5 Years a Catholic

Feb 6th, 2015 | By | Category: Blog Posts

In one of my last semesters at Reformed Theological Seminary I took a virtual class on pastoral ministry in order to pick up some remaining elective credits. The course encouraged students to be in dialogue with each other through an online blog/portal where we could discuss and debate theological and pastoral issues. At this point I had already been received into full communion with the Catholic Church, but the other participants in the virtual class did not know this.  

At one point the conversation turned towards how to counsel a couple that disagreed on having children. At this point I must have let my guard down and someone suggested I might as well become a Roman Catholic. I responded by acknowledging that I had indeed converted to Catholicism the previous winter.

At that point any other theological divisions between other students in the class became trivial as they unified to help a lost Catholic who had apparently hacked his way into a supposedly safe online space for Reformed seminarians. The personal assaults quickly began and the professor had to step in to blow the whistle. I appreciated him doing so and he was gracious in asking me to continue participating in the dialogue. He said it would be good for the students to see how hollow the Catholic arguments really are. Soon I began exchanging emails with the professor privately where we debated some questions on our own.

As the professor came to know my background, he made a bold assertion; he told me to mark his words; “You will leave the Catholic Church within five years.” I can’t be sure of his intentions in making this statement, perhaps it was a scare tactic towards a new convert, but he seemed confident time would prove him right.


St. Andrew by the Bay Parish
Annapolis, MD

Tomorrow, I will celebrate five years in the Catholic Church. I was confirmed at St. Andrew by the Bay parish in Annapolis, Maryland on February 7th, 2010 by Fr. Martin Burnham. Mass was nearly empty the day I came into the Church as Maryland recovered from one of the worst blizzards in the recorded history of the state. The McNamara family, who had done premarital counseling for my wife and me, hiked two miles through several feet of snow with their five kids to be there for my confirmation.

Experientially, Catholicism has felt like a descent from the clouds onto solid ground.  Although there is a great deal I still love about the Reformed faith, my practice of the Christian faith as a Reformed believer, and I only relay my personal experience, had become largely a theological and mental exercise. My practice of virtue suffered as my understanding of the doctrine of total depravity made the pursuit of holiness seem futile. My experience of God was relegated to theological ideas or truths and my subjective experience of them.

Catholicism, in contrast, has been an enlivening exploration of the incarnation of the Son of God. If the invisible God truly assumed physical matter and took on a body of flesh and bones, our faith should also extend into the tangible world. Every aspect of Catholicism is infused with the bold reality of the incarnation. I now rejoice to see God at work through baptisms at mass, to hear His gracious voice in the words of absolution, and to taste the fruit of the cross when I receive the Eucharist.

I have also come to love Mary. When I came into the Church I accepted the Church’s teachings on Mary simply because I had come to believe in the authority of the magisterium, but having a relationship with Mary still seemed really weird to me. Slowly, however, I have come to love and trust Mary as a mother. The incredible love of God manifests itself most profoundly in the passion of Christ, but it’s no less true that He has also given us a kind and gentle mother to nudge us along as we approach the throne of the King.

Finally, I have found a career home in a faithful Catholic environment where I can do ministry as I had planned since college. I am presently a College Guidance Counselor at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, Maryland, an all-girls Catholic school founded in 1852. Mount de Sales is run by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia, one of the fastest growing orders of nuns in the United States today. I have learned from the Dominican Sisters the joy that is ours in Christ. There are six Dominican Sisters at Mount de Sales and without a doubt they are the most joyful and Christ-centered believers I have ever encountered. They have given their lives to the formation of young woman, that their hearts and minds may be won for Christ. It is an honor and a blessing beyond words to work alongside of them.

Sister_Angela_Marie
Sister Angela Marie instructing students at Mount de Sales Academy

I pray that by the grace of God I will still be in the safety of the Catholic Church in another five years. Here I am formed, here I come to more fully embrace the love of the God who became man. Here I am literally fed by the One who gave His life for me. And here I am seeing my own children come to know the love of their Savior.

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  1. Thanks for sharing. What were some of the arguments that the professor gave as to why he predicted you’d leave in 5 yrs?

  2. Happy 5 years, Mr. Tate!

  3. Welcome Home my brother in Christ – enjoy the journey. As a cradle Catholic am inspired by converts such as you, who are an encouragement in my faith journey too. Be blest. Henry. Cape Town, South Africa

  4. Thank you for this, Jeremy.

    My family hits our 5 year mark on July 31 (St. Ignatius of Loyola). This was really encouraging.

    We experienced a dissident (to put it mildly) priest becoming our pastor in our first year and have had many struggles as a result. But never did it make me regret coming home. Despite the trials, and there have been many, I never looked back and by God’s grace will never count the cost.

    Thank you again for such an encouraging “progress report”. I will pray for your next five years and beyond.

    Dave

  5. Hi Erick,

    Thanks for reading. Great question. When I was Reformed, my social circle consisted primarily of other Reformed Christians and much of what I had gathered about Catholicism had come from people who had left the Catholic Church. I think my Professor was coming from a similar perspective. So, his arguments may have been rooted in what he had witnessed – that those who actually experience Catholicism leave. In addition, I think the arguments were rooted in the fact that I expressed very high hopes for the Catholic Church, hopes that have indeed been met. He spoke of a “false unity” and that in reality Catholics are as divided as Protestants. I think he assumed my experience of Catholicism from inside the Church would prove him right.

    In Christ, Jeremy

  6. What a powerful and compelling witness to the power of God’s grace! Ad Multos Annos!

    You are your wife and family are great witnesses to our faith … Thank you!!

  7. I really enjoyed reading your post, Jeremy! I love reading of your enthusiasm for your faith, your work, and your family. You are a continual inspiration to me. Love, Mama

  8. I remember when I told my Reformed pastor that I must become a Catholic. He was, naturally, very upset. He told me that he believed I was just engaged in a sort of mid-life crisis thing (I was 52 then), scrambling around for novelties, and that in three years I would have left the Catholic Church.

    That was twenty years ago this last Christmas. I will never, please God, leave the Catholic Church. I could not imagine life outside of the Church.

    jj

  9. Happy Anniversary, Jeremy, from a former Baptist now in full communion for 33 years! (I was told it wouldn’t last either!)

  10. Thank you Fr. Proffitt and Fr. Dauses! The Archdiocese of Baltimore is blessed to have men like you laboring in love, faithfully preaching, and administering the grace of Christ to us in the sacraments.

  11. Yes, the idea of going back to the thin fare of ‘Reformed’ Christianity is quite unimaginable, isn’t it? I’m 40 years a Christian (from age 20) and coming up 2 a Catholic, and of course I identify with what you write. This observation especially: “Every aspect of Catholicism is infused with the bold reality of the incarnation.”

    My background is Pentecostal, so I didn’t venture into the theological territory you did, but for me too, coming down from the clouds onto solid ground puts it well.

