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The Visible Church Was There All Along
http://www.chnetwork.org/cbconv.htm ^ | Unknown | Cindy Beck

Posted on 02/24/2007 4:59:51 PM PST by stfassisi

The Visible Church Was There All Along

by Cindy Beck

“I just can’t be Protestant anymore,” I blurted out one night as my husband and I were driving in the car.

“What?”

“This is just crazy. Every church teaches something different. Every pastor interprets the Bible according to his own personal beliefs. How is anybody supposed to know who’s teaching the truth?”

“Well, all we can do is choose the denomination that’s most faithful to the Bible.”

“So we decide what the Bible means? We decide what’s true? Then the Bible isn’t our final authority – we are.”

Kerry was silent for a moment.

“Well, if you’re not Protestant anymore, then what are you?” he asked.

I didn’t know.

“Lord,” I prayed later that night, “I’ll go wherever You want me to go. Please, just lead me to the truth.”

I never imagined that I would one day become Catholic, even when I knew I could no longer be Protestant. Catholicism simply wasn’t an option. When I left Protestantism, I had no idea where I was going. I only knew that there had to be something else. No matter where it led, I had to find the truth. I never dreamed it would be in the last place I ever wanted to look.

* * * * *

Raised without a religious faith of any kind, I envisioned God as a stern Judge rather than a loving Father. Knowing my sinfulness, I didn’t think He would ever forgive someone like me. But in the mid-1980s, I discovered the Trinity Broadcasting Network on TV. The televangelists spoke of a merciful and forgiving God Who “so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). One night, in front of the TV set, I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” and asked Jesus into my heart as my Lord and Savior.

I began attending a Charismatic church whose pastor frequently appeared on TBN. Amid rock and roll music, swaying bodies, and waving arms, I was baptized. Charismatic worship was an exciting new experience. I had never before seen people speaking in “heavenly languages” or being “slain in the Spirit.” Visiting evangelists told amazing stories of “signs and wonders and miracles.” I longed to receive the gifts of the Spirit myself and went forward for the “laying on of hands” each week, but nothing happened.

As time passed, I began to question some of the beliefs of my church. Our pastors promised that we would receive physical as well as spiritual healing if we only had enough faith. And yet each week I watched as the same people went forward time and time again. No one ever got up out of a wheelchair, and the blind did not see. I wondered if these poor people who loved the Lord felt as though they themselves were to blame because they didn’t have enough faith to be healed. But as I read the Bible, I saw that God has a purpose for suffering in the Christian life (cf. Rom. 5:3-4, 8:17; Phil. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:6-7).

I was also deeply troubled by the emphasis on “speaking in tongues.” Hadn’t the Apostle Paul said, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19)? Though our pastors appealed to the first letter to the Corinthians to support the practices in our church, I could see that Paul was admonishing them for their excesses. “Brothers, stop thinking like children” (1 Cor. 14:20), he told them.

As the Charismatic movement became more and more extreme, I began to distance myself, and I eventually left the church. For a time I continued to read the Bible, but it wasn’t long before I gave that up, too. As the cares of the world crept back into my life, I slowly abandoned the practice of my faith. For the next several years, I drifted further and further away from the Lord. Stubbornly resisting His grace, I tried to find happiness in the pleasures of the world.

It was during this time that I met my husband. Kerry had been raised in the Lutheran Church and had even been an altar boy in his youth, but fell away from his faith as a teenager. Together we went about living extremely self-centered, self-indulgent lives apart from the Lord.

Then one day, I got a letter from a woman I had known years earlier in the Charismatic church. She had become a Jehovah’s Witness. I knew that the Witnesses deny that Jesus is the eternal Son of God and teach that He is Michael the Archangel. While I didn’t remember very much about my faith by then, there was one thing of which I was absolutely certain: Jesus Christ is not a created being; He is God in human flesh, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

I found my Bible and called her, determined to show her from Scripture the truth about Christ. But it had been so long since I had studied the Bible, I forgot the passages that proved Christ’s Divinity. So I began to study Scripture again in earnest and we continued to talk until, on the advice of her elders, she cut off all contact. I never heard from her again. But like the prodigal son, I had come to my senses and longed to return to my Father’s house. I begged the Lord to forgive me for my years of sin and rebellion and I re-surrendered my life to Christ.

* * * * *

Scanning through the stations on the radio one day, I came across a discussion of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I discovered the “Bible Answer Man,” a call-in radio talk show hosted by Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute. I contacted CRI for more information about the Witnesses and became an avid listener of the show.

I started going to church again, attending a Baptist church near my home. How different it was! I had thought all Christians clapped and danced and shouted in church. But worship in the Baptist church was orderly and dignified. I felt so much more comfortable there.

At first, Kerry resisted. But by the grace of God, it wasn’t long before he had a conversion experience of his own. Kerry recommitted his life to Christ and we began following the Lord together.

Over the next few months, as he grew in his relationship with the Lord, Kerry became more and more uncomfortable in his job as the manager of a secular bookstore. Books on the occult, adult magazines, and the like were offensive to his new faith in Christ, so he prepared to look for some other kind of work.

I was listening to the “Bible Answer Man” on the radio one day when Hank announced that the Christian Research Institute was accepting resumes.

“Why don’t you send your resume to CRI?” I suggested to Kerry later that night.

We had no idea what kind of position was available. As it turned out, a manager was needed for the on-site bookstore – and Kerry got the job.

Founded in 1960 by the late Dr. Walter Martin (The Kingdom of the Cults), the Christian Research Institute is the largest Protestant apologetics organization in the world. CRI publishes the award-winning magazine The Christian Research Journal, and the “Bible Answer Man” broadcast is heard on over one hundred radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. What an honor it was that Kerry was going to be a part of this ministry. We could hardly believe that the Lord had blessed us in this way.

Kerry began working for CRI in the summer of 1996, and we moved north from San Diego to Orange County. Kerry loved his new job and quickly became a valued and well-liked member of the CRI staff. Within a year, he was supervising the warehouse and shipping department in addition to the bookstore. I became a volunteer and eventually started working for him in the warehouse on an as-needed basis. We made wonderful new friends and enjoyed working alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.

After our move, we set about finding a new church. We wanted to try a different denomination, as we were troubled by the “secret rapture” teaching that was so prevalent in our Baptist church, for which we could find no Biblical support. We were surprised to learn that this teaching was less than two hundred years old and that it has never been accepted by the majority of Christian believers.

We eventually settled into a Reformed church. For the next two years, we studied the history of the Protestant Reformation, embracing Reformed theology wholeheartedly. I loved Calvinism – at last I could love the Lord not only with my heart but with my mind as well (cf. Matt. 22:37). Calvin’s doctrines on election, predestination, and the perseverance of the saints were particularly comforting. I loved the teaching that everything was in God’s Sovereign hands, determined before the foundation of the world.

We attended Bible studies and conferences, read numerous books, and listened to hundreds of theology tapes. We were learning from the best theologians the Reformed tradition had to offer.

One evening in a Bible study class, we were discussing Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) when the topic of conversation switched to the canon of Scripture itself. Our teacher quoted my favorite theologian, R. C. Sproul, as saying that the canon of Scripture is a “fallible collection of infallible books.”

“What a strange thing to say,” I thought. “If the collection of books is fallible, how could anyone be certain that we have infallible books?” It didn’t make sense. Still, I put the thought out of my mind.

But it wasn’t long before another crack in my Reformed fortress began to appear. During another Bible study, a question was asked about the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25: How could we explain this passage in light of the doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith alone)? The answer that was given was less than satisfactory. How did this parable fit our theology, I wondered? The passage began to haunt me.

“When the Son of Man comes … He will sit on His throne in Heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. … Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come … for I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’ … Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me … for I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ … ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ … ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:31-46).

Here was the clearest picture of the final judgment in all of Scripture, and the Lord was rewarding or condemning the people according to what they had done. As I searched Scripture, I found that this was not an isolated text (cf. Matt. 12:36-37, 13:49; John 5:28-29; Rom. 2:6-8; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23, 20:13).

