Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Reflections on Christian Unity and Some Common Ground Between Catholics and Protestants (Particularly, Good Works)

These are some comments of mine that were brought on by various discussions on the CHNI board. I thought they were worth sharing with my blog audience:

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A Lutheran wrote, in response to my paper, Gratefulness For My Evangelical Protestant Background and the Wonderful Teachings and Blessings Obtained Therefrom (Rev. Dick Bieber et al):


It is comforting to know that you still have respect and good memories from your years in the Evangelical Protestant church. 


I'm delighted that this was edifying for you, . . . I'm not an exception to the rule, by any means. I would venture to guess that probably 90% (if not even more) of Catholic converts have essentially positive feelings and great fondness toward their backgrounds.


It is the former Catholics who have a vastly different attitude: oftentimes they despise their Catholic past or feel little about it one way or the other (apathy). Many become anti-Catholics. Not so for Catholic converts and reverts! This becomes obvious, the more conversion stories one reads.


I think it is a really good thing, because that is the seed for continuing ecumenism and fostering of Christian unity. It's precisely because I remember (like it was yesterday!) my personal experience within evangelicalism, and because I know what was in my own heart and mind then, that I can respect all the more my Protestant brothers and sisters. I know what motivates them. I know Whom they serve.
It is impossible to not be thankful for what we all learned in the evangelical Protestant environment. Whoever is not does not understand, I submit, the vast areas of common ground that continue to exist.


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Both sides agree that good works are not an optional part of the Christian life. The differences are in how the works are categorized and their relation to salvation. But as to the works themselves: very few Christians have ever denied their supreme importance. And Catholics believe in Grace Alone just as Protestants do. When we deny Faith Alone it is never in a sense that would deny Grace Alone (i.e., Pelagianism). It is in the "James" sense.

So on a very practical, day-to-day level, Protestants and Catholics profoundly agree. I never tire in pointing this out, because I love common ground wherever it can be found.

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