Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What to Do When You're in Love with a Protestant

A student from Texas A&M emailed me the following question. I'm going to break it up into parts:
How in the world do you tell someone who is so strong in their faith that she is wrong (or better yet, "in error") and, has, in essence, been duped by the "Reformers"?
Very carefully ;)
I really find this particularly frustrating and somewhat discouraging. I don’t want to say something that I’m going to regret, nor to I wish to state something, however innocent, incorrectly.
I understand. It's tough when you know the Truth but someone you dearly love does not, and no matter what you do, you can't convince them otherwise. AND, every time you try, you have to make sure that you don't insult the person you love and that you state everything correctly. Yes, all of this is very frustrating indeed! However, with prayer, patience, persistence, and the grace of God, it can be done. The more educated you become in your faith, and the more experience you obtain in talking with non-Catholic Christians, the easier this will become.
Have you ever walked up to a Protestant and told them that they are in error? I guess I’m looking for a point of reference from where I can begin.
Well, I've certainly never started a conversation that way. If you do, you'll just turn the person off at the onset and there won't be much hope for a frutiful exchange. I think the best thing to do is to LISTEN. Don't collect rejoinders in your mind as you watch the person's mouth move. It is important to actually listen to what he (or she) is saying. You have to get to the very heart of what he believes before you can effectively respond to him, and this only happens by listening closely to him.

Secondly, be calm. Once you raise your voice, he will raise his voice still more, and before you know it you're in a shouting match. Plus, it's harder to think logically and to understand the other person when you are filled with passion and anger. Staying calm will also defuse his anger when he begins to escalate, and if there are any witnesses present (for example, in a public debate or an online debate) your arguments will be taken more seriously than his.

Thirdly, it's crucial that you be soaked in Scripture and the teaching of the Church. This has taken on increased importance to me since my reading of Sheed. You have to know what you're talking about, and you have to be able to express yourself with words that are precise, and clear, and not prone to misinterpretation.

Finally, you must pray hard for her conversion. You can't do this on your own. Jesus Christ and the saints must play an integral role in this process. Devote an hour of Eucharistic adoration to her. Pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to say. Pray that her heart will be softened and all obstacles removed that keep her from full membership in the Church. Pray for the grace to be an effective witness to your faith in the way you live your life. Pray, pray, pray. This is so important.
I think the problem really gets messy in my case, for two reasons: 1. I like this girl a lot (intelligent, charming, loves God, virtuous, beautiful, I mean, everything I would ever dream to have in a wife…with the exception that she’s not Catholic); and 2. My comfort level with the Bible…is…well…OK, but it still leaves something to be desired.
Yes, I understand what you are going through. One of my ex-girlfriends was Pentecostal. I basically would have said everything about her that you just said about your girlfriend. But, eventually our religious differences became too great.

At any rate, when the dialogue is with someone that you already love, it is all the more important to listen, and stay calm, and present the orthodox teaching. A loving relationship demands this sort of thing. Of course, this can make the pressure and anxiety you feel about this even greater, since so much is on the line (e.g., your relationship, her soul, your sanity, etc.). But, you can do it. It has certainly been done before.
I mean, my impression, is, and I think Keating talked about it, that, in order to talk to a Bible Christian, and help them to realize their error, you have to make your points using the Bible alone, in spite of the fact that we know that Sola Scriptura is completely wrong, and, in and of itself, completely contradictory to Scripture, for various reasons (as you obviously know).
Yes, this is correct. Scripture is his only authority. Thus, if you wish to persuade him on religious matters, you must use his authoritative source. Eventually, you may be able to persuade him that the early Church fathers and the authoritative statements of the Magisterium are important too. But, until then, you have to use the Bible.

Now, this doesn't mean that you have to be a Bible scholar before you can talk to people about your faith. But, I think that, at the very least you must know the story of salvation (how God has interacted with man throughout human history), the basic teachings of Jesus Christ in the Gospels, and at least a handful of verses that you can use to defend Catholic doctrines. For example, for the Eucharist you would need to be able to recall and explain the Eucharisitc Discourse in Jn 6 and the Institution Narratives in the synoptic Gospels. For the authority of the Pope, you would need to know Mt 16:13-21; Lk 22:31-32; and Jn 21:15-17. For the necessity of Baptism, you would need to know Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:16; and Jn 3:3-5. You get the idea. Try to accomplish this much at first, and then gradually you can come to acquire a more comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.

It's difficult to say what you should do if your apologetic efforts don't work. It all depends on how her differing views effect your relationship and your possible future together. A mixed relationship/marriage can work, it's just difficult. This will take much discernment and possibly the advice of a spiritual director.

I hope this helps.

Pax Christi,


Anonymous said...

Abandoning the "I'm right/You're wrong" mindset is key to any thoughtful exchange that will generate more than rhetorical debate.

We believe the Catholic Church (big "C") has the purest adherence to the deposit of faith that God has given the whole catholic Church (little "c" - universal - all Christians). And we can't forget that the Church itself has concluded that there is a unity among all Christians - not a perfect unity - but a unity nonetheless.

Thoughtful exchange, designed to open you BOTH to the Voice of God, based on love of one another as followers of Christ, and freely willing to concede at the outset that you are BOTH doing your best on this pilgrim journey to find and follow Jesus who saves each of you - these perspectives will be of utmost value.

And, a simple prayer for the Spirit of God to work His will in and through the discussion in BOTH your lives.

I've always taken the first "Council" that met in Jerusalem (recorded in Acts isn't it??) to settle the huge question of the time - to circumcise or not - as a model for reasoning things together in Christ.

Amber said...

I WAS that Protestant girl and now I'm walking through the doors of the Catholic Church! Pray, pray, pray is what he should do. He needs to know his faith like the back of his hand.

Whatever he does, he cannot just out and out say she's "wrong"...

In fact, ask her questions... "I understand you believe in faith alone. Can you show me where it says this in the Bible?"

The best thing my boyfriend said is, "Follow God... wherever that is, I don't care, as long as you're following and obeying God."

That was the best thing he could have said. God did all the rest.

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