Protestant by Habit

When Nolan and I were in college, he took a class that used the book, The Holiness of God, written by R.C. Sproul.  The book had a tremendous impact on Nolan and he went on to read more of Sproul’s work.  Sproul is the head of Ligonier Ministries in Pennsylvania and a well-known Reformed theologian.  Later on during our ministry, Nolan ordered a series of videos Sproul had done aimed at youth.  I don’t recall the title of the series, but it was excellent.  However, there was one comment Sproul made in that video that had a very unexpected impact on me.

He said, “I am Protestant by conviction.”

That struck me quite strongly because I had recently started to ask some friends of ours, who were Catholic, a few questions.  My concern was to try to figure out whether Catholics were actually Christians or not.

John and Chris were not just Catholics, but knowledgeable ones.  I also knew from a few conversations with them that they took their faith very seriously.  On one occasion I mentioned to Chris the possibility of someday one of our kids and one of theirs dating.  A strange look passed her face and I said, “Would ours have to be a Catholic to marry one of yours?”   With a look of cautious concern (she didn’t want to offend, but had to be truthful), Chris nodded.  Dating and marrying a non-Catholic was not be an option they wanted for their kids.  Interesting, I thought.  Nolan and I felt the same way about ours.

John and Chris had moved since that conversation, but we kept up through e-mail and I started asking them a few questions about how they viewed salvation, etc.   While Nolan saw this as an evangelization opportunity, I was surprised that they not only gave reasonable and scriptural answers, but asked some questions back that, as I thought them through, didn’t have answers I considered truly solid (I’ll get back to this later.)

Now, here I was listening to RC Sproul talking about being Protestant by conviction.  I turned to Nolan, “I’m not Protestant by conviction; I’m Protestant by habit.  I’ve never considered anything else.”  Nolan and I had our college degrees and a lifetime of studying and memorizing Scripture, but had we ever really looked at anyone else’s beliefs or just assumed our own were correct?  It was a question that stuck in my head for a very long time.