Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Trajectory of Doctrinal Progression

I wanted to put our recent conversion to Catholicism into a larger context in terms of a trajectory of doctrinal evolution I have experienced for the past couple of decades.  So this is it!  Of course, I have not attempted to be systematic or exhaustive, but simply to note particular points of change that seem particularly relevant or interesting to me, especially in light of our most recent change.  I have focused on my own journey, but it should be noted (and is often obvious below) that for a large portion of this journey I have been traveling with others (particularly my wife and more recently my children).

When I entered college, I would have described myself as a "mere Christian."  I hated labels beyond that, because I wanted there to be a focus on the unity of all orthodox Christians, no matter what the denomination.  I was very much influenced in this way of thinking by C. S. Lewis (although I used to hate how he says at the beginning of Mere Christianity that we all have to choose a particular "tradition" and not just hang out in the "hallway" of "mere" Christianity--I used to ask, "Why can't I stay in the hallway if I want to?").  My concept of "orthodox" Christianity was basically anything that held the "essentials" of belief in God, the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, salvation through Christ's death and resurrection for sins, etc.  It included, in my view, historic Protestantism as well as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Soon after entering college, I became a Calvinist, in the looser, "evangelical" sense of the word--not a follower of every aspect of the Reformed tradition but basically a believer in the TULIP doctrines, particularly the idea that God is sovereign over all things, including in salvation, and that salvation is a product of God's grace alone (not excluding human will and works, but that the whole of salvation, including our will and works, are a product of God's grace, so that we contribute nothing good from ourselves independently).

That was at the beginning of 1997.  In the year 2000, we moved from Wheaton, IL, to Salt Lake City, UT, and joined the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), a church in the historic Reformed tradition.  More and more during this time I came to think of myself as Reformed, but it wasn't until 2005 that I came to be in full agreement with the doctrinal standards of the OPC.

In 2000 or 2001, I came to hold what I called an "Augustinian" doctrine of justification and to oppose what I considered the classic "Protestant" doctrine.  Mostly, this had to do with the question of imputation vs. infusion with regard to the righteousness of Christ.  I felt concerned that the Protestant doctrine of justification too much separated imputation from infusion, insisting that we are right with God wholly by means of the imputation of Christ's righteousness apart from the infusion of Christ's righteousness that constitutes regeneration and sanctification.  I held, rather, that it is both the imputation of righteousness and its infusion and effects in us that makes us right with God.  Until Summer of 2003, I felt myself to be at odds with the Protestant position on these matters.  This was resolved when I came to see that I could reasonably interpret the Protestant doctrine and language in such a way as to avoid this conflict.  This is a large subject, and I won't go into details here, but suffice it to say that I felt reconciled with the Protestant position after the Summer of 2003.

Over the next few years, I continued to think about many issues and honed my philosophical and theological awareness, but my next big advance in doctrine I would probably place around 2004, when I abandoned my previous idea that the Bible was only infallible in matters of doctrine but not in matters of science, history, etc.  I came to the conclusion that if the Bible is God's Word, how can I decide on my own which of its affirmations I am bound to accept?  How can I draw a line and say that "this is important enough to be infallible, but this is not"?  This came to seem arbitrary to me, and so I decided that I must hold that if the Bible says it, God says it, and that is that.

A number of other changes happened to me doctrinally in 2004 as well.  This was one of my biggest years of growth, partly because I came under care of the Presbytery of the Dakotas of the OPC (this is something one does if one is thinking about trying to enter the ordained ministry in some form or another in the OPC) in the Fall of 2004.  One of the 2004 changes was that I came to have my views challenged in the area of social morality / politics.  Before this time, I held a vaguely secular view of politics, but after this time it occurred to me (through being challenged by my wife) that if Christianity is really true, then not only individuals but societies ought to embrace and follow its principles.  So at that time I came to the position that human societies, as such, ought to embrace the true religion and follow it in their laws and policies.  A short time later, as I continued to think through this, I came to the position that the judicial laws in the Law of Moses still apply in their "general equity" (as the Westminster Confession puts it), and so civil society ought to be following their instructions.  (This is a complicated issue that I won't get into in too much detail right now--but if you're interested in seeing this position spelled out, see here.)

