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The Vicar: Part II

This last week I met with the Vicar for the final time, he was being reassigned to another Parish, and I was returning his books and giving him one more shot. It was bittersweet in many ways, a new parish is getting a very talented and compassionate man, who has a true heart for Christ. He will be missed for sure.

I read through the suggested material from my last post, plus some of the books the father had supplied, I found them again to be fully unconvincing on the issue of Papal infallibility. I don’t buy the apologist line that it’s in there if you look for it, that’s the same line that other religions use to justify their theology. You have to read the meaning behind the text, and read the whole history to get the true ‘meaning’ of the words. I read Adrian Fortescue’s ‘The Early Papacy’ and found that again, as with other Catholic apologist, good sound evidence of the PRIMACY of the papacy, but nothing meaningful on infallibility. I stopped reading Catholic Apologists on the issue after that, I just don’t see the point. I can read the early fathers for myself, and ultimately *I* have to decide.

So based on everything I’ve read, the only way you can get papal infallibility is to claim it as part of the Doctrine of Development, because despite what I keep hearing time and again from Apologists, I can’t find any direct or even salvageable indirect history that it was ever fully supported outside of Rome, or that the early churches in the East, had the same concept. Francis Sullivan, who is highly regarded as a Catholic Theologian, basically says the same thing. The man has a Doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, and while he believes in papal infallibility, he’s at least honest enough to say you can’t use history to prove it.

As to the development of doctrine, the argument that the trinity had to be developed like the the findings of the early church doctrine, is an incredibly weak position to try and prove your case. First of all, the trinity is EASY to find in scripture, there is clear scriptural and historical evidence for what the councils agreed upon, and certainly we deepened our understanding of those issues over time. But that’s COMPLETELY different than saying we had to develop the immaculate conception, or infallibility, because WHERE DO YOU FIND THE SEED FOR THOSE LIKE YOU CAN FOR THE TRINITY? Do they exist in any standard written form?, and I’m not referring to the practice of reading your theology into someone elses writings. The church Fathers weren’t illiterate idiots, they spoke clearly and concisely on a number of topics, but it seems that there is a hidden theology in their writings that Catholics have been able to piece together, where’s Dan Brown when you need him? Doctrine has to develop and change over time, I’m not disputing that, but you can’t claim something out of nothing, and then make it dogmatic. That simply goes too far for me…

Back to my discussion with the Vicar, what became apparent to me this time around. Was that the Vicar who is a cradle Catholic, has never explored much outside of Catholicism, why would he? I mean you have a church claiming to be the one ‘True’ church, and an infallible pope and magisterium. So why ask questions? I wasn’t there to try and challenge his faith, he’s got a good handle on it. I was there to try and quiet my doubts, and this time it did the exact opposite. Part way into the conversation I realized we had left logic at the door, and had started into the area of philosophical sparring, which I really have no interest in.

We did discuss how far my disbelief could go before I fell into schism with the church, and that for me was the point where something inside me broke. When all your left with is posturing, and the discussion begins to resemble an Aristotelean diatribe, the gig is up and it’s time to move on.

We parted on good terms, I hold no ill feelings against the Catholic church, but I cannot honestly consider myself Catholic and gloss over these crucial issues. If the doctrine of infallibility, immaculate conception, and the assumption where not Dogma then I’d be staying. But they aren’t, and the gradual change in the character of the papacy starting around time of the Gregorian reforms have led to a situation where the church has overreached.

This is a decision that has been a long time in the making, I could spend another two years rooting and digging, and I’m convinced now that I would still reach the same conclusion. I’m not an apologist, I’m not going to write any books on the papacy, I am simply someone who had to decide for himself where the truth was to be found. Fortescue was kind of the lynch pin for me, once I realized how weak his argument was on infallibility, there was no going back, the landslide had begun.

I came home Friday evening dispirited, but after a good stiff drink, and some time to talk things out with my wife. I decided at that point that I needed to move on, it was time to go east, stop putting off the inevitable, and get with the program.

So this Sunday, Michelle and I attended our first Great Liturgy service with the Christians at the local Antioch Eastern Orthodoxy parish. It was like entering a different world, the basic structure of the liturgy was the same, but the form was SOOOO different. We didn’t feel out of place, as much as lost trying to keep up with what was going on, we’ll get better as time goes by. We did decide that doing the Great Liturgy, and then the kneeling vespers was a little too much for these novices :)

Next Sunday we are visiting the local Greek Orthodox parish, they have this new invention called pews, so maybe our legs won’t hurt so much after a long service.



