Detroit (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic convert and a "revert" lay out their findings after returning to the Faith to help others.
In an exclusive interview with Dr. Roger and Mrs. Karen Salstrom, authors of the book, 95 Questions for Protestants: Points to Ponder During the 500 Year Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation ... and Beyond, explained why they undertook addressing Martin Luther's 95 Theses with 95 questions to bounce back to Protestants.
Karen told Church Militant they just received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval for 95 Questions for Protestants in September. Karen notes, "The criteria include things like grammar, readability and theology," adding, "Only a few books are awarded the seal each quarter."
She said, "95 Questions for Protestants was a labor of love in the truest sense for us," Karen said. "We love our Catholic faith and have been privileged to offer its truths to others in a format that makes them simple to access."
Church Militant: Why did you write the book?
Roger and Karen Salstrom: Our intention in writing 95 Questions for Protestants was to address the misinformation circulating about Catholicism. We were most interested in publishing the book in this year of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant rebellion launched by so-called reformers in the 1500s. Roger, having come from a Methodist background, and Karen as a returning Catholic gone for 30-plus years gave us the perspective of having lived on both sides of the Tiber. Coming from outside Catholicism and then doing the hard work of discovering the truth of Catholicism, we felt that we had a balanced perspective to address what the Church teachings truly are as opposed to urban legends promoted. Ultimately, our goal was to lead people to further research and toward the fullness of truth.
CM: What was your inspiration?
KS: Believe it or not, the inspiration came from the Protestant university where Roger worked as the head of the Business Department. When Roger entered the Church in 2015, he posted on Facebook stating how happy he was to now be part of the Church that Christ founded. Some individuals at the university were not happy with such a statement and went to the administration. The provost had come originally from a Protestant university in Canada that partners with the Catholic Church and allows the students to obtain Theology courses from Catholics, so he had no problem with Roger's faith or Facebook post. Even so, he was directed to have a meeting with Roger and a few concerned individuals or more of a non-meeting. The provost spent nearly the whole hour talking around the "incident." Roger was never asked to stop posting on Facebook, nor was he reprimanded. Upon leaving the meeting, Roger decided to hold off for a month from posts. During that month, he decided to do something he had never done: read Martin Luther's 95 Theses. After discovering what appeared to Roger as a brain-dump over about three issues restated throughout the Theses (Indulgences, Purgatory and the pope), Roger believed he could easily come up with a better set of questions for Protestants to ponder. And thus began the book.
CM: Was it tough to come up with 95 questions?
RS: Actually, the first 40 or so flowed quickly, although all 95 were created in a few months. Karen was not initially on-board, but after reading the first set of questions, she joined in both research and writing. The bulk of the writing actually came from Karen (she has always been a writer and initially a songwriter.) Working together, more questions came to mind; we got to nearly 100. Eventually, we pared them down to get the desired number of 95. The final version came about by consulting a friend at Catholic Answers, who gave suggestions to be a bit more direct in the questions.
CM: You admit you are not theologians, so how did you approach writing such an informative book?
RS and KS: For us, it meant relying upon those who were experts in Catholicism — apologists and apostolates faithful to Magisterial teachings, such as Church Militant. Although neither of us has formal theological training, we became avid readers and researchers into the Catholic faith when coming into the Church. Roger has degrees from Indiana University and Purdue, a Ph.D. in Business from U.C. Berkeley and has authored numerous publications. Thus, he is quite familiar with research.
Interestingly, he was a life-long Protestant working in an Evangelical university — he knew his job may possibly be at risk. So for him to even consider such a drastic move into Catholicism, he wanted to be absolutely sure. Researching into the doctrines of faith became nearly his only pastime. That research was the springboard for this book and both of us continue and do so even now.
RS: There is always much to dig into when it comes to knowing the Faith. We both believe that to be Catholic isn't enough. In order to live out I Peter 3:15 (being ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ), it is critical to know from where those doctrines came. Those who do not have that understanding can easily be swayed, as Karen was in her youth. We encourage everyone to approach their faith in such a manner.
CM: Did you receive any special graces from God that you are willing to share?
RS: Grace from God is an interesting thing. To live out our faith in the best possible way, we need to be faithful to it. Participation in the sacraments and staying faithful to Mass was the way God sustained us so that we had the spiritual strength for this undertaking. This was played out in the year-plus it took to write the book via experiencing what we considered spiritual attacks.
One thing people need to remember is that when you undertake something highly orthodox in order to fulfill where God has called you, there is a strong chance that you will experience some type of attack. There were issues in the family dynamic. There were health issues for Karen. There was even some discouragement within the Body of Christ.
