Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

My Photo
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.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Former Evangelical Pastor Dr. David Hall's First Homily as Catholic Deacon

We were at Dr. Hall's ordination the day before. What a blessing this man's obedience to Jesus will be to the Church!

Feast of The Visitation

Today the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation. 

"And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God. 

And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. 

And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. 

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb*. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord. 

And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. 

And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth's full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son."

*The Hail Mary prayer is partly derived from these words in scripture.

In honor of the Visitation I offer a free download of Bread of Heaven, partly inspired by Saint Elizabeth's greeting and the theology of transubstantiation elucidated by St. Thomas Aquinas.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Another Calvinist Jumps the Tiber

 "If all men are, as Luther and Calvin interpret Scripture to say, helplessly corrupt and depraved, how can I trust anyone? Why should I trust what Martin Luther says that the Bible teaches, or what John Calvin says the Bible teaches or any of the Reformed confessions, for that matter? Is it not the height of naiveté, even hypocrisy, to believe that everyone is totally depraved and yet continue to trust that any human interpretation of Scripture is somehow guaranteed by the Holy Spirit? "

"If Christ could continue to work to build his Church with such a history of failings on the part of the laity, various priests, bishops, and even popes, surely this Church must be sustained by God himself; despite the passage of over two millennia, the Church continues to hold and to teach in substance what it has always held and taught."

"Luther felt that it was necessary to separate from the Catholic Church, Zwingli from Luther, the Anabaptists from the Magisterial Reformed, the Calvinists from Arminians, and on and on–all on the conviction that  "have the correct interpretation of Scripture": “Here I stand, so help me God.” In other words, I am able to understand and deal with imperfect Christians and an imperfect local body only from a Catholic perspective–where the objectivity of the Church is not dependent on the pastor’s ability to preach a sermon, but on the real presence of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Any sort of corruption one finds in the Catholic Church is found outside the Catholic Church as well. The question is whether the Church remains who she is no matter how those who constitute her visible body fail and err."

These are statements made by Joshua Lim . Read the whole story of Joshua's conversion from reformed Protestantism (Calvinism) to Catholicism. He is a recent graduate of Westminster California Theological Seminary. 

Memorial Day 2012

Here's a link to a song I wrote about growing up during Vietnam, being too young to be drafted and being too old later on for the next wars. I was lucky to be able to go to college and obtain the American dream that so many died for our freedom to pursue. The Vietnam conflict officially ended in 1975 and I started college in 1976. My children, 25 and 22, also did not enter military service and spared us the fear of losing a child in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts as many American families have experienced.
  Today we offered our prayers in  morning Mass for the souls of all those lost in our armed conflicts and their families.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Pentecost

Pentecost Sunday

Today we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in the upper room. After they obeyed Jesus with their novena (nine days of waiting and praying) in Jerusalem they received the Holy Spirit with great power. They started the last day of the novena hiding in a locked room and ended that day proclaiming the gospel with a boldness beyond anything anyone ever could imagine!
This was the birth of the One,  Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, the very same one that continues 2000 years later and still proclaims the gospel with boldness to those who have ears to hear.
 Have a Happy Pentecost!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Former Brethren in Christ Pastor Dr. David Hall Ordained!

Today Deborah and I had the joy of traveling to Hershey, PA to witness the bishop conferring holy orders on Dr. David Hall for the permanent diaconate. I met David on line several years ago when he first came into the Catholic church after serving as pastor of one of the largest Lancaster county Brethren in Christ churches. We later got together after I had a concert in the Lancaster area and have kept in touch on facebook and via blogs.
   David Hall surely obeyed the Lord when He asked him to forsake all to follow Him. He left a financially stable career as a pastor and lost the respect of many friends and former coreligionists as he made his journey to the Catholic faith. The Lancaster area is quite a little "bible belt" and Catholicism is not exactly a favorite religion in these parts. Despite the losses he counted it all joy and today God blessed him mightily by allowing him to receive holy orders in the Catholic Church conferred by the laying on of hands by bishop Joseph McFadden of Harrisburg.
  The Church was packed with both new-found Catholic friends as well as many folks from his former Protestant congregation. On the eve of Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit filled the Church as the Word was proclaimed and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated. The most moving part of the ordination liturgy was when Deacon Hall layed prostrate on the floor as the Litany of the Saints was prayed. This is an ancient tradition and both priests and deacons do this during their rite of ordination. It represents total surrender to Christ and a physical way of showing Jesus how much the ordinate submits to Christ and His Church.

                                           (at a gig in a Church in Lancaster, PA 2008)

 Keep Deacon David Hall and his wife Libby in your prayers as they continue to serve the Lord in this new phase of their journey of faith.