    It is so much about the discovery of the Church: the actual, incarnated, now and here as well as then and up in glory, Body of Christ. She is so united to Him! She feeds us with the Sacraments, and compared to the competitive individual efforts I made before, it’s an amazing joy to experience being inwardly ‘worked on’ by God as we offer every kind of devotion and participation in the Church’s life and liturgy. Dare I say this: Christ’s beloved Church makes our personal holiness easy to reach.

    Happy anniversary!

  12. As someone who has gone from Fundamentalist Baptist to Methodist to Calvary Chapel to Reformed Baptist to several years in the P.C.A. and is exploring Catholic theology I have had several questions but one that keeps coming up in my mind is this:

    In Romans Paul tells us that unbelievers are guilty before God because God is plain to them, they owe Him honor, they refuse so they incur judgment but it seems that the weight of Paul’s argument is based on how overwhelmingly clear it is that God has or is speaking through creation and how it is this fact that makes us so guilty and so unable to claim ignorance before Him.

    I don’t think anyone will disagree with the last paragraph… If you applied the same logic Paul uses which is that God is obvious and humanity then obviously should worship Him – if you applied that to the Catholic church, that the Catholic church is the true church Christ founded and therefore those who refuse to become a part of the Catholic church are suppressing knowledge of God (I’m not exactly sure you guys would put it that way but follow me) and are either separated brethren or cut off from God and His promises by unbelief…. I guess I think if it were obvious (and how would you establish that – through holiness and purity I would assume) that the Roman Catholic Church was the true church, then God would be just to judge the motives of those who refused to submit to the real church’s authority but the problem is it is not very obvious and for obvious reasons (a history with a lack of holiness and purity).

    If I’m right that it has not been obvious to many sincerely obedient Christians that the R.C.C. is the true church Christ founded, then God would not be just to judge those who remain outside of the R.C.C. but at the same time it would also make the need for the R.C.C. as the one true church where the fullness of Christianity exists superfluous to some degree. Unless the R.C.C. is truly obviously the true church much in the same way that creation speaks God’s speech since the fullness of it’s doctrine and polity would exist in it most fully – then the weight of penalty or guilt on the person unwilling to submit to the R.C.C. would not exist since they had a valid excuse for not believing.

    Now, I’m sure arguments could be brought in to question the motives of those who did not submit to the R.C.C. but it seems the Catechism affirms that there are those who through no fault of their own did not come to Rome. If it was through no fault on their part, then they are not blameworthy according to many things I’ve read. But it is clear that Scripture teaches man is guilty because of what is plain. If the R.C.C. is not somehow obviously the true Church, surely God may be merciful to those ignorant of it, but at the same time in doing so would not God be admitting failure to produce knowledge that leads to accountability before God?

    I understand there are probably examples in the O.T. to argue against the above paragraph, but I don’t think they would totally remove the argument.

    All of the above would not apply to a Sola Scriptura position (and I’ve read quite a bit on this site on the topic and I understand the philosophical problem it poses and I have no conclusion on it right now except to fall back on S.S. until proven otherwise)…. If S.S. is true then man’s guilt before God would be established regardless of the church’s ethical track record since the church could be judged by it’s “constitution” instead of it’s founders or their progeny. If S.S. is true man’s guilt is better established. Now I can see problems with this idea as well (what about people who didn’t/don’t have the ability) but if Scripture was clear (like the WCF says) in the main things people would remain to have very similarly/or equal guilt in their rejection of either therefore establishing guilt. I’m guessing arguments like this have been made before, but so far it’s mine whether good or bad.

    Scripture and Creation, if they had an equal true guilt producing effect on man, would always remain sufficient in revelation such that man would always be truly guilty before God…but how does the R.C.C. or any church for that matter have the wherewithal to be so holy that they would consistently reveal God to humanity in such a way that they would leave man “without excuse.” Unless it can be shown that the church need not function in a holy way to authenticate itself and still leave man without excuse through appeals to history and the church fathers, then I don’t see how any church could provide such an example long term without turning to S.S. in the end and returning to the Scriptures…

    Any thoughts are appreciated…

  13. Thanks for commenting. Interesting question.

    What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20

    I think there is merit to the analogy between man having knowledge of God through creation, as Paul argues in Romans 1, and men recognizing the Catholic Church for what she is, but it seems to me there are some major differences as well. The invisible qualities of God, his eternal power and divine nature, have been communicated to the world from the creation itself. In this equation, human sin does not factor in, as the creation itself tells its own story. The Catholic Church on the other hand, though divinely protected for doctrinal error, has always carried sinners in her midst and the confusion that always comes with sin. I think this is an important point. The Catholic Church claims to have the sole authority to authentically interpret the Scriptures. She never claims to have a certain degree of holiness that would validate herself. In seminary I once had a professor say that although the Catholic Church is a false church, at least she is consistently false. Her teaching hasn’t changed. The Professor was able to recognize that Protestantism has often been all over the map (even any single denomination over time) in terms of theological dogma whereas Catholicism has at least been consistent. What he wasn’t able to see of course was that the problem wasn’t the consistent theology of the Catholic Church, but his own theology!

    You raise an interesting point in your last paragraph. The Catholic Church (or any other) does not consistently reveal God to humanity in such a way that men would be without excuse. But she doesn’t need to. Men are already without excuse. In my life I hope to see the Church become more of the field hospital that Pope Francis desires. But the image of the field hospital doesn’t mean that every nurse and doctor is perfect. In fact, in any field hospital, the opposite may be expected. You have people in authority who are often overworked, exhausted, and sometimes sick themselves, who are laboring in love to care for those who are wounded. This may not help at all, I’m just sharing some thoughts myself. Thanks for the comment and I will think it over more, perhaps one of the more theologically minded CtC authors has thoughts as well.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  14. Thanks for your response. I haven’t left my Reformed thinking but what you said about depravity I have thought of several times lately. I think that it provides false assurance that I can never be good enough or sanctified enough to produce anything but sin-laden works (think Horatius Bonar’s The Soul Winner, it’ll eat you up) and while I partially agree and would actually continue to agree even if I was Catholic, I assume that the doctrine is abused unwittingly by many. Depravity may drive you back to seeking assurance over and over again in Christ alone, but it may never get you to do anything but seek assurance. I appreciate the idea that Christ be the thing we must return to again and again (the perpetual prodigal), and I agree with that, but to a Christ who not only wants to assure me of love but of a love to perfect me – this is met with controversy in the P.C.A. as good, or works based salvation. I affirm Total Depravity and think there is plenty of room for it in the R.C.C. before conversion/baptism but after salvation I’m more hopeful than many others. Anyway, looking forward to comments…

  15. Working with the OP Sisters of Nashville, God has truly blessed you! Rejoice! They are the most joyful Order in the Church I have ever met! You lucky man! You fortunate Catholic! You COULDN’T be in better company!!!

  16. p.s. …and, let’s keep in mind, this is the Church of Jesus Christ! The Crucified One!! Jn 15:20. Can we expect any less? This is NOT a cruise ship. If people leave because they sincerely seek the Truth, because their conscience tells them to leave, I, as a cradle can respect that. Mind you, I don’t think it’s a good idea, I just said I respect their integrity in following their conscience as seekers of Truth. We’ll be here, and will always welcome them home, again, as did the Father of the Prodigal Son, again, and again, always.

