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Why I Don’t Accept Reformed Theology

John Calvin
John Calvin 1554

I could use these one thousand words to explain Five Point Calvinism (TULIP) and put together an essay refuting its teachings, but I’ve discovered I’m not qualified to do so.

I have read innumerable articles, blog posts, and sermon notes on “Why Roman Catholicism is false”.  Just recently one such internet link moseyed across my newsfeed from a church holding to Reformed Theology, The Village Church.  Years ago, this anti-Catholic rhetoric irritated me deeply.  Now, I’ve read so much of it that I’ve come to realize it’s all the same misrepresentations of Catholic theology over and over again – which got me to thinking about how we choose our sources of information(Side note: I use anti-Catholic not to specifically depict angry, unfair attacks against Catholic teaching, but simply to mean anything that is meant to dissuade others from Catholicism.)

Since the article was written by a Reformed church, and since Reformed Theology is easily identifiable to address as a whole (a testament to its unity, I think), I’m going to stick with using it as my example.  However, you can substitute any other religious philosophy into the statement below and the result will be nearly the same for me.

I accept Catholic Theology and not Reformed Theology as the fullness of the Christian Faith.  But, in full disclosure, I have studied Reformed Theology from first-hand Reformed Theological sources very, very little.

I’ve read one book on it, What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul.  I found it to be an excellent introduction into Five Point Calvinism, as it was written in a highly convincing manner.  Due to my robust understanding of Catholic Theology, I wasn’t ultimately convinced of Reformed Theology, but it did provide me a healthy introduction.

Outside of R.C. Sproul’s book, the only reading I have done on Reformed Theology is from ex-Reformed, now Catholic authors.  And, I’ve read a lot of it.  I don’t read this material intentionally, but do so because I enjoy reading conversion stories and reading strong Catholic theologians (many are converts).   They’ve spoken confidently and convincingly of the issues they had with Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and how the doctrines of total depravity, election, predestination, and rapture aren’t quite right either.

Now, this is where Reformed readers are shaking their heads, “You should be learning Reformed Theology from Reformed authors.  Catholics, even ex-Reformed, can’t properly teach you Reformed Theology!”  And, they are right.  As it turns out, from these men, I’ve developed a false sense that I actually know Reformed Theology (and, subsequently, why it’s “false”).

And, this, is where non-Catholics drop the ball, too.  I’ve had many conversations with an array of different well intentioned  folks who were convinced they knew Catholic Theology, and therefore why it was false.  They’ve read plenty about it from some of their own theological heroes (like R.C. Sproul), and a good portion are ex-Catholics themselves.  But each time I’ve been challenged about why Catholic doctrine X was false, all have been unable to properly explain said doctrine and thus ended up refuting something I don’t even believe in.  They, too, have been fooled, like I have been.

Let’s think about it, what if I read 20 top notch books on Reformed Theology, and still didn’t have a change of mind?  At that point, could I consider myself an expert on Reformed Theology – expert enough to teach others about it?  Just how much research into Reformed Theology would I have to do in order to be expert enough to teach others accurately about it, if I never hold it to be the fullness of the Truth of Christ?  This is the trust non-Catholics place in anti-Catholic (even ex-Catholic) sources, like the article from The Village Church.

Alas, we are all guilty of taking the easy way out.  I titled this Why I Don’t Accept Reformed Theology and the full answer is two part – 1) I am so convinced of the fullness of Truth in the Catholic Church that I don’t desire to look elsewhere and 2) as a natural consequence I have not properly researched Reformed Theology.  I imagine Christians of other traditions feel much the same way, and therefore, I understand why they don’t spend their spare time studying  Catholic authors nor do I expect them to.  However, if someone were to ask me about Reformed Theology I would do him a better service to say, “Read a book by R.C. Sproul” than to recommend an article from Called to Communion or attempt to answer the question myself.

I ask any non-Catholic readers out there, even if you are an ex-Catholic, to please consider seeking the Catholic rebuttle to anti-Catholic attacks as they exist and have existed for 2,000 years.  Every point in the Village Church article can and has been addressed many, many times.  Our faith tradition is more beautiful than I could ever express with my mediocre writing capabilities, and many people have done a lousy job explaining it (both non/ex-Catholics, and sadly some Catholics alike).    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a monster read, but well worth it.  The Early Church Fathers defend the faith like no one else alive today (I bet God chose them to live so close to the beginning of Christianity for good reason!).  Also, I would recommend David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home or Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth as easy reads to debunk some myths.

