Skip to comments.He Was an Evangelical Christian Until He Read Aquinas
Posted on 12/20/2006 9:42:50 AM PST by NYer
Rob Evans has taught millions of Christians that Life without Jesus is like a doughnut: Theres a hole in the middle of your heart.
Jesus filled the hole in Evans heart by bringing him to the Catholic Church.
Evans, 53, was hugely popular as an Evangelical Christian performer, selling more than 6 million CDs and DVDs, and appearing at more than 2,500 church concerts and conferences. His Donut Repair Club has been a mainstay of EWTNs programming for the past 10 years.
Evans, his wife of 33 years, Shelley, and one of his children daughter Tonya, 14 were received into the Catholic Church this past Easter.
Evans spoke with Register correspondent Tom Wehner about what he called his discovery of the Catholic faith.
What was your upbringing like?
I grew up in the Presbyterian church. And when my parents divorced when I was 6, the church in Paoli (Pa.) told [my mother] that divorce might be the best thing for her in this situation because she found true love with another man and that she had her whole life ahead of her. The church did not fight for the unity of our family. So we stopped going to church.
When I was at Rutgers, I read everything. I read Nietzsche, I read Sartre, Plato. I was reading about Western civilization, but nobody was talking about Jesus. I saw an ad in The Daily Targum (campus newspaper) advertising a study on the philosophy of Christ one evening. And I went to a room that held a thousand people, and I was the only one there. I was thirsting for something. I was considering Christ, but I wasnt seeing him.
Tell me about your introduction to Christ.
When I was 19 and Shelley was 17, we were born again in a charismatic Pentecostal group. It made inroads into the local high school; thats how Shelley came in. My mother was going through her third divorce, and a woman at the local swimming club, her best friend, told her all about Jesus; she was from Latvia, and she pronounced it Cheesus. My mom had hope in her heart that Jesus would heal her marriage. My mother visited her friends pastor Dennis Corrigan, who was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
I went to talk to Dennis and he ended up leading me to Jesus Christ. I said to him, Nietzsche, Sartre, Plato what about all these philosophies? He said, Theyre dead. Jesus Christ is alive.
I said, What about Adam and Eve? What about the Bible? Do you really believe these things? Right in the middle of this conversation, his wife comes up with a plate of cookies and coffee and their two little preschoolers come up to get a big kiss goodnight, and there was joy and peace and order and beauty in that home. I wanted that. They brought Christ to me philosophically and biblically in their lives.
Dennis was the one who baptized me. Their next door neighbor was a teenage girl who brought her friend whom I fell in love with to church. It was love at first sight. So Shelley Tait came in, and we were engaged four months later and were married that very year.
I quit Rutgers University and went to work as a carpenter.
What happened to cause your church to splinter, and how did you maintain your faith throughout this ordeal?
The church split over discipleship. By this time, 1978, I had 12 men working for me; I had been married for five years. I had three kids and another one on the way. All of my friends, my whole company, moved to Florida from Philadelphia. My company was devastated.
After two more splits, we ended up being in a church of about five or 10 people, and it once had been thousands. What I thought was my forever family was gone, gone and gone again. We kept our focus on Jesus in heaven the celestial church. Obviously, there was no earthly church that had any true unity.
Because Shelley and I are both children of divorce, when the church fell apart it brought terrific stress to our marriage. We know of a number of couples that then divorced after this meltdown.
During this period of time, we kept telling our children about Jesus and I kept singing them daddys songs. So the emotion, the joy and the assurance that the Holy Spirit gave us was what I sang about. God continued to hold us together and kept blessing us with children. We had five in seven years.
How did you become the Donut Man?
In the middle of that crucible, I maintained a habit of tucking the kids in every night with a Bible story and then I would go to my office and write a song.
So I wrote dozens and dozens and dozens of songs from tucking my kids in, and then my wife observed that my children were singing daddys songs, so she surprised me with $1,250 that she had saved for us to go on a second honeymoon.
She said, I think you should make a recording with these songs so we can bless some other people. So we prayed about it, and I did. And I went into my friends recording studio and recorded daddys songs. And one of those songs was, Life without Jesus is like a doughnut; theres a hole in the middle of your heart.
My brother-in-law took a picture of me peeking through a doughnut for my first cover, and it was called Musical Donuts.
That was in 1982, and it grew from there in a remarkable way.
Tell me about the path you took to your conversion.
I didnt convert to Catholicism, I discovered Catholicism. The word converted I wear reluctantly only because it communicates, and its an accepted part of Catholic culture.
When I used to drive by a Catholic church, I would pray a blessing on that church: Lord, save those poor Catholics. Pour your Spirit out on that church. Amen. Little did I know that I was praying for myself.