Also in 2004, I came to hold what is called the "regulative principle of worship."  This is the idea that our service and worship to God cannot simply be based on our own whims, but must follow God's instructions.  We cannot consider as commanded by God anything which he has not commanded in his revelation, and we cannot enforce such things on others.  This meant that anything that I could not prove to be commanded by God from necessary reason or from the Bible could not be passed off as commanded or enforced on anyone.  So, for example, take the observance of Christmas.  It is nowhere commanded in the Bible.  It is obviously not a dictate of reason.  So this way of thinking eventually led me to the conclusion that churches should not take up the celebration of Christmas, because in doing so they would be confusing the commanded worship of God with something not commanded and enforcing human traditions on people without divine warrant.  Another worship implication this way of thinking eventually led me to was a position called "exclusive psalmody."  The argument goes basically like this:  In the Bible, we are commanded to sing psalms from the Book of Psalms.  We are never commanded to sing anything else.  Therefore, only songs from the Book of Psalms can be considered commanded or enforced on people.  Therefore, churches cannot include anything other than songs from the Book of Psalms in their worship.  (See here for a much fuller treatment of this position from someone who holds it.)  Now, I did not actually come to these more extreme conclusions of "regulative principle" thinking until later, early in 2012.  I almost came to them earlier, but for a while I was thinking that churches could still practice things that aren't commanded in the Bible so long as they are not passed off as necessary or commanded by God.  Early in 2012, I came to realize that simply having such things as a part of a church's worship amounts to placing them on the level of God's commanded worship and has the effect of enforcing them on the people.

Also in 2004, I came to hold the belief that the Lord's Day is a holy day that ought to be held and observed by Christians (as a day of worship and rest), and that special revelation had ceased at the end of the 1st century.  (Before, I had held the view that special revelation has in fact ceased, for the most part, but I held this merely as a result of observation rather than as a theological position.)

Before I go on, a few comments are in order:  First, you will note that during this time period I was assuming the position of Sola Scriptura--that the (Protestant canon of) the Bible is alone infallible, and there is no infallibility in the handed-down tradition of the church or invested in the official teachers of the church.  Why was I assuming this?  Mostly, at this time, it was simply because I had never really seriously considered any other position.  I had never taken any church tradition as infallible before, and it wasn't really on my agenda during this time to consider doing so.  Without my really realizing it, I simply took it for granted that the Bible is God's Word and is thus the only infallible authority I had to listen to.  (If asked, I would have articulated a reason for this position, but I had not systematically thought it through due to lack of challenge on the subject.)

And this brings me to another general observation:  Why did I come to certain doctrinal conclusions at different times?  Why not all at once?  The answer is mainly that it is impossible for the human mind to think about everything all the time.  I knew why I was a Christian.  I had honed my reasons for being a Christian throughout all of this time period, and had it pretty well worked out.  But I was still something of a "mere" Christian--that is, I thought of Christianity as being a set of core essentials, with other doctrinal issues being important but not determinative of whether a person is a Christian or whether a church is Christian or should be joined with, etc.  (Having become a Calvinist, I eventually added the sovereignty of God and salvation by grace alone to the list of essentials, and came to consider Arminianism--which denies these things--a heresy.)  Because of this attitude, it didn't bother me that I had not systematically thought through every existing doctrinal controversy and come to a clear conclusion on every issue.  As a result, I tended to progress in my thinking on some particular issue usually when that issue was brought to my attention by something--a conversation, an interest piqued, going under care of the presbytery, etc.  I suspect that most people, particularly Protestants, think in this way.  (That is how they keep from going insane--but see below.)

My next major period of doctrinal transition occurred around the beginning of 2012.  (I spent the majority of my thinking energy from around 2006 until 2012 interacting with Atheist/Agnostic ideas, and therefore developed mainly in the areas of epistemology, apologetics, metaphysics, etc.  During this time I wrote a book outlining my reasons for being a Christian rather than holding to various other worldviews.)  Back in the Fall of 2011, spurred on by interactions with more historically traditional Presbyterians over the internet, I came to embrace the idea that it is most likely that the Antichrist of Scripture is the Roman papacy (and in general the corruptions of the church during the period of the late church fathers and the Middle Ages).

