The Only Thing Needing Reform is Our Hearts

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Today is Reformation Day, the day that in 1517 Fr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Castle Church in Germany, starting the Protestant Reformation.

As somebody who has stood firmly on ‘both sides’ of the Protestant/Catholic divide, I’ve never been more convinced that today is a day that ought to be a day of conviction instead of celebration, a day that is a stark reminder that the Body of Christ is brutally divided. Diversity of thought is not bad:intentional accusations and the divisive nature of pride is.

The only thing needing reform today is our hearts…a decision to learn how to authentically listen. We tell the world to love our neighbor; and yet, most devout Christians become proud that they are not like ‘those Catholics’ or not like ‘those Protestants.’ We talk past each other, create straw men, accusing one another of things that aren’t true, and seeing the sins of a few to define the whole.

After today, which marks a day of division and faults and guilt to the entire Body of Christ, we have tomorrow, the feast of All Saints. We can thank God for all the saints, living here and living beyond death, saints who died Catholic and saints who died Protestant, for their witness to the Gospel and for allowing the Lord to use them to shine brilliantly amidst their friends and families.

“Eternal Father, we praise you for sending your Son to be one of us and to save us. Look upon your people with mercy, for we are divided in so many ways, and give us the Spirit of Jesus to make us one in love. We ask this gift, loving Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Ryan Eggenberger

Ryan Eggenberger

Ryan Eggenberger is a partner at Little Flower Strategies, LLC. He writes about travel, marketing, and his terrible parking skills. Follow him on twitter at @RyanEggenberger.

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11 Responses

  1. Frankly, I can’t remember an instance when I’ve heard anyone use the term ‘those Catholics’ or ‘those Protestants’, or suchlike even though I’ve been on both sides of the fence, and even as a Catholic, heavily involved with non-Catholics. Therefore, if it happened, it wasn’t that memorable and so unlikely to be offensive.

    But I’m beginning to hear ‘New Evangelists’ talk about ‘Them’, or ‘reaching the “average” Catholic’ increasingly these days.

    ‘Them’ – or ‘the average Catholic parent’ (to give a real example) – is code for a Catholic who’s not ‘up to scratch’ in the mind of the Evangelist because they’re not showing the right ‘outward signs’. They just go to Mass, but don’t do any other ‘religious stuff’ – go to conferences and workshops, read the right books, listen to the right Catholic ‘motivational speakers’, or have a ‘ministry’ – so the conclusion is they can’t be truly committed. Sadly, their judgement really is that puerile.

    The narrative is very subtle, but it’s there, and getting more pronounced. The implication is that you have to become an ‘Intentional Disciple’ for example, or else you’re tacitly assumed to be a second-class Catholic that needs Evangelising. Then, if you refuse, or don’t get ‘turned on’ by the process as they expect, then your ‘quashing the Spirit’, or some other Evangelical Protestant idea, like ‘remaining dead in your sins’. Whatever, the New Evangelist who was all smiles when they wanted you to go on their course, now ignores you. That one you learn quickly from Protestant Evangelism 101, too. You’re no longer a ‘juicy catch’.

    Just the presence of this mentality is making some sensitive Catholics feel under duress to capitulate to the pressure, or be made to feel they’re missing out or inadequate. In short, they’re made to feel uncomfortable, if not frightened or ashamed. And please, before any one smugly parrots the old, ‘but Christ came to afflict the comfortable’, or ‘no-one can make you feel anything’ tropes, engage brain and any grain of empathy or charity lurking somewhere in the depths of your being to realise they do not apply it these cases, as the issue is insensitivity/abuse of power/bullying, not challenging when appropriate.

    As an ex-Evangelical, the New Evangelicals seem rapidly becoming just as toxic and divisive as the Old Evangelicals, except wielding a Rosary. Some don’t seem to be New Evangelists so much as ‘Weddellites’, too, as if it’s the only CDF-approved route to becoming True Catholic™. Yeah.

    In fact, I’d go as far as saying, it seems to me many ‘New Evangelists’ seem to be getting Reform Mania within the Church.

    Is the Catholic view of Sanctification/Sanctifying grace progressive from Baptism, or do you have to have some sort of later conversion or ‘second blessing’, to be a ‘real’ Catholic, for example? If so, where does the Church teach this?, as I’d like to know (seriously). Yet it seems to be the growing mentality out there.

    It’s more Keswick, than Catholic.
    – so even Reformed Protestants have problems with it, especially if they believe in Baptism as regenerative!

    So, ironically, whilst it seems divisiveness of any sort is inherently Protestant – Martin Luther and John Calvin created the New Evangelisation of their day, being convinced they were the True Catholics™ fixing the Church and the hierarchy – the New Evangelists seem to be making themselves the hub of the same mentality in the Church today, beginning to consider themselves better than the rest of us who just go to Mass (mostly because we don’t have time or don’t have religious mania), and railing at corrupt bishops.