    The Church will drive you nuts!! It’s full of SINNERS!!! But, the Apostles drove the Lord nuts, and He showed them the Way, anyway. Blessed be God, in His angels, and in His saints!

  17. I was hoping maybe John Thayer or Bryan Cross chime in a little, maybe I need to post this in a different post?

  18. “IICapnCrunch,” (re: #16)

    Though I could be misunderstanding you, you seem to be assuming that the motives of credibility for the Church must be as universally accessible as the testimony of general revelation. But that’s not the case. General revelation is available to everyone, because no man escapes from nature. By contrast, evidence concerning the Church is not universally available, and hence must be brought to those who have never heard.

    would not God be admitting failure to produce knowledge that leads to accountability before God?

    No. Failure is always relative to a standard or goal. The motives of credibility do lead to accountability. But God intended human knowledge of the motives of credibility to come through other humans, which thereby leaves open the possibility of invincible ignorance on the part of those who could not have known the motives of credibility.

    but how does the R.C.C. or any church for that matter have the wherewithal to be so holy that they would consistently reveal God to humanity in such a way that they would leave man “without excuse.”

    The motives of credibility, of which the holiness of the Church is one, together show that the Church is divinely established, and bears divine authority.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. I only want to address one part of what you wrote in 12: “how would you establish that – through holiness and purity I would assume”

    When I was leaving evangelical Pentecostalism for the privilege of becoming a Catholic I had no mis-impressions about Catholics in general. Some were very holy, many were prayerful, many were not. Some were quite knowledgeable, others had the residue of an eight-grade catechesis degraded by years if not decades of no further effort to find out what the Church holds and believes. The idea that one could measure the Catholic Church by her children could be problematic at times.

    What caught me was that the scripture was saying one thing, and I (and my denomination and Protestantism in general) was saying something else. Something about the Church Itself. Jesus is the King. The Church is part of His Kingdom. Simon Peter, the keeper of the keys, is the chamberlain of His Kingdom. Jesus is the High Priest. He has priests who are priests through their association with Him and a rite which installs them in that vocation. In imitation of Him, they consecrate bread and wine into His Body and Blood which is reality, not merely a symbol.

    The King’s mother is the Queen (1st Kings 2:19-20 starts this practice in Israel). The wise men recognize the King of the Jews Who they find with His mother. She exercises her right to bring the needs of His people to Him at the wedding feast at Cana. He gives her to His disciple as He is dying. I am His disciple, she is my mother too.

    So it was the scripture which pointed me in this direction.

    It is also very good when Catholics respond correctly to their call as sons and daughters of God, but the Truth is not dependent on His brothers and sisters. He is always right, even when I am wrong.

  20. I would advise any Reformed person to think long and hard before converting. Some people talk about the joys, but others will testify that the experience is pretty much a hardship. Poor teaching, no fellowship, and leaders who seem to oppose the very teachings that attracted you in the first place. Parishes full of people who are supposed to believe in the Real Presence who treat communion more cavalierly than Evangelicals. As for unity of belief, I found far, far more unity in Protestantism. Look at the Synod, for crying out loud. Traditional Catholics are personas non grata, and traditional beliefs have been redefined by the Church. That body that attracted people like Arnold Lunn, Ronald Know, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day… You won’t find that. You will find Pope Francis, confounding everyone with his disastrous rhetoric, Robert Barron talking about quasi-universalism as a valid idea, and Scott Hahn writing as if Pope Benedict and he share the same view of Scripture… which they most obviously do not. You’ll find the most conservative Catholic Press still hawking the titles of De Lubac and von Balthasar and von Speyr, and consigning most preconciliar scholasticism to the dustbin. In short, you will find conversion entails stomaching a life of cognitive dissonance. I think I might just stay put: God could not have wanted it to be as complicated as modern Rome makes it. If you want community and support, if you want clear and unified teaching, and if you want Scripture versus ritual front and center, Rome is a difficult home as an everyday believer. If you cannot NOT convert, then of course you shall. But if you have reservations, you are far better staying put.

  21. I’m 1.5 years a Catholic, after being raised Baptist. I could no longer leave now than I could tear myself away from the Blessed Eucharist Who has taken my heart. “I have seen the Lord” – and I am captured. What a wonderful thing it is to have sought the Face of Christ all my life and to have found it.

  22. Bryan,

    I guess my confusion/aversion is with the doctrine of Invincible Ignorance itself since I find it incompatible at least at present with Paul’s reasoning I mentioned. It seems to me that if the greatest graces God communicates are through the ministry of the Catholic church then they would be somewhat synonymous with the argument that God’s essence is clearly seen, suppressed, and therefore makes men liable to judgment. When the Catholic church says men may be ignorant of the truth of the Catholic church through no fault of their own, it seems to make the church superfluous. It seems like a way of acknowledging the legitimacy of churches outside Rome without saying as much?

    Personally, if I were convinced that Catholicism were true I would convert. I find many things about Catholicism overly appealing. The struggles I have had with competing doctrinal positions that lead to year-long considerations that often have kept me from devotional life would have been solved in many ways by having a church and not multiple churches to choose from/or to be condemned by (I think very surely that my dealings with the doctrines of grace in Calvinism which I believe would have been confirmed with slightly different language at the Council of Orange, the Bart Ehrman crap that led to a great deal of confusion and depression, how to think of evolution/origins/literal Adam and Eve, infant baptism etc… have all been very largely personal endeavors for truth that have taken up years of preoccupation that would have been avoided under Catholicism I think). I can’t think of how many time in pursuing Reformed theology I have been met with suspicion if I was a fan of John Frame over Scott Clark, if I appreciated John Piper it was at the expense of the sacraments, if I read the Gospel Coalition it was….So, I feel a very strong “motherly” pull in that regard. But assuming I’m honest and that sin is not clouding my judgment (which I can never be sure of), if I am just ignorant, then there are graces in the Christian life that I need desperately (maybe which are contingent on if I possess eternal life?) that I will never receive and yet it seems like I.I. would affirm my salvation yet leave me woefully lacking all the while not holding me responsible. It seems to me that ignorance in Scripture is almost always not innocent. It seems to me from the Proverbs and Paul especially that ignorance is almost always blameworthy since there is a very strong presence of will in it. So, while I would like the Catholic church to affirm my salvation, I can’t see how God cannot hold me responsible for my ignorance. Protestants like myself typically hold that outside the church there is no “ordinary” means of salvation to leave room for God’s agency that is outside our understanding so as not to limit God while holding the necessity of faith in God revealed in Christ, but the doctrine seems to me to be an exception/provision to our understanding of God’s saving purposes. I.I. would have to make normative the exceptional ways of God’s saving activity if it were to affirm people like myself as Christians which does not seem consistent with the view Rome has of it’s necessity.

