Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Saturday, March 17, 2007



"What Evangelicals Owe Catholics: An Appreciation"

by Joe Carter ( Evangelical Outpost Blog)

"As a child I had almost no direct contact with Catholicism. My family attended a small backwoods fundamentalist congregation -- The First Church of Hellfire and Damnation, or something to that effect -- and the preacher would often mention the Pope and Catholicism in one of his “Identifying the Antichrist" sermons. The Antichrist was hard to pin down and his identity invariably rotated between one of the select “heathen" groups: Chinese communists, the Russians, secular humanists, New England Senators. The Pope, though, was the favored candidate for ushering in the End of Days. And the “Whore of Babylon” was indisputably the Catholic Church.

This Jack Chick-style anti-Catholic bias was regrettably prevalent in rural Texas during my childhood. Fortunately, it never took root and as I grew up, I became more intrigued by both John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Over the years I’ve engaged more directly with Catholics and the teachings of the RC Church and my admiration and appreciation continues to grow.

Indeed, I’m often amazed when I consider how my thinking is shaped by Catholic social thought, the Just War tradition, and Natural Law theory. Although I do not always find myself in complete agreement, the Catholic perspective often causes me to rethink my views on such matters as contraception, IVF, just wages, and the death penalty.

As attached as I am to my own theological traditions (Reformed, Baptist, evangelical) there are many issues where they have historically come up short. In fact, I would argue that there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of areas in which we evangelicals should acknowledge a debt owed to our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Consider, for instance, three areas in which our fellow Christians within the Catholic faith have led the way:

On Mary, the mother of God -- Many evangelicals suffer from a mild case of Maryphobia - the fear that any appreciation of Mary will be viewed as a sign that we’re closet Catholics. Oddly, while we are quick to defend the virgin birth, we are often hesitant to praise the virgin mother. Even during Christmas we often pay more attention to the magi than we do to the woman who gave birth to our Savior.

Our complete renunciation of Marian theology, however, often causes me to downplay the importance of Mary herself, indisputably one of the most incredible humans who every lived. How can we not be in awe of this woman when we realize she held God in her womb? Our Catholic friends remind us that Jesus wasn’t just the son of God; He was Mary’s son too.

On the Sanctity of Life -- In a 1971 resolution on abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that “society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life.” The largest Protestant denomination in America had a peculiar definition of “sanctity of human life”, however, for the very next sentence called upon Southern Baptists to “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion” under such conditions as “fetal deformity” and damage to the “emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Three years later—and two years after Roe codified this position—the SBC reaffirmed the resolution. It wasn’t until 1980 that the SBC finally condemned abortion as a grave evil, a position that has always been maintained by the Catholic Church.

For nearly thirty years, evangelicals have been working to catch up to our Catholic brothers and sisters on issues of the sanctity of life. Even today, the Catholic Church is more consistent in its application. Sadly, many evangelicals are willing to turn a blind eye to embryo destruction when it occurs for purposes of in vitro fertilization or for biomedical research. We still have much to learn from the Catholics about how to respect the life that God has created.

Ecclesiology -- One of the first principles of Reformed ecclesiology is that there is but one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Because this principle is difficult to square with the existence 10,000+ different Protestant denominations, we claim that this refers only to the invisible church. But what about the church that is visible? After all, it is Jesus desire to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51-52)

Although the split with the Catholic Church was tragically necessary, the reconciliation into one visible body should be an ecclesiological goal. In this area Catholics have often taken the lead in imparting a spirit of ecumenism. Documents such as Ut unum sint reflect the seriousness which Catholics approach the “call for Christian unity.”

Such unity, of course, must be predicated on acceptance of Biblical truths. Evangelicals can never abandon our commitment to such doctrines as sola fide (salvation by faith alone) in order to achieve consensus. We should, however, be constantly praying that the Spirit will reconcile the invisible church into one holy, catholic, apostolic, and visible Body of Christ.

Unlike Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Professor Steve Bainbridge, I won’t be crossing the Tiber. Because the theological differences I have with Catholicism are deep-rooted and currently* irresolvable, I’ll remain an unabashedly Reformed evangelical. Yet I, like many evangelicals, have a deep love, respect, and admiration for my fellow believers in the Catholic Church. However much we might disagree, we evangelicals owe them a debt of gratitude for being co-belligerents, fellow servants, and exemplars of the faith."


*Tiber's Comment here: Thanks Mr. Carter for the kind words towards the Church! I am glad you used the word "currently". Things can and do change. The waters of the Tiber are warmer and more comfortable than one thinks. My advice is stay away from the banks of the river because you are liable to fall in! Traipsing along the river and looking kindly towards Rome has caused many others lesser and greater than yourself to end up crossing over before they realized what was happening.

