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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Trail Home

Commenter Deeny pointed me to the blog The Trail Home. It is written from a former Baptist minister who converted to Catholicism.

It's very interesting to read, given his perspective. For example, one entry written by his wife contains this passage:

I had difficulty with the meanness towards all those who were not Baptist. WE HAVE TO SEPARATE from anyone, including friends and family who did not believe like us. WOMEN HAD TO KNOW THEIR PLACE and, I know mine as a successful business woman and wife/mother....totally out of line for them. I also had a mind and could think.....I could read, analyze, look at original text and language, read ancient history and Jewish text, and I could not make their theology work....premilllienal, memorial meal, baptism as a ritual that really didn't mean anything, a de-emphasis on doing good because it is all about faith (someday I'll talk about what that means)

.....AND, THE HATRED FOR CATHOLICS. At the heart of everything was the hatred of Catholics. They were all that was wrong and evil in the world. The whore of Babylon, the anti-Christ, etc. Our job was to convert people from the Catholic church because all of them were going to hell.

The most recent entry is on the doctrine "once saved, always saved."

The ‘doctrine’ of ‘once saved, always saved’ (OSAS), otherwise known as ‘eternal security’ was a teaching I found hard to abandon when I crossed the Tiber. It is an enticing philosophy that attracts people into a web that is hard to get out of. Behind the doctrine, of course is the teaching that you and I can ‘know for sure’ that our destiny is Heaven. Or as fundamentalist preachers love to put it: ‘you’re as sure for Heaven as Jesus Himself!’ Catholics shrink from such statements as they smack of the sin of presumption.

But this doctrine has a dark side. If I can ‘be sure’ who is going to Heaven (those who repeated a sinners prayer), than I can also be sure who is going to Hell (those who have not). This ‘knowledge’ of who is destined for Hell not only plays into the ‘Lie’ (using Malcolm’s language), it also plays into a destructive psychological pattern. . .

When some of the writings of Mother Teresa was made public, it revealed she had gone through (as St. John of the Cross did) a ‘dark night of the soul’.
Fundamentalists had a gleeful feeding frenzy. I remember one fundamentalist almost giddy with excitement: “See! This proves it! Mother Teresa is in Hell!!”. It is extremely important to fundamentalists that Mother Teresa be in Hell. If Mother Teresa is not burning in Hell, that would make their belief/doctrine false; hence she must be burning in Hell. . .

Catholics are told (many times with glee) that it is ‘certain’ they are going to Hell.
It reflects a lack of compassion, hope, and love. It feeds into a person’s unforgiveness and bitterness toward another. In dehumanizing them with the curse of “They’re going to Hell,” it relieves them of any responsibility.

Baptists are difficult to generalize about, because there are many different varieties, and a lot depends on the individual congregation. My intention in pointing you to his blog isn't really to read what he wrote about Baptists, but his former perspective on Catholicism. It's a pretty recent blog, so I was able to read through the archives pretty quickly, and there's lot of good writing there, if you're looking for something to keep you busy online during the slow blogging season.

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13 comments:

Barbara C. said...

Maybe this would be a good time for a post about how the Catholic Church views the position of non-Catholic Christians, and non-Christians on the paths to heaven and hell.

In my Catholic education I was taught that before VII the Catholic position was that all non-Catholics were going to hell, but after VII the position was described more like a bulls-eye. God is the center, Catholics are in the closest ring, Other Christians are in the next ring, and non-Christians further out, and I think agnostics were on the outer rim. But only "bad people" were sent to hell. (Kumbaya!)

We don't like being told that we're going to hell just for being Catholic but maybe we should clarify about the Catholic view of Protestants (if you haven't done so already).

Kelly said...

In my Catholic education I was taught that before VII the Catholic position was that all non-Catholics were going to hell, but after VII the position was described more like a bulls-eye.

No offense intended, but I think that is probably the typical post-VII "everything changed with VII" kind of exaggeration.

