Posts filed under: protestant

Another great conversion story

I think it is impossible to deny that the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers” within Protestantism means exactly what I’ve suggested above — that each of us is on our own to figure out Christianity from the ground up. It makes no sense to me to say that a Christian can simply accept that certain doctrines are Christian doctrines because the early visible Church decided them and then, at the same time, assert that that Church was a fallible Church that eventually fell into utter doctrinal apostasy.

Read the rest.

hi im catholic. my born-again christian friend ask me, why catholics have this symbols/images of Jesus Christ and saints? she said its wrong according to Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. I dont know the answer. please provide one bec im confused also. - Anonymous

A very important question… The answer is complex! After all, God commands Moses to make statues in Exodus 25 for the Ark of the Covenant, of all things! Here’s a very complete answer to your question. 

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Be it known to you that we have made a league—all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practice of England—cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God; it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted: So it must be restored.

Saint Edmund Campion (1540-1581)

We celebrate his feast day today. This is from “Campion’s Brag,” a written public challenge to Elizabethan Protestant scholars to open debate. Ecumenism was different then.

Peter Kreeft's Conversion Story

Reformation Day – and What Led Me To Back to Catholicism

An interesting article by Francis Beckwith. October 31 is Reformation Day (it’ll be celebrated tomorrow in many US Protestant churches), the 494th anniversary of Luther’s first open protest in Wittenberg.

continued... Oh, and I don't believe any sin is greater or less than another. I think it should all be weighed equally. and to continue onto what I was saying in the last question, in the bible, it says something about being reborn again. so doesn't that mean that any sin is forgiveable? - alyssahoyttt

More good questions! 

Is any sin greater or lesser than another?

Well, is murdering your parents worse than cheating on a test at school? Instinctively we would say Yes, wouldn’t we? And yet we know that both of them are bad.

So we have to say something a little more complex than that. On the one hand, we would say that all sin offends God, and so it’s all extremely ugly and ungodly. But on the other hand, St. John tells us that types of sins are different:

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly. (1 John 4:16-17)

Some sin is “deadly” and can’t simply be fixed by prayer. Catholics have a tradition of calling some sins “mortal” and other sins “venial.” Some sins really are grave enough to keep us from heaven; others merely wound that relationship we have with God. (Of course nobody wants that either!) 

Are all of those forgiveable?

Certainly! Jesus still called Judas his “friend” in the garden of Gethsemane even though he knew that he had just betrayed him, a sin so unspeakably awful that Jesus had said: “The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” (Matthew 26:24) And then Jesus forgave the “good” thief while he was dying, too; we can imagine that he hadn’t exactly just been cheating on his homework!

Jesus said something extremely important on the night of his resurrection to the Apostles:

Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained. (John 20:22-23)

Why so important? Because it tells us that the Apostles had the power to forgive sins (a power that Catholics have always believed was passed down through the “laying on of hands” that we read that the Apostles did for the leaders of local churches, what we call bishops now), because it says that the Apostles’ delegated power is so great that even God will respect their decisions, because it doesn’t say that this “only” happens in Baptism, and because it doesn’t distinguish between types of sins. Jesus didn’t tell the Apostles that they could have jurisdiction over some of the lighter sins and that he would save some for himself. Nope… it’s all of them!

So yes we have to be reborn! The idea is developed most fully in John 3, the same conversation that I mentioned yesterday in your other question. It comes through Baptism, and Baptism forgives all our sins.

So I guess that all means that God is both a little more “normal” than we suspect (treating different sins differently) and yet also far far far far far more “generous” than we would suspect, in giving such sweeping powers to human beings!

God bless you.

- Father Shane

I'm a christian, but I'm not catholic. Do you believe that it doesn't matter what religion you are in order to recieve the gift of everlasting life? I believe that in order to get to Heaven, you must believe that God sent his one and only son on the cross to die for our sins so that we can recieve everlasting life. I don't believe that the amount of good you do is what determines whether you go to Heaven or not because in all reality, no one is perfect. - alyssahoyttt

Thanks for your message, Alyssa, and I’m awfully sorry to have taken so long to get back to you! 