"It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment a man ceases to pull against it he feels a tug towards it. The moment he ceases to shout it down he begins to listen to it with pleasure. The moment he tries to be fair to it he begins to be fond of it." GK Chesterton 1926

8 Comments:

Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

Good afternoon TJ. We're once again on the 'same page.' Mary has been teaching me all this week about her deep love and devotion to all of the children of God. I have a friend who's curious about Mary, so I sent her many a link and my own thoughts, having been brought up Methodist, and then being Evangelical for so many years, even though married to a Catholic, who'd tried his best to tell me that "Catholics don't worship Mary" I'd gotten hold of some anti-Catholic tracts" and until 26 years later, wasn't open to receive the grace to HONOR THE MOTHER OF MY LORD. She held her Lord and Savior in her womb, gave birth to Him, and nursed Him at her breast, and all the while, as a Protestant, I only gave her "credit" for that 'event' on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I'm so delighted to read this post and will send my friend your blog. Thanks much TJ....

TTYL (type to you later)
susie

March 17, 2007 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Psycheout said...

A very thoughtful post which I enjoyed reading.

I think that Sam Brownback is the kind of principled conservative Republican that people of any faith should certainly get behind. His respect for life, all life, makes it an easy choice for me.

Perhaps if you were to keep up on the latest Brownback buzz over at Blogs 4 Brownback you might find that he is your choice as well.

March 17, 2007 3:37 PM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Thanks. I just ran over and posted my own comment, as well as one for those who used "Lorraine Boettner" as a "defense against Catholicism". Much thanks goes out to Blessed Fulton Sheen for his words of wisdom. :-)

I love letting theologians speak for the Church in their own words...they do a much better job than a fledgling such as myself.

March 17, 2007 8:14 PM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

Based on just this short article, I would have to say that I am much in agreement with Joe Carter. I think that many, if not most, evangelicals today do not understand the Protestant Reformation at all. What's worse is that they fail to either see or seek any continuity whatsoever with the Church throughout time, whether Catholic or Protestant. Concern over one's individual salvation has so eclipsed the concept of the body of Christ as to make it almost non-existent. Thanks for posting Mr. Carter's essay, TJ.

March 18, 2007 12:14 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Your welcome PA.
It was refreshing to see such a complimentary article. Joe Carter has perfected the ability to not throw the baby out with the bath water.

March 18, 2007 11:03 AM  
Blogger japhy said...

A good article, and bravely spoken, but I have a few points of issue with it:

One of the first principles of Reformed ecclesiology is that there is but one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Because this principle is difficult to square with the existence 10,000+ different Protestant denominations, we claim that this refers only to the invisible church.

And yet, before the schisms, there was one visible Church, not thousands of visible churches making up a single invisible Church. However, Joe does not fail to mention that the division is not just Catholic-Protestant, but Catholic and many Protestant sects.

Although the split with the Catholic Church was tragically necessary, the reconciliation into one visible body should be an ecclesiological goal.

He does not say reconciliation into the Catholic Church, but into "one visible body".

Such unity, of course, must be predicated on acceptance of Biblical truths. Evangelicals can never abandon our commitment to such doctrines as sola fide (salvation by faith alone) in order to achieve consensus.

Here is a misunderstanding of Catholic theology, implying Catholics believe in "works-based salvation" and that we ignore or do not accept Biblical truths. Also, it's not Evangelicals that "can never abandon [their] commitment to such doctrines", but rather the Evangelical churches themselves. The individual Christians in those churches who cross the Tiber will inevitably reject whatever un-Catholic doctrines they had previously believed, but the churches themselves can never do so, because they would cease to be at that point.

Sorry to be the gloomy gus. You may resume your Sunday now.

March 18, 2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey Gloomy Gus!

I agree with your points and had similar sentiments, particularly his statement "Such unity, of course, must be predicated on acceptance of Biblical truths."
I don't know if he realizes that this is the equivalent of saying
"Catholics hold to Truths that are not consistent with Scripture."
We know this is not true but I don't want to take issue with his mis-understanding of our theology given his understanding and appreciation of many other areas of Catholicism.
I can't say enough of how I appreciate his willingness to
"reach out across the aisle" particularly compared to the way in which Catholicism is routinely misconstrued and maligned by other "not so reformed" folks in the blogosphere.
Thanks for the Sunday post.
Keep on Picking!

March 18, 2007 2:04 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

Amen...I had that same thought cross my mind when I read that part of the article. All in all though, praise God that he's one man not digging in his heels and continuing to spread falsehoods about the CC. That is what I LOVE about blogging and meeting people of all faiths and no faith. It's up to the laity to 'get our shoes dirty' and roll up our sleeves and share the Faith, proclaim the Faith and LIVE THE FAITH. That for me, means 'writing about it, for writing is "what I do" and living is what I write about. To have this outlet on the internet is really the bees' knees! I'm just one joyous Catholic and proud papist! Not in the "arrogant" way but in the pure way, Proud as the Saints of old were proud to DIE for WHAT THEY LIVED AND BELIEVED!

susie

March 18, 2007 11:09 PM  

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