Thursday, November 30, 2006

4th Century Doctors of the Church

A Dialogue About "Obstinate Ignorance"

This recent dialogue between myself and a fellow neophyte friend of mine over email is partially reprinted with permission. (His words in green & in block quotes) Originally I told him in my email about a protestant friend who is an elder at an Orthodox Prebyterian church who made the comment that St. Augustine single handedly kept the Church from 'going off the deep end'. My friend erroneously viewed him as the only one with his 'head on straight' in the 300s.

When I read your second paragraph I must admit that I was a bit annoyed. It's a struggle to prevent myself from reacting that way, though I really should. Especially since I was exactly like your Protestant friend a little over a year ago. I guess, for the most part, it is the obstinate ignorance that bugs me the most. Why doesn't he read about it instead of commenting on things he has no knowledge of or doesn't understand? Of course, it was only by the grace of God that I was accepting of the Fathers writings... so, prayer for your friend would be the best thing. the 4th century was the richest century for the Doctors of the Church. That statement he made was out of complete ignorance, an ignorance that I would challenge him to back up with honest research... since I know he made that comment off the top of his head, like most Protestants. The more I hear Protestants talk, the more I realize that the "personal Jesus" concept is a reality with them. All of their "knowledge" (in reality, opinions) has been supposedly personally revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. All without careful study, without changing their lifestyle, without seeking humility, etc.

Anyhow I want to point out the level of ignorance your Protestant friend has in his personal "revelation" from who he believes is the Holy Spirit.

First, the Councils which established the canon of the Holy Scriptures took place in the 4th century... St. Augustine didn't even convert until 386 (5 years after the First Council of Constantinople). Also, he wasn't on the council when the Nicene Creed was approved. So, to say that the Church was going astray in the 300s is either utter ignorance or utter blasphemy. Even a Protestant believes that the canon of Scriptures was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and many Protestant denominations recite the Creed. Two things St. Augustine wasn't a part of.

Second, the council of Nicaea (325 AD - pre-St. Augustine) approved the canons for the structure of the Church heirarchy, defined the divinity of the Son of God against Arius, and fixed the date to keep Easter. These things, like all doctrines and dogmas of the Church, were already in existence, passed down by the Tradition of the Apostles as can be seen in all of the pre-Nicene Fathers writings. As we both know, Protestants foolishly reject the Traditions of the Apostles and the authority of the Church. The First Council of Constantinople (381 AD - also pre-St. Augustine) added the Holy Spirit portion to the Creed and further defined the heirarchial structure. St. Augustine became bishop of Hippo in 396 AD, so according to your friend, it would have taken him only four years to influence the Church enough to keep the wheels from falling off, since in your friend's blissful ignorance he stated that it was in the 4th century that St. Augustine did everything. Another thing to note is that St. Augustine became bishop after the First Council of Constantinople and he entered heaven in 430 AD, just prior to the next Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, it is hard to imagine that he was physically present at any of the Ecumenical Councils. Though he was present at the Local Council of Carthage and he actually helped to further approve and frame the heirarchial structure of the Church!

Third, I'm sure that your Protestant friend believes that the wheels came off when doctrines like Apostolic Succession were affirmed, canons of Church heirarchy were affirmed, Apostolic Tradition was used as a means of framing doctrines and dogmas, the belief in the Real Presense of our Lord in the Eucharist was handed down through the Faith and Tradition of the Apostles, etc. Because, if he believes any of that, then he should give up his perceived Christian "independence", his trust in himself, and his "personal Jesus" and enter the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But, chances are he doesn't believe any of those things. Besides the other points I made, which plainly show his ignorance, I think, this point is the most crucial: St. Augustine believed all of those things listed above... the things your friend does not believe! I'll add a couple more things too. St. Augustine also believed in the primacy of the successor of St. Peter. Using Protestant terms, he was a papist. Also, St. Augustine was the Doctor of the Church who defined the Ten Commandments as the first three being in relation to God and the last seven being in relation to our neighbor. Protestants believe that the first four are in relation to God and the last seven are in relation to our neighbor. Though it's not a matter of faith, it is a scandalous matter to some Protestants who think the Catholic Church took liberty with Her exposition of the Ten Commandments. That was St. Augustine!

So, before your Protestant friend tosses out his personal revelations on who St. Augustine was and what he believed, tell him it would probably be wise to actually read about him first. St. Augustine was Catholic in everything. He believed in the Sacraments and everything else the Church teaches, which hasn't changed since Christ sent the Apostles to preach the Gospel and baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just the fact that the Catholic Church recognizes St. Augustine as a Saint should be enough to let him know that he was Catholic. The Church isn't in the business of canonizing heretics.

Back to my point about the 4th (and 5th) century being the richest in regards to Doctors of the Church, here is a sample of some of them:

St. Ambrose (Bishop of Milan 374-397) - helped to convert St. Augustine, a wealth of writings in the deposit of Faith that are often cited for doctrines and dogmas of the Church
St. Athanasius (Bishop of Alexandria, d. 373)
St. Augustine (Bishop of Hippo 396-430)
St. Basil the Great (Bishop of Caesarea, d. 379)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Bishop of Jerusalem, d. 386)
St. Ephraim the Syrian (d. 373)
Eusebius of Caesarea (Bishop of Caesarea, d. 341)
St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Bishop of Nazianzus, d. 389)
St. Hilary of Poitiers (Bishop of Poitiers, d. 368) - one Tradition has it that his relics were taken from the church of St. Hilaire of Poitiers and burned by the Protestants in 1572
St. Jerome (b. 340, d. 420) - translated the Holy Scriptures into the Latin Vulgate and also upheld the Tradition of the perpetual virginity of Theotokos against heretics at the time.
St. John Chrysostom (Bishop of Constantinople b. 347, d. 407) - "golden mouthed", one of the greatest Doctors of the Church
Pope St. Leo I the Great (d. 461, Pope 440-461)

And that list doesn't include those who were not considered Doctors of the Church. I may have even missed a few. I hope that somewhat illustrates the level of ignorance and the contradictory nature of your Protestant friend's statements. It's hard for me not to get a bit annoyed and not to show it in my responses, but man, he should READ the stuff he is spewing opinions out about in complete ignorance. I should really be more relaxed about it since I was in exactly the same boat (sinking) as he was.
Joe you're exactly right about the "personal Jesus" phenomenon. Ive noticed that too. Like St. Jerome said "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ". And the Protestants call God Father - yet like St. Cyprian of Carthage said "He cannot have God as Father who has not Church as mother". Both of these 4th century like you pointed out. The personal Jesus issue is one of the posts for my blog that I have had on the back burner for a while.

Thanks for that list of the Saints. The only big ones I could think of at the time were St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius & St. Jerome but I didnt mention Jerome to him bc Protestants dont like St. Jerome. I looked online later to see if i could find a timeline but I didnt find one and didnt have time to go through each saint.

The sad thing about this particular Protestant is that while what you said is true - he is grossly ignorant of the 4th century and early Church - he is very well educated in reformed doctrine and church (with a lower case c) history after the reformation. He could probably quote the Westminster Confession. Even the very well educated Protestants (in this regard) have a terrible knowledge of the early Church (which is the most important era to learn about imo!!!)

But for Protestants like him I am not too terribly concerned. He's already set in his ways and it would be a personal embarassment for him to change at this point. So im not trying to convert him by any means. To convert for someone like that (he is in his 60s and an elder at his church) would be to admit he's been wrong about many things for a long time.. That is extremely hard to do for mankind and our ego will cause us to "turn a blind eye" to certain truths.

Im more interested in providing resources for protestants (like me before i converted) who knew deep down inside Christianity is true but also knew that there are some huge pieces of the puzzle missing and it didnt make any sense. I was very frustrated with Chrsitianity. Had I known that the Catholic Church had EVERY answer all along, it would have been so much easier. I want to be a resource for those kinds of people.

