THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: I've been blogging for nearly five years now, and those who read this blog regularly know I am a convert from Evangelical/Fundamentalist Protestantism via The Episcopal Church. I was received into the Catholic Church almost ten years ago. I've had a chance to get my feet wet in Catholicism, and I've kept my ear to the ground on the latest trends in the Protestant world. It may surprise my readers to learn that Protestantism is very weak right now. In fact, it's on the verge of total implosion, and by this I especially mean the Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches (read more here). The mainline Protestant denominations have already collapsed (a few decades ago), and will continue to implode with each passing year.
All that is needed on the Evangelical/Fundamentalist side is a little push, and the downward spiral will be unstoppable. Here's the problem they have. Evangelicals and Fundamentalists (two flavors of the exact same phenomenon) are primarily reactionary movements. They exist for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to counter the rise of Liberal Modernism in the mainline Protestant denominations. I'll hereafter refer to both Evangelicals and Fundamentalists simply as "Evangelicalism" mainly because Evangelicalism is the larger of the two movements, and Fundamentalism is merely a subset of the larger Evangelical trend.
Since Evangelicalism is mainly a reactionary movement, it lacks essential characteristics of Christian tradition and history to sustain it for more than a couple generations. Right now Evangelicals are desperately looking for some kind of traditional core to propel them into the third millennium. The rise of the Messianic Jewish Movement within Evangelicalism is one manifestation of this, and it's not working.
I could spend a large portion of this blog entry analyzing Evangelicalism, both it's strengths and weaknesses, but I won't bore you with the details. I'll simply cut to the chase. So as a Catholic Christian are you eager to see the fall of Evangelicalism and the reemergence of the Catholic Church? If you are, I'll give you a formula that is guaranteed to work 100% of the time, in every neighborhood it's utilized. Any layperson (or group of laypeople) can initiate the program. I encourage you to share it with your priest so he can get on board and assist you in the process. This is truly a grassroots effort that will reform the Catholic Church from the ground up, bring in large numbers of Protestant converts, and establish the Catholic Church as the dominant religious force in your neighborhood, city, state and region. It is 100% orthodox, and in keeping with the historic traditions of the Catholic Church. Here is how it's done....
- Promote Catholicism as a more than a religion, but also a "personal relationship with God."
- Go directly for Protestantism's jugular vein by pointing out the unbiblical heresy of Sola Scriptura ("Bible Alone" doctrine).
- Learn your Catholic faith, and return to traditional Catholic practices both personally, and in your parish, thus promoting the historical connection with Christians throughout the ages.
The first concerns the promotion of Catholicism as more than a mere religion, but also a "personal relationship with God." This is extremely important, not only for drawing in Evangelicals but non-religious people as well. One of the major successes Evangelicalism had, at drawing people out of the mainline Protestant denominations, was their promotion of Christianity as a relationship more than a religion. What's good for the goose is sauce for the gander. This is not only a perspective that is agreeable with Catholicism, one could easily argue it was originally formulated within Catholicism over a thousand years ago. So let's get back to it - in earnest!
The second has to do with apologetics. Catholics have to be able to defend their faith, but let's face it, not everyone can be an apologist. Protestantism has stored five-hundred years worth of ammunition in it's anti-Catholic arsenal, and Evangelicals have become quite adept at using it. When confronted by the average Evangelical, the average Catholic will find himself bombarded by so many anti-Catholic allegations, in such a short period of time, that the conversation is usually over within minutes, resulting in a triumphant Evangelical and a discouraged Catholic. Well, I'm going to tell you how to turn that around, and you don't have to have a theology degree to do it. In fact, you don't even have to be well versed in the Bible. All you need to do is memorize just a few Bible passages, and stick to one single topic. Evangelicals have an "Achilles Heel" in their theology. If you hit it, you'll rock their faith. The effect may not be immediate. In fact, they may be quite defensive at first, even to the point of hostility, but this is because you've hit their soft spot and they subconsciously know it. What is this Achilles Heel? It's their doctrine of Sola Scriptura (meaning "Scripture Alone") and it's the foundational doctrine to which nearly all Evangelicals subscribe. Their entire religion is built on it. Basically it states that the Bible is the single authoritative source of religion, and there is no real religious authority outside of the Bible alone. This is a heresy. It's both illogical and unbiblical. You may, or may not, be able to convince them of the illogical nature of this, but you can at least confront them with the unbiblical nature of it (see details here).