What I’m reading

I love my kindle, an average reading day for me is The Orthodox Bible (I like the translation), the Philokalia, and a science fiction novel of some kind (anything that piques my love of fiction)

But last night while searching for a new non-theology book (I gotta keep my sanity somehow), I ran across this book:

Changing Churches: An Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Theological Conversation

It’s an account of two Lutherans (both professors), who converted away from the Lutheran church to Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (Antiochian to be precise). I was intrigued so I grabbed the sample version and read the whole thing this morning, I was blown away by how respectful they are treating the subject, and yet are being fully honest about the strengths and weaknesses in their decisions. I immediately bought the full book, and will dive in tonight. I’m very excited to see how their journeys compare to mine, and what I can gleam from their combined knowledge.

The last time I was this excited was when I found Francis Beckwiths conversion story.

I’ll post a review when I’m done, which won’t be long :)




Answering Devins Questions Part 2…

I realized after writing my last piece that I didn’t fully answer Devins question, it had been on my mind for a few days. So I sat down last night and wrote it out while it was still freshin my mind, then ran upstairs and started working on our renovations…

Here again is Devins question:

“But if you became Catholic while believing that the Catholic Church was in error in one or more of her doctrines, that perhaps reveals that you never fully accepted that God has guided and is guiding her into all truth. Do you believe that God is guiding the EO Churches, protecting them from error in their doctrines? Not accusing, not trying to trap you, just curious.”

So the last part of his question about if God is guiding the EO churches protecting them from error in their doctrines. It’s a complicated answer, and something I have thought about for a long time. But first let me state that I am not a theologian, or an apologist. I’ve been studying Philosophy when my schedule allows (hopefully will get a degree one day), and I love to dig and study, but by no means should someone bank their salvation on anything I say. I have done some study under Michael Patton over at Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, and have a huge debt of gratitude for his program that teaches lay people theology.

So let’s start with some biblical references to set the stage:

St Paul in talking to the church in Philippi makes the following statement:

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
(Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

He goes on to explain that he is straining and pressing on toward the Goal of being Christ like. His admonition has always stuck with me, I never stop trying to make sure that what I am doing, believing, practicing, helps to make me a better man spiritually.Then we get to 1st John:

    Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

Finally there are the Bereans:

    The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.

(Acts 17:10-15 ESV)

The Bereans have influenced me greatly since coming back to find my faith, I love the fact that they didn’t just take Paul at his word, but went and studied everything he said before believing. So today in our Christian world, we have three main divisions all claiming to have some type of Apostolic succession and the “truth” about the Gospel:

  1. The Catholic Church
  2. The Eastern Orthodox Church
  3. The Protestant Churches

I can easily dismiss the Protestants with a minimal amount of study into both history and scripture, been there, have the funny hats, not doing it again.

But the other two are harder to deal with, much harder.

Protestants by and large, have gone on a rampage against the Catholic faith since Luther introduced his own unique view of the Gospel in 1516. Granted Luther had some very valid concerns about the Catholic Church, but those things eventually got fixed.

So now you have two Churches both claiming Apostolic succession, and both can show a direct historical lineage back to their foundations from the Apostles. So that’s a tie…

Both claim to be the ‘One True Church’, and here comes the rub in this whole thing. Both churches have been plagued by bad decisions, neither side has been ‘Protected’ by God. Catholic apologist will split hairs and say that the dogma of the faith has only been changed by the Papacy a few times, and that is the only time that Papal infallibility comes into play.

It’s true in one sense, but in another, the view from the Catholic side that the Papacy was handed universal authority on matters of faith here on earth, has been problematic. Adding the Immaculate Conception in 1854, the doctrine of Papal infallibility in 1870, and the Assumption of Mary to the dogma of the church in 1965, should give anyone pause. In my view the issue with the Papacy is not being the Primate of the Bishops, I think that role is desperately needed. But when you translate Christs words to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew to mean that suddenly Peter and his successors have this divine control over the whole church, things get a little weird. You are putting the very fate of the church into the hands of one single man, who by his very nature, shares the same sinfulness as Adam did. Humans are sinful, all of us, and to claim that somehow the Papacy is specially protected is not something I can find a good solid argument for. Either from the writings of the early church fathers, or scripture. After all, we either have free will like Adam and Eve, or the Pope has some special providence that again I can’t find any reference material for.