KS: The most ongoing issue was with regards to Roger's employment. Initially, he wondered if he would be asked to leave after his conversion. And leave, he did but not for the reasons one might think. Roger felt a nagging concern as he watched Catholic students being pulled from their faith at the university, while he was consistently blocked by the university to assist them in any way. Eventually, Roger knew he could no longer participate even remotely in what he considered a grave evil toward these students. This particular issue was one of great discernment where God showed his most special grace in our lives. We were able to leave job stability, and Roger's recent promotion to dean and embark into the unknown precisely because of God's graces. In this circumstance or any one of the others mentioned, it might have been easy to give up writing the book (Don't think we did not consider it!). But through prayer and remaining faithful to Mass, reconciliation and the Eucharist, we were able to obtain the graces we needed to finish the task.
CM: Did you uncover any surprising truths while writing the book?
RS and KS: Yes! Some of those we did not address in the book because it seemed it might go off the rails onto a whole different tangent. These were facts about Martin Luther. In learning about Luther's childhood, [the] impetus to become a priest and subsequent worldviews (in particular, his morals and ethical perspectives on women, marriage and the Jews), we were saddened at how this man's philosophy and heretical thoughts could lure so many into what has now morphed into sects and denominations too great to number — and continues on even today.
It begs the question: if a man with such poor morals as Luther was so terribly wrong in his view on so much, could it be that his theological views were way off base as well? We wish more post-Reformation folks would ponder this — then research into the fullness of truth Catholicism has for them.
CM: What truth would most shock (or surprise) the Protestants?
RS and KS: Having been in the Protestant mindset and world for a long time, one thing we know: the emphasis is not on the early Church and Church Fathers. For instance, the term "early Church Fathers" was not a term either of us even heard as non-Catholics. The biggest shock for Protestants would probably be that if they did an intellectually honest search into Catholic doctrines and dogmas, they could find them on the pages of the earliest Church Father writings — even the Holy Mass, as described by St. Justin Martyr in his First Apology around 155 A.D.
For many Protestants, there is a chasm between the time of the Acts of the Apostles and Martin Luther. And no one seems to question it — we certainly didn't. So to discover Catholicism at its inception was huge for us. That is what we wish for all Protestants to discover. A close second on "shockers" for Protestants is that:
CM: Would this book also help Catholics to understand their own Faith?
RS: Absolutely. One of the tragic outcomes of post-Vatican II is that many have been either poorly or minimally catechized. Karen was a fallout of Vatican II in the late 1960s. For instance, she was never taught about the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Sure, the terms of the Body and Blood of Christ were thrown out. But never were they explained from an apologetics standpoint. Our philosophy is that the "what" of Catholicism is not going to hold onto the faithful without the "why."
Our book 95 Questions for Protestants is not a book filled with our opinions — that would have been useless pontification. Instead, it gives the "why" of the doctrines and Truths of our faith as they come from both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Our hope is to assist Catholics in what may have been lacking in their own catechesis. Even recently, one of the most knowledgeable priests we know said he learned some things he was not aware of from our book. We believe it is a beneficial tool for all Catholics.
CM: For Catholics, would reading this book help with evangelizing Protestants?
RS and KS: We think so. The book is designed to be user-friendly. Although many read it cover-to-cover, it is set up so that anyone can choose a topic and find answers. For instance, one of the biggest objections to Catholicism is the Blessed Mother, another being the pope. Should a Catholic be questioned on these topics, he could go directly to the questions in that section to find historical, Biblical answers for his Protestant friend. We like to think of it as apologetics in the style of the Baltimore Catechism — easy to read Q. & A.
CM: Do you address Sola Scriptura? How do we discuss that with Protestants?
RS and KS: We address two of the "Solas" of the so-called Protestant Reformation: Sola Fide (faith alone) and Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone). We need to remember that canonized Scripture was not available as such until the early 400s. The Canon of Scripture at the time of the early Church was the Hebrew Scriptures. So oral tradition was critical.
The most compelling case against Sola Scriptura comes directly from the very Bible that Protestants value above all else. Protestants like to point to 2 Timothy 3:16 to make their case ("All Scripture is inspired by God — useful for teaching — and for training."), but that particular Scripture does not say the Bible alone. Instead, we find several Scriptures that point to the need not to rely simply on Scripture.
In Acts 2:42, we see that the early Church devoted themselves to oral tradition in the form of the teachings of the Apostles. Then in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, there is a directive to hold fast to the traditions as the Apostles taught them, whether by word of mouth or by letter (also re-stated in 1 Corinthians 1:2). Then in 2 Timothy 2:2 we see, "And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well." And in Romans 10:17, we are told that faith comes from hearing the message. Finally, Jesus' words in Mark 16:15 direct the apostles to proclaim (speak, not read) the Gospel to every creature. What is critical to remember is that there is a necessary marriage of both Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition to complete the Faith. This is the beauty of Catholicism. We have retained the nuggets of truth that were passed down through Holy Oral Tradition, just as the apostles transmitted them from Christ himself.
CM: Do you have any plans for other books or what topic would you like to research next?
RS: Currently, Karen is working on her memoirs as a Catholic homeschooling mom.
KS: Roger is considering a book for parents on discerning a college for their Catholic student. We are also working on a devotional for college students and an apologetics board game that families can play together.