How did all of this fit “Sola Fide”?

I knew that we are saved by the free gift of God’s grace; there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). But the simple formula of “faith alone” did not do justice to the totality of Scripture. How could we reconcile Martin Luther’s doctrine of forensic justification and imputed righteousness with the clear teaching of the Bible? “Do not let anyone lead you astray,” said the Apostle John. “He who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7).

Luther said, “No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day” (Let Your Sins Be Strong, 1521). But the Apostle Paul warned, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God?” (1 Cor. 6:9).

Was the doctrine of Sola Fide misleading countless people into a false sense of security? I remembered the Lord’s stinging warning in Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father Who is in Heaven.”

I wondered. Had Martin Luther really “rediscovered” the gospel? Or had he invented something new?

* * * * *

It began to bother me that there were so many theological differences among the CRI staff. The Lutherans disagreed with the Baptists, who disagreed with the Reformed, who disagreed with the Calvary Chapel people and so forth. Though we claimed to be united on essentials, in reality we had serious disagreements on central theological issues: Does God regenerate us in baptism or is it only a sign? Is Christ truly present in the Lord’s Supper or are the elements merely symbolic? Can we resist God’s grace and lose our salvation or are we eternally secure? It seemed absurd to me that we could hold so many contradicting views and yet all claim to be “within the pale of orthodoxy.” Somebody had to be wrong.

And what of those Christians who disagreed with CRI positions? We all looked to the Bible; what made our opinions more correct than those of anyone else? We were sending out “fact sheets” every day, but how could we really be certain that we were telling people the truth? I began to view CRI as a microcosm of Protestantism. At the end of the day, all we could do was “agree to disagree,” because each one had his Bible and was determined to decide for himself what was true.

One evening, Westminster Theological Seminary hosted a debate between the Lutherans and the Reformed on the topic of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Kerry and I couldn’t make it, but a Lutheran co-worker from CRI attended the debate and told us about it the following day. He said the discussion had quickly become heated, each side hurling Bible verses back and forth, saying things that were “almost blasphemous.”

“Oh, this is just ridiculous,” I thought to myself. “It’s been nearly five hundred years since the Reformation and they still can’t agree on what the Bible means!” And then I came to a startling realization: Sola Scriptura doesn’t work.

* * * * *

I couldn’t stop thinking about the hopeless state of division and confusion within Protestantism. With the Bible alone as our guide, we had managed to split into nearly 30,000 bickering denominations with no end in sight. How could so many sincere men of God, all claiming the Bible as their sole authority, come up with so many different interpretations of Scripture? Whose interpretation were we supposed to trust? How could we look to the Bible alone if nobody could say authoritatively what it means?

The weakening of faith and the collapse of moral values were equally disheartening. Many mainline churches, once stalwart in defense of orthodox Christian doctrine, now watered down fundamental beliefs such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the Bodily Resurrection, and even the Divinity of Christ. Rejecting Biblical morality, homosexual practice and lifestyle were becoming acceptable. Even traditionally conservative denominations were now permitting abortion. What would have been unthinkable even fifty years ago was rapidly becoming commonplace today. And still, all looked to the Bible alone and continued to claim the perspicuity of Scripture.

I had to see for myself what “private interpretation” had really led to. I asked Kerry to take me to see the various denominations. We began going on what we called our “field trips,” visiting a new church every week.

One Sunday morning, we went to the fastest-growing church in southern California. One of the new “seeker-sensitive” mega-churches, it seemed more like a stadium event than a religious service. There were no Christian symbols on the walls, not even a Cross. Musical instruments covered the stage from end to end. The pastor’s sermon was motivational and we enjoyed the lively, contemporary Christian music, but there wasn’t a word about sin, repentance, or Christ’s death on the Cross. Was this worship? Or was it entertainment? Was this what five hundred years of Protestantism had produced?

Kerry was quickly becoming as disillusioned as I was. We began to think that perhaps the solution could be found in the Anglican-Catholic Church. We found St. Matthew’s, a parish about thirty miles from our home, and began attending services each week. For a time, we loved it there. The worship was reverent and the parish priest gave some of the best sermons we had ever heard.

But there was no Anglican-Catholic parish in San Diego, where we hoped to return someday. And I discovered that the Anglican-Catholic Church had only been established as recently as 1978, when it separated from the Episcopal Church. It was just one more denomination, split off from yet another denomination.

I was terribly frustrated. Paul had warned against divisions (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10) and said that we are to watch out for those who cause them (cf. Rom. 16:17). “For the time will come,” he wrote, “when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim. 4:3). I was weary of being “blown about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Surely this disunity and confusion was not the work of the Holy Spirit.

* * * * *

We were visiting a small, Episcopal church in our neighborhood one week, when the pastor announced that there was going to be a day of prayer for unity and a special ecumenical service held at a nearby Greek Orthodox church. Knowing very little about the Eastern Orthodox, I was intrigued.

“Why don’t we go and see what it’s like?” I suggested to Kerry. “We’ve already been everywhere else.”

Though we missed the ecumenical service, one Sunday morning a few weeks later, we decided to visit the Orthodox church.

The smell of incense filled the air as we entered St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church for the Divine Liturgy. It was the most majestic church that we had ever seen. The priest, clad in a lavish golden vestment, censed the altar as he prayed in the Sanctuary. Worshipers lit candles and kissed the icons, making the Sign of the Cross. Kerry and I sat down in silence. There was a sense of reverence here that we had never experienced before. But as the celebration of the Liturgy progressed, we felt terribly out of place as the people around us stood, knelt, prayed, sang, crossed themselves, and even kissed! As beautiful as it was, I didn’t know if we would ever go back again.

I began reading about the Eastern Orthodox and discovered that theirs was an ancient church with a living, historical connection to the Apostles and to Jesus Himself. As far as I had been concerned, Church history began in the sixteenth century. I knew nothing about the fifteen hundred years before the Protestant Reformation. I began to wonder about the early centuries of Christianity. What had the early Christians been like? How had they worshiped? Reading Church history, I discovered the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. The writings of the early Fathers opened up a whole new world to me that I never knew existed.

I discovered a Church that believed in Apostolic Succession, Sacred Tradition, baptismal regeneration, and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist – a visible, authoritative Church whose bishops had infallibly determined the canon of Scripture and had defined the great dogmas of the Christian Faith.

I learned that worship in the early Church was centered not on music and preaching but on the Eucharist. The early Church Fathers unanimously believed that the bread and the wine truly became the Body and Blood of Christ.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, called the Eucharist the “medicine of immortality” (A.D. 110, Letter to the Ephesians 20:2). Concerning “those who hold heretical opinions,” he wrote, “note how contrary they are to the mind of God. … They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by His goodness raised up” (A.D. 110, Letter to the Smyrneans 6:2-7:1).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem expressed the Eucharistic faith of the early Church in his catechetical lectures: “Therefore, when He has spoken and says about the bread, ‘This is My Body,’ who will have the nerve to doubt any longer? And, when He affirms clearly, ‘This is My Blood,’ who will then doubt, saying that it is not His Blood? Once, by His own will, He changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee; is He not worthy of belief when He changes wine into blood? ... Do not judge the reality by taste but, having full assurance from faith, realize that you have been judged worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ. … Having learned these things, you have complete certitude that the visible bread is not bread, even if it is such to the taste, but the Body of Christ; and the visible wine is not wine, even if taste thinks it such, but the Blood of Christ” (A.D. 350, Mystagogic Catechesis 4:1,2,6,9).

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).

The early Christians knew that the Lord was not speaking of a mere symbol. I discovered that for the first thousand years of Christianity, no one denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. It was the universal belief of the entire Christian Church.

As if scales fell from my eyes, I began to see other passages in Scripture that, taken at face value, contradicted Protestant theology: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5); “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15); “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24); “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23); “Take, eat; this is My Body … this is My Blood” (Matt. 26:26-28).

