HereÕs an email Pam sent to our Kids and me. None of us can believe she did this. IÕm still shaking my head.
Mon, 25 Jul 2005
I Went to Church with Tom
IÕd like to tell you of my church experience with Tom. He and I did a lot together this past weekend (including bowling—very fun) while my parents were in Alfred, NY attending my dadÕs 65th high school class reunion!!!! Before I returned him home Sunday night, we went to the Sunday evening service at his church, Evangel Baptist, on Telegraph and Pennsylvania Roads in Taylor, Michigan.
They are currently without a pastor since their senior pastor retired, and they had a guest speaker—a missionary from Bethlehem—who had slides of his little fledgling church. One slide had statistics about the population of Bethlehem, and 70% of the city is Catholic. He then proceeded to tell a series of stories about Catholics and their ignorance of the Bible, their breaking of the 3rd Commandment (worshiping graven images, because they have statues in their churches), their addition of 7 books into the Bible, and their practice of only praying once a week when they went to Mass, and baptizing infants, when they should be waiting until after they are saved. When he equated Catholics with Muslims and said he was there to teach them the truth, I could not sit in my seat any longer. I got up next to him in the pulpit and said Ņwith all due respect, I could not let him say wrong things about the Catholic Church anymore in front of the dear congregation of people, and asked if I could clarify some things. Of course, at that point one of the pastors came up and said he would talk to me on the side. But I said I had to say something in front of everyone, because I was raised thinking all these things were true about the Church, too, but then I learned the truth about what Catholics believe, and itÕs not what is being perpetuated among Protestant churches, and I canÕt let that continue. We donÕt worship idols, and we didnÕt insert books into the Cannon of Scriptures, (rather Protestants took them out), and I would have said more, but the pastor asked me to step out with him, so I did.
We talked in the lobby for another half hour until the service was done. Here is a sample of our conversation.
Me: I canÕt sit by and hear someone spread lies about the Catholic Church and listen to your congregation give assent with their ŅAmens!Ó and laughter to hear the silliness of Catholic people and their beliefs. ThatÕs how I was misinformed about the Catholic Church, too. Now that I know the truth, I canÕt sit by and let that happen anymore.
Pastor: Well, if you have questions about our beliefs, IÕd be glad to talk to you any time.
Me: No, I donÕt have any questions. I only want to make the point that this spreading of misinformation about the Church needs to stop. This is not helping the unity of Christians as Christ prayed for.
Look, do you have pictures of your family in your home? Well, back in the earliest times of the church, they didnÕt have photography, so they used sculpture/statues, ...paintings, and stained glass, to show the Holy Family (Mary & Joseph) and the disciples and other important people in ChristÕs life. That doesnÕt mean they worship these things. Have you ever been to a Mass?
Pastor: Yes, I have. And they do elevate Mary to a place above all other people, and donÕt they believe she was sinless? They even call it the Immaculate Conception.
Me: Yes, they do.
Pastor: Well, thatÕs where we disagree. No one is sinless since Adam and Eve.
Me: But Mary was chosen to be the New Eve....
(Another pastor came out and introduced himself and we did not pursue this line of conversation further, but I wish I had been able to say, ŅThe Bible even says that she is sinless! In Luke 1, what does the Angel Gabriel say to Mary? ŅHail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.Ó If you are full of grace, there is no room for any sin! ŅBlessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.Ó This beautiful Angel with direct access to God Almighty hails Mary as sinless and claims that she is blessed above all other women. ThatÕs why the Church calls her Queen of all Saints! Yes, she is elevated. The Angel straight from God said she was and the Church is merely perpetuating that truth.)
(Also, consider this: The Arc of the Covenant in the OT was so holy, no man could touch it without being struck dead. It had to be transported on poles and carried by priests. What did it carry? Symbols of Christ. --Manna (Jesus is the Bread of Life), The Ten Commandment Tablets (Jesus is the Word of God come to fulfill the Law), and the Budded Rod of Aaron (Jesus is the Resurrection). So, if the contents of the Arc were pointing to Christ, what was the Arc itself pointing to? Mary. Marry carried the Son of God in her womb for 9 glorious months. If God demanded that the OT Arc be untouched and reverenced, How much more the real living Arc of the NT. If God wants His Son carried by a sinless, holy temple, He can do that. HeÕs God! He found a way through the Immaculate Conception.)
Me: (My next concern had been the story the missionary told about him needing to correct the priest about the Cannon of Scripture—what books are accepted as part of the Bible.) Everyone in Protestantism has the story turned around. LutherÕs German Bible has all 73 books. Even the first King James Bible had the 7 ŅcontestedÓ books in it, which you refer to as the Apocrypha! The Protestants took them out after the Reformation.
Pastor: ThatÕs where we disagree.
Me: But, we donÕt have to, if you read history. History doesnÕt lie.
Pastor: Well, the Cannon was decided during the Councils of Nicaea and Trent.