    Disturbing and disorientating sense of historical and ecclesial deja vu coming on, so I’ll stop….

    1. The new evangelization is doomed unless it is accompanied by a reform
      of the rules: esp the punishments for breaking the rules. As long as you
      equate the same penalty (hell) for missing mass as you do for cutting off some ones head on you-tube you will never recover the silent majority of
      Catholics who like to show up at Christmas and Easter As long as you
      invite some to the holy banquet at mass to eat and others to watch you
      will never recover those who are nourished elsewhere. As the DaliLlama
      spoke, we may have come to the end of the age of religion. Too many hoops, too many institutions convicned God is on their side..

      1. Hi james!

        What makes something what it is? Isn’t it its form or structure, it’s ‘rules’? If the rules were changed, wouldn’t it become something else?

        For example, if the Catholic Church changed its rules to those of Calvinism, it couldn’t be Catholic, could it? It would be Calvinism. Or if it adopted the rules of the Dalai Lama, it would have adopted the religion of the Dalai Lama, no?
        Even if Cricket adopted the rules of Tennis, the same rule would apply.

        The Dalai Lama’s views are actually as dogmatic as the Catholic Church, but the Dalai Lama just packages Buddhism for the Western palate. He’s a shrewd marketeer. He never mentions the bits of Buddhism that might make people start to question it. What’s more, people aren’t bothered finding out what the truth is, either, because the selective bits they’ve bought into makes them feel ‘spiritual’, and that’s all they care about.

        This is just like Catholics who adopt the ‘nasty narrative’ of the Church you mention which they think justifies them not doing what they don’t want to do, and so do what they like. They always have some reason why they’re better than the Church or ‘that’ person, normally focussed on someone nasty, as if nastiness is a criterion of truth: if X is ‘nasty’, it’s not true. But, if the normal consequence of jumping off the top of a skyscraper is nasty, but you believe otherwise and jump, will that change reality? But it’s the same ‘logic’.

        In your example, you’re actually treating Hell as a social construct, not a religious teaching. But then, most Religious Education teachers in schools teach religion as if it is a social construct, so it’s not surprising.

        The mistake in all of this is that people tend to think that their own views, or those that are like their own, are neutral, because they’re ‘common sense’ when they are not, as if the criterion of truth is how many people believe it (ad populum fallacy). So, if 90% of Catholics believe Hell doesn’t exist, it doesn’t, whereas if 90% of Catholics believed it did, it does? Er. Yeah.

        When you talk about changing the rules, is it because you believe they are man made (a social construct)? A Protestant would agree with you, and they would consider themselves in the neutral, or normative, ‘Christian’ position, and Catholicism a deviation from that. So, why not become Protestant? What you think matters. But the one thing that’s assumed which is always an error, is that one can be neutral.

        In essence, aren’t you arguing that the Church should cease to be the Church, and become what you, and everyone who agrees with you, wants it to be?

        Your view is exactly what many of the New Evangelists also think should be the case, except, instead of applying it to the doctrinal structure of the Church like you, they apply the same reasoning to the People of God.

        Both positions believe they are able to stand ‘outside’ or ‘above’ in a ‘third position’, and so both undermine the very fabric or nature of the Church. One wants to change the rules and teachings they don’t like, the other, the people they think are inferior to themselves or ‘in error’. Both see themselves as saviours, or at least superior, or ‘knowing better’, than the magisterium or those whom they consider less holy than themselves, in some sense.

        One reason we have a magisterium is in order to remove the need for individuals to set themselves up as ‘defenders of the faith’ or ‘prophets of change’, is it not?

        The Bishop preaches and teaches (however much many don’t like that if traditionalists consider their bishop ‘modernist’ or modernists consider their bishop ‘traditionalist’, so shouldn’t be listened to).

        I see my job as simply to build up, not tear down, and solely within the realm of grace. The Church can defend herself, and it’s not my job to fix everyone else, but share my Faith, when required.

        The New Evangelisation is becoming a profession it seems to me, and to that degree, it risks having vested interests and it’s own agenda, and that’s what I see happening, just as it did in Evangelicalism – ‘schools’ or ‘denominations’ – ‘I am for Paul…’, ‘I am for Apollos…’

        As the title of the article points out: it’s us who need reform, not everyone else, and there’s a real tendency to be rather ‘Pelagian’ about it – and interestingly – mostly in the Charismatic wing which prides itself on believing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

      2. ” If the rules were changed, wouldn’t it become something else?”

        No, baseball once had the 4 fouls and your out rule now its unlimited fouls and still baseball.

