Word gave birth to the church.  As such, it is prior to the church and authoritative over it.

(2) There are tendencies in contemporary Protestantism that are indeed more consistent with Catholicism than classical Protestantism.  Evangelicals today are often enthralled by the idea of a megachurch, thinking that big numbers are a sign of “living Christianity” and God’s favor.  Some of them may dislike the trappings of megachurches, as has been said, but they like the idea of being part of a church body with 1.378 billion members worldwide.  That’s not just a megachurch, it’s a gigachurch.

Also, many Protestants today have left behind justification by grace through faith in the work of Christ in favor of some version of salvation by works, manifested in moralism, perfectionism, and doing things for the Lord.  That fits better in a Roman Catholic framework.

(3)  Many Protestants who have read writers like G. K Chesterton and Thomas Aquinas are captivated by the the Church of Rome are described in books.  They do indeed, as has been said, crave authority, unity, certainty, unchanging truth, the beautiful mysteries of the mass, and so on.

And yet, once they convert to Catholicism, that classic Catholicism is hard to find in contemporary America.  The vernacular mass is often a more structured version of the contemporary Christian worship they were trying to escape.  The classic Latin Mass can sometimes still be found and will be crowded with Catholic converts.  But now the Pope has all but outlawed the Latin Mass!  Those who loved the idea of a living authority that keeps the church on the right track now must contend with a liberal Pope!  Not to mention feminist nuns, Marxist priests, pro-abortion Catholic politicians, and unbelieving laypeople (nearly half of whom reject the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament, thinking like Zwinglian Protestants that it is only symbolic.)

To be sure, not all converts experience this letdown–some find an orthodox Catholic congregation–but many do.  And the divisions in the church make it a challenge, to the point of forcing them to behave like Protestants again by church-shopping and questioning the church hierarchy.

In conclusion, those who are pulled in the direction of sacraments, the liturgy, historical Christianity, and a rich theological tradition, would do well to check out confessional Lutheranism!

The American Bible Society has seen two years of turmoil

The American Bible Society has seen two years of turmoil: five CEOs, swings in strategy, money fumbles, layoffs, and a pullback from global work. Can it find its footing?

Another violent instance involving an asylum-seeker convert in the UK has put scrutiny on the church’s outreach to migrants.

Writer Jason Kirk isn’t a Southern Baptist anymore, but he knew he wanted to set his coming-of-age novel in the evangelical youth group culture of the early 2000s.

On this week’s episode of The Bulletin, Mike Cosper and Nicole Massie Martin consider the Christian ethics of protest.

This week’s devotional: Lent beckons us to contemplate our fragility.

Join the Augustinians for a Vocation Discernment Book Study

 


Thursday, February 29, 2024

Be A True Witness

What did it mean for the early Christians to be witnesses? In my keynote address at the Good News Conference, I spoke about what it means to be a witness and its uniqueness to Christianity. Christianity is about something that happened in history, something that altered the course of humanity. And it is because of the first Christian witnesses that we can be here today, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus. 
 
 

Can we create architecture that embraces the sacred and the secular?

During Gaza war, evangelicals have become Israel’s best friend
Religion News Service: As criticism against Israel mounts and pressure for a ceasefire rises, Israeli leaders are working to shore up evangelical support.
Ghana’s parliament passed an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that could imprison people for more than a decade
Associated Press: The bill was introduced to parliament three years ago and criminalizes members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as its supporters, including promotion and funding of related activities and public displays of affection.
New report mapping Christian nationalism by state suggests election need not be played out on Christian nationalist terms
Religion Dispatches: Christian nationalism should not be ignored or downplayed, but at the same time the segment of the population that embraces it is punching above its weight.
‘Who cares for men like Brian Houston?’ The Hillsong leader’s rise and fall is a gripping story, but how was it allowed to happen?
The Conversation: Journalist David Hardaker tells the story of Hillsong by charting Houston’s ministry through a “rise and fall” narrative, in which the success and failure of Hillsong and Houston become one and the same.
Can we create architecture that embraces the sacred and the secular?
Common Edge: “As someone who has studied and written and lectured extensively about religious architecture over several decades…it’s fascinating to observe what is currently happening to religious architecture. It’s adapting in nontraditional ways.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

“CHRIST IS THE STRENGTH AND WISDOM OF GOD.”

