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!