To learn more about David's  Heart For God and  his conversion to the Catholic faith check this out.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Independent Fundamental Baptist Comes Home

Check out Jillian's conversion story here. Once again we see that once a person of good will learns what the Church actually says about itself (vs what an anti-Catholic Protestant's say about it) the scales fall from the eyes and the veil is lifted, and the individual comes home!

"It eventually came to the point where we decided we would write each member of my family a letter explaining to them why they were wrong to believe in Catholicism, and why we were right to believe in "the Bible alone".  It wasn't an easy decision to come to, as we had never been confrontational before, but we felt we were doing them a disservice by keeping the "truth" from them.  So, we began researching.  Why do Catholics believe what they do?  Where does all this Tradition actually come from?  You see, we wanted them to know that we knew all of this, and still believed what we believed as Independent Fundamental Baptists.

We were floored.  Dumbfounded.  Aghast.  After six months of extensive research, we began to realize how little we actually had known about the Catholic faith.  We kept waiting for the "aha" moment, when we would come across some teaching that blackballed the rest.  That never happened.  It was unbelievable to us that Catholic faith was grounded in the Scriptures.  Scripture passages we had memorized as Baptists took on an entirely different meaning.  The misconceptions about what Catholics believe and what they actually believe are incredibly vast.  What freedom we felt.  What joy.  What light-heartedness! "

So my Catholic blogger friends, go on over to Jillians' and give her a great Tiber Jumper Welcome Home!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fruit of the Reformation: Liberalism in Religion

“Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another. . . . [it holds that] Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.”  Blessed John Henry Newman 1879. (Convert to the Catholic faith from Anglicanism)

The reformation gave every individual the right to make "it" (the bible) say whatever struck their fancy. Evidence for this is found in the fact that the Lord's Supper was always considered the actual body and blood of Christ from the Last Supper onwards, yet the reformers said that this long held truth was not Truth. How can a 1500 year old belief suddenly be discovered to be wrong? If you believe this then you accept that the Church was mistaken right out of the gate, which bodes poorly for the belief that Christ would give us his Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.

Baptism had always been held as regenerative and the normative means of being born again. The reformers said this is not Truth and rejected 1500 years of believed and practiced faith.

A sacerdotal priesthood had always been held as the means by which the sacraments are given through the Church. The reformers said this is not Truth and there are no need for priests or sacraments rejecting 1500 years of believed and practiced faith.

The effect of the reformation was to give men the permission to decide for themselves, outside of any authority other than the voice in their head, what is truth.  The fruits of this are evident in the exponentially expanding number of new churches and the daily dismantling of the faith and morals held by the ancients.

  Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church.    St. Thomas Aquinas ..(13th Century)

N.B.  I don't write this post to "stick a thumb in the eye" of my Protestant brethren. I do it in the hopes of causing some reflection as to the disastrous consequences of the reformation that are often overlooked.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Silent No More. A Catholic Blogger's Confession

Please check out this link. The writer of Crescat, a popular Catholic blog, confesses to having had two abortions in her past before her conversion to the Catholic faith. More and more women who have been victims of abortion and have suffered in silence are now starting to speak out. Lord willing, this will help women and men realize that their problems have not ended with their abortion, but have really just begun. On one of my many trips to Washington DC for the March for Life, the most moving thing I have ever seen is a line of women and men silently standing holding placards saying; "I regret my abortion." While you are reading her heart-wrenching story, please pray for her and all the others who are willing to speak up to end this American genocide.

 "Women, post-abortive American women, will be the ones who will make the greatest strides against abortion and change the nation’s heart. Now, on this election year, is the time to stand up and honestly share, in heartrending and uncensored detail, what happens to women when they have an abortion and how they are forever changed in hopes that no one will suffer the same pain. I’ve been silent for far too long." The Crescat

Monday, May 21, 2012

Suing the President- The Church Militant Responds

Over 40 Catholic dioceses and universities are taking the Obama administration to court over the violation of the first Amendment caused by the HHS Mandate. Some Catholic colleges have already decided to drop their employee health plans  because it will force them to sin against their consciences by providing contraceptives under the Obamacare mandates.
  As painful as it is to see people go without health care coverage and the economic hardships that will ensue, there is a positive aspect in all of this.  We are seeing the Church in America  rising to the occasion and responding in a way that it has for 2000 years. Sacrificing and bearing the cross instead of giving into the path of darkness.

The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.
(Father William Most)

A Radical Message for Mother’s Day 2012

Today I am posting a homily that my good friend Father Ezaki, Allentown PA, Diocese preached on Mother's Day.

A Radical Message for Mother’s Day 2012

Father Bernard J. Ezaki

Rad-i-cal adj. Arising from or going to a root.