Me: ThatÕs right, and who do you think called those Councils? The Catholic Church. There were Protestants there at Trent, yes, because they were invited! But, who was given authority to decide what books are in The Word of God and what are not? Not individuals (and not individual denominations)! The authority was given to the Church that Christ established through the Apostles!!! (I should have added, ŅThe Nicaean Creed calls the Church Ōthe One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.ÕÓ Do you accept that Creed?) So, after consulting with these councils, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide their decision, the Catholic Church proclaimed that the contested books should remain.
[Here are some facts I did not have at my fingertips at that time: The same list of books confirmed at the Synods of Hippo (393) and the three of Carthage (393, 397, and 419) and Council of Florence (1442), were also confirmed at the Council of Trent (1546, Session IV). In other words, that list was right from the beginning—the first 3 hundred years after the Church was established, and it was confirmed at the Council of Trent.]
Pastor: Well, weÕre just not going to agree on these things, but if you have any other questions, please feel free to come talk to me.
Me: But, I donÕt have questions. I just want to clear up what Protestants misunderstand about the Catholic Church, so we donÕt create greater divisions between us.
(At this point, a woman from the congregation approached us, still in the lobby, and said,... )
Woman: Pastor, you know me. You know that IÕm Catholic, and I go to Mass in the morning and your church at night. I bring people to your church with me and to my church, too. I love them both. And, you know I donÕt pray just once a week, and you know IÕm saved. That was not right what the missionary said about Catholics not praying much, and not being baptized right, and that Muslims and Catholics are to be grouped together as if they werenÕt even Christians. You have to speak to him about that. ThatÕs not right.
Pastor: OK, I can agree with that. IÕll speak to him after the service.
Me: But, in the meantime, everyone is saying, ŅAmen,Ó to everything he throws out there about Catholics, and your whole congregation is assenting, by their laughter, to the lies that are being told them. (And, I donÕt blame the missionary. He is just passing on what he thinks is the truth about Catholics.)
But, we have to stop this. ItÕs not bringing unity among Christians. ItÕs making Catholics appear as not even in the same ballpark as Christians.
Pastor: OK, IÕll speak to him. WeÕre getting together after the service.
Woman: Well, you have to agree that the missionary asking one Catholic woman how often she prayed does not give an accurate picture of how all Catholics are. Come on, Pastor, that was a cheap shot!
Me: You could get that response from any Protestant, as well. People do not always practice what their church teaches. For instance, the Church has scripture readings and prayers that they encourage Catholic Christians all over the world to pray every day, morning noon and night. No matter what their language, we have the same scriptures to read and prayers of meditation on any given day. Do all Catholics do that? No, but then do all Protestants pray every day either?
Pastor: Well, thatÕs a good point. Even for Baptists.
Woman: And, I bring Catholics to your services all the time. IÕd hate for them to hear what we ŅpreachÓ about them. Pastor, youÕve got to set them straight. Pastor, you know me. You know IÕm not like what heÕs describing Catholics to be.
Well, I have to go now. (And she left the church.)
Me: (I began to appeal to the other pastor.) Since you are a Baptist Church, letÕs talk about baptism. The missionary said baptism should be in a certain order with salvation, namely after one is saved. If the Bible is your only authority, what are you going to do with the scripture that says, ŅBaptism now saves you?Ó
Pastor 2: Yea, I know. It does say that. IÕve read that, too.
Pastor: But, we interpret scripture differently than you do.
Me: And where do you get the authority to do that?
Pastor: From the Holy Spirit!
Me: Then why do other people/pastors who claim the same thing (that the Holy Spirit is their authority to interpret the Bible) come up with different answers from you? If itÕs the same Holy Spirit, it has to be the same answer! Instead, trying to do this on our own has resulted in over 33,000 different denominations!
God knew we would need a way to interpret His Word, so he gave us the Church (with the Holy Spirit) to do that. The authority comes from Christ, to His Church, founded on the Apostles and passed on through the priesthood with the laying on of hands. You can go to any bookstore and buy a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church for $8 and know the truth about what the Catholic Church teaches! You donÕt have to misunderstand anymore or spread things that are not true. You can read it for yourself and also see the scriptures they use to back up their claims! ItÕs all written down for you to examine.
Pastor: Well, weÕre never going to agree, but if you have any questions for us...
Me: Please understand, I donÕt have any questions about what you believe. I only want you to be correct in what you teach your congregation about what Catholics believe! We do have to talk again, though.
Pastor: Thank you for your respectful manner in speaking with us. We would be glad to continue the discussion further any time.
Me: Thank you, too, for your kindness to me, for listening to my concerns, and for agreeing to speak to the missionary about the two areas you do agree he needs to be corrected in.
(IÕll just rephrase them now: 1] not generalizing about the whole Catholic Church on the basis of one Catholic personÕs practice, and 2] not grouping Catholics with Muslims but rather Catholics with Christians. Protestants and Catholics can learn much from each other, and we need to be telling the truth about each other.)
Well, I just thought it would be helpful for you to know that this happened, because as I was able to tell the congregation before I was ushered out, ŅI once believed all these same things about the Catholic Church that this dear missionary has said. But now that I know what the Church really believes and teaches, I cannot sit by and allow these misrepresentations of the truth of the Church be perpetuated any more.Ó
Thanks for listening.