“Faith in Luther: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion” by Paul Hacker: A Review

Faith in Luther Book Cover

This book[1] is a re-publication of an older work by Paul Hacker originally published in 1970.  Hacker was in a unique position to write about Martin Luther.  A born-and-raised German Lutheran who spent an “intense immersion in and interrogation of Luther’s theology”[2], and coupled with an extensive study of the patristic theologians, Hacker left Lutheranism and entered the Roman Catholic Church.  He even became friends with Joseph Ratzinger and the two had “frequent intellectual exchanges.”[3]  (There’s a temptation to add the “fly-on-the-wall” cliché here but I’m certain their conversations would be far too over my head.)

Of this book, the subtitle alone is thought-provoking and Hacker immediately jumps into his topic on page one by quoting at length an American version of Martin Luther’s creed.  Here are just a few of the lines of that creed quoted in the book:

“I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them….that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all evil.”  “I believe that Jesus Christ…is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins….”  “The Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the faith.”  “He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life.”[4]

Hacker notes, “The most striking feature of its style is the preponderance of the pronouns of the first person singular (I, me) and the corresponding possessive adjective (my).”[5]

To be sure, the word “I” is necessary to a profession of faith.  After all, Creed comes from the Latin credo which means “I believe.”  But the content of the profession in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds do not contain “me” but are rather focused on something else outside the self or as a plural—the Trinity, the Church, salvation for “us” men, or Jesus’ suffering for “our” sake.

This sets up an introductory analysis by the author that moves into the main point of the book.

“Luther’s exposition of the Creed teaches the believer to profess the faith and at the same time to look back at his own self.  This is not just a pastoral suggestion compensated elsewhere by other doctrinal statements.  Rather, Luther intends to present here an exercise in the sort of faith which he conceived to be justifying.  The reference to the ego is not a meditation beside the act of faith but a part, and the essential part, of the act itself.  Within the very act of faith, the ego bends back on itself.  This sort of faith may fittingly be called reflexive.”[6]

But this view of faith was new and not part of the Christian tradition.  Hacker goes on to explain why this reflexive faith is so wrong.

“Pure Christian faith is an act of obedient self-donation.  The believer surrenders himself to the transcendent God in the assent of adoration.  This makes him understand creation and the Church as parts of God’s saving dispensation and assigns to him his place and his shelter in the order of Providence.  Thus he can trust in God the Creator, the Redeemer and Sanctifier, and move spiritually away from himself in love for God.  The more his faith becomes mature through loving cooperation with God’s grace, the less is it possible for him to turn his attention back to himself within the act of faith.”[7]

From here, Hacker begins to present his case that egocentric faith is the root of Luther’s new conception of faith.  Throughout the book Hacker quotes Luther at length.  For example,

“There are statements in which Luther expressly says that it is man’s confidence that constitutes the acceptability or agreeableness of his person to God….Positively, he teaches: ‘If you find your heart confident that the work is agreeable to God then it is good.’  Negatively: If ‘the conscience does not dare to know for certain or be confident that this or that is agreeable to God then it is certain that it does not please him.’  ‘If you think God is wrathful then he is so.’  In summary: ‘As (your heart) feels so Christ is behaving.’  ‘As a man believes so he has.’[8]

“Luther urged time and again that the believer should ‘assert with certitude’ (certo statuere) that his person is agreeable to God.”[9]

“The Galatians’ commentary admonishes: ‘Everyone should accustom himself to assert with certitude that he is in a state of grace….If, however, he feel that he is doubting, he should practice faith and struggle against doubt and strive for certitude.”[10]

This sort of faith takes the objectiveness of Christianity and makes it subjective.  Salvation is based on one’s certitude and feelings.  But this also means doubt essentially becomes a sin!  Hacker notes, “If certitude of salvation, equated with faith, is the means to obtain, or is identical with, salvation, then incertitude must be coterminous with certitude of perdition.”[11]

Throughout the book, Hacker details how Luther’s obstinate clinging to his view of faith affected and warped his views of other doctrines (love, works, sacraments, charity, etc.) and how Luther forces the Bible to align with his view.

