Introduction to the Essays on Catholicism

by Jim Carroll

I was raised as a nominal Roman Catholic. In the early 90's I was confronted by the gospel and since then have been a Christian by the will of God. It was not that, as a Roman Catholic, I had not heard the gospel. As Paul puts it in I Corinthians 15, the gospel, that which by believing in we are saved, is that Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures, and was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures. The truth of what this meant, however, was so obscured by other teaching that I certainly did not accept it in any sense that would constitute making me a Christian. This teaching was not so much specific Roman dogma, but shallow moralistic prescriptions not unlike most Protestant mainline churches in America today.

I believed, like most nominal Christians of both Protestant and Catholic persuasion seem to today, that “I'm not such a bad guy” and “God is love” so my good should certainly outweigh my bad in the end (that is, if there even was a God). This view makes Christ's sacrifice, which is the heart of the gospel message, completely insignificant and unimportant. If “I'm not such a bad guy” what does it mean that Christ “died for my sins?” It was in coming to understand that God is perfectly holy, and that the smallest sin is worthy of eternal punishment because of who God is and who that sin is against, that the Gospel message became the truly “good news” that it is.

When reading that Jesus equates unjust anger with murder; that looking at a woman lustfully is adultery; when Paul says that covetousness is itself the equivalent of idolatry, then I began to realize how much of a sinner I am and the Gospel then is good news indeed because Jesus died “for my sins” and was raised again. It was with this understanding that I became a Protestant.

As a Protestant I adopted the standard patronizing view of Catholicism that most Protestants have but my real complaints about my own experience in Catholicism I now realize can equally be made of many Protestant mainline denominations. In fact, I now have more respect for Catholicism as an institution than many mainline Protestant denominations. However, I also have a better understanding of Catholic dogma than I had before. This understanding came by a long study of many of the Catholic apologists arguments and was prompted by the defection of several friends to Catholicism.

I am happy to say I am now more of a Protestant than I have ever been and many of the issues raised by these apologists are not only answerable, but provide a strong counter argument in themselves. At the same time I no longer view the Catholic church (both East and West) as apostate branches of Christendom. They maintain the gospel at its core in many places in the church and the theological liberalism that leads to the “shallow moralism” that also pervades much Protestantism only means that neither of us are immune. I have old friends and new friends whose faith in Christ I do not question, though the specific propositional content of their dogma (even about “faith in Christ”) I deny the accuracy of. It is with these issues then that the essays in this section deal. This section will be ever-expanding though it is certainly small right now. I have been engaged in debating these issues for some years now and will spend time putting together much of what I have researched. Some of the questions are a bit esoteric. If there is a specific topic that anyone that actually reads these essays would like to see addressed, then either of you should let me know ..... ;-)