I obviously don't believe that you should try and convert anyone, as that would be impossible anyway. Catholics have a different understanding of evangelization. We don't (or shouldn't) believe that we are the ones who convert anyone. And we certainly don't believe that we earn "crowns" in heaven for each soul "we" save. It is only through the grace of Faith, given by the Holy Spirit and accepted by the person, that one can believe in Christ, and it is only through Christ that one can see the Father. We aren't even actors in the process since the entire affair is literally between the grace given by the Spirit and the response given by the person. God doesn't control us and we don't control each other.

However, educating the ignorant is something that we are commissioned to do. Not to convert them, but just to give them information that they didn't have before. It is not something we do to add another soul to our personal list of converts, like it is for the evangelicals. It is something we do when the opportunity arises and is also our obligation as Christians, especially to other Christians. The Spirit will move us to do so when it is appropriate too. Unlike evangelicals who cram their false doctrines down everyone's throat after beating them over the head with their Luther bible, we are to carry out our discussions with love and humility. I have engaged in discussions with Protestant friends and family members on topics of Catholic teachings and doctrines. In those cases the discussions unravelled gradually, I didn't go into the conversation with a list of doctrines I was going to shove in their face. On the contrary, they came to me with theirs for the most part. I saw it as my duty to at least explain the Catholic teaching to them, whether they rejected it or not. It isn't my job to convince them of anything. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. That is why Protestants can read the Scriptures and never recognize the Truth, because they obstinately refuse the grace of the Holy Spirit.

...

I guess my point is that I think you should post this thread. Your friend needs to understand how contradictory and how misinformed his ridiculous statement is and, if he wants to truly find out what St. Augustine thought or what was happening in the Church before and after the Roman persecution (I use the end of the Roman persecution because it is more accurate than the many misinformed Protestant theories on Constantine), that there is plenty of documentation available for research. He needs to put his Westminster Confession, a relatively new invention (in comparison to the age of the Church of Christ) of schismatics and heretics, down and start reading what the mind of the Church thinks today and has ALWAYS thought since Christ sent His Apostles to spread the Gospels.

As far as Protestants not liking St. Jerome, as I recall, their religious father, Martin Luther, didn't like St. James very much either. And St. James' epistle is in their bible too. Why did the heretic, Luther, not like St. James? Simply because he taught how to properly live a Christian life and that "Faith without works is DEAD". Of course Martin Luther would have had the same feelings for St. Jerome because St. Jerome used the Septuagint primarily for his Old Testament translation. It follows that Protestants loyal to their Luther bibles would not like St. Jerome because that might mean they'd have to accept the seven books that the heretic, Luther, removed from the canon. Also, St. Jerome made it clear that the Blessed Virgin was perpetually a Virgin, and he wasn't shy about believing in Catholic teachings. My answer to that is, who cares if Protestants don't like St. Jerome? They don't like anyone that doesn't fit into their own personal "revelation". Why do you think there are 30,000 + Protestant sects in existence? Why is it that being a Protestant is like playing denomination hop-scotch until death? Because, if it doesn't fit their individual interpretation, it isn't true. Changing religions is no big deal as a Protestant, it has no great impact on them. I received an email from a family member of mine that proudfully stated that they had left their church because they didn't like the preacher's teachings. They gave the whole family a warning that we should all trust what the Holy Spirit tells us personally and never to trust a preacher. They went on to talk about how the head of the family had read the whole bible (Protestant, of course), annually, for many years, and that he was more knowledgeable than the preacher of the church they left in the dust. Not only that, we, the rest of the family, should look to him for biblical guidance. That is their mentality. "I'm right! The Holy Spirit talks to me! Nobody else is right! Don't even trust yourself, listen to me! Don't trust anyone else! I've read the bible more than you! I'm older than you so I know more!"

I later told them that they should try reading the writings of the Early Fathers. The response was incredible. I was told that I should not put so much faith in mere "commentaries" and that I should listen only to the Holy Spirit, who talks to me whenever I read the Scriptures as long as I have Jesus in my heart. That men are misleading (so, I guess the Apostles were too?) and that we should only read the Scriptures. Attached to that email was a portion of a Protestant commentary on Scripture!!! Can you believe the hypocrisy? They added that this guy is a guy they could trust.

The best part is next. I read approximately five lines of the commentary (it was three pages long). In that five lines the "scholar" pointed out that we are saved by faith alone and that it is in direct contradiction to Christ's teachings to believe that works have any salvific value. I stopped reading it right there and sent back an email letting them know that "the Church does not teach, nor has it ever taught since Her inaguration at the Cross 2000 years ago, that one can earn salvation by his own merits through works." That was my reply. I should've added that the Church stamped out the heresy of Pelagianism (man can earn salvation by his own merits) centuries ago, which taught exactly what Protestants accuse Catholics of believing.
-End email thread-

My friend is right. There is an undeniable double standard when it comes to interpretation of Scripture. If you were to quote an early Church father or a saint (other than St. Augustine whom they like simply because he at one time taught false doctrines that the Church never adopted such as predestination and condemnation of unbaptized infants which John Calvin later adopted) then you are scolded: "its just men's opinion!" But, in the next breath they show you a commentary by James Dobson or John MacArthur (king of the straw man attacks on Catholicism) or any other contemporary Protestant 'scholar' who (at best) pales in comparison to the great Saints of the early Church in both knowledge & wisdom... and woe to you if you don't accept their opinions as God-breathed.

I don't mean to bash my brothers in Christ. Most, if not all of them are very well meaning. But they lack the full gift of the Holy Spirit because they are not in full communion with Christ's Church and they have but one valid sacrament (baptism).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

All Reformers May Err And Many Have

A friend of mine who is an elder at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church has been giving me sermons on CD from his pastor who is doing a series on 'the 5 great solas of the Protestant Reformation'. The first one was the old favorite: Sola Scriptura. We talked over lunch today about the doctrine. I told him plainly that I didn't believe it and never have (at least not since I was 16 or so).

I explained to him the irony of the preacher's words when in one breath he said the Scripture alone is authoritative and inerrant yet in the next breath quoted the Westminster Confession:

All synods or councils may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both. -WCF 6.175
And so I brought up the point to him (my friend) that the Bible was selected by councils! But the Protestant does not admit that those particular councils may have erred in selecting the canon. My friend said "Well the Holy Spirit was at work through them in the selection." I said.... "Yes!!!" He's starting to sound more Catholic all the time...

I went on to remind him and the other eating with us: Catholics believe the Bible is inspired too. We believe it is infallible and divinely authoritative. It is our original collection of doctrines! We put it together to solidify what the Church authoritatively teaches. This in no way usurps the Church's authority. Neither does the Church's authority usurp what the Bible teaches but the Church (and the Church alone) may authoritatively interpret the Bible. My sponsor said he likes to say to people when he sees them walking around with a Bible "Oh you're Catholic?" Here in the Bible Belt they often respond "No" so it opens the door for him saying "Well thats our book you've got there!"

My other friend sitting at the table went on to ask me about the Pope and about speaking ex
cathedra. I explained that the Pope is not inerrant in everything he says and does, just that when speaking ex-cathedra and when teaching on faith and morals he is sitting in the throne of St. Peter and speaking infallibly just as St. Peter did at the council of Jerusalem.

My friend said "But all men err". Yes, but not when the Holy Spirit is speaking through them.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Some Are Taking the Bible At Its Word & Teaching That We're Not Saved By Faith Alone

This is number 5 in my Sola Fide Smackdown Series following: Sola Fide I | Sola Fide II | Sola Fide III | Sola Fide IV

Bible.org hosts the New English Translation. From what I've been told (from reputable sources) this is one of the best modern versions available. Apparently they had some of the top Greek scholars in the world on this project. Unfortunately they seem to have spent all their money on Greek expertise as their exegesis is a little.. let's just say questionable...