But more importantly, my interactions with these more traditional Presbyterians led me to think once again about the regulative principle, and this led me to the full embracing of exclusive psalmody and in general the positions on worship articulated in the Westminster Directory for Public Worship.  I would characterize the Presbyterian approach to worship as "minimalistic" as opposed to the more "expansive" views on worship held by Protestants like the Anglicans or the Lutherans.  I think this comes from taking Sola Scriptura and the corresponding regulative principle of worship very seriously, and therefore being very careful not to allow anything into the commanded worship of God that cannot be proved to be commanded by Scripture.

I was also spurred on by these interactions to reconsider a position that I've come since to label "latitudinarianism."  Up until this time, I held that churches ought only to enforce within their congregations those doctrines/practices that can be proved to be "essential" to the Christian faith--like the Trinity, or not murdering, etc.  I felt that "non-essential" doctrines, even if they could be shown to be biblical, should not be enforced on church members, because these are matters about which truly regenerate Christians might be in honest disagreement.  I felt that churches with disagreements over non-essentials could (and should) legitimately be denominationally divided (on the grounds that official teachers in the church ought to be held to the whole of Scripture and not just to the essentials), but that these denominationally divided churches should consider each other as true churches so long as they hold the essentials, and that church membership should only be based on the essentials.  But around the beginning of 2012, I came to feel that this position was wrong.  If the Bible really does teach something, who are we to say that some of that teaching is "non-essential" and so the people of God are not to be held to it?  Is not the whole of God's Word mandatory for belief and practice?  Is not something mandatory simply because God has communicated it, and not because we have decided to consider it "essential"?  So I abandoned my "latitudinarianism."

Probably the most important doctrinal change I embraced around this time, also spurred on by my interactions with more traditional Presbyterians, was in the area of church government.  I came to reaffirm my commitment to a presbyterian form of church government, and I came to realize that presbyterian church government is incompatible with denominational separation.  In a presbyterian system, when two churches are denominationally separate, the necessary implication is that the churches are rejecting each others' de jure legitimacy as churches (though not necessarily the de facto existence of truly regenerate believers in them).  The practical conclusion of this is that we must sort through all the existing denominations and settle which one has a right to separate existence, because then all those divided from it must be schismatic.  We cannot be a part of just any denomination so long as it holds the "essentials."  (If you want to see an argument for this, see here.)

These last three doctrinal changes, together, led to highly significant practical effects in our lives.  I decided that the proper denomination to be a part of is the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (FPCS), which has only one congregation in the United States.  Being a ruling elder in the OPC at the time (I had become one in the Fall of 2005), I thought I ought to report this conclusion to the rest of the session (the ruling body of elders over a congregation in a Presbyterian church).  (Here is the report I gave them.)  At first, there was little response.  I ceased being a ruling elder in the Fall of 2012 (presumably) because the congregation was not thrilled with my having become an exclusive psalmodist (they sing hymns as well as psalms).  But it wasn't until I actually started trying to create a formal connection with the FP church down in Houston, TX, that I got the serious attention of my church's session.  To make a long story short, a conflict began, because the elders of the church decided that my position was slanderous against the OPC (because it held that the OPC is schismatic) and that our joining a church as far away as Texas amounted to leaving the visible church of Christ altogether and thus, in their words, "relinquishing all rights to be considered Christians."  I managed to hold off the final conclusion of this conflict for about a year-and-a-half, but in the Fall of 2014, we finally removed our membership from the OPC and were banned by the session from even attending church there anymore.  This conflict caused me to work very hard to examine, scrutinize, and hone my views on church government and the unity of the church, and I continued to defend them as what I saw to be the true biblical teaching.  The pastor at the OPC accused me of being arrogant for defying the teaching of the church and following my own more unusual biblical interpretation.  Who was I to think that my interpretation of Scripture was more right than that of the rest of the Reformed churches?  I pointed out to him that my position was in line with historic Presbyterian thinking (although indeed quite unusual--but not unheard of--in this day and age) and that, more importantly, it was biblical.