The Orthodox Church views changing the dogma of the faith differently, they believe that only in ecumenical councils, with the Primate of Rome attending, can the dogma or the teachings of the church be modified. I think that’s a good thing, because having one person other than Christ making those kinds of changes is terrifying. On the other hand, as Devin correctly points out, without Rome, the Orthodox Church has not made any dogmatic changes since 1032.

There has been all manners of bad things that have come from both the Catholics and the Eastern Churches, and it seems that some don’t want the schism to end, I’ve already run into that nonsense on the EO side, and I won’t stand for it. But I am stuck in the middle, so I have to choose what is right. I have to work where I want to worship, and give freely of my talents. And it sucks, this is not a fun place to be. I’m tired of polemics, apologetics who don’t concede anything, or worse, take history out of context to bolster their case.

So who is right? Neither in my opinion, or at least fully. When you involve mankind in anything holy, they screw it up, its our very nature since Adam and Eve took the first bite. I don’t believe that either side can show with full certainty that they are the ‘One True Church’, they will claim it, boy will they claim it. But Johns words live in my heart, test all things by the spirit, don’t be easily deceived.

After all my study, listening, thinking, praying. I believe that the Orthodox have a closer handle on what the Apostles handed to them, I don’t think they are perfect. My hope is that East and West can unite, with Rome as the primate of the bishops, and the ancient churches living in unity. But until that time, I’m a man caught in the middle.

I will only truly be satisfied when I finally get to meet Christ face to face, then and only then will I trust another human being fully with my salvation. That’s no small thing, given that literally everyone thinks THEY have it right somehow. So for my own part, I have to weigh the options, and then make the choice that I believe God is telling me to make. What irritates me is when people assume that they are the only ones who know the full truth, because in that sense the words of St Paul could not be any clearer:

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

I have definitely found a more comfortable, loving environment in the Orthodox church, if I can just get past the alien nature of their liturgy and pious nature, I’ll be set :)

Come quickly Lord Jesus and fix this mess.



Answering Devins Question Part 1…

In my last post about crossing the river to begin my journey to the Orthodox faith, Devin asked this question:

“But if you became Catholic while believing that the Catholic Church was in error in one or more of her doctrines, that perhaps reveals that you never fully accepted that God has guided and is guiding her into all truth. Do you believe that God is guiding the EO Churches, protecting them from error in their doctrines? Not accusing, not trying to trap you, just curious.”

It’s a great question, and I mulled it over for quite a while before answering, partly because I wanted to make sure I gave an honest response, and partly because I had to stop and go back and think about my (our) reasoning.

I left the Evangelical world in 2008, and Michelle was not far behind. We are wired differently, she can let things slide that drive me up a tree, it makes a good combination for a long stable marriage. When I began too question things that we were being taught in church, she knew where I was headed, but was never really bothered over the inconsistencies like I was. It took her a while longer to reach the point of simply giving up and going Apostate.

A year later we started looking again, tired, empty hearted, but still believing. We wanted to find a good solid, biblical church home, what ensued was a very difficult period for us, where we tried all the major flavors of the evangelical world. We ended up in the Anglican church for a while, but finally came to the conclusion that there wasn’t enough oversight and structure. We loved the people, but we had concerns with how things were run, so we stopped going to church altogether for a while.

When we finally ended up at the doors of the Catholic Church, we were worn out, emotionally drained, and very cautious. After our first mass (which was the feast of the Annunciation, the worst thing a cautious Mary fearing protestant should see on their first visit). We met with the RCIA director at the largest parish in town a few weeks later, and then two days later the first RCIA of the year was being held. We took that as a sign of providence, because we had been debating about if we should even go and ask about RCIA. That started a long 9 months of study, struggles, questions and endless discussion.We stopped receiving communion, and did everything that was asked of us.

I wanted to quit more than once, I loved the people, but there was no deep study or discussions (I did what study I could, but had not strong mentors who could answer theological questions). There where bright spots to be sure, but it seemed that they were more concerned with how we felt, rather than teaching the true orthodoxy of the church. When we started to get near confirmation, I asked a very pointed question about what we where agreeing too. I was told that all I needed to believe in was the Apostles Creed, that was all that was required. I tried in vain to get my fingers on the confirmation text the Church was using, but there was a desire on the part of the administration to keep those details safe until the day of confirmation.