From this article:

It is not simply faith alone in Christ alone, but faith plus some work. This is precisely what the religious Jews were doing in the time of Christ and the apostles. They were seeking to add religious works such as circumcision.
Hmm... was it the Jews who were trying to 'add' circumcision? Apparently they forgot to read the OT in which God Himself by His own lips commanded that Abraham circumcize.
This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.(1)
You cannot fault the Jews for trying to keep the Law. They were commanded to do so under penalty of death by God Himself. The entire issue is this: man cannot keep the Law. Therefore works of the Law are not enough to get you to heaven which is what Paul emphasized over and over. Paul emphatically states that faith is necessary for salvation. (Remember neither he nor anyone ever says faith alone or only faith.) He also says works will not get you to heaven. For more on that topic and a pretty good explanation of Catholic teaching on that subject, see this article.

In another article from bible.org I had copied a while ago it quotes James 2:24
“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
Then goes on to say:
Someone might say that this passage teaches that justification is not by faith alone, but by works as well.
Hah! Now where would someone get that impression from? Hmm.....That second article has since been removed or I'm just unable to locate it. Wish I still had the link.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pagan Practices In Christianity

It seems that the critics are at it again "Christianity borrowed from Pagan sources"... I've stumbled across some more junk with internet skeptics thinking they've become scholars somehow since they know how to design a web site. Unfortunately many of these sites with terrible research and even worse logic rank very high with google. So I'm gonna try to get into the habbit of linking only to good sites.

Here's a decent one: http://answering-islam.org/Pagan/dhia.html

Here's a terrible one: http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/pagan-symbols. +html

This has not always been the case however. Christians didn't use the cross as their religious symbol for many generations after Christ was crucified. Rather than being a Christian symbol it had associations with executioners.
Try reading Tertullian who wrote only a few generations after Christ (and long before Constantine):
At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes...in all the ordinary actions of everyday life, we trace the sign
So it's clear that the cross was never viewed with disdain. It has always been a strong symbol for Christianity and has always represented to us the victory which Christ won at Calvary. Oh, that quote isn't old enough for you? How bout St. Paul the apostle, shortly after Christ died:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ(1)
Seems like Paul has some affection for it huh. Later the author goes on to explain the origins of clothing....then the fact that pagans wore robes... and then... *gasp* Christian priests also wear robes!!! Don't you see the connection?!
Since there are Crusading 'Christians' who kill people, sincerely believing they are doing God's work whilst ignoring a basic Commandment "Thou shalt not kill", it is not surprising that most Christians ignore another: "Thou shalt not make to thee any graven image" (Jews and Muslims have similar laws about murder and idolatry.)
Where to begin... First, the first line is very misleading and contains only a fraction of truth in it. Yes there have been a few isolated incidents of some fanatics disobeying Christian teaching and claiming to still be Christian but this has always been condemned by the Church. And the commandment is 'thou shalt not murder' since in many other commandments we have been commanded to kill. (Its beneficial to actually read the Law before commenting on it). So no, Christians do not ignore the first. As for the second, no one - including the Jews has ever understood that law as a complete prohibition against images of any kind. The Jews fashioned graven images in the construction of both the temple and the ark of the covenant. If you continue reading the law you'll discover the intention of the Law.
Just as milk seems to taste better from a glass than from a ceramic cup, so a prayer feels better if we use special words. But if those words are only from a prayer book and not from the heart, then it is not a prayer.
This is like taking candy from a baby... Just because something is written down doesn't mean that the one who reads it cannot heartily agree with it. It's like saying that musicians playing sheet music aren't creating true music. Further more, when Christ was asked how we should pray, He didn't say "just say whatever comes to your heart" but instead He gave us specific words to pray.
Even Amen, the very last word in the Bible, most probably has Pagan roots.
Again... same old stuff over and over from every single one of these skeptics. They offer verifiable sources for the information which is well known and accepted by everyone (such as the fact above that the very last word in the Bible is amen... but no one is contesting that) interestingly enough there is no source for the statement in general. How is it probably from Pagan sources? He lists no reason why any of us should believe that. We all know the Jews used it as well. In fact, he even has an image of the word amen in Hebrew. The OT is one of the oldest manuscripts in existence. If some religion came before that and used the word amen there certainly is no record of it..

Theres some other stuff on the site but none of it was worth even bothering with (as if any of the above was).

Here are some pro-Catholic links on the subject:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Is_Catholicism_Pagan.asp

http://www.bible.ca/trinity/trinity-pagan-christianity.htm

http://www.about-jesus.org/paganism.htm

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11388a.htm

http://www.christian-faith.com/html/page/borrowed_pagan_ideas

http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrmas_pagan1.html

http://www.ancient-future.net/pagan.html

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/EASTPAG.htm

Also see my recent post on the Chi Rho symbol.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pray for the Safety of the Pope

Obviously all things are in God's hands. But the Pope's upcoming trip to Turkey is a big deal I think whether you're Catholic or not. It could be a major world event if something were to happen. Pray for his safety and for peace between the two religions of Islam & Christianity. Though there is no apology - Islam is a false religion. We still need to practice peace and love towards them.

AsiaNews service reports that a group of demonstrators has taken over the Hagia Sophia, one of the sites that the Pope is scheduled to visit in Istanbul. The protestors reportedly fear that Pope Benedict would pray in the building, which was once a Christian basilica, then a mosque, and is now of museum.
Heaven forbid that the Pope would pray in a building you stole from Christianity in one of your many violent conquests. The best thing Islam could do for its own credibility would be to strongly denounce this kind of behavior (not to mention the violence that occurs daily). Hopefully the religion will progress to a point where it can do that sometime soon. Until then, pray for the safety of the Pope and all those who's lives are threatened by this kind of evil.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Misconceptions About the Catholic Church

I stumbled across this page...thought I'd pass it along for what its worth.

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/dontbelieve.HTM

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Timothean Creed

During our all-day retreat directly preceeding my confirmation on Saturday, one of the activities was to create our own personal creed. They wouldnt tell us whether or not we were gonna have to read it or not but of course we did. Here is mine (plus a few edits that I forgot to add in):

I believe in the Apostles Creed. I believe in the Nicene Creed. I believe in the infallible authority of the holy Scriptures, the sacred traditions of the Roman Catholic Church & the magisterium. I submit to the authority of the curia & profess the primacy of St. Peter, the rock on which Jesus Christ built His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. I accept the traditions & teachings of the Church and the canon of the Scriptures based on the firm foundation of Apostollic Succession.

I believe the Holy Spirit lives and is active today in the visible Church (the bride of Christ).

I believe Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.

I believe that God created the world for His glory and to carry out His flawless plan of salvation: a story which would unfold through the tapestry of many lives - what we now know as the history of the world. All things bear witness to God's perfect plan. Even the evil of this life is used by God towards a perfect end. There is nothing outside of God's power.

I believe God gave us free will & the ability to understand objective morality by His law which He has written on our hearts. This, one of the greatest mysteries of life, is an undeniable testament to the supreme truth which is God and His perfect, loving plan of salvation.

His gift of grace is made evident to us (His children) by faith & by the sacraments which He instituted. We receive grace towards salvific ends through the sacraments.

I believe that Christianity is the answer to even the smallest evils of the world and that one day every wrong will be made right. The supreme sacrifice (Christ laying down His life for humanity) is what makes this possible.

I believe this and everything that the Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches. Furthermore, I humbly submit to the Roman Pontiff (the successor of St. Peter the Apostle).

- Tim Troutman 11/18/2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saint Polycarp

Yesterday I was confirmed as Polycarp. I chose him as my patron saint. We were required to write a paper detailing why we chose our particular saint. Here is mine:

When I introduce my fiddle teacher, I usually mention that one of his former students went on to play with Bill Monroe. Similarly, St. Polycarp’s disciples or successors include St. Irenaeus. Of course he was also a direct convert of and successor to Saint John the disciple whom Jesus loved. (Not bad names to have on your resume if you were applying for a job as priest somewhere). Apparently the Church thought so as well since he was ordained as bishop of Smyrna by St. John himself. This clear and well documented ordination is strong evidence for apostolic succession.

