Friday, August 26, 2011

Verbum Domini


Classes commenced this week and I'm getting myself all geared up to read all sorts of great stuff this semester. Before I dive into all that though, I did realize that I had meant to share some thoughts about one of my summer reading projects.

I had seen that a new post-synodal apostolic exhortation was out entitled Verbum Domini or “The Word of the Lord” towards the end of last spring. This means it’s the Pope kind of summing up the thoughts of a large group of bishops which meet to discuss and provide teaching for the Church on important issues every couple years. I saw a copy of it in the bookstore at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC before I flew out for France and of course couldn’t resist the temptation to buy it. I didn’t actually start reading it until near the end of my time in Paris, but when I did, I remembered why I often find reading theology to be so fulfilling. Despite its systematic layout, it addresses so many important points and thinks to address issues that I wouldn’t have even thought of. My copy is now full of underlined words and occasional exclamation points. In an effort to share this joy with you, I’ve gone through and quoted some of those underlined parts in the hopes that maybe you’ll be persuaded to read the exhortation (and Scripture!!).

On definitions of the Word of God

“They rightly referred to a symphony of the word, to a single word expressed in multiple ways: ‘a polyphonic hymn.’ The Synod Fathers pointed out that human language operates analogically in speaking of the word of God.” (12) (all page numbers are from the booklet published by Paulist Press)

We can speak of Christ Himself as the primary manifestation of the Word of God, the Word made flesh, dwelling among us. The Apostolic preaching, the living Tradition of the Church, and Sacred Scripture, inspired in both the Old and New Testaments also form elements of this polyphonic hymn, which we refer to as the word of God.

“All this helps us to see that while in the Church we greatly venerate the Sacred Scriptures, the Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book’: Christianity is the ‘religion of the word of God,’ not of ‘a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word.’ Consequently the Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, receive, and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable.” (14) (underlining mine)

Seeing these words on paper led me to reflect in at least three different directions at once. For one, Islam traditionally understands Christians and Jews to also be “people of the book”, which gives us a sort of legitimacy, showing a fidelity to God’s revelation at least in as much as we have had access to it in corrupted form. Instead of responding by going straight to the issue of textual integrity (although that’s important), a response based on this teaching can say that Christians never were “people of the book” in the same way. We are not centered around God’s teaching in one book in one language, but around the revelation of God most fully in Jesus, and still present with us in a myriad number of ways including Scripture. (the polyphonic hymn!)

Also, might it be easier for Pentecostals to swallow this than other evangelicals? One of the books I’m going to read this semester is called “A Problem of Presence” and apparently recounts the experience of an African Pentecostal Church which began to make a point of embracing the word of God available directly to them through the Holy Spirit over the seemingly much more remote and dead words available in Scripture. Needless to say, this is an outlier, but I think it’s still safe to say that Pentecostals in general have benefitted by recognizing a broadening of the presence of the word of God in their lives beyond Scripture without cutting themselves off from Scripture.

Jesus

“To use an example, we can compare the cosmos to a ‘book’—Galileo himself used this example—and consider it as ‘the work of an author who expresses himself through the ‘symphony’ of creation. In the symphony one finds, at a certain point, what would be called in musical terms a ‘solo,’ a theme entrusted to a single instrument or voice which is so important that the meaning of the entire work depends on it. This solo is Jesus….He is the center of the cosmos and of history, for in him converge without confusion the author and his work.” (23)

“Here the words of Hugh of Saint Victor remain a sure guide: ‘All divine Scripture is one book, and this book is Christ, speaks of Christ, and finds its fulfillment in Christ.’” (62) YES!

