Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Book Review: A Protestant Looks at Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn

Book Review: Rome Sweet Home
by Scott and Kimberly Hahn
Ignatius Press, 1993

Reviewed by Pilgrimsarbour

Coming more than a decade late to this book is, I hope, understandable to many. For years the words Catholic apologetics seemed an oxymoron to me. For so long I had spoken to Catholics and had been utterly unimpressed with their apparent lack of knowledge about their own faith. My own Catholic background was sufficiently nominal to pave the way for a drifting off into Evangelical Protestantism in my teen years, but it was only as I moved into adulthood and the Reformed faith that I began to understand that I did not know what I had left. I discovered that I was at least as ignorant about Catholicism as many Catholics seemed to be. Scott and Kimberly Hahn have woven an engaging narrative, charting their spiritual journey's course for us, bringing the reader inside the hearts and minds of two of Catholicism's most ardent and recognised apologists. Both were raised in Protestant homes, Scott's nominal Protestant upbringing paving the way for a deep, personal experience of commitment to Christ in his teen years. Kimberly's upbringing was more fervent from the start, both parents being devoted Presbyterians, and her father being a minister. Having met in college, both ministered for Christ passionately in various capacities and organizations while they worked toward degrees in theology and philosophy. After college was marriage, seminary, and eventually family. Scott relates that it was in seminary that he began to develop his new thoughts about the meaning of covenant in the Scriptures, in terms of family, rather than contract. At this point the pace of the story picks up considerably as both Scott and Kimberly relate the struggles and joys of coming to terms with their changing beliefs as they moved farther away from Protestantism and closer to Rome. There is a great deal of insight to be gained here for the Protestant reader, especially if he desires to discuss matters of faith and practice with Catholic friends. Not only do we learn about the passion of the new Catholic apologists, but it's obvious from the very beginning that this book is truly the template, the holy grail, as it were, for the experiences of the Catholic bloggers. In fact, so identifiable are the experiences of the Hahns for the Catholic convert/revert of the blogosphere, that uncanny seems a poor word indeed. If you spend any time reading the Catholic blogs, you will find, over and over, themes and ideas coming up that are clearly, if not thoroughly, discussed in the book: the covenant as the family of God, the authority of Peter and the Keys of the Kingdom, the authority of Scripture and the Church, the failure of the Reformation solas, the Communion of the Saints, and Mariology. But the theme given the most page time is undoubtedly the true meaning of the Lord's Supper and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This concept, coupled with the covenant idea, are the two connecting theological themes holding the book together as it moves to its conclusion. The overall effect of reading the book, for me, was mostly positive in that it was well-written and meaningful. Each of us, whether we fully realise it or not, is on a spiritual journey, and I could relate to many of the experiences and ideas expressed in the book. And many of us can identify with a teenager yearning to become proficient on the guitar (or piano!) and carrying that into young adulthood and playing in a band. If you want insight into the mind and heart of the Catholic convert/revert of the blogosphere, this is the book. However, there are a few bumps along the road of this otherwise pleasant journey. Aside from some important differences in doctrine, which are to be expected, Protestants will struggle with the use of the term anti-Catholic. This loaded term with its accompanying connotations appears often throughout the book, and is applied liberally to both Protestants who express negative personal feelings toward Catholics, and Protestants who merely disagree about doctrine, without qualification or distinction. Even Peter Kreeft, on the first page of his introduction to the book says, "I would hate to be an anti-Catholic in debate against these two!" A similar phenomenon can be readily seen in the general culture today, especially in the political realm. For example, conservatives who disagree with the current pending immigration legislation (McCain-Kennedy) which provides amnesty for millions of illegal aliens are told, even by the President, that they are "anti-immigration bigots who hate Mexicans." The purpose of this kind of language in the culture is to shut down dialogue with those who hold opposing viewpoints by making them feel ashamed of their choices and attitudes. There is never a discussion on the merits of their arguments. The word racist has become meaningless since all whites are to be considered racist, without regard to personal attitudes and behaviours. The problem for Catholics is that there are real anti-Catholics online and out there in the world, just as there are real racists. But painting all Protestants with such a broad brush renders the term anti-Catholic as meaningless as the word racist. It's not until the conclusion of the book that the Hahns adopt the neutral term non-Catholics, so it can be done. But it's difficult to understand why such obviously intelligent people would choose language guaranteed to alienate the Protestant reader. Additionally, there is no equivalent use of the term anti-Protestant in apologetics or in the blogs, although that attitude can frequently be found. In any case, the Catholic bloggers have taken hold of this term with a vengeance and are on the precipice of making it meaningless for the purposes of constructive dialogue. The new Catholic apologists are a force to be reckoned with. But if Catholics want to persuade Protestants of the beauty of the Catholic Church, they would do well to drop this "persecuted victim" approach in favour of something much more neutral, if not positively conciliatory.

