In my correspondence with my friend Nick Morgan, in the aforementioned letter that I cited yesterday, he added the following:
I had a recent discussion with two different men from the evangelical church that my wife belongs too. I had been forwarding the "ACT 3 Weekly" to them both. One of them, a former elder, is an extremely gracious and Godly man and seems to appreciate what you are saying, even though he doesn't agree with all of it. He is a former Lutheran and really struggles with a truly sacramental view of baptism and the Eucharist. However, he is encouraged by leaders like Pope Benedict XVI and about hearing the Pope's very evangelical sounding teaching regarding justification.
The other man is a former Roman Catholic. He has a very negative attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church and any pope, including Benedict XVI. He's definitely of the mindset that no Catholic who's "truly saved" should remain in the Roman Catholic Church. His impression of your articles was that you are basically saying "let's all just follow Jesus and get along", to which he strongly objected, for all of the same reasons you've heard again and again. He's a decent guy and very well versed in the Bible; but in my opinion he is totally missing the big picture. Of course, he thinks I've gone spiritually flabby, and he's entitled to his view.
I'm sure none of this surprises you in the least. I'm the type of person that when something seems so clear, obvious, and valuable to me, I can't understand why others can't or won't see it. Maybe I'm a bit of a deluded idealist, who knows? But I'm still friends with both men, and for that I'm grateful.
What a wonderful, clear-headed, gracious response to a very real set of human relationships. Nick wants to remain in fellowship and friendship with both of these men and is seeking to do so. He works with a national fellowship of Christian firefighters as a volunteer and happily prays and serves alongside of brothers from many different Christian backgrounds.
It is worth noting that the brother who left the Roman Catholic Church is the most critical of Roman Catholicism. This is almost always the case. It is the same emotional response that you get in a divorce. I never met a man who felt the wife he divorced did not fail him. As a result he almost never spoke well of her, unless he had a powerful change of mind and heart that led him to think and speak otherwise. It is common to believe that what you left behind was wrong and what you now embrace is right. In reality no one should feel otherwise, at least in one sense. But all of us must recognize that we have all come to know Christ in very different contexts. There is only one Lord but there are many ways that we come to know his grace and love him as his disciples. The problem comes when the way we came to him impacts how we respond to various churches and other Christians that we meet along the way.
A second point worth noting in Nick’s letter is that the former-Catholic thinks I am saying “let’s just all follow Jesus and get along.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I can see why he thinks this but it is wrong. The reason most such people think I am saying this is rooted in their own systematic way of thinking about doctrine and love. When they hear a person teaching a radically inclusive message of love for all Christians and churches they hear words like compromise, sloppy agapé (as some call it) or fuzzy theology.
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I had planned on getting your book when it comes out but now await it with more expectation. Obviously Nick is a man we should all emulate.
Thanks for the complement Bruce, but I’m “a sinner saved by grace” too and have plenty of character defects that our Lord helps me deal with daily. Just follow Christ and His vision for the church. God bless! 🙂