One thing is for sure when it comes to dialog between Catholics and evangelicals. There are Catholics and evangelicals who both think there should be no dialog. Dialog is compromise and compromise is bad, end of subject. You will see this time and time again by responses to my own posts on this subject. Everything is very clear to such people. They know the truth, completely and fully. Catholics are lost, heretical and need to come to faith in Christ and leave the Roman Catholic Church or they will be damned. These anti-Catholics have their Web sites, pamphlets, booklets and full length polemical books. This is a rather large cottage industry in America and some ex-Catholics are the leading proponents of it since they see nothing good in the Catholic Church that they left. But these Protestants are not alone. There are Catholics on the right, some of whom left Protestantism, who think any conversation that involves dialog without condemnation of all Protestant errors as intractable heresy or compromise. These Catholics will appeal, quite logically at times, to certain aspects of Catholic tradition and thought while they conveniently ignore what the Catholic Church has taught in the 20th century and what is now being practiced by the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

One thing is for sure. On both sides there are disagreements between people who profess to agree by being in the same communion sacramentally. The Catholic Church may be one in union with the Pope and the magisterium but that doesn’t mean Catholics, or even Catholic theologians and priests, are all of the same mind. The "oneness" of Rome is impressive on one level but we should be honest about the facts here. There are many different positions held by many different Catholic teachers on many different subjects. Rome has its liberals and its conservatives. Rome has divisions and struggles within it large and worldwide communion. The difference is that most of these differences do not break the ecclesial union the communicants have with the Pope and the magisterium, at least not officially.

This is why our dialog was only one among many. You could get two different Catholic theologians and two different evangelicals and the outcome would be very different in both tone and emphasis. The two Catholics that I invited to the ACT 3 Forum were chosen for several reasons: 1. They are serious Christians who can and do understand Catholic doctrine and its nunances very well. 2. They are honorable men who have demonstrated to me as a brother their lvoe for Christ and for me as a brother. 3. They are articulate and non-combative while not willing to give up one iota of official Catholic teaching. They made it clear they would love to see the two of us, who were there as evangelicals, become Catholics. We argued that we were less interested in making them Protestants though we do want to hear the gospel preached with much greater clarity in the Roman Catholic Church. We see some progress on this front but we long for a full-blown reformation of the preaching of Christ alone and grace alone among Catholics. 4. They take ecumenism seriously and believe that the ecumenism of the future will be far more informal, like what we did on September 16th. From these informal friendships will arise a new love for one another that God might be pleased to use for greater good in the whole Christian communion. We are not deeply interested in joining organizations but in pursuing common ways to listen and love because of our faith in Christ as Lord. Following John 17 we all four believed that the first level of unity we have is relational, not simply joining the same communion. You can be in the same communion and not have this type of spiritual unity and yet you can be in two different communions and have deep and growing unity according to John 17. At the same time we must pursue this precisely because we are commanded by our Lord to do so. This we all four agreed upon.

While I am at it let me encourage you to check out Father Robert Barron’s outstanding Web site. Bob is a marvelous preacher, a great communicator, and an astute critic of culture and art. His You Tube videos on film are priceless. His sermons on the gospels are magnificent. I regularly profit from his site. I encourage you to check him out.

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  1. kevin October 8, 2007 at 8:26 am

    I grew up in the Catholic church. My mother was Catholic and my father had no religion. We were nominal in our faith attending mass every two or three weeks. I did not think if God existed or not. I was just moving along with the subculture. I was not anti God or pro God. I just didn’t think about it. At the age of 15 I lost interest and just lived to enjoy my life. It was when I began to study the Bible at 22 years old that I thought about God and assessed my relationship with him. I could make a decision to follow Jesus. This was done in a prodestant setting. Over the years I came to appreciate things about my Catholic background. Even before believing in Jesus, I respected the Bible; I had no trouble believing that God exists and that if you wanted to know God you should begin with Jesus and the Bible. I also believed in the importance of going to church every Sunday. I also respected tradition. I also liked Christians. I also knew the importance of marriage and family and the “till death do we part” part to marriage. I believe that my mther and father are still together after 44 years because of my mom’s Catholic faith. All of this was implanted in my heart, even before personally believing in Jesus. It was communicated through my Catholic upbringing. God used my Catholic beackground to lay a foundation for my future life. But I confess that I did not believe in Jesus personally. Recently I went to a Catholic wedding. I was impressed about their sense family and community. It was rare and amazing to see.
    But there are some things that I can not reconcile. At this wedding the couple lay roses at the feet of Mary. Growing up I did not have a awareness of the living God walking with me daily. I did not know the details of my faith. I did not know the Bible. One friend told me that he has learned more in five years of Bible study than 40 years in the catholic church. I had no awareness of my sin and if I did, I did not care. I know that this describes many in all demoninations also. But this is my own personal experience.
    I agree that we can not isolate ourselves from each other. We cannot condemn each other. We cannot not just tell each other, “you have to change and come out of your church.” Each side will not understand. The only way is dialogue without a spirit of condemnation. We have to be able to agree to disagree and communicate in our quest for understanding in the truth. This is what family does. This is where progress and co-operation can be made. Continuous dialogue in this way and God will work. ..Kevin

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