“…it is important that the faithful be taught to acknowledge that the root of sin lies in the refusal to hear the word of the Lord, and to accept in Jesus, the Word of God, the forgiveness which opens us to salvation.” (41)

“As the cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence.” (34)

“God’s silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence. Hence, in the dynamic of Christian revelation, silence appears as an important expression of the word of God.” (35)

The Holy Spirit

“Just as the word of God comes to us in the body of Christ, in his Eucharistic body and in the body of the Scriptures, through the working of the Holy Spirit, so too it can only be truly received and understood through that same Spirit.” (27)

“Here too we can suggest an analogy: as the word of God became flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, so Sacred Scripture is born from the womb of the Church by the power of the same Spirit.” (32)

Mary

“Mary is the image of the Church in attentive hearing of the word of God, which took flesh in her. Mary also symbolizes openness to God and others; an active listening which interiorizes and assimilates, one in which the word becomes a way of life.” (43)

Interpretation

“Saint Jerome recalls that we can never read Scripture simply on our own. We come up against too many closed doors and slip too easily into error. The Bible was written by the People of God for the People of God, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion with the People of God can we truly enter as a ‘we’ into the heart of the truth that God wishes to convey to us. Jerome, for whom ‘ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,’ states that the ecclesial dimension of biblical interpretation is not a requirement imposed from without: the Book is the very voice of the pilgrim People of God, and only within the faith of this People are we, so to speak, attuned to understand Sacred Scripture. An authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic Church.” (47)

“The ‘literalism” championed by the fundamentalist approach actually represents a betrayal of both the literal and the spiritual sense, and opens the way to various forms of manipulation, as, for example, by disseminating anti-ecclesial interpretations of the Scriptures. ‘The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human…for this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various human periods.” (69)

“A notion of scholarly research that would consider itself neutral with regard to Scripture should not be encouraged. As well as learning the original languages in which the Bible was written and suitable methods of interpretation, students need to have a deep spiritual life, in order to appreciate that the Scripture can only be understood if it is lived.” (74)

Ecumenism

“All this can only strengthen our conviction that by listening and meditating together on the Scriptures, we experience a real, albeit not yet full communion;” (71)

So true. We should be doing it more.

Liturgy

“Every liturgical action is by its very nature steeped in Sacred Scripture.” (85)

A faith-filled understanding of Sacred Scripture must always refer back to the liturgy, in which the word of God is celebrated as a timely and living word: ‘In the liturgy the Church faithfully adheres to the way Christ himself read and explained the Sacred Scriptures, beginning with his coming forth in the synagogue and urging all to search the Scriptures.’” (86)

“The relationship between word and sacramental gesture is the liturgical expression of God’s activity in the history of salvation through the performative character of the word itself. In salvation history there is no separation between what God says and what he does.” (88)

The word of God and the world

“The Synod of Bishops forcefully reaffirmed the need within the Church for a revival of the missionary consciousness present in the people of God from the beginning.” (139)

“Whoever claims to have understood the Scriptures, or any part of them, without striving as a result to grow in the twofold love of God and neighbor, makes it clear that he has not yet understood them.” (154)

“The inculturation of God’s word is an integral part of the Church’s mission in the world, and a decisive moment in this process is the diffusion of the Bible through the precious work of translation into different languages.” (167)

The document actually made reference to the need for Bible translation at multiple points, lamenting that not all people yet have access to the Scriptures in their own languages. Having spent so much time around Bible translators, this quite predictably warmed my heart. Maybe the next 20 years will see an increase in Catholic-Protestant cooperation in regards to Bible translation?

One encouraging discovery from my time in France was the “traduction oecuménique de la Bible”—a French translation of the Bible that appeared to be fairly popular from my perusal of religious bookstores. It consulted Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox scholars throughout its translation process. Another part in Verbum Domini recommended that this sort of endeavor happen more often. The need may not be as great or the end results as strongly felt in the English language Bible market, where any new single translation would have to work hard to make a dent, but if one translation was endorsed by the US Catholic bishops, and got the marketing power in evangelical markets that the NIV and ESV have benefitted from, we could all be reading the same translation…which could be cool.

Enough rambling, though. We should all be reading Scripture more, reading it humbly, and praying while we do so. Pray that I commit to doing exactly that. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Authority Part V: God's Grace Made Perfect in Our Weakness


As the quote I started this little series with was meant to show, it was the juxtaposition of authority, sin, and grace that I found most convincing in the Papacy.

A key moment in this was reading Called to Communion by Pope Benedict XVI. In his concluding reflections on the Papacy and the unity of the Church, (p. 72-74) I was able to see God’s love reaching out to me in Scripture once again. Right after Jesus called Peter the rock and said that God had revealed a truth to him, Peter messes up and Jesus calls him satan! Before, this would have been the stuff of proof-texting wars.

