Monday, September 29, 2008

What is the Church?

Today, there seems to be many different definitions of what the word Church means. Some believe that it is a single institution, while others believe that it is the Christian Body of Believers. Let's take some time to examine what we can learn from Scripture what the Church really is.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.(Matt 16:18).

Regardless how you feel about Peter, we can save that for another post, we can clearly see that God's Church will never be destroyed. It will never be overcome by the gates of Hades - Hell. So we know that Christs Church cannot be destroyed or conquered. This does not lead me to believe that the Church that Jesus is talking about here is the people that make up the Church. Throughout history, I am sure that we can make a case for someone who was a Christian, however they were overcome and destroyed.

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me"(John 17:20-23).

Jesus' prayer is for us to be one just as the Father and Jesus are one. We are supposed to be united together practicing and believing the same thing and the same way. The only way that this could be possible is if we were all being led by the same shepherd on Earth, teaching the same doctrine with the same belief since the time of Christ. Once again, this seems to be more evidence that the Church is less the people and more of an institution under which the people exist.

if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.(1 Tim. 3:15)

The Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. This once again, does not sound like Church in the sense of the people that make up the Church. I know for sure, that I am not the pillar and foundation of the truth - and I am sure that I have many friends and family that will witness to this fact.

Now, I do not believe that the Church is only the institution, and I do believe that there is evidence of that in scripture. As a matter of fact:

"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."(Eph. 1:22-23).

And we all know that Christians are baptized into the Body of Christ:

"Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."(1 Cor 12:27).

So the people do make up the Church which is also the Body of Christ. Before, this is where I would stop. I would stop here and say, see all Christians make up God's One True Church. There is an invisible veil surrounding all of the Christians on this Earth and we are living proof of the fulfillment of Jesus Prayer for Unity for evidence that He was sent by God - his Church here on Earth.

However, this idea of the Church being the people does not mesh very well, when it comes to the other Scriptures that I mentioned in this post. Namely, we are overcome by the forces from the Gates of Hades. There are Christians all over the world that have been conquered and destroyed by sin. We are not united as Christ is united with the Father. There are so many denominations in this world believing in so many different things with their own infallible interpretation of what Scripture says. We are not the pillar and foundation of truth. How many times have I lied today? if not to anyone else, but myself?

So what do I think the Church is? The Church would have to meet all of the descriptions that the Bible says it does - one (unity), holy (sacred), catholic (universal) and apostalic (coming from the Apostles).

Call no man 'father' - hmmmm....

I remember once being in a Bible study, with a Seventh Day Adventist and being told that how Catholics refer to priests as Father goes against scripture. If only Catholics read their Bible, they would be all to familiar with the following passage:

And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.(Matt. 23:9).

I walked away from that Bible Study with proof that Catholicism goes against scripture. There was no way in the world that I was going to refer to another priest as Father ever again for as long as I lived...

But then, I started to look at the whole scripture passage:

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.(Matt 23:8-10).

Okay, so Jesus not only commanded us not to call anyone with the title of Father, but he also said never to call anyone 'Rabbi' or 'father' or 'teacher'....right? Of course not. We even see evidence that Paul referred to himself as 'teacher', and more than that, he said that God appointed him as teacher(1 Tim 2:1-7).

So since we know that Scripture is divinely inspired, and therefore without error, what are we to make of Paul saying that he was appointed to the office of a teacher, when Jesus says that we should not call anyone 'teacher'? You may be thinking, that I am being a little ridiculous, but the more I think about it, I think that the interpretation of that scripture against calling anyone on earth 'father' is pretty silly as well.

You also may be thinking that calling a man of God a teacher is not as bad as calling a man of God 'father'. That is a fair position to take, and many Protestants have over the years. So what are we to make of this:

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel(1 Corinthians 4:15)

Is Paul committing a sin by going against God? He just called himself father...and more than that he called himself your father and did it in Christ Jesus' name. If you hold the position that Catholics are going against scripture by calling their priests father, I think that I have shown you the reason and justification why they do so. Not only is it correct, but it is Scriptural.

