Confirmation on November 1, All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day painting by Fra Angelico; from Wikipedia

Well, looks like it is going to happen. I am joining the Catholic Church on November 1, All Saints’ Day, with conditional baptism and first confession on October 31, an ironic date.

It is happening so “quickly” because I went through RCIA last year and have talked with the local priest a few times. He knows where I am coming from and is content I know what I am getting into. He and I are going to grill steaks soon and we’ll talk some more.

There are still many things I don’t understand about Catholicism but I have discovered enough to be convinced for myself, even if it isn’t convincing enough for others. But we shouldn’t be expected to understand everything before a decision is made. One doesn’t perform 100 pushups from the get go. One starts with 5, eventually moves up to 10, then 20, and so forth. The famous saying from St. Augustine is fitting; “Believe that you may understand.”[1] This is not blind faith leading to a false understanding. It is reasonable faith rooted in something strong which will grow into greater understanding.

The final decision was due, in part, to the realization that this process has been two very intense years (even longer for the roots of some issues).  Life needs to move on and it cannot move on so long as I am stuck in paralysis.  Paralysis and indecisiveness has only drained my joy and even driven away people I cared for.  Paralysis will only continue to haunt and hurt unless a decision is made. The lines in the sand must eventually be draw and so far Catholicism still seems the best option.  The soldier in battle who freezes when the bullets fly is in the worst danger.  It would be better for him to shoot back, run for cover, or at least run away as a coward.  But freezing in one place will only destroy him and probably also hurt those around him.  That’s kind of how I felt.

So I figured the best remedy for indecisiveness is to make decisions and Catholicism is still the most reasonable option available.  And I must say, I have felt peace beginning to return, not in an overwhelming way, but like a gentle touch of God easing me into my decision.  Laughter is also coming easier, and I love to laugh.  There is still some residual frustration and lack of understandings about the way things played out in my life this past year but even that is subsiding into a calmer acceptance. (After all, anything I went through is small potatoes compared to what others are currently facing around the world right now and throughout history. Who am I to whine when life is still so good?)

Another thing that revealed how far I was along the trail was my brief consideration of atheism. While grilling a steak I wondered, “Is this whole Christian thing even true? Maybe I should just give it up.” These were short lived thoughts but they shed light on where my soul was; either Catholicism or give up Christianity altogether. And it seemed lame to give it up. After all, how could chance give us something as delicious as steak? There must be a God, right?

Two people have asked me if I was happy with my decision. It is a natural question to ask. We all want to be happy. But it was my father, a protestant minister, who raised me up to follow truth and to do what is right, whether we like it or not. Happiness may come with the territory, but happiness cannot be the litmus test. C.S. Lewis enhanced this theme in Mere Christianity: “In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

The Bible talks much about joy, but it also talks about “taking up your cross.” Christianity is life and life includes both laughter and tears. I have hope that the grass truly is green on the other side but that cannot be the standard of my decision.

So I have been eyeing an 18 year bottle of scotch and waiting for the appropriate occasion. This is as fitting a time as any to buy it . If anyone else wishes to raise a glass too, I would love to hear about it.

God bless and peace be with you all.

By the way, while there is no need to end the blog, since the name is still fitting to the Christian life, this will also mean I will probably take a break from blogging. I feel the need to settle and gain roots into my new faith. I will probably post here and there but they will probably be few and far between.

[1] Tractate 29 (John 7:14-18), http://newadvent.org/fathers/1701029.htm

Are Protestant Apologists Ushering People into the Roman Catholic Church? Part II

This is a continuation of the discourse from the last post about a Protestant apologist named Charlie Campbell and how people like him are one of the reasons I’ll probably be entering the Roman Catholic Church soon.

Alongside bad history, Charlie Campbell, in his attempts to set up “ah-ha!” moments in our minds against the RCC, also employed questionable hermeneutics.

In the first place, Protestants can’t help themselves; they must prove themselves from the Bible, even when the best arguments are elsewhere. But using the Bible as “proof” gets sketchy since the Bible can be, and constantly is, interpreted in many different ways. G.K. Chesterton said,

“The Fundamentalist controversy itself destroys Fundamentalism. The Bible by itself cannot be a basis of agreement when it is a cause of disagreement; it cannot be the common ground of Christians when some take it allegorically and some literally.”

Any use of Scripture will be rife with alternate opinions and therefore I don’t believe any “ah-ha!” Scripture exists for any side of the debate. But allow me to show why I think Campbell’s opinions are questionable, at best.

Salvation:

Campbell started giving his own view of salvation. He said, “The Bible over and over again teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith in Christ alone and not the result of any effort or work of man.”

Now the topic of salvation gets a little foggy because it involves defining what is meant by the words “faith”, “grace”, and “works.” But I’m guessing Campbell hasn’t put that much thought into that so I’ll just offer a few other Scriptures that suggest other than what Campbell boldly declares.

He might have missed when the Bible says baptism saves (Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21). Or maybe he missed when the Bible says works and effort saves (James 2:24, John 15:4, Phil. 2:12, 1 Cor. 9:27, Rom. 2:6-8). Or maybe when Jesus said unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood there is no life in us (John 6:53).