I was shaken. We had refused to believe the plain meaning of Scripture. We had “nullified the Word of God for the sake of our tradition” (cf. Matt. 15:6).

As I continued to study Church history, I learned that “Scripture alone,” “Faith alone,” an “invisible” church, and symbolic baptism and Eucharist were all late innovations – teachings of men who came along centuries after Christ established His Church. Not a single Church Father taught Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide. The two great pillars of the Protestant Reformation were “traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).

I had to make a choice. I could listen to the men who sat at the feet of the Apostles themselves – men who sacrificed their very lives for the faith that had been passed down to them – or continue to follow those who had separated themselves from the ancient Church, men who taught radically new doctrines that had never been held in the entire history of Christianity.

Jesus promised to be with His Church until the end of time (cf. Matt. 28:20) and to send the Holy Spirit to guide her into all truth (cf. John 16:13). I was forced to admit that either Christ had broken His promises and had allowed His Church to fall into error and remain in darkness for fifteen hundred years, or that Protestantism was not historical Christianity.

The testimony of the Fathers was irrefutable. The early Church was not Protestant. I had been taught that the Reformers restored “pure Christianity” to a corrupt Church, but I now knew that Protestantism was the corruption. The Reformers refashioned Christianity according to their own beliefs and lost the Faith of the Fathers, departing further and further from the Apostolic Faith with each successive generation of Protestant believers.

At long last, I discovered the Church that was founded not by Luther or Calvin or any other man but by the Lord Jesus Himself. That one, Mystical Body where there was truly “one Spirit … one hope … one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:4-5); where the many are made one Body, for “all partake of the one Bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). The Orthodox Church still possessed the faith that had been “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The Orthodox had kept the Traditions of the Fathers.

Or so I thought.

* * * * *

We decided to go back to St. Paul’s for the Resurrection Service on Great and Holy Saturday, the eve of Pascha. (Pascha is the Greek word for Passover, what Eastern Christians call Easter.) The church was dark, symbolizing the darkness of the grave. At the altar, the priest lit the Paschal Candle representing the Resurrected Christ, the Light of the World. We lit our candles from the Paschal Candle, passing on the light to each other.

“Christos Anesti,” we sang. “Christ is Risen!”

After the Divine Liturgy, everyone went forward to receive a blessed Easter egg. Kerry and I went forward, too, and to our surprise the priest invited us to come back the following day as his personal guests for the annual Easter picnic. From that day forward, St. Paul’s became our church home.

Father Steve took us under his wing as we began to learn about Orthodoxy. He gave us books to read over the summer, and in September we began the Studies in Faith class, a twenty-four-week course covering the content, history, and practice of the Orthodox faith. We joined a weekly Bible study and OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship), another study group that also met for occasional social get-togethers, and we continued to read the writings of the Church Fathers.

The Orthodox Church seemed to be the answer to our prayers. We even began to accept the teachings about the Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin Mary. After all, we discovered, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, the fathers of the Reformation, had all honored Mary and affirmed that she is the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin. How far the contemporary denominations have departed from the beliefs of their founders!

As the months passed, we continued our studies and were warmly welcomed into the life of the parish, making wonderful new friends. The fact that we were going to an Orthodox church didn’t even seem to bother anyone at CRI – Hank’s personal assistant even came to a conference at our parish. We looked forward with eager anticipation to the day when we would formally enter the Church and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion. It was the happiest time of our lives.

As we were nearing the end of our Studies in Faith class, we came to the topic of moral issues. One young couple in the class, converts from Catholicism, spoke candidly about their marriage. They had not been allowed to marry in the Catholic Church because the woman had been divorced, but they found that this was not a problem in the Orthodox Church.

I had never thought about this before; in Protestantism, remarriage after divorce is a non-issue. Although Kerry had never been married before, I had been previously married and divorced. For the first time, I began to think about divorce and remarriage and how this affected Kerry and me.

I made an appointment to speak with Father Steve about my concerns. After discussing all of the circumstances, he assured me there wasn’t a problem; he would marry Kerry and me in the Church and that would be my first, true Sacramental marriage. He would bring us into the Church at Pascha and then marry us on the day of our next anniversary.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I was terribly worried about receiving Holy Communion before we were married in the Church. How could we go forward in good conscience to receive the Body and Blood of Christ if we were not going to be married in the Church until the following November? It just didn’t seem right. And then something else began to trouble me: Why did the Orthodox Church permit its members to marry three times and still receive Holy Communion?

Something was wrong.

I decided to talk to the instructor of our Studies in Faith class. He promised to send me some information that would help. But what he thought would bring me comfort actually brought me more distress.

I learned that at the time of the emperor Justinian, the Eastern Church was pressured into a “situation which she had to accept.” Although “unwillingly and in seeming deviation from the main position of considering marriage indissoluble, yet for the purpose of helping her faithful who were at the same time citizens of the state, the Church decided to follow in the main the legal decision of the state in matters of divorce.

“Some of the reasons which the Church accepts as valid for ecclesiastically dissolving a marriage include imprisonment for life, incurable mental or physical illness, proven and irremedial incompatibility, and others” (A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy, pg. 120).

When I read those words, my heart sank. I turned to the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19 – a passage I had read many times before and yet, until now, had never truly seen. Jesus said, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery” (Matt. 19:8-9).

I knew that there was only one church that taught the indissolubility of marriage. Could the Catholic Church really be what she claimed to be? I didn’t want to believe it, so deep were my prejudices against Catholicism.

* * * * *

I had one Catholic friend. We had met on the Internet while I was still a staunch Calvinist. Mary had a deep love for the Lord and a steadfast belief that the Catholic Church was His true Church. The Lord used our friendship to soften my heart, just enough that I was able to buy my first Catholic books: Surprised by Truth, a collection of conversion stories edited by Patrick Madrid, and The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism by Father John Hardon, S.J.

About this time, Kerry began listening to Catholic radio when he was driving in the car. Protestant programming no longer interested him. We were so much closer to the Catholics now; Catholicism and Orthodoxy were virtually the same faith, sharing the same Sacraments but divided mainly over the issue of authority. Kerry told me about “Catholic Answers Live,” a call-in radio talk show similar to the “Bible Answer Man,” and I began to listen, too.

As I read about the Catholic faith and listened to “Catholic Answers Live,” I realized that I had serious misconceptions about Catholicism. The Catholic Church did not teach salvation by works, that Christ is “re-sacrificed” in the Mass, that Mary and the Saints are to be worshiped, or that purgatory is a second chance at Heaven. I realized that all of my perceptions of the Catholic faith had been gleaned from anti-Catholic Protestant sources that had misrepresented official Catholic teachings. I was ashamed to admit that I had never read a single book written by a Catholic author in defense of the Catholic faith. I had to know more, but I didn’t want Kerry to know what I was thinking until I was absolutely certain for myself.

I had been studying cults for years, collecting nearly every book that had been written about them. One day, I casually said to Kerry, “You know, there’s really nothing available by an Orthodox author on cults or apologetics. Do you mind if I order something from the Catholics to get their perspective?”

“Go ahead,” he replied.

And so I began ordering books and tapes by Catholic authors Patrick Madrid, Jimmy Akin, Karl Keating, Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, and others. I was intensely studying the Catholic faith – and Kerry didn’t suspect a thing.

* * * * *

One day, I discovered something that absolutely shocked me. Up until 1930, all Christian churches taught that contraception was intrinsically evil and gravely sinful. It was the Anglican Church, at its Lambeth Conference, that first approved the use of birth control. Since that time, every single Protestant denomination – and sadly even the Orthodox Church – has followed suit, departing from nineteen hundred years of universal Christian belief.

But there was something more. I learned that some contraceptives – the IUD, Norplant, Depo-Provera, and the Pill – were also potential abortifacients. The Pill, I discovered, does not always prevent conception, but sometimes causes an early chemical abortion after a new life has already been conceived. Although its primary function is to inhibit ovulation, the birth control pill sometimes allows breakthrough ovulation and conception to occur, meaning a woman can still become pregnant, even when she’s on the Pill. When this happens, the Pill works in another way: by causing changes in the lining of the uterus that prevent the implantation of the new human life.

