How Can You Worship There?
Recently I was asked by a “Reformed” Baptist why I left the Roam Catholic Church and why I am willing, from time to time, to attend Catholic Mass. Here is my written response to that inquiry:
My position on this issue is one that is very likely to be frowned upon in most Reformed circles, but I can tell you a bit about my reasons.
First, in my case it was my parent who took me out of the Roman Catholic Church. I was then raised Southern Baptist. Today I am Reformed -- Which "for me" means that I am not only a Calvinist in soteriology, but I am covenantal and paedobaptist in my theology.
The overwhelming majority of my extended family are Roman Catholics, and I have occasion to attend because of weddings, funerals, etc...
I have big differences with the RCC, and I also have big differences with the Southern Baptists Church. The SBC is the church of my parents and siblings. I disagree with (most of) SBC about soteriology; they are mostly Arminian. I disagree with the SBC on Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Like Calvin, I believe these things are Sacraments and means of grace. My Southern Baptist brethren believe they are mere memorials. I believe the Supper should be observed weekly, they celebrate it only know and then.
I am mildly liturgical in my preference of worship style, as were the Reformed Reformers. I like a more structured and liturgical service, while my Baptist friends are strongly anti-liturgy.
I differ with the Catholics and the Southern Baptists on many points and yet I do attend both churches and have no problem attending either one of the no and then.
The Baptist deny that my baptism is real and do not accept the Baptism of my children. I could not join an SBC without my wife and children being re-baptised. This is something that I have very strong feelings about, but I understand the Baptist position and I worship with them despite what they think of our baptisms.
My point I am trying to make is that I am willing to worship with "Trinitarian" Christians even if I have strong theological differences with them. (Calvin, and the Reformers were no kinder to the “Anabaptists” than he was to the “Papists”). I am able to attend the worship services of either and worship the true God.
I have read a good deal of writings from the Reformation period, from the Church of the Middle Ages and the early Church. I find that during and since the Reformation all most every side has tried to very narrowly define the faith. I have problems with that.
I recite the Creed (Nicene or Apostles) whenever I worship at a Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal or Roman Catholic Church (I hope to visit and Eastern Church someday). In those creeds I say, "I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church" I am honest when I recite those words. And I pray for unity in the faith.
I want to know the history and theology of all Christian denominations. Not so I can argue with those with whom I differ, but so I can have an honest, frank, intelligent discussion with my brethren. I want to experience their worship. So I can speak from experience.
In the early Church Jerome and Augustine differed on many things, but they were both in the same catholic church. Today there are tens of thousand of Protestant denominations and there are dozens of Reformed/Presbyterian denominations. I see this as a great tragedy. Are we not to be one in Christ, yet we divide and split over minor points of doctrine? We fight and separate from one another over things that we should be willing to overlook.
Remember what Jesus said in John “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…”
This is one of the great failings of the Church since the Reformation. I don't know how it can be fixed. Rome says the answer is "Return to Rome," but I cannot do that (even though I have no problem going to Mass now and then).
I pray that Christ words above will begin to be taken seriously by all Christians. We all take some part of His word to heart, but we all seem to ignore these words.