Friday, June 8, 2012

Gateway Drugs

The latest big name convert is creating the predictable angst among Protestants. You get the normal things being said. Look how many Catholics are becoming evangelical. He never really understood Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. But this time round there is something new. People are rooting around for something he did that opened him up to the Catholic faith. Is it because he was too liturgical? Is it because he was too traditional? Kevin deYoung comments:
Was Two Kingdoms theology the gateway drug? Confessionalism? A high view of sacraments? An appreciation for history and liturgy? It could be all or none of the above. And even it were all of the above that would not necessarily indict anything on that list. Granted, there are some common themes that surface among converts to Rome (e.g., tradition, beauty, authority), but it’s best to stick with the stated reasons for jumping the good ship Protestant and refrain from the temptation to psychoanalyze.
It is interesting how we all love the idea of ecumenism but have such an instinct to turn away in practice. He correctly points out the hysteria of some people but he does not actually say the parallel between Catholicism and drug addiction is wrong. That is the opposite of ecumenism. To see Catholicism as one of the great spiritual powers of darkness rather than a group of Christians who interpret scripture differently than you do. What is the evidence for this? Someone converts? OK, more than someone, quite a few well-respected protestant thinkers. But what is conversion? Is it really comparable to drug addiction?

The reality is that protestants don't know what to do with Catholics. They seem like fine Christians yet they deny some of the few things protestants see as essential of the faith. So it raises some important questions. Do we really know what the essentials of the faith are? Can we get them from the bible without introducing the real chance we have made a serious error? Should not the very central teachings of the faith be clear? Not just clear to me but clear to every serious student of scripture?

These questions don't have good answers. The answers protestants give fall apart under scrutiny. The most common answer is that my particular brand of protestantism is clearly taught in scripture. That Christians who differ from it differ over non-essentials. It sounds good until you actually interact with knowledgeable Christians from other traditions. Then you struggle with what exactly are the essentials and where do you get this clarity? The really annoying thing is that Catholics have an answer. It seems like a very nice answer. Except it does not leave me with the theology I know and love. It forces me to embrace Catholicism as true.

So what is the real answer? It seems it is to stop asking those questions. Don't think too much about certain things. The trouble is the list keeps growing. The cannon of scripture. Pre-reformation church history. The role of the reformed confessions. The proper respect for liturgy. How to know objectively that a particular biblical interpretation is wrong.Where we got the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

The trouble with that answer, other than the fact that it does not answer anything. is it is doing exactly what Protestants wrongly accuse the Catholic church of doing. That is to tell people to just accept this doctrine and don't ask questions. We don't actually do that. We always welcome questions. Still it is a common protestant myth. So it is a bit strange for them to tell people to avoid whole areas of inquiry. Calling them gateway drugs. If the Catholics would use that terminology in talking about protestants we would never hear the end of it.

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