The inspiration for this post came from reading one paragraph of a book that is condemning Catholics and Catholicism in general. Instead of putting this book on the shelf, I have used it as inspiration to learn more about the faith into which I am being called into.

Peace be with you all...

What is Christian Liberty?

I am reading a wonderful book right now, more on that in another post, about an Evangelical Protestant discovering Sacred Tradition. In this book, he is explaining the beliefs that we Protestants hold dear, but are not necessarily founded in Scripture Alone. For example, the cannon of scripture, our view of polygamy, and the Trinity. Throughout his journey of discovering Sacred Tradition, he is continually citing against what some would refer to as Christian Liberty. So, I am now asking the question - What is Christian Liberty? Does such a thing really exist?

Are we really free as Christians? Do we have options and choices on what we are to believe and whether or not we should stand up for justice? Are we really free to have an opinion on grave matters such as sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, poverty, environment, or war? If we are true followers of Christ, do we have Christian Liberty?

I don't think that we have Christian Liberty. We are called to be slaves to God, purchased with a price (Rev 5:9). There are no options. We are either going to choose to be loyal to Him and His way, or we are going to choose to be loyal to something else(Matt 6:24); Money, Sex, Self...?

What are your thoughts on Christian Liberty? Are we free to think, do, and believe how we want, or are we really slaves for Christ? Are there areas that you feel are considered a Christian Liberty? How do you distinguish between the areas of Christian Liberty and Christian Duty?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Understanding Jesus - "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me"

There are just some things in Scripture that is just hard to understand. Matthew 27:46 has been one of those verses:

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

I remember someone teaching me that since this was the time that Jesus was taking on all of the sins of the world, God could not be present, because God cannot look upon sin. For years, this is what I accepted as the correct interpretation of this verse. It makes sense right? Well, not so much anymore.

If this is really the case, what does that tell us about God when I am sinning? Does that mean that He is not present? I thought that God was omnipresent. Are we now saying that He is only present where there is no sin? Of course this is not the case. So what is the correct interpretation of this Scripture? In order to understand the correct interpretation of this scripture, you must understand more about Jewish culture.

Jews were as fanatic about Scripture as some of my friends and family are fanatic about college and professional sports. I have friends and family that are able to tell me all of the players on their favorite sports team as well as where they graduated from high school and/or college. As much as they love sports, the Jewish culture loved Holy Scripture.

They loved it so much that they would often commit entire books to memory. It was common for a Jew to commit all of the chapters of Psalm to memory. That is right, every 150 Chapters. Hmmmm....150. Why does that number ring a bell? :)

So if God was still present, did Jesus lose his faith in the midst of being on the cross, which is evident in what he said about God forsaken Him? Of course not. First of all, Jesus didn't have faith in God. He had knowledge of God - there is a very big difference.

Jesus was a Jew being crucified amongst His fellow Jews. When he cried out this statement, he was actually quoting from Psalm 22. He was calling attention to this chapter in Psalm, the same way that I would be calling attention to another document if I just said "Forescore and seven years ago...". The crowd in the audience would have known exactly what Jesus was saying to them. Have you ever read Psalm 22? If not, please take a few moments to read it now.

I know, right. Talk about chills....

Thank you Jesus for the perfect work that you did on the Cross. On you I completely rely on for my salvation. I will honor you and serve you for the rest of my days.

Peace be with you all...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sola Fide...

Sola Fide is one of the doctrines introduced by Luther as part of his Five Solas. It is one of the two Solas, the other being Sola Scriptura, that most Protestants will agree on. Many of those same denominations denounce the Catholic Church for sharing, what it believes as a faith and works based salvation.

Before I talk about my understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches about Faith Alone, I think that it is important to get a better understanding of my interpretation of what Sola Fide means. In essence, it means that after accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, there is nothing that we can do to earn or merit our salvation. It is a divinely given free gift from God to an unworthy wretch like me.

It would probably surprise most readers of this blog to know that this is the exact same teaching of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church does not believe that a person can merit salvation. Instead, it believes that it is a completely free gift of God.