            On this Mother’s Day, how can I not think of my own mother, who died in May of 2004?  I think of Mom especially in the spring, for she loved to make things grow—from the lush philodendron that sprawled over our mantelpiece, to the fuchsia and geraniums that cascaded from hanging pots on our back porch, to the peonies and lilacs that bloomed in our yard, to the bluebells, hyacinths, irises, daylilies, and cleome that flourished in the garden.  Then there were Mom’s prized tomatoes that climbed on stakes along the side of the house.  The very fragrance of a tomato plant will always make me recall my mother.  Why, one year, Mom brought in a tomato that was the size of my little brother’s head!  Mom sure knew how to make things grow.
            I, on the other hand, could learn only the most rudimentary facts about plants.  Now here’s one horticultural fact that I did manage to pick up: If you separate a plant from its roots, the plant is bound to die.  That fact is so crucial that I think I’ll repeat it.  Any plant separated from its roots is bound to die.
            Speaking of roots, our Western Civilization has its roots in Roman Catholicism.  If you don’t believe me, I recommend a book with a title that says it all:  How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.  Yes, our civilization has its roots in Christianity.  Unfortunately, people who call themselves enlightened are trying to sever our culture from its Christian roots.  The inevitable result, barring divine intervention, will be that our civilization will wither and die. 
            In our Gospel today, Jesus says (John 15:12), “Love one another as I love you.”  One way Our Lord expressed His love for us was to speak the unvarnished truth.  So hold on to your hats, folks.  Here comes some love in the form of unvarnished truth.
            Roman Catholicism has given Western Civilization two vital taproots that give life to our culture.  Yet people in the media and the government, on both sides of the political aisle, are doing their best to sever our culture from these roots.  What are these two vital taproots?  First, the belief that human life is precious from the moment of conception to natural death.  Second, the firm conviction that the primary purpose of sex is procreation.  Let me discuss these two key concepts one at a time.
            The Catholic Church has always taught that human life is precious from the moment of conception until natural death.  Once society abandons this conviction, there is no rational argument in the whole world that can oppose abortion, partial birth abortion, assisted suicide, and the euthanizing of the infirmed and elderly.  If you think I’m joking, consider this:  Princeton’s atheist professor Peter Singer has gone so far as to suggest that children under the age of one year (he calls them “neonates”) should not be accorded full human status.  This would allow society to destroy them in the event they are handicapped or inconvenient.  If you think this notion is horrendous (as I do), what rational argument can you use to oppose it other than the conviction that human life is precious from conception to natural death?  Once you abandon this idea, any restriction on the killing of human life is purely arbitrary.  Yet those who govern us have been throwing this idea out the window ever since Roe versus Wade in 1973. 
            So much for vital taproot number one.  Human life is precious from the moment of conception until natural death.  Now for the second of our civilization’s vital taproots.
            The Catholic Church has consistently maintained that the primary purpose of sex is procreation.  Every sexual union between a husband and wife must be at least open to offspring.  Does this mean that sexual intimacy between a husband and wife does not have to be an expression of love?  Of course not!  Every sexual act between a husband and wife ought to be both unitive and procreative.  It ought to bring a married couple together in love and at the same time be open to the giving of life.  Yet the primary purpose of sex is procreation.  Let me explain with an analogy involving my favorite topic—food.
            The primary purpose of food is nutrition.  Does this mean that we ought not to enjoy what we eat?  By no means!  Pleasure and nutrition should always be united in the act of eating.  As a matter of fact, if you don’t enjoy your food, something is wrong.  Yet the primary purpose of eating is nutrition, not enjoyment.  Why? Because there are many things we can do in life to bring us pleasure.  Fishing, tennis, a good book, a wholesome movie, a hike through the mountains are all legitimate sources of joy.  There is, however, only one way by which we normally take in nutrition, and that is through eating. 
            Similarly, the Church has always taught that the primary purpose of sex is procreation.  Again, does that mean that a husband and wife do not have to express love in their sexual intimacy?  Heavens no!  The giving of love and the giving of life should always be united in the act of sexual intimacy.  As a matter of fact, if you don’t love your spouse, something is wrong.  Yet procreation (and not love) is the primary purpose of sex.  Why?  Because there are numerous ways by which a husband and wife can express love.  A dinner out, an exchange of gifts, the mutual sharing of joys and hardships—these are all legitimate ways of expressing love.  Yet there is only one way by which children ought to be brought into the world, and that is through sexual union.
Procreation is the primary purpose of sex.  Once this idea is abandoned, it is not long before the purpose of sex becomes recreation rather than procreation.  Then there is no rational argument in the whole world that would forbid sex with anything and everything.  If you think I’m joking, I give you again Peter Singer at Princeton.  He actually argues for the merits of bestiality!  If you think this is disgusting (as I do) what rational argument can you use to oppose it other than the conviction that the primary purpose of sex is procreation?  Once you jettison this idea, any restriction on sex is purely arbitrary.  Yet, ever since the 1960s with the advent of the birth control pill, there are those who are trying to separate our society from this vital taproot.  The primary purpose of sex is procreation.
I know what some of you are thinking:  Why is this crazy priest preaching such a downer homily on, of all days, Mother’s Day?  For one thing, these are timely issues.  Pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius is going to be a commencement speaker at Georgetown University.  She personifies the severing of taproot #1.  Our President has come out this week in favor of so-called “gay marriage.”  He personifies the severing of taproot #2.  Yet I have a deeper reason.  Once we abandon the idea that human life is precious from the moment of conception to natural death, once we jettison the idea that the primary purpose of sex is procreation, then human mothers become an endangered species.  Can anyone argue this in the face of the declining birthrates in the West?  Our Lord warned that this would happen.  On His way to the Cross he predicted (Luke 23:28), “Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children, for days  are coming when men will say. ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bear.’”  We have severed our society from its very roots.  Unless we make an immediate about-face, there can be only one result. 
Dear Lord, have mercy on us all!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Get Your Papist On! Promote Catholicism Day 5/24/12

