Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Milk and Meat: What We Can Learn from Evangelicalism (and Vice Versa)

You can learn a lot from comparing Catholic converts to Protestantism with Protestant converts to Catholicism. Catholics tend to leave because their basic needs aren't being met. Protestants tend to leave because only their basic needs are being met.  I think that the best evidence shows that Catholics need to be better at presenting and living "Christianity 101," while Evangelicals need to graduate to a deeper and more knowledgeable Faith.

I. A Profile of Those Who Leave Catholicism

The statistics on those leaving the Catholic Church in America can be downright frightful. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life surveyed over 10,000 cradle Catholics, and the results were disturbing.  For every six children raised Catholic, one left the Catholic Church for Protestantism, one lost their faith entirely, and two remained Catholic but reported not having a "strong faith."  So not only are we losing one-third of our members outright, but another third seem to be lost to lukewarmness. And this is just based off of self-reporting: if anything, the real situation might be worse. The results are here, and well worth the read.

Right now, this gaping wound in the American Church is possible to ignore, because there's a large wave of Catholic immigrants, particularly from Latin America.  As a result, within the US, Catholicism is technically growing.  It's just that most of this growth consists of people moving here from other countries, rather than getting saved, or arriving at the fullness of Catholic Christianity. It's the difference between making money, and losing money, but transferring money from your savings account to make it appear you're still profitable. It masks the problem, it doesn't solve it.

A. People Thirsty for Truth


So what can we learn about the actual problem, and how can we solve it? Here's a couple of interesting statistics:

  • 71% of "unaffiliated" ex-Catholics report that they "just gradually drifted away from the religion." This was the highest percentage reason given by far: no principled objection, no sudden (de)conversion experience, just sort of wandered off.
  • 71% of Protestants, on the other hand (including 78% of ex-Catholic Evangelicals) reported that they left because their spiritual needs were not being met.
These folks seem to be saying something very similar. As Catholics, they weren't connected.  It wasn't as if they were on fire for the Catholic Faith, and something caused them to suddenly renounce their faith. They left because they weren't on fire, causing them to either look elsewhere or give up entirely.  In contrast, only 65% of "unaffiliated" and 50% of Protestants reported leaving because they stopped believing in Catholicism's teaching.  It doesn't appear the doctrines are what are primarily causing the exodus.  Put another way, a Catholic generally doesn't become Baptist because of their teachings on infant Baptism, but because they express their love for the Lord in a way which the spiritually thirsty Catholic longs for. 

B. People Badly Misinformed.

Many Catholic reverts (people who go from Catholicism to something else, back to Catholicism) describe how little they knew about Catholicism at the time they left.  Part of this is because they often left before they had a fully matured faith:
Almost half of Catholics who are now unaffiliated (48%) left Catholicism before reaching age 18,as did one-third who are now Protestant. Among both groups, an additional three-in-ten left theCatholic Church as young adults between ages 18 and 23. Only one-fifth who are now unaffiliated(21%) and one-third who are now Protestant (34%) departed after turning age 24.
And compared with those Catholics who stayed true to their faith, those early years look quite different. Ex-Catholic Protestants were the least likely to have gone to religious education classes a child, least likely to have gone as a teen, and least likely to have attended a Catholic high school. They were less likely than those who remained Catholic to have gone to Mass, either as a child or as a teenager.  And those who left Catholicism for nothing were worst off: while 74% of them attended weekly Mass as a child (already a sadly low number), a mere 44% of them went weekly as teenagers.  So in part, the problem is simple enough: if you don't bother coming to find out what the Church teaches, you're not going to learn, and you're not going to feel impassioned for the Faith. In this sense, the statistics are reminiscent of the statistics for high school and college drop-outs: they're often the people who didn't bother coming to class.