The first early church father document I ever read was St. Polycarp’s epistle to the Philippians. It was evident how filled with the Holy Spirit he was. Saint Polycarp echoes St. Paul & Christ in acknowledging that the Law & Prophets are summarized by the golden rule when he says “he that hath love is far from all sin”. This teaching has always been particularly powerful to me and has helped me understand that our God is a God of “do’s” not a God of “don’ts”. Sure, there are plenty of things we are not to do, but as St. Polycarp says – it’s impossible to be doing evil when you’re following the law of love.

Aside from my initial connection with him in this sense, I also chose him because he is only one degree of separation from Christ Himself. I identify with this because I am particularly interested in the early church and in orthodoxy. It hard to get more Orthodox than St. Polycarp.

Another reason why I chose Saint Polycarp is because he was one of the great martyrs of the faith. Not only did he boldly proclaim Christ under the most demanding and trying of situations, but he willingly accepted taking his portion of the suffering of Christ. His martyrdom was witnessed by many of the faithful who attested in writing to the miraculous signs that accompanied it. It is my prayer that I may one day be counted worthy to be martyred for Christ as well.

In conclusion, I choose Saint Polycarp as my patron saint and ask him to pray on my behalf so that I might be able to live a life pleasing to God.

Additionally, here are a couple interesting links on Polycarp: Catholic Encyclopedia - St. Polycarp & Polycarp Video.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm Catholic!!!

Finally, after about 11 months in the conversion process I have come into full communion with the Church. I received confirmation and my first communion today. Wow! There's no way I could put it into words but it was such an awesome experience. I also celebrated my first confession on Thursday and that was a wonderful experience as well.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, November 17, 2006

When Will the Hypocrisy End?

Apparently German "Scholars" have produced a new "politically correct" Bible. Quote:

the translation has Jesus no longer referring to God as “Father,” but as “our Mother and Father who are in heaven.” Likewise, Jesus is no longer referred to as the “Son” but rather as the “child” of God. The title “Lord” is replaced with “God” or “the Eternal One.” The devil, however, is still referred to with masculine pronouns.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, the only reaction I could have to that was to laugh. But seriously, I would literally be ashamed of myself if I were so transparent. The good must be represented by both male and female yet the evil may easily be represented by only masculine pronouns? Come on guys you can do better than that...

The funny thing about the term "politically correct" is that even those who are politically correct view it as a negative term and don't want to be branded with that. Take Bill Maher: one of the most politically correct liberals you'll ever meet and his show "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher"...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chi Rho Symbol & More Anti Catholic Bias

In response to this post: http://altreligion.about.com/library/glossary/symbols/bldefschiro (add .htm to the end of it... I'm trying not to help it's google rankings) I have to remind our dear readers not to trust everything you see on the internet. I posted on the topic of the whole Catholicism / Roman Pagan Sun God Worship conspiracy theory before and here we are again on the same topic.

First an overview of beliefs:
Most non-Catholics believe that the Church started out good but became corrupted. They just disagree on how long it took. In my mind it can be broken down into two groups:

1. First Generation Corruption - These groups believe that immediately after Christ & the Apostles, the first generation of Christians (1 or 2 degrees of separation from Christ) got it totally wrong. These saints would include St. Linus, St. Anacletus, St. Polycarp, St. Mark, St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, St. Timothy & many more. Most of these groups believe that even the Bible itself was either poorly preserved or the object of deliberate manipulation (especially the New Testament). Despite the fact that almost no serious New Testament or historical scholar would agree with this, we still have many people believing this today. Example groups would include: Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Islam, Dan Brown (& followers), 7th Day Adventists, & lapsed 'Christian' teenagers who think Jesus was against organized religion.

2. Gradual Corruption - These groups believe that the Bible was preserved and the original Greek was inspired --- what we have today is a close guess. (Some of the more fanatical types like the KJV Only crowd irrationally believe that it was still preserved without the slightest error up until 1611 AD). Additionally, they believe the Apostles were true to Christ's dogmas and probably their immediate successors. But very soon after however, there began a steady decline in orthodoxy and a gradual shift away from the truth that Christ & the Apostles taught. The Holy Spirit no longer guided the church and only operated on a personal, individual level after Pentecost except for specific mentions in the NT (like the council of Jerusalem) and in one other crucial event: the selection of the Canon. Although there were several main influential councils which convened and pronounced decisions on the canon, the Holy Spirit was only partially at work. That is, these councils only got it partially right (since they all included the Apocrypha which this group of anti-Catholics now reject). The Holy Spirit, (according to this group) would not fully perfect His inspiration of the canon until a little over a millenium later when the Apocrypha was removed from the Bible. (Although unbeknownst to most of the KJV only crowd, the original 1611 King James Version still included the Apocrypha so technically I'm not really sure when the Holy Spirit finally finished His inspiration of the Canon (again according to these people... not my beliefs)). One might ask, did He really inspire the Canon? Of course , there's no tangible or authoritative reason to believe such a thing aside from the authority of the visible Church passed down by Apostolic Succession yet those in this group really need to believe that the Canon was inspired or else their belief system really starts to sound silly. According to this group, outside of the examples mentioned above, the Holy Spirit no longer involved Himself with the Church after the council of Jerusalem until He raised up a man 1500 years later named Martin Luther to call the Church to return to what he saw as the original doctrines of Christianity. Since Martin Luther failed at this (the Church didn't "return" to anything and it didn't change it's doctrines) he was excommunicated by choice and started his own church. To summarize, this group believes that the first generation Christians were very close to the teachings of Christ & the Apostles, but there began immediately a slow gradual exodus from orthodoxy which was more or less fixed about 1500 years later when it had reached a point of no return. This group of course would include Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists & Baptists and virtually all of the subsequent Protestant denominations.

Wow. Ok back to the original subject. Anti-Christian bias (but specifically anti-Catholic)... Same old baseless accusations brought up again: Constantine radically changed Christianity and introduced many pagan influences. As I said before in my previous post... where is the scholarship behind these accusations? The author of the video I refuted in my last post on the subject kept using the phrase "all of this can be verified by looking in any encyclopedia". While there is some slight truth to that (many encyclopedias will say similar things) they dont quote any sources and they only make very vague statements like this one from the webpage above:

According to Church Father Eusebius, on the eve of the Battle of the Milvan Bridge, the Emperor saw the emblem in a dream, with the inscription, "By this sign, you shall conquer." According to the story, the battle was won. In return for the victory, Constantine erected Christian churches. Unfortunately, this story is very unlikely, as Constantine's conversion occured on his deathbed, if at all.

Oh really? Is that a fact? Is it unlikely that Constantine had a dream? Apparently this woman has done some MAJOR MAJOR archeological work and put in decades of study on the topic no doubt finding her sources in a variety of ancient texts since I'm sure she has advanced degrees in both Latin & Greek. She would have to in order to be so confident as to contradict the great Church historian Eusebius who oh, by the way was ALIVE AT THE TIME! Unfortunately for us she doesnt list any of these sources or credentials or document any of her studies on her bio page. In fact, she looks woefully inadequate to comment on the subject.

