Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Potential Future of Protestantism...

One of the best books that I have ever read during my time of discernment, would be More Christianity by Fr. Dwight Longenecker.  Unlike some of my other readings, Fr. Longenecker writes in a literary style that is not offensive to Non-Catholics.  It is a very good introduction to Catholic Theology, by showing the relationship and shared beliefs between Catholics and Protestants.  For instance, many Non Catholics believe in sacramentals, although they would never, or may have never heard of the term sacrament.  Many believe in using Holy Oil and Holy Water, both of which are considered sacramentals in the Catholic Church.  The Non-Catholic view, in one sense, can be thought of as the beginning understanding of Catholic sacramentals.

Just recently, I discovered that Fr. Longenecker has a blog called Standing on My Head.  In one of his recent postings titled, Liturgical Baptists, he discussed how many of the Protestant faiths have changed over time.  His overall impression is that:

American Protestant denominationalism is disintegrating. Can anybody really tell the difference anymore between a Baptist or a Methodist or a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian?...Do you have to be a Calvinist anymore to be a Presbyterian? I doubt it. Do you have to believe in consubstantiation if you want to join a low Lutheran Church. Probably not. If you are a Baptist do you still have to deny infant baptism? Probably not always.

It has been my experience that he is absolutely right.  The reason why I share his view is that I have many times had conversations with people who are not Catholic, and are members of different denominations, but have no idea what the doctrine of their particular faith teaches.  I have spoken with Methodists, Pentecostals, Christian Reformed and Non-Denominationals and they have no clue what the doctrine of their faith teaches.  Many of them have no idea what separates them from each other.  Even though they are separate from each other and disagree on at least one if not more doctrinal issues, they do seem to find their commonality in their disagreement or misunderstanding of what Catholics believe.  Speaking as someone coming from a Protestant background, there was definitely a comradery between me and Protestants of other faiths, that agreed that Catholics were way off base.

Unfortunately, this ignorance of the doctrine of their faith not only resides with Protestants, but also with the Catholics.  There are so many Catholics throughout the world that have no idea what their faith teaches and why.  They unfortunately miss out on the beauties of their faith.  As one of my friends put it, she is always bothered to see Catholics walking into Mass and genuflecting the piano which is on one side of the Church instead of the tabernacle, which is on the other side.  (FYI - always look for the little red candle).

All in all, Fr. Longenecker's post is very insightful, and if anyone is interested in reading it, and discussing, I would love to talk about it.

God bless...


Belteshazzar Mouse said...

I will have to read the post....

In my Catholic walk, that the percentage of Catholics that understand their faith is much smaller than the percentage of Protestants, in spite of their education and formation. Of course, that probably has more to do with the exceptional Protestants I have had faith conversations with. There are also a lot of Cafeteria Catholics out there (and many who might say I am one of them).

I am often surprised by how much Protestants do agree with Catholicism in faith, ritual and tradition (yes, I said tradition). I find most of the differences come down to semantics (with some big exceptions).

We studied Protestant (and non-Christian) beliefs in school, though it was always factual and contrasting and not "here is what they get wrong".

Right now (before reading the blog) I am inclined to say that the Protestant Churches are not disintegrating any more than the Catholic Church. There is an increase in the number of people that profess a faith, and a decrease in the number that make a faith community a part of their lives. That is across the board, Catholic and Protestant.

So, to end on a scriptural paraphrase, I intend to do all I can to understand what I believe rather than to believe in what I do not understand.

Anonymous said...

You seen to have neatly divided humans into two basic groups, Catholic and Non-Catholic, with Catholics being the only members of the 'true' church.

Carlus Henry said...


I am not sure if your comment is directed to me or Belteshazzar Mouse.

In case it is directed to me, my personal opinion is that there is only one Church. Protestants, whether they agree or not, are a part of the Catholic Church. They are just not good Catholics. Once again, this is just my opinion that has been formed by following the following logic:

Jesus established his Church. One holy, catholic and apostalic church (Nicene Creed). The entrance into this church is through baptism. Everyone who is baptized is a member of that one church. I also believe that the Catholic Church is that one Church. Therefore, everyone is Catholic. Just some more than others....