I believed that human life is sacred and that we must respect all life – from the very moment of conception until natural death. It is as sinful to take the life of a tiny, seven-day-old human being by a chemical abortion as it is to take the life of a seven-week-old human being by a surgical abortion. I thought of all the sincere, pro-life Christians who use birth control because their pastors have told them that it is morally permissible. In allowing the use of contraception, Christian churches had unwittingly caused the deaths of innocent human beings created in the image of God.

With tremendous sorrow, I realized that I could not become Orthodox. There was only one Church that stood firm on all moral issues, only one Church that could be the one Scripture calls the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

* * * * *

St. John Chrysostom, the great fourth-century patriarch of the Eastern Church, wrote, “Why did He shed His blood? It was to purchase the sheep which He entrusted to Peter and his successors” (The Priesthood 2:1). Christ had given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter (cf. Matt. 16:19) and charged him to feed His sheep (cf. John 21:15-17) and to strengthen his brethren (cf. Luke 22:32). I now knew that the Lord was calling me into the Catholic Church. I had to be obedient to Christ. I had to “become like a little child” (cf. Matt. 18:3) and humbly submit to the authority of His one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.

I wasn’t sure what to do next, and there was still the matter of my marital situation. I decided to call Catholic Answers. I spoke with a staff apologist who suggested that I contact Edward Peters, a canon lawyer and frequent guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”

Dr. Peters explained that an annulment is not a “Catholic divorce” as some people think. The Catholic Church teaches that a valid marriage is indissoluble. An annulment is granted only when the Church determines that a valid marriage never existed from the beginning. The Catholic Church takes great care to protect her faithful because, in her wisdom, she knows that to attempt a second marriage when the first marriage is valid causes one to be in a state of adultery. Dr. Peters encouraged me to speak with a parish priest who could then help me to begin the annulment process.

It was nearing the day when Father Steve would pray for the Catechumens who would be coming into the Orthodox Church at Pascha. I couldn’t put it off any longer. I told Kerry that I could not become Orthodox – I had discovered the truth of the Catholic faith.

Kerry stared at me in disbelief. He was devastated. After all of the months of prayer and study, all of our plans now lay in ruins. Our life at St. Paul’s, our future at CRI, everything we had looked forward to – it was all over.

“I hate the Roman Catholic Church,” he said and turned and walked away.

There was now a tension between us that had never existed before. But while Kerry couldn’t accept that the Catholic Church could be Christ’s Church, he could not deny that there were serious problems with the Orthodox position on moral issues. We now realized that if I had been validly married in the past, Kerry and I were living in a state of adultery. Rather than risk offending God and eternally endangering each other’s soul, we agreed to live as brother and sister until we could determine our true marital state.

* * * * *

There was one Catholic whom Kerry respected very much: Jimmy Akin, the senior apologist at Catholic Answers. Jimmy had been a guest on the “Bible Answer Man” years earlier and, though I didn’t know it at the time, Kerry had listened to the tapes over and over again, astonished that there were good, solid Catholic answers to Protestant questions. If I could convince Kerry to meet with him, I knew that Jimmy could help. But when I raised the idea, he resisted.

“I can’t take a day off to go down there,” he said. “You know how busy I am at work.” Kerry was adamant that there was nothing I could say to change his mind.

“Please Lord,” I prayed that night, “find a way to get Kerry down to Catholic Answers.”

The Lord answers prayers in unexpected ways.

A few days later, we found out that Kerry needed to have minor surgery. On doctor’s orders, he would be off from work for two weeks.

“You know, we could go to see Jimmy before you have to go back to work again,” I said with a sly grin one night, as the day of surgery approached. “You know how bored you’ll be after you’ve been sitting at home for two weeks.”

“Oh, all right,” he reluctantly agreed. “Make the arrangements.”

Kerry recovered from surgery quickly and was feeling fine when the day arrived for our trip to Catholic Answers. The tension that had been between us for weeks seemed to lift as we drove down the coast to the San Diego-based apostolate.

Jimmy welcomed us and gave us a tour, introducing Kerry and me to everyone on staff. We then settled into a conference room where he spent the next two hours answering all of our questions about the Catholic faith. Karl Keating, the founder and president of Catholic Answers, spent some time with us, too, and gave us all of the back issues of This Rock magazine featuring articles on Eastern Orthodoxy. We met Johnny Hochgraefe, the host of “Catholic Answers Live” at the time, and stayed to watch a taping of the show.

On the way home, Kerry broke the silence. “I suppose it’s inevitable that I’m going to be Catholic, but I’m just not ready yet; I need more time. But if you’re ready now, I don’t want to stand in your way. I think you should enter the Church.”

* * * * *

St. Michael’s Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers was near our home, and we began going there for Sunday Mass. One of the priests at the Abbey, Father John Caronan, was on the Orange County Marriage Tribunal. I made an appointment to meet with him to discuss the annulment and the possibility of my coming into the Church.

The annulment process is lengthy, lasting at least a year. But because Kerry and I had been living as brother and sister, Father John said that it was possible that I could enter the Church in full Communion at Easter if we agreed to go on living continently. With the Easter Vigil just a few weeks away, I was hopeful that I would soon be received into the Church.

Father John sent us to Father Daniel Johnson at St. Mary’s by the Sea. Although Father Johnson’s RCIA class was almost over, he allowed us to come into the class. Because of our background, the instruction we had received at St. Paul’s, and our own study of the Catholic faith, he agreed that I was ready.

There remained one, final question to be answered: What would we do if my annulment was denied and we could never have our marriage blessed in the Church? It would mean that we could never live as husband and wife again.

Kerry and I were of the same mind. We knew that to reject the Church would be to reject Christ. We would accept the final decision of the Church as that of a mother who protects and cares for her children. We would trust God and rely on His grace to help us live accordingly. We had to follow Christ no matter what the cost. Knowing that our Lord was truly present in the Holy Eucharist – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – how could we ever turn away?

With that decision made, there was nothing left to stand in my way. On April 22, 2000, at the Easter Vigil – with Kerry’s blessing and my friend Mary as my sponsor – I was welcomed into the arms of Holy Mother Church, and I received the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion.

* * * * *

Two weeks later, Kerry began Father Johnson’s new RCIA class. With Kerry’s entrance into the Church imminent, we knew that it was time for us to leave CRI. Though we had respect and admiration for the work that CRI does on cults and aberrant Christian movements, we no longer shared the Protestant beliefs of our Evangelical brothers and sisters. We had found the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church.

We had to decide quickly what to do next. We wanted very much to return to San Diego, but Kerry didn’t want to go back to his old job at the secular bookstore.

“Lord,” I prayed, “You’ve led us this far and we trust in You. Please, open a door for us somewhere.”

I was working in the warehouse at CRI one day, when I put on my headphones to listen to “Catholic Answers Live” on the radio. Johnny Hochgraefe came on the air and made an announcement: Catholic Answers was accepting resumes.

“Thank you, Lord,” I whispered as I turned and looked over at Kerry. I just knew we were going home.

Kerry met with the vice president of Catholic Answers and the following week gratefully accepted a position as the manager of purchasing and inventory control. There wasn’t time for him to complete the RCIA class before we moved back to San Diego, so Father Johnson graciously allowed him to listen to tapes of a previous class.

On June 10th, the eve of Pentecost, in a private Mass at St. Mary’s by the Sea, Kerry was received into the Church, and we shared the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion together for the first time.

* * * * *

“Where Peter is, there is the Church,” wrote St. Ambrose in the fourth century. The visible Church that Kerry and I had once refused to see was there all along. Despite persecutions, scandals, and the sins of her members, the Catholic Church lives on. She has stood invincible throughout two thousand years of history and will last until the end of time, for Christ Himself promised that she would.