The point I'm trying to make is an important one. No, I'm not really concerned with refuting this particular point of hers (I think Eusebius's work speaks for itself) but I'm concerned with pointing out that just because something is in an encyclopedia or an otherwise trusted source doesn't mean its true or reliable. Most people accept this in general terms but you should be very suspicious when it starts talking about Catholicism. Wrongs of the Church tend to be exaggerated or completely fabricated, facts tend to be used in misleading ways and completely false information tends to be stated as fact as long as it contradicts Church teaching. The hypocrisy is that if it is pro-Catholic information, it must undergo the most scrutinizing trials by fire one can immagine and even then will probably be spun to reflect a more "tolerant" stance. Just remember its normal human beings with their own prejudices and biases writing encyclopedias, websites & producing 'scientific' tv shows (like the crap you see on History Channel: "The Historical Jesus")
Before it became the monogram of Christ, the chi rho was the monogram of Chronos, the god of time, and an emblem of several solar deities.
Can't be from just one pagan god huh it has to be from them all... Again, no sources... Now don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that I believe it was never in use before Christians started using it. I'm just saying if it was... fine show me some sources or at least allude to the idea that you have a source and are not simply quoting other anti-Catholic sources. I pointed out in my last post on this topic; that so many people take it as fact anything that is stated against Catholicism in these types of articles. Someone might use her article as a source in a research paper one day. Yet she hasnt done any real research on the topic. Anyone who has gone through the painstaking trouble of real research is going to have their sources well documented in case any one second guesses them.

It's funny when I was looking at the whole "Christianity Borrowed its Practices from Pagan Sources" junk, I tried to research the religion which we supposedly copied: Mithraism. Every reliable or otherwise trustworthy source had at most a paragraph and talked mostly about how little is actually known of the secretive cult. The only ones that actually made assumptions about the religious practices and beliefs were baseless articles not too dissimilar from the one above written by people with absolutely no credentials and a clear anti-Catholic bias in their tone.


Directly above the picture on the right, she says:

The chi rho was used in hermetic alchemical texts to denote time.

How misleading to an uneducated audience! It subtly implies that this is an image of an ancient, pre-Christian, alchemical symbol and it bears a striking resemblance to the Christian Chi-Rho symbol. But since it has the Greek letters alpha & omega it is clear that this is a Christian symbol!

Unless of course.... Christians stole that too.... Hmm....... Give me a break.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says this of the symbol:

These two letters formed what is known as the monogram of Constantine, so called -- not because it was the invention of this emperor, for it had been a familiar Christian symbol prior to his conversion -- but because of the great popularity it enjoyed from the date of its appearance on the imperial standards.

Now surely the Catholic Encyclopedia is going to lean pro-Catholic but the burden of proof is on the accuser.

This page (again you have to add .htm) is even worse. It claims that Christ wasn't even crucified on a cross but on a pole. Apparently he's never read Tertullian:

We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross.

So who is more reliable, Tertullian (2nd century) or this guy? I'm not sure if he realizes or not but... the Roman empire was still alive and kicking during Tertullian's time. They still had crosses. They knew what a cross was.

Just beware of anti-Catholic bias... that's all I'm saying.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Pro Choice - Rudy Giuliani Running For President?

Giuliani is apparently "taking steps towards a 2008 bid". Giuliani claims to be a Catholic yet like the previous Cathoic fraud who ran for President (John Kerry) he is pro abortion, pro "gay rights" and pro stem cell research.

I use the term pro abortion because I'm tired of all the liberal semantics trying to downplay the depravity of their 'values' or lack thereof. Pro choice? God is pro choice thats why He gave us free will. He just wants us to make the right choice. Choose life. So called "pro choice" liberals aren't truly pro choice. They are pro wrong choice. They are pro death. One has only to look at the proactive behavior of groups like Planned Parenthood and how they make every effort to encourage more abortions. Its repulsive to any true Christian especially Catholics.

If you are not pro life, you are not Catholic. Period. If you are un willing even in ideology to defend the helpless and the innocent you are not Christian. If you call yourself a Catholic & a Republican yet have views like Giuliani, what does that say about your true character? Here is a man who goes against what his party believes in (in general terms) and unequivocally denies one of the core values of the faith he supposedly adheres to. Whether you are pro choice or not its clear that this is not a man fit for presidency.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

New Look

Well I've gotten tired of the old look of this blog so I updated the template for a fresh look.

My first 100 posts have been largely dedicated to building my case for the authority of the Catholic Church. This is (for the most part) the case on which I will build my arguments concerning morality. Until I get more time here is an interesting article: Why Do Heathen's Make Better Christian Films than Christians?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Probability of the Catholic Church's Authority

A defense of my conversion to Catholicism:

This blog has started out as an outlet for me to vent some of my frustrations with the Protestant church and to give my defense for why I’m converting to Catholicism. I originally wrote a ‘thesis’ like paper for my own benefit on which I based the outline of my posts on. I of course added many other posts on various topics in between. This happens to be my 100th post and although I could write many more on the subjects already covered, it seems fitting now to summarize my defense…

First I posed the question: Is the Roman Catholic Church the One True Visible Church? And if so, why do we care? What does it matter? I also outlined briefly how I thought we ought to arrive at conclusions in general.

Bayesian Method:

Stephen D. Unwin authored a book called "The Probability of God" and I stumbled across it a couple years ago. I found it very interesting and so much so, I have decided to use the same Bayesian method he uses in his book to test my own theory that the Catholic Church is the one, holy Catholic & apostolic church and that it's authority is supreme.

While, few of us if any would ever actually use a method like this in making a conscious life changing decision (like joining the Catholic church), I think it helps me anyway to look at the ‘math’ behind the decision and see if what I’m believing is really a good choice.

So that I don’t plagiarize Dr. Unwin’s book, I won’t go into detail on the math behind the numbers I come up with but I’ll show each of my criterion and then the final analysis.

The Bayesian theorem can be written as follows:

P(A|B) = P(A) x P(B|A) / [P(A) x P(B|A) + P(A*) x P(B|A*)]

In Dr. Unwin’s version of the Bayesian method, he gives each categorical ‘predictor’ a ‘strength’ value rated either (in terms of pro vs con) “Highly pro” , “Moderately pro” ,“Neutral” , “Moderately con” & “Highly con”. These are represented numerically (in the same order) by 10, 2, 1, .5, .1.

In our case, we are asking the question “Is the Roman Catholic Church of today one & the same with the original Church started by Christ through the apostles?”. We will look at each item of ‘evidence’ and assign one of the above values. So if we assign a value of 10 to an item of evidence, this means that this evidence would be much more likely to occur in a world where the Catholic Church was the true Church. A value of .1 would indicate that this item of evidence would be much more likely to occur in a world in which the Catholic Church is NOT the true church. (We’re not going to get into alternate theories here). Each time we do this it will modify the overall likelihood. Our a priori likelihood will be an unassuming 50%.

These are all of course my own personal opinions based on the evidence as I have weighed it in my posts and I don’t pretend to be mathematically proving anything.

Here are the criteria I will use:

Apparent Contradiction From the Holy See, Fulfillment of Scriptures like those above, The Catholic Church’s teachings on the Eucharist, and on Mary, Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, the size and level of unity within the church, the maintained level of integrity and conservative disposition in the church despite the size, the Catholic rejection of Calvinism, and finally the dark history of the church.

In general, I am considering these items of evidence in as far as they contradict the alternative. That is, I am examining them in contrast to the Protestant beliefs and using this to base my ‘strength value’ for each. For the sake of this post I am not examining the Eastern Orthodox Church or Anglican Church.

So we start with:

P(Catholic Church = True) = 50%
(The probability that the Catholic Church is true is 50%)

Apparent Contradiction & Error From the Holy See

To make things more interesting, I’ll start off with a negative item of evidence. My post on this subject discusses a few apparent 'contradictions' in the Catholic Church.

