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Monday, June 04, 2007

A question from a reader

I'm pulling this out of the comments for your input.

If one comes to the decision that protestantism/evangelicalism doesn't work because one is always having to decide what one is to believe based on one's own personal interpretation, and that one should be therefore either Catholic or Orthodox, how does one *decide* whether to be Catholic or Orthodox, when the whole point of leaving protestantism/evangelicalism is to give up the burden of having to *decide* what to believe?

13 comments:

Rebecca said...

I can't comment on Catholic vs. Orthodox.

What I would question is "the whole point" of leaving protestantism/evangelicalism to give up the burden of having to *decide* what to believe.

I've never met another convert who became Catholic because they didn't want to have to decide what to believe. In fact, I would say the opposite. Most of the converts I know became Catholic, because they had decided what to believe, Catholic teachings.

I don't see wanting to get rid of the burden of having to decide what to believe as a reason to become Catholic, let alone "the whole point". I would be curious as to the response of my RCIA teacher and class if I had given this as one of my reason's for wanting to become Catholic.

BC said...

I am an ordained protestant minister, inner city missionary, and Church planting ministry director and my wife and I are on our way to the Church. We do this not because we don't know what we believe, but because we have found that the Spirit of God has led our beliefs to find thier fullness in the Catholic Church.

We face loosing the ministry we are involved in as well as many of our protestant connections (I often speak at churches, retreats, and camps) We both have theology degrees and are very comfortable in what God leads us to believe through the Word, His Spirit, and sacred tradition. The choice for us is not what to believe.... the choice is whether or not to recieve the teaching the Lord gives us as we seek Him fully.
In our quest to recieve whatever the Lord teaches, we have found ourselves growing closer and closer to the orthodox teachings of the Church. We do this not because of whether or not protestantism/evangelicalism works (it has "worked" great for us!), but because we sense a fullness and wholeness in the Holy Church. The issue for us is not what "works" or doesn't, it is simply an issue of obedience as to what we feel the Lord would have us to do.

Irenaeus said...

As it's originally my comment, let me rephrase a little and explain. What's precipitating my move toward Catholicism/Orthodoxy is a frustration with denominational/theological anarchy.
I've come to see that Sola Scriptura doesn't work; if Scripture was self-interpreting, if it was sufficient for Christian faith and life, we perhaps shouldn't have 30,000 denominations -- or whatever the number is. As a Protestant, I have to answer questions like, How do I decide whether Calvinist, Lutheran, or Methodist readings of Scripture are correct? Can I get the Trinity out of Scripture? How do I know what Jesus meant by "This is my body?" Ad infinitum. Ultimately, I am the judge of all these matters. Scripture is not self-interpreting, and it's every man or woman for his or herself based on one's wits and learning. Appealing to the Spirit is not helpful, because folks who appeal to the Spirit to back their interpretations often disagree.

I'm tired of having to decide between interpretations, confessions and theologies. I want to surrender my autonomy as an interpreter to the wisdom of the ages, the wisdom of the Church. That is more or less what I mean by the whole point being to relinquish being one's own pope.

But which -- east or west?

Chris said...

Since we Catholics believe that the authority that you speak of is held in the office of the papacy and the Magesterium I would have to say west. After all, one of the big issues with the schismatic Orthodox churches is their rejection of the pope's authority.

However, there are Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome. That's why I don't like the phrase "Roman Catholic". The Roman Rite is obviously the most widespread rite and the one that most people associate with the Catholic Faith. However, there are several other rites used in the Catholic Church. I'll post a list of those tomorrow.

Irenaeus said...

Of course, the Orthodox churches would say that the Bishops of Rome overstepped severely in seeking to rule all of Christendom, that the rise of the papacy is an exercise in ecclesial aggrandizement. Whose narrative do I accept? I'd have to 'interpret' the history and then 'decide'. That's the question.

Mark said...

Oooh. Tough question.

I was vaguely interested in Eastern Orthodox Churches for a while, but I was just looking. By the time I realised I had to leave the Anglican Communion, I had already realised my faith was unashamedly Catholic.

BC said...

