“Catholic Evangelical”, this is how I’ve come to see myself over the years. It sounds like a strange pairing of words, as though it sounds like I make Catholicism and Evangelicalism bedfellows, and that itself seems “just not right.”
Actually I don’t see it as the pairing of Catholicism and Evangelicalism, but a natural union of the broad Catholic and Evangelical Traditions.
The original Evangelicals of the 16th century–Martin Luther and Co.–were not Catholic dissenters, but Catholic reformers. Their goal was to reform the Catholic Church, not break away and create a new one. Protestantism was born because the Roman Catholic powers-that-be chose to sever ties with those who agreed with Luther and his ideas by declaring them schismatics and heretics.
Also, I don’t see why the Roman Catholic Church should have a monopoly on the word, “Catholic”, as though we agreed that that ecclesiastical institution governed by the Pope and his Curia was the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The Church was called “Catholic” almost a thousand years before the Filioque Controversy and the Great Schism of 1054, thus a thousand years before we can genuinely speak of a “Roman Catholic Church”, with the implication that it’s Roman precisely because the Papal Chair is located in Rome, the See of St. Peter.
I see myself as an Evangelical Christian within the broad Catholic Tradition; I see myself as a Catholic Christian within the broad Evangelical Tradition.
Catholic because I affirm the Fathers, the Creeds, the Traditions, and Sacraments of the ancient Catholic Faith.
Evangelical because I affirm the Reformers, Confessions, Teachings and Ideals of the original Evangelical Reform.
It is no great effort for me to on the one hand say that Baptism is the Means of Grace by which we are made partakers of the Life of God–by which God takes hold of us and makes us Christians; and on the other hand speak of Sola Fide, because faith, being a gift from God, is that by which we take hold of God as He originally took hold of us in Baptism.
I do not see the Sacramental Life of the Church as supplementing the “Merit of Christ”, but as the means by which God communicates the “Merit of Christ” to us.
It is no strange wonder, then, that I have identified myself with the Lutheran tradition. Though I have never been a member of a Lutheran church nor truly self-identified as “Lutheran”, for I believe doing so would be disingenuous.
Also, in calling myself Catholic and Evangelical, I feel liberated in both. I am free to question both the Catholic and the Evangelical Tradition.
Ultimately such labels have no eternal reward, it honestly doesn’t matter what I call myself, because ultimately I am only Christian. But having a “tag”, so to speak, that helps identify where I stand theologically and practically within the Universal Church should help people see where I stand and better facilitate dialog and discussion.
If the Pope can draw his line in the sand, I don’t see why I can’t.