The Courage to Be Catholic

At the behest of a flashing sign on Wade Hampton, I’ve been listening to EWTN (Eternal World Television Network) radio. EWTN was founded in 1981 by a nun in full habit, Mother Angelica, and now broadcasts over both TV and radio. As you listen to their many radio programs, you get the feeling that American Catholicism—at least that brand represented by EWTN’s listernship—lives very self-consciously in the shadow of evangelicalism. Much more so than the other way around. There are many glowing stories about converts who crossed the Tiber, and callers to Catholic Answers Live ceaselessly bring up Protestantism and its problems.

The other day I heard a featured guest on that show who was trying to help a young Pentecostal. The young would-be convert to Rome was fielding objections from his Protestant uncle, who knew the Bible well, he said. I believe the uncle had charged that Catholicism follows man-made traditions while Protestants adhere to Scripture. The guest argued that, actually, Protestants are followers of the traditions of men (he named Luther and Calvin particularly) while Catholics follow traditions handed down from Christ and the apostles.

I was amazed. My several weeks of EWTN commutes had treated me to all sorts of ideas that have no basis in Scripture and, in fact, contradict it. Prayer and devotion to Mary were certainly at the top, but veneration of other saints, purgatory, transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the authority of the papacy were all touted on EWTN. I was encouraged to purchase books on the Međugorje visions. I was told that if I made room in my heart for Mary, the Holy Spirit would “dive bomb” my soul because Mary is His spouse and He follows her everywhere.

I would think that Catholic Answers Live could at least grant that Protestants are basing their doctrine on divine revelation—even if we’re somehow missing out on traditions added later. But if you believe in apostolic succession, apparently later traditions supersede earlier ones.

If you want to know what Catholicism teaches, read the official Catholic catechism. If you want to know what active American Catholics believe, listen to EWTN.

No doubt there are many self-professed evangelicals who preach a watered-down gospel and are in danger of losing even that (if they haven’t already). I’m embarrassed by evangelical radio’s urge to be like the world. And no doubt there are many faithful Catholics who are truly regenerated. But, in the main, the two groups speak different languages because our edifices are built on different rocks. I continue to be saddened and angered by those evangelicals who think the Reformation is over and we can all beat our swords (Eph. 6:17) into shepherds crooks. I’m glad EWTN still thinks I’m wrong to be a Protestant!

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

2 thoughts on “The Courage to Be Catholic”

  1. “And no doubt there are many faithful Catholics who are truly regenerated.” Are you sure about that statement? I used to agree with you, but the discipleship class I took this past fall changed my mind. Can those who truly believe in Christ regularly fellowship with apostates? I think you’ve got a tough argument to prove.

  2. I’m trying to be as generous as possible. In a church of many millions, I trust God has some who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Even the church of Thyatira, which tolerated Jezebel (Rev. 2:20), had faithful people in it to whom the Lord gave no censure. I can’t pretend to explain that, but it matches with my experience. Though most Catholics I have met are nominal (and most Catholics would surely acknowledge that many American Catholics are nominal!) and know next to nothing about the Bible, I have met one who really seemed to understand the gospel and believe it. Any of God’s true children who are in fellowship with the Catholic Church should get out immediately, however, in response to the commands of Scripture.

    At first I thought “Sister” was a Catholic writing in! =)

Leave a Reply