I have written frequently about issues like co-belligerency. I have written often about the fact that I am a Protestant evangelical, with very real theological differences with my Catholic friends. And I have written often about how I prefer my website not to become yet another place where Catholics can spend all day bashing Protestants, and where Protestants can bash Catholics.
Plenty of times I have wanted to write more articles on some of these issues but have been deterred from doing so. Let me tell you why I dread writing such articles. It is because after years of experience, I know exactly how some Christians will respond.
I will politely ask that this or that issue not be debated at a certain time or a certain place, or that certain battles be fought elsewhere, yet some will completely ignore me, disrespect my requests, and launch into the very things I pleaded not to happen here.
Some believers refuse to show me the slightest bit of grace and Christlikeness when I ask for certain things, and so I despair of even broaching some topics because of their predictable and unwelcome responses. They are ever ready to pick a fight and go on the attack, even when I ask that it be done elsewhere.
I certainly do not make such requests because I am afraid of conflict. For heaven’s sake, anyone reading this site knows what a ridiculous charge that is. But I also know how complex and detailed some discussions can be, so I know the folly of trying to even introduce them in a short 1500-word article.
Entire libraries have been written on the theological differences found between Catholicism and Protestantism, and thousands of sites already exist where all those matters can be thrashed out. So it is not my intention to reinvent the wheel here, and turn my site into yet another such battleground.
Moreover, I have many Catholic friends whose personal relationship with God through Christ is not in doubt, even though we differ greatly on various important theological and biblical matters. And of course there would be plenty of Protestants who may have lots of right doctrine but have no personal relationship with God through Christ.
As to Catholic teaching, there is plenty we agree on of course. They affirm the basics as found in the early Christian creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. These creeds laid out the basics of orthodox Christian teaching, so unlike the cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, most of the main Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the deity of Christ are not denied by Catholics.
But we know there are numerous key issues that can still divide, such as the source of final authority, the place of Mary, the role of the papacy, sacred tradition and the Magisterium, the exact nature of salvation, and so on. Once again, I do not minimise any of these areas of disagreement.
They are no small matters and they do divide believers. But as I say, to do even just one of them proper justice, I would need to pen at least 10,000 words just to lay out the broad outlines of how the theological divide plays out. And as mentioned, there already exist hundreds of books, thousands of websites, and tens of thousands of articles which seek to do this already.
I cannot do everything in the world, so this is one area where I advise those so concerned to check out those other resources. It has nothing to do with me running for cover or avoiding controversy, but it has everything to do with me following the call of God upon my life.
If that makes certain people unhappy, whether Catholic or Protestant, they can go elsewhere thanks. No one is forcing them to come here. I will do what God has called me to do. And the reason for writing this piece now is a comment just in by yet another Protestant quite concerned about what I have recently written. The piece in question was this one: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/08/26/end-comfortable-christianity/
He offered many of the usual criticisms, and wondered why I dared to quote a Catholic on some vital social and cultural issues of the day. He asked me, “shouldn’t Biblical Christians be careful when standing side-by-side with Catholics against social evils?”
My short answer is this: I will generally stand with anyone who wants to work for certain social issues impacting the common good. This is not hard to get a grip on. If a drug dealer has a crack house two houses down from where I live, I will most certainly work with anyone who is concerned about this.
I will be happy to go house to house seeking names for a petition, and guess what? I will not give a rip if the person signing it is a Catholic, a Protestant, an agnostic or an atheist. Something like this impacts all of us, and a theological litmus test is not first required before I work together with others to stop such social evils.
In the same way I will work with all sorts of people to stop things like abortion or the war on marriage and family. And I have done this for decades now with great effect. To reject every single person who does not think exactly like I do theologically would mean none of the past victories we achieved could have happened.
But all this is called co-belligerency, and I have discussed this many times now. For much more detail see these articles for starters:
There is a legitimate place for working on limited objectives and campaigns with those we may not fully agree with in other areas. But have a read of these four articles for more on why co-belligerency is often a fully acceptable Christian activity to engage in.