    Maybe may nickname can be I.I.CapnCrunch instead (IICapnCrunch or aye aye Captain Crunch is a line from VeggieTales)…

    Thanks

  23. IIetc :-) (#20

    Personally, if I were convinced that Catholicism were true I would convert.

    I was just wondering what might convince you that Catholicism is true. The reason I was wondering is that some people seem to think that the way to know that Catholicism is true is to consider a list of doctrines (salvation, Mary, etc) that Catholicism teaches, decide whether the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding those doctrines are true, and then becoming a Catholic. I do not say this is you – but I do just wonder what would convince you.

    Because in my understanding, if a person did what I describe above, he hasn’t become a Catholic; he is a Protestant who chooses the Catholic ‘denomination.’

    What I mean is this. To do the shopping-list comparison implies that you have some independent standard to decide the truth of those doctrines – usually the Bible, but, necessarily, that means the Bible as the person understands it himself – ‘private interpretation.’

    But a Catholic believes that he can know a doctrine is true because the Church teaches it. To be a Catholic is to recognise that the way to know a doctrine is true is to ask the Church.

    Hence my question to you :-)

    jj

  24. “IICapnCrunch” (re: #20)

    I guess my confusion/aversion is with the doctrine of Invincible Ignorance itself since I find it incompatible at least at present with Paul’s reasoning I mentioned.

    Again, St. Paul is there talking about general revelation, or what St. Augustine called the Book of Nature. But special revelation is not immediately universally accessible. That’s because God comes and speaks in space and time, at this place at this time, rather than at all places and all times, as He does with general revelation. Christ, for example, was born in Bethlehem. He wasn’t born in every village and city around the world, at every time. So the good news about Christ must be brought by men to every corner of the world, as St. Paul says in Romans 10:14: “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” And that entails that those to whom this message has not come, and who could not possibly have known it otherwise, are in a condition of invincible ignorance concerning the gospel. They are not to blame for their not having yet heard the gospel.

    It seems to me that if the greatest graces God communicates are through the ministry of the Catholic church then they would be somewhat synonymous with the argument that God’s essence is clearly seen, suppressed, and therefore makes men liable to judgment.

    That’s like saying that if the greater truth about God comes from the Book of Scripture than the Book of Nature, then the Book of Scripture should by its very nature be as universally accessible as the Book of Nature, in which there would be no need for Bible translation societies, etc. That’s just a bad argument, because the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Just because Christ is a greater revelation of God than is nature, it does not follow that the knowledge of Christ is self-evident to the whole world apart from missionary work and evangelism. Same with His Church.

    When the Catholic church says men may be ignorant of the truth of the Catholic church through no fault of their own, it seems to make the church superfluous.

    Do you think the possibility of invincible ignorance concerning Christ makes Christ superfluous? I don’t see how you possibly reach this conclusion, i.e. that the possibility of being invincibly ignorant about x means that x is superfluous. God’s plan to bring salvation to the world includes not only a human nature He united to Himself, but includes a myriad of secondary causes, i.e. we humans, in bringing His salvation to the whole world.

    It seems like a way of acknowledging the legitimacy of churches outside Rome without saying as much?

    No, it has nothing to do with that. It simply follows from the concrete particular character of special revelation; it comes at a time and a space, and thus must be carried from there to the rest of the world.

    But assuming I’m honest and that sin is not clouding my judgment (which I can never be sure of), if I am just ignorant, then there are graces in the Christian life that I need desperately (maybe which are contingent on if I possess eternal life?) that I will never receive and yet it seems like I.I. would affirm my salvation yet leave me woefully lacking all the while not holding me responsible.

    In the Catholic paradigm, grace is necessary for salvation, as I presume you know. But also in the Catholic paradigm, the beatitude of a saint in heaven depends upon the magnitude of the agape in his soul at the moment of his death. The greater the agape at the moment of death, the greater is eternal beatitude. (I’ve written more about this at “The Gospel and the Meaning of Life.” So a person can have received baptism and faith in Christ, and thus be justified and have agape in his soul, yet because of invincible ignorance, he can also still not be in full communion with Christ’s Church, and thus without access to all the available means of grace by which he may grow in agape. So he would have “salvation” in the sense of going to heaven when he dies, but he would not have access to all the means of grace Christ established in His Church by which the faithful may grow in grace and agape.

    It seems to me that ignorance in Scripture is almost always not innocent. It seems to me from the Proverbs and Paul especially that ignorance is almost always blameworthy since there is a very strong presence of will in it.

    I agree that in many cases it is culpable.

    So, while I would like the Catholic church to affirm my salvation, I can’t see how God cannot hold me responsible for my ignorance.

    It depends on what ignorance you are speaking of. (And if you are speaking of x, then obviously you aren’t entirely ignorant of x.) I highly recommend Jimmy Akin’s article “Ignorance – Vincible and Invincible.”

    Protestants like myself typically hold that outside the church there is no “ordinary” means of salvation to leave room for God’s agency that is outside our understanding so as not to limit God while holding the necessity of faith in God revealed in Christ, but the doctrine seems to me to be an exception/provision to our understanding of God’s saving purposes.

    That’s also the Catholic doctrine, namely, that outside the Church (i.e. entirely outside the Church) there is no ordinary means of salvation.

    I.I. would have to make normative the exceptional ways of God’s saving activity if it were to affirm people like myself as Christians which does not seem consistent with the view Rome has of it’s necessity.

    I’m not sure I understand that sentence, but I presume you are baptized and have faith in Christ. If so, then (according to Catholic doctrine) you are already in imperfect communion with the Church. (Regarding imperfect communion, see my article titled “Baptism, Schism, Full Communion, Salvation.” Invincible ignorance does not mean that everyone who hasn’t heard is saved! It means rather that no one who is in a condition of invincible ignorance can be held culpable for that about which he was invincibly ignorant. Yet, because of God’s universal salvific will, according to the Catholic doctrine God gives sufficient operative grace (for salvation) to all those who have attained the age of reason and its use. See “Lawrence Feingold on God’s Universal Salvific Will.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  25. IICapnCrunch

    I’m intriqued by your questions. I’m a reformed baptist and I’ve been following certain hot topic debates for awhile between RCC and Prostestants. I hope there will be a sufficient response to your questions.

  26. Bryan,

    I wanted to respond with something now since I’ve had limited time… Thanks for your response. I feel this will be a long road.