I was very frustrated more than once with need to keep things secret from us, when we where accepted as candidates, I asked repeatedly what the ceremony contained. I was told it would ruin the surprise, I would have quit then if not for my wife. I take oaths very seriously, and it still gets under my skin that I could not get direct and solid answers to my questions. When we sponsored our candidates I made sure that nothing was held back from them if they wanted to know, I know that the Church means no malice. But these things matter, and with all the dangerous religious garbage out there, being fully open about ceremonies and details is crucial in my opinion.

When we finally got to confirmation, I was a nervous wreck. More than once I wanted to bolt, and had it not been for my wife, and my need to once again take communion, I would have avoided the whole mess. I wanted to enter into the Church quietly, without fanfare, and begin to serve. But I was forced into a large, crowded ceremony (which for me is a hard thing to deal with), with no idea what was going to happen. I could not find out what I was going to be asked to agree too, or the scope, and by this time I just wanted it over with.

So on Easter Sunday 2011, we did everything we were asked, and against what my head was telling me, I agreed to be confirmed into the Catholic faith.

A year later I still have mixed feelings about that day, all I wanted was someone to sit down with me and explain what was about to happen in detail, go over what I was agreeing too. And to make sure that all my questioned where answered, but there where so many in our group, that simply never happened. I tried to move more than once to our local parish RCIA where I could get more personal attention, but my wife wanted to stay, so I stayed.

What I realize now is that I would have probably never gotten those answers, the Church uses a program that is geared towards feelings, or what I call “Touchy Feely Nonsense”, and it strays from hard Orthodoxy. Bibles where trucked in for the class, and then taken away, as if we had never seen one before. The whole thing felt like a government training program geared to the lowest common denominator, I’m not trying to be unkind, it’s just hard to explain how bad it was for us. Making matters worse was that getting an appointment with a priest was nearly impossible, the Church has a serious shortage, and one priest for a parish of 10,000 parishioners is just nuts! I met with Deacons when possible, but when you start asking technical questions about salvation, original sin, free will, and things like monergism and synergism. Well you get some pretty strange looks…

So did I have questions when I joined?, yes a number of them in fact. But after reading Francis Beckwith’s book on his conversion, I took his same idea which was if the Church got the big things right, then the little ones would fall in place. Never once where we handed the Dogma of the faith, and told this is what is required to be a Catholic. Those kind of hard discussions sadly never happened, I’m not sure I would have joined or not, but it would have made me more comfortable with the whole process.

Michelle and I talked a great deal before we entered into the Church, we were so bruised and worn out, that we needed to become part of something. We LOVED the liturgy, the reverence for the Eucharist, and all the trappings. And I couldn’t break her heart and bail at the last minute, so at the time it seemed like the best of all options to simply join. And I actually have not regretted it, I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in the faith, I love our parish and the Catholic way of life.

But I never stopped digging for answers, and the more I dug, the more I started to find things that didn’t seem right. Papal Infallibility, the assumption of Mary, and immaculate conception being made dogma (all within the last 14o years or so). The Churches stand on contraception and Natural Family Planning, liturgical nonsense that takes place even still today. When I started to seriously look into the Orthodox faith, I learned more about my Catholic faith, than I did from the Catholics. And I started to see that so much of what the Orthodox church believed, aligned with what my studies had told me.

So I’m now in the process of leaving, not because I want to, but because if I don’t, I can’t say I’m being honest with myself. I love the Catholic Church, I really do. But there are things I just can’t sit by and ignore anymore, and for me personally, I’m either committed to it fully, or it’s just going to be painful because I’ll know in my deepest parts that I simply don’t agree.

The hardest part for me has been putting my wife back through another long search, I feel terrible. It was so painful the last time, she has been very stern about not just jumping ship. But the more we have talked the more she has come to realize that there are issues we would need to compromise on, and so she has followed me on this new journey.

So there it is, in all it’s dark glory. We are on a new journey, and the Orthodox church is like entering an alien landscape, they even cross themselves the opposite of Catholics! We have done two vespers services, and it’s not getting any easier. What helps is that everyone is a convert and knows exactly what we are going through, people have shown us so much love and patience, that it takes the edge off (but not by much yet). So my heart knows this is the right thing, but my head is screaming “RUN YOU IDIOT, RUN!!!”




Looking East

I’ve been searching for a very long time, the journey has been wonderful and terrible, all at the same time. Michelle has settled into the Catholic way of life, and we have been faithful to the agreement that was made on the day of our confirmation. So much has changed in the last 7 years, children growing up, leaving, sometimes on different paths than we would have chosen. Our time in the Evangelical Wilderness made us much wiser than when we first arrived there, but we still have a long, long ways to go.

Our faith has changed as well, what was once acceptable in our evangelical beliefs, are now the very things we shy away from. We have also taken the time to educate ourselves, and submit to the teaching of others. I will never know enough for me to be fully comfortable with my faith, but that is the way my maker wired me, I accept it and live with it everyday. As I have mentioned before I have been studying the Orthodox faith for some time now, the more I read the more it dawns on me just how common sense most Eastern Orthodoxy theology is. My one regret is that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox can’t fix the schism of 1032, it has caused me a great deal of consternation.

There are so many things that the two churches agree on, that it seems silly they can’t find some way to heal the rift and go back into mutual communion. But then one reads the declarations of Vatican I, and Vatican II and you realize that Rome for all it’s beauty missed the mark on infallibility, divine authority of the papacy (not primacy mind you) pushing a belief that one cannot find in the early church. Add to that the dogma of the immaculate conception, the consumption of Mary, the Filoque, and the liturgical abuses since Vatican II, the legalistic nature of the churches teaching, and you begin to realize the actual scope of the problem.

I’ve been looking East for a time now, and the one thing that has kept me away is that by the canon of the Catholic Church, I cannot take communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Frustrating, but I did agree to follow the teaching of the Catholic Church (by the way that agreement, does not cover my objections and questioning). So now to experience the Eastern Orthodox Liturgy, I have to play a shell game, take communion at my local parish (because, it’s a mortal sin to not take weekly communion), the rush over to share in the liturgy at my local Orthodox Church. To even experience their liturgy means that I have to juggle schedules, because I can’t miss weekly mass.

However, tomorrow night we are heading over to share in the Saturday Night Vespers service. The Fr. was gracious and offered to meet with us before service and go over questions that we both have. So we are going to dip our toe in the pool, meet with the good Fr. and begin to get a feel for where this is all leading. I will do a more detailed post on why I’ve been looking east for so long, and why I’m slowly coming to realize that it may be where we needed to be all along.

I want to make a couple of points very clear so there is no misunderstanding, Michelle and I both love the Catholic Church. We love the liturgy, the sacraments, and being part of the church family. But I have always had some reservations, and as I have dug into the past, some have gone away, but a small important set have stayed. Some have been game changers for me, that doesn’t mean I intend to bash Catholics in any way shape or form. I just have core issues that I disagree with, I have not found any apologist who can make an airtight case on those issues. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but in my own studies, I’ve concluded that some things just aren’t as clear as they are made out to be. The one thing that drew us into the Catholic faith was the idea of a centralized leadership, coming from the evangelical world where everyone makes up their own rules, and dealing with mainlines, who have no real structure or control over their parishes, the Catholic model makes so much sense. The Papacy IS in the early writings of the church fathers, but it’s different than what we have today, but the Bishop of Rome has had a seat of primacy since first century AD.

And we haven’t left yet, we are just exploring to see what the Orthodox have to offer,  to find out first hand, rather than learning it from a book. Its a pattern we have done before, the difference this time is that we have done a great deal of research to get to this point, so we have a good solid understanding of what we are looking for. But boy did it take a long time!!!






Now this is how you do it!!!

I’ve been interested for some time in the Orthodox faith, we considered the Orthodox church while still looking but at the time didn’t know any local parishes. One thing that has always bothered me is that if the Catholic (West or Latin) Church, had the same deposit of truth as the Orthodox or Eastern Church, then why the big split? They disagree on a number of theological and ecclesiological (study of the Christian Church) issues, especially around the Papacy.

Having read Steven Ray’s book on the papacy (Upon This Rock) I thought the issue was settled, at least it was for me. That is until I read the Apostolic Fathers for myself, and then started reading a book called “His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches” by Laurent Cleenewerck. Two things happened to my theology:

1. I did not find anywhere in the Apostolic Fathers a direct mention of the papal seat as we know it today, which was surprising to me given how much I have read from Apologists that the Church Fathers fully supported the divine and universal aspect of the see of Peter.

