Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oh Death, Where is Thy Sting?

Many people know of my story of how my late wife was diagnosed with cancer and ultimately died of it 8 years later.

At that time of our lives, we were devout evangelical protestants but started to embrace the "health and wealth" gospel that was streaming out of Tulsa, Oklahoma and elsewhere. We were young, still newlywed, scared, desperate and grabbed onto whatever we could to help us deal with the "Damoclean Sword" of a terminal diagnosis. Unfortunately, we latched onto what we wanted to hear and perhaps not what God was trying to tell us. Christ's own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, "Not my will but yours" did not pass from our lips at any time in those extremely difficult 8 years.

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and it becomes clear that a miraculous healing and/or medical cure is not going to occur, my wife Deborah wrote her thoughts addressing this:

"I truly believe that God can and does heal. "His works are wonderful I know that full well." My concern however, is that when people who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses have an abnormal fear of death, an over-emphasis on healing may keep them from being "spiritually healed" from the fear of death.

Over the years Russ and I have discussed Sue's illness and death and the impact it had on her and our family. Russ believes that Sue had a profound fear of death. Sadly, it was not God's will for her to be healed and unfortunately the emphasis on "praying for her healing" not only kept her from dealing with her own fear of death, it also prevented all of her family and friends from saying a "proper goodbye." I can't help but wonder how things could have been different if along the way she would have heard sermons or teachings about "Overcoming the Fear of Death When Diagnosed with a Terminal Illness." Instead, she had prophecies of healing given to her by well-meaning but mis-guided friends and surrounded herself with books and teaching tapes about healing. If we had tried to help her overcome the fear of death instead of perpetuating her denial with an over-emphasis on healing, maybe things would have been different. Perhaps she would have written letters to the boys, made a video, been a little more willing to have her picture taken, received some end -of- life counseling with Russ ,etc., and said goodbye to all of us.

No longer praying for healing does not represent giving up hope or a loss of faith. There is unending hope in Christ! He came so men "no more may die." We are promised an eternity with Jesus if we just "endure until the end." We can face our own death with hope and grace knowing He has died for us and rose again so we too will be raised again with Him on that last day.

"O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pro-Life Speaker at The March For Life 2011


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

March For Life 1/23/2011

March For Life

We had the privilege of joining 250,000 marchers in Washington, DC on Monday for the 38th Annual March For Life.  It was larger than I have ever seen and the crowd was on-fire despite the 29 degree temperature. Many of the freshman class of Congress were there and gave short encouraging speeches to follow through on their plans to legislate for life.  The most impassioned speech was from an African American pastor who declared this a holocaust on the Black and  Hispanic people in our country. "Where is Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the NAACP" he cried out to the crowd on the mall? Good question. Where are the feminists who are silent as women are mutilated by abortion and live a life of post- traumatic stress and depression?
   The majority of the crowd was Catholic as evidenced by the banners and Knights of Columbus signs throughout the crowd but there were also, Orthodox, Jewish Rabbis, Lutherans and  Methodists present.
The crowd was predominantly young people and this bodes well for the pro-life future of America. Students from Rutgers, Yale and major universities and colleges from most of the country were represented.
The Youth rallys the night before filled the DC Armory and the Verizon Stadium with a total of almost 27,000 young Catholics!  Praise God

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Going Down To The Capital For The March For Life

Tomorrow, St Joseph the Worker Parish, my home parish, will be taking a busload of us including our pastor to Washington DC for the Annual March for Life. Just one of the reasons  I love this march is that we get to see the Church at its best. Young high school and college students, families with small children and nuns and priests from every order marching for life. The Franciscans in their sandals without socks in 29 degrees, and 13th century friars robes, Mother Teresa's Missionary's of Charity  with their white and blue striped saris, you name them, Sisters of Life etc, they will be there.
   Many different rites of the Church will be there in their different vestments and hats. Hundreds of parishes will be carrying their banners through the streets. The news media will ignore the event as usual except to focus on a handful of pro-abortion folks who are protesting. The ratio is about 250,000 to 10 , but they will get most of the press.
   The most poignant  part of the March for me is seeing all the brave and noble women lined up on the steps of the Supreme Court holding signs "I regret my abortion." There are no words to describe this.
In the past when we have had conservative presidents, they would make a call and deliver a pep talk to the massive crowd on the Mall. This will be the second year in a row that the White house will not be addressing the crowds.
  Let us pray for the day when we won't have to make this annual march in the dead of winter to tell our president and congressmen:  a country that legalizes abortion has lost its soul.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back To The Future

