Thursday, November 24, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 18 of 24

This is the eighteenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

18.  Using the KJV instead of a Catholic version.  It was stated that I should take a look at the KJV rather than use a Catholic version.  The argument is a common one: faulty Catholic doctrines are in part a result of faulty translations.  This statement can not be born out of careful comparison, because many Catholic and Protestant scholars alike say the difference between the best Protestant translations (including the KJV) and the best Catholic translations are quite small.  Every translation, ultimately, suffers by being a translation, but I can tell you that I feel very comfortable arguing for the Catholic faith from the KJV, and at times, I even prefer it.  I own and use the NIV, the KJV, the NKJV, the RSV, the NJB, the Douay-Reihms, and look at other translations online through sites like Bible-gateway.  In almost every case, the results are the same.  So, the argument that learning Christianity from the KJV instead of the Catholic version leads to a different Christianity doesn’t hold water.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 17 of 24

This is the seventeenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

17.  Baptist Converts to Catholicism.  I mentioned that I have an iPod full of the personal testimonies and conversion stories of Baptist pastors who have converted to Catholicism.   Now, I fully acknowledge that people convert from every church to every other church.  The reasons I brought up these stories are:
a) even though we all know in our minds that people convert in every different direction, it seems unthinkable to most Baptists that a Baptist pastor would convert to Catholicism;
b) what is important is not that Baptist pastors are converting, but why they are converting.  Why would they make such a huge personal sacrifice, where they give up their job, their pastorate, and often many friends, to join a church that, in many cases, they would have once said was the last church they would ever consider joining?

Yes, people leave Catholicism all the time.  In some cases, Catholics leave because they were very poorly catechized, went to a parish that was not very alive, and found a nice evangelical church much more friendly and welcoming.  To that, I say bravo to the evangelical churches!  Many Catholics are learning from you to improve our own church, and those of you who have converted to Catholicism bring rich graces into the life of the Catholic Church!  In other cases, Catholics leave because they have embraced a life of sin (either through contraception, divorce and remarriage, abortion, etc.) and have decided to find a denomination that teaches that these sins are okay.  Sometimes, Catholics also leave Catholicism because they have been taught lies by people who are against the Catholic Church, and leave the Catholic Church on the basis of these lies.  For instance, if I was gullible enough to believe the person from LBC who told me that we recrucify Christ in the Mass, I would leave the Catholic Church immediately, because the Bible clearly says (as the Baptist would definitely point out) that Christ was sacrificed “once for all.”  However, I know my faith, and I’m not gullible, so I can see through a false claim when one is presented to me.

Even though the motivations behind the types of conversion outlined above are very different, notice that neither one presents a good reason to leave or join any church.  (We shouldn’t leave because another church is friendlier, to avoid conversion from sin, or because we have been fed a lie.)  Rather, the main reason we should join a church is because it is true.  It is the truth that will set us free.

And…when you listen to these Baptist pastors who converted to Catholicism, they all say that as much as they loved being Baptist pastors, it was the truth of Catholicism that drew them in (even against their wills, sometimes).  As one book of conversion stories is titled, these converts were “surprised by truth.”

Here’s what I recommend: take some time and listen to 10 stories of Catholics who left the Church, and compare them to 10 stories of Baptist pastors who joined the Catholic Church.  Discern what all their motivating factors are, and most importantly, try to determine how well they seemed to have a grasp on their former faiths.  When people leave the church, are they headed toward a greater or lesser unity?  What about when people join the Catholic Church?

The easiest way to get to them is to get to Baptist pastors’ conversion stories to Catholicism is at EWTN.  Click on this link, and then enter “Journey Home” in the search space for “EWTN programs” (not “series”…you want the second space down).  This will bring you to over 600 conversion stories to the Catholic Church, many of them by Protestant ministers of one stripe or another.  Scroll through the pages to find stories of Baptist converts.  There are well over fifty of them.  Also look for “former fundamentalist,” or former “Bible missionary.”  These titles also apply well to people at a place like LBC.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 16 of 24

This is the eleventh part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

15.  “If we’re all saved, that’s basically all that matters.”  
One gentleman made it seem like there was no need to discuss differences if we were all already saved.  I think this a reductionistic view that is contrary to the love of God.  Jesus, out of love for us and a desire for everyone to be saved, offered his passion so that “we may be one” and that the “world may know” that the Father sent the Son.  Yet, this gentlemen’s attitude was more like: it doesn’t matter if we are one.  All that matters is that you are saved.

