Do you have one foot in and one foot out?

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It’s sad that most of us only halfway live our faith.

In many instances this means we take only half the teachings of the Church. Or we only live our faith out half the time. That’s typical. And maybe that means we’re halfway there.

But there is a deeper sense of halfway living our faith that is all too common – perhaps far more common. It’s that we only half-believe. We half embrace. We only halfway follow our beliefs to their logical conclusion.

Unfortunately, fully embracing one’s faith these days is seen as fanatical. It’s okay to be Christian, as long as you don’t fully believe it and live it out. We say it’s only reasonable to treat your faith as moderately important. But if you fully believe it…well, now you’re acting unreasonable. You’ll quickly be labeled as an extremist.

It’s reasonable to make religion a part of your life.  But don’t go making it the most important part!  That’s just crazy!

Somehow, it is reasonable to be half-Christian. It is reasonable to sort-of live out our Christian faith. But it is somehow unreasonable to live it out in full? To actually treat its teachings as actually true? To follow them to their logical ends? To attempt to actually do what it asks us to do? Somehow that is unreasonable?

The truth is that there is nothing at all reasonable about a half-believed Christianity. There is nothing reasonable about halfway living it out. If it is true, it is everything. It is the only thing. It is true freedom.

If it is false, it is total imprisonment. It’s a lie, a ruse – it’s of no importance whatsoever.

Somehow we’ve gotten comfortable living our faith halfway.  We’ve got one foot in the Church and one foot out.  We’re ready to hop in or out depending on which best suits our present situation.  And many of us do it without even realizing it because we’ve grown up not knowing any other way.

Are we truly living a Christian life if we’ve got one foot in and one foot out?  Not really.  Being a Christian is a “both feet in” kind of endeavour.  Any other brand is not the real thing.

“Living out one’s faith is either no way to live or it’s the only way to live; it’s either imprisonment, or the only path to freedom. It offers happiness, or it frustrates the pursuit. There is no half-love, half-religion, half-worship, half-belief, half-truth.” – Tarek Saab, Gut Check

One foot in and one foot out is no way to live.

40 comments Add comment

Thomas DePauw March 30, 2009 at 9:08 pm

I completely agree. I have been telling every Catholic that I know the same thing; and yet some of them think I am unreasonable for insisting that we should live out our faith completely. It’s considered “stupid”, “unrealistic”, and “naive” by many of those I know. The truth is that a half-lived faith is worthless, and has no meaning, as well as being hypocritical. This is yet another great note by you, Matt.

Brian Walsh March 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Solid.

Tess March 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm

This was an especially good one. I can’t understand how people can say that conflicting views are equally true. Great point.

Jon D. Wilke March 31, 2009 at 7:35 am

Great post Matt!
The Lord Jesus says, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” It’s that known truth that sets people free, but so many people today don’t even know what they believe anymore.

Ben March 31, 2009 at 7:53 am

Faith and religion are not necessarily completely overlapping. Our religion has been wrong in the past, now and will be wrong in the future on various points. The internal dialogue of the Church is the vehicle through which the Holy Spirit works to mold and shape the Church. I would probably be labeled by conservative Catholics as a “Cafeteria Catholic” because I don’t 100% agree with everything that comes from the Vatican. My faith however is strong and I believe in everything that I pray in the Credo at Mass each week. Many of our greatest Saints and theologians were at one time considered heretical. Here’s to that tradition!

Deblette June 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

When you say you believe in One, Holy and Apostolic Church, you are saying you believe in the teachings of the Catholic faith. When you say AMEN and receive the Body of Christ, you are saying you believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church. If your faith is strong, if your faith is true, if you are being led by the Holy Spirit, you will believe and stand up for ALL the Church teaches because you will be able to recognize the Truth. If that isn’t happening for you, then, sorry, you need to work a bit more on that faith and work is some trust there too. If you applaud heretics, yea, might want one to work on that one too.
The definition of a cafeteria catholic is one who only follows the things that do not interfer with his own personal sins. He lives for himself, not for God. Keep up the faith though. We all grow in our journey.

Brian Walsh March 31, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Ben – Has not God revealed more to us in the past 2000 years than simply the creed? For example… abortion. Abortion is not in the creed nor the 10 commandments, etc.. But it is evil. Also, protestants recite the creed at their Sunday services too but they are not Catholic.