Before I began writing, I thought that this issue would be strong evidence contradicting the idea of Catholic authenticity. However, as I began researching the topic, I found once again that Catholic apologetics readily available on the subject were adequately strong. My opinion began softening to a ‘moderately less likely’ strength value instead. If only for the topic of contradiction regarding the salvation of non-Catholics, I would have upgraded this to a neutral. However, there are the following quotes from popes which make me seriously doubt the authority or credibility of the papacy since they overly venerate Mary and ascribe to her attributes and roles she is not worthy of (also see the later section regarding Catholic teachings on Mariology):

One can justly say that with Christ, she herself redeemed mankind.
- Pope Benedict XV

Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin... so that if there is any hope and spiritual healing for us we receive it solely and uniquely from her.
- Pope Pius IX

These two quotes alone have reduced the previously considered neutral value to a value of strong evidence against the Catholic Church. My conscious cannot allow me to accept such blasphemous statements, particularly the second one. However, simply because certain popes make errors, does not conclude that the church itself is in error. (Perhaps these popes were not speaking ex-cathedra) This falls under the section of contradictions within the Church because
the Church teaches that the Pope, when teaching on faith or values cannot be in error. Of course the above statements are in unequivocal contradiction to both reason & Scripture. At any rate, I have to conclude this as evidence against the church and strong evidence at that.

P(Catholic Church = True) = 9.09%

Fulfillment of Certain Scriptures

My post on this subject explains my thoughts on this topic. For more reading on the subject, I would recommend Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong's book "A Biblical Defense of Catholicism"

Seeing as how Protestants have tomes of apologetics ready to explain why all the Scriptures Catholics use are meaningless & for the sake of being conservative, I will limit this piece of evidence to a value of 2. This means I consider it marginally more probable in a world where the Catholic Church is the true church. So now:

P(Catholic Church = True) = 16.67%

The Catholic Teaching on the Eucharist

I have written two main posts on this topic (and have by no means done it justice). But first, I examined the reverence in worship demanded by Catholics and later discussed the Catholic teaching of the Real Presence as a follow up.

In conclusion, I see the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist as evidence in favor of it’s own legitimacy. I see the Protestant’s rejection of transubstantiation, casual approach to the Eucharist and deliberate disobedience to using the prescribed elements as a clear heresy and an abominable bastardization of the most holy sacrament. After much deliberation I have decided to give this item of evidence a score of 10... Meaning that I consider it highly more likely to occur in a world where the Catholic Church is true. So this brings us to:

P(Catholic Church = True) = 66.67%

The Catholic Rejection of Sola Scriptura

This doctrine, the one which originally led me away from the Protestant church has been the specific topic for two of my posts: Sola Sciptura I & Sola Scriptura II and the indirect topic for a third post on the subject of extra-biblical teachings that all Christians agree upon.

I consider this an extremely strong piece of evidence in favor of the Catholic Church. On one hand we have the Protestants believing something utterly ridiculous and absurd that cannot possibly be true (Sola Scriptura) and on the other hand, we have the Catholic Church affirming a 2,000 year old truth that hasn’t changed: Scripture along with Apostolic Authority and church tradition is a three legged stool which God uses to reveal His Word to His people. These three are in agreement and do not contradict each other. Because of the church, the Bible has authority and I can now accept it without question. I will give this evidence a score of 10. (You will see that this greatly increases the probability and you will just have to trust my math ability).

P(Catholic Church = True) = 95.24%

The Catholic Teaching on Mary

Like Scott Hahn says, most Catholics do not realize how offensive Mariology is to a Protestant or a converting Protestant. Though if you get down to the nitty gritty, the Church doctrines are arguably sound on the subject, I have to criticize the Church for not being more vocal and deliberate in dispelling certain 'misperceptions' that we constantly acuse Protestants of. Some of these "misperceptions" especially in the area of Mariology are not far fetched at all. I have two main posts on the topic: Mary the Queen Mother in Catholicism and Mary: Full of Grace? The previously mentioned extra-biblical teachings post also contains some discussion on the topic of Mariology.

Though I do submit to the Church's authority on the subjects, in my own estimation, the core doctrines of Mariology are all false. Thus, I must consider this as evidence against the Church. I will even go as far as to say (again for the sake of being conservative) that I will consider it strong evidence against the church. I am giving this a score of .1. This brings the probability back down to:

P(Catholic Church = True) = 66.67%


The Size & Level of Unity Within the Church

Catholic unity is fascinating to me. Here is my post on the subject.

Again, I am discussing this point in contrast to the disunity of the Protestant church. I mentioned in my post the shear number of denominations. While there are as many Catholics as all Protestant denominations combined, I’d say it’s significant that it’s level of unity is so far above and beyond the Protestant idea of unity that it’s not even worth discussing. However, I’d say this evidence is only moderately convincing. I will give this piece of evidence a score of 2.

P(Catholic Church = True) = 80%

The Maintained Conservative Values of the Church

I consider this issue close but not the same as the previous. Here is my post on the subject.In contrast, here is my post on what is happening to the mainline liberal Protestant Churches.

The Catholic Church stands out among not only other churches, but among all the greatest of mankind’s institutions as a firm and unwavering beacon of truth throughout the ages. This to me, clearly testifies of the working of the Holy Spirit. Although I was inclined to count this a 10, I will play Protestant's advocate and consider this only a 2.

P(Catholic Church = True) = 88.89%

The Catholic Rejection of Sola Fide

I have probably posted on this than any other of the current topics. Here are my posts:

Sola Fide I | Sola Fide II | Sola Fide III | Sola Fide IV

The Catholic teaching is in line with the Scripture on this teaching much more than the Protestant deviation. Still, since in some respect I view this as almost a battle of words (most Protestants believe that good works are necessary results of faith), I will give this piece of evidence only a marginal score of 2

P(Catholic Church = True) = 94.12%

The Catholic Rejection of Calvinism

Now it gets a little more difficult. This was also somewhat of a stumbling block for me since I come from a reformed background. I have basically embraced the five points of Calvinism my whole life. Part of that is for sure due to my upbringing, but another part is that Calvinism fit well with my overall view of life and way of thinking.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see it any other way than the Calvinistic way. But that is slowly changing. A friend of mine once pointed out to me that it was fortunate that we didn’t have to know how the eye worked to appreciate the beauty of a sunset. I’ve always considered justification in the same light. I don’t need to know the intricacies of the mechanics behind justification to receive salvation. Thank God!

Here is my post on the subject.

I will give this a score of 1 meaning it is neutral. When I first began the RCIA process I would have given this a .5 at least or maybe even a .1! But now I am much closer to neutrality. So the probability remains the same as before.

P(Catholic Church = True) = 94.12%


The Dark History of the Church

And finally, perhaps the touchiest of all subjects so far: The dark history of the church. No catholic today will deny that the church has had some moments in it’s history that were less than glorious. Real change needed to take place at the time of the reformation but splitting away from the church was clearly not the solution. (Because of that act, we now have heresies rampant throughout Christianity). Even the Catholic encyclopedia says:

It is certain, however, that the seeds of discontent amid which Luther threw his firebrand had been germinating for centuries. The immediate cause was bound up with the odious greed for money displayed by the Roman Curia, and shows how far short all efforts at reform had hitherto fallen.

Pope Leo X was the Pope at the time of Martin Luther. Many have criticized him for his greed. He himself several years later admitted that there were many problems in Rome that needed correction. Two points need to be made on this subject. 1: We need to clear up the misconceptions that most Protestants have about the Curia and specifically the Pope (myself included before coming to the Church). The Catholic Church has never taught that the Pope is without sin. That is, a Pope can very easily be guilty of a sin (such as greed). They teach that the Pope is infallible (in his teaching) while speaking ex cathedra. The second point is that the Church got it right! Yes, there was a dark period in history but it has been mended. Protestants are, to this day, criticizing the Catholics for selling indulgences! Pope Pius V rejected that practice and condemned it in 1567. Again, this is just one of many examples.

So what about the crusades? I like to ask anyone who asks me that: what about them? It’s the same kind of question I like to ask them when they condemn the second Iraq war, “What do you think about the bombing of Kosovo?” The fact is that most people don’t know anything about the Crusades except “they were bad” and “Catholics caused them”. Most people who would criticize the crusades are usually atheists and of course have no reason to believe anything is morally evil (but that’s a different topic).