In the meantime, let us pray for understanding and unity.  In His Name, Amen.  St. Ignatius, pray for us!

 

 “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as,

wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

~ St. Ignatius,  A.D. 110 ~

St. Ignatius of Antioch
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Current Events Ecumenism Faith Formation Pope Stacy

The Head-Slapping Criticism of Pope Francis

The criticism coming from the self-identified “loyal opposition” Catholics in the media who feel obliged to fraternally correct the Holy Father is perplexing to say the least. It is shocking that declared faithful Catholics label Pope Francis a Modernist heretic, and then bewail the burden of it. Others dislike his personality and humility, and just want to air their annoyance publicly. But this antagonism, it’s like slapping your head with your hand — unhelpful and downright painful because a body needs its head.

In 1990 then Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presented Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian to journalists in a press conference at the Holy See, asserting a “two-fold rule” for dialogue between the faithful and the hierarchy. “When there is a question of the communion of faith, the principle of the ‘unity of truth’ (unitas veritatis) applies. When it is a question of differences which do not jeopardize this communion, the ‘unity of charity’ (unitas caritatis) should be safeguarded.”

For doctrinal questions, the faithful should unite in seeking truth. For divergent opinions on non-infallible matters, the faithful should unite in charity. Disagreements with the hierarchy should be handled with discretion. Out of respect for the “People of God” the one acting as theologian is supposed to “refrain from giving untimely public expression” of discordant opinions.

If a Catholic is opposed to the Holy Father’s (or a priest’s or bishop’s) teaching, he or she should either 1) take the concern privately to a priest or bishop who will decide whether to take it to the Holy See, or 2) remain prayerfully silent trusting that “if the truth really is at stake, it will ultimately prevail.” If the difficulty is not resolved even after seeking private resolution, the faithful “should avoid turning to the ‘mass media’ …for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth.”

Apparently some Catholics have troubled feelings about Pope Francis, but personal sentiments are simply not more important than the unity of the Church. Further, loyal opposition is not a model in the Church, it is a “model of protest which takes its inspiration from political society.” By sowing division in the media rather than privately seeking recourse appropriately, the critics form a “parallel magisterium” of their own in conflict with the Magisterium of the Pastors.

If only they knew how much this head-slapping criticism from insubordinate hands hurts the body of Christ.

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Doctrine Ecumenism Faith Formation Ink Slingers Marriage Motherhood Stacy Vocations

My “Let It Be” Stage on “Gay Marriage”

Last year when Obama said that his views on “gay marriage” were evolving, I wrote that my views had also evolved on the marriage debate. I explained how I went from not-really-caring to wide-eyed-activism. Well, I think I’m ready to admit the next stage, a firmer place. First, here’s a review of my evolution.

“Let’s Be Diverse” Stage: I once thought it was cool and sophisticated to hang out with “gay” people because other people made sure other people knew they hung out with “gay” people so as to appear diverse and tolerant. As a single, liberal, non-religious, bicep-pumping, hair-tossing mom and career woman (career woman before mom) I had plenty of “gay” friends. They seemed to love my approval, and well, I loved theirs. Everybody was somebody, especially if you made somebody else look good. “I do what I want, you do what you want, we’ll all just tell each other how wonderful we are!” It was kind of fun. So I frequented trendy night clubs where the free people went. We were crazy and fabulous together! Us fun people!

“Ambivalent” Stage: As a parent, I realized my priorities were — not right. This whole message in society seemed to be that adults can do whatever they want, that they could follow any desire and frown at anyone who criticized them. It wasn’t about children; but about adults and their desires. At some point a grown-up senses he or she needs to act grown up. Demanding your way is just childish. As my priorities changed and I focused more on raising my kids, I still knew “gay” couples and my kids played with their kids. I honestly did not care one squash about “gay rights” or “gay marriage” though. If that’s what they wanted, fine. I was too busy with my own life trying to align my priorities and figure out how to be a responsible parent.

“Leave Me Alone” Stage: As I converted to Catholicism, I began to understand the teaching of the Church regarding Marriage, and how children are gifts who ought to raised by parents committed to loving them unconditionally. I began to notice how the modern cultural message I’d always gulped down was different from the beautiful message of the Church, how women really did not realize the truth of their femininity, nor did men realize the truth of masculinity. Even as I realized the beauty of Marriage, I still didn’t really care if two men or two women wanted to call themselves married. Rather libertarian in my views, I thought perhaps government should just stay out of marriage altogether and leave that personal part of life alone. Once I understood the Sacrament of Marriage, I actually resented that I had to get permission from the state to get married.