My next major doctrinal transition began to occur in March of 2015.  We had been trying to figure out how to get our newborn son baptized in the FPCS, considering the difficulties involved in our living in Utah while the only US congregation of the FPCS is in Houston.  I had asked one of the Houston elders to give me a list of things I could expect to be asked with regard to being interviewed for our suitability to receive infant baptism.  In his reply, he pointed out that on my blog profile, I talk about liking various kinds of music, enjoying reading fiction, and some other things.  He told me that it was worldly to do these kinds of things, and suggested that unless we gave them up we could not have our child baptized.  I knew the FPCS had some practical views that I found disconcerting, but I had been hoping that, in the interests of the unity of the church, things would not be stretched to the breaking point.  But this was quite devastating.  We quickly decided that it was past the breaking point to be asked to permanently relinquish all fiction forever, among other things.  It seems to me that fiction is a natural expression of our creativity as humans made in the image of God, and that it would be inappropriate to cut it out categorically from our lives.  It would be like lopping off a finger--cutting off a part of our humanity that we ought not to throw away in such a manner.  So now it seemed we were in even more trouble.  What if this difference of opinion was going to keep us out of the FPCS (assuming others in the FPCS shared or backed up this elder's point of view)?  I already had troubles with every other existing denomination, always finding some problem that seemed unbiblical.  Having abandoned latitudinarianism and the idea of the legitimacy of denominational separation, I had come to the conclusion that it is justifiable (and, indeed, if one can do it, often a duty) to separate and reject as schismatic any church that embraces something clearly unbiblical in its teaching and join a denomination that gets the Bible right or form a new one if there is no existing one.  It looked like things might be coming exactly to that kind of situation.

At that point, I began to question the principle of Sola Scriptura.  Is Sola Scriptura really feasible?  Does it really work?  Ever since having abandoned my "latitudinarian" views and my weaker views on church government, my doctrinal life had become increasingly stressful.  Before 2012, I had been able to pay less attention to "non-essential" doctrinal differences, but after that time, I realized that I had an obligation to try harder to get all of God's Word right (If God has taken the initiative to communicate to us what he wants us to to know in his Word, don't we have an obligation to listen to him and follow him?), and that even relatively minor errors in doctrine must cause church divisions (because churches cannot "wink" even at small sins or errors, persisted in, because God commands us to teach and enforce everything that Christ has commanded--Matthew 28:20).  We must be faithful even in the least things, not just the things of apparently greatest importance.  The church must preserve the fullness of the faith and pass it on, not just the parts of it we deem "important".  No longer, then, could I take a more casual approach, not worrying too much about doctrinal differences in more minor areas.  Now I had to make sure I was doing all I reasonably could to get everything right, because if I did not I would be shirking my duty, and I might lead my family into the wrong denomination (making things very difficult for us down the road).  Part of this stress came from the fact that my oldest daughters are now 15 and 13, and I had become increasingly aware of the fact that my doctrinal decisions were not just my own but would affect my entire family in crucial ways.  (For example, if we joined the FPCS, whom would my children marry?  Whom would they marry if we didn't?  Etc.)  So after 2012, the incredible complexity of all the myriad doctrinal divisions existing in the Christian world came increasingly crashing down upon me.  According to Sola Scriptura, I, on my own (that is, without any infallible guidance), have the responsibility to decide for myself, for my family, and for the entire church, what precisely is the true doctrine and practice taught in the Scriptures.  I must personally check the work of the entire Christian theological tradition of the past, and if my own personal biblical interpretations that I come to in my research do not match up with something in that tradition, I must go with my own interpretation (since the only alternative is to blindly, implicitly trust fallible theologians).  Is this really the way it's supposed to be?  Is each and every one of us really called to be the pope of the world?