Jack du Toit March 31, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Ben – You make a great point, and speak the mind of many. Most of the “doctors of the church” were radicals of their time that brought about reform and change. That’s even why most of them have their own orders. The church, while divinely inspired, is still led by men that are capable of making mistakes. I’m not suggesting that the whole religion is a mistake, nor pointing to any one issue. I’m simply saying the formula for a mistake is there and within reason. I’m also probably labeled as a cafeteria Catholic, which is fine by me, because many people I look up to in history are precisely the same way. Just as a simple analogy, I am proud to call myself American, but I don’t support every last detail of what our government does. What’s important is that I believe in the underlying principles and TRUST America to be on the right path because of it. Nuff said.

Deblette June 6, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Great analogy. Following God and His Church is like being an American, but not really liking the government too much? Yes. Nuff said.
I can tell you one person in history who would have no problem with anything the Church teaches and that would be Jesus Christ himself. His Church is holy. It’s members are not. It”s mission is to protect and teach the faith handed down by Christ and his Apostles. It is not to change to suit the moods of the current society. Boy, I am so very happy that the Apostles stood their ground and followed the Lord.If they had done the pick and choose method to ease their own consciences or make their life easier, we wouldn’t knowledge of Jesus Christ. Would you die for your faith? If you wouldn’t, then you don’t have it.

Matthew Warner March 31, 2009 at 10:54 pm

ben and Jack…I challenge you to name one Doctor of the Church (post-conversion of course) that was a “cafeteria catholic”?

There is plenty of room within the Catholic Church for diversity – that is quite obvious. But it is dangerous when Catholics believe they can take their own liberty in going against the consistent teaching of the Church. Anything taught definitively in the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium of the Church is infallible teaching and all Catholics are obligated to it. There is no such thing as a “Cafeteria” catholic. You’re either Catholic or you aren’t.

There is a diversity of ways to express and live that out – no doubt. And many of the great saints were the first to do so in their own unique way and left us great treasures in the process. But they did not oppose in good faith the dogma of the Church.

We MUST make that distinction. Too many these days claim to be Catholic and do not even follow the dogma of the Church (which is far more than just the creed). And they are quite comfortable doing so. But unfortunately, they are missing the best parts! Both feet in guys! it’s the only way to go! :-)

David DeCasien April 1, 2009 at 8:45 am

Jesus said, “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16-17) Not a position someone would want to find themselves!

Jennifer (Conversion Diary) April 1, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Excellent. I couldn’t agree more. I am a convert from lifelong atheism, and this is one of the things that most puzzled me when I was on the outside looking in. I would wonder: Do you believe that this Church’s teachings are inspired by the Holy Spirit, a prescription for being in harmony with your Creator, or not? And if you do, why does that not inform every move you make? Lukewarm Christianity is not something I’ve ever understood.

Anyway, I’m glad to have discovered your blog. I’ll be back!

LeAnn April 1, 2009 at 7:07 pm

This not Christian woman couldn’t agree more! While I do not share your religious beliefs, I find your thoughts fascinating and refreshing. Nothing drives me more crazy than a person who labels or associates themselves with a group, religion or other only half heartedly. I find it mind boggling that when dealing with something as important as your religion, morals,or ethics that one thinks they can pick and choose what is convenient for them in order to associate themselves with “the group.” thank you!

Eric Ewanco April 1, 2009 at 8:57 pm

When my faith started to awaken, I was very zealous about being a Catholic. But when I gave my life at 17 to Christ, I started following a more Evangelical Protestant path while remaining Catholic. I didn’t accept a lot of Catholicism even though I was enthusiastic about being one. One day when I was a junior in college a friend admonished me as a brother, saying that in order to be Catholic, you have to accept what the Church teaches. Frankly I did not know that. I had to fish or cut bait. Omitting the long story, that sparked (on one level; again long story) my embrace of orthodox Catholicism.

People are not evangelized, are not catechized. A lot of people are like I was, they genuinely do not know that they must embrace the whole faith. I am thankful for the man who told me. Maybe your blog post will do it for others.

Ken Foreman May 24, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Of all the comments thus far, I’ve appreciated yours the most. I was raised Evangelical Lutheran (ELCA, not Missouri Synod) and I converted to Catholicism after ten years of marriage, attending a Catholic church each Sunday with my wife.

