Friday, March 28, 2008

Christological Potpourri: Jesus' Soul, His Omnipresence, and "Worship" of the Father

By Dave Armstrong (3-28-08)

From the CHNI board. I'll paraphrase the initial questions in blue.

* * * * *

March 25

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Commonly called Lady Day

from Butler's Lives of the Saints for March 25, page 674:
. . . the mystery of love and mercy promised to mankind thousands of years earlier, foretold by so many prophets, desired by so many saints, is accomplished upon earth. In that instant the Word of God becomes for ever united to manhood: the soul of Jesus Christ, produced from nothing, begins to enjoy God and to know all things, past, present and to come: at that moment God begins to have a worshipper who is infinite, and the world a mediator who is omnipotent: and to the working of this great mystery Mary alone is chosen to co-operate by her free assent.
Was Jesus in two (or all) places at once during His earthly life? Was He omnipresent?

According to the Church, in His human nature, Jesus was not omnipresent, but in His divine nature (that was always present alongside His human nature) He continued to be omnipresent. This is an aspect of the Hypostatic Union. In the Incarnation, Jesus took on human nature, but He retained His divine nature (which was necessarily the case, since God in His essence cannot change, and Jesus is God).

It gets extremely heavy, but here is how Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott describes this aspect of Christology, the communicatio idiomatum:
The human and the divine activities predicated of Christ in Holy Writ and in the Fathers may not be divided between persons or hypostases, the Man-Christ and the God-Logos, but must be attributed to the one Christ, the Logos become Flesh . . . It is the Divine Logos, who suffered in the flesh, was crucified, and rose again . . .

(Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 144)

Christ's Divine and Human characteristics and activities are to be predicated of the one Word Incarnate. (De fide.)
As Christ's Divine Person subsists in two natures, and may be referred to either of those two natures, so human things can be asserted of the son of God and Divine things of the Son of Man.

[ . . .]

The nature of the Hypostatic Union is such that while on the one hand things pertaining to both the Divine and Human nature can be attributed to the person of Christ, on the other hand things specifically belonging to one nature cannot be predicated of the other nature [Lutherans fall into this error]. Since concrete terms (God, Son of God, Son of Man, Christ the Almighty) designate the Hypostasis and abstract terms (Godhead, humanity, omnipotence) the nature, the following rule may be laid down: communicatio idioamatum fit in concreto, non in abstracto. The communication of idioms is valid for concrete terms not for abstract ones. So, for example: The Son of Man died on the Cross; Jesus created the world. The rule is not valid if . . . the concrete term is limited to one nature. Thus it is false to say "Christ has suffered as God." "Christ created the world as a human being." It must also be observed that the essential parts of the human nature, body and soul are referred to the nature, whose parts they are. Thus it is false to say: "Christ's soul is omniscient," "Christ's body is ubiquitous."

Further, predication of idioms is valid in positive statements not in negative ones, as nothing may be denied to Christ which belongs to Him according to either nature. One, therefore, may not say: "The Son of God has not suffered," "Jesus is not almighty."

(Ott, pp. 160-161; italics added)
So Jesus has a soul? If so, where is His soul now?

In heaven at the right hand of God. Jesus continues to be one Divine Person (God the Son) with a human nature and a divine nature. He rose from the dead and possessed (unlike the Father or Holy Spirit) a glorified human body, that continues to exist forever. Along with His human nature and body is also human intellect and a human soul. The soul is a human thing: the immaterial and immortal part of a human being: the portion that continues when the body dies, and where our identity really lies. So when Christ took on human nature He also acquired a soul. God the Father doesn't have a soul, nor does God the Holy Spirit.

For more on this, see: Catholic Encyclopedia: "Knowledge of Christ".

How do Catholics distinguish between "soul" and "spirit"?

From Catholic Encyclopedia: "Spirit":
(Latin spiritus, spirare, "to breathe"; Gk. pneuma; Fr. esprit; Ger. Geist). As these names show, the principle of life was often represented under the figure of a breath of air. The breath is the most obvious symptom of life, its cessation the invariable mark of death; invisible and impalpable, it stands for the unseen mysterious force behind the vital processes. Accordingly we find the word "spirit" used in several different but allied senses: (1) as signifying aliving, intelligent, incorporeal being, such as the soul; (2) as the fiery essence or breath (the Stoic pneuma) which was supposed to be the universal vital force; (3) as signifying some refined form of bodily substance, a fluid believed to act as a medium between mind and the grosser matter of the body.