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

St. Anthony of Egypt and Broadband Access

The life of St Anthony of Egypt was celebrated on Monday this week. He a was  desert hermit who left a wealthy inheritance to live without any means of support in the desert in the mid fourth century. His goal was to live in  complete solitude as a sacrifice and worship to God,  but over time he attracted followers and even a community of hermits started up around him, despite his protests. At one point the emperor Constantine wrote a letter to him asking for his prayers. (No Constantine didn't start the Catholic Church. It was already growing and flourishing since 33 AD , but I digress.)
    Our priest at morning Mass on Monday  gave a nice homily about the importance of "getting away from the city" and taking time everyday to be alone with God. He said we needed to somehow find a way to have our own  little time in the desert away from the city. It seems that everything in my life is constructed to take me further into the city and to increase my involvement- beeper, cell phone, social media of the internet etc. Now that Verizon is going to carry the iphone, I am even considering upgrading from my ipad touch which has only wi-fi connect-ability. This would give me instantaneous access to email, the net, news, fb, my blog etc. Will this enhance my walk with God or detract from it?  What would St. Anthony of the Desert say?  I think I already know.
    I suspect  that one of the true paths to sainthood in our generation should involve a complete lack of broadband access. But on second thought, I could see St Paul using Twitter to exhort his disciples and the 140 characters or less.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Protestant Church Historians' View of Baptism in the Early Church

On facebook, I am presenting a summary of what Protestant theologians have said regarding the view of the early Church fathers on baptism.  I have attempted to look online for the past two days for Protestant sources of the fathers that would reveal a Church Father that stated baptism is symbolic, but have not found any myself. It seems to me that if the early Church believed that baptism was only symbolic and not regenerative, there would be significant volumes of writings enunciating that.
This information is taken from Phil Porvaznik's Apologetic pages

 Here is three well known Protestant Scholars: (note the relevent sections on Baptism in Reformed/Presbyterian scholar Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church, Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly's Early Christian Doctrines, and Lutheran scholar Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition).
Philip Schaff (Presbyterian/Reformed) --

"This ordinance [Baptism] was regarded in the ancient church as the sacrament of the new birth or regeneration, and as the solemn rite of initiation into the Christian Church, admitting to all her benefits and committing to all her obligations....Its effect consists in the forgiveness of sins and the communication of the Holy Spirit.
"Justin [Martyr] calls baptism 'the water-bath for the forgiveness of sins and regeneration,' and 'the bath of conversion and the knowledge of God.' "It is often called also illumination, spiritual circumcision, anointing, sealing, gift of grace, symbol of redemption, death of sins, etc. Tertullian describes its effect thus: 'When the soul comes to faith, and becomes transformed through regeneration by water and power from above, it discovers, after the veil of the old corruption is taken away, its whole light. It is received into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit; and the soul, which unites itself to the Holy Spirit, is followed by the body.' ...."From John 3:5 and Mark 16:16, Tertullian and other fathers argued the necessity of baptism to salvation....The effect of baptism...was thought to extend only to sins committed before receiving it. Hence the frequent postponement of the sacrament [Procrastinatio baptismi], which Tertullian very earnestly recommends...." (History of the Christian Church, volume 2, page 253ff)
"The views of the ante-Nicene fathers concerning baptism and baptismal regeneration were in this period more copiously embellished in rhetorical style by Basil the Great and the two Gregories, who wrote special treatises on this sacrament, and were more clearly and logically developed by Augustine. The patristic and Roman Catholic view on regeneration, however, differs considerably from the one which now prevails among most Protestant denominations, especially those of the more Puritanic type, in that it signifies not so such a subjective change of heart, which is more properly called conversion, but a change in the objective condition and relation of the sinner, namely, his translation from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of Christ....Some modern divines make a distinction between baptismal regeneration and moral regeneration, in order to reconcile the doctrine of the fathers with the fact that the evidences of a new life are wholly wanting in so many who are baptized. But we cannot enter here into a discussion of the difficulties of this doctrine, and must confine ourselves to a historical statement." [patristic quotes follow] "In the doctrine of baptism also we have a much better right to speak of a -consensus patrum-, than in the doctrine of the Holy Supper." (History of the Christian Church, volume 3, page 481ff, 492)
Paul Enns (Dispensational/Baptist, Th.D. Dallas Theological Seminary) --
"Justin Martyr suggests Isaiah 1:16-20 refers to Christian baptism, apparently suggesting that this rite produces the new birth (1 Apol 61).....Very early in the Christian church, prominence was given to the rite of baptism so that many, in effect, taught baptismal regeneration. Justin Martyr taught that, to obtain the remission of sins, the name of the Father should be invoked over the one being baptized (1 Apol 61)...Although this concept was not as emphatic among the apostolic Fathers, it became increasingly so in the following centuries. Augustine, for instance, taught that original sin and sins committed before baptism were washed away through baptism. For that reason he advocated baptism for infants." (The Moody Handbook of Theology [1989], page 415, 427)
J.N.D. Kelly (Anglican patristic scholar) --
"From the beginning baptism was the universally accepted rite of admission to the Church; only 'those who have been baptized in the Lord's name' may partake of the eucharist [Didache 9:5]....As regards its significance, it was always held to convey the remission of sins....the theory that it mediated the Holy Spirit was fairly general....The Spirit is God Himself dwelling in the believer, and the resulting life is a re-creation...."
"Speculation about baptism in the third century revolves around its function, universally admitted hitherto, as the medium of the bestowal of the Spirit. Infant baptism was now common, and this fact, together with the rapid expansion of the Church's numbers, caused the administration of the sacrament to be increasingly delegated by bishops to presbyters....We observe a tendency to limit the effect of baptism itself to the remission of sins and regeneration, and to link the gift of the Spirit with these other rites [Chrismation, Confirmation, and the laying on of hands -- detailed analysis from the ante-Nicene Fathers on Baptism follows].....
"From these general considerations we turn to the particular sacraments. Cyril of Jerusalem provides a full, if not always coherent, account of the conception of baptism which commended itself to a fourth-century theologian in Palestine. The name he applies to the rite is 'baptism' or 'bath' [Greek provided along with references]. It is 'the bath of regeneration' in which we are washed both with water and with the Holy Spirit. Its effects can be summarized under three main heads. First, the baptized person receives the remission of sins, i.e. all sins committed prior to baptism. He passes from sin to righteousness, from filth to cleanliness; his restoration is total....Secondly, baptism conveys the positive blessing of sanctification, which Cyril describes as the illumination and deification of the believer's soul, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the putting on of the new man, spiritual rebirth and salvation, adoption as God's son by grace, union with Christ in His resurrection as in His suffering and death, the right to a heavenly inheritance....Thirdly, and closely connected with this, baptism impresses a seal [Greek provided] on the believer's soul. Just as the water cleanses the body, the Holy Spirit seals [Greek] the soul. This sealing takes place at the very moment of baptism....and as a result of it the baptized person enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit....These ideas are fairly representative of Greek and Latin teaching about baptism in the fourth and fifth centuries." [detailed analysis from the post-Nicene Fathers on Baptism follows] (Early Christian Doctrines, page 193ff, 207ff, 428ff)
Jaroslav Pelikan (Lutheran patristic scholar) --
"Although references to the doctrine of baptism are scattered throughout the Christian literature of the second and third centuries, only one extant treatise from the period is devoted exclusively to the subject, that of Tertullian. And the most succinct statement by Tertullian on the doctrine of baptism actually came, not in his treatise on baptism, but in his polemic against Marcion....Tertullian argued that none of the four basic gifts of baptism could be granted if that dualism [of Marcion] were maintained. The four gifts were: the remission of sins, deliverance from death, regeneration, and bestowal of the Holy Spirit...It is noteworthy that Tertullian, regardless of how much a Montanist he may have been at this point, was summarizing what the doctrine of the church was at his time -- as well as probably before his time and certainly since his time. Tertullian's enumeration of the gifts of baptism would be difficult to duplicate in so summary a form from other Christian writers, but those who did speak of baptism also spoke of one or more of these gifts. Baptism brought the remission of sins; the doctrine of baptism was in fact the occasion for many of the references to forgiveness of sins in the literature of these centuries [references to Cyprian, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Hermas]."
"With deliverance from death came a new life and regeneration. The phrase 'washing of regeneration' in Titus 3:5 was synonymous with 'the baptism of regeneration.' [references to Methodius of Olympus, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen]."
"Tertullian's summary of these four gifts makes it clear 'that by the end of the second century, if not fifty years earlier, the doctrine of baptism (even without the aid of controversy to give it precision) was so fully developed that subsequent ages down to our own have found nothing significant to add to it' [citing Evans]." (The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, volume 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600, pages 163ff)