You’re right, the Bible clearly says that we must believe that in order to get to Heaven.

So must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. […] Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:14-16.18)

And Catholics agree with you! Getting into Heaven isn’t merely a question of piling up good deeds. We would all be in trouble, because you’re right: “Nobody’s perfect”! God isn’t merely an accountant who somehow needs to be satisfied or placated by seeing us “jump through the right hoops” or do the divine equivalent of “filling out the right forms”… He’s not a bureaucrat either!

And yet Jesus says some other things that also need to get fit into this picture… For instance, earlier in the same conversation he says this:

No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. (John 3:5)

So it must be about more than just “believing”… or, perhaps better, maybe Jesus means something different by “believing” than we do! Maybe for Jesus “believing” is a total whole-person love affair and not merely a “thing I decide to say in public.”

So it gets a little complicated then when we read in Matthew 25:31-46 that Jesus welcomes people into Heaven for feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty and welcoming strangers and clothing the naked and helping the sick and visiting the imprisoned. And then this in Mark 16:16… “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

So I guess we have to say what you said (“In order to get to Heaven, you must believe that God sent his one and only son on the cross to die for our sins so that we can receive everlasting life”) but then really build our lives around that belief!

That means living in a way that’s pleasing to Jesus, giving him glory in who we are and what we do, treating others with the same selfless charity with which he loved… in a word, to become so much like Jesus that we can fulfill the strange words of Saint Paul and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).

So yes, I do believe that it does matter what religion we are, at least in the sense that we need to be baptized. Sure, God isn’t limited by rituals, but the Bible is also very clear about the total need for Baptism. So we can hope that those who die without knowledge of Christ are saved… but we’re called to not just sit there! We’ve received something so wonderful we can’t not share it!

So does that mean that Catholics think that every Christian has to be Catholic? Well, here’s something I wrote a while back on that.

God bless you and thanks again for writing!

- Father Shane

Father Shane, recently I've been thinking about the differences between Catholics and Protestants (I'm Catholic) and aside from the problwms with Catholic traditions that many Protestants have, the theology always seems to split at a the same point. So here is my question: do we as Catholics believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins? Protestants believe that as long as you put your faith in Christ you will be saved because he has already made the sacrifice. Catholic perspective please? - guiltyofthis

Do we believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins? Certainly. It’s all over the New Testament. “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Here’s how the Catechism puts it:

"By the grace of God" Jesus tasted death "for every one". In his plan of salvation, God ordained that his Son should not only "die for our sins" but should also "taste death", experience the condition of death, the separation of his soul from his body, between the time he expired on the cross and the time he was raised from the dead. (#624)

Now if you put your faith in Christ will you be saved? Certainly. In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas are asked “What must I do to be saved?” and they respond: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.” In Romans 10:9, we read “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

But wait a minute… the story doesn’t end there. Mark 16:16 says this: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

And then Jesus never says “Just say something once and you’ll be saved forever.” He requires a certain type of lifestyle from his followers, and after saying “Remain in my love” (John 15:4) he explains that this means keeping his commandments (John 15:10), and then says this: “Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned” (John 15:6). Now that should strike us as awfully scary, whether we’re “saved” or not!

In other words, Jesus takes discipleship too seriously to let stand our little human ideas of how we should get a guaranteed ticket into heaven. So Catholics believe along with Protestants that yes, faith leads to salvation, but we take “faith” to mean a lifetime and a lifestyle of faith and “in Christ”, which will transform us ever more into his image here on Earth and eventually make us worthy (by his grace!) of eternal life with him.

You can tell that I’m vastly oversimplifying a very complex issue: there are far more Bible quotes here.

One of those questions where terminology gets pretty important. God bless!