. . . In Theology, the uses of the word are various. In the New Testament, it signifies sometimes the soul of man (generally its highest part, e.g., "the spirit is willing"), sometimes the supernatural action of God in man, sometimes the Holy Ghost ("the Spirit of Truth Whom the world cannot receive"). The use of this term to signify the supernatural life of grace is the explanation of St. Paul's language about the spiritual and the carnal man and his enumeration of the three elements, spirit, soul, and body, . . .

(cf. Catholic Encyclopedia: "Soul")
Was Butler implying that Jesus Christ was created?

We mustn't ever say "creation of Jesus Christ." That is the Arian heresy (now held by Jehovah's Witnesses and Christadelphians) that reduces Jesus to a mere creature. What was created was Jesus' human body and soul and human intellect. That was the new thing: "God became man." The quote in Butler (above) was:
. . . the soul of Jesus Christ, produced from nothing . . .
God gained a worshiper at the Incarnation that He didn't have before? Huh?

The worship of Jesus towards His Father is a bit different insofar as this is one member of the Godhead paying homage to another, whereas our worship is that of the fundamentally and essentially lesser or inferior creature towards the infinite Creator (adoration). With Jesus and His Father, it is the relationship of subordination that Jesus willingly took on when He became man (Philippians 2:5-11: what is called the kenosis). In that sense he "worships" His Father, while at all times remaining equal to Him in essence.

Accordingly, I submit that this distinction may be the reason why I haven't been able to find anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus "worships" the Father (Greek: proskuneo), or "the Son worshiped the Father," etc. If anyone finds such a verse, please let me know. The Greek word (usually "worship" in English translation) is frequently applied to people worshiping Jesus or the Father.

But, of course, as an observant Jew, Jesus attended Temple and synagogue services and worshiped the Father insofar as the services involved that. One might say this was similar to His getting baptized, even though He had no sin to get rid of. It was more of a love relationship and the submission of Son to Father within the trinitarian Godhead, without implying inequality. Jesus also "submitted" to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51) and He certainly wasn't inferior to them.

See also: Catholic Encyclopedia: "Christian Worship".

Is it true and correct to assert that Jesus was not fully divine from eternity?

The heresy of Nestorianism claimed that Jesus grew in consciousness to figure out that He was God. This is in direct contradiction to the orthodox Christology of the Council of Chalcedon in 451, but it is very common in liberal theological circles and even (mostly unwittingly) in more orthodox Protestant realms.

The Butler quote merely stated that the soul of Jesus had a beginning; was created. That's perfectly orthodox and doesn't deny His divinity in the least. To say that Jesus was created, on the other hand, is the heresy of Arianism.

The Incarnation was something new, that had a starting-point in time. But the divinity of Jesus never had a beginning anymore than the divinity of God the Father or the Holy Spirit did. All three Persons are eternal, and God. The Hypostatic Union was the development in Christology that sought to explain the relationship of the Divine and Human Natures in Jesus. He acquired the latter but always possessed the former, from eternity.

Lots of folks today either don't understand these things or outright deny them. This is why we have the Church, to guide us into correct theology, because, as with a journey to another town, a mere foot in the wrong direction initially can lead to being 500 miles off-target later on.

* * *

Does 1 Corinthians 15:28 suggest worship of the Father from the Son?
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one.
(RSV, as throughout; Rheims / KJV: "all in all")
Also, Jesus says:
John 8:28–29 When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.

John 14:28 The Father is greater than I.
* * *

I'd still have to say, though, that those come under the general area of "submission" rather than worship per se. I would note, too, that we have the motif of Jesus submitting to the Father, but there are also indications of something roughly (but probably not quite) the opposite of that. You noted 1 Corinthians 15:28: "that God may be all in all" but there is also Colossians 3:11: ". . . Christ is all, and in all."

Note that the Jehovah's Witnesses distort this verse (1 Cor 15:28) and also John 14:28 to "prove" that Jesus was a created being and lesser than God. The following passages round out the "biblical picture" a bit:

John 16:15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16:23-24 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

* * *

Orthodox Christology depends very much on how we phrase things (just like the old conciliar discussions of homoousion). As a human baby, Jesus did not understand all things. His human nature was limited and so He had to learn within that nature, like anyone else. But the Divine Nature was also present at all times, side-by-side with the human, and in the Divine Nature He did understand all things, being omniscient. And what is said of the Divine Nature can be said of Jesus the Person. It's tough to discuss because the categories (like the Holy Trinity) are foreign to our own experience. But we have no choice. This is how God has revealed Himself.