Another thing that happened back in 2011 and 2012 was that some other members of our OPC church became Roman Catholic.  In 2012, I began to dialogue with them, and they sent us some Catholic literature.  Over the next few years, they continued to send us literature.  Up until that time, I had not really paid much attention to Catholicism.  Despite an early, pre-college interest in the Catholic Church (in connection with my interest in "mere" Christianity), I was never really interested in exploring distinctive Catholic doctrines.  From 2012 until Spring of 2015, I periodically read Roman Catholic literature.  My focus during this time was mostly on presbyterian church government and the conflict it was producing in our life, but I also developed a growing interest in Catholicism as well as Eastern Orthodoxy, particularly as I observed that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches had retained a biblical emphasis on the unity of the church that Protestants had largely abandoned.  So in the year-and-a-half or so before March of 2015, I had been learning more and more about Catholicism and Orthodoxy and had had my commitment to Sola Scriptura more and more challenged.  I had written a brief defense of Sola Scriptura as part of my book of Christian apologetics back in 2010, but it wasn't a major focus of the book, and at that time I had not been really challenged by the Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox point of view.

So now, back in March of 2015, we had begun to seriously question Sola Scriptura.  If Sola Scriptura is true, then God commands us to follow his true doctrine and preserve the unity of his church on the basis of all of us agreeing on biblical doctrine by means of coming to it independently through our own individual study of Scripture.  But if this is correct, how could it be that our doctrinal progress had led increasingly towards a situation where we seemed to be in agreement with just about nobody else on earth outside of ourselves on all matters required for unity?  The oddity of this situation led me (along with my wife) to begin examining Sola Scriptura more carefully.  Very soon after beginning this more intensive investigation, I came to see that I had some unquestioned assumptions at the foundation of my belief in Sola Scriptura.  Sola Scriptura had seemed like the "default" option to me, because I knew I had good reasons to think the Bible is the Word of God, and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox agreed with me on that, but I didn't think I had any good reason to trust the claims of the Orthodox or the Catholics to have an infallible tradition or an infallible teaching authority.  Since Scripture alone is all that we need, I thought, there is no good reason to accept such claims for further infallibility.  The fallacy here, of course, is that I was simply assuming that Scripture could function alone, without having the context of an infallible tradition or teaching authority.  But I had no basis for that assumption.  I had simply been used to using the Bible in that way as a Protestant, and it hadn't yet occurred to me that I needed to show that this was not misusing the Bible.  It may seem superficially to be safe to stick with Sola Scriptura, but what if God intends for Scripture to be interpreted and applied in the context of an authoritative and infallible tradition?  In that case, a person using the Bible in a Sola Scriptura fashion is likely to go very wrong.  He would be attempting to use the Bible in a way in which it is not supposed to be used, and ignoring crucial aids given to him for the purpose of enabling him to get it right.  Once I realized that I had been working on the basis of an unquestioned Protestant assumption about the sufficiency of Scripture, it became clear that the "default" is actually not with Sola Scriptura but with the "infallible tradition" paradigm held by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.  Christ founded a church, and he commanded his people to obey its shepherds and preserve its unity.  Therefore, our default should be obedience to the historic church and communion with her.  Not unless we can prove that we have a good reason to defy those leaders or rupture that unity should we do so.  But I saw that Sola Scriptura, and all other Protestant distinctives, could not actually be proved from Scripture or from reason or anything else, and so to embrace the Protestant views at the expense of obedience to and unity within the historic church would be inherently schismatic.

The same point can be put historically as well.  It is easy for Protestants to feel that Protestantism is the "default" position because they see established Protestant churches all around them that are quite "old" (they go back to before they were born, etc.).  If I am already in an OPC, wouldn't the default for me be the OPC, and wouldn't it be a "break" for me to move over to the Catholic or the Orthodox Churches?  Well, yes, for an individual person already in the OPC, he should assume that position until he has reason to doubt it, because it would be a break to move somewhere else.  But from a broader, more objective, historical point of view, obviously it is Protestantism rather than Catholicism or Orthodoxy that must be considered the "break-off."  Objectively, therefore, the default is not the Protestant position but the historic Catholic or Orthodox point of view, and that default should not be broken from without conclusive reasons to do so.  Each Protestant needs to ask himself something like this:  "If I had lived in the sixteenth century, would I have left the Catholic Church to follow Martin Luther's new sect?"  (If you're an Anglican, you can ask, "Would I have left the Catholic Church to follow the bishops who went along with Henry VIII in breaking from their previous Catholic position to found the Anglican Church?")  If you can't conclusively answer "yes" to this, then you have no business being a Protestant, for you have no justification for it.  The objective, historically-aware question, in short, is not, "Why should I leave Sola Scriptura to embrace all these Catholic or Orthodox ideas?", but rather, "Why should I leave the historic, Catholic Church and its tradition of the past 1500 years in order to embrace this new idea of Sola Scriptura?" So once these biased Protestant ways of thinking were uncovered, the move towards Catholicism became very rapid.  (I'll not get into this much here, but we went towards Roman Catholicism rather than the Eastern Churches for a number of reasons, including the observation that the Eastern Churches have a confused, self-refuting epistemology, and also a belief that they rejected the Augustinian doctrines of predestination and efficacious grace.)