In 1991, we moved to Nashville to be closer to Integrity Music, which was based in Mobile, Ala. We went to a Baptist church, but that underwent a split. And then in 2001 we moved back home to Ocean County, N.J., and joined a church there.
We were home. But within six months, we were kicked out over a theological dispute over alcohol.
As I went through the last meltdown, I said to my wife, You know, the Catholic Church has a unity. And we started going to Mass in our local parish that we would drive by every day St. Francis of Assisi. This was in February of 2005. And we would kneel down in the quiet and, you know what? Catholics read the Bible every Mass. And when I saw the way they revered the Host, I was really touched. And all of the priests Father Steve, Father Kevin, Father Tom and Father John revered Christ in the Eucharist, I could see it. I could feel it, too.
Was there one particular incident that brought everything into focus?
Back when I was in my 20s, I read How Then Shall We Live by Francis Schaeffer. He lays the blame for the fires of the Reformation at the feet of Thomas Aquinas. I had also been taught that to include Mary in the equation any more than two weeks around Christmas was idolatrous.
Right around February and March of 2005 as we were starting to nibble at Mass, I went to a Borders bookstore in the Hamilton mall near Atlantic City. And I love photography.
Well, right next to P for Photography is R for Religion. I saw a book of sermonettes by Thomas Aquinas from Sophia Press. I pulled it out, popped it open to his teaching on Hail Mary, full of grace. And he asked the question, How full of grace would the mother of Jesus Christ be? This is the only time an angel has accorded a human being this kind of honor. I found it such a poignant, thoughtful question, beautifully stated and in no way idolatrous.
It was completely, profoundly Christ-centered. And it made me consider Mary as the singularly most Christ-centered person who has ever lived. Not just in her head and in her heart, but literally, in her womb.
I just grabbed the book, I bought it, and went out and read it to my wife in the car, and we both looked at each other We had just gone to Mass a couple times and now this was Aquinas, the guy who was to blame for the Reformation I find out that hes not an idolater. This guy is truly a Church father. And what he had to say about Mary, well, I devoured it.
We sat there in the parking lot of Borders and I read it to Shelley, and in unison we said to each other, Were Catholic.
At the same time we were considering these things, my daughter Sarah and her husband, Pete Johnson, did convert to Catholicism.
Were there other realizations that opened your mind and heart to Catholicism and the sacraments?
As the Donut Man, I was looking for an authoritative way to teach the children. I color-coded all of my videos for children who couldnt read. I have the yellow video, the green video, the red video matching the coveralls that I wore in the videos. And then I went to Mass and I saw the different colors that were keyed to the liturgical calendar, which gives you historicity.
I was never taught my baptism was symbolic. If my baptism circumcised my heart, crucified, buried and resurrected me with Christ in the waters of baptism, that aint symbolic. Thats sacramental.
My approach to communion was never symbolic. It was always sacramental. My approach to my wife was sacramental. And I knew that confession isnt just to God. Through the Promise Keepers movement, with covenant groups in the evangelical realm, they were called accountability groups. Hello! Thats confessing, thats invoking Jesus initiative with Peter: I give you the keys. What you bind on earth is bound in heaven, what you loose on earth is forgiven in heaven. Thats sacramental.
The Catholic Church maintains this pattern in the Eucharist that Christ himself comes to us in the bread and the cup. Why would Protestants break that pattern and accept a communion that, at best, is a sweet meditation and a reverencing of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church has a fuller view of Communion. Its not a question of right and wrong. Its a question of good vs. miraculous.
What does the future hold for the Donut Man?
My kids tell me, Dad you were a great Protestant evangelist and youre going to be a great Catholic evangelist. Well, were going to find out. Im not going to bite the hand that fed me for 33 years. So Im still going to reach out to my separated brothers and sisters. I am focusing on a new kids album right now with The Eucharist Song, Holy Water on My Face, and All for the Love of Mary.
There are three things contained in this salutation. The first is due to the angel, namely, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, contributes the second, namely, blessed is the fruit of thy womb. The Church adds the third part, namely, Mary, for the angel did not say Hail Mary, but only Hail, full of grace. And this name Mary, according to its meaning fits the words of the angel, as will become evident.
With respect to the first, it should be known that in ancient times it was an especially great event when an angel appeared to men, so that men might show them reverence, for they deserve the greatest praise. It was written in praise of Abraham that he received angels hospitably and that he showed them reverence. But it was never heard that an angel showed reverence to a man until he saluted the blessed virgin, saying reverently, Hail.
The reason why in antiquity the angel did not reverence man but man the angel is that the angel was greater than man, and this in three respects. First, with respect to dignity, since the angel is of a spiritual nature. Psalm 103,4: who makes: the angels spirits. But man is of a corruptible nature, hence Abraham said (Genesis 18:27): I will speak to my Lord, whereas I am dust and ashes.