In defense of the crusades, Catholics were in compliance with the ‘Just War’ doctrine previously laid out by St. Augustine. People need to remember that the Muslims were the aggressors and Catholics merely responded to their conquering of the Holy Land which was previously Christian territory. Of course, many terrible things happened during the crusades and there were large scale incidents of Christians looting / plundering and participating in all sorts of evils such as those that took place during the infamous sack of Constantinople & of Jerusalem. However, these acts were by no means ordered by the Pope! They were not in line with Catholic teaching! The Catholic Church can by no means be held responsible for the actions of every self proclaimed adherent. (The same is true for any religion).

Here is an interesting link (not mine) on the subject.

This is a very brief outline of some of the more prominent negative items in Catholic history. I think I have offered some fair apologies though certainly not exhaustive. I would be most inclined to give this item of evidence a 1 (indicating neutrality). But for the sake of skepticism and conservatism, I will give it .5 indicating that it’s somewhat tainted history causes me to think that the Catholic Church is moderately less likely to be true. (Keep in mind the Catholic Church's history is actually much cleaner than the Protestant church's so I'm being very conservative here) So our grand finale is:

P(Catholic Church = True) = 88.89%

That’s a fairly high probability. So what does this number mean? Again, I don’t pretend to be proving anything mathematically. The theorem is sound of course. If the values I placed on each item of evidence are accurate and the a priori (50%) value is correct, then the result is also accurate. Of course, different people would have different scores for each item of evidence. This process merely helps me to evaluate my own beliefs.

I have found through this process, that if it weren’t for the Catholic teachings on Mary and the statements made by popes regarding her, my probability would have been at 99.88% instead of only 88.89%. I hope that the Church will eventually make some strong statements to a) contradict misconceptions from those outside the Church about Mary & the Saints & b) protect those within the Church from making errors or misunderstanding the Church's teaching.. Still, 88.89% is strong. This shows that even in the light of what I view as very strong evidence against the Church, the remaining pro-evidence is so strong that my over all conclusion must logically be to accept the authority of the Church.

See my recent post: The Church is Our Mother

I will close with this: I have never been so excited about my Christian faith as now with having joined the Catholic Church. The Church has been the missing piece of the puzzle for me in so many different ways. My last few years as a Protestant were becoming increasingly confusing without that missing piece of the puzzle to the point where I gave up my ambition and said “I will settle for the church with the least errors and the most convenient to me” and participated there. Now I have found a true church home within the walls of a parish near my house but I know my home will from here on out be with the Roman Catholic Church. My friend in RCIA put it this way, “Now that I have gone through the door, there’s no way I could ever go back. I know the truth now.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Conversion Story

On November 18th, 2006 I received the seal of the Holy Spirit and join the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church which we profess in the Nicaean creed and which Christ Himself founded on the Apostle Peter.

I have come to believe that this Church is precisely the Church that Christ was talking about when He told Peter that he was the rock on which He would build His church and that the gates of hell
would not prevail against it.

I was raised in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America); a conservative, reformed Presbyterian Church. Growing up I was well taught in the Scriptures and the doctrines of the reformation. I never questioned them. However, through a series of events, I came to a more ‘real’ level of commitment to God when I was 15 and decided that I needed to spend as much effort as I could in order to study the Scriptures and become closer to God. I spent hours and hours each day and read through the entire bible over the course of about 6 or 7 months. Some of the books I read several times.

During this time I also found an ordained minister (not in active preaching) who agreed to tutor me in Koine Greek. I studied for about 3 or 4 months. One of the first moments that made me scratch my head and really start wondering about what I’ve been believing my whole life was when I noticed that the last line of the Lord’s prayer “For thine is the power and the glory forever and ever amen.” was not actually in the original Greek yet was routinely included in the bibles. On one hand they are pretending that the Bible is so sacred that you dare not change even the slightest jot or title, and on the other they are deliberately inserting lines that they know aren’t there. Even with a rudimentary knowledge of the Greek I also came to notice differences in the English and Greek which seemed to me to be doctrinally (instead of semantically) based.

I also started noticing as I read through the Scriptures, that many things that are taught as dogma were not found in the Scriptures. (The irony of the whole Sola Scriptura heresy is that several Protestant doctrines are also not found in Scripture). This was the beginning of about 10 years of frustration. I gave up studying the Greek and I stopped pouring so many hours into studying the Scriptures as I felt very disillusioned at this point.

Then I came across early Chuch Father writings. The first epistle I read was Saint Polycarp to the Philippians. I was amazed at his wisdom and began to wonder why his book wasn’t in the bible since it was written in the early second century. At that point I began to do a little research on the canon which up until this point I had taken for granted. Much to my surprise it didn’t just fall out of the sky but was the result of several different Church councils.

I found the Protestant community woefully unable to answer the questions I had about it (the inspiration of the Scriptures). I even wrote letters to prominent Protestant apologists. I specifically sought out dialogue and apologetics on the subject but found all of them to be weak (to the point where it just boggled my mind how these apologists could seem so capable until it came to this issue). At this point, Sola Scriptura was so ingrained in my thought process that it didn’t even occur to me that apostolic succession is a teaching that would completely validate the decisions of the great Church councils such as the one at Nicaea in 325 AD.

Of course, who cares about a (now) 16 year old with questions? No one… so they didn’t get answered. I became resentful towards the ‘church’ (as I saw it…little did I know that I wasn’t dealing with the Church but an imitation of the Church started by a heretic). I stopped attending church for several years altogether. I didn’t feel like I was outside of God’s grace but that I was pursuing my ‘relationship’ with Him on my own personal terms since the church seemed to be so delusional.

Eventually, I began to get over this arrogant attitude and returned to church attendance. Originally, I church-hopped for about a year trying to find one that suited my preferences. Having no luck I eventually just settled down at the worst church (except all the rest of them). I felt that even though I disagreed with much of what was taught, it was better to be at least attending somewhere. (Remember, at this point, Roman Catholicism wasn’t even an option for me because of my misperceptions of what they taught). I attended the original PCA Church (where I grew up) for about 10 months or so.

So originally, when I decided to give the Catholic Church a try after years of frustration with Protestant doctrines and such a casual approach to worship, I was still very Protestant minded. I (like all Protestants) believed that my personal interpretation of Scripture was the ultimate authority. I believed if I didn’t like a church or didn’t agree with their teachings, I would just go to another one. Which is what I finally did.

Luckily, I stumbled into Christ’s true Church. It was of course by no accident. I attended my first mass which was a funeral for a co-worker’s husband. Immediately I noticed a huge difference. I saw something I wanted to be a part of.

Now at first, I just thought I was choosing the Church because it matched my personal preferences for worship (liturgy, reverence & interaction) but the more I learned and studied, the more I came to realize how orthodox the Catholic Church was. Thanks to several friends I met in the RCIA process, I was urged to study more and we ‘egged each other on’ in our readings of the early church fathers.

My friend Joe gave me a print out of a collection of the early church father quotes on the Eucharist & real presence around Christmas 2005. Up until that point I kind of scoffed at the idea secretly because of how I was taught. (Remember I was here at RCIA because of my frustrations with Sola Scriptura originally). I soon came to learn and come to grips with the fact that Sola Fide was also a blatant heresy and in obvious contradiction to Scripture as well as Church tradition. But seeing this many of the early Church fathers not only affirm the real presence but condemn the heresy of denying it made me realize that the early Christians believed the same way as the Catholic Church teaches today! (I would later come to find that nearly all Catholic doctrines have this in common).