Today is World Communications Day and Wednesday is Promote Catholicism Day. Learn about how to spread the Good News of Jesus and His Church through social media. If you are reading this here and now, there's a good chance you are already using the internet for this purpose, but  check out this link to an organized event this upcoming week to promote the faith.

"In his message for the 45th World Communications Day (held on June 5, 2011), Pope Benedict XVI noticed how digital social networks are creating “a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange and the creation of positive relations.”

Hopefully our contributions to Catholic Media Promotion Day will allow many to experience Catholic life, teaching and spirituality as a “holy exchange of gifts.”
Every day is a good day to promote Catholic media. Make a point of sharing with your friends and social networks your favorite Catholic media and in doing so answer the call to be missionaries on this new digital continent."

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Has Solo Scriptura Done For You Lately?

First let's define Sola Scriptura:  "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men." (Westminster Confession)

Now let me share what the doctrine of Sola Scriptura did for me.

  • It  allowed me to ignore the truth and wisdom in the writings of 2000 years of godly Christians called saints, including Augustine and Aquinas. (Including all creeds, councils and papal encyclicals)
  • It  freed me from the burden of learning the historical roots of my faith thereby allowing me to ignore 1500 years of the Holy Spirit's working in the lives of men.
  • It  empowered me to personally deduce which scriptures should be interpreted literally and which should be taken symbolically. For example, "of course God created the world in 6 DAYS, but no, He absolutely didn't mean this verse literally when He said. "Take and eat, this is my body.'
  • It permitted me to ignore the possibility that God's grace can be obtained from the sacraments because they weren't mentioned specifically in the bible.
  • It helped me to define the meaning and purpose of human sexuality in marriage and freed me to ignore the 1,930 years of prohibition of contraception(in all Christian denominations, as a matter of fact). If a particular sexual act was not specifically prohibited in the bible, I was empowered to "use my imagination"  since "the marriage bed  is undefiled."(Heb 13:4)
  • It gave me the impetus to shop around for churches until I found the one that most agreed with my personal interpretation of Holy Scripture. I was then empowered to leave said church if I believed that the pastor's interpretation of Holy Scripture no longer agreed with mine.
  • Finally and most importantly, it freed me from the "burden" of remaining in communion with the Church that can be historically traced to Christ and his apostles.
So my dear readers, what has Sola Scriptura done for YOU lately?

Sola Scriptura Leads to Rome-Part 4 of Bekah's Story

Bekah continues her conversion story here. Once again, the concept of the Eucharist played a key part in opening her eyes once she was able to accept the "plain reading" of scripture.

 "I believed Jesus when He said, “Seek and ye shall find,” I just never expected it would be in the very last place I would ever think to look.  But I was looking to submit to His Church, and when that Church was revealed in the breaking of the bread, I submitted."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bible Reading Catholics

 When I was a protestant, I was often told that Catholics don't read the bible. Given the fact that I grew up without a bible in the house in a nominal Catholic family, I couldn't disagree. But find out the TRUTH about Catholics and the Bible on this post below in the Called to Communion Blog.
Tom Riello, reformed evangelical convert to the Catholic faith writes an excellent post here regarding Catholics and the reading of the Bible. Check it out here.

  “Our one desire for all the Church’s children is that, being saturated with the Bible, they may arrive at the all surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Spiritus Paraclitus #69)  Pope Benedict 
 XV (1920)

Tom Riello: "I want to stress that becoming Catholic is not only about what you are giving up. Becoming Catholic is also about what you are gaining. This leads to my second point about Bible reading. I can say that becoming Catholic has enriched my reading of the Bible, not lessened it — renewed it, and not stunted it." 