What this means, practically speaking, is that one of the common characteristics of ex-Catholics is their inability to explain what the Church they left actually taught. While hardly scientific, you can find plenty of evidence of this in places like this forum, in which a Catholic asks ex-Catholics how many of them believed in the Real Presence while they were Catholics. The first person to respond claimed that he had believed in the Real Presence, but it was one of the first beliefs he sacrificed, since: 
If you could actually conjure up Jesus Christ, bodily, wouldn't you want to show him off to your friends first, maybe visit some hospitals & jails with him, bring him to work...instead of sticking him in a piece of cracker ?
When the Catholic responded that Catholics don't believe that Jesus is "conjured" and put into the Eucharist, but that the Eucharist is Christ, the ex-Catholic was confused:
I distinctly remember my priest telling me Jesus was in the bread. He got there when the bread is put into the little gold cupboard (I don't remember what it's called), the priest said something I didn't quite hear, and told us Christ was in the bread.
So while a survey might show that he had a reasoned rejection of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the truth is, he has no idea what the Church actually teaches on the issue. What he described was something between the Lutheran view (often called consubstantiation) and the Indian in the Cupboard.  Catholics don't believe that the tabernacle is in any way responsible for the consecration of the Eucharist.

What we end up with are people who detest what they wrongly think are the faith-stifling doctrines of the Catholic Church.  Or as Abp. Fulton Sheen so charmingly put it:
There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.
You might assume that the picture looks the same for those ex-Protestants who become Catholic.  Far from it.

II. A Profile of Those Leaving Protestantism for Catholicism

While the majority of converts between Catholicism and Protestantism are leaving the former for the latter, it's not a one-way street.  The Evangelical Scot McKnight, in the September 2002 edition of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, looked at those travelling in the other direction.  What do those Evangelical converts to Catholicism look like? His full report is fairly good (PDF), and this summary by Michael Vlach isn't bad. He notes some of the major reasons Evangelicals become Catholic:
  • Certainty: The quest for a surer doctrinal foundation, instead of the innumerable competing theories within Protestantism.  McKnight quotes David Mills as describing how he asked eleven Evangelical scholars about the Biblical view of divorce and remarriage, and walked away with nine different answers.  Catholicism presents Herself as the Truth, rather than one possible idea. 
  • History: Recognition that the early Church was Catholic. If Christ didn't abandon His Bride, the Church, then He was leading the Catholic Church for quite a while. Given that, we should expect Him to remain in control of the Catholic Church.
  • Unity: Christ established (Mt. 16), and called for (John 17), One Church, and is against schisms; the Catholic Church appears to be that One Church.  If Christians are ever going to be truly and totally united, in communion with one another, it'll be within the Catholic Church.
  • Authority: McKnight concedes, "I might as well say this up front: in evangelicalism (and Protestantism in general), the authority of the Church resides in two spheres—the Bible and the specific interpretation of the Bible by the interpreter himself or herself."  There is no such thing as "the Bible alone," since it's the interpretation of the Bible that's divided so many Christians.  Catholicism recognizes this openly, and has a clear and sensible answer: the Church is placed as the pillar of foundation of Truth (1 Tim. 3:15), and She answers questions of Biblical interpretation.  Protestantism tends to close its eyes to this problem, leaving each individual to imagine that their interpretation is the obvious one the Bible intended.
The two "prototypical" examples McKnight points to are John Michael Talbot and Scott Hahn.  Both men were already well-known, active and passionate Evangelicals who found something even better in Catholicism.  McKnight's other examples show that this isn't unusual: Catholic converts from Evangelicalism see it as building upon their Evangelical foundation.  So, for example:
David Currie, whose testimony is told in his book, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic (whose title is not as accurate as it is clever), says, "Evangelicals have eighty percent of the truth, including most of the important issues." To illustrate what I mean by rhetoric as language used to explain the meaning of life and the paths we have walked, Currie states: "I see my decision [to convert to RC] as a natural outgrowth of my Evangelical commitment."
While fewer in number than those leaving the Catholic Church, these are an incredibly faithful few.  While a distaste for Catholicism leads many to renounce it for Protestantism (or nothing at all), it's a love for Evangelicalism, and more specifically, for the Jesus Christ they discover there, that leads Evangelicals into the fullness of the Catholic Church.

III. Milk and Meat

I'm reminded of the Pauline imagery about weaning infants from milk to meat (the NIV says "solid food").  In Hebrews 5:11-14, we hear:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
And again in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2,
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.
I think that there are lessons in there for both Catholics and Evangelicals:

  • Catholics need to do better at explaining, and living, the elementary truths
As we saw above, the people who leave the Catholic Church often leave because their most basic spiritual needs aren't being met. Not only do many of them not know the basics of what the Church believes, they often don't know the basics of Christianity at all.  A great many of them are unfamiliar with the Bible, let alone the Catechism, and have only a vague (and probably incorrect) idea of the Trinity or who Jesus is.

