Over the past few years, Francis Beckwith, the former President of the Evangelical Theological Society who reverted to the Catholic Faith, has popularized the notion of an “Evangelical Catholic.” This is someone who is faithfully Catholic but at the same time embraces many of the good things of Evangelical Protestantism, such as a zeal for evangelizing and a deep love of the Scriptures.
But what exactly does it mean to be an Evangelical Catholic? Fr. Phillip De Vous of the Diocese of Covington, KY has composed “Eight principles of Evangelical Catholicism,” (posted over at Rich Leonardi’s blog Ten Reasons) which are a great summary of Evangelical Catholicism:
During the nearly twenty-seven years of his pontificate, John Paul the Great called the Church to the urgent mission of fulfilling the Great Commission in our time, a project he called the New Evangelization. This evangelical summons of John Paul continued the same call given to the Church by Pope Paul VI in the years of and after the Second Vatican Council, and now the same commitment to announcing the timeless truths of the Gospel with new ardor, new methods, and new conviction is being asked of us by Pope Benedict XVI.
By our Baptism we are called to receive the Gospel as a complete, coherent, comprehensive Way of Life and to submit our entire lives in the obedience of faith to the Lord Jesus. Everything about us must be measured and guided by the Gospel: our thoughts, words, actions, bodies, relationships, spending habits, political convictions, leisure activities, lifestyle choices, and business decisions. But this total surrender to Christ and His Gospel is not a restriction of our freedom; in fact, it is the beginning of authentic discipleship and the only path to evangelical liberty. As the Lord Jesus teaches, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31 -32).
Another way of expressing our commitment to the work of the New Evangelization is to say that we must become Evangelical Catholics. By our Baptism, we are called to be men and women of the Gospel who are Christian disciples by conviction rather than Church members by convention. Being Evangelical Catholics requires that we know the Gospel, believe the Gospel, live the Gospel, and share the Gospel with others. Becoming Evangelical Catholics is a lifelong adventure of letting go of cafeteria, casual, and cultural Catholicism by accepting the liberating truth of the Word of God and living by grace through faith in the Son of God.
All Catholics are called by their Baptism to be Evangelical Catholics, which means (in part) living according to these eight principles of Evangelical Catholicism:
1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the crucified and risen Savior of all mankind, and no human person can fully understand his life or find his dignity and destiny apart from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It is not enough to know who Jesus is; we must know Jesus.
2. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is divine revelation, not human wisdom, and the Gospel is given to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition which together constitute a single divine deposit of faith transmitted authentically and authoritatively by the Bishops in full communion with the Bishop of Rome. We must surrender our private judgments in all matters of faith and morals to the sacred teaching authority of the Church’s Magisterium if we are to receive the whole Gospel.
3. The seven Sacraments of the New Covenant are divinely instituted instruments of grace given to the Church as the ordinary means of sanctification for believers. Receiving the Sacraments regularly and worthily is essential to the life of grace, and for this reason, faithful attendance at Sunday Mass every week (serious illness and necessary work aside) and regular Confession of sins are absolutely required for a life of authentic discipleship.
4. Through Word and Sacrament we are drawn by grace into a transforming union with the Lord Jesus, and having been justified by faith we are called to sanctification and equipped by the Holy Spirit for the good works of the new creation. We must, therefore, learn to live as faithful disciples and to reject whatever is contrary to the Gospel, which is the Good News of the Father’s mercy and love revealed in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.
6. Receiving the Sacraments without receiving the Gospel leads to superstition rather than living faith, and the Church must therefore take great care to ensure that those who receive the Sacraments also receive the Gospel in its integrity and entirety. Consequently, before Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, and Marriage are administered, there must be in those who request these Sacraments clear evidence of knowledge of the Gospel and a serious intention to live the Christian life.
7. Being a follower of Christ requires moving from being a Church member by convention to a Christian disciple by conviction. This transformation demands that we consciously accept the Gospel as the measure of our entire lives, rather than attempting to measure the Gospel by our experience. Personal knowledge of and devotion to Sacred Scripture is necessary for this transformation to occur through the obedience of faith, and there is no substitute for personal knowledge of the Bible. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.
8. All the baptized are sent in the Great Commission to be witnesses of Christ to others and must be equipped by the Church to teach the Gospel in word and deed. An essential dimension of true discipleship is the willingness to invite others to follow the Lord Jesus and the readiness to explain His Gospel.
In short, Catholics should personally know and love Jesus, encounter him in the Sacraments and the Scriptures, serve him faithfully in the Church, and tell others about his great love for us!