A ground-shaking discovery.

Here’s an excerpt from a former Baptist who has a story similar  to mine.

If I could not absolutely trust that Luther was justified and correct in his assertions about Rome, then how could I trust the authority of the denominations that had built their doctrines and traditions on Luther’s words? An interesting aside: I also found ironically that much of what Luther preached was still in agreement with Rome (as were John Calvin’s teachings) and that most of modern day Protestant faiths do not believe what Luther believed. So where did all of this modern Protestantism come from and where did the authority come from for these men to start their own movements with so many various contradictions among them? The Reformation clearly was a disaster for Christianity.

So I had to dig back into what the Fathers of the Early Church (in the first 100-200 years after Christ) believed. These leaders in many cases had been taught personally by the Apostles or in other cases taught by those who succeeded them. What I found was ground-shaking. They revered Mary and ask her to pray for them, just as they might ask a living Christian. They regarded Peter, and his successors, as their Holy Father, the Pope. They believed in infant baptism, the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ in it, the perpetual virginity of Mary, and that God the Father had created all things through Christ, given His only Son to die for the penalty of our sins, and sent the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide us in all salvation unto the end that we may run the race to the finish.

Brett Farley, former Baptist

(Photo Source)

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5 thoughts on “A ground-shaking discovery.

  1. I’ve been reading several posts here recently, and I’m really intrigued by the journey you have embarked on. I pray that the Spirit and Scripture will lead you to obedience to Christ and satisfaction in Him as you take up His Commission and follow His Command — wherever that may take you among theological traditions.

    I am a former Pentecostal Pastor who has found the above in the Reformed tradition. I never really was a part of the modern Evangelicalism you describe in some of your posts. Maybe that’s good, because Evangelicalism is not so much a theological tradition, as an attempt at Christian unity by focusing on one aspect of the the Christian message. As I understand it that focus is: Jesus is central to true Christian and spiritual life. I can get on board with that, of course, but the Jesus and gospel and faith of Scripture are a lot richer than that don’t you think? Evangelicalism, is by it’s own definition, shallow, and thus not very satisfying.

    In search of a soul-satisfying relationship with God through Christ, I have learned quite a bit about the theology and history of the Church and have tried to engage with Christians from all traditions. Why? Because I feel I can learned from many (maybe not all) of them. At the same time, I am grieved by the division of Orthodox vs. Catholic vs. Reformed vs. Fundamentalist vs. Liberal vs. Dispensational vs. Charismatic vs. Evangelical vs. the pseudo-spiritual nonsense du jour. I want to take out all the “vs.” because I can’t imagine how this glorifies Jesus or promotes His Kingdom.

    It’s the “vs.” that makes your, and my, journey necessary and unavoidable. But — I think this is important — it makes the possibility of our finding the “right,” “perfect,” “true,” “Biblical” Church an impossible dream. We’re all going to have to align ourselves with some version of Corinth or Galatia or Pergamum or Thyatira, etc, etc, while challenging ourselves and Christians around us to strive for the ideal in thought and life and mission. I don’t think there ever was the Church unity that I idealistically dream of. A simple reading of the New Testament Epistles and the letters to the seven churches in Revelation reveals that doctrinal differences, class differences, and worship differences started in the churches the Apostles themselves planted.

    Accepting this reality for my journey, I have chosen to focus on this question: Where is the gospel most clearly understood and proclaimed, and where is the gospel mission most heartily embraced and pursued? I imagine your journey/answer to this question will come out at a different place than mine, but I sincerely recommend the question to you as a guidepost along your reluctant road.

    May that road be Emmaus for us both,

    Lon

    • Hi Lon,

      Thanks for your kind comments and perceptive questions. Yes, I was starting to find that evangelicalism was more of a movement that I initially thought. It’s hard to sustain movements over a long period of time. I think the reason I skipped the Reformed tradition (apart from soteriology) and went straight to Catholicism was the question of authority. Some Reformed groups will criticize evangelicals as practicing “solo scriptura” and that more deference should be given to documents like the Westminster Confession. But you still have the problem of authority. Joshua Lim recently graduated from Westminster Seminary California and became Catholic. He moved from Baptist to Reformed for a lot of the reasons you suggest, but found that “sola scriptura,” as Reformed people describe it, inevitably leads to the solo scriptura of evangelicalism without an authority http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/05/joshua-lims-story-a-westminary-seminary-california-student-becomes-catholic/

      Yes, the disunity is certainly troubling. The chaos of Corinth gave me comfort as an evangelical too-there’s always been disunity, that’ just part of sin, I reasoned. However, I think it’s important to ask how that disunity was addressed in the early Church. Did everyone just read the Bible and divide into different camps based on their convictions? “Ok, you interpret Scripture to say one God and two persons so you be the 2in1 Denomination, but you think three in one so we’ll start a different one and be peaceable brothers and sisters in Christ?” No, there were councils that dealt authoritatively with truth and heresy. It was messy, but that’s the way it went!

      When I asked a pastor as an evangelical if splits would necessarily happen based on sola scriptura, he agreed. When I looked at Catholicism I saw teaching problems–the people didn’t know their stuff. When I looked at Protestantism I saw the foundational problem of sola scriptura. As long as everyone’s interpreting scripture on their own, there’s bound to be disagreements and splits. The question is, is that the system God set up? Is that how it worked for the first 1000/1500 years? Apostolic succession is the idea to wrestle with. Catholic.com has great resources.