Where the Catholic Church disagrees with Sola Fide is the notion that once you have accepted this faith, there is no responsibility on your part to remain in God's Grace. Your work is done. In other words, the Church teaches that justification is not a one time event, it is instead a continual process over your life. To put it another way, so long as you remain in a state of grace your salvation is assured.

It has been my experience that many people of other faiths believe instead that when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, from that point on you are justified in the eyes of God. It is faith alone in God that saves you. After listening to many different debates on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that this belief cannot be justified scriptural. Make no mistake, I do believe that we must have faith in order to be saved, I just don't agree with the "alone" part of Sola Fide.

One of the Scriptures that seem to support the idea of faith alone can be found in Romans.

"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law"-Romans 3:28

On first glance, this would appear that the Bible is telling us that we are saved by faith and not by works. But notice at the end, Paul is telling us that we are saved by faith and not from "the works of the Law". What is the "the works of the Law" that Paul is referring to? In order to understand Scripture, we all have to be better about cherry picking verses. We should all be challenged to look at the entire context that the Scriptures are speaking. We have to consider to whom this letter was addressed, and why it was written.

Without going into a lot of detail at this time in Early Christianity, you had two very different cultures within the God's Church. You had the Jews (God's chosen people) and the Gentiles (everyone else). There were Christians in the Jewish culture who believed that it was not enough to believe in God. They wanted the Gentiles to also follow the traditions of their culture under the old covenant - namely to be circumcised (Acts 15). Paul is telling the Church in Rome that justification comes to us apart from the Law - Mosaic Law. In other words, the Gentiles do not need to be burdened with the disciplines of the Old Law under the Old covenant. Man's justification before the Lord comes through not our faith of the Old Covenant, but of the New Covenant through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This context can be better understood, once we read the remaining verses
"Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also?..."-
Rom 3:28

So what are we to understand from this? Paul has just explained to the Church that we are saved by faith and not by the works of the old covenant law. Also notice that Paul never said that we are saved by faith alone. As a matter of fact the words "faith alone" never appears anywhere in the Bible...well there is one place:

"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone"-
James 2:24

Here is the one spot where the words faith and alone appear together. I think that the point that James is making is that we are not saved by faith alone, but instead we are saved by faith and works. The two complement eachother and are absolutely critical. He even takes the time to explain what faith is if it does not have any works to complement it:

"Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself"-
James 2:17

"For just as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead"-James 2:26

This is how the Apostle James shows how works is vital to faith. He compares it to the relationship between the body and spirit. You cannot have one without the other.

Just to make sure that I am not setting the stage for a match between what the Apostle James is saying and what the Apostle Paul is saying, I do not believe they are saying anything contradictory. As a matter of fact, if you read the entire Letter from Paul to the Romans (which I would recommend everyone doing), you will come upon these verses:

"God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life..."-Romans 2:6-11

...he has done.
Notice how Paul is not saying according to how much he believed only. Instead Paul is saying that God will judge according to what he did.

Righteousness, justification is not a one time event. We must continually persist in God's grace.

I have merely scratched the surface of this topic. There are many other scripture passages that are worth examining further. This is something that I personally have wrestled with in order to get a better understanding of what God is asking from all of us. I at one time also believed that we are saved and justified through faith alone. In light of things that I am learning, I just can no longer accept that position.

Peace be with you all...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is an Anathema?

I just read an article titled Anathema on the If you are really interested in this topic, please take the time to read this article. I think that Jimmy Akin does a wonderful job of explaining what an anathema is and what it isn't. He even takes time to explain the stereotypes of anathemas and how they are incorrect yet still promoted by some theologians.

Why the sudden interest in anathemas? Well, I got into a great conversation with my friend over lunch, and he brought up the question of anathema. His understanding, like mine, was that when the Church makes proclamations they typically will follow it up with if you don't believe it, then "let him be anathema". We were both under the understanding that this meant that they are now outside of the Church and condemned to hell. This is not the case at all. It is not the case for Catholics and it is especially not the case for our Christian Brothers and Sisters outside of the Catholic Church either. Regarding the topic of heresy in general, Jimmy Akin says:

"Heresy does carry a penalty of automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication (can. 1041, 2ยบ), though this does not apply to those who have never been members of the Catholic Church (can. 11), and even then there is a significant list of exceptions (can. 1323)."