Think about someone learning basic math. You don't throw them into an Advanced Calculus class and wish them luck.  You make sure that someone walks through the basics with them.  Evangelicalism is great at presenting Christianity 101 -- in part, because Evangelicalism essentially is Christianity 101.  Catholicism has a more advanced understanding of Christ and His Church, but this is only helpful if those truths are being communicated.  So there's a constant need to explain Christianity, in understandable terms, to those who aren't familiar with it, including some who call themselves Catholics.

Catholic parents in particular have a large responsibility here. What the Pew Forum study showed is that parents who are active about their faith, even simply bringing their kids to Mass every week, are more likely to have those kids grow into faithful Catholic adults. They are also supposed to be the primary educators of their kids -- those kids might be too timid to ask a priest about what "Trinity" means, but they'll readily ask mom or dad.  Mom and dad have a responsibility to always "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
  • Protestants Need to Grow Towards Catholicism
Christianity 101 is great. It's fantastic, even.  Most of the world, including many nominal Christians, are failing to reach even this. And someone can live and die in Christianity 101 deeply in love with Christ.  But ultimately, He's called us to more than Evangelicalism and Protestantism.  He's called us to what we Catholics call "the fullness of the faith."  

If a student discovered, upon figuring out the multiplication tables, that he loved math, a smart teacher would encourage this growth.  Don't abandon the multiplication tables, but move beyond it, pick up a protractor, and see how far this love takes you.  The same is true here.  Evangelicals should explore those things which have been largely off-limits until now: the writings of the Christians from between the time of the Apostles and the Reformers should not only grace Evangelical bookstores, but be read with seriousness.  The beauty of the Liturgy described in the ancient liturgical texts, and seen in the best Catholic and Orthodox churches today should be embraced as a way of pleasing God.  And there should be serious self-examination about some hard questions; for example, on the Holy Bible:
  1. How do we know which Books are in the Bible?
  2. What should we do when Christians disagree about the Bible's interpretation?
  3. Who were the people who told us which Books were in the Bible, and what did they believe?
  4. Which Bible(s) was/were used in the Early Church?
At a minimum, this sort of spiritual pilgrimage should make Evangelicals more Catholic, and with a bit of learning, contemplation, and honest examination of hard questions, many of the wounds which bitterly divide us could be healed.  But beyond even that, the end-point of these inquiries and this spiritual pilgrimage should be the Catholic Church. 

26 comments:

  1. Very nice and very true. You're also very charitable to the Evangelical position. I don't want to be uncharitable, but I'd like to be a little harder on them and point out in addition that it is much, much easier to be a Protestant. I.e. Evangelicalism is a much better place for the sadly humongous number of people seeking cheap spirituality.

    First of all, there's sola fide, which pins assured salvation only on an easy act of faith, which is is strictly personal and internal and thus can't be criticized by anyone. And, in contradistinction from the Catholic doctrine, it leaves little impediment to sinning along with the "cool crowd". For as its founder said "No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day."

    And the churches quickly evolve into whatever view is in vogue in the culture at the time. So, contraception is allowed and you have to search high and low in Boston to find a church without a rainbow flag on its signage. You contradict the culture only how you want, because no one can tell you you're wrong.

    And there are no requirements to call yourself an Evangelical. Your attending church twice a year and never supporting it is going to be frowned upon, but you're still an Evangelical in good standing.

    Contrast this to the Catholic Church, which let's you know in no uncertain terms that certain acts are utterly impermissible and effectively separate you from the fold. And if you're a Catholic, when your friends start beating you up about the beliefs of your Church, you can't say--like an Evangelical could--that you, of course, don't believe that part of the Church's teaching. For as Cardinal Levada put it "Catholic theology does not recognize the right to dissent" no "alternative personal magisterium."

    So nobody drifts into the Catholic Church. That's not where the tide of our culture and our human natures take us (except in very personalized circumstances, like when you marry a Catholic). But lots of people do drift towards Evangelicalism because they can still feel spiritually fed when they want to without having to sacrifice anything. Too mean?