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Sola Scriptura Leads to Rome. Part 3 of Bekah's Story

Bekah continues her story of how sola scriptura ultimately led her to Rome. Here's Part 3

"Baptist Bible" Christian Finds The Church!

Here's a great story of how a fundamentalist Christian from a tiny baptist sect in Long Island, New York came to be a Catholic. He now proclaims his joy in finding the Catholic Church on facebook, blogs and youtube. Read Michael's story here.
     Blame it on the Early Church Father's once again, for it seems when he began to read history (Saint Augustine in particular) he knew that his sect in no way resembled the early christian church (AKA the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church)

It seemed that Augustine and his contemporaries believed something very different about the Church than most protestants today did.  They believed in Scripture and the Sacred Tradition handed on from the apostles to their successors, the Bishops.  They believed that what distinguished the Church was its unity of teaching and what distinguished the heretics and false teachers was their inconsistencies and divisions.  They practiced confession to priests, prayed for the dead, believed that God works through sacraments to apply His salvation and grace into our lives.  They recited written prayers, they spoke of Christ’s purification of Christians through something called purgatory.  They testified that Mary was free from original sin and called her “The New Eve.”  They wrote prayers to Jesus, they called on Mary to pray.

And as I read more and more of these writings, I became unsettled and wondered if all the things that these early Christians wrote  about were still going on in their totality in any Church today."

The Church Will Never Redefine the Meaning of Marriage

Cardinal Dolan expresses his disappointment here in President Obama's recent change of heart regarding same-sex marriage. It is truly comforting to know that no matter how many religious sects, politicians, presidents, states of the union, heads of state, etc. want to redefine marriage, one institution never will.

Look! A Black Catholic!

Check out this blog by a convert to the Catholic faith, a  twenty-something African American young lady.  She states that it is very unusual to be both Catholic and Black in the United States. It's interesting because Catholicism is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa right now. Stop by her blog and give her the old Tiber Swim Club Welcome!

  "I was a young black woman in the South and of all places I felt at home in a Catholic church. Once I accepted Christ's call, I delved deeply into Catholicism to truly understand and grow in my Faith. I didn't choose to be Catholic...Christ told me I was Catholic; from that point, there was no turning back and a year after I accepted my conversion I was blessed to be accepted in communion with Christ and confirmed as a Roman Catholic."

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Biblical Canon: Truth with Great Consequence.

The following post is by Michael Goodwin, a former evangelical Christian who went to college at Cedarville, a fundamentalist Christian college. He later came into union with the Catholic Church during his training to be a chaplain for the US Army. Here's Michael's post I found  on facebook.