    My main point which I’m having a hard time articulating and I think you may have confused since I’m confusing is that when I look at all the claims the Catholic church I have a hard time untying them from the Gospel itself. Under Catholic evangelism coming to Christ is coming to the Mass, the Sacraments, etc. If I were Catholic I could not evangelize people in the same way I do now. The Gospel is different since the Gospel remains in the Catholic church – it is part of it. If I were to try and convert a baptized Christian to Catholicism I would feel that he never was nourished with Christ, his experience in other churches only faintly resembled the truth and experience of the Catholic church, that forgiveness of sins was communicated through the ministry of the church as representatives of Christ. But, then come the arguments against the Catholic church with it’s own immorality being the foremost argument against it’s claims (not really against it’s validity but it’s claims to be the Mother) and here is justification for suspicion which leaves my friend who is baptized I.I. But, if Scripture was S.A. there would be no Invincible Ignorance. If the Gospel remained just as powerful under a sinful preacher as a holy preacher because it was inherently powerful, then there could be no cause for ignorance only sin would remain. The reason I remain Invincibly Ignorant today is that I feel I have justification for believing the Catholic Church does not have apostolic succession (I’m reading Hans Kung right now – maybe he’s a closet Protestant?), does not have an Infallible Pope, does not properly condemn the worship of Mary, has not dealt strictly with sin within it’s ministers, has more than “developed” existing doctrines into clearer terminology but has invented doctrines, practices the same picking and choosing among the church fathers according to the orthodoxy of the Catholic church that it accuses Protestants of, etc…

    Now, maybe I’m still confusing things, but if rejecting the Gospel is worthy of damnation and the Catholic Church really is (?) or embodies the Gospel how can I be sinless when that’s not how Paul talks about rejecting Natural or Special Revelation.

    One more comment… I guess, how is rejecting the Catholic Church not the same as rejecting the Gospel? Since rejecting the Gospel is blameworthy and not just ignorant just like rejecting natural revelation is blameworthy and not just ignorant – how can I be I.I. or how can I.I. be a valid doctrine?

    Thanks,
    IICapn

    (I have to protect my anonymity from my brothers in Christ)

  27. IICapnCrunch, (re: #24)

    My main point which I’m having a hard time articulating and I think you may have confused since I’m confusing is that when I look at all the claims the Catholic church I have a hard time untying them from the Gospel itself. Under Catholic evangelism coming to Christ is coming to the Mass, the Sacraments, etc. If I were Catholic I could not evangelize people in the same way I do now. The Gospel is different since the Gospel remains in the Catholic church – it is part of it. If I were to try and convert a baptized Christian to Catholicism I would feel that he never was nourished with Christ, his experience in other churches only faintly resembled the truth and experience of the Catholic church, that forgiveness of sins was communicated through the ministry of the church as representatives of Christ.

    Again, the gospel is not a simple such that it is always had only in binary fashion: either in its entirety, or not at all. Here are some relevant statements from Church documents:

    This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity. (Lumen Gentium 8)

    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. (Unitatis Redintegratio, 3)

    Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines 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, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.” (CCC, 819)

    Notice that in each of those three excerpts there is a reference to “elements of sanctification and truth” that have their origin in the Catholic Church, but can and do also exist to various degrees outside the visible structure of the Catholic Church in the separated [particular] Churches and also in the ecclesial communities. For this reason, there is no good reason to assume that a non-Catholic who has been raised or formed in Protestant communities “never was nourished with Christ,” all other things being equal. Feelings are not what we go by here; we are guided by the teaching of the Church. And the teaching of the Church gives us reason not only to affirm the validity of their baptism, but also their growth in grace through these “elements of sanctification and truth,” again, all other things being equal.

    But, then come the arguments against the Catholic church with it’s own immorality being the foremost argument against it’s claims (not really against it’s validity but it’s claims to be the Mother) …

    See “The Holiness of the Church and the comments under that post.

    But, if Scripture was S.A. there would be no Invincible Ignorance. If the Gospel remained just as powerful under a sinful preacher as a holy preacher because it was inherently powerful, then there could be no cause for ignorance only sin would remain. The reason I remain Invincibly Ignorant today is that I feel I have justification for believing the Catholic Church does not have apostolic succession (I’m reading Hans Kung right now – maybe he’s a closet Protestant?), does not have an Infallible Pope, does not properly condemn the worship of Mary, has not dealt strictly with sin within it’s ministers, has more than “developed” existing doctrines into clearer terminology but has invented doctrines, practices the same picking and choosing among the church fathers according to the orthodoxy of the Catholic church that it accuses Protestants of, etc…

    Let’s take those five things only one at time, rather than all at once. Follow up your Kung with Costanzo’s The Historical Credibility of Hans Kung. Then let’s continue with the other four.

    Now, maybe I’m still confusing things, but if rejecting the Gospel is worthy of damnation and the Catholic Church really is (?) or embodies the Gospel how can I be sinless when that’s not how Paul talks about rejecting Natural or Special Revelation.

    See my first paragraphs above. (By the way, I am not saying that you’re “sinless” or “sinful”; I’m making no judgment either way.)

    One more comment… I guess, how is rejecting the Catholic Church not the same as rejecting the Gospel? Since rejecting the Gospel is blameworthy and not just ignorant just like rejecting natural revelation is blameworthy and not just ignorant – how can I be I.I. or how can I.I. be a valid doctrine?

    Rejecting the Catholic Church after knowing she was established by Christ as necessary for salvation, is culpable, just as rejecting baptism after knowing that it is commanded by Christ, is culpable. In both cases it is rejecting part of the gospel, because both baptism and the Church are part of the gospel. But not everyone who rejects them (or the rest of the gospel) does so culpably, because not everyone who does so is presented with sufficient accurate information either to require intellectually further sincere investigation on their part, or to believe that this is from God.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  28. I’ve got plenty to chew on thanks for your graciousness… Does the Catholic Church maintain some sort of self-authenticity to either the Scriptures or the message of the Gospel? Thanks again.

    IICapn

  29. IICapn, (re: #26)

    Does the Catholic Church maintain some sort of self-authenticity to either the Scriptures or the message of the Gospel?

    No, not self-authenticating. Rather there are motives of credibility for the act of faith.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. What I can’t get is since most Protestants and Catholics cannot define their faith very well, where the church and the Bible came from and it’s history, but assume it – we (I think you would affirm this, though I haven’t been sold on Baptismal Regeneration) still affirm them as Christians due to simple faith in Christ evidenced by love and ongoing repentance – but if half the Catholic church was to walk away from the faith or from the One True Church Christ established and became Lutheran due to some scandal they would get a pass as I.I. This seems to excuse almost everyone from real culpability. I can’t get around that real culpability is due to knowledge and only if there is something self-authenticating, either in the Gospel or in the church, something – how can anyone ever be guilty? I assume that the creation and the message of the Gospel are self-authenticating since they are in one sense the same message. I wonder if the only reason we have special revelation is due to our tendency to suppress the truth and so the Word of God comes in to re-establish what we already know. I don’t know how God can hold people accountable for their sins without people NOT being able to claim ignorance. Self-authenticity ruins ignorance. I’ve spent plenty of time on your site and I have definitely come to see that what unites Catholics and Reformed Christians should be in my opinion the primacy of Grace in our theologies and I’m glad I don’t have the caricature I grew up with as a Fundamentalist Baptist, still, it seems so inconsistent, the I.I. doctrine. Potentially no one would be guilty for not being a Catholic and yet be outside the One True Church. Now, if the Catholic church were one of several valid churches, and the message of Christianity was self-authenticating requiring no more than faith and love and worship to God, but no adherence to such huge claims to have a valid profession, then the guilt sticks, you must “get your butt in church” – but if the claims are so huge that either the adherents of Catholic faith must just assume them for them to be valid Christians and if the claims are so huge that it’s never overwhelming for a person to believe – then I.I. comes in and saves the day and a sinner has justification before God as to why they remain outside the church. I can’t see how this squares up.

