Monday, January 31, 2011
EXCLUSIVE: Interview With An Anti-Catholic Aggie Turned Catholic Theologian
Marcel LeJeune - "Taylor, you are both an Aggie and a Catholic, but you haven't always been an Aggie Catholic. Can you tell our readers about your story? "
Taylor Marshall - "I was not always drawn to the Catholic Church. I once resisted it with great force. As a college student at Texas A&M I believed that Pope John Paul II was the Antichrist, and boldly concluded that the Catholic Church was the Scarlet Whore of Babylon described by Saint John in the Apocalypse. My freshman and sophomore year I attended Grace Bible Church in College Station and was highly involved in the Evangelical group Campus Crusade for Christ. I went to China as a missionary during the summer after my freshman year.
I eventually became a Presbyterian through Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Texas A&M and then an Anglican/Episcopalian after I graduated. I graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary and then Nashotah House Theological Seminary. I was ordained an Anglican/Episcopalian priest in 2005.
I entered the Catholic Church because I believe with all my heart that the Church is the Body of Christ. As Saint Paul once wrote, "Love believes all things" (1 Cor 13:7), and I believe that the Church isn't merely an institution, but that she is the Mystical Body of Christ.
He is the head of the Body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything He might be pre-eminent (Col 1:18).
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church (Col 1:24).
That you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).
The "Church question" is therefore unavoidable. The biblical description of "the Church" cannot be equated with a local congregation or voluntary club. It is something much more. The Church is not the "invisible Soul" of Christ, she is the visible "Body of Christ." There is no such thing as "an invisible Church," because the Church is defined as "the Body" which is a visible, empirical reality.
Secondly, since the Church is the Body of Christ, then she must also be one. Christ cannot be divided. We must belong to a visible and united reality.
Thirdly, I became convinced that Christ instituted this Church to be authoritative on earth ("whatever you bind on earth"). He appointed Apostles and He promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church. The only way Hell could prevail against the Church is for the Church to be in error. To deny the Truth is to deny Christ Who is the Truth. Consequently, the true Church must be free from error. As Saint Paul wrote, the Church is "the pillar and ground of truth." The doctrine that the Church is the pillar and ground of truth is in the Bible, which I hold to be infallible.
When I was an Anglican priest, I basically accepted the Catholic "package." I believed in the importance of the sacraments, the priesthood, Apostolic succession, tradition (to a certain extent), the infallibility of Scripture with respect to faith and morals, the communion of the saints, the centrality of Christ, the role of Mary in the incarnation of Christ, etc. However, I was not willing to grant the Roman claim that the fullness of the Church "subsists" in the Catholic Church under the pastoral oversight of the Pope.
I believed that the Church consisted visibly of all baptized and faithful believers. Consequently, the Church was "visible" in a certain sense. It was "one" in that all the baptized faithful consisted of one single "group." However, the problem lay in that this "group" was not free from error. In fact, as I experienced it as an Anglican priest, the Church was indeed plagued with heresy. There was no final authority for truth, except the Bible and then even the Bible might be subjected to many conflicting interpretations.
In Anglicanism alone, even among the "conservatives" there were Low Churchmen (more Protestant) and High Churchmen (more Catholic). These doctrinal parties never could unite together in order to fight the evil liberals who also carried a very different interpretation of Christianity. So my quest was one for authority. The ultimate "breaking point" for me was the realization that the Episcopal Church officially condoned abortion and supports groups like Planned Parenthood. I couldn't in good conscience persevere in fellowship with those who stood silent about the destruction of our society's most vulnerable members.
The argument for the authority of Rome is not sophisticated. It is simply that Christ instituted St Peter to bind and loose on earth (clearly "earth" denotes universal jurisdiction) and that this office is protected by the Holy Spirit so that the Church will never be led into error in the realm of faith (doctrine) and morals (ethics). The buck stops with Peter and with his successors in Rome, which includes the present Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI. This charism for truth is not based on the moral superiority of the popes or their intellectual astuteness. It is based in the power of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the promise of Christ made to Peter and the Apostles."