Explain how Jesus could be present in heaven as God while He was also present here on earth? This is difficult for us to grasp.

Jesus was a Spirit (the Logos / Word) before He became a man. He didn't cease to become a divine spirit when He became man, because God is a Spirit, and God is omniscient. On the other hand, Jesus' unique role in the Holy Trinity is to be a flesh-and-blood man, so in a sense He is "completed" at the Incarnation, and so I think we can say that the "whole Jesus" as He would be henceforth for eternity (in a glorified sense) was present on the earth when He was here with us, in the first century.

It's no more implausible or difficult to accept, I think, that Jesus could be bodily on the earth (as Messiah and God the Incarnate Son) and spiritually in heaven (as Logos) at the same time, as it is to believe that God can be three Persons simultaneously and remain one God, with the Son on earth praying to the Father in heaven (and both being the one God), the Father sending the Son, the Holy Spirit indwelling all believers, etc. It's another mystery, for sure, but no more so than what we are already familiar with.

Orthodox Christians emphasize that the entire Incarnation, and Jesus' entire life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension saves us, as opposed to Jesus' death on the cross alone, and that human nature is raised to partake in a sense in divine nature (theosis or divinization).

I love theosis, and have written about it. It's true that the East emphasizes this more, but it is contrary to nothing in Western Christianity, and the Catechism mentions it several times (#398, 460, 1129, 1265, 1812, 1988).

In fact, our emphasis on things like the Mediatorship of Mary could be defended by analogy on these grounds (as I have done). God makes us more like Him and so He chooses to distribute grace through Mary. That's because God has raised human beings (and especially the Blessed Virgin) to such a high state due to the Incarnation.

* * *

The citation from Ott is very abstract and heavy. I always have to read it several times myself to make sure I grasp it (as all truly good philosophy requires one to do). The key is the following portion:
As Christ's Divine Person subsists in two natures, and may be referred to either of those two natures, so human things can be asserted of the son of God and Divine things of the Son of Man.
To say, for example, "Jesus is omnipresent," is perfectly fine, because Jesus is the Person Who has the Two Natures. Whatever is true in either Nature can be said of the Divine Person, Jesus. A dim analogy would be our possessing both a body and a soul. What is true of either can be referred to us as a person:
"My (i.e., this person, Dave Armstrong's) soul cannot be physically harmed or destroyed."
"I (i.e., my body) can be physically harmed or killed."
When I say "I will live forever" that is primarily referring to my immaterial soul (though we will receive resurrection bodies too). If I say "I will die, just like every other person," then I am referring to the limitations of a physical body. Death, in fact, is literally the separation of soul and body. It is not the destruction of the soul (as in the false view of annihilation or denial of immortality of the soul). Therefore, death by definition must refer to only one part of us ceasing to exist (our body) but not the other part, the soul. But we generally simply say, "I will eventually die."

With Jesus it is a little more complex, because He is both God and Man, and He has a Divine Nature and a Human Nature side-by-side, and these are not identical. We can assert, "Jesus is omnipresent" because in His Divine Nature He is. We can also say "Jesus learned like a man" or "Jesus was in one place at one time while on the earth" because those statements are referring to His Human Nature (without saying it: it is the unspoken premise).

We can even say (somewhat surprisingly at first glance) that "God died." That is orthodox Catholic theology, because Jesus was God. God became Man, and this Divine Person and Man died (i.e., in His Human Nature). Therefore, God died.

What we can't do is confuse the natures with each other, and say something like "In His Human Nature, Jesus was omnipresent." That is untrue. We can't say, "Jesus as the Eternal Word / Logos before the Incarnation was spatially limited." He (as Logos) isn't in space at all, because He is a spirit. And as an eternal Spirit, He wasn't in time, either, so to even refer to "was" in this context is inaccurate (which is why Jesus said, "before Abraham was, I am" -- John 8:58).

The reasoning is also similar in the theology of Mary as Theotokos, or "Mother of God" or "God-bearer." We can say that because Jesus is God! Mary didn't just give birth to the Human Nature of Jesus, but to the Divine Person, Jesus. Therefore, we can assert that she was the Mother of God. She bore, of course (another unspoken, assumed premise) the incarnate God (as opposed to the eternal Spirit Who cannot be conceived and given birth to, being both Spirit and eternal and ungenerated), but He was still God.