Jimmy's article further goes on explaining that anathema is not a penalty anymore. But it's meaning has changed now to better proclomate doctrinal definitions.

Catholic scholars have long recognized that when an ecumenical council applies this phrase to a doctrinal matter, then the matter is settled infallibly. (If a council applied the phrase to a disciplinary matter, then the matter would not be settled infallibly, since only matters of doctrine, not discipline, are subject to doctrinal definition.)

Thus, when Trent and other ecumenical councils employed "anathema sit" in regard to doctrinal matters, not only was a judicial penalty prescribed but a doctrinal definition was also made. Today, the judicial penalty may be gone, but the doctrinal definition remains. Everything that was infallibly decided by these councils is still infallibly settled.

I am forever grateful to my friends and family as I make this journey through faith. Your questions are helping me to understand the faith better, and make sure that I know what I am getting myself into.

God Bless you all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Journery Home - Part 1 - Choosing a Tradition

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan by a wonderful God fearing woman. My mother has always been and always will be a great blessing to me. She taught me a lot, but most importantly, she taught me to love God and have a thirst for Christ.

With the state of things in Detroit, she made it her mission, and sacrifice, to keep me out of the public school system. Instead, she chose to keep me in Christian private schools - which was an incredible sacrifice on her part for being a single parent and having to pay my tuition all of those years (thanks Mom). I have attended many different schools of many different denominations - including Non Denominational, Lutheran, Baptist and Catholic.

If you have never attended a Christian private school before, it is worth mentioning that each of these schools had a religious class that was mandatory. In each of these classes, I learned about the Christian faith from their respective tradition / bias. Besides the love of God, in the Baptist religion class, I learned that dancing was not allowed. In the Catholic class, I learned that spontaneous worship was nowhere to be found at Sunday Mass. In the Non Denominational class, I learned that if the Holy Spirit moves you to jump and dance during Sunday Service, then that is alright (maybe even encouraged). Overall, I was most comfortable with the Non Denominational tradition.

One of the main reasons why Non Denomination was a good fit for me was because I also learned about the religious prejudices and superiority complexes found within various denominations. Each major denomination seemed to teach that they had it all figured out and we were encouraged to pray for those that were not part of the right denomination. I did not really want to associate myself with any particular denomination because, in my mind, there is no way that one of them could have it all figured out. There were good things about each of them - and being a student of many of the major ones, I saw proof of this.

I also saw proof that all of the denominations did not agree on everything, and therefore to label myself as Baptist or Lutheran or Catholic carried with it the weight of those disagreements. Since I had not done the necessary research into all of the doctrinal stances of each denomination (and the fact that I have always disagreed with the separation of Christianity into separate factions), it was a lot easier for me to say that I was Non Denominational as oppose to claiming a particular denomination that I did not completely understand. In my mind, I was claiming the more pure route of Christianity. I was not going to get tangled up in the web of confusion caused by so many different denominations. Instead, I was just going to follow Jesus.

While my motivations were pure and correct, what I recently discovered is the way that I was choosing to worship God was not the way that He intended. With this Non Denominational line of thinking, I was the one who had ultimate control of how I was going to worship and what God had really wanted from me through self interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. For example, when confronted with two opposing viewpoints of scripture, I was the one that ultimately separated fact from fiction. In essence, I had become my own Magisterium and Pope, answerable to no one but myself and the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Steve Ray Apostalic Fathers Timeline

Steve Ray has been instrumental in my journey. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of months ago, at the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University in Stubenville. I entered the conference as a curious Protestant, and left the conference with a burning desire to know Christ and His Church more. Part of this burning passion was due to Steve's talks, and his wonderful book Crossing the Tiber.

On Steve's Blog, he just posted the Apostalic Fathers Timeline and I thought some of you may be interested in it. As you know, the Apostalic Fathers have been instrumental in my journey over the past few months. This timeline puts into perspective there days here on Earth in relationship to Jesus and the Apostles.

