"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Thursday, September 22, 2011


     My granddaughter's recent questions stirred in me a desire to resume a series I began in 2010 on His Scribe called "Reconcilable Differences", studying the beliefs Roman Catholics and Protestants have in common. First I'll re-run the series to date. Then I want to continue it:

Reconcilable Differences - 1
". . . That they may all be one. . . perfected in unity. . .so that the world will know that You sent me." Jesus praying to his Father, Gospel of John, chapter 17.
    Last year (2009) I read a 688-page Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1994 by Paulist Press. I wanted to know official Catholic doctrine, as opposed to Catholicism practiced (perhaps inconsistently) by individual members of the Catholic church. I read every word, underlining many passages and filling the margins with thoughts and questions.
     I came away with two strong impressions. The first was that there are irreconcilable differences between those whose ultimate authority is the Roman Catholic Church and those whose ultimate authority is the Bible.
      The second was that there are a surprising number of areas of agreement between the two groups.
      More than that, I came away profoundly moved, my faith deepened by the way the Catholic Catechism presents those areas of agreement. They not only rang true Biblically but evidenced centuries of study and meditation, of honing and polishing rich truths. I learned something about God. I learned something about faith, about the significance/sacredness of communion and baptism, about prayer.
     In a series of posts, I want to share some of these commonalities with you. I do not want you to feel threatened by these passages from the catechism. They are not intended to pry you away from what you believe, only to reinforce and help you appreciate what you already believe in the light of the fact believers in all three major traditions of Christendom--Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant--share these beliefs.
     We all believe, for instance, in the Apostles' Creed (and in the Nicene Creed, which further defines the Apostles' Creed):
     We all believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
     We all believe he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
     We all believe he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, that he descended into hell and on the third day rose again.
     We all believe he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, that he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
     We all believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic (i.e., universal) Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

     We all believe that the Bible, from which these creeds are taken, is the written word of God. We all believe in living by the Ten Commandments. We all believe in praying according to the Lord's prayer. Although beliefs regarding the real or symbolic presence of our Lord in the Eucharist differ radically, we all practice at least two of the sacraments established by Jesus Christ: baptism and partaking of his body and blood.
     We agree that not to believe these truths is not to be a Christian. This is bedrock. This is our common heritage.
     I want to look more closely at some of these non-negotiables with you in future posts.

NOTE: This series is written in gratitude for Paul Cowan (transferred to Glory 7-27-2010), who dedicated his life to drawing together in unity Christ's people in the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches.)

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