Skip to comments.All Roads Lead To Rome (A Southern Baptist's Journey into the Catholic Church)
Posted on 02/19/2008 11:55:18 AM PST by NYer
I know that I was not the first Protestant to learn the truth about the Catholic Church; I am sure that this is a story you could probably hear from countless other people, changing only the names and places. I know that many have walked the road that I have; that road which leads home, to Rome!
I was born in 1975 to two God-fearing Southern Baptists in Dallas, Texas. My father had grown up Methodist, but became Baptist when he married my mother in 1968. From what my father has said, his family was mostly Methodist. His father and his paternal grandfather were both Thirty-Third Degree Masons. My father's paternal grandfather's father was even the founding pastor of the First Methodist Church of Dallas. Though I have heard the history of my father's family, I myself knew only a very few of them. A great majority of my mother's family was Baptist, with a smattering of Methodists here and there. I am fairly certain of one thing, however: there were no Catholics.
Since a very young age, I can remember going to church and Sunday school on Sunday mornings to listen to the preacher and my Sunday school teachers talk about Jesus, and how He would save us from the fires of Hell. Every Sunday morning, my parents and I would sing in church and listen to the sermons. Though we didn't usually attend the Sunday evening services, I knew that once a month on a Sunday evening, an event called The Lord's Supper would happen. At this Lord's Supper, the preacher would begin passing around large round trays made of chrome. One of the trays had tiny crackers on it, and the other one had little cups of grape juice. I can remember that before I was baptized I wanted to take part in this event, but my parents would not let me. They did not explain why I shouldn't, other than I hadn't been baptized yet. Just as it is in the Catholic Church, Baptism is an initiation of sorts into the active life of the church community. (Of course, to a Catholic, it is that and much more. I would not know this until much later.) A few years went by, and when I was about eight years old, I decided that I wanted to be "saved" and get baptized. To get "saved," you would pray a little prayer like, "Dear Jesus, please come into my heart and forgive me of all of my sins. I ask you to become my personal Lord and Savior. All these things I pray in Jesus' name. Amen." From a Baptist viewpoint, being baptized is only a symbol, and nothing more. In other words, for a Baptist, baptism isn't really necessary for salvation. After I got baptized, I was able to partake in the Lord's Supper. I asked my father what the Lord's Supper meant, and he said that it represented the body and the blood of Jesus. That is to say, it represented the sacrifice that He made for us on the Cross. My father then read the passage from a King James Bible that told about the establishment of what we called The Lord's Supper: "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20, KJV)" I asked why it was that we only did this once a month, and even then at the evening service (most people went to the morning service). My father thought about it for a minute, then he said that the Catholics do it every Sunday at all of their services. (In actuality, most Catholic churches have at least one Mass every day except Good Friday; Catholics are bound to attend Mass only on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.) He said that perhaps we do it less often so as not to imitate them. As you can imagine, I did not understand this for what it was. The Baptists, and many other Protestant groups, were concerned that the "Lord's Supper" would become the focus of the church service rather than the sermon. Though there are some Protestant churches that have communion every Sunday, none of them place the same importance on the Eucharist that the Catholic Church does.
My father had nothing personal against Catholics; in fact, of all the people in my family, he probably liked them more than anyone else in our family did. My mother had a problem with the Catholic Church, but if you asked her why, she really couldn't tell you. She would give the same rote answers that many Protestants had been giving for centuries. "They worship the Pope, Mary, and the Saints." "They think a person can forgive their sins rather than God." She couldn't explain why she believed these things, or in the case of the last statement, she couldn't explain why a person couldn't say that your sins are forgiven. When I finally asked her why she thought a person could not forgive sins after the Bible said that Christ gave that power to the Apostles, she said she'd just rather confess directly to God. I believe that the real reason that she did not like Catholicism was because her father did not like it. I really believe that was the main reason. For some reason, my maternal grandfather (whom we have always called "Smittie") has a fairly wide streak of anti-Catholicism in him. Even as a child, I remembered him complaining every time the Pope was on television or in the newspaper. Whenever we were at a restaurant or shopping and we saw someone with a large family (four or five kids or more), he would often joke that they must be Catholic. The ironic thing about his dislike of the Church is that virtually all of his friends (excepting those from his church) since he became an adult were Catholic. I don't think that he had anything personal against individual Catholics; it was the Church that bothered him. Smittie was in England during World War II, and he found many friends there, all Catholic. He always spoke highly of them. He missed them all very much, too; all but a few of them had been killed in the war and those few survivors had died since. To this day, I do not know what makes Smittie think that the Church is somehow diabolical or at the very least, misled. I've often wondered if it had something to do with his association with Freemasonry. By the way, he is a Third Degree Mason (Master Mason), though he has not been an active Mason for many years.
Now you can see where I came from. A Southern Baptist upbringing with lots of anti-Catholic influence from just about everyone in my family and my church, with the possible exception of my father. If, when I was in high school, someone had told me that I would one day become Catholic, I would have literally laughed in his face. By the time I was fifteen, I had truly learned to have contempt for the Catholic Church. Not Catholic people, you understand, just the beliefs of and possibly the clergy of the Church. I figured that most Catholics were simply misled, and too ignorant to realize it. After all, "everyone knows" that Catholics are forbidden to read the Bible, right?! [a common Protestant myth]
I entered high school and turned fifteen at about the same time, and high school was a much bigger place than the middle school where I had attended. I decided to get involved in some of the clubs in school to make friends, and one of the clubs was called Raiders for Christ (the Raiders was the school mascot). This club was made up of mostly Protestant and "Evangelical" Christians of various denominations. In the meetings, we talked about "witnessing" to people, getting "saved," and how we should carry our Bible around as a good example to others. I decided that I would try to talk to people in classes and invite them to church with me. From some people, I got a fairly good response. Some would say they had already been "saved," and currently attended another church. Some would say that they had been "saved" and that they felt that church was not necessary because they read the Bible often anyway. I had no problem with these people. However, I ran into some that caused problems. As you can guess, these were the Catholics.
Many Catholics that I met did not know their faith very well, but they did go to Mass every Sunday. I derided them for not knowing why they believed the things that they believed. I said that it was apparent that the Catholic Church was based on blind faith and that reason was nowhere to be found. I told several people that if they did not renounce the Catholic Church and accept Christ as their "personal Lord and Savior," that they would most certainly go to Hell. I'm sure that these people did not appreciate what I was saying, and I am quite thankful that they were more charitable to me than I was to them. One particular Catholic with whom I made friends was a teacher at the school. In fact, she was one of the sponsors of an extra-curricular organization of which I was a member for three years. She knew her faith VERY well, and for that I am glad. I admit, however, it was quite frustrating at times. After all, I couldn't win a debate with her. While she did not convert me to Catholicism, she did put me on the right track. I quit harassing the Catholics so much and tried to see them as fellow Christians rather than "the enemy."
I graduated from high school, still a Baptist, though not a particularly devout one anymore. I didn't go to church very often, and I had begun to lose faith; not so much in God as in being Baptist. I felt that there were contradictions between what the Bible says and what the Baptists teach. For instance, Baptists teach that once you are "saved," you are always "saved." That is practically a dogma of the Baptist Church, as well as some other Protestant churches: "once saved, always saved." The problem here, is that there is no support in the Bible for this position. Scripture does refute this position: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12, KJV)" (If you notice, I quote from the King James Version of the Bible because it is the universally accepted version of the Bible in Protestant churches.) Considering that a favorite saying of the Baptists was "No creed but the Bible," you can see why I was beginning to be skeptical. Here are some more (though certainly not all) doctrinal paradoxes:
The Baptist Myth
What the (King James) Bible Says
"Alcoholic beverages are inherently bad."
"Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. (1 Timothy 5:23, KJV)"
"So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. (John 4:46, KJV)"
"Dancing is bad."
"And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. (2 Samuel 6:14, KJV)"
"Salvation (being saved? occurs in an instant."
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phillipians 2:12, KJV)"
"We only need Scripture, not traditions."
(This is an attack on the Catholic belief in Sacred Tradition. It is a pillar of the Protestant Reformation known as Sola Scriptura)
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. (2 Thessalonians 3:6, KJV)"
"Everyone can interpret Scripture for him/herself."
(In other words, we dont need an authoritative body like the Magisterium, or teaching office, of the Catholic Church to interpret for us.)
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20, KJV)"
"Faith alone, not works, will get you saved."
(This is one of the other main principles of the Protestant Reformation: it is called Sola Fide)
"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26, KJV)"
The list is seemingly endless, so Ill stop here. As you can see, many of the beliefs of both the Protestant Reformation in general as well as the Southern Baptist Convention were at odds with the Bible. And not just any Bible, but even the one that the Protestants so cherished! (Rest assured, these verses are not much different in a Catholic Bible.)
At any rate, I was nineteen years old, and attending a major public university. I was exposed to many things that I had never been around before, mostly because my parents were somewhat over-protective of me. I felt quite far from God during my first year in college. Toward the end of my freshman year, my girlfriend from high school, whom I had been dating for over three years, and I broke up. I started dating a younger Catholic girl who lived in the Dallas area. Her uncle was actually a bishop in the northeastern United States. She was not particularly devout, but at the time, it didnt matter to me. Actually, I figured that if we ended up together it would be easy to convert her to Protestantism and away from the Catholic Church. After we had been dating for about a month, her sister was graduating from high school, so I went to see her sisters baccalaureate Mass. I had never been to a Mass before; I had been inside a Catholic church maybe once or twice before in my whole life. When I got home that night, I cried because I thought that since she was Catholic, she would be doomed to Hell if I couldnt help her "see the light". However, the more I thought about what I had seen, the more intrigued I became.
First of all, the Mass was not what I had been told that it was: a pagan ceremony. To those of you reading this who are Catholic, this may seem humorous, but many Protestants, especially those leaning toward "fundamentalism," seem to think that Catholics are pagans or Satan worshippers or something along those lines. I dont know where this myth got started, but I would sure love to put it to rest. For those of you not familiar with the Mass, here is the basic structure:
Conversions to anything (including Pentecostalism/charismania from anything tend to occur during a period of hightened period of existential/ spiritual/ emotional/ psychodynamic trauma, stress, intense searching.
Given that the particulars are always arguable vis a vis Scripture, tradition, reason, . . . whatever . . . it's clear to me that
1. Personality and where that personality is at that moment in time vis a vis the groups/ideologies on offer . . . will, to a very significant percentage, determine the degree of a perceived match/fit.
2. Folks tend to gravitate toward those groups [and I think it is more group vs ideology--that is--I think particular individuals and groups reaching out in warmth and love make an ideology FIT vs the other way around] . . . folks tend to gravitate toward groups which contribute strongly to their FEELING WARMLY SUPPORTED, ENGULFED, NURTURED, PROTECTED AND PARTICULARLY . . . TO FEEL FINALLY "RIGHT" in all "right's" implications.
3. God uses all such for His purposes. Sometimes folks GET IT and end up in a closer relationship with God--virtually regardless of the group gone TO. Other times, folks end up merely addicted, idolizing yet another group and ideology in a long string of grabbed objects in a long wandering.
Certainly this is true for the 100's of thousands, even millions leaving the RC edifice in South America for various flavors of Pentecostalism/ charismania etc. Though I think it could be strongly argued in those cases that
Leaving a group (the RC edifice) where there was a clear, evident "FORM OF GODLINESS BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF" for much more GOD FOCUSED, much closer, down to earth, warmer DEMONSTRATIONS of the power of God to meet individuals where they are hurting--devoid of rigid, narrow ritual . . . often devoid of human junk at all.
God's DEMONSTRATED anointing and power will always OUT-TRUMP ideology, ritual, magicsterical, !!!!TRADITION!!!!, arguments, rubber Bibles, rubber histories, rubber logic and whatever else dares to compete. The coming years will abundantly demonstrate this as never before, imho.
Nevertheless, there are "rice Christians" and potential rice Christians the world over . . . who jump one ship because humans and too often the enemy of their souls have convinced them that a different group offers a better deal; a better God-deal; a better chance to be loved, supported, protected . . . a better chance to BE RIGHT . . . usually because mommy and daddy didn't convince them tbey were quite right enough HUMAN-WISE the first 6-8 years of life. This will continue to be true for folks leaving Pentecostalism for Calvinism, for the RC edifice . . . for whatever . . . as it will be for SOME folks leaving such other groups for Pentecostalism and Charismania.
Always pretending that it's a function of a long string of carefully rationalized LOGICAL, TRADITIONAL, EVIDENTIAL constructs and questionable 'truths' and benchmarks . . . is . . . at best . . . dubious, imho.
Certainly some groups are more Scriptural AND WALK CLOSER TO GOD THAN OTHERS. THIS IS TRUE WITHIN EACH DENOMINATION/ 'RELIGIOUS CLUB' AS MUCH AS IT IS BETWEEN GROUPS. We like to pretend that our particular chosen RELIGIOUS CLUB has a corner on truth. And, philosophically, theoretically, ostensibly, logically, positionally, . . . that may be true, TO A DEGREE ON SOME SET OF ISSUES.
However, in practice . . . the rubber meets the road for most individuals and groups more or less the same as for other individuals and groups. The walking the talk is greatly lacking in ALL RELIGIOUS CLUBS--INCLUDING THE RC EDIFICE . . . sometimes seemingly especially the RC edifice. And the lack of walking the talk as Peter or John or Paul did . . . with healings and deliverances accordingly . . . is the same for all . . . human junk. Refusing to make GOD AND HIS WAYS SUFFICIENT PRIORITY to have His Health, Wholeness and Provision--routinely.
Folks do what they want to do when they want to do it instead of what God wants when God wants it. Folks fail to pray and fast sufficiently, including, me. Folks fail to put God and His ways utterly first in all their doings, too often, including me--though by His Grace, I'm much better than I used to be. Consequently, the anointing leaves; the miracles are lacking.
All this is true REGARDLESS of FORMER ANOINTINGS AND CALLINGS. This is true REGARDLESS of !!!TRADITIONs!!!; regardless of RELIGIOUS TIDY LITTLE BOXED lineages; regardless of rubber logic; rubber histories; rubber Bibles; regardless of how many grandpaws were preachers; regardless of what GOD HIMSELF HAS DONE IN THE PAST through a given individual or group or collection of groups.
The only conclusion I can come to is . . . ONGOINGLY SEEKING GOD FIRST AND FOREMOST . . . AND ONGOINGLY DOING HIS WILL FIRST AND FOREMOST . . . ARE GREATLY HIGHER PRIORITIES TO GOD than the brand name on the RELIGIOUS CLUB DOOR.
BTW, this color blue is brought to you through the courtesy of Mad Dawg . . . who requested it . . . wellllll . . . not quite . . . but sort of . . . I understand he was missing it. Tee hee.
BTW, pontificating rationalizations to the contrary are likely to elicit lots of GTTMs.
Thanks for the conversion stories. Becoming a convert after my marriage to a Catholic - I’m continually learning as I go through life. The conversion stories are powerful stories for me, personally.
I’ve gone through some tough times spiritually lately, so these are very timely for me.
Is that you, Paul? How are Suzy and the kids?
All of grace; none of debt.
“Arminianism at Home in Rome”
Couple that with...
Predeterminism at Home in Mecca.
Thank you for your kind words. Nearly ALL Catholics and Protestants I know realize that our shared beliefs far outweigh our differences. And from a secular standpoint, the conservative movement would be dead without the unity of Catholics and Evangelicals.
Best wishes to this young man. His discussion of what his family members believed about Catholicism, and their association with Catholics, sounds very much like what my parents describe from their childhood in the 1930s and 40’s. For all the talk about the “good old days,” it really seems like there were a lot of poorly catechized Catholics out there - and priests who were mean, drunk, or both. Not that this situation is unique to Catholicism as a denomination, or to that particular time period.
God bless you .... you are equating the supernatural with the natural. This is perfectly normal.
If being in heaven were like being in the next room, then of course these objections would be valid. A mortal, unglorified person in the next room would indeed suffer the restrictions imposed by the way space and time work in our universe. But the saints are not in the next room, and they are not subject to the time/space limitations of this life.
This does not imply that the saints in heaven therefore must be omniscient, as God is, for it is only through Gods willing it that they can communicate with others in heaven or with us.
The problem here is one of what might be called a primitive or even childish view of heaven. It is certainly not one on which enough intellectual rigor has been exercised. A good introduction to the real implications of the afterlife may be found in Frank Sheeds book Theology and Sanity, which argues that sanity depends on an accurate appreciation of reality, and that includes an accurate appreciation of what heaven is really like. And once that is known, the place of prayer to the saints follows.
There's more than one anti-Christ. According to John, the spirit of antichrist was already on earth and had taken multiple forms.
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." -- 2 John 1:7
"And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." -- 1 John 4:3
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." -- 2 John 1:7
I think Calvin had a good take on those who would deceive and deny the power and authority of the Holy Spirit...
"The name Antichrist does not designate a single individual, but a single kingdom, which extends throughout many generations." -- John Calvin, II Thess. 403-404
"...The Roman pontiff is now opposing himself to the reviving doctrines of the gospel, just as if his head were at stake. Does he not, by this very fact, demonstrate that there will be no safety for his see unless he can put to flight the kingdom of Christ? Your imperial majesty is aware how wide a field of discussion here opens upon me. But to conclude this point in a few words: I deny that see to be apostolical, wherein nought is seen but a shocking apostasy; I deny him to be the vicar of Christ, who, in furiously persecuting the gospel, demonstrates by his conduct that he is Antichrist; I deny him to be the successor of Peter, who is doing his utmost to demolish every edifice that Peter built; and I deny him to be the head of the church, who by his tyranny lacerates and dismembers the church, after dissevering her from Christ, her true and only Head. Let these denials be answered by those who are so bent on chaining the hierarchy of the church to the Romish see, that they hesitate not to subordinate the sure and tried doctrines of the gospel to the authority of the pope..."
I agree. I love both Mr. Wesleys and consider them great examples of Christian faith and life.
Please cite one example!
Can you cite any pope who would fit St. John’s description of the antichrist?
And while I recognize that John Calvin was a learned man (though I disagree with many of his beliefs), I also find it peculiar that an adherent to Sola Scriptura gives no scriptural evidence of the papacy meeting Biblical descriptions of the antichrist. Additionally, he seems to be speaking specifically about the pope in 1543 (Paul III), NOT the papacy as a whole and he clearly acknowledges the primacy of St. Peter.
Well, actually I'm trying to maintain the distinction between finite man and infinite God ... but I appreciate your response. It's helpful, though admittedly a bit over my "childish" head. :-)
Every Pope confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.
In fact, every believing Catholic confesses that, every Sunday.
Contrast this to certain persons of the Protestant fundamentalist persuasion who have previously announced on this board that Mary was not really Jesus' mother. It is a tiny little step from there to a complete denial of the Incarnation.
That is the spirit of Antichrist that John describes.
As usual, Calvin plays fast and loose with both Scripture and the truth.
You can look at it from the perspective of physics: God, and the holy souls with Him in Heaven, are outside of “time” as we understand it - the definition of “time” being “a measure of change,” while we know that “there is no shadow or change” with God.
Therefore, questions about the souls in glory that involve the temporal limitations of people on earth are starting from a scientifically erroneous premise.
Some of the church fathers believed that the Antichrist would would not only be a specific individual, but would be a literal false Messiah. And not just a Messianic claimant who would fool a few, but a real counterfeit Christ who would have many followers. And they meant literal false Messiah-ship which would include all of the hallmarks: being of Jewish birth, claiming descent from the Davidic line, etc.
I tend more toward the idea that there are many antiChrists and always have been, and the hallmark of antiChrist is that people put their faith in him rather than in God.
Like, for example, people swoon and faint when he speaks, and he says things that are content-free, nebulous promises of "change" and such like, and he's born up on a swelling tide of media promotion ... but I digress. ;-)
Thank you for the post! Sadly, Wiley's post represents great ignorance. Much of his understanding of the Catholic Church is not based on fact but on what others have said about the Catholic Church. Though some call themselves Baptist, they are actually Fundamentalists. The belief that is first and foremost the defining characteristic of Fundamentalists is their reliance on the Bible to the complete exclusion of any authority exercised by the Church. The second is their insistence on a faith in Christ as ones personal Lord and Savior.
"Do you accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" they ask. "Have you been saved?" This is unmodified Christian individualism, which holds that the individual is saved, without ever considering his relationship to a church, a congregation, or anyone else. It is a one-to-one relationship, with no community, no sacraments, just the individual Christian and his Lord. And the Christian knows when he has been saved, down to the hour and minute of his salvation, because his salvation came when he "accepted" Christ. It came like a flash.
In that instant, many Fundamentalists believe, their salvation is assured. There is now nothing that can undo it. Without that instant, that moment of acceptance, a person would be doomed to eternal hell. And that is why the third most visible characteristic of Fundamentalism is the emphasis on evangelism. If sinners do not undergo the same kind of salvation experience Fundamentalists have undergone, they will go to hell. Fundamentalists perceive a duty to spread their faithwhat can be more charitable than to give others a chance for escaping hell?and they often have been successful.
Their success is partly due to their discipline. For all their talk about the Catholic Church being "rule-laden," there are perhaps no Christians who operate in a more regimented manner. Their rulesnon-biblical rules, one might addextend not just to religion and religious practices proper, but to facets of everyday life. Most people are familiar with their strictures on drinking, gambling, dancing, and smoking.
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