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  2. I don't think it's too mean. I think it actually dovetails nicely with what I was laying out, even. To go back to the math analogy, basic math classes aren't just the people who love math but aren't ready for the harder stuff; it's also where the people who don't want to work very hard go. It's a lower bar all around.

    I actually think that the sometimes-conscious tendency within Evangelicalism to strip everything away from Christianity other than "the basics" is going to destroy it. While they think they're ripping barnacles off the ship, they're really tearing off the rudders. This seems to be slowly dawning upon some Evangelicals after the whole Rob Bell fiasco. They realized that even they had no idea what you could or couldn't deny and remain an Evangelical in good standing. At some point, if it hasn't happened already, a popular otherwise-mainstream Evangelical is going to propose something which tears a hole right into the ship. When that attack, whatever it is, comes upon the basic truths Evangelicalism holds dear, I'm intrigued and a little terrified at how Evangelicalism will react.

    It's worth noting that Anglicanism's been down this road with slight variation. Where Evangelicalism sees a theological good in a simple faith, Anglicanism stripped away everything to turn itself into a "big tent" denomination. The result: gay and female clergy, female "priests" proclaiming that abortion is a gift from God, clergy giving Communion to dogs (literally), and the whole works. It quickly ceases to have many of the core recognizable traits of Christianity in its more radical forms. Even the head of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, compared the relationship between the Son of God and Jesus as between a musician and his music, a statement which appears to deny the Hypostatic Union.

    In general, this reductionist deconstruction of everything Christian is something which (thank God!) Evangelicals are slow at. I pray that they reverse course, while preserving their ability to relate to those who are "unchurched" or spiritual infants.

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  3. "When that attack, whatever it is, comes upon the basic truths Evangelicalism holds dear, I'm intrigued and a little terrified at how Evangelicalism will react."

    Well has anyone ever put the case for the necessity of a binding magisterium better than Mathison on p.250 of The Shape? http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/03/keith-mathison-and-john-calvin-on.html So, sadly, I predict that when this happens Evangelicals will just be in denial of their personal magisterium while still clinging to it like him.

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  4. I can't think of a single big name de-conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism that was done on well reasoned and accurate understanding of the Church they left.

    The Catholics that leave for Protestantism fall into three main categories. Those who (a) want it 'easier' (e.g. no contraception); (b) married a Protestant and slid away; (c) those who find Protestantism more 'spiritually satisfying'.

    That last one is most interesting, because often what this means is a worship service that produces 'warm fuzzies', particularly 'praise and worship' music. They certainly are not finding Protestant worship more spiritually satisfying on theological or intellectual grounds.

    I think the main problem is that too many parishes don't have priests who are on fire for the faith and show this in orthodox sermons and reverent liturgy - as a result, we see these 'banal' masses that deform both the liturgy and the faithful. Thinking that they have to be more like Protestant worship services, when Catholic parishes start to 'model that' they end up taking away from the Sacrifice and Real Presence - which itself is a sign that priest or 'pastoral council' doesn't know their faith as well as they should.

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  5. I can't think of a single big name de-conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism that was done on well reasoned and accurate understanding of the Church they left.
    Agreed. I can think of some converts to Orthodoxy who might fit that bill, but not Protestantism.

    I actually agree with most of the post, except this part:

    That last one is most interesting, because often what this means is a worship service that produces 'warm fuzzies', particularly 'praise and worship' music. They certainly are not finding Protestant worship more spiritually satisfying on theological or intellectual grounds.

    I think that there are plenty of people born into liberal Catholic parishes who never get a good faith formation, and come to discover real theology for the first time in Protestantism. And while that Protestant theology is malformed and incomplete at points, I think it's often a heck of a lot closer to the Catholic ideal than what a lot of Catholic parishes are dishes out.

    So those people leave the Church without knowing what She actually teaches (because they were misinformed by Catholics), but often for very good reasons. That is, if the Church taught what some of the liberal Catholics say She teaches, perhaps we'd all do well to jump ship.

    All that said, I think your last paragraph hits it right between the eyes. When priests are afraid of offending anybody, and water the Mass down so nobody (but a faithful Catholic) could possibly object to it, it's genuinely disgraceful.

