I'm supposed to spend the next week in prayer and scripture trying to figure out what religion I'm going to be in the end. I think it's a bad plan to just go by one's heart, but everyone seems to have suggested it. I've had Protestant moments and Catholic moments. I just need clarity. I think it's a pretty even balance as all my personal benefits fall on the Protestant side, and all my intellectual prowess falls on the Catholic side.
I feel so strange not having a specific creed. I feel like I'm standing infront of a table, and on the table is a Catholic Catechism, a Book of Concord, and the Westminster Confession of faith. I feel like I understand each of them fairly well. Although no one else seems to agree on this point. It will be interesting to see what a week will do (probably nothing), I keep asking God which side to choose, but he seems annoyingly bi-partisan. I'm finding comfort in the Psalms though, as always.
I was thinking about Edward Gibbon today, the famous English historian who I enjoy reading when I feel cynical. When he was at Magdalen college (where C.S. Lewis was I believe), he faced a rationalist theologian (I think he was CofE) and defended miracles based on the famous Catholic preacher, Bishop Boussett's writings, and eventually converted to Roman Catholicism. His father pulled him out of school, and sent him to Switzerland to live with a Reformed Pastor. Eventually his father said if he didn't revert to Protestantism he would disinherit Edward, and so Edward re-converted on Christmas Day. He said the Romish creed disappeared then from his mind like a dream. After that he wrote scathingly against all organized religion, and was known by some as the father of the English Enlightenment.
I tend to go with the existentialists and postmoderns who say that you cannot but be affected by what you are taught. My mom was trying to give me the Billy Graham / Baptist altar call talk today about 'trusting in the cross' we got in a fight when I told her how complex it was and that she hadn't studied the nature of the debate or understood it at all. I think I wish Edward Gibbon were around today so that I could talk with him. I am a blender of confused theology. I have the Evangelical Arminian decision theology that I was raised with, blended with the Methodism and Biblicism I learned in England, mixed with the Calvinism and Reformed theology I've read everywhere from Karl Barth to Jonathon Edwards, blended with the catholic moralism and neoplatonism of the Fathers, countered by the polemicism of Luther, Calvin, Loyola, and Bellarmine, blended with the Roman Catholic romanticism of Chesterton, Waugh, and Newman, blended with the intellectual foundation of Thomism, attacked by the Fideism of Kierkegaard, the subjectivism of Kant, the skepticism of Sartre, and all topped off with a liberal scoop of C.S. Lewis. My mind, is like a bunch of wires that short circuit now. Whenever someone says an evangelical-ism or a truism, all the arguments start going off in my head like a bar room brawl.
For example. I'll just pick trite phrases people have told me in the last few days and how I react to them inside.
"Do whatever makes you happy" - John Stuart Mill, utilitarianistic hedonism, selfishness, but could also be understood in the Augustinian/Aristotelian/Thomistic framework of choosing whatever ultimately is best for me. But most decisions in life don't make me happy, I should exercise even though it doesn't make me happy, but if I followed this advice I never would.
"Just follow the Bible" - Whose interpretation of the bible should I have? which book should I start at? If I read the Pauline epistles I will lean towards Protestantism, but if I read the Johannine literature I will lean towards Rome. Should I think bishops when I read apostles? should I think magesterium when I read church? Should I think Total Depravity when I read Sin and Adam? Who wrote the bible? Do the Fathers have the right to interpret it? or is it as Luther said, that they are soot-filled bags that poison the spiritual milk of the Word? Kant said you should only do things if you are to make them universal maxims, and I definately don't think everyone should just read the bible for themselves and interpret it without proper education, it is a hard book to understand.
"Just pray" - If the Calvinists are right and I am outside God's grace, then he won't listen to my prayers, if the Catholics are right my soul is dead and unable to access God's grace or resurrect my soul in order to hear from him or feel the leading of the Spirit. How should I pray? How will I know what an answer is and what an arbitrary idealization of my own random thoughts is present? Should I pray my Rosary or not? Should I use my Prayer book (Anglican) or will that lead me astray? Why should I pray if God already has made up his mind? If God is Good by nature, why would I pray to ask him to be good, wouldn't he already do whatever is best by necessity?
so ya. Lil bit confused... I just know I don't want to make decisions based on what other people are telling me, I have Catholics emailing me patristic citations, and Evangelicals inviting me to their bible churches, and an Atheist co-worker came up to me the other day and congratulated me for leaving Roman Catholicism like she had when she became an Atheist. (I wanted to kill myself because of the sin of scandal that I've caused with all of this). I have parents preaching, a girlfriend who is trying to be impartial (but favours her native Anglicanism), and even though I was trying not to think about it today, I looked down at my shoes which our Catholic chaplain bought me on a pilgrimage. Even my shoes are reminding me of the Reformation.
I'm gonna read some Psalms and try to get some exercise.