As another way of looking at it, we don't describe human mothers in the following ways: "she gave birth to a soul" or "Sue gave birth to yet another human body at 4:03 AM today." We say, "Jane gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Bocephus, at 4:03 AM today." We say this, knowing that the soul is a direct creation of God. Birth is not creation, but procreation. Parents played a role in the physical bodies of their offspring (by genetics and reproduction) but not the souls. Yet we always refer to the person born, who is composed of both body and soul.

Thus, we could state, "Jane gave birth to Bocephus, who possesses an eternal soul made in the image of God."

Another (quite imperfect) analogy would be our struggle between "flesh" and "spirit." They are two parts of us that war against each other. We are fallen creatures and children of Adam, yet when regenerated we become children of God. When we're led by the Indwelling Spirit we are doing what we are created to do, but when led by the flesh or the devil, through concupiscence and temptation, we are following another spirit.

All these analogies are trying to show instances of one person who has more than one part. In Jesus' case (Two Natures or Hypostatic Union) they always work together and are harmonious, though distinct. The same applies to the distinction of Persons within the Holy Trinity.

Created human beings have a body and a soul, and a flesh and a spirit (in the spiritual sense). The huge and essential difference in our case is that we have internal conflict, whereas God does not. But the analogies help us to comprehend how Jesus could have both a Divine and Human Nature.

I love "analogical argument." I hope this has been helpful and not further confusing. It helps me, too, to better understand the Incarnation and the Hypostatic Union, even while I am writing.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brief Presentation of the Theistic Arguments from Beauty and Longing

By Dave Armstrong (3-27-08)

I think the theist can make a strong, general appeal to beauty and aesthetics as an intrinsic part of the universe, and as necessary in their own way as breathing and brain waves. I would contend that there is a link between the beauty we perceive in the order and proportion, dramatic contrast, design, symmetry, color, etc., of creation, and the God Who lies behind all that.

In other words, it could be argued as a subset of the teleological argument for God (the argument from design). Plenty of atheists or non-Christian types have made statements along these lines. Albert Einstein (a sort of pantheist) comes to mind:
Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe -- a spirit vastly superior to that of man . . . In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort . . .

(To student Phyllis Right, who asked if scientists pray; January 24, 1936)

In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God.

(to German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Hubertus zu Lowenstein around 1941)

Then there are the fanatical atheists . . . They are creatures who can't hear the music of the spheres.

(August 7, 1941)

My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.

(To a banker in Colorado, 1927. Cited in the New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955)

I commented on these statements:
Now, I ask atheists: whence comes Einstein's "deeply felt conviction"? Is it a philosophical reason or the end result of a syllogism? He simply has it. It is an intuitive or instinctive feeling or "knowledge" or "sense of wonder at the incredible, mind-boggling marvels of the universe" in those who have it. Atheists don't possess this intuition, but my point is that it is not utterly implausible or unable to be held by even the most rigorous, "non-dogmatic" intellects, such as Einstein and Hume. And the atheist has to account for that fact somehow, it seems to me.
The other approach I would use is the "argument from longing." Many atheists feel this longing or deep yearning in the enjoyment of nature or a great cathedral. We can build on that and construct a persuasive argument from it that can be interesting to them and non-confrontational.

Those are two possible ways to approach such subjects with atheists and agnostics (as good as any).

Catholic Predestination, Molinism, and Thomism in a Nutshell

By Dave Armstrong (3-27-08)

The Catholic teaching is neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian, though we are constantly falsely accused of this by Calvinists and even in the Lutheran confessions. Calvinists also unfairly accuse Arminian Protestants (including Lutherans) of semi-Pelagianism. Basically, many Calvinists (with their "either/or" mentality) collapse any position that holds to free will and predestination in paradox, as both true (like the Bible does), as Pelagian. It can't comprehend God predestining alongside human beings with free will. Its presuppositions don't allow that.

Nor can many Lutherans (who are Arminians) comprehend that Catholic soteriology is non-Pelagian, because we believe in things like merit, penance, and purgatory. They can't wrap their minds around those things as grace-caused and grace-soaked, and so they (in their own "official" confessions) accuse us of Pelagianism too. It's not true.
Catholics break down into two camps on the predestination issue: Thomism and Molinism. Sometimes Thomists accuse Molinists of being semi-Pelagian, and Molinists accuse Thomists of being Calvinists in "predestination soteriology," but this is untrue as well, and the Church has stated that neither side can anathematize the other. Both choices are fully permissible. I myself am a Molinist.

