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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Friday, May 25, 2007

Another Catholic convert

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend about some of his studies in church history, particularly in relation to the historic relationship between Islam and the Christian Church. My friend, a Protestant, was lamenting the loss of a unified front against Islam, which was the result of the Protestant Reformation. He also expressed his concern over new, start-up denominations, and his tendency to more naturally trust those Christian groups whose claims to historicity are verifiable. The nature of his statements was such that I questioned him about his Protestant credentials, but he assured me that he still believed in the doctrines that set the Reformation apart from Rome. And so far as I know, he is still standing with the Reformation.

It was less than a week later when I found myself having answer some of the same charges. I was reading a book on the Latin rite of the Roman Church as it was in practice in the U. S. prior to Vatican II. A friend of mine, who is a more staunch Presbyterian than I am, saw that I was reading it, and began questioning me about it. To be fair to him, I think he had been concerned for me for some time, as he observed my interest in liturgy grow, and as he watched me join an Anglo-Catholic church. My reason for reading on the Mass had nothing to do with any inclination to depart from Protestantism. I had actually been leading a book study group through a story by Flannery O'Connor, and decided it would be good to familiarize myself with the form of worship she would have participated in during her life in order to get a better understanding of her writing. Thankfully, my friend is one of the more reasonable sorts of staunch Presbyterians (a rare breed indeed), and so believed me when I explained myself to him.

This anecdotal situation is probably one more and more common these days. There's a paranoia in Reformed circles about Romanism in general. I don't think this is entirely new; I get the impression from the things I've read that since the sixteenth century the Reformation has had too much of a tendency to define itself according to what Rome isn't. And yet this has been amplified in recent years. The past twenty years has seen Protestant after Protestant venturing to Rome to find whatever, that whatever seeming to vary from person to person. Add to this the converts to either Anglo-Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, and the numbers are sufficient to give anyone bearing the moniker "Reformed" a perpetually sustained nervous twitch.

I think there are things that the Reformed need to learn from this trend, though I won't try to enumerate those things now. I gladly bear the moniker "Reformed" myself, and have no intention of casting it off any time soon. But I remain Reformed with the hope that my fellow Reformed brethren will wake up to their own failures that are causing this movement.

I write these things due to another report of a departure for Rome, this time coming from a member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The person involved this time isn't a pastor or theologian, but philosophy professor Robert Koons. For those who want to read it in his own words, you will find his report of his conversion here. I won't use my blog to report on every person converting to this or that group, but I found this story particularly interesting. I think that my favorite statement in Koons' piece was this one:

The [Roman Catholic/Lutheran] Joint Declaration and the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church aided me in giving a closer and more charitable reading to the anathemas of the Council of Trent (which I still believe to be have been written in an unprofitably provocative way).

I'm not entirely sure how one gives a "more charitable reading" of anathemas, but apparently it's possible. At any rate, it's important to read stories like this one, if the Reformed church is ever going to be able to answer the charges against it effectively.

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