“And I tell you, you are Peter,” said the Lord. “And on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Postscript

In March 2002, as we were preparing for Holy Week, we received word that the Marriage Tribunal had reached a favorable decision in my case. Kerry and I would soon be free to have our marriage blessed in the Church.

The Lord has blessed us in so many ways we scarcely have words to thank Him. To God alone be all glory and honor, forever and ever. Amen!


TOPICS: Catholic
KEYWORDS: calvinist; catholic; charismatic; convert; protestant; reformed
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I learned that worship in the early Church was centered not on music and preaching but on the Eucharist. The early Church Fathers unanimously believed that the bread and the wine truly became the Body and Blood of Christ.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, called the Eucharist the “medicine of immortality” (A.D. 110, Letter to the Ephesians 20:2). Concerning “those who hold heretical opinions,” he wrote, “note how contrary they are to the mind of God. … They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by His goodness raised up” (A.D. 110, Letter to the Smyrneans 6:2-7:1).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem expressed the Eucharistic faith of the early Church in his catechetical lectures: “Therefore, when He has spoken and says about the bread, ‘This is My Body,’ who will have the nerve to doubt any longer? And, when He affirms clearly, ‘This is My Blood,’ who will then doubt, saying that it is not His Blood? Once, by His own will, He changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee; is He not worthy of belief when He changes wine into blood? ... Do not judge the reality by taste but, having full assurance from faith, realize that you have been judged worthy of the Body and Blood of Christ. … Having learned these things, you have complete certitude that the visible bread is not bread, even if it is such to the taste, but the Body of Christ; and the visible wine is not wine, even if taste thinks it such, but the Blood of Christ” (A.D. 350, Mystagogic Catechesis 4:1,2,6,9).

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is real food and My Blood is real drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).

The early Christians knew that the Lord was not speaking of a mere symbol.

1 posted on 02/24/2007 4:59:56 PM PST by stfassisi
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To: stfassisi

Ping!


2 posted on 02/24/2007 5:01:21 PM PST by stfassisi ("Above all gifts that Christ gives his beloved is that of overcoming self"St Francis Assisi)
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To: stfassisi

There are times when Protestant churches are their own worst enemies. The author's confusion is understandable, but unfortunate. There are a few great Protestant preachers who are consistent year in and year out. My favorite is John MacArthur...he was my pastor while I was in seminary, and I trained under him for several years.


3 posted on 02/24/2007 5:35:34 PM PST by LiteKeeper (Beware the secularization of America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: stfassisi

The point about Orthodox moral positions was interesting. I am not sure, but I think the Orthodox churches in the US may differ from their European counterparts in some of these areas. One of the problems was that the US Orthodox churches, wishing to distance themselves from the Catholic Church, fell into the Protestant ambit and I think were rather influenced by it. There were Orthodox churches in the NCC, for example, and a lot of Orthodox felt very comfortable with the Episcopalians. I think this may have changed now that the Episcopalians have so clearly gone off the rails, but in other areas (contraception, divorce, etc.) the Orthodox are probably still close to the Protestants, although I think they uniformly reject abortion.

One thing to bear in mind, however, as the author points out, is that even up to the early part of the 20th century, the Protestant churches had pretty much the same policy as the Catholic Church on moral issues. But once the change came, it was a landslide.


4 posted on 02/24/2007 5:42:29 PM PST by livius
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To: stfassisi

This should be an interesting thread.


5 posted on 02/24/2007 5:56:37 PM PST by StAthanasiustheGreat (Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit)
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To: stfassisi
Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

So, taking the Catholic Eucharist once ensures salvation, correct? That's great news to me, a former Catholic!
6 posted on 02/24/2007 6:11:49 PM PST by armydoc
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: armydoc
Saved by grace and grace alone.

"And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." -- Hebrews 10:11-18


8 posted on 02/24/2007 6:38:14 PM PST by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: stfassisi; Dr. Eckleburg

1 John 2:19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.


9 posted on 02/24/2007 6:47:30 PM PST by Blogger
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To: livius
I am surprised the Roman Church recognizes heterodox/secular marriages. Why is that? As the Orthodox priest's response to this woman's questions demonstrates, we don't.

I do wonder what this woman will do if there is a reunion between Orthodoxy and the Roman Church and Orthodoxy doesn't, as it won't, change its disciplines in those areas which seem to concern her. Will her beliefs be shattered by Rome's communion with "heresy"?

Given this woman's history, I'd say Fr. Steve and St. Paul's dodged a bullet.
10 posted on 02/24/2007 7:38:38 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: stfassisi

Can you offer a timeline for when this article was written?

I am wondering if this artcile is 4-5 years old.


11 posted on 02/24/2007 10:36:06 PM PST by Running On Empty
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To: stfassisi; armydoc; Dr. Eckleburg; LiteKeeper
“I just can’t be Protestant anymore,”

In general conversation Protestants don't sit around and describe themselves as Protestants. We will describe ourselves as Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.

Every church teaches something different. Every pastor interprets the Bible according to his own personal beliefs.

EVERY? She has been to EVERY "Protestant" church???

Sorry. I can't read past these silly generalizations.

12 posted on 02/24/2007 11:27:50 PM PST by Gamecock (Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei)
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To: stfassisi

IMHO, I don't perceive the article is written by believers seeking to remain in fellowship with God through faith in Christ more than they simply are seeking religious fulfilment of a social institution which offers scarcity of moral dilemmas in a worldly environment.

The answer is much simpler. Simple faith in God thrugh faith in Christ, allowing God's grace to do all the work and remaining obedient to Him in all things, with all our mind, soul and strength and heart, and loving our fellow man as ourselves. Let God the Holy Spirit perform all the work in our thinking regarding our learning in Scripture and stop dwelling on manmade arguments.

Perhaps in His plan they were simply meant to wander between denominations blythely absorbing only tidbits of Scripture and His will so that they might be at the right place at the right time in the future. Then again, maybe they've been chasing after something they seek from their own intent rather than simply resting in faith in Him through Christ, resulting in a merry-go-round worldly life with ups and downs of periodic spirituality.

I rejoice, though, that His providence has prepared places for them in their journey.


13 posted on 02/24/2007 11:35:26 PM PST by Cvengr
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To: Kolokotronis

In the Catholic Church, the sacrament of marriage is performed by the couple themselves and the priest is essentially a witness to the covenant entered into by them and blesses it. For a marriage between baptized Christians to be valid, they need to have a valid intention to enter into an indissoluble marriage, be open to having children, and have no obstacles. (The Orthodox view is different, and "confers" marriage.)

It was once considered by the Church that most types of marriages between non-Catholics, particularly in the non-liturgical churches, lacked the components to make them valid, and therefore didn't constitute genuine marriages. However, this changed at some point in recent years (don't know when). I think it was meant to be a gesture of respect to other Christians, but the reality was that it has made things more difficult for people coming into the Church. In my opinion, if they got married in a church (let alone a secular environment) that has no problem with divorce and where marriages really aren't considered indissoluble and where not having children is the norm, can they really be said to have entered into a valid marriage? I'm no canonist, but it doesn't seem that way to me. Most of the time, of course, lack of a valid intention is the basis for their annulment, but it seems to me to be a cumbersome system.

In any case, I don't agree with her on the heresy point, but certainly the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox views of marriage are one of the points of discussion. But I'm not sure, as I said, if the attitude regarding divorce, etc. is true of Orthodoxy in general, or is something picked up in the United States because at one time the Orthodox churches in the US had a fair amount of contact with Protestants, and very liberal ones at that (NCC).


14 posted on 02/25/2007 3:53:49 AM PST by livius
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To: Gamecock; stfassisi
“This is just crazy. Every church teaches something different. Every pastor interprets the Bible according to his own personal beliefs. How is anybody supposed to know who’s teaching the truth?”

“Well, all we can do is choose the denomination that’s most faithful to the Bible.”

“So we decide what the Bible means? We decide what’s true? Then the Bible isn’t our final authority – we are.”

I don't believe for a second that this conversation actually happened. It's too canned. Right out of just about every "swimming the Tiber" testimonial.

