Skip to comments.Evangelicals: Change of Heart toward Catholics
Posted on 07/29/2008 4:39:52 PM PDT by annalex
Evangelicals have been going through a major change of heart in their view of Catholicism over the past 15 years or so. In the 80’s when I was in college I lived in the Biblebelt and had plenty of experience with Evangelicals–much of it bad experience. The 80’s was the height of the “Are you saved?” question. In Virginia, the question often popped up in the first 10 minutes of getting to know someone. As I look back, Isurmise that this was coached from the pulpit or Sunday school as it was so well coordinated and almost universally applied. It was a good tactic for putting Catholics on the defensive even before it was known that they were Catholic—”ummmm, uhhh, well no, I’m not sure, I’m Catholic.” Then a conversation about works righteousness or saint statues would ensue. Yeah, nice to meet you, too.
Thankfully, those days are pretty much over. We now have formerly rabid anti-Catholics apologizing and even praising the pope. Catholics and Evangelicals have both learned that we have much in common and need each other to face the secular culture with a solid front. But, where did this detente come from? I think there is a real history to be told here and a book should be written. Let me give my perceptions of 7 major developments since 1993, which I regard as the the watershed year for the renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States.
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1993. When this document came out, it was uncertain that even Catholics would read it. We should have known that something was up when the French version hit the top of the bestsellers charts in France and stayed there for months. The English version did the same in the US. Catholics were reading the Catechism, forming study groups and challenging errant professors in the classroom.
2. World Youth Day, Denver 1993. Catholic youth and youth ministers woke up. Suddenly, Catholic youth ministers realized that the youth loved the pope. And they loved him all the more because he did not talk down to them or water down the faith. He challenged them. Gone now were the pizza and a video parish youth nights. Furthermore, youth and young adults took up the challenge to evangelize. One of those youth heard the message and started a website, New Advent. Catholic youth were now becoming zealous for the Catholic faith in its fullness and were not going to be swayed by an awkward conversation that began with “Are you saved?”
3. Scott Hahn. While the Catechism is great for expounding the Catholic faith, it is not a work of apologetics itself. It is not written to expose the flaws of Evangelical theology. It is not written to defend the Church against the attacks of Evangelicals per se. It just would not let them get away with misrepresenting the Catholic faith. But Scott Hahn hit the scene at about the same time with Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1993). I first heard his testimony on cassette tape in 1996. It blew my mind. Suddenly, Catholic apologetics, which is as old as the Catholic Church itself, got a leg up and there was an explosion of books, magazines and websites that effectively undercut the arguments of the 5 Solas. For the first time, there was a cadre of Catholics well enough informed to defend their faith.
4. The Internet. The Net started exploding from 1993 to 1996. I had my first account in ‘94. Compuserve was horribly basic, but by ‘96 I had AOL and the religion debates raged instantly. Catholics who had just been given the most powerful weapon in the arsenal in the war against misinterpretation of their teaching were learning to type on a forum while balancing their catechisms on their laps. Of course, online versions came out, as well. But, no Evangelical bent on getting Catholics out of the arms of the Whore of Babylon could expect to do so without himself have a copy of the Catechism, knowing it inside out and pouring over it for the errors and horrors he would surely find. Evangelical apologists were confronted with a coherent and beautiful presentation of the Catholic faith that they were ill equipped to argue against. They learned that Catholics, too, loved Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Catechism had arrived providentially just before the internet and had turned the tables in just a few short years. With the apologetic movement hitting at the same time, Evangelicals were also confronted with Catholics who could argue from the Bible defending their faith and demonstrating the weaknesses of Evangelical interpretations of scripture.
5. Early Church Fathers. One fruit of the Apologetics movement has been a flowering anew of Catholic interest in Patristics. This is happening at every level from armchair apologists to doctoral studies. It is suddenly all about Patristics, whereas in the 70’s-90’s the academic focus had been on Karl Rahner and Liberation Theology.
6. Evangelical Third World Experience. Evangelicals have had a field day in Latin America among the poor who are not part of the internet conversation and are distant from the study of apologetics. But, Evangelicals have learned from their experiences abroad an essential aspect of the Gospel they were missing: the Works of Mercy. Once haughty with their criticism of “works righteousness,” they have learned one cannot attend to the spiritual needs of the poor without attending to their bodily needs. Catholic have always understood this. Now, the Evangelicals are coming around. I haven’t heard an Evangelical Televangelist speak on works righteousness in many years.
7. Secularism. With the collapse of the Mainline churches as the backbone of American religion over the past thirty years (since about 1975), Catholics and Evangelicals are the only ones left standing in this country to present the Gospel. Secularism is on the rise and is ruthless. Evangelicals are now learning that only Catholicism has the intellectual resources to combat the present secular age. And, with the pope, we have a pretty effective means for communicating the faith and representing it to the world. There is nothing an Evangelical can do that will match the power of one World Youth Day.
With such an array of Providential developments, Evangelicals as well as Catholics have come to appreciate the depth and the breadth of the Catholic faith. It is far more difficult for them to honestly dismiss Catholicism as the work of Satan as once they did without qualm. There have been apologies and there have been calls for a new partnership. Let us hope these developments will bring about a new moment of understanding for the Glory of the Lord.
