If you’ve followed my blog or any of my social media platforms over the last few years or if you’ve spent much time around me during that time, you’ve probably noticed a difference.
I’m no longer protesting.
Here’s what I mean.
I grew up in a religious home. I grew up in a Protestant home. I grew up in a home that routinely criticized and even called into question the faith of people who were not Protestant, specifically those who were part of the Catholic Church. I want to be clear here. I’m not bashing my Protestant parents or relatives. I merely want to relate my experiences and perhaps it will resonate with you as well.
My “faith” meant almost nothing to me as a child and teenager. I didn’t understand most of what was talked about. I was “saved” at some point around the age of 8 because I said some prayer one Sunday morning, the “sinner’s prayer.” I have no memory of it but know I said it and made a “public profession of faith” and was baptized at some point soon thereafter.
It was not until many years later that I actually came to a saving faith in the person of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
Since my conversion and re-birth, I have walked a bit of a winding road. It has taken me through seminary (at a Baptist seminary), church planting, leaving the Baptist practice and becoming Reformed (Presbyterian), re-planting a church (tried to), completing the ordination process in the Anglican Church of North America to where I am today.
What has led me here is what I’d like to talk briefly about before launching into a series of posts about the beliefs and practices of the Church catholic.
I came out of Baptist seminary knowing beyond a doubt that I was not Baptist. It was a bit ironic to me that my professors encouraged us to love and read and study the Bible. But when I began to do the very thing my Baptist professors encouraged me to do, it led me away from the Baptist practice. There were things in the Scriptures that my Baptist friends simply could not answer for me or, if they did, I found their answers to be unsatisfying or explained away.
I’ll give you an example; actually I’ll give you two. The first was baptism. Baptists, of course, believe that baptism is only for those who have made a “public profession” of faith in Jesus. Nothing wrong with making a public profession of faith and being baptized but that didn’t seem to square (at least in my mind and reading) with most of the accounts of baptisms of converts in the book of Acts. Those accounts almost all involved household baptisms. Hmm….that seemed odd to me that members of the family of a professing Christian should be baptized without making a “public profession of faith” in Jesus. So as I dug deeper, I found myself in previously uncharted waters. I was developing what I believe is a more robust and biblical view of covenants and how those play out in the life of God’s people. Thus I became “reformed.”
The second example was the offices of the Church. I began an in-depth study of 1 Timothy in preparation for a sermon series I was going to preach at our church in Nashville (I was the lead pastor of a re-planting effort). As I began my exegetical work, I was a bit surprised to find that Paul uses three distinct Greek words for offices of the Church. He used the word ‘episkopos’ which is best translated ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer.’ He also used the word ‘presbuteros’ which is best translated ‘elder.’ And he used the word ‘diakonos’ which is best translated ‘deacon.’ I found that to be shocking to my formerly Baptist sensibilities. You mean Paul was advocating for three offices, not two?!
That led me to doing some study on the early Church. I thought, ‘Okay, these terms have been hotly contested for many years now. So, how did the earliest leaders of the Church after the Apostles take the meaning of these words?’ I was supremely surprised to find that they all, and I mean all, took it as three offices; bishop, presbyter and deacon. That was jarring for me.
You have to understand…actually, if you’re Protestant, you probably do understand. I was taught from a very young age that anything that looked or smelled or sounded remotely Catholic was evil. Not just, ‘Hey, this is how they do but we do it differently and that’s okay.’ No, I was taught that anything connected to Catholicism was evil.
This discovery about the practice of the early Church shook me to my core. I could not reconcile what I had been taught with either what the Bible said or with the practice of the Church. I didn’t know what to do. So I made a decision that has forever changed my life and the practice of the faith that has been handed down to us.
I went back to the beginning.
I wanted to know what else I had always been taught was contrary to the teaching of the early Church. I had to know how deep it went for me. So I went back to the beginning. I began to study the early Church and her writings. I began to read what we call the Fathers; mostly the Fathers of the early Church, i.e. the first 6 centuries of the Church. What I found shocked me and shook me.
I want to encourage my Protestant friends. Some of you have found modern Protestantism to be lacking in some things. I mean, when churches are dressing people up in movie costumes and having concerts that they call “worship” we’ve drifted a wee bit from a biblical practice so I get it. I want my discouraged Protestant friends to know that there are deeper wells out there. The wisdom of the Church in her reverent worship practices is out there for you. The water is warm.
I want to encourage my catholic friends, both Roman and otherwise. Some of you may not know why you do some of the things you do in worship or what it means or where it came from. You may not understand exactly what’s happening with all the symbolism and ritual. I want my catholic friends to know that those same deep wells are for you also. Go back and read and study as to why we do the things we do. Test what you do and say and believe in the teachings as they have been handed down from the beginning.
My prayer is that we may all be one again.
I fear we may not see that day until our Lord returns.
But we can all strive for it; for His glory and our good.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I’m grieving right now.
I’m grieving for the world.
I’m grieving for the United States.
I’m grieving for the people of El Paso and Dayton and countless other cities where too many people have lost their lives because we, in America, are addicted to our guns and our violence. I’m also grieving for the first responders.
These brave men and women give so selflessly of themselves to serve their communities. They suffer more than most of you reading this post will ever know. Many of them suffer in silence. Many of them drown their suffering in alcohol or pills or sex or suicide or whatever they can find to dull the pain.
I know they do this. I know because I did it.
Here’s the thing. Humans weren’t made for this. We weren’t made to murder each other. We weren’t made to take lives, including our own, through violence or any other means. How do I know this? Because I am a Christian and I believe God’s Word.
In the beginning, God created. He created all things that existed and He created mankind. He created mankind in His own image, to model and show the world what He was like. And when He had created mankind, He said it was “very good.” If you’ve never read the story or have never really reflected on it or just want to read it again, I invite you to read Genesis 1-3.
But something went wrong.
We chose. Adam chose. Mankind chose to turn our backs on our good Creator and go it our own way. Our pride drove us to make a decision that has proven to be catastrophic for the world. We chose disobedience over obedience. We chose our own will over God’s will. We chose our own way over God’s way. And sin entered the world.
Now look where we are.
We murder and slander and scream and eradicate and destroy and crush our fellow man and the world that God has created that He called good. We flounder around searching for answers to our own problems and yet turn our eyes and hearts away from the very person that can and has and will answer every question that we have, every answer we seek.
Here’s the reality. There are no answers to our problems in America or in the world without the person of Jesus Christ.
Education can’t be the answer. We’ve tried that. We are the most educated and advanced society the world has ever known. Yet, murder and suicide and assaults and vitriol and racism have never been more rampant. We are so busy shouting at each other and accusing one another and pointing fingers that we cannot see the forest for the trees. If education could solve our problems, we would not see racism and all the other problems we see.
Tolerance can’t be the answer. We’ve tried that. Only our so-called tolerance isn’t really tolerance. We are only tolerant of those who are like us, who agree with us. And so our shouting and biting words tear us apart.
There are no answers to our problems apart from the person of Jesus Christ.
While we grieve (rightly so) and demand change (also rightly so), let’s also not forget that there is very real human collateral damage here. Children are dying. Teenagers are dying. Adults are dying. First responders and soldiers suffer within their own hearts and minds the fall out of having to deal with constant death and depravity.
There are no answers to our problems apart from the person of Jesus Christ. It is only in Him that we will find the peace with ourselves and one another that we so desperately need and crave. So while we have our debates about gun control, racism and many other things, let us hear again the words of our Saviour.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
A Prayer for the Human Family (Book of Common Prayer):
O God, you made us in your own image, and you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!