“Imposing?” Stage: I discovered social media and began to identify myself as a Catholic wife and mother. Immediately, to my shock, I got called names I’d never been called in all my life, even when I explained my views about government leaving people alone. I got called “misogynist” and “homophobe” and “bigot” and “seeyounexttuesday” and people jumped from the abyss of the internet to tell me how much they despised me. I began to realize that the issue isn’t really so much about two same-sex people having the liberty to live however they want and to call themselves whatever they want, but the issue was far more politically driven and weighty. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to approve and people were going to use the government to impose approval on me and my family, or silence us. Tolerance wasn’t enough. I had flashbacks to the behaviors of people I met in the “Let’s Be Diverse” stage. Oh yeah, they don’t just want my approval, they need it to justify themselves.

“I Must Stand” Stage: It is worth noting that even now, I still know same-sex couples whom I consider friendly acquaintances. They respect my faith and my family, and they knew where I stand on this question and I know where they stand. There is some trust. Unfortunately, the hostility and tyrannical behavior of the “gay rights” activists are remarkably disturbing. Not only do they want to silence anyone who doesn’t approve, some of them want to harm their opponents too. I grew resentful until I realized that anger wasn’t helpful, so I grew attentive and dedicated. I saw the slow creep of social change they pushed for – to make marriage meaningless – and I saw that it was not healthy for society, not good for the future of our children because it isn’t about the children and it never was. I still see the lies that a godless society tells young people in greater clarity than ever before, and I still see how that message is destructive. I don’t forget that when I posted my frustration, hell broke loose. I realize still that I owe it to my children to defend the truth without compromise in my country and my world.

I have been in that “I Must Stand” stage for a few years now, but I think I’m ready to admit the next stage. While I still feel like Sarah Connor (minus the delts and the butt of steel) in the Terminator movies preparing my children for the warfare that surrounds us and that is to come, “I Must Stand” feels inadequate. I feel more like “Let It Be”, and I don’t use the word “be” lightly.

Here’s my new stage.

“Let It Be” Stage: It’s not that I’m tired of defending marriage because I will defend that with my vote, my voice, and my choices for the rest of my life. It’s that I’m tired of the wasted debates, tired of the anxiety. Our society is turning away from God, and I sense that it is time to withdraw from arguments with people who aren’t really interested in what I have to say anyway, so much as they are interested in snarking me. Who needs snark? Besides, anyone who calls me a bigot just because I love my God, my husband, my children, and my country doesn’t deserve my time. I want to put that passion into good relationships. I want to listen to people and discover more about them because we are all made in the image of God, and that includes people with homosexual tendencies. I want to tell everyone I meet that I’m Catholic, and then strive to live up to the name. I want people to see us praying in public, and smile because we are smiling. I want people to hear my children talk about their natural excitement for their future families they hope to raise, and to remember again that marriage lives in the hearts of children. I want people to see our big messy family, and see that the unity is good even though we have faults, fights, and embarrassing shortcomings. I want to exercise the religious freedom that we still have and invite friends and neighbors to come with us to Mass to taste and see the salvation available to the entire human race. I want to let the light of faith shine, and hope that my prayers in this life will somehow, someday bear fruit in the next generations.

In short, I need to be more like Mary who followed God’s will in a fallen, broken world. She didn’t argue with snarky people and she didn’t worry about the future because she had the most faith, hope, and love a creature can have. She had her purpose, her fiat.

I don’t know what it is or when it will come, but as the Beatle’s song says, ” . . . there will be an answer.” It was this post about that song by Catholic Stand columnist and quantitative psychologist, Dr. Jeff McLeod, that prompted me to think about the issue again. Jeff believes the song is about the Blessed Virgin whether Sir Paul McCartney admits it or not because the words reveal it. Of course! The world pines for truth. Christians serve a God who holds everything in existence. They do not serve Satan. Satan doesn’t create anything or hold anything in existence because he is a fallen creature himself; he only destroys. Our faith protects us if we choose to accept it, and our prayers and actions will change the world for the better if — and only if — we follow God’s good will. When we don’t think we have the answers in our limited understanding, that’s the answer.

The more I “be” a wife and mother bound by the Sacrament of Matrimony, the more I “be” a Christian, the more I’ll “be” doing my part to keep marriage alive in our culture. A fiat is more than a stand, it’s who you are and no one can take it away because it’s a gift from God. When the destruction is over, the truth will stand alone. Let it be done.