    If we Catholics were doing what we were supposed to do (from the priests on down to the laity), those who leave the Church would be without excuse. Look at what Paul says to the Ephesian priests in Acts 20:25-27. We should apply that as a model in our lives, both individually and corporately. Even if for simply selfish reasons: we don't want the blood of ex-Catholics on our souls. But of course, the joy of a lost sheep saved should compel us even more.

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  6. Great post. I'm a convert myself and joined Catholicism for varying reasons (which are my first two blog posts).

    By the way, you do realize that St. Paul was not the author of Hebrews? No one's quite sure who penned that letter.

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  7. Matt,

    Yeah, I'm familiar with the Hebrews-authorship question. That was a slip up on my part -- the letter is "Pauline," even if not authored by Paul, so I reworded it slightly. Good catch.

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  8. A really good post here and some great comments. I've got a post scheduled to be published next week on the typical reasons I've heard for leaving the Church (including my own), but you've hit them all! What particularly rang true for me was where you say:

    "I think that there are plenty of people born into liberal Catholic parishes who never get a good faith formation, and come to discover real theology for the first time in Protestantism."

    This was very true for me. Although I eventually became troubled with Protestant theology, I only really became able to basically articulate the Good News, why the Crucifixion mattered, the Trinity etc. after I attended a Protestant congregation.

    Who would have thought that my colouring-in book, I'm sorry, I meant to say "Religious studies textbook", would have left me so ill-prepared?

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  9. Hi Joe,

    I didn't make that connection earlier, but I would strongly agree with it. A malformed Catholic is going to have a hunger, and thus if they aren't even getting Christianity 101 from their parish, they will look elsewhere, and it wouldn't be rare for them to find it in Evangelicalism. So that's a good distinction you made, which most people totally overlook.

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  10. Thanks, both of you. G.K. Chesterton said at the start of The Everlasting Man, "There are two ways of getting home, and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place."

    I think a lot of people leave liberal Catholicism in search of Catholicism. They just walk around the whole world to get there.

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  11. I left Catholicism because I got married to a Lutheran who asked me to go to a Lutheran church with her once in a while.

    It was there that I heard the gospel in it's purity for the 1st time in my life.

    I had heard it in the Catholic Church, but it was compromised with things added to it.

    Now that I am free from all the spiritual navel gazing and Christian progressivism, I don't think I could ever return to Rome or go to an Evangelical church where there theology is basically the same as Rome's (a lot of God and a little of me).

    Thanks.

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  12. Old Adam,

    What kind of Lutheran are you (you sound LCMS, but I'm only guessing). I have a lot of respect for conservative Lutherans, but I think you'll find that a good Catholic parish can provide you both solid God-centric teaching, and the authentic sacraments. You want God-centric? Try feasting on the true Body and Blood of Christ. Lutheranism can't provide you that (the Lutheran views on "in, with, and under" the elements are well supported in either Sacred Scripture or the Church Fathers, and without valid Holy Orders, Lutherans can't consecrate the Eucharist at all).

    When it comes to the Liturgy of the Word, conservative Lutherans are ahead of a lot of American Catholic priests, no doubt. But the Eucharist is the apex of the Mass: without it, you're just at Sunday School.

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  13. Officially we are ELCA but we don't have much to do with them anymore.

    Actually that is one of the things that I love about Lutheranism. The fact that we trust in the external Word that come to us extra nos, and is not dependent on anything that we add to it.

    We believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist for us because His Word of promise is attached to it.

    There is so much Christ +, theology going around and we feel that Christ ALONE is enough.

    Thanks, Joe.

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  14. Old Adam,

    I'm surprised to hear you're ELCA. All of the criticisms you've raised against Catholicism apply a thousand times over against ELCA.

    Your church is pretty openly at war with God, declaring in declaring in her statement of beliefs that "there can be sound reasons for ending a pregnancy through induced abortion," and that "abortion is morally responsible in those cases in which continuation of a pregnancy presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman." Recently, ECLA moved to allow practicing homosexual clergy, at which point a freak tornado struck the church, turning the cross upside-down. They went ahead with it anyhow.

    Now, you'll say, "My local church doesn't act like that," but that's a weak response. The Catholic church I attend is conservative, but if the pope or bishops proclaimed something heretical, you wouldn't write it off because, "hey, some Catholics ignored it when that happened." You'd point to what the Church Herself said.