Thanks Steve for all that you do.

Peace be with you all.

Jim Wallis Speaks in Grand Rapids

Last night, I had the opportunity to listen to Jim Wallis, author of a book titled God's Politics : How the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it at All. He spoke at Calvin College here in Grand Rapids, MI. I read this book earlier this year, and found it very interesting.

One of the main points that he makes is that Christians should never be card carrying Republicans or Democrats. We are called to stand for justice and moral issues of this country - not just some of the moral issues, but all of them. This stance should be regardless of the party affiliation of the President of the United States. In other words, it doesn't matter who is elected President in November. If we do not challenge them to stand up for injustice, odds are, they won't either.

He also made it clear that most of the radical positive changes in this country and in this world, were not instituted / started within politics. The source of radical positive change has always been grassroot efforts - the most successful grassroot efforts have always been spiritually based. As an African American, I can clearly see how the Black Churches in the South were instrumental in Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. One of my favorite things that Jim said was, "President Lyndon Johnson was not a Civil Rights leader until, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks forced him to be one".

Clearly Jim is calling us to not just fight injustice at the voting booth, although this is necessary as well. He is challenging us to continue the fight long after the voting has taken place. Both are crucial, the vote and social grassroot effort, but alone they can never accomplish the goal that we are trying to meet - ending abortion, poverty, world hunger, as well as other social justice and moral issues.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation Discussion

There is a long comment thread going on in the Sola Scriptura...does it lead to truth, posting. It focuses around this response that I gave to Adam regarding is Baptism necessary for salvation.

I am moving the conversation to this post.

Luther :- The Movie

I received an email notification from my Netflix (GRPL), letting me know that the movie Luther, was ready to be picked up. Luther is a depiction of Martin Luther and what became known as the Protestant Reformation. Overall, I found the movie to be very entertaining.

Luther was an Augustinian monk / priest who saw that there were problems within the Church - primarily the selling of indulgences. The way that the movie depicted him, was a very compassionate God fearing man - which I do believe he was. He wanted the Church to change and reform it's practices. Was he justified in wanting the Church to change...yes. Should he have divided the Church with new doctrine in order to do

Martin Luther would be appalled if knew the number of denominations that have birthed from his action. His idea was to create a church under his new radical theology. He would have prayed for unity under his theology, and actively worked towards it. I don't think that he anticipated the countless number of schisms and divisions that occurred during his lifetime and afterward.

I think that one of the great moments where he must have realized what he had begun was when he confronted Ulrich Zwilngli at the Marburg Colloquy, over the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here is something that has been believed throughout all of time, and yet Zwilngli introduced a new belief that Christ is not present in the Eucharist - therefore reducing this sacred sacrament to a sign in many Protestant faiths. (Be sure, this is the first time in history that the Eucharist was ever reduced to a mere sign...but that conversation is worth a blog post on it's own).

Time and time again, I find myself quoting something that I heard on a podcast. You cannot judge a church, based on it's believers, you must judge a church based on it's doctrine - what does it believe. There are always going to be sinners in the church, because church if full of people. If you want to remove sin from a church, remove the people. Since that is not an option, you can only judge a church for what it believes. What foundation does it stand on? What does it teach?

The Protestant Reformation occurred over 500 years ago, and we are still feeling it's affects. It is also worth mentioning at this point, that the Catholic Reformation occurred soon after. There is much blame to go around on both the Catholic and Protestant people. I am not interested in casting blame. I am interested in working towards the unity that Christ had prayed for (John 17:9-26). That is the reason why I started this blog. I do not mean to offend or blame, I just want us to be the one visible Church that we were meant to be.

As a Non-Denominational Protestant Christian, I never considered what my Church taught. I thought that it was good enough to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and that was all that is necessary. This way may have saved me, but when I opened up the Scriptures and saw that there were things that God had commanded of me, after accepting Him by faith, that was when I realized that I needed to do everything that He demands, and not just the things that I was comfortable with. God began to challenge me to be more than just a luke-warm Christian, He wanted me to be on fire for Him, following and obeying all of his commandments.

