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Evangelicals and Catholics: Let's Celebrate Our Similarities

Evangelicals and Catholics: Let's Celebrate Our Similarities

My perspective as a convert to Catholicism
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When I called my mom to tell her I was joining the Catholic church, she hung up on me.

I wasn't really surprised. After all, for generations my family had been part of an evangelical denomination. Why on earth would I want to go to a church where they "worship" Mary, say rote prayers, and (gasp!) drink wine?

Not long after that incident, I was on staff at a Christian writers' conference where I was seated next to an evangelical pastor for dinner. He raised his eyebrows to my admittedly timid response when he asked, "So what church do you go to?"

"I like how the Catholics fight abortion, but that whole praying to dead people thing is unbiblical and wrong," he said in a pompous, accusatory tone that drew the attention of the table of ten. He then went on to lecture me for 20 minutes about why Catholicism is heresy while I tried to tuck in to my Salisbury steak.

Needless to say, I skipped dessert.

When I returned home, I described this encounter to my parish priest. He nodded sympathetically.

"Yes, that's why I no longer attend the interfaith prayer breakfasts," he said about a monthly local gathering of pastors. "It's one thing for people to ask questions, but it felt like I was being nailed to the wall every time and not allowed to respond. And by my own brothers in ministry!"

His response mixed with my own recent experiences bounced around like marbles in my head. On the one hand, I still had an enormous amount of affection and respect for my evangelical friends. But after years of searching, I felt I had found a spiritual home in the Catholic church. Why weren't both groups able to see their many areas of common ground and agree to disagree on the differences?

What I discovered through conversations with both evangelicals and Catholics was a simple lack of information. Many evangelicals dismiss Catholicism based on flimsy or misinformed knowledge of Catholic beliefs. Meanwhile, many Catholics take a "my way or the highway" approach that creates a barrier interested evangelicals find difficult to penetrate. When the two come together with open hearts and minds, however, they can walk away with a new appreciation for each other.

Let's try that exercise together, for a moment. I'll outline a few areas where Catholics and evangelicals agree, and then I'll introduce some key areas of difference. Your job is to keep that open heart and mind as you read.

Common ground

The Trinity. Would it surprise you to know that Catholics do believe in the Trinity—sans Mary? Indeed, the Catholic church teaches that God the Father is the head, Jesus is the second Person, and that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, dwells within all believers in Christ—just as Protestants believe. That said, Catholics do look to Mary as a role model more often than many evangelicals do—after all, she was chosen of God as a key player in the Incarnation. And we do ask her to pray for us, most commonly through the Rosary, a series of scriptural prayers. However, Mary is not part of the Trinity, nor does Catholic theology place her as equal to or above God or Jesus. In fact, the pastor at my church (which is predominantly Hispanic) frequently reminds parishioners that Mary is not to be worshiped or prayed "to"—a fallacy that seems to have intense hold over some Hispanic communities.

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July 29, 2013  7:23pm

Do you think that it is important to have a specific event that you can point to and say: "THEN, is when God saved me!"? We Lutherans do NOT believe that baptism is mandatory for salvation. All the saints in the OT, the thief on the cross, and many martyrs have died without baptism. We believe they are saved and in heaven. It is not the lack of baptism that damns someone to hell...it is the lack of faith/belief that damns one to hell, as Christ states in Mark 16:16. Many evangelicals think that Lutherans believe that salvation must come through Baptism. This is flat-out wrong! Baptism is one of several possible "when"s of salvation. It is always the Word of God that saves. (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). A sinner can be saved sitting in church listening to a sermon; listening to a Gospel program on the radio; or reading a Gospel tract. Baptism is NOT mandatory for salvation. However, Baptism is God's mark upon us that he truly has saved us. We belong to him. Unless someone intentionally fakes believing, fakes repenting, and fakes a genuine desire to receive Christ's "mark" in baptism, the person being Baptized DOES receive Christ's mark stating: YOU, child, now belong to me. In the evangelical conversion, you have two viewpoints, Arminian and Calvinist. The Arminian believes that he is saved when HE makes a decision to have faith and believe/repent. The problem is that when HIS faith is ebbing low, he begins to question the sincerity of his "decision": "Did I really do 'it' right?" Why this worry? He worries because his salvation was partly dependent upon HIM; upon HIS "decision". The Calvinist, on the other hand, believes that he is either born the Elect or he isn't. There doesn't need to be any specific time of conversion, as long as at some point in his life, the Calvinist declares to the world his faith and belief---he IS one of the Elect. However, ask many Calvinists when they were saved and they will give you a blank stare and then answer, "Well...my salvation was a 'process'!" Are there any examples in the Bible of ANYONE being saved by a process?? Receive the mark of Christ, brothers and sisters. In Holy Baptism, God's marks you as his: “Property of the King of Kings, Almighty Lord of Heaven and Earth". Gary Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/07/how-many-steps -did-you-complete-to.html

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March 04, 2013  9:53pm

There are far more differences between evangelicals and Catholics than the author states. She seems to be suggesting that evangelicals disregard these differences, which are major. Does the author believe that Mary was born without sin, which, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was declared by Pope Pius IX to be official dogma? The Word of God states that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Mary was a sinner in need of a Saviour, as we all are. And what of salvation? The Word of God states that salvation is by grace through faith plus nothing. Jesus said, at the moment of death, "It is finished.". We cannot add to His finished work on our behalf other requirements for salvation as Catholic dogma states we must. Nowhere in Scripture does it state that communion is necessary for salvation. Neither are the Catholic doctrines of infant baptism, prayers for the dead, prayers to Mary, etc., taught in Scripture.

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Ann Hesenius

February 28, 2013  1:11pm

Christy has written a fantastic article!! :) I'm just blown away reading the rampant MIS -information and unbelievable ideas some posters have about Catholicism!!. Some much-needed educating is neededfor sure - on the Church's factual dogmas and their origins - from Jesus Himself and the Early Church Fathers (bet those same posters will have no idea who I mean, sad to say), Yikes!- I could go on for days, and I probably couldn't pry these minds open one itsy bitsy iota. Just a few to check out as a tiny beginning, for truth's sake: Dr. Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi's Coming Home Network, Guy Dowd ( a past Teacher of the Year),

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