In RCIA, I struggled with the concepts of what Martin Luther taught and what the Catholic Church teaches. Having not prayed for the intercession of saints, I wondered how God could value one man over another. Having not gone to a single pastor or priest for confession, I wondered how a single confessor could forgive me my sins rather than communal confession.

I have since joined, accepted, and been accepted by the Catholic Church but my journey did not end with my first Catholic Communion. I still struggle daily, and you could most certainly say I keep one foot in, one foot out.

While it’s reassuring that others have struggled with the same concerns that I do, it’s the most reassuring that there is a light in the darkness.

matt April 2, 2009 at 2:02 pm

wow. good piece. didn’t know you existed until today. I saw my brother put you on our twitter. Good stuff. I’ll be back as well.

thanks.

Erika April 2, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I agree with you! I am joining the Church next week, and one of the things I struggled with in the beginning of my conversion process was, “is it OK to be a ‘cafeteria catholic'”? I eventually decided that the answer was no (and was advised as such by my RCIA team)- you have put forth a well-stated summary here of why. Thanks.

Kimi April 2, 2009 at 10:53 pm

That all those who protect the young from destruction, abuse, and neglect may truly see the facts placed before us and use our God-given minds to act in accordance with Truth. May we not be distracted neither by personally gratifiying answers to complicated problems nor by the Pharisees of today. May we act from love more than misguided righteousness. Lord hear our prayer.

Matthew 22:

34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
 36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Kimi April 2, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Matthew, when you create your own teachings and present them as official Catholic teachings, I, as a Catholic am offended. You said, “Anything in the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium of the Church is infallible teaching and all Catholics are obligated to it.” However, this is simply not true. It is something made up outside of the church, much like folk stories of Jesus’ children in France. Here’s a more credible source:

“Most papal and conciliar teachings pertain to the Church’s ordinary teaching authority (magisterium) and are understood as authentic teachings—but not infallible in the sense of Vatican I’s teaching about infallibility.”

http://www.americancatholic.org/messenger/aug2004/Wiseman.asp

Please note that the only teachings that have been proclaimed ex cathedra (i.e. they fall under the 19th century doctrine of infallibility) are the teachings of the immaculate conception and ascension of Mary.

Matthew Warner April 3, 2009 at 8:08 am

Uhg, Kimi – I didn’t create any teachings. Just because you can find one priest that disagrees and somehow justifies your own views does not mean I created my own teaching. Please stop with the accusations.

You need to understand the infallible teachings of the CHurch better. They do not ONLY include the extraordinary ex cathedra statements made by the pope since the doctrine of infallibility was defined. That shows a total misunderstanding of not only how CHurch doctrine works, but what the magisterium of the Church actually is.

The ordinary magisterium of the Church includes much much more than that. For example – it quite obviously definitively teaches that abortion is always and everywhere intrinsically evil.

I love how when I proclaim a teaching of the Church that has been authentically taught for thousands of years you accuse me of “creating my own teachings.” But when you quote some random priest out of context from some website and use it to twist it into what you want it to mean…we are supposed to then regard this as authentically true and honest and humble?

Matthew Warner April 3, 2009 at 8:16 am

I don’t have time to go into details of how wrong you are on the infallible teachings of the Church, but Catholics are obligated to follow “authentic” teachings of the Church anyway. So I’m not sure what you’re whole point was anyway.

Here’s something I found really quick that might help that is from a TRULY credible source:

In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking – Lumen Gentium 25.

All – please don’t let anyone ever make you think that Church teaching should be reduced to an isolated conscience or to a few lines of scripture. It is so much more than that and so beautiful when fully embraced. It’s sad that so many Catholics never see it.

Lilly December 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I have not read all the comments, but I like the original post. However, I am not Catholic…..I suppose you would call me a born again believer…..for Jesus Himself said, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again.

I don’t really know all the specifics of Catholicism, but I know that anything outside of the Bible is a mere tradition of man that will not stand in the end….for Jesus Himself said that all things will pass away, but His Word will remain forever.

You must seek the face of the Father, pick up your cross and follow Jesus, who is the only way…..the way the truth and the life.

Matthew Warner December 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Thanks, Lilly! And God bless you!