I have good friends that have become Orthodox and love it. They love the beauty, mystery and culture of it. I tend to appreciate the Orthodox church and see it as the other half of the Catholic church. ( I pray that the two come back into complete communion with eachother) Obviously there are some theological differences, but for me they are not overly important.
The only reason I am not seriously looking to the Orthodox church is not one of theology per say, rather it is based on culture. Most all of the Orthodox churches I have been to hold a significant portion of their services in Greek or some other eastern language that I do not speak. The theological jump is small, the cultural jump is a bit wide for me.
I am sure that not all Orthodox churches hold services in this way, but it seems a bit more of a challenge to find the ones that don't.

Randy said...

The big deal is the office of pope. If you look at scripture and tradition it is pretty had to say that the Holy Spirit didn't lead the church to establish the papacy. So is it for today or did it cease to be important after 1053?

The fact that only the Catholic church has been able to continue having councils after the split also leads me to beleive that is the true church.

Rick Abele said...

I'm in the same boat. My advice would be no matter which way you decide to go, do not become an overly dogmatic Catholic or Orthdox Christian and start calling the others schismatics. Be one or the other and remain ecumenical and pray for reconciliation and unity. For this is Christ's heart. Meanwhile do not overly fall to finger pointing or pooh-poohing Protestants as is often the case with converts. Always convert for positive reasons and not negative.

Irenaeus said...

Rick,

Good idea, of course. I know certain Orthodox really, really don't like Catholics, sounding as if they were Bob Jones style fundamentalists.

More fundamentally, the break between East and West (and Christian division in general) breaks my heart. I mean really. Physical pain sometimes, and that's why this decision is so hard for me.

BTW: I've started a new blog to wrestle with some of these issues: catholidoxies.blogspot.com. feel free to visit, and, if you have a blog, to link to it.

Chris said...

Obviously, I'm not very familiar with the Orthodox Church. However, after doing some reading I see that some of the major differences are the Orthodox's rejection of papal primacy and infallibility, the filioque in the Creed, the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, etc.

These are issues you will obviously have to address. I think the biggest issue is that of papal primacy and infallibility. I wrote a couple of posts on this blog addressing these two issues.

I was reading the Q&A section of the Orthodox Church in America website and came across a question concerning the organization of the Orthodox Churches. The response was:

"The Orthodox Church as a whole is the unity of what are called local autocephalous or autonomous churches. These words mean simply that these churches govern themselves, electing their own bishops and organizing their own lives.

Each of these churches has exactly the same doctrine, discipline and spiritual practices. They use the same Bible, follow the same canon laws, confess the authority of the same Church Councils and worship by what is essentially the same liturgy.

It is nothing other than this communion in faith and practice which unites all Orthodox Churches together into one world-wide body. In this sense, there is no one dominating authority in the Orthodox Church, no particular bishop or see or document which hasy over the churches.

In practice, the Church of Constantinople has functioned for centuries as the church responsible for guiding and preserving the worldwide unity of the family of self-governing Orthodox Churches. But it must be noticed that this responsibility is merely a practical and pastoral one. It carries no sacramental or juridical power with it and it is possible that in the future this function may pass to some other church."


I think this contrasts quite well with the arguments I made in my post about Apostolic Succession.

Blake said...

My wife is a convert to Catholicism. She looked intensely at the Orthodox Church prior to conversion, though, and was well on her way to the Bosporus rather than the Tiber.

Eventually, it came down to authority and history. In a Cardinal Newmanish way, it was too much of a coincidence for her that the papacy was always on the right side of the early conflicts with heresy.

On the other side, the lack of authority for the Orthodox became pretty obvious the more questions she asked. There were very few straight answers on anything, especially when the Orthodox priests would attempt to justify the differences between Catholic and Orthodox (other than the authority issue).

Rick Abele said...

In my city is a Byzantine Catholic Priest who was a monk on Mt Athos (Orthodoxy's greatest monastery) for twelve years and then become part of the Catholic Church. The city is Kansas City and the Church is St Luke's. Contact him and chat sometime. I'm sure he would have some advice and insight.