Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Wheaton Underground (Catholic Church)

Hello all, and sorry for the month long hiatus! 

As the summer ended I was bombarded with weddings and traveling and packing and moving back to college, so, needless to say, updating this blog wasn't the main priority.  But now I am back at Wheaton and plan on resuming where I left off.

Coming to Wheaton is, actually, exactly where I left off.

This time two years ago I was deep into considering the Catholic Church--but I had no desire for it at all and was actually completely afraid of what it would mean if I couldn't find answers to my questions about the Church's relationship to Scripture.  At this point I did not know any Catholics who actually practiced their faith and converting to Catholicism was on par with converting to a completely different religion, as far as I was concerned.  Nevertheless, my understanding of Christianity as a Protestant was slowly beginning to deteriorate, and I knew I either needed to find answers to my questions, convert to Catholicism, or leave Christianity.

It was at this point that I arrived on campus as a freshman at Wheaton College.

I had been praying for months now that God would show me His Church, and I figured that studying Scripture and Church history at the greatest Evangelical school in the nation would be the best way to find answers to my questions.  But to my dismay, being at Wheaton only intensified my questions (more on that in another post).  Now I was stuck—I was hundreds of miles away from home, beginning a new life, surrounded by strangers, and my whole worldview was falling apart.

Enter: my older brother, for a surprise weekend visit.

My older brother, who had converted to Catholicism a few years before, drove all through the night in order to come see me at Wheaton.  While he was there, he got me plugged in with the Catholic community…that was surprisingly all over Wheaton.

We like to call it (playfully, of course) the “Wheaton Catholic Underground” because at a school like Wheaton you would never expect to find so many devout Catholics—and so many converts.  To my utter shock, there were six Wheaton students in RCIA (that’s the name of the initiation process for adults wishing to convert to Catholicism) during my freshman year. Six might not sound like a big number, but from Wheaton College… it is a very big number.  And there was a larger group of students—Catholic, non-Catholic, and not-sure-yets—on Wheaton’s campus going through an independent study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Also, my brother randomly met and connected me with a group of women in Chicago who were committed to living out their Catholic faith (members of Opus Dei, for those of you to whom that means something). 

So in the course of two days, I went from not knowing any Catholics who understood their faith and loved Jesus through it, to being surrounded by them everywhere I went.  And all of this as a result of my choice to go to Wheaton College in order to find answers to my questions about Christ’s vision for His Church.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Sorry for the lack of posts, everyone--I'm in the process of moving back to school and have been extremely busy, so the blog has taken a back seat for a few weeks.  I will start it back up again in a week or two!


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Bible Needs the Church: Part 2

I had already begun to see the logical fallacy in holding to an infallible canon of Scripture (aka, an infallible tradition) while also declaring that tradition could not be infallible. 

But even when I decided to ignore that little inconvenience to my worldview, I realized that there were incongruities between my view of Scripture and tradition within the Bible itself.  Though I wouldn’t have known to call it this, I was an advocate of the doctrine “sola scriptura,” the belief that “only Scripture” is an authority in the Christian life (as opposed to Scripture and the Church, Scripture and Tradition, etc).  In other words, the Bible was the only place we could look for a true and authoritative picture of the Gospel and Christian life.

However, once my eyes had been opened (rather painfully) to the extra-biblical presuppositions I was taking to the text, suddenly I realized that not only was the doctrine of “sola scriptura” itself a tradition, but it was actually a tradition that was incompatible with Scripture.  First of all, the Bible claimed that it is the Church of the living God that is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), not the Bible.  Then, the writers of the New Testament epistles are constantly appealing to an outside authority: that either of themselves (Apostles) or those who have been ordained by the Apostles.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 Paul instructs the Thessalonians to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”  Here and elsewhere in the New Testament Paul declares that his written word—the words which would come to be Scripture—had as much authority as his spoken word.  Why?  Because they are both presentations of the “traditions” that had been delivered to him as an Apostle. 

But isn’t the written tradition more secure than the oral tradition?  The oral tradition could have been altered whereas the written tradition is steadfast.  Perhaps; except for the fact that the steadfastness of both traditions depends on the promise of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible isn’t infallible because the Apostles were perfect eyewitnesses.  Scripture could have been recorded incorrectly, as well.  Nevertheless, Scripture is infallible because the Apostles were given the promise that the Holy Spirit would “guide them into all truth” (John 16:13), enable them to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sins (John 20:23), and to make executive decisions regarding doctrines (see Acts 15).  Furthermore, the Spirit would ensure that the “gates of Hades would not prevail against” the Church of Christ (Matt. 16:18). 

The infallibility of Scripture does not rest on the Apostles’ ability to remember and interpret perfectly their experience with Christ, but rather on Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would provide and protect the authority given to the Apostles, by Christ, to lead the Church.  And this authority did not end when the Apostles died; rather, it was passed on to those who were ordained to take the Apostles’ places, as we see in Acts 1:15-26 when Matthias is elected by the Apostles to succeed Judas.

All of these things gave me the uneasy conviction that if I was going to let Scripture be the authority in my Christian life, then I would have to submit to it when it told me to submit to the Church.