    Otherwise, you're not proving that Lutheranism (and particularly, the form of Lutheranism you practice) is correct, or even acceptable in the eyes of God. You're just proving you have a godly pastor. If that's all you're trying to say, that's great for your pastor!

    But if you're trying to say Catholicism is wrong somehow, and defend Lutheranism as a system, you're about to run head first into a brick wall. In your last comment, you claimed that we need to reject "Christ + theology," but it's on the basis of Luther's theology that he commit schism. On that same basis, he wouldn't, for many years, acknowledge the Book of James as Sacred Scripture. Historically, Lutheranism was born in the elevation of theology over Scripture and the Church.

    And it remains an intensely theological system: what do you think the Book of Concord is, if not an extra-Biblical set of theological doctrines? Some of the most important theologians of the twentieth century, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Paul Tillich, were Lutherans. You might conclude that their extra-Biblical theology reflects what it is implicit in Scripture, but don't imagine they or you are somehow independent of theology.

    So the important question isn't whether theology is good or bad, but whose theology reflects and illuminates the Gospel, and through what ecclesial means theology should grow and develop. On that point, I think a fruitful conversation can be had. In Christ,

    Joe

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  15. Joe,

    Maybe you didn't notice, but in my previous comment I said that we don't have much to do with the ELCA anymore. That is because we don't agree with where they gone in the last 10 - 15 years.

    So we just hold the line in our small congregation and preach the pure gospel (nothing added - no strings).

    Yeah, I don't think that one has to agree with everyone that has ever been a part of their denomination on everything. I don't even agree with everything that Luther said.

    But I do agree with the idea that Christ has done it all for us and that because of that we are free, in Him. Nothing else needs to be done. Now, we will certainly want to DO things. But nothing else is required or that would make the cross of no avail.

    I'm not trying to convert you or prove anything to you, I'm just trying to let you know why I am a Lutheran and not an Evangelical, and not a Roman Catholic.

    Thanks, Joe.

    PS- I wrote a previous comment similar to this one but I didn't think it posted (just in case it DOES post you'll understand why there are two comments basically the same)

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  16. My point was that you're in league with the ELCA. I find it bizarre that on the basis of a couple theological issues (primarily sola fide), you'll justify being separated from the Catholic Church. But when your own denomination proclaims that murder is sometimes the "morally responsible" thing to do, you'll stick around. What?

    I realize you said you don't have a lot to do with them, but you're still affiliated, and I can nearly guarantee that some of your tithe money goes into their general collection.

    Like I said, if you're not trying to say that Lutheranism as a system is true, or ELCA as a denomination, but just that you have a godly pastor, we may not even disagree. But if you're going to try and defend the other two things, I'd like to hear how and why. As I said in my last comment, if you're trying to prove you are a Lutheran, and not an Evangelical or Catholic, it can't be on the basis that Lutheranism doesn't use theology. Because it does -- more extensively than many denominations, even. I'd argue that it's much more of a theological system than something like Pentecostalism, for example. Who are the Pentecostal equivalents of Bonhoffer and Tillich?

    By the way, your other comment didn't post - sometimes, Blogger eats comments. No idea why. I had the same problem yesterday. In Christ,

    Joe

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  17. It did it again. I wrote a lengthy response and it disappeared.

    Oh well. I'll shoretn it a bit.

    NONE of our money goes to the ELCA. ZERO.

    Since we have virtually nothing to do with them, and if we were to pull out and possibly cause harm to those who are in our congregation, (if they were to leave if we lost our church property and go somewhere where the gospel was NOT being preached and handed over in it's purity), we could unnecessarily endanger the souls of our members. We don't think the tradeoff is warranted at this time. We may in the future.

    We are currenty discussing affiliating with another Lutheran conngregation whereby we would still be able to retain our campus where we have been for 50 years. These things are not just as cut and dried neat and tidy as we would like.

    We do theology. Of course! Only the Evangelicals don't :D.

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  18. Old Adam,

    (1) I'm still a bit at a loss for why it's okay to be a part of ELCA and not the Catholic Church. Is the Catholic Church in any way worse than the ELCA? Strangely, we seem to be in agreement on this from what I've been gleaning from your comments.

    (2) What role ought to be played by the Church in the regulation and promotion of theology?