-      INQUISITION214:  “Jesus called Peter the rock!! He said He’d build His Church on Peter! How can you not believe in the papacy?!”
-       BIBLE_THUMPER461: “But then he calls him Satan! Peter was just a normal human who said some true stuff through the Holy Spirit. The other popes have been even worse and worse, especially in the middle ages. How can you not see that the pope is the antichrist?!”

(sorry…script-writing probably isn’t my life-calling)

This addresses the exact tension that I felt in examining the Papacy, though. I have such a deep, deep respect for Blessed Pope John Paul II and for Benedict XVI, but what if the next Pope has none of the charisma, obvious wisdom or sanctity of the excellent Popes we’ve been blessed with in recent times? What if the Pope spends his papacy expanding the Vatican’s real estate assets? or has an affair and an illegitimate child?? Scandal is nothing new to evangelicals and Pentecostals—we’ve seen charismatic leaders fall…and then we leave them.

I forget which scandal or preacher made me think this through years before, but I had previously thought about this: about whether the Holy Spirit leaves people who are sinning. After scandals in Pentecostal churches, the skeptics are quick to want to say that the whole thing was a scam. There never were healings. There never was anything or anyone called the “Spirit” in the rooms where people cried and fell and prayed and felt Him (or “Her” depending on the language) so intensely. And then there are still some people left believing, that despite the undeniable knowledge of grave abuses (embezzlement, adultery, whatever it may be), the gift that they received, even through that same sinful preacher, was and is real.

God did such an amazing work of subtly preparing me to become Catholic, because these thoughts were really already sitting there. I had meditated at times, on why God would know, before others knew, that so and so was sinning grievously, and yet still choose to work through that person day after day not just in an ordinary way but in what seemed to be an extraordinary way, continuing to bestow special gifts on that specific person. The preacher living in sin may still be able to prophesy or heal or teach, while those with clear consciences may not have access to those gifts in the same way.

God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness. This is the way God works. He gives His gifts to those whom He wills, different ones to each of us, and expects us to actually use them. He insists on including us in His work of redemption. So many of our attempts to bypass the human to reach the divine directly inadvertently bypass God's actual divine plan (to work through humans)! It's scandalous, though. So scandalous. And so seemingly dangerous. 

So many of my objections to the Papacy were rooted in fear. In the fear of what we’re to do if that leadership is wrong. It’s not a bad question. Not at all.  Luckily for us, it didn’t take long for Popes to start having problems! Peter gives me hope, because he was so predictably human. He seemed so weak. In this perfect story of the redemption of mankind, someone has to come in and open his mouth at inopportune times. But God used Peter in such a powerful way, so that when he opened his mouth at Pentecost, he could fulfill the role in the body which he was called to.

And in that image of Peter, I have something of an answer. Even when the other parts of the body are messing up, I continue to work with them, not refusing to send blood to the head or refusing to digest food because I disagree with what the feet are doing. I don’t try to remove myself so that I start my own body; I might just end up with 2 fingers, a spleen, and an appendix.

If that didn’t make sense let me try again: we weren’t meant to just follow whoever we take a fancy to. We were meant to receive teaching from those who are called to it, who have been given it by God Himself. (I think of Paul telling Timothy to not neglect that gift that was within him through the laying on of hands) And as we move together as a body, we have God’s promise that the heart will never cease to beat, we have the promise that Peter, and I would dare to say his successor as well, will indeed in the end prove to be a rock, that he will be what God has called him to be, despite the own inclination to sin found in every Pope starting with Peter, God works in them. It is the grace of God that we follow rather than anything found inherently in any pope or bishop as a human being. When councils make binding decisions or the Pope makes a rare infallible proclamation, then I can trust that the Holy Spirit is working in the people involved.

At some point, my faith must win out over my fear. As God tells me I am a child of God and holy, I must suppress my fear that I can never live up to this calling and instead say in faith, “Let it be done unto thy servant according to thy will.” I must suppress my fear of the fact that God scandalously works out salvation through people, not only as individuals but in community. My faith in God’s promise to Peter must be stronger than my fear of what will happen when Peter fails.

