Peter Smith of the courier-journal out of Louisville gives us an interesting story morning Married, ex-Baptist minister to become Catholic priest. Sad, but interesting story about former baptist pastor David Harris converting to Catholicism. So why the question “Roman Catholic Baptist?” Smith’s story begins.
David Harris never considered his conversion to Catholicism six years ago to be a rejection of the Baptist faith that nourished him from childhood in Eastern Kentucky.
How does a man with an M. Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary come to this conclusion? I understand that there are areas in our seminaries that need improvement, but I didn’t think that theological education touching on what Rome teaches vs. what Southern Baptists’ teach was one such area. Nor did it seem that Rome was so unclear on the issue since calling us “separated brethren” sure tells us something is amiss from their position.
What is interesting is that he will be a married Roman Catholic priest. Since the Vatican will be giving Harris approval on this I doubt much, if any, opposition will be seen. Another interesting observation from a Catholic spiritual director is the very argument I’ve heard used as a reason why priests should be allowed to marry is practical experience.
“He understands what it’s like to be married, to have children, to have that life, besides being a very spiritual person”
Harris is own pope?
Protestants get charged with being their own pope as basis for their spiritual, theological and biblical interpretive decisions. You can see one of many examples in Steve Hays’ post Self-popery where he answers the charge. So what of Harris? On whose authority did he submit to Rome? Not only on his own authority, but it seems that it was his experience that drew him.
Harris said he was captivated by its vision of a deep contemplative prayer life and began reading more of Catholic spirituality, including works by 20th-century Kentucky author-monk Thomas Merton.
So not only do we have another warning to heed here about contemplative prayer, but this also shows that Harris was relying on self in making this decision. Some may argue that’s a bit reductionistic, however, existentialism does reduce to self reliance.
The Lord’s Supper
I have no idea what Harris’ own thoughts are on the Lord’s Supper, but the reporter in the story states.
Baptists believe the Lord’s Supper is strictly a symbol, while Catholics see it as in essence the body and blood of Jesus.
While that statement is not necessarily inaccurate it doesn’t say enough to its readers. Just take a look at some examples from the 1689 London Baptist Confession on the Lord’s Supper.
…spiritual nourishment and growth in Christ, and to strengthen the ties that bind them to all the duties they owe to Him. The Lord’s supper is also a bond and pledge of the fellowship which believers have with Christ and with one another. …a spiritual offering up of all possible praise to God for the once-for-all work of Calvary. …receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and receive all the benefits accruing from His death. This they do really and indeed, not as if feeding upon the actual flesh and blood of a person’s body, but inwardly and by faith.
Now the Roman Catholic position of transubstantiation says that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ.
That the consequence of Transubstantiation, as a conversion of the total substance, is the transition of the entire substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, is the express doctrine of the Church (Council of Trent, Sess. XIII, can. ii). –Catholic Encyclopedia.
There is just a greater difference than let on in the article.
On Rome’s Authority
Moving from existentialism to Rome’s teaching Harris apparently understood enough.
“I’ve come to understand enough of it that I began to believe and trust in the … teaching arm of the church”
I wonder what “enough” is? I certainly wonder this in light of the beginning statement of not having to reject his baptist roots to become Catholic. This again comes back to Harris himself in deciding and accepting what he sees as correct. And if you accept “enough” does the rest just automatically follow? I believe that if one just accepts Rome’s authority that this just may be the method of accepting all of her teachings. I wonder if Harris would fall along the same lines as Beckwith as seen in some of James White’s questions.
I’m Okay You’re Okay
Apparently his family is supportive of his move to Rome.
His wife and sons remain Baptist, but support him…
Why? How? How does one’s spouse make such a drastic religious move like this alone? Who will now be the spiritual head of the home? Maybe his former baptist church should initiate church discipline.
“I’m real happy for him,” said his brother, Mike, of Louisa. “My brother has always had a fantastic heart for people.”
David Harris said his mother had the most difficulty with his conversion.
“At this point she’s real supportive.”
I wonder what brought Harris’ mother from a position of difficulty to support. I would hope she’d change her mind. Pretending that Protestants and Roman Catholics are united doesn’t make it so no matter how nice it sounds and feels. The differences are drastic hence the current and continued divide. Another example of why theology matters.
For what it’s worth…