My First Catholic Bible

My First Catholic Bible

I am so excited because yesterday, I went to purchase my first Catholic Bible. Now you may be thinking, "What is so cool about a Catholic Bible?". Well here, let me tell you...

Growing up Protestant, I was always taught the importance of Scripture. My faith was one that was based on Scripture Alone, so of course I held Sacred Scripture in the highest regard - and still do I might add. So much, in fact, that our house has many different versions of the Bible - King James, New King James, New Living Translation. I started to get curious about the collection of Books in the Bible, and how the collection of Books were selected as Holy Scripture. That was the first time that I had heard of something called the Apocrypha. Evidently, these are the books in the Bible that were not part of the original cannon....or so I was taught.

How were the books of the Bible formed? Who chose which Books were from the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and which ones were not? The more important question was, why were there additional books and passages found in the Catholic Bible, that was not a part of my Bible?

Never would I have ever considered that my Bible may not be complete. I justified the additional books of the Bible contained within the Catholic Bible as a heresy. How dare they add to Scripture? After doing some research, I discovered that I was wrong. It was not the Catholics who added books from the Holy Scripture, it was the Protestant Reformation that removed the Books.

The books in question are all found in the Old Testament. So, if this is the case, and the argument that these books were always considered to be Sacred until the Reformation, then we can assume that these books would have been believed by Jesus, his Apostles and the Early Church Fathers. Is there evidence found in Scripture and the Early Church Fathers? Wow, is there ever...

Scriptural Evidence
Early Church Father Evidence

Here is a copy of the Complete Bible on-line if you are interested.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Marcus Grodi Personal Testimony...

I am currently listening to a personal testimony of Marcus Grodi, host of the EWTN's Journey Home program. If you are not familiar with him, he was a Presbyterian minister who started to ask some of the questions that I have been asking. If you love scripture, journey with him as he starts to unfold the mystery of our faith.

Marcus Grodi's Tesimony

In this talk, he discusses Scriptural Passages that convinced him of truth:
Prov 3:5,6
1 Tim 3:14,15
2 Tim 3:14-17
2 Thes 2:15
Matt 16:13-19
John 14:15,16
Rev 14:13
Rev 2
Rom 10:14,15
John 15:4; 6:56
Col 1:24
Luke 1:46-49

Thanks Marcus for your testimony.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Four Witnesses :- Awesome Book

Did you know that Christianity was illegal, until Emperor Constantine I circa 300A.D.? Have you ever wondered what the Early Church was like prior to this? Who were the heroes of the faith during and after the Apostles during this time of distress for Christians? What did they teach that was passed on to them by the Apostles, not in letter only, but also face to face? What exactly did they learn at the feet of the Apostles - those who walked with Jesus?

My wife wondered about these things and was given this book, Four Witnesses: The Early Church in her own Word by Rod Bennett by a friend of ours from Church. After reading the first chapter myself, I was hooked. It was nothing less than an amazing experience reading through these Early Christian writings. Not only do they give you a true glimpse of what the Church was like, including worship services and other practices, they also give you a sense of what they were up against. Not only were they up against the armies of the Emperor where a great number of them earned the crown of martyrdom, but they were also fighting schisms and divisions within the Church, as well as heretical influences outside of the Church.

Rod Bennett does a wonderful job of setting the stage of what was going on during the times and introducing you to four of the Early Church Fathers :- Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus of Lyons. You do not need a degree in theology in order to understand this book. It is written in a style that is easy to read, and very entertaining.

If you are looking for something to read this fall / winter, I would highly suggest looking at this book.

Bishops and Priests and Deacons....oh my!!!

I have been having many conversations with friends of mine regarding faith. One of the conversations that we had was regarding the hierarchy and structure of authority within God's Church. He believes that there is not any evidence of the hierarchy within the New Testament, and I believe that there is - along with evidence of Holy Orders, but I will save that discussion for another time.