Once my paradigm had changed from Sola Scriptura to the Catholic paradigm, this affected my views in other areas as well.  For example, previously I had been opposed to the practice of praying to saints--that is, asking the saints to pray for us.  I could not find any warrant for this practice in Scripture, and so I felt it would be presumptuous to adopt it.  If no one ever makes requests of dead saints in Scripture (except by means of evil magic), wouldn't I be violating the norms of Scripture to engage in this practice?  Doesn't it seem too close to idolatry?  Of course, it is true that we ask other living people to pray for us, and that is not idolatrous but is rather a thing greatly encouraged by Scripture. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).  So why not pray to saints who have passed on from this life?  If the prayer of a living righteous man is greatly effective, wouldn't it be likely that the prayer of a saint whose soul has been made perfect in glory and who is in the presence of God himself be far more effective and worth requesting?  But still, without Scriptural proof that this is a good thing, or positive Scriptural example, it seems unwarranted and presumptuous to do it (particularly when Protestants have always been so much against it).  So that was my position as a Protestant.  But now I hold a paradigm which teaches that Scripture is not to be interpreted in isolation, but in the context of an authoritative and infallible tradition under the guidance of authoritative teachers led by the Holy Spirit to accurately and effectively gather, preserve, interpret, unpack, and apply the revelation of God to the church and to the world through the ages.  (For an official Catholic description of this paradigm, see here--especially Chapter II.)  So if the Catholic Church has derived from the biblical doctrine of the communion of saints and other doctrines, in the context of the experience and teaching of the church through the ages, the idea that it is not only appropriate but also right and good to pray to saints in this manner, then it is right and good!  So that is my position now on this issue.  I could go through a number of other doctrinal issues and show how my transition to the Catholic paradigm has made similar changes with regard to them as well.  I should note, though, that far more of my doctrinal positions have remained the same than have changed, and my most central convictions are the same as ever.

It would be worth going back through my list of doctrinal attainments in previous years to see how they've been affected by the transition to Catholicism.  Obviously, first of all, I am still a Christian.  My foundational reasons for being a Christian have not changed.  I have subjected those reasons to thorough examination over the years, and they are firm.  If Catholicism was opposed to any core teaching of Christianity, I could never accept it, because those ideas have been too well proved to me to reject.

I am still a Calvinist.  No, I don't call myself that anymore, because it conveys the wrong impression in a Catholic context.  But I still hold to the sovereignty of God and salvation by grace alone.  These are Catholic doctrines.  I have been examining these issues for decades, and they are firm.  I have had my position on the perseverance of the saints modified a bit.  I now hold that a person can be regenerated temporarily without being elect, and that such a person will not be given the gift of perseverance to the end.  But other than that, I'm still a five-point Calvinist (in the "evangelical" sense of that phrase).  (See here for some general stuff on the Catholic doctrine of salvation.)

My commitment to an "Augustinian" view of justification has been justified (no pun intended), as this is the form of the doctrine in the Catholic tradition.  But my attempts to see my views as in harmony with the Protestant view has given me a helpful awareness that will serve well as I continue to work to help Catholics and Protestants understand each other better.

I still hold that the Bible is infallible in all that it affirms (though now I recognize that I must submit to the authoritative interpretation of it provided by the Catholic Church).

I still hold that society has an obligation to follow God's law (though I now have a more nuanced view of the continuing application of the specific judicial laws in the Law of Moses gained from the Catholic tradition).