15 comments:

Theo said...

Indeed, for some of us Catholics (O.K., this is true regardless of affiliation--but let's keep the subject trained on us Catholics for now.) the most natural reaction to opposition is to ascribe nefarious motivation to those who disagree with us, especially upon those who do so as a "ministry." Of course, when during the course of wading through considerable opposition one *does* encounter a sample of opponents who actually *are* nefarious, this natural tendency (which in itself is unhealthy at best) is readily honed to hair-trigger sensitivity. Thus you may find even among the most otherwise thoughtful individuals, a penchant for quickly assuming the worst of critics, sometimes taking their "hatred of Catholics" for granted. When people develop such delicate sensitivities, they tend to see things in an us-vs.-them mindset, where "they" are anti- "us."

Obviously, this is vastly unfair. For sincere disagreements about vastly important issues are possible between reasonable, good people who (ghasp) *all* serve Christ to the best extent their imitation of Him allows.

Yes, especially in the blogosphere one can find many truly anti-catholic people that for whatever reason propagate blatantly false or misleading trash. But truly, there are vastly more who simply either honestly disagree or honestly misunderstand. It is incumbent upon we who might be sensitive to actively look for Christ in all who disagree with us.

You note, "...there is no equivalent use of the term anti-Protestant in apologetics or in the blogs, although that attitude can frequently be found." A quick search of the internet for "Anti-Protestant" yields 39,500 hits. I imagine some might refer to similarly defensive posts of the same hyper sensitive flavor. Nevertheless, your point is very well taken. "Anti-Catholic" yields a whopping 881,000 hits!

In fairness, however, there may be a practical reason why Catholics are so much more prolific in their cries of "anti" than their Protestant counterparts. It stems from basic theology. Where Catholics by official doctrine recognize the Christianity of Protestants, many Protestants by their doctrine simply cannot acknowledge the Christianity of Catholics. As a result, you'll find plenty of sites like this one: http://www.iconbusters.com/iconbusters/htm/photo_album/1/photoalbum.htm having (I pray) virtually no Catholic counterpart.

With continued thankfulness for your excellent imitation of Christ, I remain,
your servant and brother in Him,
--Theo

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Bro Theo,

You make excellent points again. And you're right, more Catholics probably think of Protestants as "separated brethren" than Protestants think of Catholics as "saved." I don't know what to say after going to that site to which you directed me. Aside from issues of bad eschatology, there is no place for that kind of vile filth in my world. I don't think one would be likely to find a comparable Catholic site for a couple of reasons. First, I think Catholics are generally not geared to those extreme kinds of statements, and second, Protestantism is not nearly as "visual" as the Catholic Church is. For visual parody, the RCC is a big target for those who don't care what they will be accountable to God for.

Pilgrimsarbour

+ Alan said...

Very good points Pilgrimsarbour. I've not read the book. My going back in has not been "Hahn initiated" :) but it seems a fair review. I definitely think your points about a "victim mentality" in the language of Catholics needs to change. "We" need to be careful about it anyway. It's true only insofar as it's true, OK, but let's not get carried away. It does what you say, it would seem, by making the term pointless. Surely, it exists but seriously. Anti-Protestantism, in a very bad way, exists as well. I've seen that too. I don't have much use for either. I'll keep this in mind as I move back into the Catholic fold. Thanks for stopping by the blog as well. Peace to you.

Randy said...

Interesting comments. I don't give the Hahn's so much credit for what you find in the catholic blogosphere know as St Blogs. Those themes keep coming back because they are the main differences between protestants and Catholics. Books predating the Hahns cover the same topics and often in very similar ways.

The emotions of conversion is what I got from this book. The hard steps of actually thinking the reformation might be a bad thing. The horror of considering that all those Marian dogmas might be right. There is a huge emotional barrier to cross before you can rationally look at these questions. This book helped me with those.