The concept of apostolic succession (which was before of marginal importance at best and in my Protestant days simply ridiculous) now started making a lot of sense to me. I really developed a hunger to learn more. I finally began to (by the prompting of the Holy Spirit) deflate my pride. I thought I knew so much about Scripture & theology before but now, I realized I knew nothing in comparison to the great fathers of the Church which had previously been all but completely concealed from me. Over the next several months I continued reading such fathers as St. John Chrysostom, St. Irenaeus & St. Clement. I learned a tremendous amount about the true history of Christianity in that time and of course still have a long way to go.

So from my not so humble, even somewhat cynical beginnings, I have now come to fully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and consider myself a Catholic. I am honored to be a member of the same Church as Saint Polycarp the successor to Saint John the beloved apostle. Reading Saint Polycarp’s epistle to the Philippians almost 10 years ago was one of the initial triggers which started me off on a journey to find true Christianity and so I have chosen him as my patron saint. (Expect a blog post on this in the near future)

I would recommend to anyone who is frustrated with ‘Christianity’ to give the original apostolic and Catholic Church a try. Regardless of what you believe about apostolic succession, Jesus DID in fact tell St. Peter that he was the rock on which He would build His Church. St. Peter WAS in fact the original bishop of the church at Rome; the succession of which is still the largest association of Christians (by far) on the planet. The doctrines are very arguably Scriptural. They are unequivocally orthodox to this day. Don’t you think its worth at least a second look? Just in case...

Read this post in Japanese. Also see – the defense of my conversion.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Does Religion Continue to Flourish?

This article on Catholic Education (I know I link to them a lot but hell they have good articles what can I say!) discusses the issue of how atheism is somewhat surprised at the continued success of religion. In my earlier post on the subject, I commented on how if the predictions of naturalism and modernism were true, religion would be increasingly marginalized yet precisely the opposite thing is occuring on a global scale.

D'Souza says this:

The Rev. Ron Carlson, a popular author and lecturer, sometimes presents his audience with two stories and asks them whether it matters which one is true.

In the secular account, "You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm washed up on an empty beach 3 1/2 billion years ago. You are a mere grab bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. You came from nothing and are going nowhere."

In the Christian view, by contrast, "You are the special creation of a good and all-powerful God. You are the climax of His creation. Not only is your kind unique, but you are unique among your kind. Your Creator loves you so much and so intensely desires your companionship and affection that He gave the life of His only son that you might spend eternity with him."

Now imagine two groups of people — let's call them the Secular Tribe and the Religious Tribe — who subscribe to one of these two views. Which of the two is more likely to survive, prosper and multiply?

Of course we all know which one but lets be a little more specific. When I say religion there is really only one religion that cause general and widespread prosperity... that is of course Christianity. Look at every Christian nation and then even non-Christian nation. Like the article says later on, look at the most secular countries and contrast them.

But taking it a step further, the secular countries and this "secular tribe" that he's talking about exist in a world which God truly does exist. Now if there was an immaginable world where there was no God, the difference in these two groups would be astronomical. However, since the secular tribe lives in a world where God truly exists and try as they might they cant fully live as if He doesn't, the difference isn't as huge as it would be.

Though Dawkins says he doesnt believe in God, he excerts quite a bit of energy preaching his ideas. If he truly believed that there is no God, he would also have to believe that life is utterly meaningless. It follows logically. If life was meaningless, he wouldn't bother wasting his time convincing others of this.

It's always funny / ironic to me that the atheists like Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan are far more devoted to their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) than the average theist.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Old Heresies Don't Die They Multiply

The interesting (and unfortunate) thing about many Protestant doctrines is that most (if not all) of them are merely recurrences of heresies already soundly defeated many years earlier by the saints and martyrs of the Church. Sola Fide was a 16th century recurrence of a 1st century heresy dispelled by the apostle St. James in his epistle. Although the heresy itself is not recorded in written history, it is clear by his rebuttal that some were teaching that you could be saved by faith alone at the time. Protestants condemn images & statues which is an issue settled long ago during the Iconoclastic movement.

Here's another one I want to talk about: Catholics place much more value and worth on concrete things and institutions here on earth than Protestants do. Is this a good or bad thing? It was ingrained in my thought process from my youth that nothing on Earth (except that which occurs internally) could ever have any eternal value. To most Protestants, baptism means nothing. It’s merely an outward expression of a reality that only truly exists inwardly. Imagine the joy I had at my first Easter vigil witnessing those Catechumens coming into the church and upon watching their baptism into the same Church which Jesus founded through the apostle Peter 2,000 years ago, realizing that I was witnessing an event of eternal consequence! I never had that sense before that very moment.

Before, as a Protestant, it almost seemed heretical to view anything other than an inward response or ideal as eternal in consequence. But does this view match up with historical Christianity? Is it Biblical? Hell no! (I can swear now that I’m Catholic; it only costs one Hail Mary).

But getting back to the subject (which in my view is a very serious one) we find by reading Scriptures and church history that Christ Himself made it very clear that actions also carried eternal consequence. We see throughout the Old Testament God placing very high value on ‘temporal’ things and on specific concrete tangible objects (say the Ark of the Covenant for example). His sacrifices were very exacting and did not allow much room for personal preference. Many people like to criticize the Jews for being meticulous and particular but this is not the sin that they committed! They were merely following what God had specifically prescribed Himself. How serious was God about how His worship should be carried out? Look at those who didn’t follow it exactly: like Cain. My point is this: there is nothing wrong with teaching that actions (such as baptism, penance, indulgences) could have eternal value when Scripture is full of cases that affirm such teaching.

This concept perpetuated by the Protestant church (that nothing visible affects the eternal) is extremely subtle and that’s why it’s difficult to express the antithesis of it. Maybe this is being a bit extreme, but this kind of ‘nothing temporal has eternal weight’ mentality bears striking resemblance to the cult that originated in the 12th century called the Cathars. They taught that everything material was evil and everything spiritual was good. Catharism of course has it’s roots in the very early Christian heresy of Gnosticism. Which brings me back to my original point: old heresies don't die they multiply (thanks to Martin Luther & company).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The American Left: A Culture in Love With Death

In the same way that being pro-choice isn't about protecting women's rights, the debate on embryonic stem cell research has nothing to do with looking for cures.

This article on Catholic Education points out an interesting fact that the recent breakthrough in stem cell research went mostly unnoticed in the liberal media. Why? Because it was (as virtually all substantial findings are) extracted from non-embryonic stem cells. Why would the liberals ignore this? It's because if the truth gets out - that it is not necessary to take life in order to do research and in fact... the methods in which life is not taken have so far proven to be far more effective, then they might lose public support for their cause. But if it's known not to be effective, then why do they care if they lose support? The left is a culture in love with death. Everything liberals stand for is evil. Every good thing, they despise. Now not every joe schmoe liberal is evil. Some of them are just stupid.

Every conservative and every Catholic and every Christian ought to be aware of the battle that is taking place. Everyone should do their part to maintain the integrity of society. Don't get your news from liberals like Katie Couric. Don't watch the 'big 3 networks' or CNN. Thats the beauty of the internet, the people can get the news they want. No need to have liberals tell you how Israel is evil, Embryonic Stem cell research is going to cure cancer, Bush caused Katrina, Islam is a religion of peace, Catholics are a bunch of bigots & oh yea... we need to raise taxes! Instead, get the news you want from a reliable source.. There are plenty out there.

If you are Catholic, I recommend checking out the site www.mycatholic.com. Its a customizable home page like myyahoo but it already has several good Catholic feeds built in. I haven't even customized mine.

Parents Shouldn't Let Kids Watch Horror Movies

At least thats the latest "scientific" find. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061031113446.htm

Well how many damn scientists did it take to figure that one out? You mean its not good to show my 5 year old Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Really? If you needed a scientific study to prove this to you... you're an idiot... and you definitely have no business raising kids.

But taking it a step further (and I know I'm late on this one since Halloween just passed us by) but here's a tip: its not good for adults either. Yea thats right. Theres nothing good about demons and excessive gore and violence regardless of your age. Its not good. That should be self evident.

See my previous post on the topic.