I still hold the regulative principle of worship.  God is only to be worshipped and served in the ways he has prescribed.  (But now I know that I am not limited to what I personally can prove out of the Bible in terms of what that amounts to specifically.  It turns out the Catholic Church has used its authoritative and infallible interpretive and unpacking authority to develop from the principles of Scripture a system of rituals, ceremonies, holy days, etc., that have full authority from God and are legitimate developments and applications of the principles of God's revelation.  So I am no longer an exclusive psalmodist, and I recognize the church's celebration of Christmas, for example.)

I still hold that the Lord's Day is a special holy day of rest and worship (though now I look to the Catholic tradition for further details on how it is to be kept, etc.).

I still hold that there has been no further special revelation after the first century (although I now also recognize that the infallible and authoritative interpretation and application of God's revelation by the church continues to develop through the years since the first century and until the end of time).

Of course, I no longer think the pope is the Antichrist.  With church tradition, I now have a much larger authoritative context for speculations on such matters.

I still hold my anti-latitudinarian views.  If God communicates something to us, we have an obligation to believe it and follow it.  And it must be possible for us to do so, for God cannot command natural impossibilities.  But within the Catholic paradigm, as opposed to the Sola Scriptura paradigm, anti-latitudinarianism doesn't lead to a stressful sense that I must solve every doctrinal issue on my own and get them all right.  With Sola Scriptura, I was obligated to understand all that the Bible taught (and I had to do it as soon as reasonably possible, and soon enough to prevent serious theoretical and practical errors in terms of where I led myself, my family, other Christians, etc.), but in the Catholic paradigm, I recognize that it is not my job to come to sure conclusions on everything the Word of God teaches.  It is the church's job to be the authoritative interpreter and "unpacker" of the teachings of the Word of God.  This does two things that preserve sanity:  1. It provides an authoritative guide to the interpretation of the Word of God.  2. It also means that if the church has not yet definitively settled an issue, I do not have to definitively settle it myself!  I may sometimes be sure of something the church has not definitively defined, but I have no obligation to try to have a definitive interpretation of all divine teachings.  I don't have to worry that the unity of the church is at stake if I can't figure something out adequately.  It is a wonderful feeling to realize that I don't have to be pope!  In the Catholic paradigm, even the pope does not have the same gargantuan task I had to adopt for myself in the Sola Scriptua paradigm, so perhaps I should say it is a wonderful feeling to realize that I don't have to be super-pope!

I no longer hold to presbyterian church government, because the Catholic tradition teaches an episcopalian view of church government.  (Now I get to be in line with the first 1,500 years of church history!)  However, my presbyterian concept of the unity of the church was right-on.  The church is indeed intended to function collegially, and denominational division is indeed unacceptable and inherently involves schism.

The Catholic Church, of course, has no problem with fiction, or the arts in general.  It strongly recognizes their place.  (J. R. R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic.  Need I say more?)  I've always held this view anyway, so there has been no change, but now I don't have to worry about being alienated from every visible body of Christians on earth because of it, so that's nice!

My becoming Catholic seems to me also to have a sort of definitive character to it.  The reason for most of my doctrinal developments over the years has been my belief that it was up to me to come up with all my doctrines by myself using Sola Scriptura.  I never felt justified in trusting any church tradition.  Because of this, I had to reconstruct all of Christian theology by thinking through everything myself, and this kind of thing takes time!  Before 2012, I took this at a leisurely pace, while after 2012 I felt the urgency of it more and so became more and more stressed out with trying to figure everything out more swiftly and efficiently.  Transitioning to the Catholic paradigm changes all of this.  Now I believe I have warrant to trust implicitly the content of the historic Catholic tradition, stretching back 2,000 years and beyond (counting Old Testament times).  Much of what I used to feel I had to do myself has already been done, and I don't have to redo it all.  Therefore, a host of doctrinal questions that might have taken a lifetime and more than a lifetime to figure out (and which I no doubt would have gotten wrong in some instances anyway) are already resolved for me!  Nor do I have to resort to a stressed-out way of thinking through these issues.  Of course, this is not to say that there is no more doctrinal growth of any kind for me in the future, or that I don't have to continue to think through doctrinal matters.  It is just that now I am moving forward using the proper tools, and so have the means to avoid error and to know where to draw the line as to what I can definitely know right now and what I cannot.

