A very thoughtful letter from David Meyer that he writes to the members of the Presbysterian church he had attended and the reasons he is in the process of converting to the Catholic Church. I read the letter this weekend and the points he made have been in the back of my mind since then. I encourage you to read it first since it is well worth your time.
He notices that families have been leaving this church for reasons others than ones central to the Reformed faith and the reasons they left do to some aspect of authority. The problem with Sola Scriptura especially in regards to authority is an important one. What it always comes down to is to whose interpretation of scripture do you hold to and ultimately you become that interpreter since you pick the interpret that agrees with you.
The problem with this doctrine is that when a believer disagrees with the leaders he is supposed to submit to, he then finds other leaders that agree with his interpretation to submit to. This is not submitting to church authority, it is submitting to self. Submitting to yourself is just another way of saying you don’t submit at all! There is a helpful way to remember this concept:
“If I only submit when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.”
Amen to that. Submitting only to what you want is the very pick and choose that defines heresy in the first place.
The exact same thing can be said about obedience. A subject I have written about in the past that if you are only obedient on subjects you agree with then you are not really obedient at all. I think of the lives of the saints which have shown us holy obedience. That even when they were unjustly persecuted or given what might have been an task by a superior that was not prudential that the saint would be obedient without griping about it. Submitting ourselves to one outside of us is difficult — especially in the climate of radical individualism we have grown up in. Ultimately it is Christ we must submit ourselves to and we learn to do this also through submitting to those God has placed over us. Submission seems to have become a dirty word it seems — getting your way is where it is at.
So much if not all of the dissent within the Church comes down to disobedience and people submitting only to themselves or those who agree with them. Which is why so much of the dissent within the Church is akin to Protestantism in that where you disagree with the magisterium you find other like-minded dissenters to band with. This is true of progressives or radical traditionalists.
Those that disagree with the Church are not willing to be patient and to pray for the Church in regards to whatever they think the Church is wrong on. If they really believed the Holy Spirit was behind the changes they sought they would pray for this instead of taking the vain “I am right, and the Church has to catch up with me.” The vanities of the Martin Luther types against the Church thinking how brave and good they are. They have submitted to an authority that does not extend beyond their grasp.
He determines that his options are:
A. Remain with Reformed Christianity and continue the cycle of “self submission”, knowing in my heart it is wrong.
B. Some form of non-theism,
C.“Choose-your-own-adventure” Christianity that I self consciously make up for myself and do not worry about submitting to church authority.
D. Submit to a form of Christianity that does not subscribe to Sola Scriptura and which has a interpretive authority which can plausibly claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, so as to remove myself as the authority. Christianity that I self consciously make up for myself and do not worry about submitting to church authority.
“Choose-your-own-adventure” Christianity – talk about an accurate term. This describes so much. I have also called it “Mirror Christianity” as a pun on C.S. Lewis’ book and the fact that people are really affirming themselves in what they believe.
Mr. Meyer describes his reasons for choosing “D” and specifically the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church is the only option left. In many ways it is a bitter pill to swallow for me. I have been very critical of Catholic doctrine as a Protestant. Much that they believe I am not inclined to believe. But I will have to submit to the mind of what I must believe is the church Christ founded.
In my own conversion I came to believe in the Church before I believed in each of her doctrines. As an atheist I had less prejudices to deal with compared to Protestants coming into the Church – but still I had to work through each doctrine. The beauty of the Church is how accessible her doctrines are to reason once you are able to explore them and see the orchestra of truth that is the Catholic faith.
I pray that David Meyer and his family come to fully see that truth.
Hat tip to Francis Beckwith
I’m glad you liked my post. I love the term “mirror Christianity”. Quite clever and realistic! The quote: “If I only submit when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.” is actually from Bryan Cross from Called to Communion. I should have atributed it.
The quote you give of my “options” had a formatting goof btw.
What a brilliant post – so clear once I read it, but not something I had ever considered before.
What a great write up. I read David’s piece out loud to my husband, who jumped the Tiber in 2009. What a great discussion piece on submission and obedience. Thanks so much, to you both for sharing this!! May God bless you!
We should give credit to David Meyer for writing to his former church, describing to them his feelings and intentions. Informing his friends and fellow members at his Presbyterian Church (PC) of his actions was the right thing to do. However, I certainly take issue with his choosing the Catholic Church, and his reasons for going there.
Mr. Miller, you complain that Sola Scriptura always comes down to the “problem” of choosing whose interpretation of Scripture to hold to. But we ALL have to make that choice, whether it’s the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church, or whoever. Mr. Meyer was concerned about “removing himself as an authority,” but HE still has to choose which authority he will follow. He chose his authority when he joined the PC, and he chose his authority when he joined the Catholic Church. There is no escaping it. The point is that a person will ALWAYS have to choose to whom he will submit. He may be right or he may be wrong, but everyone chooses… and it will always be a fallible choice, because there is no “infallible certainty” for humans.
David Meyer must choose his authority, just as the Protestant must choose. He CHOSE to break away from a Protestant church he was in because he felt they were wrong (and that’s fine). But he used his fallible mind in choosing to make a fallible decision to join his “infallible” church. So why do you and Mr. Meyer blame Protestants for choosing whom THEY will submit to?
The Bible does indeed say that we are to submit to our leaders (Hebrews 13:7, 17). But what if your priest tells you to do something that is clearly WRONG? Or what if your priest is teaching a false doctrine? Should you submit then?
The Apostle Paul said to “Imitate me, AS I IMITATE CHRIST” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But how does one know if his leader is imitating Christ? We must look to the infallible Source that tells us all about Christ (Scripture). Paul didn’t say, “Ignore Scripture, check your mind out at the door and just follow me.” No, we must all use our fallible minds to evaluate whether our leaders are conforming to God’s Word.
Mr. Miller, with all due respect, you can deny it all you want, and you can put all the spin on it you want, but every Catholic has already (fallibly) chosen his authority and the interpretations of that authority, and he needs to quit pretending otherwise.
Here is a related link that explains my point well: