History, Hubris, and Hook Shots (part 0ne)

I stood on the 10th tee waiting to tee off. The group ahead of us was in the fairway so I couldn’t hit just yet. Tom, my playing partner, was an Evangelical Christian who didn’t like that I was thinking about entering the Catholic Church. As is often the case with Evangelicals, the reason for his dismay was Sola Scriptura.

We’d been speaking about the Church Fathers on the earlier holes. The Church Fathers were, to my way of thinking, integral to seeing what the early church believed. I argued that these were the men who passed on the faith exactly as they heard it from those who learned it at the feet of men who, in turn,had learned it from men who walked with the Apostles. My contention was that these men were presenting the gospel in a way that was closer to what Jesus taught, since so little time had gone by since the Resurrection.

I stepped up to the ball, ready to begin my backswing. “Think about this, Tom. Just before Jesus returned to the Father, Jesus advised the Disciples that the Holy Spirit would be coming. He said that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. For Protestants to be right, the first thing the Holy Spirit would have done would have been to send the world into 1500 years of darkness.”

I made my backswing. Tom said, “I do think the Holy Spirit plunged us into 1500 years of darkness” and, in shock,I hooked my tee shot into a shallow stream running by. Tom smirked. “Maybe you better start tracking your strokes on those little beads they have at your church.”

The 1500 “missing” years became a problem for me as I wobbled to the end of my time in Protestantism. Now, I love my Protestant experience. Protestantism taught me to be able to find my way around the Bible. I learned a deep reverence for Scripture. I agree with pope Francis, that the only word that describes a Protestant is “brother.” But, I began to realize that Christianity didn’t start in the 16th century. I wondered about the Church Fathers, about why we, in the Protestant church, didn’t seem to care who they were and what they had to say. Taken a step further, I noticed that we didn’t seem to care what Luther had to say, either. Or Zwingli and Calvin. I began to see Protestantism as a religion that lived, not in the totality of history, but in the last twenty minutes.

I asked my friend, a youth pastor who was playing with us that day, why this was. Why didn’t we talk about the early church fathers? He told me that he’d come across them in seminary but that they were mentioned only briefly. He thought that most “modern” Christians wouldn’t be interested in what they had to say. In fact, he thought, with all the commentaries and development of theology over the last hundred years or so, he thought it might be more accurate to describe the Church Fathers as the Church Infants.

I left that golf game very disturbed and one step closer to my eventual conversion to Catholicism. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d seen the very definition of hubris.It was the crazy and common thought that someone reading about an event nearly two thousand years after it had happened would understand it more completely than someone who’d heard a first hand description. I thought that it just couldn’t be possible.

To discount what the Fathers had said so readily didn’t seem thoughtful to me. After all, Tertullian said it was the blood of the martyrs, not the blood of the scholars,that was the seed of the church.

Agendas, Terrorism, and Dignity

I’m so disappointed that people are using the recent San Bernardino shooting to launch into finger pointing about Islamic Extremist Terrorism. The shootings reinforced their desire to see tight restrictions put on Muslims, to justify their opinion that we should not take the Syrian refugees into this country, and pretty much proves them right for being suspicious of the Muslim community as a whole. I get it, I understand their point, but it is very discouraging to see.

I’m equally disappointed in those who, with every incident involving Muslims, rush to provide statistics to show that white Americans, particularly Christian white Americans, are a bigger cause of terrorism than Muslims. As with those who blame Muslims for all terror, let me say that I get it, I understand their point, but it is very discouraging to see.

When I was about to enter the Catholic Church, I went through a course called The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). When the course got to explaining the Sacrament of Reconciliation we spent a good amount of time learning about the importance of making a good confession. We learned to examine our conscience by pondering the ten commandments. How had our day stacked up?

The answer, of course, was “not very well.” The deeper we thought, the larger was the pile of our sinful shortcomings. One thing struck me, though. Many of the sinful thoughts and actions of any given day were related to a single category. Not respecting human dignity.

Was I angry with someone? It was because I failed to respect their God-given dignity. Did I have a sexual thought? It was because I’d not respected human dignity, either my own or the one I’d thought about. Did I look the other way when someone needed money for food? Human dignity. Did I dismiss someone because they were liberal, republican, democrat or conservative? Human dignity again.

So, that’s what troubles me about the categorizing of terrorism that’s so prevalent today. It’s a failure to respect the dignity of another human. Sometimes that human is the white American Christian. Sometimes it’s the dark-skinned Muslim. Sadly, though, it’s always the victims. In our rush to blame the one who fits our agenda, it often comes down to a failure to respect human dignity. We cling to our agenda because we really don’t respect the human dignity of the victims. We don’t respect the dignity due their families. We fail to see them as human. They are merely ammunition to wage a name calling war. But they are casualties of a real war.

Terrorism is real, of course. And the victims are as dead whether the attacker is male, female, dark skinned or light skinned. People die from bullets fired by Christians as easily as they do from those fired by Muslims. So, if we are to devote ourselves to an agenda on terrorism, let’s champion the agenda that is devoted to ending it, not in just assigning blame. Because, only when we respect the human dignity of all will we be able to take a significant step toward peace.

Sola Scriptura, Broken Chains

I follow a page on Facebook which regularly identifies the “Six Things that” bedevil and otherwise hamper Protestant Church leaders. Often those things are lack of giving, hurt feelings, and style of worship. Once, it covered the four comedic rules to becoming a better leader. Recently, one caught my eye. It was a list of things that the author thought people mistakenly credited as being in the Bible.

The piece starts with a blurb “I was surprised how many of these I’ve heard in my church” and then attempts to list several unbiblical statements Christians believe. They were a collection of folksy sayings that, fortunately,I’ve never actually heard attributed to the Bible in any church I’ve been to.

Before he gets into mocking those statements, he makes one of his own that made my jaw drop. He writes, “anything and everything that we know about God comes from these Holy Scriptures, and they contain the totality of what we need to know  about becoming a Christian and everything we need to know about living the Christian life.”

Where did he get that, I wondered. Certainly a statement so profound and succinct would be found in the Bible. But, of course, it isn’t. It comes from Protestant tradition, all of which is very recent.

I spent 37 years immersed in the Protestant culture. Obviously, it took me way too long but I eventually began to see things in Protestantism that were “man-made” doctrines which didn’t square with Scripture. And, when I could resist no longer, I began to wonder what was going on those first 1500 years where the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church without the help of Protestant doctrine? I went to the Catholic Church near me and signed up for RCIA.

It wasn’t a smooth ride, of course. I’d been indoctrinated over the course of four decades. A pastor friend of mine tried to halt my conversion by asking darkly, “Ross, are you saying that you no longer believe the Five Solas?” I took awhile and finally answered. Yes. I think that actually is what I’m saying.  So, the wrestling began in earnest.

In my RCIA classes I learned Catholic doctrine and heard the word “magesterium” for the very first time. I began to get a grasp of what the Church believed when it was founded and really began to see what it meant that the Church began in the first century and not the sixteenth. What I learned made it fairly obvious to me that the Church Fathers, a group that all my Protestant teachers had never mentioned, were the key to understanding the proper position of the Church in history. And, a week or two before my acceptance into the church, I heard my (now) friend Matthew S. Leonard say on a radio show that “the Bible came out of the Church, the Church did not come out of the Bible.”

That was the epiphany for me. After that, I saw the Sacred Tradition argument with stunning clarity. There was no canon at all for centuries after the Resurrection. People did not have access to printed Scripture at all until the advent of the printing press. There is absolutely not a single verse of Scripture that tells us that Scripture itself would be our sole guide. On the contrary. Jesus told us He would send us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. He never said there would be a book coming.

Even in the very Scripture Protestants and Catholics alike love, we are told that “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” So, it is the Church that is the Pillar and Foundation of the truth rather than the Scripture. It is the Church, not the Bible, charged with delivering the deposit of faith unblemished to all future generations.

 

 

Seeing Jesus this Advent

The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.  John 12:21.

Well, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? We want to see Jesus. It’s the Advent season. We are preparing ourselves to for the Nativity, for the coming of our Lord. We are taught to refocus our vision upon seeing Jesus anew. We are to consider that He is on His way, visiting us again.