William Webster, a former Catholic turned Evangelical, in his 1995 book The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, freely admits the unanimous position of the Church Fathers as to what is called "baptismal regeneration":
"The doctrine of baptism is one of the few teachings within Roman Catholicism for which it can be said that there is a universal consent of the Fathers....From the early days of the Church, baptism was universally perceived as the means of receiving four basic gifts: the remission of sins, deliverance from death, regeneration, and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit." (Webster, page 95-96)

Further Facebook Discussions on Baptism

Protestant friend: Regarding baptism
"I would call it an act of obedience. Infant baptism does not "save" so how does it save the adult? It is an outward, public expression of an internal transformation."

Tiber Jumper:(Catholic)
I agree that it is an act of obedience, but it's more than that based on scriptures. Not only is it an act of obedience but Jesus said belief must be accompanied by baptism or we won't be saved.

Did Peter tell the crowd in Acts after preaching to them: "Repent now and be baptized as an outward sign of the inward transformation that just occurred?" No he didn't say that.

Did Ananais later tell Paul after he was knocked off his horse: "Arise, don't wait, be baptized as an outward sign of obedience of the inner transformation?"

No. Clearly not. Both Jesus, Peter, Ananais commanded that each should be baptized for the "forgiveness of sins."

There is unanimous agreement among early church historians that the early Christians viewed Baptism as regenerative and not symbolic.
I would find it surprising if Christians so close to the apostles could have gotten it wrong. I would be willing to concede  this discussion to you,  if there was a marked discrepancy in what the Church Fathers wrote about baptism but there isn't. I have been reading the Early Church Fathers for 6 years and haven't found one who described baptism as symbolic only. I know you and @@@ don't agree with this, but I still maintain, if we can't agree on what baptism is from scripture alone, we must look at other sources to see what the early church believed.

If we reject the teachings of the earliest Christians, than we must assume that the Holy Spirit that was promised to the Church to lead her in all truth went on sabbatical for 1500 years. Finally the Anabaptists arose in 1521 and unlocked the true understanding of what baptism is, ignoring all the creeds and councils of Christendom for the intervening 1500 years and getting Luther so angry he imposed the death sentence on them for heresy.

Personally, I can't accept that, but everyone is entitled to come to believe what they want. At the very least, this discussion further illustrates my point that sola scriptura is an inadequate construct as it has not helped you or I to come to an agreement on what the meaning of baptism is based on just scripture alone.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Facebook Debate About Baptism

On a fundamentalist's facebook page he states:

"In Acts 10:43-47, we see regeneration occurs with faith and is followed by water baptism. Water baptism, a physical act can not produce a spiritual change."(my emphasis)

My response:
The way I see it, that statement is not consistent with the scriptures that have been presented. Can you please show me a scripture that says that baptism is only symbolic?
Jesus and his apostles baptized with water for the forgiveness of sins.
First Peter 3:21 says that baptism doth save you.