Hacker says,

“That the doctrine of reflexive faith is contrary to Scripture is shown by the strained nature of Luther’s arguments.”[12]

“Nowhere in Holy Scripture, neither in the Synoptics, nor in other writings of the New Testament, nor in the Old Testament, can any instance be found of a person obtaining remission of sin because of his firm belief in the sin being forgiven.”[13]

“That an assertive spirituality is alien to the New Testament, becomes clearer still if a passage is considered where it is really an individual who speaks of his salvation.  At Philippians 3:12f Paul says: ‘Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect….I do not consider that I have made it my own.’  The King James Version translated thus: ‘I count not myself to have apprehended.’  This is quite the contrary to fides apprehensiva.  It is the attitude of humble incertitude which has at all times been the mark of devout Christians.”[14]

Is egocentric faith still around today?

It sure seems to be.  Just look around.

If Paul Hacker’s analysis of Luther is correct, then what is Oprah’s “God within” if not a progeny of Luther’s egocentrism?  What is Bruce Jenner and transgenderism (I believe I’m a woman, therefore I am) if not a fulfillment of Luther’s “assert with certitude” and “As a man believes so he has”?  What is relativism (you have your truth and I have my truth) if not a natural development of Luther’s confidence that “For to each one God is as he is believed to be”?[15]

Paul Hacker seems quite aware of all this when he ends the book with “there is more than one movement in the later history of modern thought which is indebted to suggestions that can be traced to Martin Luther.”[16]


[1] “Faith in Luther” by Paul Hacker, Emmaus Academic; Steubenville, Ohio, 2017 (http://www.emmausacademic.com/publications/2017/8/18/faith-in-luther-martin-luther-and-the-origin-of-anthropocentric-religion)

[2] Page viii

[3] Page viii

[4] Page 1-3

[5] Page 3

[6] Page 8

[7] Page 8

[8] Pages 21-22

[9] Page 22

[10] Page 26

[11] Page 49

[12] Page 82

[13] Page 67

[14] Page 77

[15] Page 170

[16] Page 170


A Social Religion by Frank Sheed

I have been finishing reading Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed.  It has been a long chore because he is taking my mind to heights I did not realize we would ascend when first we set out.

The following is a section called “A Social Religion” which I found fascinating enough to post.  Why this section and not others probably more worthy?  Not a clue.  Perhaps because my old Protestant individualist thinking still holds sway in some areas and therefore this section impacted me particularly.  Whatever the reason, it seems a good reminder to Catholics in an individualistic religious culture.



Looking at man, almost the first thing we see about him is that he is not an isolated unit independent of others, but a social being bound to others both by needs which cannot be satisfied and by powers which must remain unused save in relation to other men.  It would be strange if God, having made man social, should ignore the fact in His own personal dealings with man.  To treat man as an isolated independent unit would be as monstrous in religion as it would be in any other department of human life.  It would be to treat man as what he is not.  But the one being who would not be likely to do that is God, who made man what he is, and made him so because that is what He wanted him to be.  A religion which should consist in an individual relation of each person directly to God would be no religion for man.  A social being requires a social religion.  Within that social religion the individual will have his own religious needs and experiences, but they will be within and not external to, or a substitute for, his approach to God and God’s approach to him in union with other men.

Individualist religious theories there have always been, even among Christians.  They have never been able to carry out the full logic of their individualist theory because their nature as men stood too solidly in their way.  Something in religion that have had to get from other men.  So the Bible Christian, despising the priesthood and minimizing the Church, has yet had to fall back upon the Bible, and the Bible, although it is given to us by God, is given through men, the men who under His inspiration wrote it.  A religion wherein the soul finds and maintains a relation with God with no dependence upon men is impossible, and what makes it impossible is the nature God gave man.  The only question then is whether religion shall do its very utmost to elude the social element in man’s nature, accepting only so much as it can by no possibility avoid; or whether it shall wholly accept and glory in the social element as something given by God, something therefore to be used to the uttermost in religion as in the rest of man’s life.  In giving man the religion of the Kingdom, God showed what His own answer is.