As far as anti-catholic goes. There is a phenomenon out there. I am not sure how to define it but it is real and common. So many people can discuss faith with anyone except a person who is prepared to defend the Catholic church. It is again the emotional response many people have to the church. It is the same response many secular people have to discussing Jesus. There is something about that name and there is something about that church.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Thanks, Randy. I am quite certain that there is true anti-Catholicism on the internet and in the world. My only desire is to be able to disagree with Catholics without being branded as one of the antis, because I am far from that.

Joseph said...

I realize this is an older post. This may prove to be the best scenario for me to discuss something with you on a personal level. I have experienced real anti-Catholicism during and after my conversion. Luckily, it has been mostly from my family. Those I cannot lose (no matter how hard they try).

My friends have been very understanding and patient with me, I have lost none of them. My relationship with those who hold some prejudices against Catholicism has been strained, however. There is also a great deal of strain with those in my former circles of friends who are atheist, agnostic, or fallen-away Catholics and Protestants, or Protestants who believe that they are "saved" no matter how they conduct their lives. This strain is caused because of many of the old ways I have begun to cast off; not because I want to take pride in my spiritual progress, but because I want to avoid occasions of sin. Obviously, I haven't been able to do this completely. Many times I find myself entertaining the wishes of old friends who come to visit so as not to cause offense, or lead them to passing rash judgments on the strange Catholic spectacle I am trying to become.

Please be patient with me. I believe this background may be important as to what I am about to say. I have developed an acute awareness to who is anti-Catholic, who is anti-Christian, who is anti-religion, who is anti-good, etc. I have also developed an acute awareness to who is open for true discussion and debate over certain topics. The former awareness suddenly developed as I encountered it aimed at me for the first time after my conversion; the later I had developed in high school and college spending hours in drunken philosophical debates that were, for the most part, fruitless because they usually revolved around secular things.

I am intrigued by your blog. Your statements and your demeanor are very similar to a friend of mine. He was very close to considering Catholicism shortly after my conversion. However, there were several teachings that he could not grasp and he was very unhappy that he could not receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church because he claimed to believe in Real Presence. He defied the request that those who are not confirmed in the Catholic Church are requested not to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord in the Eucharist during the Mass... several times. As time went on, our paths grew greater in divergence. Now, I can barely speak with him without falling accidentally into a dogmatic discussion that is highly uncomfortable. I cannot even mention anything Catholic to him now. The pastor in his community is a man who left a Catholic seminary. He brings with him much Catholic teaching, especially on the Sacraments, but he has created a very ecumenical ecclesial community. This has led my friend to believe that the gap between the Catholic Church and the Protestants can be filled by political dialogue. He believes there is truth in the Catholic Church, but he cannot accept it for reasons that I'm afraid to ask now. We are uncomfortable speaking about it with each other now.

Only in manner of speaking and in tone do you resemble this friend of mine. Your histories are probably far apart. However, I have come to detect what I think is a passive aggressiveness towards devout Catholics in your tone. I don't believe that you are anti-Catholic. Neither is my friend. You just seem to be upset that there really cannot be a real bridge between Catholics and Protestants. The common ground between us does not create a perfect bridge of communion, and I believe that this bothers you.

You will probably disagree with me and make me look like a fool for making such a suggestion. Like my friend, you claim to have dabbled with the idea of conversion. Like my friend, you had one of your old friends convert (Tiber) who is now full of zeal. Like my friend, you have expressed your disappointment of this fact in a very passive aggressive manner in your posts over the last year and a half.

I can tell that there is strain in your relationship with Tiber because it is the same strain I see in my relationship with my friend.

Now, I don't post on your blog because I'm trying to convince you of anything. Here is why I post on your blog, when I do:

Simply, you post on the Catholic religion frequently. I am Catholic and take interest in this. Your positions often take Church teaching out of context. They, I dare say, pretend to ask questions, when in reality, they are declarative statements. It seems as an invitation to dialogue, but it turns into a door slammed firmly in the face of any Catholic who accepts the invitation. I post to help correct you in your incorrect assessment of Church teaching. But, like my friend, the conversation ends in frustration when it is actually engaged.