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  19. We have been a part of the ELCA for decades. We would leave if not for the reasons I mentioned above, coupled with the fact that those idiots would end up with a church campus worth millions of dollars which they could use to further spread their humanistic, social gospel (which is NO gospel), sin affirming, baloney.

    We have never been Roman Catholics because we don't believe in Christ +, anything. No Popes, no good works, no indulegences, no purgatory, no historic episcopacy to amke the sacrament valid...none of that.

    In short, we are free in Christ, and we won't gravitate anywhere where that freedom will be lost or compromised.

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  20. I hate to sound repetitive, but...

    (1) Is the Catholic Church in any way worse than the ELCA?

    (2) What role ought to be played by the Church in the regulation and promotion of theology?

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  21. It's not a matter of being worse.

    We are going to affiliate with the LCMC, more than likely, while officially belonging to the ELCA so we won't l;ose our church. We often speak out against the ELCA and I have many mp3 audios to prove it.

    Our theology is radically different than Roman Catholic theology, so we would not gravitate in that direction for the reasons I stated above.

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  22. This is an interesting issue which I think is repeated throughout many Protestant churches - a local congregation is in technical affiliation with a denomination or organization, but in virtually all respects it just does its own thing.

    When I was part of a Protestant church it was technically Anglican, but they behaved more like a Pentecostals and had theology that was mostly Evangelical, but with a good deal of latitude in some areas.

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  23. The same type of thing happens in the Roman Church, as well.

    There are no monolithic denominations.

    I'm not sure there really ever were.

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  24. "The same type of thing happens in the Roman Church, as well"

    In *some* ways, yes, but to nowhere near the same extent or as often. Also, if it goes too far the bishop can be appealed and things brought back into line.

    Without episcopal authority (and, naturally, obedience) there isn't really a way of solving this, apart from splitting and forming a completely independent congregation or affiliating with some other group.

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  25. Joe,

    Blogger has a new SPAM folder for comments, so if it catches one, you have to MANUALLY release it from your controls panel.

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  26. Old Adam,

    I think you're mistaken on the idea of Christ's sufficiency - the Protestant concept of this doesn't exist in Scripture, and (worse yet) it has lead Protestants to make some utterly blasphemous claims. For example, starting with Luther, Lutherans and Calvinists teach God the Father unleashed His Wrath on His Son, who endured the equivalent of hellfire "in our place". Such is simply unacceptable, yet is at the heart of the Lutheran-Calvinist Gospel.

    Second, there really is no consistency for you to reject Rome for alleged serious errors yet also reject Luther's serious errors while all the while hailing him as champion of the faith. This is not to bash Lutherans (or Protestants in general), but I'm always amazed at the deity status Luther is given by them, while all the while they cringe at certain things he taught.

    This is the same movement that abhors the out of control and unchecked "Papacy". But the question is: what doctrine did the Papacy ever assert that came anywhere near the 'cringe level' of Luther's extreme claims? That's the question they wont ask/answer.

    Some of the most significant errors Luther taught which would make most Lutherans blush or cringe:

    (1) Double Predestination, and more extreme than Calvin;

    (2) That Jesus endured hellfire as He took the Father's Wrath;

    (3) Radically and subjectively judged the canonicity of various OT and NT books;

    (4) That certain views on the Sacraments were damnable heresies and even worthy of death penalty;

    (5) Exercised stronger and more radical ecclesial authority than virtually any Christian in history;

    (6) That he had a notoriously filthy mouth, unbecoming of a true Saint or true Christian Reformer who had tight reign on their passions.

    What Christian in history ever came anywhere close to this? Is this the type of 'father figure' that one is to be proud of? To me, Lutherans accepting Luther as a hero is akin to Catholics canonizing a priest who molested children - such simply cannot be done.

    The only answer is that there is a lot of white-washing of history on the Protestant end, such that most Protestants, especially Lutherans, have no idea about the 'real' Luther - just like how most women going for an abortion don't get the chance at an ultrasound - because if they did, they'd run away.

    As with Joe, I'm truly baffled by how you can repudiate Rome while affiliating with ELCA, and to compound that baffle, your 'solution' is to break into an even smaller autonomous congregation.

    In my experience, Lutherans are not very well informed theologically, at least in systematic fashion; again, not to bash, but simply an experience I've had.

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