|Billy Graham Center, home of Wheaton|
College's Bible & Theology Dept
The Wheaton College professor went on to explain that he was raised protestant and had simply always been protestant, and honestly did not have a good reason he wasn't Catholic.
I wanted to ask this particular professor my question because I had heard about a recent happening in one of his classes that had caught my attention: apparently, in a recent theology course he was teaching, a person asked a question wondering on what authority those who subscribe to sola scriptura have accepted their biblical canon, and he responded: "Did everyone hear that? He just pulled the whole rug out from under us." Unfortunately, it was at the end of class, and there wasn't time for further discussion.
I was struck by three things in his response to my question: that he didn't have a reason why he wasn't Catholic, the humility in his honest response, and his indictment of Catholics: he had never been invited to be Catholic.
As our conversation continued, the question of Church authority came up, and he explained that he accepted the early Church councils, such as Nicaea, and that he wanted to believe that they actually had authority, that they actually settled something.
"So if you accept Nicaea, why not Trent?" I asked.
I was stunned, in the very least by his utter transparency to a student on these foundational issues. Now, he certainly was not just about to join the Catholic Church. But here was a Bible/Theology professor at the Harvard of evangelical schools, a place that does not allow Catholics on staff, admitting that his beliefs regarding the early Church councils seem to imply he should accept all of the Church's councils, including one that condemned basic Protestant doctrines.
Since he had said that he accepted Nicaea and other early councils, I asked what he made of the line in the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed: "I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church". He said that the word 'catholic' wasn't used as a proper name in the early church. I told him that actually it was and directed him on his computer to Augustine's Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, in which Augustine clearly speaks of the Catholic Church as a specific Church separate from other groups of people who call themselves Christians (see ch 4). He said he had never seen that before.
We shook hands and concluded our conversation.