Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Attraction to Catholicism, Part Two

Some other things that appeal to me about Catholicism.

I'm a history nerd. (Minored in it in college.) I like the fact that history goes back further than the Reformation. I'm sure this is a gross generalization, but judging by my completely unscientific recollection of a lifetime of Sunday School and sermons, the history of Christianity goes something like this: 1. Jesus 2. The Book of Acts 3. The Protestant Reformation 4. Everything since. I know I'm exaggerating, but I do hate that I almost never hear about the early church as a Protestant. There is a whole legacy of sacrifice and nonviolence (even to the point of laying down one's own life) that would be helpful and inspirational to Christians today.

Also, no matter how brilliant Luther and Calvin were, Christian thought did not begin with them. Protestants are in many ways cut off from great minds like Augustine and Aquinas. (Or if we receive them and other early fathers of the Church, we receive them as interpreted by Reformation thinkers.) I like the intellectual tradition of Catholicism. As I wrestle with issues today, I like knowing that people a lot smarter than me have been thinking about them for two thousand years.

I'm also a big believer in the consistent ethic of life. For as long as I've been able to think seriously about such things, I've been opposed to the death penalty. My views on abortion have changed over time. Before marriage and children, I was pro-choice basically on women's rights grounds. I thought the notion of forcing a woman to have a child she didn't want was cruel and represented government intrusion into an area beyond the competence of government. I also thought that as a man, I lacked the standing (to use a legal term) to be against abortion. In other words, if I was physically incapable of having babies, I shouldn't be offering an opinion on whether a woman should have one or not.

Like many things, marriage, and most importantly having children of my own, has changed my thinking on abortion. Let me begin by saying that I am still very sympathetic to women facing an unplanned pregnancy. They face pain and difficulties (both financial and to their health) that are extremely severe. But it's hard to have watched ultrasounds of my children and view abortion as just another medical procedure. Even before the ultrasounds, we heard fetal heart beats very early on. I don't see how you can argue that there is not a life in there. And when it comes to what protection this life deserves, I think we as Christians should err on the side of protecting these most vulnerable members of the human race. That comports with the command of Jesus to care for "the least of these."

Now I understand that all issues are not equal. But to be against both abortion and the death penalty makes sense to me. In fact, the whole range of positions the Catholic Church holds on social justice issues has a logical consistency that I find lacking in most Protestant denominations, whether they are liberal or conservative. And while the test for good doctrine is certainly not "does it agree with me?" I find that on issue after issue in the social justice area (immigration, torture, war, euthanasia, and many others) I find my positions aligning more and more with that of the Catholic Church.

Well, if you've read this far on this blog, you may be asking yourself "so why isn't he Catholic already?" The answers to that question will begin in my next post.


Devin Rose said...

I converted to evangelical Protestantism from atheism (before eventually becoming Catholic).

I remember when I found out about all these saints who had lived amazingly holy lives and had written extensively about the faith: I was mad a my Baptist pastor and my evangelical friends!

"Why didn't you tell me about all these saints?" I demanded. All I had ever read was Max Lucado and other modern Protestant Christian authors. The fact was, my friends and pastor just didn't know about the saints.

The saints' books weren't in the Christian bookstore, and my friends had never been taught about them.

I thought that was a real loss and encouraged them to learn more with me and discover this treasury, but none of them did, at least at that time.

This was a big factor that led me to wonder if what I had learned of Christianity wasn't the whole story, and so I sought to learn more myself.

Canadian said...

This is a great comment and as a Baptist looking at the ancient churches, I agree:

"As I wrestle with issues today, I like knowing that people a lot smarter than me have been thinking about them for two thousand years."

Ben said...

As you examine the Catholic Church, make sure to examine the claims of the Eastern Orthodox and the claims of patristically oriented Lutherans like Robert Jenson or Calvinists like Peter Leithart.

I say this as a Catholic, not to discourage you, but to make sure you really understand what it is or isn't that you're accepting or rejecting.

That said, I do hope you join the Church Christ founded!

Nice blog!