Why I Don’t Accept Reformed Theology

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John Calvin
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

3 Replies to “Why I Don’t Accept Reformed Theology”

  1. I’ve recently “come home” as they say 😉 And I dragged my husband and five kids with me (when I first started going, they asked me why it took me five kids to realize I was Catholic, lol.) Anyway…I’m a stubborn ol’ gal and it took God at least five years to bring me back. When I was coming back to the Catholic church I felt uncomfortable about a lot of things, even though I am a cradle, fallen-away-because my parents stopped going to Mass when I was a teenager Catholic. Included in those were devotion to Mary and veneration of the saints.

    What really shifted my paradigm and forced me back to the Catholic church was this: authority. I could not deny that Christ gave his authority to a select group and that the select group he gave it to began with Peter and is currently held by Pope Francis. In Matthew 16:18, He tells us that the church is to be built on Peter and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. In I Corinthians 1:10-13, He tells us to stick together 😉 I have always believed in submitting to God and if Christ gave His authority to the church, well that’s good enough for me. In other words, if Jesus came up to you and said “be Catholic,” you’d do it, right? Well, that’s what happened to me more or less. The beautiful irony in this is that the discoveries I made during my Protestant years of poring over my Bible (I still do) are what spurred me to revert to Catholicism. It took me a long time to accept some of the individual doctrine and I am still coming to terms with some things, but when I remember that it is the church that Peter built on Christ’s command, that it is Christ’s church, I remember it is where I should have been all along.

  2. You make an excellent point. I was “raised” Reformed (am even a former Calvinette!) and converted to Catholicism 2 years ago. Despite going to weekly Reformed catechism classes, Sunday school, and being very involved in my church’s youth group, I am fully aware that I am no expert in Reformed theology. Therefore, I try to be careful not to present myself as a Reformed expert to other Catholics. I don’t want to fall into the trap that so many ex-Catholics do by sharing all their false knowledge of Catholicism!

  3. Yes! I’ve logged 29 years as a Presbyterian and I still don’t think I fully understood it. I never really got the sense (at least in my church) that they were too big on unified beliefs anyhow. 11 years after being accepted in to the Catholic Church, I do have to catch myself from speaking as an “expert” on the Presbyterian point of view.

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