My recent critic also questioned me on why I would share something coming from a Catholic. He asked, “If we are seen to be agreeing with RCism then aren’t we betraying those whose greatest need is to hear the true gospel?” This too I have often spoken about before, so I again have to repeat myself here, since my point of view is evidently not getting across very well!
When someone shares terrific truth about a certain issue, I will usually run with it any day of the week. It is ludicrous in the extreme to suggest that unless someone is 100 per cent on the same page theologically, he or she has no truth, or if they do have truth, it cannot be shared.
All truth is God’s truth. When a Catholic offers a terrific article on say, the culture wars or the case for life or the importance of family, I have no hesitancy whatsoever in sharing that and agreeing with it. It should be pretty clear that just because I agree with them on those points does not mean I agree with them on everything else.
I disagree with fellow Protestants all the time. Does that mean I should never share anything they ever say, because we are not in full agreement? I even disagree with myself at times! Sorry, but if Hitler says 2+2=4, he is speaking truth, and just because he says a lot of other rubbish does not mean I cannot affirm what he has just said about basic math.
Because of God’s common grace (a fully acceptable Protestant concept I might add), all people have some access to truth. While the Fall has affected us all, it does not mean that we are all devoid of even a shred of truth. When an atheist speaks truth in an important area, I am quite happy to run with it.
Thus if non-believers like Andrew Bolt or Brendan O’Neill (who happens to be visiting Australia right now) speak about the importance of freedom of speech, or warn about creeping sharia, or stand up for social goods that even plenty of Christians are too cowardly to stand up for, then I will happily support them and quote them.
Once again it does not mean I agree with everything else they may say or believe. But this too I have discussed elsewhere. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2015/09/10/all-truth-is-gods-truth-living-in-a-fallen-world/
And as many would know, perhaps one of my all-time favourite authors is G.K. Chesterton. He of course converted to Catholicism and was a fierce defender of all things Catholic. But he wrote about so many things and in such a great fashion, that I fully enjoy what he wrote, while at times choosing to disagree with him on certain points.
Sorry, but I am not about to consign to the flames my entire library of 50 or so books by and about Chesterton just because some Protestants consider him to be anathema because he is not a Protestant. I have learned more and been helped to grow more in the faith because of writers like this than by many Protestant writers. Again, that does not entail total agreement.
That is pretty much how life is actually. We love our spouse, but may have major disagreements with him or her in some areas. In a fallen world no one has perfect theology, and no one’s biblical hermeneutics are fool-proof. Having said that, I am not ashamed to say that I believe the Protestant take on things is over all truer to Scripture than some non-Protestant views.
But we all have shortcomings, mistakes, myopia, and error. There are some Protestant theologians and teachers who I vigorously disagree with, as might be expected. And Catholics have plenty of theological and other disagreements amongst themselves.
Since God has called me to be involved in the culture wars, I am happy to work with others who are also called into battle. Things like the slaughter of the unborn and the assault on marriage are far too important for me to live in a little isolated holy huddle, refusing to work with anyone else who does not agree with me entirely.
Let me close by saying that although I am not a prophet, I can pretty much guarantee there will be some folks coming here insisting on having the very theological battles I asked we not have. So let me warn you right away: if you cannot abide by my simple request and take your desire to unload on Catholics or Protestants elsewhere, then your comment certainly will not see the light of day on my page.
And let me point out that I have been reading, studying, writing about, and lecturing in theology for 45 years now, so I do know a bit about both Protestant and Catholic theology. I may well have read more Catholic theology than many of its critics, so there is no need for folks to write in and ask me if I know that Catholics teach this or that. Um yes, I do know what they teach thanks.
Sorry, but it is my website, so I will run things as I best see fit thanks. I hope this explains a bit more why I do things the way I do. I realise this is not to everyone’s liking. And as mentioned, no one is being forced to come here. Also, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me fully on these matters. But when I do make a simple request that this not be the place just now for another Catholic-Protestant battle, I expect my request to be honoured thanks.
Finally, my apologies for having to write such a rather defensive piece here. But such is the nature of the beast. I have been involved in this work for quite some time now, so every once in a while I must reiterate why I do what I do. I don’t expect you all to agree with it, but at least try to understand where I am coming from thanks. Blessings.