Because you are not my old friend whom I grew up with, I can continue to engage you without concern for losing someone who has been part of my life for so long. I can't understand the false invite to dialogue; the desire to draw someone in just to tell them that you believe they are wrong, completely casting their arguments into the flames if they don't have the slightest morsel of false ecumenism embedded in them. What is this desire to be somehow linked with the Catholic Church without actually being linked to Her?

That is why I post on your blog. I don't think you are sincere about your desire to dialogue. Rather, I think that your posts regarding Catholicism are really just passive aggressive attacks on Catholics who respond. You don't intend to enter into discussion, you seem to rather want to feel as if we are all part of the same "church". And if someone explains the true teachings of the Catholic Church on this matter, well, there goes their point of view... into the flames.

What I want to know is, what is it that makes you tick? If you don't believe that the Catholic Church is the One True Church, why does She interest you so? Why post on Her? Why invite Catholics to dine at your table only to pull their food away if they don't placate your desire to be ecumenical? I want to know because you are very much like my friend, and I cannot ask him these questions. I want to understand so that I know better how I can continue being his friend without our opposing views on religion getting in the way.

If you don't believe in the Catholic Church, why is dialogue with Her members so important to you? Why are Her doctrines and teachings of interest?

I have an atheist friend as well who happens to be a true atheist. He has no concern over my belief in the Triune God. However, he notes the hypocrisy of some atheists who spend their time religiously bashing Christianity. These Atheists (capital 'A' since it is a religion in their case) happen to all be former Christians or they were raised in a Christian culture. It must be that they actually do believe in God and they are struggling to fight against Him. They want to "free" their consciences from Him forever, so they must attack Him. That is the only logical explanation for this behavior. A true atheist couldn't care less about God. If he truly doesn't believe that God exists, he doesn't care about Him. He simply thinks that all Christians are either stupid, easily manipulated, or mad.

Same with most of my Protestant friends. They didn't mind at all with my conversion because they don't believe in the claims of the Catholic Church. They are true Protestants. Why would the Church concern them if they simply don't believe in Her claims? It has no bearing on their spiritual life whatsoever. I can talk about Catholicism all day long with them and we debate not once. We are happily in two separate worlds.

Except, of course, for the friend that your remind me of. You are obligated to answer any of my questions. I won't bother me if you don't post this on your blog. In fact, I'd prefer if you didn't. These are questions that I'd personally like to know the answer to for the reasons I cited above.

Thank you, Pilgrim...
God be with you

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Joseph,

I try to live by this as best I can:

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

So in the interest of keeping the channels open, I'll try to clear things up.

First, I have never at any time considered converting, nor have I said that I have "dabbled with the idea of conversion." And (this is a minor point) I've only been blogging since October 2006. That's 10 months. I'm not sure from where you derive the "year and a half" idea.

You ask:

"What I want to know is, what is it that makes you tick? If you don't believe that the Catholic Church is the One True Church, why does She interest you so? Why post on Her? Why invite Catholics to dine at your table only to pull their food away if they don't placate your desire to be ecumenical?"

and similarly:

"If you don't believe in the Catholic Church, why is dialogue with Her members so important to you? Why are Her doctrines and teachings of interest?

The dining analogy is interesting, if a bit cryptic. I don't think I follow the point about pulling the food away. I gather from what you have said that if I want to dialogue with Catholics, I should not disagree with them or challenge them in any way. Kinda puts a damper on that information exchange thingy.

Now, I'll try to make this as clear as I possibly can.

1) My mother was born and raised CATHOLIC. She is long deceased.

2) My father converted from Baptist to CATHOLIC in order to marry my mother.

3) My Sister is CATHOLIC.

4) My Brother is CATHOLIC.

5) I was born and raised CATHOLIC.

6) My oldest friend from college used to live near me and has reverted to CATHOLICISM.

Since you have already decided that I have insincere motives, and that I'm a nefarious person who is not to be trusted or believed, I don't know if even this information will help.

Pilgrimsarbour

Joseph said...

Yikes,

Thanks for keeping me honest.

I made a mistake, I thought that I had read on your blog in the past that you had considered conversion to the Catholic Church. That was horrible of me to come to such a ridiculous conclusion. Forgive me.

Also, I was mistaken on the time frame of your blogging. I recalled that you were blogging about the same time that I started viewing blogs, which would have been last May (2006). Once again, that was my mistake.