So what do you think about the Traditions that Jesus and the Apostles started that were not explicitly written down in the Bible? Are those unimportant?

We have to be careful not to limit God to what is written in a book – His “Word” is much more than that. Your very belief that “everything outside of the Bible is a mere tradition of man” is actually itself a tradition of man. For nowhere does Jesus teach such a thing and nowhere does the Bible say that. You also can’t find that belief anywhere in history up until about 1500 years AFTER Jesus founded his Church. So to suggest that such an idea is Christian seems a bit far-fetched.

But I certainly understand why somebody may think that when so many Christians have gotten so far away from the roots of Christianity and come up with their own separate denominations according to their own traditions.

If you want to learn more about the Catholic perspective and our absolute belief in everything in the Bible, i wrote more on that here.

Jan Marrah March 17, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Dcn Ralph Poyo talks about are “you in or are you out”? You can’t be both. He has a great visual using a wheelbarrow. He will crouch over the wheelbarrow with one foot in the wheelbarrow (with God) and the other foot firmly planted on the ground (with the world). It’s something that has stuck with me.

bethanne June 30, 2010 at 10:09 am

a popular phrase by the “half in half out” clan: “between me and my God.” in the end that is “between me and my God.” this doesn’t sit right with me because i fear that what they really mean by “my God” is “my wavering conscience” or “my fallible logic”. i agree, matthew, both feet and all the way!!

Ann June 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

While I agree that we should follow the teachings of the church, I also believe that we have to be careful. We have to remember that Jesus wants us to love as he has loved us. I feel that sometimes we forget that, we are full of pride and arrogance – judging other faiths. I say we follow the church, spread the word, but remember to respect other faiths. Sometimes we can also learn something from them – not to change our beliefs but to make us better catholics. We get all caught up in preaching when really – if we just lived out of beliefs so many more people would convert because it is such a beautiful way of life. When I say we – i just mean catholics in general. There are many that follow the faith and are great examples – but there are too many half in and half out that preach like they aren’t.

Eric E June 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Ann,

I think you have the right idea, but I’d tweak it some. Jesus calls us not to judge individuals. By this he means judging the intents of their hearts and their eternal destiny. But we can and must judge ideas, including the tenets of other faiths. Islam is simply wrong to assert that the relationship between God and man is master and slave, not father and son. Judaism is wrong to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. Hinduism is wrong to say there are multiple gods. Proclaiming the truth is not intrinsically contradictory to either humility or charity — in fact, it is charity. Jesus’s ministry is evidence of that. But you are right, St. Paul said “Test everything, cling to what is good”. “Whatever is good and noble, think on those things.”

Alice October 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm

…and yet the Catechisms say there is wisdom in other religions. What is wisdom if it isn’t a glimpse of what is “right”? Maybe they all have a glimpse of the truth but Catholicism has the largest glimpse. Remember we don’t have all the answers either – our brains simply aren’t big enough to contain them. Surely if for whatever reason you don’t feel you can be Catholic, it’s better that you follow a religion that has a glimpse of wisdom or righteousness than nothing at all.

Eric E October 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

It may be true, Alice, that “it’s better that you follow a religion that has a glimpse of wisdom or righteousness than nothing at all”, but that’s like picking through a Dumpster for food instead of sitting down at a free four-star restaurant. It is better to pick through the Dumpster than go hungry, yes, but it is far better still to eat the finest food and drink the choicest wines.

I think that many, if not all, reasons for not being Catholic boil down to pride: We think our own opinions are superior, and we’re unwilling to humble ourselves to seek the truth and remain open to either 1) being wrong, or 2) not being able to comprehend. Sure, many have difficulties, but as Blessed Newman once said, a thousand difficulties do not make a single doubt.

I find it interesting when people dismiss the Catholic faith by saying, “I could never believe in a God who X”. As if humans can understand God (as you correctly point out, we don’t all have the answers). As if we can presume to dictate or properly conceive who God can and cannot be!

It is far better to receive the truth from above than generate it from within. If we are the source of our “truth”, it’s no wonder we will come in conflict with the actual truth when we hear it.