Christ did not leave His followers free at their discretion to form their own groups if it seemed good to them or to remain isolated if it seemed good to them.  He banded them into a society, a Church.

“He gave Himself for us, to ransom us from all our guilt, a people set apart for Himself.”

What the Jews had been, the Church now is.  We remember Moses’ words:

“This is the blood of the covenant.”

But now we have Christ’s words:

“This is My blood in the new covenant.”

There is a new covenant and a new people: not just millions of redeemed individuals: a people.  The brotherhood of every Christian with Christ involves the brotherhood of all Christians with one another.  His normal way of giving them His gifts of truth and life was to be through the society: in other words, the whole Christian life was not to be a solitary relation of each soul to Christ, but of each to all in Christ, this is what the Apostles’ Creed means by the Communion of Saints.  In solidarity with other men we fell in Adam and rose again with Christ; in the same solidarity we live the new life.

God can and does give this or that man what he individually needs.  But the great needs of the soul are not peculiar to the individual, but the same for all.  There is the need for the Life which Christ came that we might have more abundantly; and the need for Knowledge—knowledge of what God is and what man is, and of the goal of life and how we are to attain it.  It is through the society that God offers men the spiritual gifts by which these needs common to all are supplied.  The relation of Christians with one another is essential in their relation with Christ.  They are related to Him not one by one, but in virtue of their membership of His Kingdom.

–Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity; chapter 21 Dispensing the Gifts, section 1

Some Fun Re-Wording a CARM Article

So I decided to have a little fun.  Taking this piece from CARM titled “Why do Roman Catholics believe what they do”, I re-worded the article from a Catholic perspective writing about Protestants instead of vice-versa.[1]  The blocked quotes are CARM’s and the responses are my own.[2]



But, it doesn’t matter what CARM presents to them because the Catholics will continue to believe and defend whatever the Mother Church tells them…whatever the Mother Church tells them…whatever the Mother Church tells them. It is almost a mantra of emotional dedication to the “one true church” that tells them what the truth is. This is, unfortunately, the exact same phenomena I see with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they submit to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Whatever the “true church” tells them, they defend . . . because it is the true church.

It doesn’t matter what Catholics present to them because Protestants will continue to believe and defend their own personal interpretation of Scripture… their own personal interpretation of Scripture… their own personal interpretation of Scripture.  It is almost a mantra of emotional dedication to “just follow the Bible as the Holy Spirit guides.”[3]  This is, unfortunately, the exact same phenomena I see with all heretics throughout history when they proclaimed their own fallible interpretation of Scripture as the only true one and everyone else wrong.  For Protestants, especially American Evangelicals like CARM, whatever the “Holy Spirit” tells them, they defend…because the Holy Spirit told them.  That’s how they know they are not mistaken.

In the cults, members always defend whatever the Mother Church tells them. Rationalizations abound and defenses are made, but the clear meaning of scripture is lost to them no matter what true followers of Jesus (not a church) tell them. Why? I believe I know.

1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Protestants always defend whatever the whims of their own subjective interpretation tell them.  Rationalizations abound and defenses are made, but the clear meaning of Scripture is lost to them no matter what true followers of Jesus (not of their own opinions) tell them.  Why?  I believe I know.

1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

Those Catholics who defend the errors of their Mother Church, in contradiction to the Word of God, do so because they are not regenerate. This is what the Scripture tells us. It is as simple as that. They do not have the mind of Christ. They do not hear his voice (John 10:27-28). Instead they are blinded.

2 Cor. 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Those Protestants who defend the errors of their own opinions, in contradiction to the Word of God, do so because they are not regenerate.  This is what the Scripture tells us.  It is as simple that.  They do not have the mind of Christ.  They do not hear His voice (John 10:27-28).  Instead they are blinded.