2. I started to question what I actually thought I knew, and began to realize that I really hadn’t done a good job in my study of the Catholic church orthodoxy, my RCIA class was so light on the topic that I was shocked to learn that papal infallibility was made Dogma in 1870 at the Vatican I council (I thought it was declared long before 1870, which is like yesterday for a church with 2000 years history).

I’ve been working my way through Cleenewercks book (he has the coolest name ever!), and what I have found is the RARE and I do mean RARE, apologist who actually presents and irenic argument to make his case. Michael Patton at Reclaiming the Mind taught me well that being irenic in arguing a point was always a much better option. The other night I picked up the book of a very famous Catholic Apologist and thumbed over the section on the pope, I was curious to see how he handled the issue when challenged. What I found surprised me, he quoted the writing of one of the church fathers, and the quote on it’s own would make anyone think that the father fully supported the universal power of the papal office. But the truth is that this church father actually challenged the universal and divine power of the roman bishop, but still held that the papacy was indeed founded by Christ through Peter. It’s a subtle point, but it makes a world of difference, because in the Catholic faith, the Papacy has been handed the keys the kingdom and has both divine and universal power over the Christian faith.

St. Augustine was famous for saying ‘Let the reader decide’, that is the irenic approach. Give a good accounting of both sides of the issue, and then leave it to the reader to make the right choice. But in today’s world of hack apologists, theologians with an axe to grind, there are few who are brave enough to follow that path. Instead they quote selectively and leave out any piece that would weaken their position, they do it both with Scripture and now as I’m finding out with the church fathers.

This is why I always look for apologists who are not afraid to say that their position in one area is weak, or that we just don’t know for sure. And I do everything in my power to avoid the current trend of learning scripture and orthodoxy through ‘feelings’, this morning after Mass, a couple was taking applications for a small group study, so we stopped by to see what they had to offer. It was a little workbook, that had you read some scriptures. Then you joined your small group and talked about how the scripture affected you…


That’s what is passing for church approved study material?, I got my fill of that in the RCIA classes, where the last 45 minutes of each class was a question and answer session that allowed people to express their feelings! Because we all know that actually studying what the church believes is not nearly as important as how something moves me emotionally! What a pile of horse droppings, IF we are to be Catholic, then we should be TEACHING orthodox material. We should be instructing people in their faith, not asking if they feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

An interesting side note, we had a lady approach us today after service and introduce herself, she said she had noticed us attending for a while. She also commented that and her husband noticed that during the Our Father prayer we don’t hold hands, we told her that basically the GIRM (General Instruction for the Roman Missal, the rules of the liturgy) does NOT state that holding hands is part of the service, so we don’t do it. She said she and her husband do the same thing!, it was good to know that we are not alone in sticking the traditions as they are written…


So I’d like to give a huge Clink of the glass to Laurent Cleenewerck, who had the guts to write a book that seeks out the truth rather his opinion. I’m not Orthodox yet, but his book really has me going back and rethinking what I thought I knew, and THAT my friends is what good apologetics should do…



For the last time

Tomorrow morning, I get the honor of being a lector for the final mass, before the church moves to the new translation. I also found out today that I get to lector on Christmas day, I’m very honored to get the chance to serve, and give something back, when so much has been given to me.

Tomorrow will be a historic day, the current translation was implemented in 1973, and the church in its wisdom has updated it to be more literally accurate based on the original text.
It’s going to be a big day!!!


If Protestanism is True

I just finished reading Devin Roses “If Protestantism is True” (amazon link to the Kindle book), the book accomplishes a task that in many ways has been missing from discussions about the Catholic faith. There are a number of books that attempt to take on the objections that Protestants bring up about Catholicism, I have a good number of them myself. But very few actually helped me with my conversion process, and while Devin’s book is certainly a blessing. It could have saved me time and heart ache while converting to Catholicism, for anyone looking at the Catholic church coming from a Protestant background, Devin’s book a must read.

Devin takes on the core issues with the Protestant churches, the largest of which is the canon of scripture and the Protestant belief in Sola Scriptura. In this respect the author does a good job in laying out just how hollow and circular the whole Sola Scriptura concept really is. What I liked so much about his approach is just how balanced and condensed the information is, it’s not a deeply theological or apologetical book, but it is approachable and well laid out.