While being saved is an important thing, all of the Bible can not be boiled down just to being saved, if by “saved” you mean a person entering into a relationship with God through being forgiven of original and personal sins and regenerated.

Rather, God wants our salvation to be complete in Him, and that includes God’s family being unified.  The consequences of our salvation extend beyond the individual who is saved to the entire mystical body of Christ, God's people who were once scattered and are now gathered at and by the cross of Christ.

This gentleman’s view of salvation seems to be a lot narrower than what Jesus himself wants for his followers.  Jesus wants to give us more.  Lord, give us hearts that are open to more of what you want to give to us!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 15 of 24

This is the fifteenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

15. “I believe there are saved Catholics.” 
 I was really confused by this statement, since Pastor Witmer on multiple occasions has grouped Catholics together with unbelievers, atheists, Satanists, Occults, etc. Further, Baptists usually seem to take a special delight when a Catholic converts, as if they have been rescued from the bondages of “Romanism” and been introduced to true Christianity. When you say that you believe there are Catholics who are saved, are you sure? Is it possible, in your mind, to have entered into an authentic relationship with Christ yet believe in transubstantiation, infant baptism, veneration of Mary, etc.?

Or, do you think that Catholics who are saved must not really follow their Church in these areas…and are thus not really Catholics.

I’ve told you in this letter that I consider you my brothers and sisters in Christ. How do you view faithful Catholics such as myself, who genuinely love and follow our Lord and the Catholic Church, which we believe He established?

Shameless Popery: Treating Jesus as a King Without a Kingdom

Shameless Popery: Treating Jesus as a King Without a Kingdom: One of the most important points to understand about Catholicism is that the truth of the Catholic Church flows from the truth of Jesus Christ. Her status is inexorably tied up with His. I've been reading John Allen's book-length interviews with Archbishop Dolan, A People of Hope. I'm excited to do a full review of it soon (it's a superb book), but I wanted to go ahead and highlight something that Abp. Dolan said, because I think it illustrates this point neatly:
Just as most people missed the divine in Jesus because of his humanity, so do most people miss Jesus in the Church because of our earthiness, because we are clumsy, we are sinful, we are awkward. But this is how Jesus continues to radiate his grace and mercy, through the Church. That’s the leap of faith today. I think Father Ron Rolheiser says it well: We want a king without the kingdom; we want a shepherd without the other sheep; we want a father, with us as the only child; we want a general without an army; we want to believe without belonging.
There are two points to make about this: first, that the success of the Church flows from the success of Christ; and second, that we need to change our thinking about salvation.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 14 of 24

This is the fourteenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

13. “Baptism does not save you.” The kind lady who was out walking told me this, and when I told her that the Bible actually says the exact opposite…well, I don’t think she believed me.

Here is the KJV translation of 1 Peter 3:18–21:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Other translations put it, “baptism…now saves us.”

Now, I fill be the first to tell you that taking a bath in mere water does not save anyone. But the Catholic Church has NEVER taught that baptism is a mere washing with water. Also, the Catholic Church has NEVER taught that baptism is a work that we humans do to “work” our way to heaven.

Rather, baptism is a work that God does on our soul, but he does this work using physical matter for our sake as humans (who are both body and soul). Obviously, Jesus could have healed the blind man by saying, “be healed.” But Jesus saw fit to rub spit and mud on the man’s eyes and have him wash it off. Likewise, Jesus heals us of sin in baptism using matter, though it is obviously not the matter itself that does the healing. Baptism is Jesus’s work on our souls through water AND Spirit.

Okay, now consider Baptism for a moment in Scripture. When Jesus says we must be “born anothen” in John 3:3, he immediately expands on what he means by using a parallel expression that we must be “born of water and spirit.” Put the two expressions together, and you get Jesus saying: “you must be born again of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Two points: 1) most Baptists imagine a born again experience to have nothing to do with water, and 2) Jesus joins water and spirit, and in doing so he is joining two things that we find inseparable throughout Scripture.

