Skip to comments.From Pastor to Parishioner: My Love for Christ Led Me Home (to the Catholic Church)
Posted on 05/25/2007 12:48:02 PM PDT by NYer
If you grew up Catholic, it may be difficult for you to relate to those who profess faith in Jesus but whose stomachs turn at the thought of being Catholic. It might seem odd that the Catholic theology youve grown up with is seen by others as an offense to God. I was one of the stomach turners. There are days that I wake up and I still cant believe Im Catholic.
I grew up in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, usually referred to as Foursquare. Foursquare is a Pentecostal denomination that began in the 1920s and is not rooted in the Reformation. In fact, we had already rejected many things the Reformers believed. While we did hold to sola scriptura and sola fide, we did not believe in "once saved always saved," and, as Pentecostals, we believed in miracles and the gifts of the Spirit, which many of the Reformers rejected. You could say we had already "reformed the reform."
Our denomination had a hierarchy of sorts, but each church was free to design its services and internal composition as it saw fit. We were more concerned that peoples lives were being changed by Jesus than with church structure. In some ways this is goodthere is little value in a well-oiled machine that doesnt change lives. We were much more experientially formed than theologically formed. We cared about theology, but the life-changing experience with Jesus was what really mattered.
I must say that, on the whole, if youre going to pick a Protestant denomination, Foursquare is a good place to be. It is firm in its moral teachings, and with its focus on living for Jesus, a person will inevitably grow closer and more like Jesus the longer he attends.
Whos Ever Heard of Catholic Radio?
In my early twenties, I discerned a call to enter into full-time ministry and became a Foursquare pastor. Through my years of ministry, my wife and I learned to hear the voice of God and were willing to do anything and go anywhere that God wanted us to go. This led us to plant a new Foursquare congregation in the university district of Seattle, Washington, in 1999. Foursquare doesnt fund you when you start a new congregation, so whatever you bring or raise from outside support is all you have. When I arrived with my wife and three girls, I had no income, three months worth of money in the bank, and great faith that we would reach the people of Seattle with the gospel of Jesus. We knew God would provide. Our desire was to seek first his kingdom and let him take care of the rest (cf. Matt. 6:33), and he always has.
During this time we ministered to teens, college students, young adults, and young married families. Each week we would head out to the strip by the college and pass out food and clothes to street kids and send groups of two around the block to start up conversations about the gospel. None of us were evangelists by nature; we simply knew that the only way the unsaved would find Jesus would be if we went to themwe couldnt expect them to just wander into our church.
It was during this time that the door first opened to the Catholic Church. I happened to turn on the radio and catch Catholic Answers Live on Sacred Heart Radio in Seattle. "Thats weird," I thought. "Whos ever heard of Catholic radio? And what do Catholics need with a radio station anyway?" I wasnt necessarily anti-Catholic, but I held the usual Reformation-inspired opinions of the Catholic Church and how blessed we were to be free from Romanism. As I listened to the show I was shocked to hear not only a clear presentation of Catholic teaching but also that Catholics still believed in transubstantiation, papal infallibility, and so on.
As the years went on in Seattle, I would occasionally tune back in to Catholic Answers Live and many other shows on Sacred Heart Radio, mainly for the purpose of understanding what Catholics teach so that I could have a reasoned defense to the contrary. The problem was that, time after time, the Catholic explanation of theology was every bit a biblical as my beliefs, albeit in a different way.
Now, because our denomination started in the 1920s, I was oblivious to Church history. For us the Reformation wasnt the good old days; Acts 2 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues are the good old days. There was virtually nothing done to fill in the gaps between the present and the first-century Church.
But the Catholics I listened to kept claiming that the earliest Christians were Catholic and that their writings from the first few centuries verify that claim. They would regularly present a point of theology that was rooted in Scripture and then support it with quotes from the "early Church Fathers." The speakers were clear that these writings are not inspired, nor are they on the same level as Scripture, but they do provide us with the historical context to know what the early Christians believed. More importantly, these early Christian writers claimed that these beliefs were handed down by the apostles, and some of them were even taught by the apostles.