        “…but the Dalai Lama just packages Buddhism for the Western palate”

        No, the Dali does not care how many Westerners become.Buddhist – All this religion has that we don’t
        is the dogma of reincarantion while we’re stuck with a medieval mindset of purgatory defined by the likes of Pius IV who ratified it and then wasted no time starting the Inquisition. What kind of pope, knowing how Jesus healed the servant whose ear had been cut off by Peter, would approve killing thousands of people for thinking different.

        ” but I have a grave responsibility to live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy as best I can, and keep learning and sharing my Faith, when required. (1 Peter 3.15) ”

        Amen, Tim, I’m with you there.
        In ending, may I say that you are a true Catholic and it
        was interesting dialoguing with you even if we have a
        different set of agenda.

      3. Thanks James for replying.
        I think the key problem for the New Evangelisation is that the ‘Evangelists’ seem to see their focus solely on those who are already in the Church and going to Mass.

        As far as I understand it from the people I’ve read (people as radical as Ralph Martin), as well as the documents themselves, the focus is not on those who’ve never heard the message, neither on those who are going to Mass, but the de-Christianised and lapsed.

        If this is the case, the New Evangelists are focusing on the wrong group, and as they’re simply referring to the converted as unconverted, it makes them feel they’re doing something by trying to turn everyone into fanatics like themselves. What’s more, it’s easy as they’re a captive audience.

      4. Hi James.

        In short, the tacit, erroneous assumption, I see being made, is that we can ‘turn people on to the Lord’ if we just approach it the right way.

        Only Marketing – psychological manipulation – assumes that, not Evangelisation. The problem outlined in the original article and the ‘New Evangelism’, as being played outout in many parishes, is the objectification of others, and a Pelagian assumption that we can force grace in others or change ‘them’ by our own effort, as did the ‘dissenters’ before…

        The assumption that the problem is ignorance, and so all that’s required is catechesis, or the correction of erroneous thinking is Socrates, not Jesus. In the Gospel, I have to acknowledge and work at my own issues then I’ll hold others in right relation to myself, and thereby not objectify persons. I.e., take the log out of my own eye.

        In other words, the New Evangelism is more a project of moralistic/therapeutic hubris and self-righteousness than the sharing of the Evangel, despite claiming to be the latter.

      5. “The assumption that the problem is ignorance, and so all that’s required is catechists.”

        True, however the problem as I see it is that the CC is poised to give proper interpretation to the Gospels. To adopt the eastern dogma
        of the migration of souls (scoop every other religion) which puts all emphasis on the person for the choices they make with their mind. It is ones own thoughts, without the benefit of God awareness, that get us entangled and living in consequence. Another exclusive means the church has to gather a very large flock is to open up the sacrament of Reconciliation to EVERYONE. That is not only true charity but a genuine sharing of Jesus’ ministry to heal – He didn’t care what religion one belonged to.
        Of course, this is a bold move only a pope
        could initiate. It undoubtedly would take the historical Jesus into the 21st century – the rest would be history.

      6. Hi James,
        As I said previously, it seems as if you’re arguing that the Church should cease to be Catholic, as are the New Evangelists. Wanting to make the Church or Christians into one’s own image, like many New Evangelists amounts to the same thing.

        To me, Ralph Martin’s ‘Urgency’ book reads more like Dispensationalist apocalyptic proof-texting, except with magisterial documents, like those who quote 2 Tim 3.16 to justify sola scriptura when it does nothing of the sort. It’s just a work of eisegesis where he’s reading his own ideas into the quotations because, when read carefully and in context (and even out, like the Timothy example), they don’t say what he’s claiming they do.

        I think these New Evangelists need to read the first section of Pope Benedict/Josef Ratzinger’s, ‘What

      7. Well here’s another analogy:.the Wright Brothers first aeroplane. The original design worked. Lift is the force that didn’t need to be rediscovered. Of course, ailerons, spoilers, rudders and stabilizers had either not been invented or were rudimentary. The purpose of flight was more novelty than what the industry became. The brothers could not even conceive of a 777 Dreamliner carrying 500 people never mind a robot on Mars. These other players –
        think Protestants and other faiths – who took the
        design and added logical concepts the early – think Fathers – birds could not envision. turned the birth of aviation into something that.worked.
        This is where religion stands today, it doesn’t
        really work because so much more is required in a post modern world. It’s not the original
        design that’s flawed – it’s the insistence on not
        modifying that design which has long served a
        purpose, that’s turned people away from that
        mode of … getting them from here to there.

  2. Catholicism is counterfeit Christianity and you are completely deceived, believing in “another jesus and another gospel” per 2 Cor 11:4, which will never save you. For example, Boniface VIII proclaimed (circa 1300) that it was, “altogether necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff”.

    Face it: THAT IS A LIE. You can jump up and down, stand on your head in Macy’s window and scream to the moon until you’re blue in the face trying to convince us, but it will never be true. Salvation is believing in the merits of Christ alone, period, end of story.

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