For instance, consider:
➢ Genesis 1:1—the spirit hovered over the waters out from which came the first creation. We are new creations in Christ, and we arise as new creations from the waters and spirit of baptism.
➢ Genesis 7-9—We see waters cleansing the earth of sin, and the spirit (in the form of the dove) bringing the olive branch of peace and salvation to Noah. In 1 Peter 3:21, Peter specifically cites this as a type of baptism, where Christians in the New Covenant are saved through water and spirit, not by the water’s washing, but by the appeal of a clean conscience brought forth by the spirit…and all this occurs, says Peter, IN BAPTISM! (Keep in mind as well that the Ark is itself a type of the New Covenant Church, which as a whole is saved through the waters and spirit of baptism.)
➢ Exodus 14: Moses crossing the Red Sea. Remember, Moses and Israel were saved from bondage (sin) through water that was parted by a strong wind (the Spirit) to enter the promised land (a type of heaven). Once again, we see water and spirit bound together in Scripture.
➢ Let’s jump ahead now (skipping things like the Jewish rites of purification, which was what the stone jars at the Marriage Feast of Cana were for, by the way…) So, Jesus once again reaffirms the connection between water and spirit as a vehicle for communicating our salvation to us. You could think of all of the Old Testament as a divine pedagogy for recognizing and appreciating everything Jesus does in the New Testament. But does Jesus’s teaching that we must be “born again of water and spirit” really mean baptism? Let’s look at the context of John 3:
➢ John 1: What is going on here? Baptism! And when John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, what appears? The Spirit, in the form of a dove, and the voice of God is heard calling Jesus His son. Likewise, when we are baptized, the Spirit works on our souls and we are made into children of God.
➢ John 2: At the Wedding Feast of Cana, Jesus performs his first miracle using the water in the stone jars for the Jewish Rites of Purification. What were these rites a pre-figurement of? Baptism.
➢ John 3: “You must be born again of water and spirit.” This is the only way that Nicodemus, who approached Jesus at night (in a state of spiritual darkness), can move into salvation (spiritual light). According to Jesus, it must involve water and spirit. Jesus joins them together; let no man put them asunder!
➢ John 3: What do the apostles do right after Jesus teaches this to Nicodemus? They go out baptizing!
➢ John 4: By John 4, how has John framed Jesus’s promise of a “spring of living water welling up to eternal life”? Baptism.
➢ When Jesus dies on the cross, John notices the following: Jesus gives up his spirit, and then water and blood flow from his side. The early church saw in this moment a profound image: Just as the first Eve was born from the side of the first Adam, the new Eve (the Church) is born out of the side of the new Adam (Christ), and the Church is joined to the bridegroom precisely through the water (Baptism) and the blood (the Eucharist).

So, Baptism is never thought of in Scripture as just a bath in water. Rather, it is in Baptism that Jesus Christ saves us. Our salvation is something Jesus does on us, and the Bible says that Baptism is when he does it:
➢ 1 Peter 3:21: “baptism…now saves us.”
➢ Romans 6: “baptized into Jesus Christ”
➢ Romans 6: “baptized into His death”
➢ Romans 6: “buried with him by baptism”
➢ Colossians 2:12: “buried with him in baptism”
➢ Titus 3:5: “he saved us, by the washing of regeneration”
➢ Acts 2:38: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Now, even if you don’t agree with the interpretation above, can you at least see that Christians (Catholic and Protestant) who believe in baptismal regeneration have a Biblical basis for believing this? Add to this the fact that all the students of the apostles and their successors, for the first centuries of Christian history and for many centuries beyond, all believed in baptismal regeneration, and I think the case tilts strongly in the Catholic direction.

Finally, note that what Catholics are accused of (trying to be saved by a mere washing in water)…IS NOT ACTUALLY WHAT CATHOLICS BELIEVE! We believe we are saved by the “water and spirit” of baptism. Jesus joins the two together. Baptists separate them, and then pick on people for believing in water-only baptism, even though NO ONE ACTUALLY ATTEMPTS TO DO WATER-ONLY BAPTISM BUT BAPTISTS (and other Christians who deny baptismal regeneration).

For Catholics, baptism means what Jesus said it means: “water AND spirit.”  What God has joined together...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 13 of 24

This is the thirteenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

13. Do this in REMEBRANCE of me.  Many Baptists with whom I have spoken have turned to this word spoken by Jesus at the last supper to deny the very words that Jesus had just spoken: “this is my body.”

In a nutshell, the Catholic argument is: Jesus said “this is my body.” Jesus said “truly, truly I say unto you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you” (John 6) Jesus said it, Christians have always believed it since the beginning (except those in John 6:66 who turned away and did not follow Jesus any longer), and I see no reason to deny the clear teaching of my Lord.