The obvious example would be the case of Fr. Feeney took place in the late 40's, where he was excommunicated for his strict preaching of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.

You can read a good article on the development of the doctrine of salvation in the Church here:

http://www.catholicculture.org/
library/view.cfm?recnum=963

I discussed Dominus Iesus, and the Church's view of salvation a bit here:

http://mdcalexatestblog.blogspot.com/
2007/10/candy-versus-vatican.html

Sal said...

Please join us in thanksgiving for the birth of our newest grandchild, Morgan Jane, July 24, 7 lbs. 14 oz.
Mom and baby are both doing well.

Barbara C. said...

I figured there was something off there that's why I threw in the Kumbaya. While I now know that Vatican II didn't really change matters of belief, there were changes in practice including in regards to other denominations. For instance, in 1965 my parents were not allowed to be married in the actual Catholic church because my mom was not Catholic, even though she was a baptized Christian. They could only have a service in the rectory. To be honest I don't know if it would be considered valid in light of today's procedures.

Since the standard party-line is that anyone who does not believe and worship exactly like we do is "going to hell", I just an in-depth clarification of the Catholic position on "others" would be fitting. And to be honest I am not so clear on it myself.

I tried looking through the post you referred me to but it didn't seem very clear cut to me. What I have gathered from that post and the document cited (what I could scan of it amongst the land of fighting children) is that the Catholic Church is the right and established church so that practicing Catholics are on the road to heaven with a varying layover in Purgatory. As for "others" whether they be Christian or not, we don't really know what will happen to them; it's in God's hands. Or do the other Christians just get a longer stay in Purgatory, even if they don't believe in it?

My dad told me once that when he growing up in the '40's and '50's they were not encouraged to learn about other denominations because what did it matter since they were going to hell anyway?

Maybe I'm just not getting it. Sometimes I need things summed up in two or three sentences when possible. I'll try to look over those other links you gave when I get a chance.

Kelly said...

I just an in-depth clarification of the Catholic position on "others" would be fitting.

Okay, it's now on my "to write" list. :)

For instance, in 1965 my parents were not allowed to be married in the actual Catholic church because my mom was not Catholic, even though she was a baptized Christian.

This might have depended on the pastor (like so many other things) because my Aunt was married to a non-Catholic in 1954, and they were married in a Catholic church. She said that the marriage took place at the end of Mass, instead of during.

KitKat said...

Congrats, Sal! Such a beautiful name for a beautiful baby girl.

Great post, Kelly! I am going to have to go check out the blog that you mentioned.

Elena said...

Congratulations Sal!

Unashamed said...

Well, just for grins and giggles I thought I'd throw in the Lutheran position.

Lutherans consider the confessional Lutheran church to be the orthodox visible Church. All other trinitarian Christian denominations (including non-confessional Lutherans) are considered heterodox (that is, with some doctrinal error(s)) but are still part of the invisible church.

For what it's worth. *smile*

Kelly said...

Unashamed, I thought I read this somewhere, so let me know if it is correct.

When you say the visible orthodox Church, you mean that the confessional Lutherans are the original catholic Church. Our version of the Catholic Church got off track in the Middle Ages, and you guys reformed it, back to the original form. Is that right?

And I'm not going to put the smackdown on your answer, I just like to try and make sure I have my denominations straight. :)

Unashamed said...

Hmm, yeah I guess that's a fairly accurate way to summarize it.

I think it's important to remember that Luther didn't set out to start a "new" church movement. Even after his excommunication, the Lutheran reformers attempted time and time again to reconcile themselves to the mother church. Luther saw support for the Reformation distinctives (the Solas, the authority of the Pope, etc.) both in Scripture and in the writings of the patristic fathers (ie. tradition) and it was always the fervent prayer of the Reformers that the church would return to her apostolic teachings and be One visibly as well as invisibly.

