Pope Plants Seeds With Protestant Pastor

This post is by Jesus Florez, a Proven Catholic apologist.

Jesus Florez

In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus declared He would draw all men to Himself. He also affirmed that there would be one flock and one shepherd.

This is a clear indication that our Lord Jesus intended unity to characterize the new people He would gather around Himself. The early Christians were clearly aware of this. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in the early second century to St. Polycarp “let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation”.

Ut Unum Sint

According to Scripture and Tradition, the Catholic Church believes that the unity Christ willed for the new people of God is one of a common faith, worship, and government: doctrine, liturgy, Magisterium.

Throughout the centuries there have been many heresies and schisms that have threatened to sever these bonds. In our present time, we experience the great divisions among Christians precisely over matters of faith, worship and government. The rampant fragmentation among Protestant Christian communities is only one example of how deep these divisions run and how serious they are.

Be Reconciled to Your Brother

We seek the reconciliation of all Christians in accordance with the will of our Lord and the means He provided for the continual transmission of the Christian faith. Among other things this means communion with the successor of St. Peter, the bishop of Rome, whom Jesus Christ our Lord established as His vicar on earth and the principium unitatis, the principle of unity, among believers.

In 2016 Pope Francis met with several Protestant pastors from different denominations and traditions in an effort to promote ecumenical dialogue and foster collaboration among fellow Christians. One of them was Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church in Redding, CA.

After meeting with Pope Francis, he proceeded to write an article and preach a sermon (iTunes podcast link) to his congregation in which he talked about unity among believers. I’ll comment briefly on three points I believe to be praiseworthy and then I’ll complement with additional reflections and considerations.

A Path to Reconciliation

When Pastor Kris met with Pope Francis he was very pleasantly surprised by his gentle demeanor and remarked during his sermon that he was convinced the Pope was filled with the Holy Spirit.

He also led a prayer for the Pope as part of his preaching. As a Catholic, it’s very encouraging to see this from a Protestant pastor who influences many people. It’s a clear sign that he has the right disposition of heart in order to make ecumenical dialogue possible. I applaud this as a Catholic and see it as an exhortation for all of us to do the same.

Towards the beginning of his sermon, Pastor Kris made the interesting observation that the first Christians didn’t have a New Testament, let alone the whole Bible. He also commented on how important it was to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. We wholeheartedly agree with Pastor Kris on the importance of a personal relationship with Christ. The Church enjoins us to approach Jesus in constant and fervent prayer and to hear His voice by frequent and prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures.

Having said all this, realizing that the New Testament Scriptures didn’t exist as a unified canon for centuries and mentioning this during a sermon calls into question the Sola Scriptura paradigm whereby the Scriptures function as the formal principle of theology and the formally sufficient rule of faith without the need of a divinely appointed teaching authority.

We would encourage anyone that has become aware of this fact to continue to explore how in light of this millions of people, most of whom were illiterate, came to faith in Jesus and flourished in their relationship with Him.

Come, Holy Spirit

During the last portion of his sermon, Pastor Kris talked at length about the role of the Holy Spirit and how through it we can become part of the mind of Christ and achieve unity even if disagreement remains concerning doctrine and church government.

We readily agree with Pastor Kris in acknowledging the crucial role the Holy Spirit plays in the economy of salvation and God’s designs. One needs to look no further than St. John Paul II’s encyclical “Dominum et vivificantem“.  However, we would balk at the idea of achieving unity while jettisoning unity of faith and government.

We would encourage people to explore the possibility that the gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit are not only personal and experiential but also hierarchical and communal.

For example, we believe that by a special gift (or charism) of the Holy Spirit the Roman pontiff is protected from error in declaring a point of faith or morals to be definitively held by all the faithful. We also believe that this gift is passed on by means of material succession within the context of the family of God.

Looking to Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of Our Faith

Before His Passion, our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for the Church. Since it is Him doing so, we believe that His prayer is infallibly effective, and therefore there will always be only one true Church of Jesus Christ.

We confess, in the words of Blessed Paul VI, that “the Church founded by Jesus Christ and for which he prayed is indefectibly one in faith, in worship and in the bond of hierarchical communion” (Paul VI, Creed of the People of God, 21).

We earnestly pray so that all who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior work together to overcome division and return to the one household of God, the Church of the living God, so that the world may believe that the Father has sent His Son to unite all things in Him.

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer!

About the Author

This post is by Jesus Florez. Here’s Jesus in his own words:

I’m a Proven Catholic apologist thanks to the efforts and expertise of our friend and mentor, Devin Rose.

I now share his mission to equip Catholics to defend their faith and help Protestants consider the claims of the Catholic Church.

I’m originally from Colombia in South America and grew up Catholic but lukewarm at best. At age 18, I joined a Catholic Charismatic community that helped me have a deeper and more personal relationship with our Lord Jesus. Since moving to the United States in 2015, I became very interested in apologetics and in 2016 I participated in Devin Rose’s Proven Catholic apologist course as a beta tester and earned my certificate soon after.