Now the tendency of an Evangelical confronted with this Achilles Heel is to get off topic as quickly as possible. He'll want to change the subject to anything he can, usually pointing a finger back at the Catholic Church on one issue or another. Don't let him get away with this. Don't give him a free pass. Don't let him get off topic. Once you direct the conversation to the heresy of Sola Scriptura, stick to it, and don't let him change the subject. Stay on it, pound on it, nail it over and over again. It will be very difficult for an Evangelical to accept this, because doing so means questioning his entire faith system. It means questioning his church, pastor and every book he's ever read on religion. It even makes him question his hostility toward Catholicism. It is nothing less than a complete paradigm shift, which is why it's so important to stay on this topic. You just can't let it go. Force him to face it, or at least admit he'll look into the matter further, and tell him you just can't talk about anything else until he's produced a Biblical reason for why he believes in Sola Scriptura. Keep in mind, he will try to get onto other topics such as; Mary, purgatory, the papacy, inquisitions, etc. Again, make it clear you can't even begin to talk about those things until he produces Biblical evidence for Sola Scriptura. You might find that some Evangelicals don't even know what the phrase "Sola Scriptura" means. If that is the case, just tell them it's the "Bible Alone" doctrine, and if they can't produce Biblical evidence supporting it, then you can't even begin to address these other doctrinal issues they seem to be so concerned about. Honest Evangelicals who want to converse with you will research the topic. They will discover they have no Biblical foundation for Sola Scriptura, and this will open their hearts to consider the Catholic faith.
The third has to do with learning your Catholic faith, and renewing the ancient traditions of the Church. You can employ this yourself simply by praying the rosary, reading a good Catechism, and going to mass frequently, as well as regular confession (weekly or bi-weekly). However, it would also be helpful to enlist the help of your local priest, as well as liturgy coordinators and choir masters - if you can. It's not necessary, but certainly would be helpful. Believe it or not, Evangelical converts are not very interested in hip-hop contemporary worship. They can get that in their own churches, and at a much better quality I might add. As an Evangelical convert to Catholicism I can testify to this. I had no desire to bring my Evangelicalism with me into the Catholic Church. By the time I was ready to convert, I was also ready to leave all that behind. What I was looking for was tradition and a connection to the ancient worship of my Christian ancestors. Most Evangelical converts seek the same, and indeed this will be the underlying cause behind the coming collapse of Evangelical Fundamentalism. Priests and liturgy coordinators can address this by getting back to the basics. Generally speaking, older is better. Get back to using the bells and incense during mass. Get back to Gregorian Chant and Roman Plainchant. Pay particular attention to following the rubrics of the mass carefully, without innovation, and reintroduce the congregation to a modest amount of Latin. It can be as simple as a traditional Greek "Kyrie elèison," followed by the short responses of the people in Latin: "Dominus vobiscum, - et cum spiritu tuo," etc. Finally concluding with a traditional Latin "Agnus Dei." That should be more than enough Latin to suffice for this purpose. Parishioners can contribute to this atmosphere by frequently genuflecting during the liturgy at appropriate times, kneeling and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, and using chapel veils. In all things the local parish should strive to revive ancient customs. Yes, not only will this revive local Catholic culture and restore respect for the sacraments, but believe it or not, it will actually draw more Protestant converts into the Church. No kidding. It will. I'm as serious as a heart-attack here.
This plan will work, because it has worked, thousands of times, with those Evangelicals who discovered it in their own lives through what can only be divine providence. Share this plan with your local priest, if he's open to it. Examine the plan carefully, and you'll see we've got nothing to lose by implementing it. In a worst case scenario, Catholics will gain a better appreciation for the faith. In a best case scenario, we get a better appreciation among Catholics, and a flood of Evangelical converts. It's a win-win situation. If you're a priest or bishop who happens to be reading this, consider the benefits to your parish or diocese. It's a simple concise plan. It can't hurt, and it just might help. Perhaps you can utilize your resources to implement it on a larger scale. If you're a layperson reading this, it all begins with you. It's a grassroots plan. It won't work from the top down. It has to be implemented from the bottom up, and that means you're the spark that starts the fire. Do you want to stop the exodus of Catholics leaving the Church and converting to Evangelicalism? Do you want to revive the Catholic Church? Do you want to draw Evangelicals into the Catholic Church? This is how it's done. Now you know. The rest is up to you.
If you would like to get this message out, please send a link to this page by email to all your Catholic friends and family. Also consider posting a link to this page on Catholic forums, bulletin boards, newslists, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
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WANTED: Bilingual translator - anyone fluent on both English and Spanish, to help "The Catholic Knight" translate this page, and the linked "Debunking Sola Scriptura" page, into functional Spanish. (I'm not interested in machine translations, I want a human touch.) I'm getting a lot of hits from Mexico on this one. Also, if there is anyone fluent in French and English, I would like to try a French version of this page too. I know this is a lot of work, and I can't pay anything for it, but I will give credit for the translation to anyone willing to do it as a sacrifice unto the Lord. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org