"The authority of the Bible is the topic often brought by those not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
The position usually is expressed like this:
"Jesus gave us the Bible, which is God's utlimate and final authority for our beliefs.  Scripture is the only authority we need and any other authority is just man made.  I just believe what the Bible says and that is sufficient for salvation." 
Slow down a moment and let's walk through this line of thought.  Let's reflect on the undergirding premise and also the results of this conviction.
First, what is the bible?  All Christians believe it is a collection of writings that were brought about through God's inspiration.  But if you pick up a copy of a bible today, you likely have taken for granted the table of contents or list of books provided for you.  How do you know which books God wanted included as the totality of His written Word?  Have you noticed that there is not one mention in any biblical text stating which books are to be included?
I rememember when I was attending protestant seminary we began to learn about the history of biblical translation and the different approaches used in translating the texts from their original language.  There was the discussion on the difference between a formal equivalent translation and a dynamic equivalent translation. (word for word vs. a thought for thought approach)  As the class went along one of our professors brought up the idea that some translations more accurately represent the itent of the original language.  But, he said, "We need to be sure that by explaining the history of translation we don't take the bible away from anyone in the Church."  This refrain was repeated on a number of occasions.  This was well-meaning advice.  The professor was expressing that we don't want to undermine a person's reliance on the Bible's authority by sharing about the real messyness of translating the text and the uneven history of the biblical canon.
Interestingly, the history of the canon was not discussed in our classes in much detail.  We also were never given opportunity to read any writings that other Christians (such as the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics) include in their canon.  I did not pick up on this then, but something was very bothersome about this.  Here's why:
The main argument offered by the first protestants for how they conclude which books are to be a part of the canon of Scripture was the concept of scriptural perpescuity.  That's a fancy word that conveys that the Scriptures are discernable.  With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Christians can understand and distinguish between what is Scripture and what is not Scripture by carefully reading the text.  So, the idea is this:  I could pick up a bible, turn to the book of Job read it and then put the bible down and then pick up the text for Shakespeare's Hamlet and after reading both, I would inherently know that Job was God's Word and Hamlet came just from Shakespeare.
There's a grand canyon size hole in the example I have given.  The comparison does not represent what must be distinguished.  Judging between Hamlet and Job is easy.  The real test is can a Christian pick up a copy of the text of Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, etc.  and carefully read them and know with firm certainty that :  "These writings were not of God's guided inspiration and they should not be included in the canon."
Now, come back to the guidance of my seminary professor.  He urged us not to 'take the bible from those in our Churches."  But, if there is even a possibility that protestants removed seven books that were part of an established canon, is that not what every protestant Church has essentially done?  Have they not taken part of the bible away from Christians?!?!?!
What I find so shocking is what little matter of consequence this seems to be to many people I attempt to talk with about this.  What I find also quite alarming is the amount of misplaced faith that must occur in order to sustain confidence in the protestant canon.  Here is an outline of where I consider faith is misplaced:
  • First, there is for most an absolute blind faith placed in the table of contents in the copy of the bible held by each protestant.  They too quickly assume that the list of books stated at the beginning of their bible is God's irrefutable Truth. 
  • Second, faith is in a reliance on the conviction that their local pastor must have carefully studied to make sure that each book is from God and not merely a compilation offered by the latest bible publishers. 
  • Finally, there is misplaced faith in 'respected' bible scholars who can give you a convenient list of "four ways that determine the canon of scripture."
There's all this faith being thrown around and a mountain of assumptions that have been built up over the last four centuries.  Instead of all these assumptions and blind faith, there is another possibility that could be considered much more plausible.  It is rejected outright because the consequence of the conclusion would mean a radical change, humble admittance of wrong, and submission to an authority outside their own private judgement.  The possibility avoided is that Christ's authority and the totality of revelation perseveres in the successors of Christ's apostles.  If the Church's authority comes from Christ, then the communion of bishops, with the successor of Peter maintains an office of authority initiated by Christ at pentecost.
But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
What's at stake...
What is really at stake here is the foundational claim regarding the authority of Scripture and how it relates to the Church. If it can be reasonably discerned that the scriptures that protestants maintain have excluded a part of God's revelation it undermines their entire claim regarding authority.  And also we also come to face a matter of enormous gravity.  If we believe the totality of God's Word is eternal, with not one word to be discarded, then if protestants have discarded or dismissed a part of this Word, then this is a serious matter and a great offense.
Jesus' word is very forceful on this matter:
Matthew 5:17-18  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
So, should it not be alarming if someone begins to propose the removal of some books from the canon?  Now, some protestants offer an argument in reply.  They argue that the protestant reformers went back and followed the Hebrew Canon that were recognized by the first century Jewish community.  They argue that Catholics 'added' books to the bible at the Council of Trent when the canon began to be questioned by the reformers.  They argue that the Catholics didn't finalize their list of canonical books until after the protestants questioned them.
This is a version of history that finds very little correlation with reality.  It's a version though that protestants enthusiastically accept without questioning it because the alternative would likely have a major consequence.
There's been a lot written in response to this fantastical proposition, so I will just give brief summary.  If you have an open mind and would like to really examine what your underlying assumptions are concerning the canon and who has the authority to discern it, you can easily reply to this writing and ask to examine this more.
1.  Protestants follow the Hebrew Old Testament canon.
Reply:  First, the Jewish population in the first century A.D. was not the monolithic body that this assertion would have you believe.  There were different sub-communities within the Jewish people.  Some Jewish communities had integrated into the greek culture that was around them, even speaking the greek language.  Some Jewish communities believed that God only communicated His Word through the Hebrew language.  The seven books recognized by the Catholic and Orthodox, which protestants exclude, were thought to be written mostly in Greek close to the 3rd and 2nd century B.C.
This was one of Luther's rationale for his decision to place this in a section of his bible called the Apocrypha.  There's a couple major problems with this.  One is that the same Jewish communities that were excluding any Greek language writings in the Old Testament were also excluding the ENTIRE new testament for the same reason.  Remember, all the apostles and most of the first Christians were FROM the Jewish community.  We have substantial record that Christians were using the OT books (including the 7 that the Catholic Church maintians) to point their fellow Jews to the messianic prophecies that Christ fulfilled.  The Jewish leaders at the time were looking for a way to dismiss the Jewish Christians who were growing and evangelizing all the surrounding communities to Christ.  So, they decided to narrrow their canon down in order to illegitimize the Christian movement.  And yet this is one of the main supports of authority that the protestants use for their canon. 
The other major problem is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1952.  Protestants often look to this discovery to support the historicity and validity of the Scriptural texts.  The Scripture found at this site were the oldest ever discovered, dating back to the first few centuries of the Church.    What protestants do not talk about is that many of the books rejected by protestants were also discovered at this site.  Another major discovery was that some of the OT writings originally thought to only have a greek language source were instead discovered to have writings in Hebrew.  So one of Luther's primary arguments, that he borrowed from the first century A.D. Jewish community, falls apart.
2.  Was the Catholic Canon not authoritative until the Council of Trent after the protestant reformation? 
This assertion is truly absurd.  And it is still brought up by most respected protestant bible scholars when confronted on the canon.  If protestants want to argue that the canon was not recognized until the council of Trent then protestants need to show us that there was a consensus in the early Church that recognized the canon that protestants hold to today.  This in no way can be done.  In fact, the canon of Scripture remained pretty unsettled until 394 A.D. when the Council of Carthage met and they provided a list of books that the Church had come to recognize as God's revelation.  This council includes the books rejected by protestants.  Some protestants try to point to other councils where some of the books were not included.  But there is a problem with this, there is not one council in recorded history that excluded all the books.  There is typically one or two held in question.  But the other problem is that at this same time, NT books accepted today by all were put on that very same list of questionable books.  Such as "Esther, Jude, 2 Peter, James, and Revelation.  This is why Luther intially pushed to have these removed from the canon in his German translation (in his first German edition of the NT, he puts these NT books in the back as a separate section.)  The fact is there was up to 3 separate councils, occuring in different countries, within the first thousand years of Christianity that accepted the Canon that Catholics still maintain today.  The council of Trent reasserted this canon only when it was challenged by the protestant insurrection.  And this is something I learned right in my seminary classes as a protestant:  Doctrine is not strongly or authoritatively declared until it is challenged.  This was true for the doctrine of Christ's being eternally begotten from the Father.  This was not authoritatively declared by the Church until about four hundred years after Christ ascended to heaven.  It was then that certain priests and bishops in the Church began to question and then reject this teaching.  And in response, the doctrine was strongly declared (see the Niceene Creed).
When protestants lay out their reasons for why books are included in the canon, one of the criteria often cited is that the writing was widely accepted and used by the earliest Chrsitians.  Sadly, the protestant canon does not meet this criteria.  The books they exclude were widely accepted and read aloud in the Churches. (see links below for support of this.)  There is a mountain of evidence that shows this.  And they continue to be widely read and accepted by the majority of Christians throughout the world (over a billion Catholics and Orthodox).