Peggy February 10, 2013 at 5:06 pm

In reading all the post, many of you talk about religion. I was a faithful Catholic for 20 years. Not one of you mentioned a relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you not believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins? Jesus is the way the truth and the life… No one gets to heaven, unless they go through his son Jesus Christ… Many of us tend to create our own god, and want to believe what people tell us. We need to open the bible and read.

I have joined a Non Denominational Church… We welcome all religions… although we don’t have a religion…we have a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are a Holy Spirit led church.
I have learned people have itchy ears! They want to hear, what they choose to hear… But once the truth is preached, they don’t like what they hear… The bible teaches us the truth.. We have to receive the great gift the lord has to offer us. The gift of Salvation is the greatest gift.. Giving your life to christ and living for him, is what the lord wants.. He don’t care about a religion.

Amen and God bless all of you….

Matthew Warner February 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Peggy – I think some of the misunderstanding here is due to just a different use of language. Speaking in terms of “having a personal relationships with Jesus Christ” is a rather new way of putting it. So you don’t hear a lot of Catholics express it that way as often. In fact, nowhere in scripture do they talk like that either – fyi. So you wouldn’t hear it there either. So it’s a rather odd criticism to give when you are also at the same time claiming the importance of the Bible.

I also think your understanding of “religion” is one born of contemporary dis-taste for traditional religions and one that really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Religion is simply a set of beliefs about the after-life, God, etc. So by definition, anyone who believes in the Bible’s teachings is religious. That is a religion. Jesus founded a religion in that sense. But, more concretely, he founded and gave us a Church, not a book. BUt it’s all religion. There’s no avoiding it. And I’m not sure why you’d want to.

Anyway, you might find a few of my other posts on related topics interesting (not saying these directly pertain to you, just that you find them helpful):

Where is Jesus in the Catholic Church?
Dis-organized Religion
I Hate Religions People
Are you looking for a simple religion?

God bless you and thanks for reading/commenting.

Deblette February 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I am sorry Peggy, but you are wrong. Yes, Jesus does care about religion which is why He created ONE Church and gave the keys to the kingdom to Peter. Jesus said he wanted us to all be one, not thousands of denominations started by this guy or that guy who wanted to live their own religions, not Christ’s.
The bible came out of the Church, not vice versa and they are inseparable. I suggest you not only read the bible, but that you read about the early Christians. I also suggest you prayerfully read John 6 and if you believe Jesus lied about his body and blood, then keep hanging at your non-denominational Church which is lacking the Sacraments that Jesus set up for us so that we could grow in our relationship with him. There can be no closer bond than to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Lord. How anyone could walk away from that, I don’t know.
I would also recommend prayerfully reading Revelations, especially the words to the Churches of that day and see if any of them fit you.
Having a relationship with Jesus is crucial. Having all he wants for us can only be found in the Catholic Church.

Eric E February 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Hi Peggy, I understand where you are coming from. I was there, once, too. I had an Encounter with the living God who transformed my heart, and then looked around at my Catholic parish and found what seemed to be a bunch of spiritually dead people who didn’t know the Lord. So I stopped believing in Catholicism. To make a long conversion story short, I encountered some Catholics who had really come to know the Lord as I did (charismatic Catholics), and I studied what the early Christians historically believed, and found it was nothing like non-denominational and Evangelical Christians believed. Eventually I came back to the church. I recommend you read the book “Catholic and Christian: An Explanation of Commonly Misunderstood Catholic Beliefs” by Dr. Alan Schreck.

As for “religion”, the Bible talks about it: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

As Catholics, we definitely believe that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. That’s the whole purpose of the Mass: To celebrate that fact and to make the blood of Christ on the Cross present so that we can wash our sins in it. The whole Mass is an entering into the mystery of the saving Cross.

Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and so we believe. Yes, no one gets to the Father except through Christ, although sometimes we get to Christ through the help of one another. The bible does teach the truth, but who interprets the bible? Is it the individual, or the whole church united throughout the ages? Let me ask you a question: Where did you get your bible? Who told you what books were in it and decided they were inspired? It was the Catholic Church. Without the Catholic Church, you have no bible, no way of telling which books are inspired.

I am glad you found the Lord, and I admire your enthusiasm. May it bear fruit. But I hope your enthusiasm will lead you to look a little deeper and see how shallow your non-denominational church is and realize the questions it can’t answer. I hope one day you return home. God bless.

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