Thank you for rightly corrected me. I don't think that my mistakes should detract from my questions, however.

You said:
"The dining analogy is interesting, if a bit cryptic. I don't think I follow the point about pulling the food away. I gather from what you have said that if I want to dialogue with Catholics, I should not disagree with them or challenge them in any way. Kinda puts a damper on that information exchange thingy."

That was an improper interpretation of my analogy. Did you ever study debate? I'm not sure if you realize that you are using professional tactics. It would be stupid to believe that what I'm suggesting is that you should agree with Catholics on any of your points of view. I agree, that would kinda put a damper on that information exchange thingy. It doesn't bother me in the least that you disagree with me or anyone else. You clearly missed the entire message of my post. Perhaps it was because of my blatant errors.

Because your entire immediate family is Catholic doesn't mean that it's impossible for you to harbor passive aggressiveness towards Catholicism. My entire family is Protestant, and some of them are aggressively opposed to Catholicism. The fact that I'm Catholic hasn't quite eliminated their prejudices yet.

I also mistyped. You "are not" obligated to answer my questions. I'm just curious, and that is all.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Joseph,

I wondered if my subtle appeal to my love for my family would be lost on you. Apparently it was. So convinced are you of your ability to judge the secret hearts and minds of others, why do you need confirmation from me? You have already made your decision about me. Anything I could tell you now would be met, at the very least, with skepticism.

It's gratifying to know that you feel free to treat me with contempt since I'm not your old friend that you have to deal with in the "real world." Regarding that question, I have no answers for you. You're on your own.

Nevertheless, I am happy to discuss theology with you anytime. If you can concentrate your efforts on a discussion of issues rather than on personal attacks, we will do well.

Peace,

Pilgrimsarbour

theo said...

Joseph my brother:

As a fellow Catholic I'm a bit confused by the conclusions you seem to draw from your observations.

While it is true that Pilgrim's having a Catholic background and a largely Catholic family by no means precludes him from having negative beliefs about us, neither does it follow that his manner of communicating with us constitutes aggression of any sort, passive or otherwise.

Please know that the written word, even under the guidance of the most skilled communicators is more vulnerable to the receiver's disposition in interpreting than is spoken, face-to-face communication.

In that regard I am fortunate enough to having personally met Pilgrim, and as such I can testify to his deportment and integrity.

I have found him to be genuinely charitable and firm in his convictions. Where we disagree in any substantial regard, he is loving yet firm. He remains teachable while holding his convictions, which through his personal experience would require a rather epiphinal event to lay aside--not merely because he possesses the same human stubbornness that we all have, but also because he is a man who takes seriously the admonition against being blown by every wind of doctrine.

I believe Pilgrim wishes real communication for the sake of mutual understanding. As well as I can tell he is not seeking debate, but dialog--and this I deem an important distinction.

As a fellow Catholic and brother in Christ I humbly suggest that we all might learn from his example. Yes, perhaps what is offered as firm assurance of one's own view while nevertheless trying to understand the reasonability of an opposing view might seem "passive aggressive" to one expecting debate. But I believe Pilgrim is the genuine article: a true follower of Jesus who wishes to understand as well as be understood.

All of us fall short of our desire to imitate Christ, yet if we look at one another with the same lens of grace that we hope and pray our one and only judge applies to us, then we might all stand closer--not because of some sort of artificial, shallow ecumenism, but because what we truly have in common is Christ the Lord, whose infinite nature is greater than all of our very real differences.

Love covers a multitude of sins. May the Love of Christ cover us as the sky covers the earth.

With prayers for Christ's mercy on me, a sinner, I remain your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Joseph said...

Ah, sophistry! I won't know anything about you without you answering the questions I've asked. But, if you aren't intending to answer them, don't attempt to portray me as an evil judge of your heart and the hearts of others in order to send the conversation off in an entirely new direction. Just simply say that you will not answer the questions or say nothing at all. Your last response would have required less typing and would have been less of a display had you just done that and left it alone.