“CHRIST IS THE STRENGTH AND WISDOM OF GOD.”

I remember those years when I was considering entering the seminary. At that time, I was very active in my parish, and from time to time I tried to attend a spiritual retreat that would help me better discern the things that were going through my mind. In one of these retreats, I remember that I read precisely that passage of the gospel in which Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple and his words that reminded everyone of “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Jn 2, 13-25). Imagining Jesus' actions that day in the Temple made me realize that I did not have the complete image of Jesus Christ in me. Until then, perhaps due to the immaturity of youth, I could not think of an angry, indignant Jesus, furious with others to the point of creating chaos for those who were there.

The next thing I asked myself was: What made Jesus act that way? The gospel is very clear with the answer: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” It simply could not be conceived that just in that place where God is worshiped, which is a place of prayer, a place of sacrifices, others could be deceived and abused. But so it was. By then, many arrived from other places and had to exchange their coins for the currency used in the temple and abuses occurred in the exchange, disfavoring those who arrived and benefiting those who offered the exchange. Furthermore, the weights used were altered. Deception and lying have no place in dealing with God and neighbor. Perhaps for this reason today's first reading, Sunday, reminds us of those first commands of God's law, which not only remind us of the respect that the greatness of God himself deserves, but also the respect that all people deserve in our treatment. May we heal our relationships with our neighbors during this time of Lent. May we be as fair as we are merciful in our treatment. Let us offer forgiveness for offenses, and ask forgiveness for offenses. Let the wounds we may carry be healed in Christ who comes to give us his health, his well-being, his peace, his salvation. Amen.   

Fr. Carlos Flores, OSA

WHOSE VOICE GETS HEARD IN THE CHURCH?

 


Mafia in Italy suspected of poisoning priest’s chalice

Bishop who participated in Freemasonry event affirms its incompatibility with Catholicism

Bishop Antonio Staglianò told Vatican News that “Freemasonry is a heresy that is fundamentally aligned with the Arian heresy.”
Mafia in Italy suspected of poisoning priest’s chalice

During evening Mass on Feb. 24, Father Felice Palamara noticed a strange smell coming from the chalice.
Cardinal Burke promotes 9-month novena to pray for the Church amid ‘forces of sin’

The American cardinal, who founded the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin, announced the prayer initiative in a video address posted over the weekend.
Lisieux House: Convent turned young adult community celebrates 10 years 

A small community of young adult women in Seattle has brought life back into an old convent for nearly a decade.
Two San Francisco Bay Catholic schools to close over security and other concerns

In addition to security issues, the Diocese of Oakland said the reasons for the closings include the presence of human trafficking activity near the school.

Pentecostals laboring in the field

Alabama justice’s ties with far-right Christian movement raise concern
NPR: In the days since Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered “extrauterine children,” the involvement of that court’s chief justice with a once-fringe Christian Nationalist movement has come under renewed scrutiny. 
The Washington Post:
Alabama judge says God opposes IVF. Religions hold varied views.*
Faith leaders urge Texas to reconsider death penalty case
Sojourners: With few avenues of appeal left, a coalition of faith leaders, family members and true crime podcast listeners say evidence that could prove Ivan Cantu’s innocence deserves to be heard by a court.
Three cheers for Baylor honoring Brittney Griner, but the game is not yet won
Baptist News Global: “The celebration for Griner is a three-point basket at the close of the half. It is not the game winner or the game changer.”
In the elite world of private schools, a James Turrell Skyspace gets an A.*
The New York Times: On the sixth floor of Friends Seminary, a Quaker school in Manhattan, Turrell, the internationally acclaimed artist who uses light to shape space, has created one of his perception-altering meeting rooms whose roof opens to the sky.
Pentecostals laboring in the field*
The Christian Century: Lloyd Barba shows how Mexican farmworkers established a viable life in the face of California’s industrial agriculture machine.

Today’s martyrs: the intention for which the Pope asks us to pray this March

Featured Article: Pope Francis

Today’s martyrs: the intention for which the Pope asks us to pray this March

(ZENIT News / Roma, 02.27.2024).- Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, many believers have been persecuted and assassinated for their faith. Looking at this reality, the Pope insists that their witness “is a blessing for everyone” and requests prayers particularly for […]