I am spending a twenty-four hour sabbath, after a busy six weeks of travel and speaking, at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. Frankly, this 80 acre campus is one of the most gorgeous places in all of Illinois. It is about an hour’s drive north of my home. Last evening I had a lovely dinner, in a very wonderful Sicilian restaurant, with my good friend Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Baima, the provost of Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary. Tom and I met about four years ago when a group of evangelicals in Naperville, Illinois, arranged a Catholic and evangelical dialogue for us. It was well-attended and well done. We formed a friendship through that evening and have since explored ideas that will lead, we trust, to a larger Catholic/evangelical forum in Chicago in 2007. (Stay tuned for details!) Tom is also a contributor to my forthcoming Zondervan book on four views of the Lord’s Supper (It has a late 2007 release date, with the corresponding book on Baptism due out in January of 2007.)
I asked Tom, as we drove back to the seminary last eveinng, "How do you explain the growth of your student body to its present high of 260 students after it hit rock bottom in 1991-92?" (The school was even larger, like all Catholic seminaries, in the 1950s, following world War II.) After the 1960s, and the turn to the left in the American Catholic Church, the number of priests, and thus the number of students preparing for the priesthood, declined sharply. I thought I knew the answer to my question but I wanted to hear Tom’s answer. Without hesitation he said, "John Paul II." Tom then added that John Paul II pulled this renewal effort off not ony because of his commitment to a more orthodox and robust Christian position but because he lived the Christian faith and incarnated the graces of Christ in ways that made him so fruitful in demonstrating the love of Christ. Tom went on to say that even the "priest scandals" of the 1990s had not slowed this growth. Why? Truth lived, and resolutely applied, makes a difference. Humility and courage go together. Standing for something is very important but how you stand is even more important! As evangelicals sort out the Ted Haggard scenario I pray to God this very day that they will more fully understand this same point. We need to stand for something orthodox and we need to do it with courage and humility.
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It’s interesting that even as I was reading this post my old anti-RC feelings surfaced. I feel these sentiments less frequently than in the past, but they’re still there.
You said: “Truth lived, and resolutely applied, makes a difference.” Agreed. You then say: “Standing for something is very important but how you stand is even more important.” This makes me a little uncomfortable. It seems as the substance of the first statement is “truth”, while the emphasis of the second is the way in which “truth” is lived out. Perhaps this is the tension you meant to convey. It seems that if the “truth”, the Gospel, was truly, as you say, incarnated, in the lives of believers, the means would work out quite well.
Deep things for an accountant’s mind.
This is precisely the “tension” that I meant and it cannot fit into an accounting model, only into a Christ-centered model that is willing to live with mysteries in faith.
I know that the influence of Pope John Paul II was a significant influence on me in developing a deeper love and respect for the Whole Church (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) and my own return to my roots in the Roman Catholic Church; and I didn’t even pay much attention to him until the end of his life. Now I am fascinated by the man and his extraordinary life of true faith and love for our Lord Jesus Christ. I so appreciate that you are not afraid to touch “risky” subjects on this “blog”. God bless!