I do not treat my old friend with contempt and I certainly can't help it if you think I'm doing so with you. Believing that someone has a certain passive aggressiveness against Catholicism is hardly contempt. By using those deflection tactics in order to protect a position that you perceive is under attack you are helping to indirectly answer my questions. Do I think of you contemptuously? No. Do I like your debate tactics? No. Bait and switch, red herrings, straw men, deflection, pure sophistry. It is difficult to even understand you sometimes. You see, it is useless to debate with someone who is passively aggressive to one's point of view. Do I like you? Yes, from what I know of you. Then, what don't I like? Bovine excrement!

False ecumenism is not a contemptuous label, it is a reality. And it thrives in the blogosphere. One has to determine where it is and avoid it for it accomplishes nothing but gratify baseless feelings. It takes its forms in many ways. Why not draw the distinct lines and then argue your points without using defense tactics when you realize that your worldview is under attack? If you don't believe it, say you don't believe it and move on. Nobody is going to like you any less. What they don't like is sophistry.

It's a pity that my subtle appeal to my family wasn't understood by you, since you seem to enjoy using subtleties. Shouldn't it be reciprocal? I used the same technique to point out the flaw in your logic, but you instead turned it against me as if I simply didn't understand your subtle appeal to your love of your family and was on some sort of rampage to drag your name in the mud. Come on, play fair. If you want to use those tactics, expect that the person you are conversing with can and will do the same.

Better yet, and the way I prefer it, don't use sophistry at all. Make your "yes" mean "yes" and your "no" mean "no". Alas, you have said you will not give me any answers. I'm sure about one thing, however, you debate like you are always on the defensive. That is very much like my friend. Instead of addressing issues and staying on point it is like playing "Round Robin" as soon as a crucial element in the discussion comes up.

I certainly hope I am not labeled a mean-spirited, evil judge of hearts because I find your debate tactics deceptive.

Peace

Pilgrimsarbour said...

PLEASE NOTE: Although I received Joseph's latest comment above a day or two ago, I hadn't posted it until now. I wanted it to be available for contextual reasons relating to my new post "Blogospherian Opera: The Pitfalls of Online Discussions" here.

soldierofzion said...

OK...I've only finished chapter 3 now,anyway, here it goes...So far, I find Scott Hahn to be a poor Bible student at best...
PG.16 There is already a problem, as he refers to infant baptism as "the sign of the covenant". We must remember that 1Cor 1:22 "For the Jews require a sign, but the Greeks seek after wisdom:" KJB. Signs in scripture are always in relation to God dealing with the Nation of Israel. Where in the New Testament is baptism mentioned as a sign? Mr. Hahn mentions Matt 19:14, "...Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me..." He uses this as justification for infant baptism. What?! Infants and children are not the same thing. An infant can not make a voluntary decision for or against being baptized. When did an infant ever make a decision to come to Jesus for baptism. The context of the verse is children coming to Jesus, right? This is not hard. This is an example of someone privately interpreting scripture in a way to fit or justify a particular doctrine. Read the plain english instead of reading your doctrines into it. He mentions Acts 2:39, "...the promise is unto you and your children..." Again, why does this imply infants? No one, anywhere in the Bible ever baptizes an infant. I don't get it. He is talking a big scriptural game and then gives a private interpretation.
PG. 27 - I'm agreeing on the explanation about birth control, but then he throws "Euharist" in there and throws me off. I could as easily say that our "fellowship" or "communion" or "coming together" is actually with God's words, in the Bible. You could relate it to prayer as well.
PG. 31-32 - In a King James Bible, you do not see "faith alone" written together anywhere. I don't read Luther's German Bible. They start to go to James for faith plus works when James is clearly for another dispensation of time during the tribulation period. James 1:1 Look who the book is written to. Read your own mail. "...to the twelve tribes scattered abroad..." Hello, Israel here. You can get practical help from James, but doctrinally it is for Jews in the tribulation. And 1Cor 13:2 "I am nothing..." without charity, is not a reference to anyone falling from a position of being justified by faith only.
PG. 35 - Marriage a sacrament? Really...Scripture please? Or how 'bout just one for your word "sacrament".
PG. 42 - I don't get the play on words here with "grace alone" and "faith alone". Eph. 2:8-10 "By grace are ye saved through faith..." They go hand in hand and I don't see the phrase, strictly, "grace alone" anywhere in the Bible either. "...saved by grace through faith working in love..." What?! A phrase not found in the Bible and clearly a shift to some kind of philosophy. Col 2:8 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ."
Well, I got a good bit more reading to do, but won't hold my breath for any real revelation on the scriptures in Rome Sweet Home. See ya later...