With that physical act it is accompanied by a spiritual act, the cleansing of the conscience, the regeneration of the soul. The merits of Jesus death for our salvation is applied to us through the waters of baptism. If this were not so, why was it commanded?
The earliest Christians were actually all Jews so they understood the concept of God's grace working through material things. For instance, circumcision in the old Testament was performed to bring the person into the covenant with the God of Israel. In the New Testament Baptism becomes the new circumcision! We see that later in Acts when the apostles agree in Jerusalem that the new believers don't have to be circumcised anymore. Because the New Covenant through his blood on the cross supercedes the old. But God still uses the stuff of earth to work his miraculous grace in us.
All the early Christians believed this. There was no controversy about it. Jesus words about being born in water and the spirit were interpreted by those closest to Him to mean "baptism in water."
Why wouldn't scripture say, "just believe in Jesus."  Why was repentance always tied to the physical act of baptism?  If it was only meant to be symbolic, why didn't Jesus tell John the Baptist: "Hey Cousin, listen everyone is watching us here in the river and I don't want to give the wrong idea, so can we just skip the baptism ritual, since it's only symbolic?" I don't want these disciples of yours to get the wrong idea."
(Of course Jesus didn't need to be baptized, we can both agree on that) but none the less,  He indeed did it and one of the last things He told His disciples was to go throughout the world baptizing

Jesus used physical/ material things to confer his grace.
He used mud and spittle to heal, and James instructed the Church to use oil and the prayer of faith for healing. So grace has always been conferred/transmitted via physical things based on scripture and all of recorded Christendom before the 1500's.

If baptism is symbolic and has no inward effect, than why did Jesus and the apostles and all the Christians after Him believe that it DID SAVE THEM?

There is no historical evidence from 70 AD to 1500's that ever states baptism is symbolic. Only after the reformation, after Calvin and Luther were gone, did it become understood as only symbolic.

If you and others can present writings from before the reformation, and preferably closer to the time of Jesus that states emphatically that baptism is symbolic, I would be more inclined to agree or at least say that this was debateable and a point that was always not clear.
Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Litany for Haiti

Today marks the one year anniversary of the tragedy in Haiti. We gathered at our Church to pray for the people of Haiti at 4:53 PM, the time when the first quake struck last year.
 Here's a prayer for our Haitian brothers and sisters that we prayed.

Heavenly Father,
We know you love all of us and have given your only son Jesus for our salvation. The Haitian people have suffered greatly yet despite such suffering, never cease to praise your name and call on you for their salvation.
We pray first for the souls of those who died as a result of the earthquake. We pray that you bring their purification in purgatory to its completion and we offer our prayers and daily sufferings for them, so they may soon see you face to face.
Let us pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
We pray for those survivors who continue to suffer from poverty, homelessness, malnutrition and the ravages of cholera.
Let us Pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
Lord Jesus, give them strength to carry on, and bring peace and justice to their country.
Let us Pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
Strengthen their hearts so they do not become bitter and give in to despair, and give them the grace to unite their suffering to yours.
Let us Pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
Comfort the mothers of the dying children, and comfort the fathers who can't provide for their families,
Let us Pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
Comfort the children and bring peace to those orphaned by the earthquake.
Let us Pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
We ask that you provide daily bread to the Haitian people and move the hearts of men to continue to be generous and caring for Haiti.
Let us Pray to the Lord… Lord Have Mercy
Through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel we ask for spiritual bondage to be broken and to cast into hell the demons that attempt to thwart your purposes for the people of Haiti.
We ask these things…. in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Haiti Earthquake Anniversary Wednesday January 12th 4:53PM EST

Wednesday, January 12th will mark the one year anniversary of the Earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Would you remember to pray for the people of Haiti as well as the souls lost this upcoming Wednesday? The earthquake struck at 4:53 PM EST and if you could begin praying then, you will be in solidarity with Christians everywhere who are doing the same.

Please consider placing this prayer request on your blogs

Thanks so much!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Little Banjo Tune For You. New Car Smell

Here's a live version of an original tune that was on my Scarecrow's Lament CD from 2006. It's a bit irreverent but nothing over the top, I trust. It got played on NPR's Car Talk in 2007 as bumper music.
It's downloadable on itunes.