I work full time as a receptionist at a local nursing home and in my free time I enjoy reading about our faith and spending time with my wife.

You can email me at lordtyberias8@gmail.com

May the Lord bless you and keep you in the bosom of His family, the Church!

Navigating the Tiber: Your Guidebook Has Arrived

I’m happy to announce that my second book from Catholic Answers has just been published: Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith.

Origins of the Book

I was sitting at lunch one day with friends: one Catholic, two Protestants, and we were having a series of in-depth discussions about whether Catholicism was true or Protestantism was better.

Navigating the Tiber
Navigating the Tiber

The debate ranged all over: justification, the canon of Scripture, sola Scriptura, Bible interpretation, authority, perspicuity, Church Fathers, sacraments, and more.

My friend, George, asked me after each discussion how I decided to choose one topic over another, or use one argument to rebut their point versus a different one. We were able to talk one-on-one and I could mentor him in apologetics, not just the arguments but also the soft skills, the psychology, and how to connect one topic to another.

I could sit next to George each week and do this, but I couldn’t replicate that to all the other Catholics who have ever been in a discussion with Protestant friends and family, feeling stumped or confused or scared because the arguments their friends were making sounded so strong.

Navigating the Tiber was born.

This is the book I would give to any Catholic needing help in understanding Protestantism and helping their Protestant friends fairly consider the Catholic Church.

It takes you from defending your Faith to going on the offense and leading Protestants into Catholicism!

The Guidebook for Navigating the Tiber

The Tiber river flows through Rome and has been something of an unruly watercourse in its history with the city. To “cross the Tiber” means to become Catholic.

This metaphor became the book’s overall narrative image. I am helping you to navigate the waters of the Tiber with your friend, so that they can cross over. There are swift currents, dangerous shoals, hidden rocks, sea serpents, enemy ships, and many more obstacles that they (and you) will face. The book guides you through it all.

I actually wrote the initial draft for this book five years ago, before The Protestant’s Dilemma was even published. It was one of those manuscripts that just flowed out once the main idea was settled on. But over those five years I was able to hammer at it, refine it, add more experiences to it, and most of all work on it with my friend Todd Aglialoro at Catholic Answers.

Five years of hard word, whittled down to a concise paperback.

The goal: to equip you to lead Protestant friends to the Catholic Church.

Please do check it out, and let me know what you think!

The Evangelical Exodus: Protestant Seminarians Become Catholic

A powerful new convert stories book is out from Ignatius Press, and you need to pick it up. Evangelical Exodus: Evangelical Seminarians and Their Paths to Rome recounts the stories of nine converts to Catholicism.

Evangelical Exodus Begins

But these converts aren’t just run-of-the-mill Joes like I was.

They were all:

  • Protestant seminarians
  • From the same seminary: Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES)
  • Who learned from a prominent Protestant scholar, Norman Geisler

And who all decided to become Catholic, not in spite of their Protestant schooling there, but in many ways because of it!

Evangelical Exodus bookMy good friend Doug Beaumont is the editor of the book and himself one of the converts. He and I first corresponded online many years ago. I knew right away that he was a deep thinker and a Protestant who was open to finding the fullness of the truth, wherever the search led.

After long years of reading, studying, and praying, he entered full communion with the Catholic Church. And so did many of his former peers at SES.

More Than a (Conversion) Feeling

These converts were all getting graduate degrees from SES. Many now have doctorates from well known institutions.

In Evangelical Exodus they each describe their own journey from Protestantism to Catholicism through study of the Church Fathers, St. Thomas Aquinas, philosophy and theology.

These men were committed Evangelical Protestants who believed in sola Scriptura, sola fide, an the Protestant canon of Scripture. They were not to be moved toward Catholicism by shallow arguments or evidence. Rather, as they demonstrate, they pierced into the depths of the reasons supporting the Faith and discovered that Christ’s Church was there waiting for them.

Doug Beaumont writes:

During my time at SES I had been told that we were learning to defend the “historic Christian faith.” But as I enlarged my studies, I began to realize that many of SES’ distinctive teachings could not be counted as historic in the implied sense.

Much of SES’ doctrinal statement (to which students and faculty were held) contained a mix of Reformation theology, Anabaptist doctrines, and even late nineteenth-century beliefs.

True or false, these did not seem legitimately to constitute the historic Christian faith.

Commendably, SES directed its students to study Aquinas and the Church Fathers. Most Protestant seminaries don’t dare do that, or do so in a tightly curated fashion.

But ironically such study had the opposite effect: the students came to see that their seminary wasn’t teaching what the Fathers taught!

For Better and For Worse

Becoming Catholic was not easy for these men. And since becoming Catholic some have had very challenging times. They had invested years of their lives into becoming Protestant teachers, pastors, and scholars, only to leave Protestantism.

I am so glad that they have told their stories in this volume. They lay out clearly, succinctly, and in a heart-felt manner the way that God led them to Catholicism. None expected it nor sought it.

Do yourself a favor and get Evangelical Exodus today.