Have you ever contemplated why you believe the way you do? If you had been born in India would you have been a Hindu? If instead, you were born across the border in Pakistan, would you have become one with an Islamic faith tradition?
By the grace of God, I was born at exactly the right place and time that He intended. I didn’t emerge someplace in Africa, like many of my good friends in faith. Nor was I birthed in Great Britain like the Christian Author C.S. Lewis. What I’ve discovered in my brief time here on terra-firma, is that no matter where we are born or in whatever our circumstances may be, we are responsible for our own spiritual choices.
I was born in the U.S.A. at the end of the Baby Boom in the late 1950s, just in time to be raised during the sexual revolution. Sex, drugs, and Rock N Roll was the prevailing theme of the day. The home I was raised in has as much regard for Christianity then, as I do for liver and onions today — not much.
Being born in a non-Christian home didn’t mitigate my state of grace or lack thereof. However, through the grace of God, I did end up finding my way into faith in Jesus Christ. I cannot describe my journey in any better terms than that I’m blessed beyond measure to have been guided to my present belief paradigm. Would it have been more difficult to find my way to Christ in another life setting? Possibly. God only knows. I do know that people are still discovering the truth of Jesus Christ and His saving grace all around the world.
One thing I am certain of is that my particular path to salvation has left me free of a certain amount of spiritual baggage so to speak. You see, I have found my way to the church and ministry through a circuitous route — I am Catholic, but not Roman Catholic. There have been times in my adult life that I’ve considered switching to Rome as a spiritual home, but, while holding no animosity, I feel blessed that the Lord has led me down a different path.
I read an article this evening by C.S. Lewis, that illustrated a bit of why I believe my decision to remain outside of Roman influence was inspired. In an ecumenical essay entitled, “Christian Reunion: An Anglican Speaks to Roman Catholics,” Lewis said:
“The real reason why I cannot be in communion with you is not my disagreement with this or that Roman doctrine, but that to accept your Church means, not to accept a given body of doctrine, but to accept in advance any doctrine your Church hereafter produces. It is like being asked to agree not only to what a man has said but to what he’s going to say… To us, the terrible thing about Rome is the recklessness (as we hold) with which she has added to the depositum fidei [deposit of faith]… the proliferation of credenda [what must be believed].
In other words, Roman Catholics are required to believe any doctrine that is declared by the Pope (at any point, past or future) to be dogma (a non-negotiable of the faith).”
By the time I had found my way to my particular flavor of Catholicism, I had been a born again Christian for nearly twenty years. The Catholicism that I came to know and love was firmly rooted in the historic deposit of faith. It revered the teachings of the apostles, both written and oral traditions. The benchmark we held too was found in the ancient creeds, the early church fathers and the first seven Ecumenical Councils of the church. We profess to maintain the four ancient marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
It is our understanding that simply because someone else changed the rules that those who continue true to the old rules don’t stop being authentically Catholic. That, in our view, is the danger of Romanism. Not that they are somehow evil, god forbid. But, their dogmatic framework and potentially ever-changing beliefs are illogical and untenable.
What must we Christians believe to be saved? This is the bottom line question we must ask ourselves. What both Lewis and myself can agree upon is that faith is not an ever-moving mark. Nowhere in the deposit of faith, from the apostles through councils and Fathers do we find an authority to add new dogmatic requirements for the salvation of souls.
Similar to Lewis and myself, The dogmatic proclamations of the First Vatican Council became the stumbling block for the most noted catholic historian of that age. Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger (28 February 1799 – 14 January 1890), also was a German theologian, Catholic priest and church historian who rejected the dogma of papal infallibility. Döllinger accepted excommunication and loss of position rather than accept what he believed to be dogma that was new innovations and nowhere to be found in the authentic depositum fidei.