Yesterday, I bought a subscription to crtv.com to watch the discussion between Steven Crowder and Michael Voris about the Catholic Church. Here's the link at: #convertCrowderday (#191 Catholicism vs. Protestantism). At this point, you will have to subscribe $10 per month to watch it.
My thoughts on the discussion:
Firstly, it took me eight years of open-hearted, open-minded prayers and research to convert to Catholicism, so to think a quick two-hour dialogue that wanders all over the map will be able to explain Catholicism is ridiculous. I am not assuming Crowder or Voris expected that would happen, but I have encountered many Protestants who think that if Catholics are not totally convincing with a few theological soundbites, then game over--Catholicism is wrong. That is unrealistic.
So, while both Voris and Crowder realize no one will be converting, for theological addicts like myself, this exchange does make for interesting television.
The First 300 Years
Almost immediately the two started debating the early church. Before I make a couple observations, I want to remind Michael Voris that I wrote him years ago about putting together a series on Church Militant TV dealing with the Catholicity of the first three hundred years of Christianity, pre-Constantine and pre-Bible. Simon Rafe answered that Michael will get right on it!
Crowder's concept of the pristine early church is not unique. Often Protestants believe they are linking themselves directly back to the early church with their doctrines and practices. They are returning to a time before the Church corrupted the faith with things like the real presence of the Eucharist, the honor of Mary, praying to the saints, etc.
Catholics need to prove that in the three centuries before the Bible was put together, the church was united in its belief on the Eucharist, the primacy of the bishops, and doctrines and practices the world today considers Catholic. The early church is nothing like Protestants romanticize it to be. If Protestants really want to return to the pure, early church, we need to show them just what it looked like. We need the evidence out there. Maybe Church Militant will get that series out!
Now to my two points how to clearly show the differences in Catholicism and Protestantism.
The Truth that BindsProtestants unite behind what they believe is truth. Its organizational structure is more akin to a political party in that ideas bind them together. A Protestant church forms around some person's interpretation of the Bible and those who agree with that person's interpretation. So, theology, correct theology, is of utmost importance to Protestants because it is through correct information that they are linked with God and each other.
Through theological positions, one is judged saved or unsaved, a believer or non-believer. If a Christian gets theology wrong, Protestants (who think they have accurate information about God) are obligated to divide with those who cling to falsehood. Because rightness cannot mix with wrongness.... Doctrine is the glue holding a Protestant denomination together and doctrine is the reason denominations break apart.
While Catholics absolutely believe truth/doctinre is vital, it is not the reason the Catholic Church is united. If the Bible or the Church were to be proven absolutely fallible and in error, Catholicism would still maintain its course. Protestantism would utterly fall because, through scripture Protestants know truth and true truth connects them to God.
Catholicism isn't wholly dependent upon truth nor scripture. Catholicism unites under family ties. We believe Christ began His family kingdom.
Christ entrusted His doctrines and scripture to His family. The family structure was formed first, then His truths were given to them. You do not arrive at God through correct doctrine, but through a correct relationship to God's family.
The different between these worldviews may not seem great, but it is vital in understanding both Catholicism and Protestantism.
Catholics become family through baptism (most often baby baptism where no theology is yet understood). We call Mary our mother, nuns our sisters, monks our brothers and of course priests, our fathers. Through the blood of Christ in the eucharist, Catholics take the kinship of believers very literally.
For Catholics, it is not an information connection with God but a family one. That is why Catholics can be radical left and radical right on "truths" and still maintain united in their church. Because if Christ is the way, the truth and the life then truth is not found outside Christ. It is our relationship with Him that brings us into truth, not our relationship with truth that brings us to Christ.
This fundamental worldview difference is clear when Steven Crowder cites Catholic theological divisions and sees these differences as similar to Protestant denominations. Crowder can't understand why Catholics don't simply kick out bad priests and bishops. Within a Protestant worldview--if leaders no longer agree with the church on doctrine, then these rogue theologians need to be fired or be kicked out--anathematized.
A Protestant church is able to fire an adulterous or thieving pastor. But in the Catholic system, you can't fire an uncle or brother, the blood connection doesn't allow for simply walking away. Our spiritual familial connection obliges us to take responsibility for even the most horrific pedophile priest. The Catholic Church must not discard even the worst among us. (Even if it is imperative that we don't allow rogue priests and bishops to continue leading people astray. If the problem is not legal, we simply put them in a monastery and tell them to be quiet. We don't fire them.)
Catholic divisions are like a fighting family whereas Protestants divisions are like a divorced family or more precisely, a business.
The Invisible BrideProtestants and Catholics agree that God's church is His Bride. Yet, Protestants believe that the connection of Bride and Groom is in the heart of the believer and is not specifically organizational. Though Luther did not agree with this, America is mainly a nation of Calvinist theological roots. And John Calvin taught that the church is invisible.
Catholics highly disagree. Imagine a man with an invisible bride and anyone who claims to be the man's bride through some experiential connection with him is welcome in his bed. I know I wouldn't want to marry a man under those conditions. I, Teresa, am a visible bride to my husband. And Catholics believe that Christ wants His Bride-Church to be clearly seen.
A visible, organizational bride-church is absolutely necessary to fulfill Christ's commission to His followers. If the church were this unorganized spattering of believers all over the world, how could Matthew 18 be followed?
If your brother sins, go and point out their fault between the two of you.... If they refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (parts of vs. 15-19).How can we take people we are concerned about to an invisible church? That would be very confusing. Anyone in any church could claim this ultimate authority.
Throughout the New Testament the church is a visible group that is persecuted. How would a persecutor find an invisible group? No, these people met together and formed connected groups with leaders.
Protestants take all the Biblical verses about the Church and see them within an invisible worldview. At most they will see the church as little organized local groups with no interconnectedness and no centralized leaders. However that is anything but historical or Biblical.
We, as Catholics, need to establish the scriptural and ecclesiastical evidence that proves from the very beginning, the church was visible, organized and united. And that same church was already known as "catholic" by AD 107.
Michael Voris did a terrific job in his discussion with Steven Crowder. I hope they will do it again, as promised. Voris and Crowder, like many discourses between Catholics and Protestants, need to define worldviews before dialogue can be successful. I am not suggesting we will convert Protestants, that is up to the Holy Spirit. But we will at least get past misunderstandings and get at the real differences.
To start, we need Protestants to understand that Catholics are a visible family-church united by the blood of Christ. Though we believe scripture to be the inerrant, infallible Word of God, the basis for our Christianity goes to the very kingdom Christ established centuries before the Bible was put together. Our foundation and source is Christ Himself telling His apostles that they are chosen to lead a visible Bride that Christ will never leave nor abandon them.