Not to mention the inevitable logical fallacy embraced by the new convert: Churches B through Z all teach something different; therefore, church A is right. This ignores the possibility that church A is wrong too, and maybe church K is right.

Of course, if you call them on that, then circular logic kicks in. Church A is incapable of error; therefore church A is right.

15 posted on 02/25/2007 4:04:00 AM PST by Larry Lucido (Duncan Hunter 2008)
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To: livius
"In my opinion, if they got married in a church (let alone a secular environment) that has no problem with divorce and where marriages really aren't considered indissoluble and where not having children is the norm, can they really be said to have entered into a valid marriage? I'm no canonist, but it doesn't seem that way to me."

For me the real issue is whether or not the "marriage" in some random ecclesial community or more obviously in a secular or non Christian context, is truly a sacrament. So far as I know, the Protestants don't consider marriage a sacrament. For the life of me I can't see why we should confer sacramental status on something the practitioners of the rite deny is sacramental.

"But I'm not sure, as I said, if the attitude regarding divorce, etc. is true of Orthodoxy in general, or is something picked up in the United States because at one time the Orthodox churches in the US had a fair amount of contact with Protestants, and very liberal ones at that (NCC)."

Orthodoxy makes provision for two divorces and a maximum of three marriages no matter how they end. Ecclesiastical divorces are granted by a bishop as a matter of economia upon the recommendation of a diocesan marriage tribunal. Second marriages are rather quiet, serious affairs and a third is positively funereal. The ecclesiastical divorce process is nearly universal in Orthodoxy (the possibility of economia for second and third marriages is universal) and far from being something picked up from Protestants, it goes back to the 7th or 8th century. The Church considers marriage to be forever (not just for life) but after the Empire enacted its first civil divorce laws, The Church was faced with a dilema. People got divorced and then began living in sin with others. Since The Church sees itself as a hospital for sick souls, the bishops determined that it was a greater sin to live in sin than for the bishop to exercise economia for remarriage (mostly after an ecclesiastical divorce). To be fair, there is no way to spin this as anything other than a very ancient Catch 22 for The Church where The Church can choose the "lesser of two evils".

Orthodox marriages are a Mystery of The Church and are not so much "conferred" as they are a recognition of the God's work, so far as The Church can see, in joining the man and the woman. As you know, there are no vows. Here's a link to the text of the sacrament.

http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/liturgical_texts/wedding.asp

By the way, the only non-Orthodox marriages recognized as sacramental by Orthodoxy are Roman Catholic (and of course Eastern Rite Catholic) and Oriental Orthodox marriages. For this reason the Orthodox priest saw no problem in marrying the couple in the posted story.
16 posted on 02/25/2007 5:01:57 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: livius; stfassisi

"There were Orthodox churches in the NCC, for example, and a lot of Orthodox felt very comfortable with the Episcopalians. I think this may have changed now that the Episcopalians have so clearly gone off the rails, but in other areas (contraception, divorce, etc.) the Orthodox are probably still close to the Protestants, although I think they uniformly reject abortion."

The reason some of the Orthodox Churches here are in the NCC is because the Church of Constantinople was among the founders of the WCC back in the post WWI days. Some Orthodox Churches have removed themselves from this wicked organization, the Antiochians for example. The GOA and the OCA are still in but I suspect its just a matter of time before they leave too. The argument for staying in is to witness to The Truth...but I don't buy it. I don't know what the Protestant attitude towards birth control is. Ours is that it is a matter between the couple and their spiritual father but abortion and any abortifacient contraceptive device is absolutely forbidden.

Relations with the Episcopalians were indeed close at the hierarchial level at end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. In fact, there was a virtual communion. The then presiding hierarch of Orthodoxy here realized he had been sold a bill of theological goods by the Episcopalian hierarchs and issued a encyclical instructing the Faithful to have nothing to do with the Episcopalians. Its quite harsh. Attitudes towards the Episcopalians among the faithful however stayed quite warm. Personally I think it was a manifestation of an immigrant, mostly peasant generation wanting to "pass for white". It became a practice for some to attend an Episcopal Church if an Orthodox one wasn't readily available and people actually believed that The Church approved of this. My family never did that and in fact was quite vociferous in condemning it. That practice pretty much died out in the 1970s with the death of the immigrant generation. It was never widespread. In a strange way, it actually worked out well for us. Many of our thoroughly Americanized leftist Orthodox (never very many, but unfortunately among the best educated and successful of our people) left Orthodoxy for Episcopalianism around the time that group started going off the rails with its women's ordinations and "new gospel" of social activism and feminist heresy. As one said to me many years ago, we are attracted to the Episcopals' attitude towards women! Anyway, it was one of those "Don't let the door hit you in the fanny on the way out" sort of things.


17 posted on 02/25/2007 5:24:43 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: stfassisi
Perhaps people come to Catholicism because they can't handle the responsibility of coming to the Lord and staying with Him, and the responsibility of submitting themselves to His law, without a flog.

18 posted on 02/25/2007 5:28:54 AM PST by William Terrell (Individuals can exist without government but government can't exist without individuals.)
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To: Kolokotronis

I agree, I think there are some things to be worked out. As I say, the Catholic view was always essentially that the sacrament was performed by the couple themselves - but I also do not see how it could be valid if it lacked the intention (which would pretty much be the case in many Protestant churches and secular settings). I think by extending "automatic" validity to just about anything between baptized Christians, Church authorities ultimately made the whole thing a good deal more complicated than it needs to be, and actually ended up muddying the waters.


19 posted on 02/25/2007 5:42:57 AM PST by livius
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To: Kolokotronis

A very interesting explanation of the NCC/Orthodox connection and also of the fondness of Episcopalianism! I think you're also right that this was a case of immigrants trying to fit in and reject what they saw as the immigrant stigma by becoming more white-bread American than anybody else.

I hope all the Orthodox churches leave the NCC. I suspect that in recent years a lot of thought has been given to some of these issues in the Orthodox churches in America, and they are probably still in the process of defining themselves and clarifying their doctrine, or at least its expression.


20 posted on 02/25/2007 5:49:37 AM PST by livius
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To: livius

"...and they are probably still in the process of defining themselves and clarifying their doctrine, or at least its expression."

Oh, there's no process of clarifying doctrine going on, except maybe with you guys and, interestingly, the Lutherans in Europe. There is no doubt, however, that Orthodoxy is undergoing a process of defining what it means to be Orthodox in America. For generations here it meant being Greek or Arab or Serb or Russian or whatever, rather like the ethnic nature of so many Catholic parishes into the 1980s. The parishes, while thoroughly Orthodox as a general proposition, were ethnic clubs. Being a member of the parish meant that you could still be a Greek, that you had a piece of the old country to run to in an otherwise often hostile America. On the other hand, the immigrants and their kids wanted more than anything else to be seen as Americans and to succeed here. If ever there was a group which appreciated the oppostunities presented by this country it was that bunch. But it also set up a sort of schizophrenia which resulted in an odd sort of "Greek/American" mentality which insisted on preserving hellenism in the parish while at the same time allowing all sorts of American, mostly Protestant, attitudes into the day to day life of the parish.

What we see developing today is a more and more American and very, very conservative form of Orthodoxy. The large influx of converts from white bread America plays a part in this. The large influx of former Soviet bloc immigrants into, say Greek or Antiochian parishes and the surprising number of Arab and African immigrant Orthodox showing up in Greek parishes is a major element of the change. In my parish, for example, there are 11 different ethnic groups counting the converts. We Greeks now make up just shy of 50% of the parish. The common language is English, not Greek. The common holidays are American, not Greek. So things change. Greek Orthodox becomes "Pan Orthodox". The parish becomes what it is in the old countries, not an ethnic club, but rather The Church. The new immigrants and perhaps even more so the converts, bring with them a profound commitment to traditional Orthodoxy and a respect for our old people and their struggles here both to establish the faith and make their way in a confusing foreign society. The humility of the converts in their willingness to assume a totally different way of looking at the world, to adopt and inculcate an Orthodox phronema, is a marvel to me. Both the converts and the new immigrants are an example to the more "Americanized" of us Greeks. I remember a few years back when I was president of the parish council and our metropolitan came for a visit. In my welcoming speech, I remarked that among the officers of the council, not one had a Greek surname. When he spoke, he opened his remarks by saying, "When I look out over this parish, I see the future of Orthodoxy in America." I think he's right.