My only real issues are that sometimes Devin’s polemic wears a little thin, the title of book gets used more than it should and seems to missing from some areas and used more heavily in others. I also felt that the section on Catholic Doctrine regarding the ‘Rules’ of the church, was pretty weak. A year ago I would have dismissed it out of hand as another failed attempt to explain how the church is actually different than the Pharisees and Scribes.

I tend to be very critical of Apologists, I was taught that when you argue a point about theology, being irenic was a vastly better way to approach the issue. I tend to lump Apologist into three types:

1. Polemics like Calvin, who go to war over every little issue.
2. Irenic, those who take the time to understand the other sides position and explain it with clarity.
3. Polishers, those can’t seem to admit any doubt about their statements, everything is simple and rosy in their explanations.

Of the three types, I vastly prefer option 2, I find that I learn more, and that their approach is more charitable. Jimmy Akin falls squarely into this category, and now Devin Rose. Just to be clear, types one and three are not wrong or bad per se. You need some polemics to make your case, and you need to be careful with how you present your argument. But in my opinion most apologists don’t even get close to being Irenic, and in their zeal to present their case lose site of how information can impact the reader.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon and worth every penny.



Finally Home…

Last night Michelle and I attended our first Mass at our home parish, it also happened to the the first communion service for some of the kids. It was treat to watch them go through the process, and receive their first communion. For us it was like coming home, although I was nervous I would do something stupid, I was still looking forward to the experience.

It’s been a week since confirmation, and we’ve had time to let it all sink in and settle a bit. I have a better grasp on it now, I’m over the shell shock portion. And I think I can rely our impressions…

But before I say anything, I must say that the people who hosted this RCIA did a fabulous job. Corralling 180 people (and more at times) through this process, is no simple feat. They have been gracious and welcoming, and made the process easier. We even had a couple in the service last night, and they warmly greeted us on the way out. I’m sure they feel proud, and they should.

Confirmation Sunday, was a blur of emotion. It was like being in the center of a tornado, locked to a chair with no way to get out. From the moment we arrived, I felt the pressure of what we where about to do. In all honesty I felt fully unprepared, we were supposed to ring the bells during the Gloria. I had no idea why, no one explained it to me or what it actually meant. So I was handed a bell and then told to keep it quiet until the right time, when the gloria finally came it seemed silly to sit and make a ruckus without really knowing why. In all honesty I didn’t even ring mine, I was more focused on getting through the actual confirmation, and not screwing up my first eucharist.

The church for some reason was very warm, I was wearing a tie and jacket, that along with cold feet (hey, I got them when I got married 26 years ago as well). Had me sweltering, I would have given anything to remove the tie. I was also a little miffed that even given our very explicit directions on dress atire, that my sponsor and a number of my fellow RCIA members didn’t follow the rules. Which made me feel more uncomfortable being paraded down the aisle, especially since the church was packed (and this is a BIG church). And quite honestly I felt lost and overwhelmed, we didn’t do much prep time, and I have never seen a confirmation so it was all new to me.

As we waited for confirmation, the RCIA team members kept up the cheerleading banter. I know they where trying to be helpful, but I felt like I was 10 years old and about to make the speech of my life. It didn’t help, and for my part, added more to my dilemma about what I was doing there. There was a point to be perfectly honest, where I considered getting up and leaving. I never wanted a grand entrance, I hate them with a passion. There was too much focus placed on the ceremony, so much so, that I didn’t really have time to sit and fully examine how I felt. And no one asked, so at one point I questioned if this was the right thing to do. I don’t like feeling pressured, I need time to work through things on my own, at my pace. Had Michelle not been there, I would have not made the whole thing. She is able to read my thoughts, and simply held my hand and kept me calm. I followed her lead through most of the process.

At one point before the Eucharist, they sang a song about our love for Christ (I’ll get to the band in a minute). Our sponsor who is a good Christian man, broke down into sobbing. I am not the most emotional person in the world, and my experience with religion and emotion has not always been good. He was sobbing so hard that at one point I wasn’t sure if we be able to go on, it was… uncomfortable to say the least.

When it was all said and done, and we finished the service. They marched us back out first, so everyone could get a good look at us. We stayed long enough to thank everyone, and then headed home. Emotionally, and physically exhausted. I didn’t get a beam of light, or a revelation when I partook of the sacraments. And again I would have been more moved with a small, quiet ceremony, but I’m changing as I get older and what I once enjoyed in worship. I no longer find tolerable.