So, what does this all mean? 
It means that if protestants are wrong on the canon of Scripture, which is one of the most fundamental Christian beliefs, the question deserves to be asked:  What else were they wrong on?  If they could not properly discern what should be included as part of God's Word, then is it possible that they are wrongly interpreting the Scripture they do have?  Could it be possible that the early reformers' rejection of Church authority had an influence on which books they 'decided' to recognize?  Is it possible that their judgement was clouded by a zealous bias against the Catholic Church?
If their authority rests utlimately on the Bible and their bible is not the entire bible then does this not collapse their entire presupposition?
For Christians who place the Scripture in such high regard, I would hope the canon of Scripture would not be a trifling matter.  My impression during seminary was that the canon that protestants had been widely accepted since the earliest days of Christianity.  But this premise was never supported historically by any writings in the early Church.  So I was left to just take for granted that the professors were being academically honest with regard to the research of early Christian history and the canon that was widely used then.
Most Christians today use as their rationale for their acceptance of the protestant canon something similar to what mormons use to accept the 'book of mormon' promulgated by Joseph Smith.  When you ask a mormon how they know that Smith's book should be recognized as part of God's word they say, "the Holy Spirit revealed it to my heart and gives affirmation to me that it is true."  In honesty, I've heard the very same thing from many protestant friends and family I have tried to talk with about the Canon.
The reason I believe there is such a avoidance of this issue is that the alternative option would be to accept that the teaching of the Catholic Church on the canon of Scripture is not relative position, but an authoritative doctrine.  And if the Catholic Church was preserved from error in the preservation of God's Word, then would not Christ keep the Church from error on all matters of doctrine and morals?   For did not Christ promise to not leave us as sheep without a Shepherd?  How does Christ Shepherd his Church today?  Is it through a succession of Bishops that Christ has maintained since his ascension?  Or is a Christian shepherd based on whether he is accepted by a majority of Christians in a local community?  Is a Christian shepherd one who is most enthusiatic in saying that "I only teach the bible." (watch out, Joel Osteen says that at the same time John Piper does.)
These men all say they preach the Bible. Really? The whole Bible?
2 Timothy 4:3-4   For the time will come when people 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Become Catholic;  where the canon of Scripture and the Truth does not change when popular opinion and zealous teachers change.  It's a wonderful journey that I began just over a year ago and it continues today!