BTW - I wasn't worried about a smackdown (cute way to put it *smile*). I was pretty sure that you'd understand my comment as sharing info (which was how it was intended) and not trying to be provacative.

Kelly said...

Unashamed, so this would be confessional Lutheranism as opposed to Evangelical Lutheranism? I've only met ELCA people, in real life.

Luther saw support for the Reformation distinctives (the Solas, the authority of the Pope, etc.) both in Scripture and in the writings of the patristic fathers (ie. tradition)

Well, the Council of Trent really cleared up the worst of the abuses, but no one was ready to reconcile after that. As I mentioned in an earlier article, the Council of Trent rejected salvation by faith alone, but also salvation by works, putting the emphasis on grace.

Now for things such as the authority of the Pope and sacraments, there was no change, but having read quite a lot through the early church fathers, I do find support for the Catholic position there. But I would expect us to disagree on that. :)

I will concede that you could probably make the case for consubstantiation from the ECF, because they while they do write over and over about Christ really being present in the Eucharist, that isn't in question with consubstantiation, correct?

Trans versus con is really arguing over the status of the bread and wine, and I don't think that was really hammered out until the early middle ages. Who was Aquinas's mentor? St. Albert the Great, I believe.

Unashamed said...

Kelly - the difference between confessional and "other" Lutherans is their view of the Lutheran Confessions. Confessional Lutherans make an unconditional subscription to the Confessions as the true and correct exposition of Scripture and the only rule and norm by which all doctrines should be judged. This would be an unbelievably arrogant position to take, were it not for the fact that all the doctrine of our Confessions is diligently and faithfully drawn from Scripture.

Unconditional subscription is referred to as "quia" - quia means one subscribes the Lutheran Confessions BECAUSE they are a faithful exposition of Scripture. Those Lutherans who do not make unconditional subscription to the Confessions are "quatenus" - subscribing insofar as the Confessions agree with Scripture.

ELCA Lutherans are quatenus. And here's where it gets kinda nuanced. Quatenus implies that portions of the Confessions don't agree with Scripture, therefore you get people saying "we can't be quia, we have to be quatenus". But the problem is not actually their view of the Confessions, but in fact their view of Scripture that results in quatenus subscription.

ELCA Lutherans see (for example) support in the Scriptures for ordaining women. The Lutheran Confessions - because they are faithfully drawn from the Scriptures - would flatly deny this. So what do you do? Well, you say, "oh, that part of the Confessions is wrong - this is what Scripture REALLY teaches about it". And a schism is born.

For quia Lutherans, our Confessions function as the final arbiter for all doctrinal matters.

Re: the authority of the Pope - interestingly, I would agree that there are some writings from the early church fathers that appear to support the Catholic position on the authority of the Pope. But you're right - we're not going to agree on that one. *chuckle* If you're interested in the Lutheran position, I recommend reading Melanchton's "Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope". It makes a pretty compelling argument for the Lutheran position.

Re: the True Presence. It's actually a misconception that Lutherans are consubstantiationist. We refer to the the True Presence as "sacramental union" but we do not attempt to describe the exact nature of the union because Scripture itself does not explain it. Luther had this to say: ... we do not make Christ's body out of the bread ... Nor do we say that his body comes into existence out of the bread. We say that his body, which long ago was made and came into existence, is present when we say, "This is my body." For Christ commands us to say not, "Let this become my body," or, "Make my body there," but, "This is my body." For the Lutheran, the True Presence is a divine mystery that we believe by faith.

Kelly said...

This would be an unbelievably arrogant position to take, were it not for the fact that all the doctrine of our Confessions is diligently and faithfully drawn from Scripture.

What about the part of the Confession that says the Pope is the Antichrist?

It's actually a misconception that Lutherans are consubstantiationist.

I stand corrected, then. That is what I was taught in school. What you describe is sounds like what they said Episcopalians believe.

Catholic apologist has taken on Melanchton in two or three articles. Here is one of them:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/11/
philip-melanchthon-in-1530-longs-for.html