    The thing that attracts me most to the Catholic church, other than the hope that God was not absent for wide swaths of Christian history, is the consistency I perceive to be in doctrinal stability and the fact that Catholic doctrine should never change or else it would prove to be un-infallible. I am deeply grateful for the defense of marriage in the catechism and agree with it whole-heartedly. I’ve come to wonder why on a Scriptural/Philosophical basis that Protestants ever came to accept divorce (John Piper is an exception who I respect deeply). So, I appreciate this a great deal. I share the frustrations of many Catholic converts I’ve read. I’m coming to believe that either Mere Christianity, Carl Trueman Old School Presbyterianism is right, E.O., or Catholicism. But really, I’m left with Mere Christianity and Catholicism, since there is no structure to prevent doctrinal decay in the long-term in modern Presbyterianism and E.O. is so geographically regional (maybe I shouldn’t knock this?). So, I guess I’m buying into some of the thinking of a global church.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Sorry if I appear to be reiterating the same thing.

    IICapn

  31. IICapnCrunch,

    What I can’t get is since most Protestants and Catholics cannot define their faith very well, where the church and the Bible came from and it’s history, but assume it – we (I think you would affirm this, though I haven’t been sold on Baptismal Regeneration) still affirm them as Christians due to simple faith in Christ evidenced by love and ongoing repentance – but if half the Catholic church was to walk away from the faith or from the One True Church Christ established and became Lutheran due to some scandal they would get a pass as I.I. This seems to excuse almost everyone from real culpability.

    I agree that most Catholics are not well catechized, and do not know Church history or biblical history. And I agree that as a general rule, the greater the ignorance, the less the culpability, all other things being equal. But I don’t know where you are getting the notion that if half the Catholic church were to walk away from the faith or from the One True Church Christ established and become Lutheran due to some scandal, “they would get a pass as invincibly ignorant.” On the principle of charity, we do not assume the worst of someone, especially when more charitable explanations are available. But choosing the most charitable explanation, all other things being equal, is an option for us [humans] because we cannot read hearts. Nevertheless God can infallibly read hearts, and on Judgment Day He will bring to light the motives of men’s hearts, and will show when we acted non-culpably out of ignorance, and when we acted culpably.

    I can’t get around that real culpability is due to knowledge and only if there is something self-authenticating, either in the Gospel or in the church, something – how can anyone ever be guilty?

    I don’t understand that question.

    I wonder if the only reason we have special revelation is due to our tendency to suppress the truth and so the Word of God comes in to re-establish what we already know.

    Revelation does re-establish what we already know regarding the natural law. But divine revelation goes beyond that, revealing to us also about God what we could never have known merely by human reason.

    I don’t know how God can hold people accountable for their sins without people NOT being able to claim ignorance.

    God is Truth. How is it that every mouth is stopped on Judgment Day? Because there is no hiding anything before Truth Himself. No one can defend himself against the Truth Himself. For any particular thought, word, or deed, either the Truth accuses it, or excuses it.

    still, it seems so inconsistent, the I.I. doctrine. Potentially no one would be guilty for not being a Catholic and yet be outside the One True Church.

    I don’t know where you are getting the idea that no non-Catholic is guilty for not being Catholic. Nothing I’ve said entails that no non-Catholic is guilty for not being Catholic. The possibility that a person is invincibly ignorant regarding the obligation to enter the Catholic Church does not entail that all non-Catholics are invincibly ignorant regarding the obligation to enter the Catholic Church.

    Now, if the Catholic church were one of several valid churches, and the message of Christianity was self-authenticating requiring no more than faith and love and worship to God, but no adherence to such huge claims to have a valid profession, then the guilt sticks, you must “get your butt in church” – but if the claims are so huge that either the adherents of Catholic faith must just assume them for them to be valid Christians and if the claims are so huge that it’s never overwhelming for a person to believe – then I.I. comes in and saves the day and a sinner has justification before God as to why they remain outside the church.

    I’m not sure what you mean by claims being “huge,” and what you mean by “overwhelming for a person to believe.” So I’m not sure how you’re moving from the Catholic claims being ‘huge,’ to the conclusion that it is always the case that those who remain outside the Church are invincibly ignorant.

    The adherent of the Catholic faith need not, and should not, just “assume” the truth of the claims of the Catholic Church. That would be fideism, which the Church has condemned, as I’ve explained here. Rather, they should be guided by the motives of credibility, to the Church Christ founded, and then, on account of her divine authority, believe by an act of [non-blind] faith whatever she teaches has been divinely revealed, as I’ve explained here.

    The thing that attracts me most to the Catholic church, other than the hope that God was not absent for wide swaths of Christian history, is the consistency I perceive to be in doctrinal stability and the fact that Catholic doctrine should never change or else it would prove to be un-infallible. I am deeply grateful for the defense of marriage in the catechism and agree with it whole-heartedly. I’ve come to wonder why on a Scriptural/Philosophical basis that Protestants ever came to accept divorce (John Piper is an exception who I respect deeply). So, I appreciate this a great deal. I share the frustrations of many Catholic converts I’ve read. I’m coming to believe that either Mere Christianity, Carl Trueman Old School Presbyterianism is right, E.O., or Catholicism. But really, I’m left with Mere Christianity and Catholicism, since there is no structure to prevent doctrinal decay in the long-term in modern Presbyterianism and E.O. is so geographically regional (maybe I shouldn’t knock this?). So, I guess I’m buying into some of the thinking of a global church. Thanks for your thoughts. Sorry if I appear to be reiterating the same thing.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope we’re making progress in understanding each other.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. My comments about poorly catechized Christians has to do with the fact that we don’t call them fideists. I agree that people should be more critical than to let anyone speak for God, but even Paul rejoiced that the Gospel went forward through people who were no friend to him. Wouldn’t the hearers Paul speaks of be a kind of fideist? If in the Gospel something is self-authenticating then the majority of the world who claim to be Christians are not fideists, but if we would require people such diligence and means to come to the conclusion that one church is right, that may lead to agnosticism. Would you say that present in the Gospel (presented by any church) could be some self-authenticating presence of the Holy Spirit. I’m guessing that a Catholic believes that a person who picks up a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room and is overwhelmed by the message of the Gospel and the Person of Jesus, who calls out to God in faith and repentance, who is later baptized in a non-Catholic church – had a real experience with God as far as we can tell. But if they didn’t read multiple books validating the existence of God, the differences between justification in different churches, study historical proofs for the resurrection, etc…. we don’t call them fideists since we can assume that God does work in and through His Word attended by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. To condemn fideism without some self-authenticity in the church/Word/Gospel/giving validity to spontaneous non-baptism conversions would be to damn millions of Catholics and Protestants I assume?