Just last night, I was reading through 1 Timothy and came across the following passages:

1 Timothy 3:1-7 : Bishops. If you look at the footnote of this passage when they mention overseer, you will see that it is traditionally known as a Bishop. Paul is describing the office of a bishop within the Christian Church.

1 Timothy 3:8-13 : Deacons. Paul just doesn't stop at the office of bishop, he also mentions an office of a Deacon. So far, we have Bishop and Deacon as offices that Paul is describing should be held within the Christian Church.

1 Timothy 5:17-20 : Elders. Who are these elders? Is Paul just talking about our seniors within the Church? I don't think so. Especially when he mentions "The elders who rule well". Elders who rule, makes me think of someone in charge...another office. In other versions of the Bible, this office is called a presbyter. Another reference to elder, can be seen Acts 15:2. This passage is referring to the Council of Jerusalem. "...the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue." There is that word again...elders. Why would the Apostles and the Elders be consulted, if the elders was not an office?

Clearly, Scripture is showing us that there are roles and offices within Christ's Church - Bishop, Presbyter (priest), and Deacons. Christ's Church has these offices. If Christ's Church exists today, then it will still have these offices. Which Church has these offices, and believe in the episcopacy?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sola Scriptura - Does it lead to truth?

One of my biggest interests in the history of Christianity, is the Reformation. When we think of the Reformation, we think of Martin Luther and his 95 Thesis. We also think of Sola Fide (faith alone) and Sola Scriptura (scripture alone). There are countless books regarding both of these claims. I am going to try to give my perspective on these claim, starting with Sola Scriptura.

Scripture alone. Many people think that this means that the Bible is the sole authority on faith. With it and the Holy Spirit it will guide you infallibly on your journey through faith. What most people do not realize is that it is not only a statement of affirmation, it is also a statement of denial. It is denying the authority of God's Church - the Catholic Church.

Did Jesus ever teach Sola Scriptura? Is the Bible truly clear and self defining to truth? Can you find Sola Scriptura in the Bible? Of course you can find references to the Scripture in Scripture, but do you ever find that it is Scripture alone, by itself that leads to truth? I don't believe so. Not anymore. Evidence of this can be seen with the many different denominations that exist today. I have seen calculations of different denominations numbering from 21 to 33,000. Whatever the true number, they all believe in Sola Scriptura and that Scriptures can lead them to the truth, infallibly. If that is the case, how can there be so many different versions of truths? There is only one truth that the Holy Spirit can attest to - because there is only one Truth. If a denomination agrees on some things, but differ on others, then one of them has to be wrong. Christians, we should not accept partial truths, we should accept the doctrine of full truth. So then, it is on us to investigate the claims of the Catholic Church who says to be the only Church that has the "fullness of faith" - complete, inerrant truth.

That is why God, in His infinite wisdom, did not leave us only an infallible book. He left us with an infallible Church which would never fail. To deny the infallible Church, you are denying a precious gift given to us by Christ. Trust me, this is a hard pill for me to swallow since I was raised in the Protestant Tradition, but the claims are just too big to ignore.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Inaugural Post

Welcome to my journey of Learning the Faith.

Recently, I have been doing a lot of studying of the Holy Scriptures and Early Christian history, and I have been blown away at what I have found - literally, knocked off of my feet.

You see, I have been a Protestant all of my life. I have attended many different churches of various denominations - including Non Denominational, Lutheran, Baptist and Catholic. I have felt and seen the presence of the Holy Spirit working within all of these communities. Only recently have I started to ask myself the question, which one is right. Not right in the sense that they have some of the truth, but right in the sense that they have all of the truth.

Time and intense study has led me to the conclusion that Jesus left us with a Church. This Church that He has left us with is the same Church that exists today - the Catholic Church. The fact that it still exists today, through all of the scandal, testifies that it is a divine institution created by God.

So what will this blog be about. This blog is going to be about me learning the faith. I have been learning so much recently that I feel that I have to share it. I have had many conversations with many of my friends, but still, that is not enough. So this blog will be a way that I can share what I am learning with you.

Thanks and I am looking forward to great comments and conversations from you all.