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Apologetics Conversion Discipleship Doctrine Domestic Church Ecumenism Erika Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Mass Prayer Sacred Scripture Spiritual Growth Vocations

Mass Confusion: Interference

Earlier today I was driving down the road listening to my local Catholic station. Every so often a popular rock station would bleed in and cover the beautiful sounds of a Mass with Fr. Mitch Pacwa. Talk about Mass confusion***! I couldn’t seem to help myself, even as I listened to him intone the words of Consecration, from singing along with the popular rock songs. As I caught myself doing so, time and time again, I was reminded that this is somewhat “normal” for me and many other Catholics, Christians, and/or any faithful throughout our faith-lives to be so easily distracted by secular things.

On a basic level, this distraction has roots in Satan. The more concentrated we become on God, the more frustrated Satan is. So, in an effort to separate us from God, Satan throws little distractions at us. Physically, my Mass confusion was caused by two local radio stations sharing the same frequency; however, spiritually, each time I sang the words to a popular rock song instead of staying focused on the Mass, Satan was winning. Of course, this makes me wonder if perhaps God also uses the physical effects of a Catholic station sharing the frequency with a popular rock station to gain followers from the crowd of rockers.

Even through my Mass confusion I began to wonder about other things that distract us from the beauty of Mass and therefore from God: liturgical abuses**. Recently, my mother and I were discussing various experiences we’ve had on vacations with local Masses. She recounted one particular Mass, where the Eucharist was basically reduced to ‘chips and dip’, from which my whole family emerged silent and disturbed.If we err by thinking we are the center of the Liturgy, the Mass will lead to a loss of Faith ~ Cardinal Raymond Burke We were hours from our home with three children in the car, yet none of us spoke on the way home. I remembered another experience where we spent the entire Mass trying to find anything familiar besides some of the words – the Tabernacle was nowhere to be seen, the Crucifix was MIA, rubric defined words of Consecration were changed, and the layout of the church itself was in the round. We had other experiences with fewer abuses as well. Locally, we have a diverse celebration of Mass as well, but no where near the levels experienced outside our home area. Such Mass confusion dilutes the Word of God, Jesus, to our image of Him instead of transforming us into the Image of Him.

Some seem to thrive on Mass confusion in an effort to be more tolerant, entertaining, diverse, etc. Often, those faithful to the rubrics and to both ‘t’ and ‘T’ traditions are accused of being “rubric-Nazis”, “holier-than-thou”, “intolerant”, “behind the times”, and “divisive”. Yet Scripture tells us to stay faithful to the traditions given to us by Jesus and the Apostles as well as to avoid leading others astray. God is the ultimate in constancy whereas Satan is ever changing to tempt us away from God. Yes, we are called to be welcoming and universal, but we don’t do that by abandoning 2000 years of traditions and making Mass less about God and more about ourselves. Just as I experienced Mass confusion with my radio stations blending with one another, we all experience Mass confusion when we try to bend Mass to secular understanding.

Have veneration and respect for the holy Liturgy of the church and for its ceremonies. Observe them faithfully. Don't you see that, for us poor men, even what is greatest and most noble must enter through the senses? ~ St Josemaria EscrivaThere are many questions in my mind — that I’m unsure how answer. Have any of these changes to the Mass increased vocations, faithfulness, tolerance, holiness, etc?  When we knowingly participate in a less-than-stellar Mass (according to rubrics & Tradition) do we still gain the graces given to us through Mass? By knowingly (for convenience-sake*) choosing a Mass where there is less adherence to the rubrics and Tradition, am I putting my soul at stake or am I just exposing myself to disdain (since I veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament) and Mass confusion? Do I mitigate whatever harm going to a confused Mass because I chose to do so based on getting my reluctant Catholic husband to Mass? Or do I add to the harm (to my soul and perhaps his) by exposing him to Mass confusion?

* Obviously, when we only have one option available for Mass, whether on vacation or due to lack of churches, we are filled with all the graces available from Mass. However, in my area, we have many available options for Mass. I live 20 miles outside of the nearest ‘big’ town, yet there are 3 Catholic churches with different pastors within 2 miles of my home. If I were to drive all the way to town I’d add at least another dozen Catholic churches to the list of available options.

** More information on common liturgical abuses:

*** As I was writing this post I was completely unaware of a book published with this same title about liturgical abuses.