    I know you’re a busy guy. It would be really great if you’d consider putting some of these articles in PDF. Reading a computer for a long time is difficult. I’m going to turn on Feingold in just a minute…

    Thanks,
    IICapn

  33. IICapnCrunch, (re: #30)

    I agree that people should be more critical than to let anyone speak for God, but even Paul rejoiced that the Gospel went forward through people who were no friend to him.

    Agreed.

    Wouldn’t the hearers Paul speaks of be a kind of fideist?

    I don’t see why that would follow. In other words, I don’t see why the hearers St. Paul speaks of would have to be a kind of fideist. Those St. Paul speaks of preached the gospel with wrong motives. But the motives of credibility do not reduce entirely to good motives/intentions by those preaching. There remained motives of credibility in the preaching of the gospel even by persons with impure motives.

    If in the Gospel something is self-authenticating then the majority of the world who claim to be Christians are not fideists, but if we would require people such diligence and means to come to the conclusion that one church is right, that may lead to agnosticism.

    But pragmatism isn’t how we judge truth. We have to use diligence and means in order to come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that every other religion that rejects this is in that respect mistaken. But just because this might lead some to agnosticism, that doesn’t mean either that Christ is not the Son of God, or that we don’t have to use diligence and means in order to determine the divine identity and veracity of Jesus Christ in relation to other religions. Reality is what it is, and we conform ourselves to it, rather than dictating how it must be. (I don’t think you disagree; I’m just trying to clarify that the same diligence required regarding the determination of Christ’s identity applies likewise to the determination of the identity of the Church He founded.)

    Would you say that present in the Gospel (presented by any church) could be some self-authenticating presence of the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit can operate in any person to open his heart to see and affirm whatever truth is present in any presentation of the gospel. And the Scripture itself is a motive of credibility, as explained at the post (linked above) on the motives of credibility.

    I’m guessing that a Catholic believes that a person who picks up a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room and is overwhelmed by the message of the Gospel and the Person of Jesus, who calls out to God in faith and repentance, who is later baptized in a non-Catholic church – had a real experience with God as far as we can tell.

    Sure.

    But if they didn’t read multiple books validating the existence of God, the differences between justification in different churches, study historical proofs for the resurrection, etc…. we don’t call them fideists since we can assume that God does work in and through His Word attended by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

    Scripture is a motive of credibility for believing in the divinity of Christ, and His Church. And the Holy Spirit can move a person’s heart and mind to see and believe truths about Jesus and God, as revealed in Scripture. And this internal testimony is a kind of evidence, such that such a person is not necessarily a fideist if he is following the truth as he knows it, even if he is mistaken in certain ways, and his knowledge is only elementary and incomplete, and he hasn’t done all the background research into the historical reliability of the Bible. But this is true also even of persons in other religions. The Muslim, for example, who is following his conscience and the truth as best he knows it, is not necessarily a fideist. He may have never had the means, resources, or opportunity to investigate the history of his own religion, or any other religion.

    To condemn fideism without some self-authenticity in the church/Word/Gospel/giving validity to spontaneous non-baptism conversions would be to damn millions of Catholics and Protestants I assume?

    I don’t accept your “self-authentication” or “fideism for the masses” dilemma. But that’s because I think what you are getting at with “self-authentication” can also be obtained by the operation of the Holy Spirit, and the notion that Scripture itself is a motive of credibility, along with other reasons why persons believe in Christ (e.g. the witness of the holy lives of the persons from whom they hear the gospel).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. IICapn . My brother in Christ. Your questions are travelling in a circular discourse. I am reminded of the song “there are more questions than answers……and the more I find out the less I know!” The Holy Spirit will make all known. Take the bold step Home and trust the Church Christ established. Come taste and see the fullness of faith in all its richness. My prayers are with you and your family. Wishing you a blessed day in the Mercy of God.

  35. Ave Maria
    IICapnCrunch,
    It seems that you are attributing too much to I.I.

    We can be ignorant of something, say, a speed limit. That does not mean we are not culpable for saying, “I don’t know the speed limit, so I am going to drive at 120 miles an hour.”

    To be invincible ignorant means I don’t know that I don’t know, and that God will not hold them accountable for what they were unable to discover or learn. That doesn’t mean God won’t hold them accountable for anything, but that in this particular area, they did not know something, and could not have found it out.

    A classic example is someone on an island in the south pacific dying without having professed the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, or having of sought baptism. They were completely incapable of learning these things short of a special illumination from God. God will not hold them accountable for these things, but those things they either did know (even if dimly) or were culpably ignorant of they will be held accountable for. These would be things such as the natural law, the existence of God, and such. They don’t get a blank check for not having known the Nicene Creed, but they aren’t held to task for not knowing the Nicene Creed.

    You mentioned above that one of your difficulties is the Marian teachings and practices. I can recommend some resources to you if you would wish. A primary one that helped me during my entry into the Church was these selections from John Cardinal Newman: http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/newman-mary.asp

  36. fra Charles and Bryan,

    I don’t think I am attributing too much. My point has been and sort of remains for now (and I’m reading Newman’s Apologia right now, don’t know if that’s the best intro.) that if we can say that General Revelation is self-authenticating then why not Special Revelation? Because when I read the Bible I just keep seeing that people do know God, don’t want to know Him, and distort that knowledge willfully. Why wouldn’t it follow that Special Revelation would have the same effect? But according to Bryan who I assume is a good representative of Catholic teachings the Catholic Church does not believe the church or the Gospel or the Bible are self-revealing/self-attesting, but are arrived at through reason with the Holy Spirit playing some role – and when you combine that with the condemnation of fideism, it just falls apart for me – maybe I don’t understand the motives of credibility enough. The whole topic of I.I. and the Motives of Credibility seem to be really optimistic on the extent of the fall on people, the role of the will in decision making. I admit, I’m attracted to Presupposition Apologetics and believe in Total Depravity – I know this is steering part of my thinking. I ‘ve read Bryan’s criticism of Presupp. as being founded on philosophical skepticism but he knows that the reason for skepticism is because of sins effects on the will and the conscience. So the idea of I.I. is all the worse for me since I do think that the intellect is ran mainly by the will in matters of morality when morality is tested in a person.

    I realize that sinners will be held accountable for what they know and I do think that the greater the sin is based on the awareness of the evil of the sin. So, I guess I can get the idea between mortal and venial sins, although I think it would be quite blurry most of the time especially if venial sins are a gateway to mortal ones. That aside, I agree that a person without exposure to God’s Word will be accountable to God because of the Law written on their hearts along with Nature, not for being uninformed about Christ. What I’ve really been after is that when a person is confronted with Scripture either by hearing, reading, etc… there in Scripture and it is slighted or outright rejected, that person has been presented with the remedy to sin and has rejected it. Again, if Scripture is self-attesting, or self-authenticating – when it speaks God speaks through it, then a sinner would be accountable to God, not just ignorant under the Reformed understanding – thus holding up Paul’s logic in Romans 1. If God judges as guilty self-attesting General Revelation deniers, and if you can infer that if General Revelation is self-authenticating then General Revelation is, then no one anywhere could claim I.I. because while they may not be judged for rejecting Christ since they didn’t know Christ, but it would follow that they would have rejected Christ as Divine Revelation since they had already done so with General Revelation and this would all show the need for regeneration.