21 posted on 02/25/2007 6:29:20 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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Comment #22 Removed by Moderator

To: Kolokotronis

As I read this post, along with the others here, I can't help but think of something my mother said for years:

"There is nothing so permanent as change."

"Change" is indicated all over the posts on this thread.


23 posted on 02/25/2007 7:52:26 AM PST by Running On Empty
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To: Cvengr
IMHO, I don't perceive the article is written by believers seeking to remain in fellowship with God through faith in Christ more than they simply are seeking religious fulfilment of a social institution which offers scarcity of moral dilemmas in a worldly environment.

I agree with you...She wasn't looking for Jesus Christ...She was looking for a religion and a religious experience...And she found it...

The smell of incense filled the air as we entered St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church for the Divine Liturgy. It was the most majestic church that we had ever seen. The priest, clad in a lavish golden vestment, censed the altar as he prayed in the Sanctuary. Worshipers lit candles and kissed the icons, making the Sign of the Cross. Kerry and I sat down in silence. There was a sense of reverence here that we had never experienced before.

Compare that to this:

Luk 17:20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

24 posted on 02/25/2007 8:08:16 AM PST by Iscool (There will be NO peace on earth, NOR good will toward men UNTIL there is Glory to God in the Highest)
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To: Kolokotronis
Some Orthodox Churches have removed themselves from this wicked organization

I,m glad you said this,and I hope the rest of the Orthodox churches pull out of the WCC and NCC.

This bothered me greatly when I was a Methodist. The Church I was in was heavily supportive of the NCC ,it was just another reason for me to leave .

Dear Friend, did the Orthodox Church abandon teaching against contraception?if so,when did this take place. Is there still some that hold to teaching against the use of Contraception?

25 posted on 02/25/2007 8:15:15 AM PST by stfassisi ("Above all gifts that Christ gives his beloved is that of overcoming self"St Francis Assisi)
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To: William Terrell
Perhaps people come to Catholicism because they can't handle the responsibility of coming to the Lord and staying with Him

You obviously know nothing about Catholicism,Brother. It is exactly the opposite of what you said.

Your statement can only be said for tepid luke warm Catholics who don,t take their faith seriously ,the same can be said for tepid Protestants who don,t take their faith seriously.

I wish you a Blessed day!

26 posted on 02/25/2007 8:25:36 AM PST by stfassisi ("Above all gifts that Christ gives his beloved is that of overcoming self"St Francis Assisi)
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To: stfassisi
Why criticize Protestantism for its many contradictions and disagreements when the same holds true for everyone else? Liturgical chr*stianity offers five ancient theological groups with apostolic succession (Catholics, Byzantine Orthodox, Non-Chalcaedonians, and Non-Ephesenes). And even within Roman Catholicism by itself there is a wide spectrum of beliefs--hence the chaos which Catholicism finds itself in today, and which the bishops refuse to do anything about.

The weakening of faith and the collapse of moral values were equally disheartening. Many mainline churches, once stalwart in defense of orthodox Christian doctrine, now watered down fundamental beliefs such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the Bodily Resurrection, and even the Divinity of Christ.

Catholicism is among the most liberal of all the churches and has certainly watered down many "fundamental beliefs," especially "the inerrancy of Scripture." Even well-known "conservative" Catholic apologists like Fr. Peter Stravinskas and Keating reject the total inerrancy of scripture. How in the world can anyone not know this? Am I the only person who has noticed this?

What is wrong with people?

27 posted on 02/25/2007 8:30:41 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Zakhor 'et 'asher-`asah lekha `Amaleq, baderekh betze'tekhem miMitzrayim.)
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To: LiteKeeper
There are a few great Protestant preachers who are consistent year in and year out

Certainly there are.I still listen to some of the sermons of the late Dr Martyn LLoyd Jones. He was truly a gifted man of god.

28 posted on 02/25/2007 8:32:15 AM PST by stfassisi ("Above all gifts that Christ gives his beloved is that of overcoming self"St Francis Assisi)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
And even within Roman Catholicism by itself there is a wide spectrum of beliefs-

Absolute Nonsense!

There may be INDIVIDUALS who don,t know their faith but the Churches teachings are united.

Its called the Catechism-and those who don,t follow it do it at their own risk!

You seem to have disdain for all Christians?

29 posted on 02/25/2007 8:39:16 AM PST by stfassisi ("Above all gifts that Christ gives his beloved is that of overcoming self"St Francis Assisi)
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To: stfassisi

**With that decision made, there was nothing left to stand in my way. On April 22, 2000, at the Easter Vigil – with Kerry’s blessing and my friend Mary as my sponsor – I was welcomed into the arms of Holy Mother Church, and I received the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion.**

**On June 10th, the eve of Pentecost, in a private Mass at St. Mary’s by the Sea, Kerry was received into the Church, and we shared the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion together for the first time.**

A very moving conversion story for this husband and wife! Thanks, stfassisi!


30 posted on 02/25/2007 8:42:38 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: stfassisi
You completely ignored my point that the Church's chief spokesmen have rejected the total inerrancy of Scritpure. Every Catholic church has literature defending higher criticism, evolution, etc. Have you never read an issue of Liguorian, US Catholic, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic Answers, etc.? They all attack total inerrancy and defend "literary genres." I was Catholic for six years and even had a correspondence with Archbishop Whelan of Connecticut, and he was a stereotype of everything I found in the Catholic Church.

You have evolutionists in your ping list because to the Catholic Church the inerrancy of Genesis isn't important. Do you deny this?

31 posted on 02/25/2007 8:45:57 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Zakhor 'et 'asher-`asah lekha `Amaleq, baderekh betze'tekhem miMitzrayim.)
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To: Zionist Conspirator
http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html

Scroll down to the section. "Science and the stewardship of knowledge"

We are not anti science ,we live in what is truth.
When science comes up with absolute facts such as the age of the Earth-we know is certainly more than 6000 years old.
We believe it, because we always must live in truth
because God is truth

Your mistake is that You,re confusing Catholicism with religious fundamentalism.
32 posted on 02/25/2007 9:04:30 AM PST by stfassisi ("Above all gifts that Christ gives his beloved is that of overcoming self"St Francis Assisi)
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To: Larry Lucido

It is odd that there is one God, one Bible (at least there is to a Christian) but so many different beliefs.

All of us want to know that we follow God's Word but as I see it, the only way to assure that is to follow His written word. Then you get into the different interpretations by different religions. Very confusing for someone. I've finally given up on "religion" and just study scripture. I listen to different teachers and the more I study the easier it is to weed out false teaching, according to His word.

That may not be the best way to go about it but I feel it has opened my eyes and ears somewhat and if I continue to study perhaps more will be opened to me.


33 posted on 02/25/2007 9:18:19 AM PST by Ping-Pong
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To: stfassisi
We are not anti science ,we live in what is truth. When science comes up with absolute facts such as the age of the Earth-we know is certainly more than 6000 years old. We believe it, because we always must live in truth because God is truth

Your mistake is that You,re confusing Catholicism with religious fundamentalism.

So you admit my charge that the Catholic Church does not believe in the total inerrancy of Scripture, which is one of the things the author of your posted article criticized in liberal Protestant churches.

What will she do when she realizes that the "unchanging" Catholic Church has changed its interpretation of Genesis and is no different from the most radical Protestants on this issue?

If you will recall, in my initial post to this thread I highlighted the author's citing of Biblical inerrancy as one of the things she saw the Protestants rejecting and one of the reasons she was leaving them. What do you think she will do when she finds out the Catholic Church is just as bad or worse than any liberal Protestant on this issue???

