This is the first of what will almost certainly be a series of posts I’m calling Frequently Asked (Strange) Questions. The first question is usually asked something like this: “So what’s your position on Catholics? Do you think they’re Christians?”
First off, we Protestants (supposedly) don’t have a pope – one guy who tells us definitely what God’s position is on this or that. So it’s ironic when when Protestants ask me, as if I’m the pope, what my position is on this or that.
Second, here’s the answer I always give to this frequently asked (strange) question: I have as much certainty about whether a Catholic is a Christian as I do about whether a Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran is a Christian. Not much.
I think if the rapture were to happen at 10:30 Sunday morning there would be quite a few people left in the seats of every kind of church and there would be many ascending to heaven directly from their beds and fishing boats. And if I’m right this will tick off some of us Protestants but in the end we’re not God. We don’t get to choose, thankfully, who’s in and who’s out. We’re not up to the job. We lack eyes that can search the depths of the soul in order to make such an everlasting determination. We have a difficult time searching our own soul don’t we?
Third, behind this answer is a lot of hurt. I have an aunt who converted to Catholicism many years ago and as a child I witnessed the way she was treated by Protestants for it, as if she’d turned her back on God when in reality she’d simply left the Baptist church. She was still – as far as I could tell – every bit as in love with Jesus as she’d always been. She was still every bit as generous toward me as she’d always been. Unable to see her soul, to know the trajectory of her every desire, unable to read the Lamb’s book of Life from way down here, it puzzles me – no, it pisses me off – that she was treated as one of Lucifer’s angels cast down from heaven after rebelling against God. So that’s my bias. There it is. And you should weigh that when you read my answer.
Lastly, I have a question for those who ask me about Catholics – and there are a lot of you. Why do you ask? I think you ask because there are elements of Catholic theology that don’t line up with your Protestant theology. If that’s the case, then maybe we need to be reminded more often about how this whole salvation thing works. I think you and I, while we say we’re “saved by grace”, behave sometimes as if we’re saved by theology. Regardless of what church we belong to, this isn’t very Jesus-y of us.
Jesus – who was a Jew and neither Protestant nor Catholic – taught that all of scripture could be summed up or interpreted with one singular command to love God and love each other. It’s Jesus who will sort us all out in the end, dividing the sheep from the goats, not on the basis of our theology but our love: Potent faith coming out of us as love.
But that’s ambiguous isn’t it? It’s too squishy of a standard. It’s too hard to determine who’s “in” and who’s “out” using that ruler, huh? I know. Jesus is annoying like that. No checklist I can tick off. No four spiritual laws announced at the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus doesn’t offer a surefire ritual or program we can work through in order to inherit His eternal life. That sure would make judging each other a lot easier don’tcha think? I think all of us – Protestants and Catholics – can agree on that.