And the reality is that most of the beliefs that Protestants condemn Catholics for are SHARED by Lutherans (many Marian beliefs, the Real Presence, the Sacraments, including Confession).
hierarchical structure with immutable 2 thousand year-old agenda
No weight or authority to this argument at all...again, relying on human, not divine authority.
absence of independent local leadership
What has this got to do with anything? non sequitor
moral absolutes that derive from natural law and therefore apply to Catholics and non-Catholics alike
Why is this a RC distinctive? Protestants believe the same thing?
How does this possibly counter secularism? non sequitor
independent from the government education by celibate clergy
Another non sequitor. How could this possibly counter secularism?
conditional obedience to civil laws: a law that the Church sees as unjust does not have to be obeyed no matter how many people voted for it
And this differs from Protestant position how?
Your arguments are vacuous and full of non sequitors...you have proved absolutely nothing!
I could not be Roman Catholic on the issues listed. On the other hand, I have listed both strengths and weaknesses as I see them. That seems fair to me.
...lets see...what do they have in common? Why, except for the U.S., atheism...
which began where... The European continent fell long ago to the scourge of liberalism that is now affecting the Protestant nations. Catholic nations fared no better, and it could be argued, were the genesis thereof...
...I would suggest that the scourge of liberalism, as you call it, is the hallmark of modernist Protestant thought, culminating in acceptance, and encouragement of homosexuality and other vices emerging from their very pulpits...and as for Catholic nations being the genesis thereof, please sir, get some sleep and some medication...
That is arguable, as many threads here attest.
Anyone can intepret; only a Catholic can explain.
The texts containing the gospel are found only in the New Testament. Paul clearly spells out the gospel at the beginning of 1 Corinth 15. It’s clear.
There are no excuses.
Twelve-hundred years of which it used in crushing it's detractors unmercifully.
Ditto that. As I said on an earlier thread, when I was much younger doing things I knew were a sin, it was easier to avoid a message that told me my choices were a sin.
They existed, they just weren’t expounded by name, because what they define was simply assumed as part of the faith for the first three hundred or so years. It was only the consolidation of power under the (presumed and assumed) authority of Rome that the so-called “One True Church of Rome” arrogated and abrogated all authority, including even the interpretation of scripture, to itself.
Many people left the church because they want to contracept, they want to shack up, they want to abort. They want to choose lifestyles they know not to be good. They want to pick and choose. And why not with the plethora of non-Catholic Christian churches you can shop for whatever suits your whim.
A friend had a daughter who was living with a guy. She wanted to get married in the Catholic Church because... well just because, it was her right. The priest told her that they needed to have separate living arrangements until they were married. The couple actually left the Catholic church because the priest told them shacking up was a sin. He was more delicate in his expression. The mother called the bishop and complained that “how dare the priest make them feel bad”.
I know another woman who used to be Catholic. She left the church because the evening her mother passed away the priest was not available to go to the hospital. She was Pentecostal for a few years. Now she follows Joel Osteen.
A good friend grew up Baptist. When she married she joined the Catholic Church. She remarried after her husband passed away. This husband was never “churched” and was told by friends growing up that all Catholics are going to hell. They church shopped for a while. Now they rather like Joel, as well. To her, all Christian churches are created equal. Changing churches, denominations or associations is no big deal.
Also, no Lutherans practice private confession. We practice a general confession. But private confession to a pastor, inside a little booth, that we do not do. I believe the church, in the Lutheran Confessions, still supports the notion of private confession, but it is not considered a sacrament nor is it at all practiced by any Lutheran body that I've ever heard about. Sacraments in the Lutheran Church are believed to be only those that contain some outward sign - Baptism (the water) and the Lord's Supper (bread & wine).
Because it is not taking the scripture in its historical, cultural and linguistic context. Ever received that circular e-mail how those who rely on the prohibition of homosexuality in the Leviticus should also stone adulterers, etc.? That is effective against literalism; it is not effective agains tthe Catholic teaching that distinguishes between ancient Mosaic law and the law of the gospel.
absence of independent local leadership
... means that the secular authority has no one answerable to it in the Catholic clergy, which responds to Rome.
Many Protestants believe in the law that they find in the Bible, but they do not believe in the natural law outside of it. This allows the civil authority to insist that the legal constructs that they invent are universal, while the Catholic teachings only apply to Catholics, and the Biblical precepts only to those who believe in the Bible.
... counters secularism because it shows a moral social model independent of it and indifferent to the secular world.
education by celibate clergy
... counters secularism insofar as introduction of sexual promiscuity to the youth is an important secularist tactic.
conditional obedience to civil laws
Every Protestant denomination that supports abortion "rights", for example, does so because it is the "law of the land". Besides, given the multiplicity of the denominations it is easy to portray any ethical tenet as optional and matter of individual preference. See the part about the natural law.
Are you saying that the RCC of today is the same as that of the first centuries after the resurrection of Christ?
Holds to the same dogmas and doctrines?
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