Yeah, But What IS A Protestant?
I'm Ed The Protestant. Greg Smith (creator of Considering Catholicism) has invited me to not only consider the Catholic faith, but to record our (already ongoing) conversations for his podcast. If you're a Protestant considering Catholicism, I invite you to listen and consider.
Here's a joke with a little bite:
The navy is out on maneuvers in the South Pacific, and they see smoke coming from a small island. They investigate and sure enough--they find a guy who's been marooned there two years.
Navy Officer: You've done a good job, managing to stay alive all this time! I see three little huts here, did you build those huts?
Marooned Guy: Yep. Built those myself.
Navy Officer: What are they? Why did you build them?
Marooned Guy: The first one I built to be my house, and that last one down on the end, I built that to be my church.
Navy Officer: What about that one in the middle? What's that for?
Marooned Guy: Oh, that's the church I used to go to.
I've talked with a few of my protestant friends about what I'm doing (considering Catholicism) and nearly every one has reacted with passion. They don't just disagree, they don't really want to hear what I have to say, they don't really want to discuss. They want to argue. It's not, "Oh, that's quite a change. Tell me about it", or "What are the things that draw you to Catholicism?".
It's, "ARE YOU NUTS? YOU'RE ACTUALLY CONSIDERING PRAYING TO MARY?? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND???"
To be fair, I was this way my entire adult life. Just like them, I wanted to shut all that Catholic stuff down. Hard.
This now strikes me as an odd reaction. Or rather, overreaction. But why do they, and why did I, overreact like that?
Here's what it looks like to me: Protestants protest. That's what they do. That's what my friends are doing, that's what I was doing.
To take this a little farther, Protestants are defending what they believe so passionately because they aren't actually sure that what they believe is right. I was brought up to believe that I had to work out what I believed and decide the theology for myself. What's more, it was my responsibility to do so. But that left me blowing in the wind. I'd spend ten or fifteen years in a church, decide they didn't have it quite right, then move on to the next one. I'd defend the next one until I saw something else that looked even more correct.
Ah, but you are a Protestant and you don't do this. Maybe you don't, but let me ask you:
Are you hoping someday you'll get a new pastor, because the one you have just doesn't quite preach the Bible right?
Are you searching for the next really great Christian author, one who will really, really help you understand the Bible?
Are you part of a denominational split that is certain it's inching the truth forward just a little more?
Are you upset at other denominations that don't 'rightly divide the word of truth'?
Are you disappointed that the gifted Christian author you've followed so closely, the one who taught you so much, is starting to wander over into what you consider bad theology?
Did you drop out of that Bible study because one person or another wasn't quite teaching things right?
After many years of this kind of chasing, I think Greg Smith said it best:
The best definition of being a Protestant is that you're not a Catholic.
As for me, I've burned out on chasing the next denomination, the next church guru, the next slight twist on being a Christian. I'm considering Catholicism, and so far I'm liking what I see.