After this statement Campbell uses verses talking about faith and ignored any part of Scripture suggesting something other than what his theology allows. Actually dealing with those issues would make the topic of salvation more complex than he is willing to admit and it softens the blow of his “ah-ha!” (Actually, he probably doesn’t even know such passages exist.)

Sinless-ness of Mary:

Talking about Mary’s sinless-ness, Campbell used Romans 3:10; “There is no one righteous, not even one.” But that verse is poetry quoting Psalms 14:3. Why take it literally? Biblical books written as history, and therefore should be taken more literally than poetry, called Joseph a “righteous man” (Matthew 1:19), said Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God” (Luke 1:5-6), and called Simeon “righteous and devout” (Luke 2:25). Hebrews 7:2 called Melchizedek the “king of righteousness.” So maybe there’s a bit more to “righteousness” than people like Campbell insinuate. Romans 3:10 is certainly not an “ah-ha!” verse against Mary’s sinless-ness.

Campbell also appealed to Luke 2:22-24 saying, “You don’t go and give sacrifices in the Temple if you’re not a sinner.” But Mary was simply fulfilling the Law that required a purification process for women who gave birth, which included offering two doves if a lamb could not be afforded (Leviticus 12).

Campbell quoted Luke 1:47 where Mary said, “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” As if Catholics don’t believe Mary needed a savior? The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first instant of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ: she is ‘redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son’” (para. 492) and “By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long” (para.493).

RCC teaching is that Mary needed a savior too, therefore this argument against the RCC is moot. Her Immaculate Conception was a free gift with no merit on her part. She is redeemed “by reason of the merits of her Son.” Her salvation anticipated Christ’s sacrifice, but His sacrifice was still needed. (Scott Hahn explains the Catholic view of Mary in Scripture with this and other talks on Mary).

Now Campbell and others can disagree with Catholic interpretations of Scripture, but it still comes down to a matter of opinion. The “ah-ha!” reasons don’t exist, as if Scripture is so “clear” on beliefs we already hold and couldn’t possibly be seen in a different light.

Conclusion:

Considering that I just posted about loving attitudes, perhaps my words have been too harsh in these last two posts about Charlie Campbell. “Crises of faith” are very emotional times. When I look for answers from people who make this stuff their living and still find their answers completely inadequate, frustrations naturally grow. Like others, Charlie Campbell clearly didn’t study the history of the church, and not even his hermeneutics have any conclusive content.

So what is this Faith that leaves critics no recourse but to use falsehoods as facts and odd argumentation as game-changers? For those of us who don’t want false-front defenses, should we not conclude that the Faith they reject in such bizarre ways might actually be right? If illegitimate arguments are necessary to reject the RCC, does it not suggest the RCC is actually legitimate?

Now I agree with Campbell that Irenaeus is a trustworthy source, which is exactly why I am probably entering into the Roman Catholic Church soon. Protestants (especially American Evangelicals) should beware which early church fathers they claim are reliable sources because it will open a whole can of worms they probably don’t want to deal with. I know it did for me. It’s also what made John Henry Newman convert after saying, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant” (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

The people who accept DVD’s like this one are those who are comfortable in their Protestantism, want reasons to stay out of Catholicism, but who have no intention of looking into the reasons themselves. And yet Catholics are the crazy ones for “blindly” following men.

What is this Faith that cannot be proven wrong and too often seems right? What are people like me supposed to do?

Are Protestant Apologists Ushering People into the Roman Catholic Church?

1601134_701317589911941_1584487051658798835_nFor this post I’d like to discuss one of the major reasons why I’m probably going to join the Roman Catholic Church; and that reason is, ironically, Protestant apologists.

When a simple layman such as I can see through the distorted use of history and misrepresentations employed by most of these “defenders of the faith” what other conclusion should I hold except that their arguments are illegitimate? If the “silver bullet” existed they would be all over it, right? It suggests the “silver bullet” doesn’t exist when Protestants are forced to use foolish arguments.

Some friends and I recently watched this DVD from Always Be Ready (ABR) Apologetics Ministry with some guy named Charlie Campbell. Viewers of this DVD would be wise to verify any information contained in this talk; maybe even see how Catholics explain their own faith (a novel thought). I’d recommend Catholic Answers for starters.

Campbell’s use of argumentation is painful to watch and his use of history is so bad one is forced to conclude he relied solely on secondary sources that he felt were trustworthy enough to not bother verifying the information contained.

It was an hour-long talk so I will not go over every point. It would take too long. However, a few some simple examples should suffice to show the shallowness of his talk. If anyone watches this DVD, take everything said with a huge grain of salt and not at face value. This guy is dealing with issues that do not have a cut-and-dried answer, and he did not even do his homework well.

Example 1: Bad Argumentation

Towards the beginning, Campbell said, “Most scholars, outside of the Catholic Church, reject the popular teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that the church at Rome was established by Christ Himself through the apostle Peter. Why is that?”

