2007-06-20 - Summer Questions
2007 #3 - Growing Faith
Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
Question: "My friend has been born and raised as a Catholic, recently she has been going to a Christian church that is a Non-denominational church. She enjoys going there, loves everything about it, her children are enjoying the bible study classes and she has the want to be there at all times, but in some ways, she feels she's betraying her religious beliefs or church. How can I explain that God is God and he loves us all even though we don't go to the church we are raised in or grew up knowing?"
This is a good question for lots of reasons, and I hope that in looking it, that we will touch upon questions similar, and even almost identical to it, that many others might have. I even feel a little qualified to work with this question, as I am a pastor of a nondenominational (Congregational) church, and I have taught theology as an Adjunct Professor at two Roman Catholic Colleges. It is a mix that has led me to consider questions like this myself.
I want to start by nailing down the basic distinction between Roman Catholics and Protestants. I know not everyone will agree with me, and it is much more complicated than I am making it here, but I think at the end of the day, Protestants base their faith on the Bible alone, and Roman Catholics take as the foundation of their faith both the Bible and Church Tradition. It seems to me that all the distinctions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism boil down, in all their varieties, to that one foundational difference.
Roman Catholics come from a tradition that is steeped in tradition. They have traditions that have developed from their traditions over many, many years. When someone from a Roman Catholic background comes to a Protestant church, they often notice that there are some traditions, but fewer, and generally the traditions are different. Protestant churches are usually less ornate. There are fewer relics, often none. The church and ministers are usually not treated as dollhouses, and dressed up. Rather, Protestants have historically longed and striven, fought and died, for simplicity in their worship style. There is generally less formality and ceremony in a Protestant church, than is commonly found in a Roman Catholic Church.
It is only natural that someone coming from a Roman Catholic tradition might not feel, at first, as at home in a Protestant Church. This is to be expected, and the question I would ask your friend is simple. "In this new church, in this new faith experience that you now have: Are you more at peace? Are you growing in your understanding of Jesus Christ? Do you see, in your heart, that you seek to live a life worthy of your claim of faith? Are you experiencing fellowship with the saints? Do the people there encourage you to press on, keep striving, and grow deeper in your faith?" I would say to your friend that if she can say that these things are true, she ought to consider that she has found a special place that few find, and she should soak in all she can, take advantage of every drop that falls her way, and seek to gather as much of this good stuff as she can. It is a blessing to find a place where Jesus Christ is given His proper place. I would tell her that if she thinks she has found such a place, she should stay put. It might be a different tradition than she grew up with, but she is a different person now, than she was when she was growing up.
It is not a betrayal to seek those things that are best for yourself, and even more importantly, for your children.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Editor's Note: The questions in this series are stated in the exact form sent by the readers - unedited, unproofed, in order to remain true to the reader's original wording.