“…If in the course of history the attribution of such authority to men could repeatedly engender the not entirely unfounded suspicion of human arrogation of power, not only the promise of the New Testament but also the trajectory of that history prove the opposite. The men in question are so glaringly, so blatantly unequal to this function that the very empowerment of man to be the rock makes evident how little it is they who sustain the Church but God alone who does so, who does so more in spite of men than through them. The mystery of the Cross is perhaps nowhere so palpably present as in the primacy as a reality of Church history. That its center is forgiveness is both its intrinsic condition and the sign of the distinctive character of God’s power.”

And a succinct statement of what I think I’m trying to get at:

“When the Church adheres to these words in faith, she is not being triumphalistic but humbly recognizing in wonder and thanksgiving the victory of God over and through human weakness.”

-       -all from p. 73 of Called to Communion by Pope Benedict XVI (written well before he became Pope). I highly recommend this little book and its quite brief section on the Papacy if this is something you want to think through more.

And I guess this rings so true because once more, I had had to meditate on the scandal of how highly God views the Church. It was relatively easy to become convinced of my own depravity. The way that God rescues me out of that depravity requires so much more faith. I really think that the structures of the Church, including the bishops of the Church gathered in communion with the bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter are part of that economy, that plan of salvation. As the teaching of the leaders of the Church throughout the ages have and do speak to me, I can feel the benefit I receive by being part of this body. The benefit is real. It has been so far.

As always, if you want to talk more about it, please contact me. I’m just still putting posts like this out there so there is something public explaining how I’ve come to be where I am. Peace. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Authority Part IV: Scripture Speaks


Yet again, I don’t have the space or willpower to make an exhaustive presentation of the Scriptures that influenced me, but I’ll try to give you an idea of what the journey was like.

A key text is, as many of you probably know, the quick sequence of words and events found in Matthew 16: 13-28. A key verse for the Papacy being v. 18-19

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (NAB)

A couple notes:

The word for “church” is only used twice in all four Gospels (the other usage also being in Matthew (18:17). (Nearly) all of us Christians believe in something called the Church, so it’s just interesting that the Gospels don’t show Jesus explicitly talking about it all that much, but when He does, Peter obviously has an important role to play.

Catholics were the first to introduce me to the almost certain (only place where keys are mentioned in the OT) allusion in the “keys” and binding and loosing to Isaiah 22, where God replaced Shebnah with Eliakim as “master of the palace”. I found the parallels pretty astounding

“On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family; On him shall hang all the glory of his family: descendants and offspring, all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs. On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the LORD has spoken.” (NAB)

So here we have Jesus evoking a case in which God handed a lot of power over to a certain person who was the vizier or vicar of the king. This person was not the king, the son of David, but held in a certain sense that person’s power. To spell it out, this jives with a Catholic ecclesiology, because Jesus is the one, true, ever-reigning King, the son of David. If the Church is to have any earthly authority structure, then it is an authority like what Eliakim had: a delegated authority. 

The allusions to power, and status as a father figure are all there. What did Jesus mean by making allusion to this? Why is it mentioned in Scripture? 

Scripture has such a subtle power. It can capture us with such force, yet at any given point it can feel like it is us who holds the power and Scripture which lies open to our own manipulation. I’d obviously read this verse many times without so much as thinking of the Pope. Many people who study Scripture will think for many reasons that to interpret it in that way is to entirely miss the point. Within Catholic interpretation, Scripture can have many meanings, so there’s certainly no argument that there’s a lot else to be learned from the passage.

For me, though, I felt a jump in my heart as I re-read this passage during my search. The same jump that I felt whenever I saw Jesus meeting me in Scripture in new and unexpected ways that I’d never seen before, a process that I hope is evidence of the Holy Spirit beginning to open up the riches of the Scriptures to me.

And then there was more. Peter is mentioned all over the place, always first in any list, always speaking on behalf of the other disciples, playing a key role in the Council of Jerusalem. (Acts 15) I guess before I just saw this as a historical coincidence that happened to be recorded in Scripture. I should have known better than that, though. All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for doctrine.