Well…… If a person truly believes the church at Rome was established by Christ Himself through Peter, then that person would be Roman Catholic, right? That sort of argumentation is like saying, “Only those people who like bacon actually like bacon. Most people who don’t like bacon don’t like bacon. So that proves we should not like bacon.” Uhhhh….what?

Campbell is apparently trying to create an “ah-ha!” moment in our minds but such argumentation only suckles the cravings of those who already reject the RCC and are willing to grab hold of any “proof” against it, whether the proof is true or not. There are many scholars who have studied the early church and joined the RCC. Maybe Campbell should actually read some of those guys and find out their reasons (men like John Henry Newman, Robert Hugh Benson, G.K. Chesterton, or Scott Hahn).

Example 2: Bad History

Apparently feeling firmly grounded upon his argument of sand, Campbell went on and gave two successive points.

  1. There is no historical evidence Peter was ever bishop in Rome.
  2. The list given by Irenaeus lists Linus, not Peter, as the first bishop in Rome.

Campbell even praised Irenaeus as a “very trusted source for early church history.” But if Campbell had actually read Irenaeus he would have seen these statements.

  • Irenaeus stated “Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church” (vol. 3 chap. 1).
  • Irenaeus talked about “the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” and said “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre-eminent authority” (vol. 3 chap. 3).
  • Irenaeus then said, “The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate” (vol. 3 chap. 3).

So Campbell’s two points are utterly destroyed by the trustworthy source of his own choosing. Irenaeus himself says that Peter founded the church in Rome, the Roman church had pre-eminent authority, and Peter passed the “episcopate” to Linus. (We get the word “bishopric”, and therefore “bishop”, from the word “episcopate.”)

Needless to say, at this point Campbell’s credibility is already waning and he’s only 9 minutes into his talk.

But wait! Campbell gave a recommendation for anyone “in the dark when it comes to church history.” What is the recommendation? Wait for it…. The movie “Luther” starring Joseph Fiennes…… Hhmmm…. Considering his constant appeal to “most scholars”, I was hoping for something a little more, I don’t know, scholarly.

The next blog post will be about the questionable hermeneutics Charlie Campbell employs.

newman

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Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.

Frustrations of a Potential Convert

I don’t know who will read this, but maybe it will help someone facing conversion or help someone who has a loved one facing conversion.

Making it personal

One of the frustrating things I’ve faced, mainly from family, is how personal they make it. This is certainly human nature to which we’re all susceptible. No one likes being told by a loved one that they might be wrong, or have believed wrong their whole lives, or that the family line for generations past has believed wrong. Most converts (or potential converts like me) probably never intentionally make this critique but the critique is inherent in that conversion regardless. There is no escaping it.

One family member asked me, “Do you think I’m going to hell?”  I could only respond with, “I’m not even sure where I’m going right now.”

When discussing Jesus’ words in John 6 another family member asked “Are you telling me that if I don’t enter into a Catholic Church and eat the Eucharist, than I’m going to hell?” To which I could only respond, “If it’s true than I’m going to hell too because I’m not taking the Eucharist either. If something will keep me out of hell I’d sure like to know about it.”

It’s frustrating how they turn it back on themselves. They’re trying to keep me from crossing the Tiber and yet somehow the discussion becomes all about them. I’m facing spiritual agony and heartache (which I will probably not share in this blog), and yet the conversation becomes about their feelings and I’m put into the awkward position of trying to give them some sort of comfort.

Legacy

Legacy is another strike that can be used against the convert. “Generations of this family have believed such-and-such.” “This family has a long line of preachers.” Do you think the convert doesn’t know such things? Do you think the convert doesn’t feel the pain of walking away from whole generations?

In his conversion story Confessions of a Convert, Robert Hugh Benson, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, told of three people who tried to convince him not to convert to Rome. He actually praised their efforts saying,

“They were all three as kind as possible. Above all, not one of them reproached me with disloyalty to my father’s memory. They understood, as all with chivalrous instincts must have understood, that such an argument as that was wholly unworthy.”

Chivalrous instincts. That’s something we all should cultivate more. Remember, some things are “wholly unworthy” of being said, and especially so to the aching heart.

Note: Read passages like Matthew 10:34-39 to see what people like Jesus said about legacy.

My Advice

If you know someone considering a conversion to anything and want to help, you’re greatest asset is love. Be chivalrous. Be a gentleman. Be a lady. Know that they are already hurting and be there for them.  I have three friends (all are women, interestingly) who have no plans to convert but have never attacked my considerations and have been nothing but supportive.  For that I thank them.  Being available for your loved one doesn’t require you to accept their new found beliefs, but it does require you to man up enough to face opposition without losing your cool (something I’m certainly not good at either, to my shame at times).

This is a world with competing world views and there is no escaping it. Get over it and accept the fact that your beliefs will be challenged, even by those you love most. We don’t get to retire from defending our beliefs until we’re dead.

Who knows? Maybe the potential convert will actually reveal some things to you that you never thought of before. If you’re missing something critical in your Christian walk, wouldn’t you like to know about it? And likewise, a reasonable conversation instead of a condemnation over the phone might draw a potential convert away from the brink and back to your more accurate beliefs.

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” — C.S. Lewis

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Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.

Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.