Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
While doing some research for an upcoming series on spiritual abuse, I stumbled across this article called "How I Solved the Catholic Problem" which was posted online at Envoy Magazine. Here is a link to the entire story.
In 1992, Marty and Kristine Franklin, staunch evangelicals, became missionaries to Guatemala. Three years later they left the Protestant arena and became Roman Catholics. Their reasons for doing so are fascinating and warrant discussion.
Both grew up in what appears to be fairly average “fundamentalist” (her term) homes and attended Biola University, a private, evangelical university, which encompasses Talbot Theological Seminary.
Their story is told from the perspective of Kristine. However, it is clear from the narrative that her husband was equally involved in this decision. TWW hastens to add that this is NOT a debate on the merits of Catholicism. These next two posts are meant to highlight and discuss the reasons for the author’s dissatisfaction with American evangelicalism.
Prior to her arrival in Guatemala, the author discusses a few issues from her past.
The eternal security conundrum
A hint of the struggles to come occurs with the discussion of her conversion. She accepted Christ at the age of 5 years. However, she got “born-again” on two other occasions just “to be sure.” She says, “Although we were taught that “faith alone” saved a person, the assumption was that, right away, the convert would exhibit a changed life and grow in holiness out of sheer gratefulness to God for the gift of salvation. Under this system, the whole conversion event was completely subjective and valid only with the right measure of sincerity and true repentance….If a person known to be “born again” falls away from Christ, it’s said that he had “never really been born again.” In other words, the possibility always exists that you might not actually be a Christians, though you might be completely convinced that you are.”
Interestingly, I recently had a conversation with one of my pastors on this very subject. I have long struggled with this issue because I am in the position of having frequent conversations with former evangelicals who are now atheist or agnostic. Many of them claim to have been deeply committed Christians; complete with conversion experiences, extensive Bible knowledge and thoughtful theology. Some had been pastors, missionaries and leaders of para-church ministries. Many of them can claim to have had profound religious experiences, supplemented and buoyed with what they believed to be deep faith. They have evangelized others and been involved in Bible studies within well-known, committed churches. Yet many Christians would say that these folks had never been saved in the first place.
I told my pastor that, true confession, deep down inside, I actually believe that some of these folks had been Christians at one time. Yet, this raised a conflict within me regarding the doctrine of eternal security-“once saved; always saved.”
He smiled and said that, if one believes these folks had never been Christians, how can any of us be sure that we ARE Christians? In other words, I know that I am a Christian. I love and believe the Bible, enjoy being around Christians, love God, have accepted Jesus, want to be a Christian, want to see heaven, see the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and want to serve others. Funny thing, at one time, so did many of the people I have talked with on ExChristians.Net and at other venues. For me, this is a tough and valid question.
Views on Catholicism
She talks about her understanding of Catholicism as taught by pastors and other Christians. “I was taught to feel sorry for Catholics, because they were members of a cult, and they didn’t even know it. They were like Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses, who had been deceived into thinking that their good works would get them into heaven.”
She had many Catholic relatives but was taught that they would go to hell; not for sins but for being Catholic. But, then again, it may mean that they believed that Catholicism is a sin. She was not allowed to attend any of their funerals because it “was too sad” because they were not saved.
She said that they were trained by their mission group that the Protestant missionaries on Guatemala were sent to “rescue Catholics from the darkness of their religious superstition and man-made tradition and bring them into the light of Protestantism.”
Views on all the other Protestant churches
Here is where the rubber begins to meet the road.This will figure prominently in the post on Thursday. Kristine says that, not only was she taught to beware Catholics, but to be wary of all other Protestants from other denominations and churches as well. In other words, “we had the truth at our church, period.”
She says that Christians are taught that, with a correct interpretive or hermeneutical system, a person should be able to find the complete truth about the Bible. So, how did one measure if another church's teaching was truly Christian? So long as they believed what her church believed, they were okey dokey. If they didn’t, they might not be “born again.”
She also was taught that all of the “mainline churches” were apostate. She was to avoid those churches because she could “hear error taught and might be deceived in believing it.”
Such errors might include:
- Infant baptism
- Speaking in tongues
- Faith healing
- Loss of salvation
Just in case our readers think this is somewhat overstated, we would like to refer you to a post that TWW did called "Breaking Fellowship Over Ordinances at T4G." Here is a link. Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan are friends. However, Dever said he would NOT allow Duncan to take communion in his church because Duncan believes in infant baptism and Dever does not. These are both men who presumably have correct hermeneutics and "know" the truth on baptism. Then what seems to be the problem?
Kristine begins to change as she meets “true Christians” from some of these other “erroneous” churches. “I gradually loosened my Fundamentalist views on truth and adopted the typical, somewhat vague belief of contemporary evangelicalism that as long as one has a personal relationship with Christ, that was all that matters." However, she is unable to resolve this issue in the long term as we will see on Thursday.
With these beliefs and struggles, Kristine and her husband begin their ministry in Guatemala. On Thursday we will explore the following issues that led them away from Protestantism:
- The Americanization of Christianity
- Cultural hegemony
- The problem of sola scriptura.
Lydia's Corner: Leviticus 4:1-5:19 Mark 2:13-3:6 Psalm 36:1-12 Proverbs 10:1-2