As I’ve said, there was a definite point where I realized I wanted in, where I was no longer afraid that after years of study I might have to become Catholic, but where I wanted to be and simply needed to see that my basic questions could be answered. What started out as a long list of Protestant objections to the Papacy all seemed to fade away quite quickly. In trying to make sense of it now, I might guess that some of my objections were just defensive. Some were answered by what I saw in Scripture. Some weren’t answered in words at all, so that I’m still attempting to find those words even as I write now.

I read through a book trying to lay out Scriptural claims for the Papacy, and then tried to read at least one book that I thought would make some counter-arguments. After this, it all at least seemed feasible in my head. In my next and I hope last post on authority (I’m trying to cut this little narrative into chunks in an attempt to make this already text-heavy blog ever so slightly more reader friendly), I’ll talk about how I felt more inner confirmation about the Papacy by looking directly back at those problem Popes that my mind first initially turned to. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Authority Part III: An Introduction to the Papacy


When I was back visiting Ukarumpa between my sophomore and junior years of college. (2008) I made a trip with my mom down to the community library. Bible translators are pretty avid readers and there aren’t many public libraries in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, so on the mission center there’s a whole basement dedicated to being the community library. It operates on volunteers, donations, and an honor system. Like many things, my dad has taken a picture of it. I relied on it for reading material for many a school break.

This time when I went down I was somewhat surprised to see a book by Pope John Paul II. It was called Crossing the Threshold of Hope, and I must say, it had a pretty attractive cover. At the end of that summer in PNG my family went down to the coast and stayed there for a couple days before my younger brother and I flew out to head back to the US. My idea of the perfect vacation is still formed by my time in PNG. I want to go to somewhere by an ocean, drink Coke, eat Chinese food, and read. That’s pretty much it. Fiction or non-fiction, whatever I want. And I’ll occasionally relent and let my mom organize a card game for the whole family. On this occasion, Crossing the Threshold of Hope was my vacation book, and I really liked it. (I also sat by the ocean, drank Coke, ate Chinese food, and played some phase 10 with my mother).

 I don’t know if the book got rave reviews from everyone, but I had never read anything written by a pope before, so I just kept getting excited at how good and Christian everything he said was. Here was a guy who saw himself as a leader of the Church universal, and lots of people treated him as such, and he could address not only them but the whole world and call them back to Christ. Here was a prophetic voice for the Church.

In short, one of my first “encounters” with a Pope was quite positive. My system of respecting charismatic authority was leading me to follow a Pope! In my “feel” for orthodoxy he seemed more focused on what was central than many popular evangelical preachers. While it wasn’t immediate, John Paul II’s sense of sanctity and fidelity to the Gospel led me to not only look to his writings for guidance, but to also explore some of his successor Pope Benedict XVI’s writings as well.

From then on I began to place greater and greater weight on the Pope’s position on issues. In part, I think I agreed to listen to the Pope because he seemed to agree with me! Secondarily at that point, I think I was also already affected by my belief that this ancient system of bishops (and popes in there somewhere) was actually legitimate.

So I lived in this tension for a while, where if I imagined myself living in the early Church then I would care deeply about apostolic succession, but refused to recognize their legitimate authority over me in the present. I deeply respected the teaching authority and message of contemporary Popes and bishops, but to fully accept the papacy still seemed impossible.

For one, I figured the fact that the Pope held more authority than other bishops was just a mirroring of the political power that the city of Rome held in the ancient world. I was actually dead wrong about that. The seat of Roman power moved to Constantinople as soon as Christianity ceased to be a persecuted religion, so an idea of Roman primacy was definitely not just tied to political power. In a true Protestant fashion, though, it was realizing that Catholics could actually make Scriptural arguments for the Papacy that made me realize I might just be able to accept it. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Authority Part II: Questions and Searching


I’m back in South Bend now enjoying the end of summer before classes start. Green lawns, warm nights on porches, cheaper everything…there are some things I missed about America! I’m hoping to pump out a couple posts recounting more of my journey to Catholicism. I may jump back a bit chronologically here to set the stage more:

As with many things, I had formed a deep conviction about the importance of Church authority from reading the New Testament. As I noted in the rambling story about how I became Catholic, I came back to the US vaguely looking for “the church”. This doesn’t mean I was open to rethinking my unexamined ecclesiology or theology. I was just convinced that there was at least some difference between a group of Christians and a local Church, and I wanted to be part of a local Church. In Ukarumpa (the mission center I lived in in Papua New Guinea), most people recognized that although we “went to church” on Sunday morning, it wasn’t quite a church in another sense. We called the building we went to on Sunday morning “the meeting house”. There was no designated pastor. Within the community there was a very admirable attempt to live out the Christian faith in so many ways, but an organization dedicated to translating Bibles, while somehow part of it, is not itself the Church. I knew that, and I wanted to find it.