2 Cor. 4:4 “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

As with the Catholics, it is certainly possible to appear Christian, to use Christian words and phrases, to do good deeds in the name of Christ, and to appeal to Christ as Savior and still be lost.

Matt. 7:22-23 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

With Protestants, it is certainly possible to appear Christian, to use Christian words and phrases, to do good deeds in the name of Christ, and to appeal to Christ as Savior and still be lost.

Matt. 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many 1miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

Notice that Jesus condemns those who appeal to their faith and works for salvation.

Notice that Jesus says those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven.

My heart aches for the Roman Catholics who think and behave like cultists, who defend whatever their Mother Church tells them to believe, who justify the error of works righteousness (CCC 2068, 2027, 2068) [sic], who have given themselves over to a Church rather than to Christ, who conduct themselves in a manner consistent with what their Mother Church tells them to do and believe.

“…no one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, hath held and doth hold,” (Trent, Session 4, “Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books”)

My heart aches for Protestants who think and behave like lawless anarchists, whose only authority is their own subjective opinions of Scripture, who justify their error of salvation by faith alone, who have given themselves over to their whims rather than to the Church established by Christ Himself, who conduct themselves according to what their fads tell them to do.

2 Peter 1:20-21 “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

The abdication of the self to a church leads to bondage and damnation. But, abdication of the self to Jesus always leads to freedom and salvation.

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The refusal to abdicate the self leads to bondage and damnation.  But, abdication of the self to Jesus working through His Church always leads to freedom and salvation.

Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The burden of the Catholics is to believe and follow whatever the Mother Church tells them to believe and do (CCC 862, 883, 896, 939), to merit their own grace (CCC 2010, 2027)[4], and to keep the Ten Commandments and thereby attain salvation (CCC 2068). Such burdens are heavy and unbiblical, yet the Catholics will defend whatever the Mother Church tells them to believe. They follow another besides Christ.

1 Tim. 6:3-4 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…”

The burden of Protestants is to be adrift in a sea of uncertainty.  Since they only follow subjective feelings about what they think the Bible says, they can never rest assured that they are standing on a rock.  They base their doctrines on a fallible interpretation of a few cherry-picked verses from which they interpret the entire Bible.  For every Scripture they use as a defense is another they stumble over.  They can never be unified because unity requires everyone to submit to an authority higher than themselves.  But since each is his own personal pope, there can be no unity and only endless schism.  They believe in “salvation by faith alone” contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture yet must rely on their good works to prove they are truly saved.  Such burdens are heavy and unbiblical, yet Protestants will defend whatever whims their subjective interpretation of the Scripture tells them to believe in defiance of all authority.

They follow a Christ made in their own image.

1 Tim. 6:3-4 “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing…”


[1] Some things in this post I would never say as a Catholic, such as Protestants are not regenerated.  If they were baptized properly they are Christians.  I retained much of the wording of the original CARM article to show how silly this article sounds because the exact argument can be turned on the accuser. “Catholics are not real Christians” can be refuted with “Protestants are not real Christians.”  See how nothing has been determined and assumptions are the only evidence summoned forth?

Protestants like the ones at CARM probably had a true experience with Jesus.  Awesome!  Unfortunately, they began the race but seem to think the starting and finish lines are the same thing.  Whereas Catholics believe we don’t reach the finish line until death.  Hence the appearance of “salvation by works”.