    I’m concerned that Paul says that the whole world is accountable to God for natural revelation, again how would it not follow that if someone were presented the Gospel they would be accountable for the rejection of that Gospel as well – but that guilt would only be there if there were something self-attesting since otherwise I.I. kicks in unless the person has done a bunch of research, and when the person does the research they have to trust the researchers, and they have to trust history, and so on… It just keeps going until they are left with probabilities. But if the message is self-attesting, then not-knowing which probabilities to go with would still have a guilt producing effect.

    I think Catholic theology must hold out the possibility that some men will respond to God in an acceptable manner by Natural Revelation alone but then when presented with Special Revelation have no idea what to do potentially, never enter the church. A denial of natural revelation would damn them I assume, but a denial of Scripture would not?

    What happens to people who do know God in part through General Revelation but never know Christ? Do they go to Purgatory?

    On the Mary topic, honestly, if I imagine entering a Catholic church this really stand out to me, but it all my thinking on this it isn’t coming up. I figure if Catholics could be right on so many other issues why not trust that they got this right.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Bryan,

    I forgot to ask, but I read in one of your threads about a starting point towards Catholicism is the Donatist controversy, and if I’m right, then can you explain why a little. It has come up in my mind several times.

    Thanks

  37. IICapnCrunch (34)
    Very tangentially, but I note the you said you are reading Newman’s Apologia. Can I recommend as well another book by Newman, his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine? As you will find in reading the Apologia, this is the book that he wrote in the long vacation of 1845 to decide whether the Catholic Church is the continuation of the Church of the Apostles. On 9 October, he was received into the Church.

    It was these two books that started me on the path that led me into the Church.

    jj

  38. Please forgive my many typos…. I was half asleep when I wrote the last post. Here is the sentence I butchered:

    If God judges as guilty self-attesting General Revelation deniers, and if you can infer that since General Revelation is self-authenticating then Special Revelation would be also (since they come from the same source and bear the same authority), then no one anywhere could claim I.I. because while they may not be judged for rejecting Christ since they didn’t know Christ, there would be no reason to think they would have ever come to Christ if they willfully denied the Creation that spoke so clearly to them.

    I’m not saying that Scripture wouldn’t need explanation, study, historical verification etc…, but that those things would really only confirm what was already known after having coming in contact with God’s Word. I guess this may come down to the order of things to some degree. I’ve got no credentials to teach philosophy so I won’t pretend to out-think any regular poster here, but you would almost have to say that the person who does accept Scripture as authoritative or the church/Gospel/etc… would have had to first accept General Revelation in a way somewhat acceptable to God so that later they would arrive at Scripture. This idea makes more sense to me and must infer election which I’m fine with, but give me Scripture where man with Natural Revelation alone comes to right conclusions about God that don’t end in idolatry. I can’t think of passages in Scripture where man is painted in such a rosy way. Maybe where Paul says that “the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and He is not served by human hands as if he needed anything. …..God did this so that man would seek Him, perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.” Then there is the the “but now God commands men everywhere to repent…”

    Would you say that it is a venial sin for someone to remain ignorant of the Catholic Church?
    Do non-Catholic Christians go to purgatory?

    If I am to realize the Catholic Church as the church Christ founded won’t I be ultimately by persuaded by the Holy Spirit and if I am isn’t that a type of self-authentication? What I mean somewhat by self-authentication is that the Spirit accompanies it (Scripture/whatever He wishes to convince us of) at His will. He attests to it’s authenticity. When Scripture is read/preached/meditated upon the Holy Spirit at will uses the means designated by God to produce real knowledge in a person of it’s authenticity which can later be verified, but until the message is verified, they are not fideists. So maybe it would be helpful to say that Scripture is self-attesting and self-authenticating because when a sinner comes into contact with it and the Omnipotent Spirit acts upon the sinner, there is an undeniability of it’s authenticity. This would produce real guilt before God. Paul warns that those who have tasted and seen are recrucifying Christ when they apostasize (right?). What are they denying but the Spirit and what has the Spirit illumined them to – God’s will through the apostles/God’s will through His Word and the experience that entails.

    Now, when the Holy Spirit illumines the mind or frees the will isn’t it usually because of some blindness or bondage? If the Spirit must tell me the Catholic church is true there must be some sinful disposition in me to overcome (which I would be blameworthy for since it would flow from my will) to convince my heart. I think you get where I’m going. Maybe I’m still confusing the M.O.C. but like Newman I’ve pretty much told God you’re going to have to convince me of this, but if He must overcome something in me it will either be my own sin or some effect of former sins – nothing innocent. Unless we are innocent for Original Sin?

    General Revelation = Blameworthy
    Special Revelation = Not Blameworthy
    General Revelation = Self-Authentic
    Special Revelation = Not Self Authentic
    Natural Man with General Revelation = Dead in Sin, Dead to God
    Natural Man with Special Revelation = I.I.

    I want to get this I really do. But I’m not worried about how accessible the Word of God is but what happens when people encounter it. What guilt is incurred for hearing Jesus teaching and doing nothing or saying I hate Jesus? If the man is reading a book that needs an outside authority to tell him it’s God’s Word and he doesn’t feel like he can trust the authority then there is no additional guilt placed on the person and ignorance can be claimed. If the man reads Scripture and it is self-authentic since it came from God, then man came into contact with God and will be held responsible.

    I would do well to know what the Catholic Church believes about regeneration apart from baptism, the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Bible, the ability of man to be ignorant and the reason not be due to culpable sin in the end, etc… Will read articles.

    Thanks,
    I.I.

  39. Bryan,

    I know you’ve given me enough time, but can you explain how the Donatist controversy led you to Catholicism as I think I read somewhere else.

    Thanks

  40. IICapn (re: #35)

    I don’t think I said that the Donatist controversy led me to Catholicism. But studying the Church’s relation to the rigorist sects, which included the Montanists, the Novatians, the Donatists, etc. showed that (a) holiness includes obedience to the Church, even when members of the Church are sinners, (b) the identification of the Church is not by the rationalist principle of determining which group of persons is most rigorous; holiness is not reducible to rigor, (c) the Church essentially includes a visible structure, and separating from that visible structure, even with the best of intentions with regard to maintaining purity and holiness, is a sin, indeed the sin of schism from the Church, (d) the gospel is not reducible to a message abstracted from or abstractable from the Church, nor is the Church defined by the location and possession of such a message; rather, the gospel is defined by the Church, such that one finds the gospel by finding the Church, and fully embraces the gospel by fully embracing the Church, (e) sins by Church leaders do not nullify their authority or justify separating from the Church or starting a new Church; rather, in such cases we are called to suffer in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who sin, and pray and fast for their repentance and healing.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  41. Thanks for the post. I have been lurking around here for some time and noticed that there are several C2C people around the Annapolis area. As I consider the claims of the Catholic Church, it is well to see others in close proximity with a rich testimony.

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