Is it better to be a lukewarm Catholic or an on-fire Protestant?

By Paul Dion, STL

Tell us what your sincere opinion is: Is it better to be a lukewarm Catholic or an on-fire Protestant?

I was in San Diego last weekend and as usual I was taking a break from my intellectual pursuits and working with my orchids. At one point I had to stand upright and give my aching back a "breather". As I finished stretching and twisting I saw two very fetching young ladies standing in front of me, not too far from my front door.

They asked me if I was interested in talking about God. I said that talking about God is one of my favorite and quasi on-going activities. I pointed out that at the moment I was helping God make my orchids gather enough strength to blossom fully by Easter which was going to be upon us in five short months.

Then I attacked, "Do you believe in Easter?", I asked. I surprised them.

They said "yes". I said, "Good".

"How important is it to you?" I fired back.

"Oh, very" was the reply.

Then one of them got the message that they were not in charge of the conversation. She noticed that I was not quoting verses and chapters. Smooth lady!

"You're Catholic, aren't you?, she asked.

"Yes, I am" I answered. "I've been Catholic all my life and I am not about to negotiate that away."

They said that they understood. We talked for about ten more minutes on the difficulties of the life of door-to-door missionaries. We separated with smiles and promises of interchanging prayers.

These two young ladies are door to door missionaries. All of us have met some of these people before. Have we ever asked ourselves why none of them that we have met are Catholic?

Do we sometimes wonder whether it would be better to be a Protestant door to door missionary than a lukewarm Catholic? Do we sometimes ask ourselves if it would be better to be a zealous Boy Scout master for a Presbyterian church than a so-so Catholic who never offers anything to the Church? Would it be better to be working for the Episcopalian Home Economics group teaching people how to cook for one person and enjoy it rather than to sit by and wonder why the Catholic church doesn't do things like that?

You know that these are "Burning Questions" that come up in conversation all the time. What do you feel about these things? Don't be shy, tell the world what you REALLY think.

CLICK HERE to view the answer to this Burning Question.


  1. Jesus says: Rev 3:16 DRB But because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.

    So... if I had to choose between one or the other, I would say it is better to be an "on-fire Protestant", sincerely preaching the Gospel which he was instructed in... As for the lukewarm Catholic, who has been given the grace of being in the fullness of the faith, well...

    1Co 9:16 DRB For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me: for a necessity lieth upon me. For woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.

  2. I will speak to this question anecdotally.

    I was raised nominally in the Catholic faith, attending services during Christmas and Easter until I was about ten when my confirmation was completed. I remember terrifying my parents when I told them I wanted to be a priest by age eight. Nonetheless, I did not return for three decades.

    Although I enjoyed my catechism classes, I disliked some of the superficial answers I received during my formation. Many answers provided appealed to pedigree rather than reason. Even a ten year old can detect a “just because” answer no matter how well it is shrouded in the type of kindness that feels like condescension. If there are no reasons behind what we do, then, I thought, perhaps what we do is arbitrary.

    As I had faith crises during my teenage years I toyed with many philosophical ideas including atheism. However, I could not reconcile dictums of various worldviews with what seemed to be an irrational desire to seek something good or fulfilling.

    When I was nineteen, I met a group of Protestants who seemed to have all the answers. I then became an “on-fire” protestant. The deep conviction that compelled boardwalk evangelism, devout Bible Study, and vigorous church involvement lasted nearly two decades. I measured my own piety by the number verses I memorized, by the number of retreats I attended, by the amount of money I devoted to church related activities, etc. I became an activities master – a common protestant phenomenon. I did not realized at that time that my human centered perspective on my union with Christ hampered my spirituality.

    Eventually I became exasperated by various studies that implied our [protestant] youth had a superficial understanding of truth. For example, when retreat-goers where surveyed on the question of the immutability of truth, there was a near 100% agreement that truth is immutable; however, when question thoroughly through the evaluation of hypothetical circumstances, 97% expressed belief that truth is actually relative. There are many other examples, but I concluded that the appearance of being “on-fire” masked superficiality.

    Dissatisfied, I studied the writings of early church fathers and consequently, rediscovered Catholicism. I eventually journeyed back to the Catholic faith, and now my wife and children are confirmed Catholics. In the Protestant faith, I always tasked myself with activities designed to enhance my spirituality; In Catholicism, I have no such anxiety. Today, I am a quieter man but my union with God through the blessed sacraments and devotions to the Divine Mercy and rosary has never been surer.

    I still believe we have a grave catechesis problem. But as for the question on whether lukewarm Catholic versus on-fire Protestant, I generally believe, without an objectively precise definition of on-fire and lukewarm, that they are similar in many respects; therefore, it is best to be in hands of the Catholic Church where the fullness of the faith is at least available.

  3. Thank you for a great story. Your last sentence says it all, four square.

    Paul Dion, STL
    Theology Editor

  4. Anonymous6:59 AM

    Like Bob said, "It is best to be in the hands of the Catholic Church where the fullness of the faith is at least available." Of course both the Protestant and the Catholic are Christians so that is the important foundation. If one is lukewarm and the other on fire, being on fire for God is always what our goal should be as Christians. Many Protestants who are on fire for God come to the fullness of the Catholic Church because of their desire of fullness. On fire though doesn't have to mean that we are so involved with church that we may be neglecting our God given duties at home with our families. As a wife and mother I realize my primary ministry is my family. I need to be on fire for them at home. If someday I have time to devote in ministry at church, then that would be wonderful. For now, homeschooling and raising my children as Catholics is a full time ministry. God Bless.

  5. I read the following Luke 10:7 and this answered the question above.

    it says When you enter a town, don't move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide you. Don't hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

    It clearly states that we should get together as catholics as a small community in one house to share the love of christ. not going from door to door like a fired up christian. I hope this helps.

  6. Anonymous8:48 AM

    What a beautiful story Bob!!!