34 posted on 02/25/2007 9:29:22 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Zakhor 'et 'asher-`asah lekha `Amaleq, baderekh betze'tekhem miMitzrayim.)
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To: stfassisi
The weakening of faith and the collapse of moral values were equally disheartening. Many mainline churches, once stalwart in defense of orthodox Christian doctrine, now watered down fundamental beliefs such as THE INERRANCY OF SCRIPTURE, the Virgin Birth, the Bodily Resurrection, and even the Divinity of Christ. (Emphasis added)

Perhaps you didn't notice this passage in the article you posted???

35 posted on 02/25/2007 9:33:17 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Zakhor 'et 'asher-`asah lekha `Amaleq, baderekh betze'tekhem miMitzrayim.)
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To: William Terrell; Dr. Eckleburg; wmfights; fortheDeclaration

Good post,WT. They like authority and feel secure in tradition. That way the responsibility for living the Christian life is not on them, it rests on someone higher up in the system. In the end they can say "I was just following orders"


36 posted on 02/25/2007 9:40:04 AM PST by 1000 silverlings
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To: wideawake; BlackElk; sandyeggo; ArrogantBustard; Campion; mockingbyrd
Catholics on this forum have accused me of "bearing false witness" (in AB's constantly repeated refrain), yet one of your number, stfassisi, has just confirmed that the Catholic Church accepts evolution with this article to a page on the Official Vatican web site.

So who's bearing false witness now???

37 posted on 02/25/2007 9:49:36 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Zakhor 'et 'asher-`asah lekha `Amaleq, baderekh betze'tekhem miMitzrayim.)
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To: stfassisi

"Dear Friend, did the Orthodox Church abandon teaching against contraception?if so,when did this take place. Is there still some that hold to teaching against the use of Contraception?"

I don't know that there was ever an official teaching on cntraception per se, though there always has been a rule against any form of abortion. My suspicion is that other than in the context of abortifacient contraception, it simply wasn't much of an issue until the ready availability of contraception. As I understand it, there was some very limited objection to it but rather quickly it was decided that it should be left to the couple and their spiritual father. You should remember that Orthodoxy looks to marital relations as something more than just an act for conceiving children. So far as I know, the foregoing is a universal Orthodox attitude towards contraception except for a few Old Calendar Greek groups which encourage huge families for the purpose of retaking Constantinople and Turkey from the Turks and reestablishing the Empire (I'm not kidding!)


38 posted on 02/25/2007 9:51:39 AM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: 1000 silverlings; William Terrell; Dr. Eckleburg; fortheDeclaration
In the end they can say "I was just following orders"

Institutional loyalty is very seductive. It is one our great weaknesses. If we let others think for us we don't have to worry about being in error. After all "it's the other guys fault."

39 posted on 02/25/2007 10:10:14 AM PST by wmfights (LUKE 9:49-50 , MARK 9:38-41)
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Comment #40 Removed by Moderator

To: rrc
where in the world has anyone shown that the catholic church doesnt believe in the inerrancy of scripture????

Go to stfassisi's post #32 above.

Click on the link which will take you to an article at the OFFICIAL VATICAN WEB SITE.

Read.

Respond.

41 posted on 02/25/2007 10:41:20 AM PST by Zionist Conspirator (Zakhor 'et 'asher-`asah lekha `Amaleq, baderekh betze'tekhem miMitzrayim.)
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To: Ping-Pong; Larry Lucido; Gamecock; Blogger; armydoc
It is odd that there is one God, one Bible (at least there is to a Christian) but so many different beliefs...All of us want to know that we follow God's Word but as I see it, the only way to assure that is to follow His written word.

"For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." -- 1 Corinthians 11:19

Life is unfolding exactly as God wills. The good and the bad are all here for a reason. Our part is to do as you are doing, study the word of God with all "diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end" and to trust that by the leading of the Holy Spirit we will learn within those pages of our salvation by Jesus Christ, "by whose stripes we have been healed."

"Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it." -- Luke 11:28

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." -- Romans 10:17

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." -- John 14:1

"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." -- Romans 10:9

Who believes and why?

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." -- Acts 13:48

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." -- Philippians 2:13

"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.

For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11


42 posted on 02/25/2007 10:41:49 AM PST by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: William Terrell; 1000 silverlings; wmfights; Gamecock; Blogger; armydoc; Larry Lucido
Perhaps people come to Catholicism because they can't handle the responsibility of coming to the Lord and staying with Him, and the responsibility of submitting themselves to His law, without a flog.

Most likely.

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." -- 1 Timothy 4:1-3

without a flog

Cary Grant in "None But the Lonely Heart" -- "I'm searching for a dog who does not seek a master."

Men are known by whom they bow down to.

"Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.

He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:

And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.

They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?

He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" -- Isaiah 44:15-20


43 posted on 02/25/2007 11:05:09 AM PST by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg

They can't take the humility either of realizing that Christ had to do it ALL for us. There was NOTHING in us that merited or merits salvation. It's all Him.


44 posted on 02/25/2007 11:11:22 AM PST by Blogger
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To: wmfights

Institutional loyalty is a great weakness of all of us. There is a scripture I have searched for but am unable to find that pertains to this.

It states that priests, preachers, etc. will be judged first and He is not pleased with those involved in misleading His children. That said - it will not excuse us for listening to them. It is imperative that we all search for truth and not traditions of men.


45 posted on 02/25/2007 11:17:31 AM PST by Ping-Pong
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To: Blogger
They can't take the humility either of realizing that Christ had to do it ALL for us. There was NOTHING in us that merited or merits salvation. It's all Him.

Amen.

"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before,

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;

And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin." -- Hebrews 10:10-18

Saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

46 posted on 02/25/2007 11:28:52 AM PST by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg

Thank you for those verses.


47 posted on 02/25/2007 11:29:33 AM PST by Ping-Pong
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To: Ping-Pong; wmfights; Blogger; 1000 silverlings; Gamecock; HarleyD; Alex Murphy; blue-duncan; ...
There is a scripture I have searched for but am unable to find that pertains to this. It states that priests, preachers, etc. will be judged first and He is not pleased with those involved in misleading His children.

Here's a great essay on that understanding...

THE BIBLICAL ALERT FOR TEACHERS

"My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." -- James 3:1

48 posted on 02/25/2007 11:41:29 AM PST by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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To: stfassisi
Thank you. Blessing to you likewise.

It is exactly the opposite of what you said.

I know that Catholicism is a rigidly structured system of specific dogma, the subjection of which is required to be acceptable to the Lord.

Absolution is administered only by trained priests and salvation and eternal life are obtained through those priests, the practicing of that dogma.

All one has to do is what is demanded of the priests and dogma and nothing else. The striving to understand the Gospels, apply them to one's life and finding the Kingdom within for a personal relationship with God is entirely elective.

The abdication of personal responsibility was just a thought when I read the testimonies in the article.

49 posted on 02/25/2007 11:46:05 AM PST by William Terrell (Individuals can exist without government but government can't exist without individuals.)
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To: Ping-Pong; wmfights; Blogger; 1000 silverlings; Gamecock; HarleyD; Alex Murphy; blue-duncan; ...
Here's another good one...

EXPOSING FALSE TEACHERS
JUDE 4
(i) Test everything you hear from the pulpit against the Word of God. I urge you not to accept what I teach you without confirming it from the Scriptures yourself. You need to keep on verifying all the teaching you receive. If you love the congregation and me show that love by making sure that the Scriptures are never compromised in our teaching, policy or practice.

(ii) Insist that the doctrine of Christian conversion be frequently preached. You may wonder why the doctrine of conversion is so important? It is important because it holds Christ up as the Saviour and emphasizes the need for sinners to be changed. God loves you just the way you are, but too much to leave you the way you are.


50 posted on 02/25/2007 11:48:38 AM PST by Dr. Eckleburg ("I don't think they want my respect; I think they want my submission." - Flemming Rose)
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