Saturday, March 06, 2004

Is This Why You Converted?

Dave: This isn't why I converted, but then my (doctrinal, historical, and moral theological) reasons may be those of a tiny minority of converts (if Pastor Schlissel is correct in his assessment).

He says people are sick of the fighting and divisions in Reformed circles and so they split and cross the Tiber. No doubt they are tired of the fighting and little "pastor-doms" (we had our share of what I disdainfully called "civil wars" in Arminian, non-denom circles, too).

But he fails to go to the next step: maybe, perhaps (some small shred of possibility) people instinctively realize that division and bickering and proliferating denominations were not how God intended Christianity to be, and that there is something inherent in Protestantism (in its structure and belief-system) which produces this division that is demonstrably unbiblical and sinful (most Protestants freely admit that all the division is sinful, but they don't seem to have a clue as to what to do about it).

In other words, maybe those of us who have converted (I was never Reformed, but I was highly influenced by some aspects of it and had and have great respect for the tradition) figured out that the Protestant system had something wrong with it, which in turn produced the division that Schlissel excoriates.

That would mean that conversion was motivated not by purely personal interests and comfort zones and touchy-feely stuff, but by the principle of considering that Protestant ecclesiology and rule of faith are fundamentally flawed, and thus no longer worthy of allegiance. Just a thought . . .

From: "Got Love? A Big Reason Presbyterians Convert to Rome"
by Rev. Steve M. Schlissel

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Who should be surprised if there are a huge number of Protestant conversions to Rome, and that soon? Who should be shocked in light of the animosity, the hatred, that Presbyterians (not to mention others) can express for other Presbyterians?

The sentiment that “the doctrine of justification by faith” is somehow that which will tilt stragglers toward Rome is purely ignorant. It may have animated Europe in 1602, but it draws a universal yawn 400 years afterward. Such an assessment — that people are going to Rome because of their doctrine of justification — can only be advanced by people who won’t look up from their books and out at the world. It ignores our real, postmodern circumstances. People are not becoming Christian, or leaving Christianity, because of fine-tuned abstract theological propositions.

Sure, it will happen once in a while that a guy will, after serious consideration, go Eastern or Roman, but I insist that such movement is rarely the result of doctrinal consideration. It is, in my experience and according to my observation, a result of people getting fed up and sick and tired of the egos, the lawlessness, the lovelessness, the endless hairsplitting, the bickering, the in-fighting, the splintering. Too, it is sometimes a response to the irreverent “worship” encountered in oh-so-many American houses of “worship.”

I expect our cannibalism — the special Reformed sort that likes best to feast on one’s closest kin’s skin — to yield many departures to Rome and the East. Why on earth would any young, earnest inquirer want to remain a Presbyterian when he witnesses them eating each other for lunch?

I think it is also a good warning for all Protestant teachers to fairly represent Romanism. The hysterical ranting of the hard-nosed types contributes to such departures because care has not been taken to accurately portray Roman Catholicism. When some young Presbyterian “studies” patristic literature, he has no way to absorb it. He reads it as though it were pro-Romish. If he had been properly taught, if he had been instructed in the truth about early church history, about the precise, developed errors of Rome, all 7,856 of them, rather than the insane ramblings only against their view of justification, I dare to say he would have been fortified to read the Fathers, or anyone else.

Let me give you an example: When I read the New Testament, its treatment of Christianity as Jewish served in my conversion, for I had been taught that Christianity was Gentile-ish. If I had been taught the true character of Christianity, God’s irresistible call aside (you know what I mean), I would not have been swayed by the surprise of New Testament teaching — I would not have been surprised, for I would have been instructed.

All told, I expect Rome will make great gains over the next 20 years or so, and I’d wager that the attitudes displayed by the heresy hunters will contribute far more to those gains than 100 Norm Shepherd-ites, even with their teachings taken to the nth degree. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” It is appalling Protestant effrontery to offer to God crossed t’s in place of crosses borne.

Got love?

This article originally appeared February 3, 2003, on the web site of the Center for Cultural Leadership.

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Rev. Steve M. Schlissel is the pastor of Messiah’s Congregation in Brooklyn, New York.

For related reading, check out my Conversion and Converts Page.

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