So, I finally revealed my blog to my Facebook and Twitter friends. And a good many of them have followed me. Being a little more public has brought about a good bit of self-scrutiny: Am I relevant? Why should anybody want to read my blog? Why should Protestants, in particular, want to read my blog?
Well, let me say up front that my aim is not to convert anybody. If my own journey in any way inspires anyone else to look into the Catholic Church for themselves, I would be gratified and humbled; but I don’t really expect that to happen.
But the first reason I would give why Protestants should read my blog is that the Roman Catholic Church is Christian, too. There’s such a tendency — particularly in the evangelical branches of the faith, as I can attest — to marginalize and ignore the modern Catholic Church as something foreign, irrelevant, and obsolete, at best — at worst as something corrupt, unbiblical, and anti-Christian. Growing up evangelical, I simply never heard about the Catholic Church. Reading even the most scholarly and thoughtful evangelical books, I never saw the Catholic Church mentioned. When I did hear it mentioned, it was usually in shades of otherness and mistrust — as a “dead religion” bound up in “empty tradition” and “works’ righteousness.” The primary thing I want to convey about my newfound faith is that this stereotype is completely false. By my witness and by my words, I hope to vividly proclaim the life and love of the Catholic faith. And, as Protestants, I hope you will welcome this message and embrace Catholics as brothers and sisters in the faith.
Not only is the Catholic Church Christian, but it is an essential part of the Christian heritage of all Protestants. The Christian faith didn’t suddenly emerge out of nothing in 1517. Whatever you may believe personally about the Catholic Church, you must acknowledge that the Roman Catholic Church received and nourished and protected the Christian faith, and its Bible, through nearly 1,500 years of history, at last bearing it into the hands of the Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century. What happened over the course of those prior centuries? Growing up, I had little idea, and I suppose many other Protestants do not either. There is a tendency among many Protestants to reject the Catholic past, when in fact it is the Christian past. Did the faith die, or shrivel up, or disappear, over those ages? Did the Catholic Church cease to be Christian? One only need look as far as just a few of the shining examples of faith we have in the saints, to assure oneself that it did not: St. Gregory the Great (c. 540–604), St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153), St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226), St. Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897). These and many other Christians of the past can inspire and enrich your faith.
Through understanding the Christian past — where your faith has come from, how it came to you, and the people of the past who have lived and shared it — you can better understand the faith and how to live it today. Through appreciating the Catholic Church as the Mother Church of your own, rather than rejecting it as something lost and devoid, you can gain assurance of the integrity, security, and timelessness of the Christian Gospel over all the ages of history. You may even find something of value to your own faith that has been lost through all the turmoil of the Reformation and its aftermath. As an historian, a friend, and an evangelical, I hope to be able to share the history of the Church in an accessible and interesting way.
Finally, I hope you will read my blog because we are all Christians together. We all share the love of God and the Gospel of Christ. And we owe it to our Lord not to abandon His Church to the division and disunity to which our ancestors have driven it. It is the burden of each and every one of us to strive for understanding across the chasms we have made — because Christ is undivided; it is we who have brought brokenness to the earthly Church, and we who perpetuate it every day that all Christians cannot break bread together. It is my hope that through striving to understand our differences and disagreements in these pages, I will help all see that we are not that far apart, and maybe even help us to draw closer together — closer to reunification. I truly believe that it is possible, and that it is more important now than ever before that we stand together as the Body of Christ.