- Father Shane

Dear Father, what can I do to get started on learning more about Catholicism? I feel as if there is so much to learn the amount is almost intimidating, but I'm willing and will take the time to study carefully and diligently. I am simply confused on where to start with all of this. If you could give me your advice and guidance, it would be much appreciated! Thank you for all the work you do. - Anonymous

Wonderful! (Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you!) Seeking truth so sincerely will always be rewarded by the Truth. 

If you’re coming from a Protestant background, books like those by Jimmy Akin, Scott Hahn or Mark Shea might connect pretty well with you. They’re all converts from forms of Evangelical Christianity who know the theology and traditions on both sides in exhaustive detail and are really good at clear explanations.

If your background instead just simply isn’t very religious, you might enjoy Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog.

Then, no matter where you’re coming from, if you’ve got the patience for a brief but complete Q&A about the basics of Catholicism, the US adult catechism is fantastic, and anyone who’s read anything else I’ve written knows I’m a huge fan of the YouCat, which is even briefer and clearer. (especially its “Library”) is a great source for basic understanding of the more contentious topics, though it can sometimes get into more detail than might interest you.

Those are just some ideas. Obviously if you’ve got questions about anything specific, I’d be glad to help to the extent that I can! You’ve probably already seen that the askbox doesn’t open up very often, but everybody around here is really patient with me for some reason.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

How can we reunite the Church? I know God really doesn't want splintering of the Church, but we have so many denominations today. What are some ways we can mend the divisions between all sects of Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox? - killa-dilla

Gosh, we all wish we knew that! There’s a question in the YouCat that asks pretty much the same thing, and the response goes like this:

Christian unity is the business of all Christians, regardless of how young or old they are. Unity was one of Jesus’ most important concerns. He prayed to the Father, “that they may all be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Divisions are like wounds on the Body of Christ; they hurt and fester. Divisions lead to enmities and weaken the faith and credibility of Christians. Overcoming the scandal of separation requires the conversion of all concerned but also knowledge of one’s own faith convictions, dialogues with others, and especially prayer in common, and collaboration among Christians in serving mankind. Those in authority in the Church must not let the theological dialogue be interrupted. (#131)

So somehow it really does have something to do with each one of us! All of us can somehow help build unity among our family, friends and acquaintances. We just have to ask the Holy Spirit’s help to show us how. God wants it! We’re the ones getting in the way.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Top 10 Misconceptions About The Catholic Church

Vatican & Lutherans working on document about Reformation

According to the Vatican official on ecumenism, the Church and the World Lutheran Federation are preparing a Joint Declaration on the Reformation, in view of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, announced this in an interview with the German Catholic agency KNA.

In this context, Vatican Radio reported Monday that Benedict XVI wants his Sept. 22-25 trip to Germany to have an ecumenical focus.

The Catholic-Lutheran document will “analyze the Reformation in the light of 2,000 years of Christianity,” noted Vatican Radio.

"The joint commemoration of this anniversary could be the occasion for a mutual mea culpa," the report suggested.

Sounds like a positive step forward to me! Read the rest.

I was raised (even as a protestant, as I later converted) to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the first established Christian Church. I have seen claims made by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Baptist, Mormon, and Nondenominational Evangelical churches that THEY are the first Christian church, or at least what the Early Church was. Do any of their claims have any validity? I feel like history proves them all wrong.. - Anonymous

Well, none of them convince me, as you can probably tell.

I think it’s just easiest to state our case: It’s abundantly clear from the New Testament that Christ desired that the Apostles have (delegated) authority in the Church, and that Peter was their head. Now since Peter died in Rome after being head of the Church there, and we know the list of his successors as head of the Church in Rome and that they were venerated by other bishops specifically as such, and that Pope Benedict is the current successor, it seems to me that that’s the only credible way to argue for being the first Christian church from which the others separated somehow.

There are further reflections here and here, for what it’s worth. And one specifically regarding Orthodox Christianity.

God bless you!

- Father Shane

Okay, this is a really neat conversion testimony. (Video is 1:58.)

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