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Apologetics Charla Ecumenism Evangelization Mary Mass Sacraments

A Letter to my Christian Friends

I am a Cradle Catholic. From the moment I was conceived, I was meant to be Catholic and I feel very fortunate because of this. Having said this, I now choose to be Catholic. However, some of my very best friends are not Catholic, but they are some of the best Christians I know. They carry the light of Christ in all aspects of their lives and I love them deeply. Sometimes I wonder if they question why I choose to be Catholic. I could answer this question very easily, but I will start out with how alike we all are instead.

To my Christian friends,

I think of Christianity as a common bond we share: we pray to the same God, we believe Christ is the Son of God, and we all believe in seeking Goodness. These are important unifying factors in our struggle in this life, but here are even more things that make us joined as Christians:

The Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ. What we all believe as Christians was begun in Catholicism. There may have been a parting of ways at certain points in history, but we all agree that our faith began in Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection.

I do read the Bible. Catholics do read the Bible, and the Bible holds wisdom for all of us, as it is the Word of God.

We experience prayer through meditation, through song, through nature, and through silence—just like you do. We all are Christians, inclined to pray in these ways.

We too can be so excited about our faith in Christ that we want to share it with everyone. We do evangelize and we all can be on fire for Christ.

These similarities are significant.

Now, most Catholics are not judgmental about your Christian faith. We are all trying to get to the same goal—unity with Christ. A lot of Catholics do not know the ins and outs of their own faith, so when they are told they are wrong by some of you Evangelical Christians, they have no idea what to say. Believe me, the Catholic faith can be justified, asi t has been since its inception by Christ Himself over 2,000 years ago. We know what we are talking about. Please do not tell us we are wrong nor try to tell us just what we believe, ie: I promise, we do not worship the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Now, this is why I am Catholic:

The Sacraments are physical, outward signs of our faith and we can celebrate these daily, weekly, or once in a lifetime. The celebrations themselves are part of our culture as Catholics. I love the excitement of Baptism as we bring our babies into our community as well as watching children donned in white dresses and suits at First Holy Communion. There is nothing so cathartic as confessing our sins so that we acknowledge our failures and need for Christ out loud, and being forgiven in the same way, out loud. When our young people are confirmed in our Church it too is a celebration acknowledging their ability to remain faithful to our Church. A Catholic wedding is beautiful and romantic; we believe two people can fall in love and stay in love. We believe that a man can remain so devoted to Christ and our community that he can commit to poverty, obedience, and chastity when he receives Holy Orders. There is a beautiful sense of closure and true celebration of life when our dying loved ones receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The Catholic Church is never changing. I know this might frustrate some, but I love the fact that the Church does not assimilate to the world and does not bend to society’s will, therefore I feel secure and led in the right direction.

I also love that since it is the Church begun by Christ Himself, no man has come along and changed things at will. Our beliefs have remained the same. We don’t have to adhere to multiple interpretations of our faith or of our Scriptures, which is confusing and much too subjective. We also adhere to one interpretation of the Bible; the idea of individual interpretation is dangerous and the risk of passages taken out of context and changed to suit the taste of an individual instead of the interests of the whole is something that makes me uneasy.

Tradition goes along with the Church’s consistency and longevity. I can go to any Catholic Mass anywhere and it will be the same; that leaves me feeling secure. The more I learn about the Mass, the more I love and revere it, the more celebratory it becomes.

I find the Church to be extremely good to women. I know it sounds contrary to what you hear, but the respect for the Blessed Mother reverberates into reverence for women in general. The Church is not oppressive; it is reverent.

I asked about some teenagers what they loved most about being Catholic. Here is what they said:

  • · “I am proud that I follow a tradition in which I am lead by a Holy Father—the Pope—and that I am a follower of the first Church of Christ.”
  • · I love being Catholic because my religion gives me the Sacrament and those Sacraments let me be closer to God.”
  • · “I always know someone loves me– no matter what.”
  • · “I love parties after someone’s First Communion.”
  • · “I like that no matter what happens, I will be always loved and forgiven and that God will always be there for me.”
  • · “I like going to Communion and Confession and getting ready for Mass and going to Mass.”
  • · “My faith is a community.”
  • · “I love the Sacraments, and I am very excited about being Confirmed.”
  • “I love the feeling of safety after praying to God.”
    • · “All the Sacraments we experience are of such great significance as part of God’s plan and family.”
    • · “I love being Catholic because there are many celebrations and it is fun.”

So, you see, Catholics, if they are truly Catholic, Catholics LOVE being Catholic.

Love,

Your Sister in Christ