Now, the problem with how many Baptists interpret the word “remembrance” is they look the word up in their Webster’s dictionary and they interpret it within the framework of 21st-century notions of metaphysics.  Doing so, they draw the conclusion that something that is “remembered” is not present, but rather thought about as a past event.  It is only present in the memory and in the symbols we use to remember it, but the thing symbolized is itself absent.  Our 21st-century metaphysics tell us that remembering something does not make it present in any way, shape, or form.

The problem with this interpretation is that Jesus wasn’t using the word with 21st-century dictionaries and metaphysics in mind.

The word for “remembrance” was a special Greek word, anamnesis, that was used in the Old Testament primarily in the context of the Jewish Passover and other sacrifices, the very salvation event that Jesus, the true Passover, was in the act of fulfilling.  So, if you want to understand “remembrance” in context, then turn not to Webster but to the Old Testament Passover ritual and sacrifices.  When you “study this out,” you’ll find that every time anamnesis is used in the Old Testament Hebrew and Greek cultures, it was in connection with sacrifice (see Numbers 10:10, for instance).  Thus, Jesus is connecting what he is doing in the last supper with the “new covenant,” with the “Passover,” and with “sacrifice.”  We know that Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” and John points out how sour wine was offered to Jesus on the cross using a hyssop branch, the same branch used at the original Passover in Egypt to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of those who were “passed over”.  We also see that not a bone in Jesus’s body is broken: he is truly the Lamb of God, offered for our salvation on the cross.  (There are many other connections, John is pointing out, but you probably already know them, so I’ll move on.)

Yet, the sacrifice of Calvary begins in the upper room, where Jesus freely offered his body and blood in the first Mass.  And just like the ancient Jews had to eat the Lamb (or else their first born son would die), we also have to eat the lamb, but not by consuming our Lord’s body and blood in a bloody manner.   Rather, at the last supper, our Lord provides a way that we can commune with him in His fullness: through the Eucharistic sacrifice. 

That is why Jesus didn’t just offer his body and blood, but said, “take this eat…do this as a memorial sacrifice of my offering” which gets us closer to the meaning of anamnesis.  I recommend taking a look at this article for more on this topic:

Even better would be to buy Brant Pitre’s book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.  Or, check out his talks on this very subject here.

I have a LOT more to say on this subject below when I talk about how Catholics understand the Mass, and why the Mass is not a “recrucifixion of Christ.”


Okay, I think that gets us through everything we spoke about.

I’ll try to be a bit briefer with the topics that I believe were covered by the other group. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shameless Popery: Martin Luther and the Book of James

And another terrific post by Joe Heschmeyer, this time on Martin Luther's assessment of the book of James...and what this says about the reliability of Luther's understanding of Justification in other Biblical texts (esp. Paul).

The combox discussion is also quite illuminating...

Here's the link:

Shameless Popery: Martin Luther and the Book of James: Martin Luther's hostility to the Book of James is well-known, and I've mentioned it in other contexts, but I wanted to consider today the im...

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 12 of 24

This is the twelfth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

12.  The Latin Mass.
Thanks for bringing up the Latin Mass. I love both the older Latin form of the Mass and the New, vernacular form as well. The language used at Mass is not a doctrinal issue, and so there is no problem with people using either one.

Also, make sure you think about the use of Latin historically and with all the facts.

For much of Church history, Latin was a language that common church-goers knew, so we shouldn’t imagine that no one understood the Mass until Vatican II began allowing the vernacular languages to be used. Further, even as time went on and fewer and fewer people knew the Latin language, the prayers of the Mass were often learned through repetition of hearing them, and children were educated in Latin as a second language, so many people understood the Latin being used. Even I have almost no training in Latin, but I know the Mass well enough to be able to follow the words in Latin. (It really isn’t that hard!) On top of that, after the invention of the printing press, the Church made available “missals,” a booklet that contained the Latin prayers of the Mass on one side and the translation on the other, just so that everyone could follow along if they needed/wanted to. And finally, the parts of the Mass that were not repeated every week, most especially the sermon on the four to five bible readings, were always given in the vernacular language. In fact, for the last five hundred years or so (the period where the Latin language fell out of general use), the priest at Mass would usually begin by translating at least the Gospel (if not more) into the vernacular language.

Here’s a little story that might help give you a different perspective on the use of Latin.