In reflecting on the whole experience, it was way to heavy on the ceremonial side. There was too much noise, too much pomp. Right at the end of our RCIA experience we began to grow frustrated with the lack of depth, and I started reading up on other peoples experiences. One common complaint is that the RCIA is so focused on the experience, that they miss the heart of the RCIA’s purpose. I would agree, but I would be very careful to not blame the laity or the priests. We had the opportunity to visit another RCIA program, and to our shock they asked the same silly questions. What we learned was that both programs come from a book that has all those dratted questions pre-canned. It explains a great deal, if you take a 2 hour program. Spend 45 minutes on the basics, 10 on announcements, 15 on a break. Then the rest on meaningless questions like “How do you feel about the incarnation?, in my view. You’ve waisted roughly half your class time on non-essentials. That’s a travesty!! I repeatedly read people saying that nine months is not enough time, I disagree. It’s plenty of time, *IF* you spend it wisely, and don’t turn the RCIA into a social based feelings program with a little Catechesis thrown in for good measure.

The other part where I’m going to come clean, is that I honestly could have waited longer. There’s more to know and learn about the faith, and I’d like the time to study it. But I in all honesty could not stomach another nine months of endless questions about my feelings!, Michelle felt exactly the same way. So like so many others who have come into the Church, we gritted our teeth and got through the process. I’m glad we did, last nights mass was a blessing to us, and I told Michelle that I want to make sure we celebrate that every weekend without fail.

Finally, one issue that has bothered me is the lack of reverence that I see happening in the Mass. At the confirmation, there was a full band. Electric guitar, drums, bass, the whole ensemble. But to my ears, it was so protestant that it hurt. Our parish has just a piano and the cantor, which to my aging ears sounds just fine. But the other thing that shocked me, was how some people dress for the mass. There have been times I wish we had a bunch of Nuns with rulers to restore a little reverence to the proceedings. I guess we have become so welcoming that we don’t want to offend, but camouflage shorts DO NOT belong at mass. I know there is a huge debate about the vatican II mass, and it’s problems. I’m not saying we go back, but somewhere, someone has to start laying down at least a little conformity. We can do it gently, but if the Mass is the cornerstone of our faith, then we should *expect* anyone attending to show some respect. Just a little would go a long ways.

We have been blessed by being able to finally join the Church, the journey is just starting. But I no longer feel like an interloper at service anymore, and God has been good us with this new parish.

Now back to my studies :)




At last, I see the harbor…

It’s Sunday afternoon, the day has been long and eventful. The grill is heating up in anticipation for some hamburger patties, Karan is sleeping on the couch and Michelle and I are just being quiet for a while.

We are tired, physically and emotionally. The process to get here has been a long and winding road, with traps, hurdles and some dangerous areas. But with perseverance we made it through, the ceremony was actually overwhelming. I’m a little shell shocked, I mumbled my “and with you also” during confirmation, I didn’t sign the cross when I received the host, but I did when I partook of the wine. The sanctuary was warm, tie and a jacket had me sweltering. I smell like Chrism Oil, and I’m not sure just how I feel yet. It’s all a giant blur, It hasn’t sunk in fully yet. It will, I just need time to let it settle.

There was a reception, but by the time we got there I was on the way to a full shutdown. When I’m overwhelmed with people and attention in a small place, I want to hide. It’s how I’m wired, I really mean no offense. I would rather have a beer, some close friends and a good honest laugh, I hate being the center of attention.

All that being said, we got through it all. It’s official, we are now fully Catholic. The Eucharist didn’t knock my socks off, I think I was too worried about what to say, and what to do. But I’m so thankful for my sponsor and the people who helped us get here, I think the process could have been A LOT smoother. But it is, what it is, and I’ll take it.

I’m looking forward to a quiet Mass next weekend, our first true mass at our new parish. I think it will all hit me then. It’s been a good day, we’ve made some friends for life. We finally made it home to where we belonged, and over the next couple of weeks we will have some time to reflect. Michelle can’t even think about it right now, there was so much that happened that it’s going to take a while to come to grips with it all. Karan our youngest was there see the whole ceremony, and that was blessing. We haven’t forced her, she’ll figure it out, she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever known. I pray that God reveals to her, his plan for her life, and that she can follow that.

There will be more to come, right now I’m so overwhelmed by the whole thing, I need to time to fully digest it all.

But we have arrived finally!!!

Thank You God…