      I appreciate where you’re coming from on focusing on the gospel. It makes sense, and I did it to an extent too. Amidst all the confusion, I reasoned, I should hold fast to what I know as truth. However, I came to think that was a bad place to start. Generally speaking, Catholics and Protestants agree on the gospel Paul preaches in 1 Corinthians, but often what Protestants mean includes “justification by faith alone.” That’s a Protestant presupposition, an interpretation of Romans that’s not mentioned in the creeds. It’s saying, “Ok, I’m going to examine both Catholicism and Protestantism equally, but first I will insert this Protestant presupposition.” Both Catholics and Protestants agree justification is by grace alone, but not faith alone.

      The place to start is authority. Is the Catholic Church the Church Christ instituted? If not, if it’s all “where do I fit best” in the Catholic spectrum than I can look anywhere. If it’s “How can I support the advancement of the gospel through the Church Christ instituted” then I need to go to Mass.

      God bless!

      -Anthony

    • I am grieved by the division of Orthodox vs. Catholic vs. Reformed vs. Fundamentalist vs. Liberal vs. Dispensational vs. Charismatic vs. Evangelical vs. the pseudo-spiritual nonsense du jour. I want to take out all the “vs.” because I can’t imagine how this glorifies Jesus or promotes His Kingdom.

      Hear, hear! This is what my heart beats for. I come from Pentecostal roots, too, and ended up dunked in the Tiber. But now, more than anything, I want to reach out to Christians of different traditions to urge reconciliation and unity, in any way I can.

  2. What a great and thoughtful reply. I’m sitting here considering your suggestion that the place to begin is the question of authority. I’ll give it more thought… But my initial reaction is to trust what I know is always faithful, reliable, and direct from God’s Spirit — Scripture. Of course I readily concede your point that sola scriptura has given birth to molto nutso (is that Latin? :), especially in the western world. And I don’t have an answer for that.

    On the other hand, I think we see scripural examples of God’s human institutions (aka Israel) failing and the righteous response being to prophetically call them back to the covenant or die trying. Clearly in this case the authority lay with the written record of the Covenant. Might this not also have happened in the Church? Might we not have to agree with Paul that the gospel once delivered, that Jesus lived, suffered, died, rose again, is of FIRST importance, and thus, the locus of authority)?

    I don’t know this detail of my church history, but perhaps it would have been good to call an ecumenical council to debate Luther’s claims over many years as the church did with Nicea and Chalcedon. I don’t know that this happened..

    I’m interested in your thoughts on this as a post or reply.

    • I agree that you should trust the truth you’ve been given. Catholics wouldn’t say Protestants are all wrong, just 70% percent right. However, I’d also ask if you would tell the millions of Mormons who believe the same thing whether they should trust their heart.

      Looking back to Israel is a great step! For me it opened up a can of worms I didn’t want to deal with. The more I studied the OT, the harder it was to remain evangelical. I saw that Jesus fulfilled the law and didn’t abolish it. Here’s some questions associated with your query.

      1) How did it work when the people were called to repentance? Did a random Israelite stand up and ask Moses if he was interpreting Deuteronomy 11 properly? Did they break into denominations based on whoever had the best interpretation? Did they democratically elect their leaders, or was Moses God’s chosen leader from God? Also, were their godly leaders who were really sinful (David) but were still God’s chosen leader anyway? Are there parallels in Catholicism?

      2) How did the people feel about the temple and tabernacle? Did God say, you shouldn’t spend all this money on this fancy tent and temple. I’m in your presence everywhere anyway! Let’s just meet in a YMCA! Or did he specifically prescribe every tapestry and dimension so that the people would be led into God’s presence properly? Even though God was among the people, did he make a provision for himself to be especially present in the tabernacle, just like Christ is especially present in Catholic tabernacles?

      3) Is Sola Scriptura possible in the OT? Is every provision recorded that is necessary to know how the sacrifices work? Or are there significant parts missing? Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic has a section on this.

      For Protestants, the Church going astray from the Gospel for 1200 or so years is unfortunate (which, by the way, is a REALLY long time). For Catholics, it’s a theological problem. It contradicts their understanding of Jesus’ high priestly prayers in John, that even if the people are sinful he will prevent the apostoles and their successors (apostolic succession) from erring in dogma. Catholics will freely admit they’ve had apostate leaders and unfaithful people (in addition to wonderful leaders and saints who I never heard mentioned in evangelicalism) before the Reformation, but they won’t admit they’ve ever erred/contradicted in dogma (dogma, not practice). If they did, the entire system of Catholicism would implode. That’s why I tried to study ecumenical councils to find examples of contradiction as an evangelical.

      Yep, the ecumenical council was the Council of Trent. It’s called the Counter-Reformation, but that’s unfortunate. Catholics have won the debate on terms by calling Protestants Protestants (protestors). Protestants have won the debate on terms by calling the Reformation the Reformation. It didn’t reform, it tore apart! Christian Smith calls it the Great Western Schism, and that would make the Council of Trent the true reformation. People who believed Luther’s views were excommunicated.

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