Imagine your family eating at a dinner table. You all speak the same language, and you use that language to bond with one another, sharing stories, creating unique turns of phrases that only your family understands, and passing on memories of what grandpa said, using that funny word that he loved to say, and that unique inflection that he always gave it. Over the decades, you watch your children grow, until they start bringing their own children with them to the dinner table. You pass on the family stories, raise them to know what it means to be a member of the Hall family, and share with the grandchildren the same laughs about (great-)grandpa that have enlivened family dinners for generations. Eventually your children’s children begin showing up to the dinner table with their children. You are by now an old man, but you relish returning week after week with your family that has, over the years, remained unified as a loving family, sharing stories, laughs, tears, memories, and the joy of family life.

Then one day, something changes.

A great-grandchild shows up to the table and has chosen to begin speaking a new language. That child doesn’t mean badly, but in choosing the new language, he forgets almost all of the older, family language. It doesn’t effect things too much at first: the child still kind of understands the stories about grandpa and most of the inside jokes are not lost on him.

But the trend continues.

Within a few months, almost all of the grandchildren have started speaking a new language, and none of them have chosen the same ones. Out of love, you and your children begin learning these languages so that you can do your best to translate the family tradition into these new tongues.

But you quickly realize that some of the most precious memories, stories, and laughs only make sense in the original language. In fact, the entire family identity would be lost if the original language itself was abandoned. With it, the unity of the family, bound up in the entire history and memory of the family would dissolve.

Now, if you are a family man like I am, the sense of horror at the dissolution of the family makes one want to cry: “Stop! Keep the traditions alive! Don’t give up the family language!”

One hopes and prays that the children are only going through a phase and will one day desire to know their roots enough to at least try to understand the family language enough to learn her history, her story, and the unique forms of expression and address that bind her into a solid unit.

My friend, the Catholic Church has always struck a great balance between preserving the family language while doing everything in her power to make that language accessible (relative to the need for accessibility) to the “great grandchildren” of the family. Like I said, the Church has made the translation available for anyone who wanted to follow along, and the non-repeating parts of the Mass were always spoken in the vernacular. Anyone who really wanted to understand could; they just had to pick up a missal.

I don’t know Latin or Greek, but I know the prayers that are still prayed at Mass in these languages, and you probably do to. “Kyrie Elieson” means “Christ have Mercy.” “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi” means “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…” It is a prayer that every Catholic around the world prays at least four times in every Mass, and this prayer shows that any true, faithful Catholic trusts in Jesus as savior. (Long tangent: They might not always articulate this trust in the terms that a fundamentalist Baptist in your neck of the woods would use, but that doesn’t mean that these Catholics do not accept that Christ is their savior. That’s why it is unfathomable to me that Pastor Witmer can group Catholics in general with unbelievers, Satanists, etc., as I have heard him do in multiple sermons. I trust that he is not speaking out of malice, so I can only conclude that he is almost completely ignorant about Catholicism, and I feel quite sorry for the people who believe that the things he says about Catholics are true. He, and these people, will one day have to give an account before God as to why they would believe and share such negative things about other Christians without first checking to see if they were even true. Now, remember, there will always be sinful Catholics, and there will be Catholics who show up and warm a pew each week but who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. But that doesn’t at all mean that all Catholics don’t have a relationship with Jesus. I am almost certain that Baptist have their pew warmers as well, though it would be wrong of me to judge your church by the weakest members in her!)

You might be interested to know that the great-grandchildren have made it through their “phase.” In the Catholic Church, the youth (such as myself) are beginning to tap into their roots and request the availability of the Latin Mass. We appreciate now that some doctrines can’t be communicated with accuracy in every language, we’ve seen too many translators try to “tamper” with Mass translations (often resulting in a watering-down of the faith), and we are learning to understand the Bible and the liturgy in their original languages. Many of us now realize that the great experiment of changing the Mass into the vernacular didn’t really do anything to increase our engagement (at Mass, I still see people who sit there bored and unengaged…perhaps the problem isn’t one of the language but of the human condition!). In contrast, in every Latin Mass I have attended, there is a profound sense of reverence, focus, attention, and worship.

That being said, many others prefer the Mass in the vernacular, and this is perfectly acceptable. There is no reason for Christians to be divided over options when both options are good and acceptable.

Now, returning to our story:

How would you feel (as the head of the family) if a neighbor from outside the family showed up at the door and began chastising you for trying (just as your longstanding family identity is beginning to slip away) to maintain the family language in reasonable ways?

How do you think I feel as a Catholic when people outside the “immediate” family show up at the door and chastise the Catholic Church for trying to maintain the family language in a reasonable way? The only difference is, the Catholic Church is trying to protect memories and traditions and truths that are far more valuable than those of your or my biological families.