Saturday, October 01, 2005

Come and See

"If I can unite in myself, in my own spiritual life, the thought of the East and the West, of the Greek and Latin Fathers, I will create in myself a reunion of the divided Church, and from that unity in myself can come the exterior and visible unity of the Church. For, if we want to bring together East and West, we cannot do it by imposing one upon the other. We must contain both in ourselves and transcend them both in Christ."
Thomas Merton, A Search for Solitude: Journals, Vol. 3, p. 87

I would add to this quote in Merton that although I am now Catholic, I still affirm all that is right and true within the Protestant churches. And Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism, says basically the same thing:

"For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church-whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church-do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.”

So anyone wishing to engage me in a discussion on how bad Protestants are or wanting to step on the backs of Protestants to position themselves on their pedestal can read Unitatis Redintegratio and then we can talk.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not wussing out already. But it pains me to see the haughty attitude we can take sometimes towards those with whom we disagree. It seems to me that in our apologetics efforts we can find the common ground first and then go from there in our effort to explain what we believe. Instead of starting with a caricature of what someone believes, and ripping that straw man apart in order to gain a couple of notches on our faith-defending belt, let’s attempt to understand what someone else believes in as complete a way as possible before we proceed.
For instance, when talking with people I never use the term “Sola Scriptura.” The only people that I ever see using that term in conversation are Catholic apologists and Protestant theologians. The average Joe six-pack does not know what that term means. Now they may very well believe it, but I still don’t use the term. It makes me sound like I’m trying to throw around ten-dollar words just to overwhelm them. Instead, I talk about the Bible. I talk about how much I love the Bible. I talk about Catholics like St. Jerome, whose feast day we celebrated yesterday, who gave their lives to translate the Scriptures and write commentaries on them. I make sure I’ve read Leo XIII’s encyclical Providentissumus Deus, Benedict XV’s Spiritus Paraclitus, Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu, or Vatican II’s constitution Dei Verbum, which can show the person I’m talking to that Catholics revere the Scriptures too. And then, when I’ve built that foundation, I can ask them what they believe about the Bible and do some comparing and contrasting. They are likely to be less defensive that way.

In the end, I’m not looking to be the next Scott Hahn. We have one already and he’s pretty darn good at it. I’m just a starving man, and I’ve found the food. Come and see.


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