It was not then fitting that a spiritual and incorruptible creature should show reverence to a corruptible creature, namely, man. Second, with respect to familiarity with God. For the angel is a familiar of God, as assisting him. Daniel 7:10: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before him. But man is like an outsider, put at a distance from God through sin. Psalm 54:8: Lo, I have gone far off, flying away. Thus it was fitting that man should reverence the angel as one close to and familiar with the king. Third, he was preeminent because of the fullness of the splendor of divine grace: for angels partake most fully of the divine light. Job 25:3: Is there any numbering of his soldiers, and upon whom shall not his light arise?
Therefore he always appears with light. But men, although they partake something of the light of grace, it is but little, and with obscurity. Therefore it was not fitting that the angel should show reverence to man until someone should be found in human nature who exceeded the angels in those three respects. And this was the Blessed Virgin. In order to signify that she exceeded him in these three things, the angel wished to show her reverence; hence he said, Hail. So the Blessed Virgin exceeded the angels in these three. First, in fullness of grace, which the Blessed Virgin has more than any angel. It was to indicate this that the angel showed her reverence, saying, full of grace, as if to say: I will show you reverence because you excel me in the fullness of grace.
He says that the Blessed Virgin is full of grace with respect to three things. First, with respect to soul, which has every fullness of grace. For the grace of God is given for two reasons, namely, in order to act well, and to avoid evil. And with respect to these two the Blessed Virgin had most perfect grace. For more than any other holy person save Christ alone she avoided all sin. For sin is either original, and of this she was cleansed in the womb; or mortal or venial, and of these she was free. Hence the Canticle of Canticles 4:7: Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee. Augustine in On Nature and Grace writes: "The holy virgin Mary excepted, if all the holy men and women were here before us and were asked if they were without sin, they would cry out with one voice: 'If we should say we have no sin, we would delude ourselves and the truth is not in us."'
Except for this holy virgin, I say, of whom for the honor of the Lord, when sin is spoken of, I wish no question at all to be raised. For we know that more grace was brought together in her to conquer sin from every side that she merited in order to conceive and give birth to him in whom there was no sin. Christ excelled the Blessed Virgin in this, that he was conceived and born without original sin. The Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin, but not born in it. She performed the works of all virtues whereas the saints exhibit particular ones, this one being humble, that one chaste, another merciful. Therefore they are given to us as examples of special virtues, for example, Blessed Nicholas as an example of mercy, and so on.
But the Blessed Virgin is an example of all virtues. You find in her the example of humility. Luke 1:38: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, and later in verse 48, he has looked on the humility of his servant; and of chastity: since I know not man, verse 34, and of all the virtues, as is fully obvious. The Blessed Virgin is thus full of grace both with respect to operation and with respect to the avoidance of evil. Second, she was full of grace with respect to the overflow of soul to flesh or body. For it is great thing for the saints to have enough grace to sanctify their soul; but the soul of the Blessed Virgin was so full that from it grace flowed into her body, in order that with it she might conceive the son of God.
Thus Hugh of St. Victor says: "Because the love of the Holy Spirit burned so ardently in her heart, she was able to do wonders in the flesh, so that from it might be born God and man." Luke 1:35: the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Third, with respect to [grace's] distribution to all men. For it is a great thing in any saint that he has so much grace that it suffices for the salvation of many, but when enough is had for the salvation of all the men in the world, this is the greatest, and so it is with Christ and with the Blessed Virgin.
For in any peril you can obtain salvation from this glorious Virgin. Hence the Canticle of Canticles 4:4: a thousand bucklers (that is, protection against dangers) hang upon it. Again, in every work of virtue you will find her ready to help. Therefore, she herself says in Ecclesiasticus 24:25: In me is all the grace of the way, in me is all hope of life, and of virtue.
She is full of grace, therefore, and exceeds the angels in fullness of grace, and because of this she is fittingly called Mary which means illumined in herself, hence Isaiah 58:11: and will fill the soul with brightness; and she will be a light for others, meaning the whole world; and therefore she is likened to the sun and moon. Second, she excels the angels in divine familiarity. As an indication of this, the angel said: the Lord is with thee, as if he said: therefore I show reverence to you because you are more familiar with God than I, for the Lord is with thee; Lord, he says, both Father and the same Son, something no angel nor creature has. Luke 1:35: And therefore the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Isaiah 12:6: Rejoice and praise, O thou habitation of Sion: for great is he that is in the midst of thee, the Holy One of Israel.