At that time, Catholic Answers regularly threw out a challenge not to take their word for any of the positions of the Catholic Church but see for oneself if they are true. I decided to take them up on this challenge, figuring it would be easy. First of all, the Catholic Church sets an impossible standard for itself: infallibility in its dogmatic teachings on matters of faith and morals. All I had to do was prove one doctrine false and the entire system would cease to be without error. Secondly, I was sure that when I found the writings of these "early Church Fathers" and read them in context, they would set the story straight.
But there was a catch. Along with this challenge, there was a caution: Be carefulyou just might become Catholic. Yeah, right! Impossible.
My Ship Came In
I started with a slow and measured search into Catholic teaching and Church history. This all changed after a most unexpected event. I was invited to speak at a Foursquare high school camp in the summer of 2003. The man who owned the camp was a gracious servant of Jesus and was gifted with what our denomination calls "prophetic insight," meaning that God gave him insight into things of which he had no natural knowledge. I had never met him before, and as we got to know each other that week, he said he might have some insight from the Lord for me. These encounters usually yielded a general word of encouragement that could probably apply to anybody. Nonetheless, I met with him in his office to pray and see if God had any direction for me.
He began to pray and said he could see a picture in his mind. He saw me and my family standing on the ocean shore and in the water was a huge ship. He said on the side of the ship were the words "Queen Mary." (At this point in my study, I didnt know that this is a title for Mary; my interest was concentrated on the huge ship.) He looked straight at me and said, "Im not sure, but maybe youre supposed to have something to do with the Catholic Church."
I almost fell out of my chair. I told him about my unexpected encounter with Catholicismthe radio shows, the early Church Fathers, the challenge. I left the camp thinking that God might use me in some type of bridge ministry between Protestants and Catholics. Of course, I assumed it would be for bringing Catholics out of Catholicism and into the true unity and "fullness" of Protestantism. With my renewed focus, I returned home and aggressively pursued understanding Catholic theology, Church history, and how I could serve God in this capacity. "If Im going to reach Catholics," I thought, "Ill need to know what they believe and how they support those beliefs."
Hitting the Wall
As I examined each point of theology, I found that the Catholic Churchs teachings were the most biblical, the most historical, and the most reasonable. I was also surprised to find that Catholics also believed in miracles and the Pentecostal gifts I had grown up with (but with a more sound foundation). I thought, "Oh man! If this is true, I have to become Catholic."
The day finally came where I hit the wall and realized that the teachings of the Catholic Church are true. I realized that Jesus truly did establish a Church and didnt leave the gospel to survive in an "every man for himself" model. In the end, I found that I, like all Bible-based groups, could support my theology from Scripture, but I always had to ignore certain passages to make it fit, and I couldnt provide any support for its existence in the history of the Church. I found that Catholic theology makes sense of the whole of Scripture and that only Catholic theology is attested to from writings before the death of the apostle John to the present day.
I wasnt excited about this discovery, for it would cost me most of what I had invested over thirteen years of pastoral ministry. But my desire was to follow Christ, so I resigned my pastorate in August 2004. Once again my wife and I and three girls were without an income, with three months worth of money to live on and full of faith that God would provide. And he has.
Now that all of us have come home to the Church, we are constantly amazed at the grace that God provides for living a powerful, Spirit-filled life. When understood properly, Scripture, liturgy, prayer, and the sacraments are far more capable of shaping our Christian walk than any of the relaxed church structures in which I had grown up. I have found that the structure and liturgies that used to turn my stomach have become a greater source of joy than I could have ever imagined.
If it is extra-biblical, I am not interested; if it is biblical, I have already read. But thanks for the recommendation.
This is not the biblical concept of being born again.
Rebirth is not something that happens over and over again. Rebirth is a salvation event that moves one from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. It is the acquisition of eternal life...not a series of activities one engages in at church.
And you now have the opportunity to discover that the identity of the canon of Scripture comes from Tradition, not from the Bible. Other than in the table of contents, where in the Bible do you find a list of the books that comprise the Bible? How, from Scripture alone, do you know that the Gospel According to John is in, and the Gospel of Thomas is out?
Our faith teaches us that what we proclaim in the Eucharist, Christ's death and resurrection, is also made present in that very action by the power of God's love and goodness. This is the heart of our faith in the sacrament we call the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, the real presence of Christ.