[2] Note: I started about halfway down the CARM article because the first part is a silly critique about what CARM thinks Catholics probably/maybe/could/should/possibly believe.  For example, the article quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church to claim that Catholics possibly believe they will become gods.  Meanwhile, they seem to ignore the fact that when the CCC says we will become “partakers of the divine nature” it is quoting directly from 2 Peter 1:4 which says, “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

[3] CARM’s article How to Interpret the Bible begins with, “The Bible is God’s Word. But some of the interpretations derived from it are not.  There are many cults and Christian groups that use the Bible—claiming their interpretations are correct.  Too often, however, the interpretations not only differ dramatically but are clearly contradictory.  This does not mean that the Bible is a confusing document. Rather, the problem lies in those who interpret and the methods they use.  We need, as best as can be had, the guidance of the Holy Spirit in interpreting God’s Word.”  https://carm.org/how-interpret-bible

[4] Notice these references begin with “no one can merit the initial grace.” So CARM is misrepresenting and simplifying Catholic doctrine and then “refuting” a caricature.

Friendship, Dialogue, and the Inklings

“In this kind of love…Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’  The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend.  He need not agree with us about the answer.” – C.S. Lewis on friendship love in The Four Loves

I have become quite enamored with The Inklings of late.  The Inklings was an informal group at Oxford begun mainly by C.S. Lewis and which “had no specific agenda beyond a vague shared interest in literature among its members and a vague notion of a kinship of spirit existing between them.  Lewis was the nucleus, without whom any gathering would have been inconceivable, but Tolkien was also almost always present.”[1]  This group would discuss literature, theology, and read their latest projects to the group for criticisms.  Chapter by chapter over the years, J.R.R. Tolkien read his manuscript for The Lord of the Rings to this group.  It was also due to the constant encouragement of Lewis that Tolkien finished the story for publication.  Tolkien wrote to a friend saying, “But for the encouragement of C.S.L. I do not think that I should ever have completed or offered for publication The Lord of the Rings.”[2]  Likewise, Tolkien was encouraging to Lewis to finish writing and publishing Out of the Silent Planet, the first in the Space Trilogy.

There is something I find particularly fascinating about the members of this group; they were literary geniuses but apparently did not see themselves as such.  They did not simply generate books of brilliance on whims and expect everyone to swoon at their magnificence.  They submitted their work to the critique of the group.  Many, if not all, of the publications from these men were vetted before being deemed worthy.

“Out would come a manuscript and we would settle down to sit in judgment upon it,” recalled Warnie Lewis.  “Real, unbiased judgment too, for about the Inklings there was nothing of a mutual admiration society; with us, praise for good work was unstinted but censure for bad, or even not so good, was often brutally frank.  To read to the Inklings was a formidable ordeal, and I can still remember the fear and trembling with which I offered the first chapter of my first book–and remember too my delight at its reception.”[3]

These men did not allow themselves to think higher of themselves than they should and they each humbled themselves enough to hear the “brutally frank” criticisms of peers and friends.  This is exactly why their works are so good.  Each book was the final draft of a manuscript analyzed by peers and friends.[4]

Dialogue is a healthy thing.  These men not only presented their manuscripts to the group but also discussed anything they all thought important, including religion.  It was due to a long and late night talk with Tolkien and Hugo Dyson that Lewis returned to Christianity.  If no dialogue had taken place, nor a willingness of all parties to attempt an understanding of the others’ beliefs, Lewis may never have re-discovered Christianity and given us his great literature.

The arch-literary-nemesis of the Modernist George Bernard Shaw was the Christian G.K. Chesterton.  They both wrote scathing reviews of the other and debated publicly but could still invite each other home to dinner and drinks and laughter together.  Surely this was largely due to the truth of Lewis that two men to whom a question is important can be friends even though they do not agree upon the answer.

Another strong ingredient, I believe, was Chesterton’s Christian conviction to love thy enemy and to treat all people with charity.  Does not charity include giving someone the time of day and discussing with them something they consider important?



[1] Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, 63

[2] Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, 35

[3] Joseph Pearce, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, 64

The Forerunners of the Reformation with Dr. Scott Hahn

Peter Kreeft once said everything Scott Hahn touches turns to gold and this talk seems evidence of that.  This talk gave me so much to think about.  Hahn summarizes the broad scope of Western intellectualism, where it rose, where it began to fall, and how we are today living with the consequences.

