It might seem, at least to some of my evangelical readers, that I blame evangelicals alone for the kind of warfare lingo of the “Reformation Wars” that I pray will cease. Let me begin this post by stating that EWTN (Catholic) and Relevant radio (Catholic) can be equal opportunity offenders in these “polemical wars” in a way very similar to conservative Protestant programming on various evangelical networks. The program “Coming Home,” hosted by Marcus Grodi, is one of the most egregious examples I know, though it is set in a very gentle tone. (You can read Grodi’s conversion story online.) This program is well-produced and includes an occasional account of conversion from no faith to a living Christian faith. (The majority of stories, however, are from ex-Protestants!) Grodi, himself a former Presbyterian minister, came to a personal crisis about what he believed while still in the ministry. He had clearly confessed personal faith in Jesus. But he saw some major problems in his Protestant faith. (I’ve seen the problems that he saw and agree with much of his analysis of the problems, though his critique is often simplistic to the extreme!) He ultimately concluded, as he looked around at his own ministry and that of other Protestant pastors he knew, that he had no remaining confidence in what he was teaching. He resigned. I admire his courage. The first doctrine that fell for him, after he left his ministry, was sola Scriptura. He concluded that this doctrine could not be correct given the multiplicity of opinions about doctrine that existed among various Protestants. Over time he discovered what he calls “the beauty of the Catholic Church.” The first ex-evangelical that he met inside the Catholic Church was the well-known Reformed convert Scott Hahn. Grodi’s burning desire was to help former Protestant ministers who were coming into the Catholic Church like he did. Then a change came that led him to begin the “Coming Home Network.” He says his goal has never been to lead Protestant ministers into the Catholic Church but rather to “stand beside” ministers on their journey to Rome. His goal is to “help them hear the Holy Spirit” who he believes is leading them into the Catholic Church. He hopes those outside will see the beauty of the church and, simply put, come home.
Grodi is compelling and winsome. But he is just plain wrong when he says the following: “There is not one doctrine that all Protestants agree on.” Yes, he says this again and again. Amazing! He is playing games (he might not be intentional about this at all) with words and ought to know it. He is clearly a smart man. Most Protestant churches have different views of some doctrinal issues but there is much more than “one thing” that we all (or at least most all) agree upon. Watch the interview above very carefully and you will see what I mean. If you find this apologetic compelling then I respect your conclusion as genuinely sincere. I find his argument tendentious and the result of a kind of patronizing zeal that I rarely, or never, encounter among Catholic priests, theologians or bishops. This argument is not based on true Protestant principles, which themselves are generally consistent with the ancient Catholic and Orthodox creeds. It is based upon stereotypes that Grodi must sincerely believe to be true. If you watch him long enough you will soon hear a rather triumphalistic edge emerge in his interviews with these converts. He presents Protestant to Catholic conversion stories as if these are the only people, people like himself who came into the Catholic Church, who have true faith. They have come into real life and into the sole possession of the gifts of the Spirit and the ultimate truth of God. If I am wrong about this then I would humbly urge him to invite ecumenists (Catholic and Protestant both) to tell their story. If he wants a list of capable names I can give one to him.
This kind of programming is so common that many lay Catholics, almost always good people who want to hear a clear and strong expression of their own story, look to men like Marcus Grodi to speak courage into their hearts. What I wish is that Marcus Grodi would celebrate his own journey with more obvious humility about the Catholic Church while he also works harder at publicly understanding people like me, and millions of others like me, who do not feel drawn into the communion of the Catholic Church. If he knew the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox friends I know I sincerely believe he would take a very different approach to how he interviews converts and talks about other Christians.
I truly want to see the “Reformation Wars” cease. I do not want to see any of us stop searching for better ways to understand one another. Nor do I want to end our differences through compromise or a denial of what we truly believe. I believe there is a third way, a way outlined in The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II, a decree which I will talk about later.
The reason the “Reformation Wars” continue is clearly not all on one side. Until we learn to respect the conscience of the other believer, love each other far more deeply, and cease to proselytize each other so aggressively, we will never stop these calls for continued warfare against one another. The Catholic Church has increasingly trusted evangelical intentions in Latin America with regard to proselytism. This must go both ways if we are to cease this centuries old warfare. We must now learn how to engage in missional-ecumenism or the wider culture will continue to leave our common Christian faith behind. Shouldn’t our primary goal be to make disciples of Jesus Christ, not Catholics or Protestants? Both our communities, at least in the secular West, are faltering badly at the present moment. Now is the time to talk about our common problems and to seek a common solution to the loss of members and faith. It is not the time to enflame old controversies with language that drives our brothers and sisters further away from one another.
My Latest Book!
Use Promo code UNITY for 40% discount!
Michael Bradley liked this on Facebook.
Richard Kidd liked this on Facebook.
Ken Bogan liked this on Facebook.
Rick Landry liked this on Facebook.
I had lunch with three of my RC priest friends, a couple of years ago. I brought up the The Journey Home program during conversation; one chuckled, one rolled his eyes, and the other just sat in silence. I sensed I’d better move the conversation a different direction. It was much like another time when I was talking to some EO priests and brought up Frank Schaffer. One simply said, “We think Frank’s anger at his father may have driven him to the EOC; can be an embarrassment more than a blessing.”
As much as I agree that there are problems on both sides, I don’t particularly want to be judged as a Protestant by Challies. And I don’t know enough about Catholic media (I don’t watch or listen to Evangelical media at all either) to know how much this is widespread or an abnormality.
Part of the problem with media is that funding is not tied to the centrality of the message. So there all kinds of loons that get TV and radio shows because they can get someone to watch or listen or fund them. That doesn’t mean they have a voice that should be listened to.
As we focus on our missional center; on Christ and disciple making, we will be living in Paradise. And the Garden was Paradise until the serpent entered the picture. Caustic arguments, and intentional conflict smell more of the Serpent than of Christ. “Did he really say?” Does God ever cause strife?
Thomas Nathan Smith liked this on Facebook.
In his interview/video with charismatic Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer earlier this year, I believe that Pope Francis showed his sensitivity in a beautiful way when he said:
“…no one is coming home, we are meeting in the middle; we are journeying towards each other and we will meet in the middle…”
* On your March 10, 2014 blog: http://johnharmstrong.com/?p=6226
I have actually been one of the ministers that the Coming Home network has talked and given resources to. I never spoke to Grodi but I found the people I spoke to were very kind, very intelligent, and very patient. I sensed they saw people as a kind of “in process” or “on a journey” and they did not want to rush that journey or be premature in how they handled people who had interest in the Catholic Church.
Theologically, I find a kind of triumphalism exhibited in all three groups (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant) in that it’s better to be one of “us” than one of “them.” As a ecumenical Christian who loves Eastern Orthodox and Catholics immensely, and because these two groups have seen so many Evangelicals “convert over,” they often assume or can’t even comprehend how somebody can be so appreciative or theologically in tune with their viewpoints and not convert over. So what I find, and I am ok with it, I don’t have any inclination to convert over EO’s or Catholics to some stripe or tradition within Protestantism but they all hope and pray I do convert over to their tradition.
Denise Murphy Plichta liked this on Facebook.
Ray Prigodich liked this on Facebook.
Mark Hallock liked this on Facebook.