To look further:
You can start with a video I made-
And one made by another:
And a good start for reading:  (this provides extensive quotes from the early Church.  Especially from Jerome, who protestants claim firmly rejected the deuterocanonical books.)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Reason # 796 To be Catholic: You Can Visit The Museum of Natural History And Not Shipwreck Your Faith

Yesterday we visited the American Museum of Natural History in NYC with my two boys. It was really fun and got me thinking quite a bit how I used to view natural science with suspicion and fear because it directly countered my evangelical beliefs about creation.  As an evangelical, my original teachers told us that the world is only 6000 years old and evolution was really just "evilution."  Genesis was not only a good history book but was also a science book as well and an accurate explanation of the way the earth was created, or so we were told.
    But how did I explain fossils that date more than 40 million years? What could I say when I see a piece of petrified wood that was over 30 million years old? How did I justify primordial forms of invertebrate and vertebrate life? How did I explain to my kids that Tyrannosaurus Rex was really less than 6000 years old and walked the earth with Adam and Eve, despite a fossil record that shows T Rex lived 65.5 million years ago?   I used lousy arguments from Ken Hamm's Creation Science which "proved" that carbon dating is completely inaccurate. Even though I myself was a scientist of sorts, I did feel a little sheepish trying to get my extremely bright and inquisitive second- born son to buy into this. By third grade, I knew that he knew that the theory of the 6000 year old earth was improbable and didn't buy my arguments anymore.
   Now, being Catholic has freed me from the fear of going to a natural history museum. I don't have to shut my brain off or tell myself "fossils were put here by Satan to deceive us."

The Catholic Catechism says this:

159 Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."

Sola Scriptura Leads to Rome. Part 2 of Bekah's Story

This is Part 2 of Bekah's conversion story of how her practice of sola scriptura ultimately led her to Catholicism.

" Would God really want me to pick and choose among all the various interpretations of Scripture evidenced in the multitude of denominations, just to find one that resonated, or at least which most closely resembled what I felt the Holy Spirit had revealed? There was the sticking point.  If God is one, and the Holy Spirit was sent to lead us to all truth, why were there 35,678 Christian denominations?"

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Baptist Pastor Crosses the Tiber

I am a little late on this one, but here's the story of a Baptist Pastor, graduate of Wheaton Bible College, who  came into full Communion with the Catholic Church last Easter 2011. The usual suspects are to blame for his conversion: the issues of Unity, Authority, sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the negative repercussions of sola scriptura.

"I have embraced the sacraments because I have embraced what the Bible teaches about my humanity:  I am a unity of the physical and the spiritual.  Therefore, God wants to communicate himself to me through physical things.  The most important sacrament is the Eucharist.
It is not enough for God to strengthen me with “symbols” of his body and blood, because I am not a “symbol” of a man.  I am a real man.  That is, a real human being.  And that is why—among other reasons–Christians from the beginning of the Church have taught that in Communion, Jesus Christ so loves us that he gives us Himself:  his real body, blood, soul, and divinity.  There is only one Church that understands and teaches this:  the Roman Catholic Church."
Read the rest of Vaughn Kohler's story here.

Cowardice and Irresponsibility: Fruits of Pornography

Vaughn Kohler has a great piece re-posted in the National Catholic Register on an effect of pornography that we don't think of:  It makes men cowards.

"Absolutely nothing is allowed into our experience that would challenge our will, play with our emotions or wound our ego. All the perfectly air-brushed and HD-quality citizens of our world are smiling, desiring and accepting, and there is certainly no chance for hurt, pain or rejection. We are given the illusion of intimacy without the risk of vulnerability."

   It also keeps men in a persistent state of adolescence marked by selfishness with a failure to take responsibility for their actions. I often think that the recent Secret Service scandal in Cartegna was evidence of a generation of young men who have spent their developmental years on-line viewing pornography. Women are their playthings and despite being in a position requiring the most responsibility in the nation, they behaved as if they were 15 year-olds on a camping trip with a stolen case of beer and someone's father's smut collection.

Friday, May 04, 2012

The Creed: Pray It, Love It, LIVE IT

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sola Scriptura Leads to Rome

Read Bekah's story how Sola Scriptura led her to Rome. Part one here

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Feast of Saint Athanasius

Today the Church celebrates the heroic virtue of this 3rd century saint who was a bishop, and Doctor of the Church. He spent his life battling the Arian heresy and he was an integral part of the crafting of the Creed in Nicea in 325 AD.  He also wrote a letter (Festal Letter) which contained a list of books that eventually became canonized in later Catholic Church Councils as the New Testament.
   His life was a series of battles and controversy and he was known as "Athanasius Contra Mundum."
Athanasius Against the World!  He spent 17 years of his 40 year bishopric in exile because of the Arian leanings of the roman emperors at the time, but he would not back down.

Saint Athanasius, we ask for your intercession that we would always be faithful to the Truth and stand up for Christ and His Church despite any opposition, as you yourself did. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we pray, Amen.