When our idea of ‘getting ahead’ changed

Matt and Mindy Dalton

During the first five years of our marriage, our relationship could be described as utilitarian; what’s in it for me? And that is the opposite of love. We both worked fulltime. Matt was in sales, 100 percent commission. Thoughts of meeting his quota and counting the days of the month consumed him. Mindy was a court reporter, always under deadline stress and constantly hearing the heart- wrenching pain of other people’s lives in depositions.

Our desire was filled with thoughts of “getting ahead”. Ahead of what, was the question that often plagued our discussions? There was not much peace in our lives. We both had good jobs, but we rarely turned to God in our times of stress or in gratitude for all he had blessed us with. We were on the treadmill; careers to pursue, house to remodel, friends to hang out with and yes, children to be had … maybe.

Looking back, at the heart of having a utilitarian mindset was that we convinced ourselves that we knew better than Holy Mother Church. And we were afraid. Could we love each other and could we love the children that God would give us? Could we provide for these children? Could we pay for college? When we allowed fear to dominate, we turned to the world’s way of consumerism and materialism. Our house was not a home. Our real foundation needed to be in Jesus Christ.

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). Authentic freedom entered our union when we chose to invite his truth into every aspect of our marriage. The truth is not something, but someone: Jesus. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Over time, through returning to the sacramentallity of the Church, confession, Mass more frequently than on Sundays, committing to making regular visits to the adoration chapel to spend time with Our Blessed Lord in prayer, we began to experience an overwhelming closeness in our communication, which lead to wonderful intimacy, not only physically, but spiritually. Our respect for each other deepened as never before. We even completely invited God into our sexuality and allowed him to be in control of our fertility, and we’ve been blessed with seven children.

In 2010, Mindy was at the grocery store with all seven children jostling around the shopping cart. An elderly woman asked if all the children were Mindy’s, then asked, “How are you going to get them all through college?” In the early days of our marriage, with God on the sidelines, that question would have consumed our thoughts and worried us for weeks after the encounter. Mindy’s response was not her own but only by the grace of God. “I am more concerned with getting them back to heaven than I am getting them through college.” The woman smiled and said, “I’ve never thought of that.” The joy and peace in her response let us know that God was near.

Now living as best we can in this peace, joy and truth, we have the desire to shout from the mountain tops—“freedom”—and to share with as many who will listen, that there is a better way, Jesus Christ.

Two terrific resources that might launch you in a new direction: “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love” by Dr. Edward Sri, and “Theology of the Body for Beginners” by Christopher West.

Matt and Mindy Dalton can be reached at matt@marriagemissionaries.org, 303-578-8287 or at www.marriagemissionaries.org.

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.