In my Protestant life, I held a lot of default positions that I had never given much thought.
One of my main default positions was that the Catholic Church was, at least in some very important ways, wrong.
I had this default because of growing up where I did, and how I did. I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t even know the reasons I rejected Catholic teaching, I just believed they were wrong based on things people said to me over the years. It was the view I was taught. But I realized, as I found myself restless in my faith, that just because I grew up with something was not enough of a justification for me to assume it as correct.
It was an important step for me to acknowledge the default position I learned, but it was also important not to assume that default position is I held was necessarily the right one.
Below are some of my Protestant default positions, and then the questions I started asking to allow myself to be more fair and balanced in determining from what viewpoint I was going to approach my faith.
I believed that if there was Truth out there, my taking an honest and fair evaluation of my default positions would lead me closer to it. Truth need not fear an inquiring and honest heart.
Default 1) The Catholic Church is in error
Questions that challenged my default view: What valid justification do I have to not give the Catholic Church a fair and objective examination? Is it possible my lack of knowledge about what the Catholic Church teaches is impacting my opinion of it? What gaps do I have in my own understanding of the development of my Christian faith that has informed this belief?
Default 2) The Catholic Bible has books that are not canonical
Questions: Why does the Protestant church have 7 less books than the Catholic Bible? Where in history did that happen? Which books were removed, and for what reason? Did those who made those changes have the authority to do so?
Default 3) We all pretty much believe the same thing, the differences aren’t important
Questions: God gave us an infallible book- wouldn’t he have given us a means to interpret it correctly? Is it fair to assume that it isn’t important to God if the Truth’s of Scripture are known accurately by Christians, or is it? And if it is, who has a claim to interpretive authority that can be backed by the history of the Christian faith as well as the scriptures?
Default 4) Praying to saints is wrong
Questions: What do Catholics mean when they use the word prayer in this context? Do they mean the same thing I mean when I use the word ‘pray?’ Are those in heaven aware of those of us on earth? And if they are aware, why don’t I ask those who have gone before me and are now in heaven to pray for me?
Default 5) Sola Scriptura, Bible Alone
Questions: Where is the evidence for sola scriptura in scripture? It is an authority but is there anywhere in Scripture that claims it to be the final and ultimate authority? What did the earliest Christians do before the New Testament was written and before the canon was confirmed? What does the Bible have to say about the role of the Church and Tradition?
Default 6) Worship should be relevant to the culture.
Questions: What role does church history and traditional Christian practices have in the church today? What value could be found in practicing our faith in a manner similar to the earliest Christians? And what have we lost in the name of cultural relevance?
Default 7) Catholics focus too much on Mary
Questions: What did the early Christians attribute to Mary and why? How can I justify the differences in my view of Mary and the view of Mary of the historical church- including certain views held by Luther and Calvin? Is my discomfort with these teachings due to their falsehood or due to the fact that I am too far separated from the beliefs of the historical Christian Church?
A Default of Ignorance
I found, in my exploration, that I was so entirely ignorant of Catholic teaching because of these original default positions. But I was also ignorant of the history of our faith and what the earliest Christians professed to be true.
Once I opened myself up to the possibility of a different position than the default I had grown up with, I was both surprised and not surprised. Each and every default I had against the Catholic Church turned out to be a misconception. Something I misunderstood or understood incompletely. And once I opened a small crack in the door to the idea to give that which I thought was so wrong a fair shot, I was overwhelmed with depth and truth. Logic and consistency. The beauty of a combination of the thoughts of many, many Christian souls who had gone before me.
And I found myself on my way to living a life of gratitude and peace within the Catholic Church.