The Lord is with the Blessed Virgin differently than he is with the angel; he is with her as her son, but with the angel as Lord: the Lord the Holy Spirit, as in the temple, hence she is called the temple of the Lord, the sacred place of the Holy Spirit, who conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35 ): the spirit of the Most High shall come upon you. So it is that the Blessed Virgin is more familiar with God than the angel, because with her is the Lord Father, the Lord Son and the Lord Holy Spirit, that is, the whole trinity is with her. Thus it is sung of her: noble resting place of the whole Trinity. To have said of her, the Lord is with thee, is the most noble thing that could be said of her. Rightly then does the angel revere the Blessed Virgin, because she is the mother of the Lord, and therefore mistress herself. The name Mary thus becomes her and in the Syrian tongue it means mistress.
Third, she exceeds the angels in her purity, for the Blessed Virgin was not only pure in herself, but she also obtained purity for others. For she was most pure with respect to guilt, because neither mortal nor venial sin could be imputed to this virgin, and she was equally pure with respect to punishment.
Three curses come to men because of sin: the first to woman, who will conceive with stain, bear with heaviness and give birth in sorrow. But the Blessed Virgin was immune to this, because she conceived without sin, bore in comfort and joyfully gave birth to the Savior. Isaiah 35:2: It shall bud forth and blossom, and shall rejoice with joy and praise. The second curse is the man's, who must earn his bread with the sweat of his brow. The Blessed Virgin was immune to this, because as the Apostle says in l Corinthians 7:32: He who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord. The third is common to men and women, namely that into dust they shall return. The Blessed Virgin was free of this, because she was assumed in the body into heaven. For we believe that after death she was raised up and borne to heaven. Psalm 131:8: Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy majesty.
Therefore she was immune to every curse, and thereby blessed amongst women, for she alone put away the curse and carried the blessing, and the door of paradise opened; therefore the name Mary becomes her, which is interpreted Star of the Sea, because just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so Christians are directed by Mary to glory.
The sinner sometimes seeks in a thing what cannot be attained there, but the just man attains it. Proverbs 13:22: the substance of the sinner is kept for the just. Thus Eve sought in the fruit and did not find there all the things that she desired, but the Blessed Virgin finds in her fruit everything that Eve desired. For Eve desired three things from the fruit. The first what the devil falsely promised her, that they would be as gods, knowing good and evil. You will be, that liar said, like gods, as is read in Genesis 3:5. And he lies because he is a liar, and the father of lies. Eve was not made like God when she ate the fruit, but unlike, because by sinning she receded from God her salvation and was expelled from paradise.
But this is what the Blessed Virgin and all Christians find in the fruit of her womb, because by Christ they are united with and made like unto God. 1 John 3:2: when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him just as he is. The second thing that Eve desired in the fruit was pleasure, because it is good to eat; but she did not find it and immediately knew that she was naked, and felt sorrow. But in the fruit of the Virgin we find sweetness and salvation. John 6:55: he who eats my flesh has life eternal. Third, the fruit of Eve was beautiful in appearance, but more beautiful is the fruit of the Virgin on whom the angels desire to gaze. Psalm 44:3: Thou art beautiful above the sons of men; this is because he is the splendor of his Father's glory.
Eve could not find in her fruit what no sinner can find in his sin. Therefore, what we desire, we should seek in the fruit of the Virgin. Here is a fruit blessed by God, because he has so filled him with every grace that it comes to us by showing him reverence. Ephesians 1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing on high in Christ. By the angels, Apocalypse 7:12: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God. The Apostle, Philippians 2:11: and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. Psalm 117:26: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.
So therefore is the Virgin blessed, but far more blessed is the fruit of her womb.
1 St. Thomas says Mary was cleansed of original sin in the womb, rather than conceived without original sin. He wrote long before the definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and, unlike Duns Scotus, did not think it of faith.
How full of grace would the mother of Jesus Christ be? This is the only time an angel has accorded a human being this kind of honor. I found it such a poignant, thoughtful question, beautifully stated and in no way idolatrous.
This is what they will have the biggenst problem with.
Please do not use potty language on the Religion Forum.
What's true is true. Unwillingness to speak plainly about evil is also dangerous, don't you think?
For me, it was the Fathers that turned me away from Evangelical Protestantism, not to mention the Evangelicals I got to know in IVCF.
With theology like that he would have just as easily been pulled into Islam or Mormonism if they had got to him first.
Just out of curiosity, whose 'they'?
If you'd like, I'll Freepmail your removed post so you can reword it.
You're confusing the National Catholic Register with the National Catholic Reporter.
FWIW, my former paster (Methodist) sent out a Christmas letter that was objectionable on many levels, but the worst was her characerization of Mary. She said that every pregnant teenager who gave birth in a Bus Station was Mary.
I just shook my head and thought, "You have no understanding of who Mary was."
Really? I'm fascinated, tell me more!