The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life. In the celebration of this mystery of faith, Christ himself is present to his people. Rich in symbolism and richer in reality, the Eucharist bears within itself the whole reality of Christ and mediates his saving work to us. In short, when the Church gathers in worship of God and offers the Eucharistic sacrifice, not only is Christ really and truly present under the appearance of bread and wine, but he also continues his saving work of our salvation.
The origins of the Eucharist are found in the Last Supper. The Catechism teaches us that "in order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; 'thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament'" (1337). In the context of the Last Supper Jesus instituted a new memorial sacrifice. As a perpetual memorial to his death and Resurrection, in the course of the Passover meal with his apostles, he took the bread "blessed and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said 'Take, eat, this is my body'" (Matt. 26.26). In like manner he took the ceremonial cup of wine "gave thanks and passed it to his disciples saying 'this cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'" (Lk. 22.20). Finally, he commanded them: "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11.24).
I hope you can support that statement with some reliable evidence. Please name the diocese and the bishop.
And where is that in the Bible?
Your tagline says it all!! And yes.
What if you are wrong and the Eucharist is not the actual body of Christ? What if your baptism benefited you not at all?
The Bible is a history of the Christian church, and if it is correct and innerant you can noit expect to see God by your rituals or traditions
The early church fathers thought it was there.
"They [heretics] gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures...We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith"
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1
"I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books [scripture], to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else."
- Jerome (Letter 53:10)
"There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man, if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practice piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things, then, the Holy Scripture declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach, these let us learn;and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as He wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify Him; and as He wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive Him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet as using violently those things which are given by God, but even as He has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them."
- Hippolytus, Against Noetus, ch 9
"For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?"
- Ambrose (On the Duties of the Clergy, 1:23:102)
"We use Scripture to answer heresy and preceive that it is power and truth."
- Basil the Great
Let the inspired Scriptures then be our umpire, and the vote of truth will be given to those whose dogmas are found to agree with the Divine words.
- Gregory of Nyssa (d.ca, 395) On the Holy Trinity, NPNF, p. 327
Neither dare one agree with catholic bishops if by chance they err in anything, but the result that their opinion is against the canonical Scriptures of God.
- Augustine (354430) De unitate ecclesiae, 10
For our faith rests on the revelation made to the Prophets and Apostles who wrote the canonical books.
- Thomas Aquinas (12251274) Summa Theologiae, Question 1, Art. 8
They seemed to agree with the words of Paul
2Ti 3:16 All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
The early church was entirely Catholic......there was only one church that Christ founded. While I do not condem those of another faith......I stand by MY church. Sounds as if you are periously close to condeming me however.
God’s love for me and mine for him is a living joyous daily experience. This is Pentecost Sunday in the Catholic Church......we are rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. Your words do not concern me at all, I will pray for you.
The church was catholic ( universal) not Catholic as in Roman Catholic.
You can stand by your church all you want, like a captain you can go down with the ship.
I pray that God reach down and lift you off of it before your death.
How do you know you have the Holy Spirit?
Your response is insulting. You are assuming that only YOU know the Holy Spirit? That would be the sin of pride nipping at your feet if you are suggesting that. Beware.
Right where Luther put it so justify his own religion.
You figure some of your church fathers were as ignorant as we are when it comes to sola scripture and your church tradition (which apparently didn't exist at the time of your church fathers)???
So when did your church turn from the holy sola scriptures and start replacing the scripture with tradition???
It always winds up in the same place...nestorianism.
That's it? Some parish in Germany collects money for Muslim neighbors to build their mosque and this is your reason for leaving the Catholic Church? And the Vatican didn't 'do anything about it'. Did you send this story to the Vatican and ask them for a response?
God gave us the gift of 'free will'. While I disagree with the German parish asking their parishioners to help fund the construction of a mosque, they have the free will to decide. Is this your parish?
You quote the "early church fathers" - the same ones who believed that Jesus was the bread and wine at communion? Those church fathers? MMmmmm, so you are acutally a cafeteria christian who picks and chooses what to believe.