It’s hard to imagine the overwhelming joy of the shepherds when they saw the baby in the manger. The Magi were to see the toddler Jesus later at a house and brought him spectacular presents. The rabbis were to be amazed at the young Jesus speaking in the Jerusalem temple. Many saw the great teacher on mountainsides, preaching the Good News that the Kingdom of God had come to earth. Crowds watched Him heal, saw Him do miracles and watched as He took the mantle of sin from humanity, cloaked Himself with it and made His way to the cross. Those who loved Him saw Him after that, on the Emmaus road and the Mount called Olivet.

What would it be like to see Jesus this Advent season? Would it be like seeing someone sick in a hospital, hooked to feeding tubes and waiting to breathe their last? It might be.

Would seeing Jesus be like seeing someone sitting in the cold, on a cardboard mat, hungry, desperate for something to eat or drink? It could be.

Would it be like taking care of a refugee fleeing a war-torn country who needs shelter and clothing? Possibly.

Could seeing Jesus be like seeing a person in prison, separated from society and family, needing human contact to bring him hope. I think it could.

That might be what it would be like to see Jesus this Advent season. It might be just like that.

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

You did it to Me.

So, yes, that’s what it may look like to see Jesus this Advent season. We will see Him in the faces of the poor, the sick, the downtrodden, those without hope. And, as you help those who need it, they might just see Jesus when they look at you.

Scripture, Tradition, and The Printing Press

I follow a page on Facebook which regularly identifies the “Six Things that” bedevil and otherwise hamper Protestant Church leaders. Often those things are lack of giving, hurt feelings, and style of worship. Once, it covered the four comedic rules to becoming a better leader. Recently, one caught my eye. It was a list of things that the author thought people mistakenly credited as being in the Bible.

The piece starts with a blurb “I was surprised how many of these I’ve heard in my church” and then attempts to list several unbiblical statements Christians believe. They were a collection of folksy sayings that, fortunately, I’ve never actually heard attributed to the Bible in any church I’ve been to.

Before he gets into mocking those statements, he makes one of his own that made my jaw drop. He writes, “anything and everything that we know about God comes from these Holy Scriptures, and they contain the totality of what we need to know about becoming a Christian and everything we need to know about living the Christian life.”

Where did he get that, I wondered. Certainly a statement so profound and succinct would be found in the Bible. But, of course, it isn’t. It comes from Protestant tradition, all of which is very recent.

I spent 37 years immersed in the Protestant culture. Obviously, it took me way too long, but I eventuallybegan to see things in Protestantism that were “man-made” doctrines which didn’t square with Scripture. And, when I could resist no longer, I began to wonder what was going on those first 1500 years where the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church without the help of Protestant doctrine? I went to the Catholic Church near me and signed up for RCIA.

It wasn’t a smooth ride, of course. I’d been indoctrinated over the course of four decades. A pastor friend of mine tried to halt my conversion by asking darkly, “Ross, are you saying that you no longer believe the Five Solas?” I took awhile and finally answered. Yes. I think that actually is what I’m saying. So, the wrestling began in earnest.

In my RCIA classes I learned Catholic doctrine and heard the word “magisterium” for the very first time. I began to get a grasp of what the Church believed when it was founded and really began to see what it meant that the Church began in the first century and not the sixteenth. What I learned made it fairly obvious to me that the Church Fathers, a group that all my Protestant teachers had never mentioned, were the key to understanding the proper position of the Church in history. And, a week or two before my acceptance into the church, I heard my (now) friend Matthew S. Leonard say on a radio show that “the Bible came out of the Church, the Church did not come out of the Bible.”

That was the epiphany for me. After that, I saw the Sacred Tradition argument with stunning clarity. There was no canon at all for centuries after the Resurrection. People did not have access to printed Scripture at all until the advent of the printing press. There is absolutely not a single verse of Scripture that tells us that Scripture itself would be our sole guide. On the contrary. Jesus told us He would send us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. He never said there would be a book coming.

Even in the very Scripture Protestants and Catholics alike love, we are told that “if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” So, it is the Church that is the Pillar and Foundation of the truth rather than the Scripture. It is the Church, not the Bible, charged with delivering the deposit of faith unblemished to all future generations.

via I stopped going to church and joined the Church.