Marcel LeJeune - "What do you have to say to our non-Catholic readers about the Catholic faith? "
Taylor Marshall - "To non-Catholic readers I would ask them to contemplate a blog post that I wrote entitled: “Catholic Challenge for Protestants”. It essentially goes like this: “As a Protestant, how do you know that the book of Esther (or 3 John) is inspired by God and belongs to the canon of Scripture” Sure, it’s printed in your Bible, but how do you know for sure?”
Now the Catholic Christian can answer this question in confidence because he believes that the Church is infallible and that she can thereby infallibly decree which books are inspired and which books are not. The Protestant cannot do this because he doesn’t believe in an infallible Church.
This little exercise reveals that Protestants cannot have infallible knowledge of the books of the Bible – hence their claim to the “Bible alone” is undercut by their claim that there is not an infallible Church on earth to make such a clarification. It’s a somewhat complicated argument, but once somebody sees that the list for the books of the Bible requires an infallible Church for ratification, Catholicism becomes the only clear option since it alone claims infallibility."
Marcel LeJeune - "If you had us read one post from your blog, which would it be? "
Taylor Marshall - "This might be cheating, but if I could get readers to click on anything on my blog, I would hope that they would listen to a podcast, especially the podcasts we’ve recorded on Saint Paul. College students are very busy, but they have iPods. Podcasts are therefore easier and more time efficient than blog posts. So please download the podcasts via iTunes or on the blog."
Marcel LeJeune - "Can you tell us a bit about your book? Where can our readers buy a copy (we already have a copy in our library)? "
The Crucified Rabbi describes how Christ and the Catholic Church fulfill over 300 Jewish prophecies about the Messiah and his Messianic kingdom on earth. It goes through the seven sacraments, the Pope, the Blessed Virgin, architecture, vestments, and even the afterlife—all by examining how Catholicism was the natural and proper fulfillment of the Jewish expectations found in the Old Testament. The book is available at Catholic bookstores and through Amazon.com.
I just wrote The Crucified Rabbi’s “sequel” entitled The Catholic Perspective on Paul and it's also available at amazon.com and Catholic bookstores. This book continues on the Jewish theme but shows how Saint Paul has been hijacked throughout history and how the authentic Saint Paul was thoroughly and robustly Catholic. The last chapter touches on Paul’s mission to Rome and its significance for Roman Catholicism."
Marcel LeJeune - "What plans do you have for the future? "
Taylor Marshall - "Currently, I’m working on a Ph.D. at the Catholic University of Dallas on philosophy. My interest lies in the natural law theory of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
The third part of the Catholic books series should be out by next year. It’s entitled The Eternal City: Rome and the Origins of Catholic Christianity. It continues the themes of Crucified Rabbi and Catholic Perspective on Paul but examines the theological significance of Rome for the Catholic Church. Of the three books in the trilogy, I’m most excited about this one.
I’m also working on an annotated translation of Saint Augustine’s famous book On Nature and Grace—hopefully also published sometime next year.
Most importantly, Joy is pregnant with our sixth baby - a boy. We're excited and trying to figure out a name. Currently, I'm going for Joseph or Raphael."
Marcel LeJeune - "What is your favorite Aggie tradition?"
Taylor Marshall - "My favorite tradition by far is singing the Aggie War Hymn. It’s probably blasphemous to say that it’s my “favorite hymn,” but I’m always filled with pride when I lock arms with fellow Ags and sing this “hymn.” I was recently at a wedding with tons of Ags and we locked up and sang the Aggie War Hymn at the reception. Nothing stirs my blood like singing, “Saw varsity's horns off!” and rocking back forth. It’s surreal even after so many years."
Thanks to Taylor for taking the time to do this interview with us. Be sure to visit Taylor's blog.
This is the first in what will be a series of features on Aggie Catholics who are changing the culture.