“Intellectuals rule the world but they usually do so from the grave.  Because it takes a while, it takes time, for their ideas to catch on.  In fact it takes several generations for people to really work out the implications of these novel ideas.  In fact the novel ideas have to reach a point where they no longer seem novel.  They have to reach a point where people think that way without even having to think about it.”

–Scott Hahn, The Forerunners of the Reformation

More lectures on history can be found at the Coming Home Network Deep In History series.

Confirmation on November 1, All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day painting by Fra Angelico; from Wikipedia

Well, looks like it is going to happen. I am joining the Catholic Church on November 1, All Saints’ Day, with conditional baptism and first confession on October 31, an ironic date.

It is happening so “quickly” because I went through RCIA last year and have talked with the local priest a few times. He knows where I am coming from and is content I know what I am getting into. He and I are going to grill steaks soon and we’ll talk some more.

There are still many things I don’t understand about Catholicism but I have discovered enough to be convinced for myself, even if it isn’t convincing enough for others. But we shouldn’t be expected to understand everything before a decision is made. One doesn’t perform 100 pushups from the get go. One starts with 5, eventually moves up to 10, then 20, and so forth. The famous saying from St. Augustine is fitting; “Believe that you may understand.”[1] This is not blind faith leading to a false understanding. It is reasonable faith rooted in something strong which will grow into greater understanding.

The final decision was due, in part, to the realization that this process has been two very intense years (even longer for the roots of some issues).  Life needs to move on and it cannot move on so long as I am stuck in paralysis.  Paralysis and indecisiveness has only drained my joy and even driven away people I cared for.  Paralysis will only continue to haunt and hurt unless a decision is made. The lines in the sand must eventually be draw and so far Catholicism still seems the best option.  The soldier in battle who freezes when the bullets fly is in the worst danger.  It would be better for him to shoot back, run for cover, or at least run away as a coward.  But freezing in one place will only destroy him and probably also hurt those around him.  That’s kind of how I felt.

So I figured the best remedy for indecisiveness is to make decisions and Catholicism is still the most reasonable option available.  And I must say, I have felt peace beginning to return, not in an overwhelming way, but like a gentle touch of God easing me into my decision.  Laughter is also coming easier, and I love to laugh.  There is still some residual frustration and lack of understandings about the way things played out in my life this past year but even that is subsiding into a calmer acceptance. (After all, anything I went through is small potatoes compared to what others are currently facing around the world right now and throughout history. Who am I to whine when life is still so good?)

Another thing that revealed how far I was along the trail was my brief consideration of atheism. While grilling a steak I wondered, “Is this whole Christian thing even true? Maybe I should just give it up.” These were short lived thoughts but they shed light on where my soul was; either Catholicism or give up Christianity altogether. And it seemed lame to give it up. After all, how could chance give us something as delicious as steak? There must be a God, right?

Two people have asked me if I was happy with my decision. It is a natural question to ask. We all want to be happy. But it was my father, a protestant minister, who raised me up to follow truth and to do what is right, whether we like it or not. Happiness may come with the territory, but happiness cannot be the litmus test. C.S. Lewis enhanced this theme in Mere Christianity: “In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

The Bible talks much about joy, but it also talks about “taking up your cross.” Christianity is life and life includes both laughter and tears. I have hope that the grass truly is green on the other side but that cannot be the standard of my decision.

So I have been eyeing an 18 year bottle of scotch and waiting for the appropriate occasion. This is as fitting a time as any to buy it . If anyone else wishes to raise a glass too, I would love to hear about it.

God bless and peace be with you all.

By the way, while there is no need to end the blog, since the name is still fitting to the Christian life, this will also mean I will probably take a break from blogging. I feel the need to settle and gain roots into my new faith. I will probably post here and there but they will probably be few and far between.

[1] Tractate 29 (John 7:14-18), http://newadvent.org/fathers/1701029.htm

An Interesting Pickle: Accept Free Will and Become Catholic?