Thus five years ago I was at a point where I believed there was supposed to be authority vested in local pastors. I didn’t think the local church was just a conglomeration of Christians. I wanted to be held accountable. I wanted there to be human authority figures.

In one sense I found my authority figures. I greatly respected the leadership and love for God evident in my local pastor and my IV staff worker. In the realm of campus ministry, I was somewhat scandalized by the astounding number of evangelical campus ministries at a campus where evangelicals perceived themselves as a distinct minority. There was certainly often a sense of solidarity and cooperation, but institutional fragmentation does impose its own inherent limits and challenges.

One possible genesis of my movement towards the Catholic Church and a traditional Christian understanding of hierarchical authority can probably be found in the unresolved tension of this strong personal conviction that I was supposed to find my place in “the” Church with the fact that I didn’t really understand what that looked like in a broader sense. While I had been happy to find a local Church, my observations of trends in wider evangelicalism also forced me to ask hard questions. Rather than having authority due to their position or ordination, it appeared that all evangelical authority was in the end charismatic. Pastors had to have a compelling argument or a motivating message. In part this seems good, but I also knew that it means a lot of people switch churches quite often. Campus fellowships suffered from the ability of students to move from one to the other over the simplest organizational issues. And why not?

Is a local congregation a family, part of one big family called the Church, or is it a society that helps people meet each other’s spiritual needs and can hire and fire preachers if they deem them beneficial. I held a quite strong almost more Calvinist belief in human depravity. I knew my sin restrains me from knowing what’s best all the time. I felt that I needed and wanted those checks and balances that come with Church discipline. I believed God could and did work through other people, proper authorities—but who are they? These questions resurfaced as I faced my senior year in college in the face and realized I would again have to choose a community. This time around, the plethora of options in front of me precipitated more of a crisis.

These are standard explanations given by people who’ve entered Catholicism, and the perceived organizational chaos of evangelicalism is a go-to topic for Catholics if they’re locked in intense online apologetics debates with evangelicals (of which I’ve probably read way too many) so I should pause to reflect some in the interest of self-examination and truth.

The institutional chaos of evangelicalism certainly looks more confusing from the outside than it did from the inside. That is true. For me most of the time and for so many good evangelicals division is mitigated by the many admirable instances of intra-evangelical cooperation. It is also true, though, that I honestly did feel the angst of not knowing how much and who one could trust for teaching. For personal issues, I certainly trusted those close to me, but in terms of my growth in knowledge of the faith, I might end up liking but having my disagreements with John Piper on some things, Rob Bell on others. There was a strong feeling of consensus, but in reality that consensus couldn’t always be articulated, let alone counted on. And even when I knew where I stood, I could see how our divisions made it so much more difficult to speak prophetically to the world.

 A common criticism of people in my position (again, I’ve read too many internet comments) is that we had to go to Catholicism because we wanted other people to do the thinking for us, that we got the “infallible fuzzies” as one evangelical apologist puts it. I’ll say there’s a (small) seed of truth in this statement. I certainly didn’t want to stop and haven’t stopped thinking about my faith, but I also balked at having to figure Christianity out for myself from scratch.

The Christian faith is so deep and beautiful that it’s taken the Church centuries of reflection on the life of Jesus, on Scripture, on the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives in order to put words to parts of our faith, and in many cases we’re still grasping for articulation. With the Catholic Church’s easily identifiable sources of authority I can be privileged enough to receive the fruits of previous generations and even of my own. We’re all called to reflect on our faith, but just like the first generation Church, Christ has set aside some to feed His sheep, and through the Church has set aside some for the proclamation of the Word.

I guess all that goes to say that I was looking and had been looking without realizing it for quite a while.