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Soldierofzion,

Thank you for commenting on my blog. This is, of course, quite an old post, but I am happy to respond to a few points you have made.

You and I would agree on much, probably, but I suspect also that we have a great many differences. I would like to make a few observations. Forgive me if I am telling you things you already know, but my intention is to be clear to anyone else who might be reading this as well.

My initial impression is that you are of the dispensationalist persuasion. I, on the other hand, have found Reformed theology to be the most biblically consistent approach to understanding God's Word.

Reformed theology (sometimes called Covenant theology) sees baptism as the NT equivalent of circumcision for all those on this side of the cross. Infant baptism is very much a part of Reformed theology. However, unlike the Roman church, we do not believe the baptismal act itself confers grace or salvation to anyone. We do not believe there are two tracks of salvation in history--one for Israel and one for the gentiles. Jesus Christ fulfills God's salvation plan for His people, which unfolds in the OT covenant community of Israel and is fulfilled in the NT Church. People in the OT and the NT are all saved the same way; through the grace of Christ. It is this unity of God's dealings with His people in both the OT and the NT that informs my understanding of baptism.

Christian baptism is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace--God's promise of blessing to His covenant community, that is, all those for whom Christ died. It is a sign of visible membership in God's Church. It is also a public profession of faith for those who come to Christ with understanding at whatever age.

Now, Reformed Baptists have cogent Scriptural arguments against infant baptism, while Presbyterians and others argue cogently for it. I am of the latter persuasion, but am always interested in hearing good arguments against my position on any matter.

You obviously think of "believer's baptism" as exclusive of infants, whereas the NT practice was often to baptise whole households, which would include all ages, as a sign of belonging to the covenant community. Again, this does not confer salvation on anyone. The wheat and the tares will grow together in the Church; this has always been the way, even in OT Israel.

Look at Acts 10:47--Cornelius and his household are baptised. Acts 16:15--Lydia and her household are baptised. Acts 16:33--The Philippian jailer and his household are baptised. In each of these cases, only the faith of the head of the household is discussed. There is no reference to believing faith in anyone else. Now is it possible that every single person in each of these households believed as individuals? I suppose it's possible. But the Bible and our own life experience tells us that not every single individual in a believer's house becomes a true believer and is saved.

It appears that in 1 Cor. 1 the NT pattern is, indeed, to baptise entire households. Paul himself talks about having baptised the household of Stephanas (v. 16). And regarding Paul's use of the word "signs," he is speaking of the haughtiness of individuals who attach undo importance to their spiritual mentors, needlessly causing divisions (vv. 10-17). He is not teaching here that God does not use signs (demonstrations or rituals/memorials) to remind us of His promises in Christ and to demonstrate (like circumcision in the OT) that we are a part of His covenant community.

Regarding works in the book of James, I understand James to be speaking of a faith that is dead; that is, a belief in God which has no evidence of a changed life in Christ is no belief at all. Any person can give mental assent to certain truths: "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder" (James 2:19). So if you say you believe but you have no works (works being evidence of a regenerated life), then you are deceiving yourself. The works themselves do not merit grace or salvation, but are evidence that God is working in your life, and that you are a true believer.

With what you have said regarding dispensations, the Jews and the tribulation, we are getting into complex issues of eschatology here, and you and I would differ radically at this point. I lean toward the partial-preterist view and you appear to be dispensational-premillenarian in your approach. This would be a tremendously lengthy discussion for another time.

I have made a new post showing what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about the Biblical understanding of baptism. I hope that helps to clarify things.

Blessings in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour

Regan y Xiomara said...

Having been raised in an evangelical church, with brothers that still lead in their churches, I know for a fact that I was anti-catholic. Not in the classic bigoted way, but we were discouraged from even discussing issues about Catholicism, or anything outside of what Pastor Steve might be discussing at that time. I converted to Catholicism with an understanding of what was to be gained by the structure and practice that my "evangelical" said wasn't necessary. They never could say why John 6 was not important, it's just Christ speaking in allegorical terms (Eat my body, drink my blood" or you have no life in you). I can go on and on. Why do the evangelicals snicker when bad jokes are made about Christians of the Catholic church? That's anti-Catholic.