ADDENDUM 10/27/15:  Here is a brief write-up giving an outline of a basic argument for Catholicism.

ADDENDUM 1/7/16:  Here is an article exploring further the Catholic and the Protestant doctrines of justification.

ADDENDUM 3/15/16:  I wanted to add briefly some further clarification on how I viewed Sola Scriptura and why I believed it as a Protestant.  As I mention above, my main reason for believing it was that I saw it as the "default" position.  What that means is that I knew I had good reasons to think Christianity was true, and I knew that Christianity is a revelation from God, and so there must be a locus of that revelation, a place where it can be found and is available.  Christian tradition points quite clearly towards the Bible as a locus of revelation.  Over the years, Christian tradition has come to think of other things--particularly Tradition and the Church--as loci of revelation as well; but my thinking was that since I knew I had good reason to think the Bible was the Word of God, the need to have a locus of divine revelation was adequately satisfied by that, and so there was no intrinsic need for anything more from Tradition or anything else.  Therefore, my attitude was that Sola Scriptura was the "default."  Tradition and the Church were welcome to provide evidence to prove themselves to be additional loci of revelation, but the burden of proof was on them, because we did not need them.  I wasn't aware of anything that constituted to me such proof, and so I stuck with my default.  (I also thought there were a few contradictions with Tradition and Church teaching that confirmed this--such as the Catholic Church's teaching on religious freedom before and after Vatican II.)

What changed was that I became aware, finally, that my assumption that the Bible by itself could adequately satisfy the need for a locus of revelation lacked adequate backing up.  The Bible could satisfy that need if the Bible could function on its own without an infallible Tradition and an infallible Church.  But I realized that I was just assuming that it could function alone without having a positive basis to show that it didn't need Tradition and the Church.  This ungrounded assumption, I believe, was the result of a lack of adequate appreciation for the historical fact that Sola Scriptura is not the position of the historic Church but is, for the most part, a relatively new doctrine that the historic Church rejected, holding rather to infallible Scripture in the context of infallible Tradition and an infallible Church.  This means that the default is not the assumption that the Bible can function alone, but rather that the Bible should be interpreted in the context of an infallible Tradition and Church.  If that is the case, then I don't need further positive evidence to go with Tradition and the Church but rather I need it for going with Sola Scriptura.  I then saw that I didn't have sufficient evidence to provide that further positive evidence, and so I needed to default to the historic Church's position.  Everything else followed from there.  (With regard to the concern about there being a few contradictions in Tradition and Church teaching, this concern was cleared up with further research; indeed, even before the Catholic transition began I was already beginning to rethink my position on the Catholic view of religious freedom and was recognizing a good bit of nuance in a few other areas as well, such as the Catholic view of predestination and efficacious grace.)

In addition to lacking a full appreciation of Sola Scriptura as a non-historical position, before 2012 I had not fully thought through the implications of a biblical view of church unity on the legitimacy of denominationalism, nor had I fully thought through the issue of "latitudinarianism" (both of which are discussed further above).  I held the (today) common Protestant view that the catholic church exists legitimately in a whole slew of divided denominations, even if many of those denominations contain various errors, so long as those errors don't mess with the "essential," core doctrines of Christianity.  This nebulous view of the unity and purity of the catholic church dulled my sense both of the practical problems that arise out of a serious attempt to apply Sola Scriptura as well as of the serious problems posed by church error and division, thereby causing it to take longer for me to recognize the fatal flaws of the Protestant position.

ADDENDUM 3/24/17:  In an oft-cited quotation, Protestant theologian Carl Trueman articulates the fact that the Catholic position is the default position, much as I argue above.  This would mean that if the evidence for Protestantism and Catholicism were exactly equal in every way, Catholicism would win as the default point of view.  The burden of proof is on Protestantism.  The quotation comes from a book review of a book by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom asking the question, "Is the Reformation Over?"

Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day. It would seem, however, that if Noll and Nystrom are correct, many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology; but those who reject the former and lack the latter have no real basis upon which to perpetuate what is, in effect, an act of schism on their part.

ADDENDUM 4/13/17:  Here is my wife's account of her own perspective on her and our Catholic transition, part 1 and part 2.

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