I did not grow up Calvinist. Though I knew of it, I never gave it much attention. From the beginning the whole thing sounded wrong. However, in college I had a sudden influx of friends who were either Calvinist or seriously considering it. Finding myself unexpectedly surrounded by Calvinists and conversing about it, I wondered if God was trying to tell me something so I began to look into that theology myself. To keep a long story short, after Biblical studies, ponderings, and many conversations, I decided to continue rejecting it.

As time went on I began noticing complications. I rejected Calvinism and attended non-Calvinist churches, yet the basic theology of “faith alone” was still there as well as a sense that one could not lose one’s salvation short of a complete 180° rejection. Sin in the life of the believer was often not seen as something that could cost a believer his soul. Sin was presented as hurting our “relationship” with Jesus but did not effect a loss of salvation. Sermons or Bible studies would come across any of the multiple Bible verses that demand the Christian to live a moral and righteous life and, almost without fail, preceding or succeeding the exposition of these verses would be a disclaimer saying something like, “Not that we are saved by our works, obviously, etc. etc. etc.”

Meanwhile, I was left pondering the relationship between faith and works. Works and righteousness are clearly commanded in the Bible. It seems Jesus strongly suggests works are necessary for salvation.[i] The Book of James is about practically nothing but works in the life of a Christian and straight up says we are “justified by works and not by faith alone.”[ii] The Apostle John says that there is sin that leads to death.[iii] Paul warns the Galatian Christians to live righteously or they will not inherit the kingdom of God.[iv] Baptism is clearly a requirement for salvation in the New Testament[v], which means something must be done—a “work” according to most Protestants.

With the recent considerations of Catholicism, it was initially frustrating—though now it is becoming amusing—how a Protestant apologist will say something like “One should reject Romanism because it does not follow Biblical teaching. True Biblical teaching is x, y, and z.” Meanwhile, x, y, and z is Calvinistic. Thus I am left pondering, “I myself have rejected these notions as unbiblical so I can’t hold Catholicism ‘unbiblical’ on these issues if they too reject them.” It puts me in a weird position.

As part of my attempts to learn all sides, I recently checked out from the library a DVD called “Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism.” It interviewed some fairly famous Calvinist theologians and apologists about the history and doctrine of Calvinism. One thing I found interesting is their opinion on Arminianism, which is a version of Protestant theology that accepts free will. Take these examples:

R.C. Sproul said,

The Reformers felt that if they acquiesced to the protests—the Remonstrations—of the Arminians at that time, that in a very real way they would have been putting their feet back on a path to Rome. Now let me clarify that. I don’t think any of them believed that Arminianism was, or is today, Roman Catholicism. We’re talking about putting your feet on a path that goes in a certain direction.

D. James Kennedy said,

And if once you acknowledge free will, which Luther and all of the other Reformers denied, then you open the door for all of the various Roman Catholic heresies that came along as well as that one.

This analysis of the situation is reminiscent of a story told by Scott Hahn. While Hahn was still a Protestant attending seminary, a professor told the class that the entire Reformation hinged upon the doctrine of “faith alone” and quipped that if that doctrine were disproved he would be the first to knock on the doors of the Vatican for entry. Hahn said they would all laugh—“What rhetoric!”—but as his further studies in theology began to show that faith alone was not Biblical Hahn was drawn further into the Catholic Church.

It’s no wonder Calvinists are so militant in rejecting free will. Apparently to accept free will is to put one on a path leading to Rome. And since Catholicism is obviously wrong (duh!), free will must be rejected too, right? Playing the Roman card will probably have an effect on those determined not to be Catholic—“I don’t want to be Catholic so maybe I had better reject free will”—but it’s not going to help someone who has already rejected Calvinism and is considering Catholicism. In fact, it only confirms certain suspicions.

[i] For example, Matt. 7:21; Matt. 25:31-46

[ii] James 2:24

[iii] 1 John 5:16-17

[iv] Gal. 5:16-26

[v] For example, Mark 16:16; John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21