St. Augustine did not reject human free will, as the Calvinists do. His is a distinct position from theirs.

The Church teaches that the elect saved are predestined (and this is true in both Thomism and Molinism). It teaches (just like Augustine and over against Calvinism) that we have a free will, too. But it denies that the damned are predestined to hell ("double predestination"). The saved persons choose to accept God's grace for salvation, entirely by God's grace. The damned choose to reject this grace, and so basically choose to separate themselves from God and go to hell for eternity. God doesn't predestine that, as Calvinism (and Martin Luther) teach. C.S. Lewis made an astute comment that "the doors of hell are locked on the inside."

Catholics are content to live with mystery and paradox. We don't feel the need to resolve every deep issue in theology, like Protestants often do, with their interminable internal controversies.
Molinism doesn't deny predestination and is not semi-Pelagian (nor is it officially required for any Catholic to believe in the first place).

How does anyone "choose God"? That's one of the big questions in the larger discussion. Molinism doesn't present any insuperable obstacle to this question. They choose in the same way they choose to sin or not sin at any given moment. If we seek God (and the very seeking is necessarily and always caused by God), He will give us the enabling grace to refrain from sin, and to follow Him as well, all the way to salvation. But we do make that choice, and this is presupposed in the Bible (and Catholic theology), along with the absolute necessity of grace and predestination of the elect.

What Trent teaches on salvation is perfectly compatible with either Molinism or Thomism. If the former were semi-Pelagian at all, the Church would have condemned it along with the ancient heresy. But it has not.

By and large, I consider that the practical, day-to-day Christian life and how to be a faithful Catholic are far more important in the scheme of things than highly abstract, intensely philosophical discussion of some of the greatest mysteries of the faith. Those usually generate far more heat than light. I've done some of it, too, as anyone can see, but the emphasis I place on it is very low in my priorities as a Catholic and general Christian apologist.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The World's Shortest Free Will Defense (FWD) Argument Against the Problem of Evil

By Dave Armstrong (3-24-08)

I think the simplest way we mere mortals can understand these deep things is the following "chart":
1) With free will and free choice comes the necessary potentiality for evil choice.
2) The only way to absolutely avoid the evil choice altogether (even for an omnipotent being) is to eliminate all choice, and create mere robots or automatons.
3) #2 doesn't allow a free, loving relationship. It eliminates meaning and purpose, and creatures made in the image of God. It reduces human beings to animals.
4) Therefore, because of #3, God chose the option of #1, because love with the presence of evil also is better than a state of affairs with no evil but also no love and meaning among creatures.

For an in-depth treatment, see my longer paper, from my book Christian Worldview vs. Postmodernism, and other similar papers at my Philosophy, Science, and Christianity web page.

Garden Variety Atheist and Skeptical Objections to Christianity Briefly Answered

By Dave Armstrong (3-24-08)

This is based on a member at the CHNI forum recounting of her brother's objections (paraphrased here, in blue).

* * * * *

How can we really know what God is like?

By taking a look at Jesus. That'll give a very good idea of what God is like. If a skeptic thinks Jesus isn't God then he can start by explaining why He claimed the extraordinary things He did. It goes back to C.S. Lewis's "Lord, liar, or lunatic" scenario.

In order for God to know Himself, we had to be created?

That doesn't follow. God is in need of nothing. He created us so that we could have life. It was an act of love on His part, not of necessity at all. How would anyone know that God doesn't know Himself?! That notion is just pulled out of thin air, based on nothing.

If God is so good, then why is there so much suffering?

Because of free will. As to natural evil, that is also necessary for the world to be orderly, as I explained at length in a long paper of mine.

Why can't God just instantly fix all the injustices, outrages, and atrocities?

Because to do so would override human free will. But it will all be fixed in the end, after the end of the age. So God "fixes" it, but it is in His time, not ours. Human beings have the power to "fix" a great many evils in the world. Why do we always have to blame God for what we entirely caused? It's the Flip Wilson blame-shifting mentality of Adam and Eve again. "The serpent made me do it" / "The woman made me do it" / "God (rather than man) did it. Why did He do it??!!"

How do we know what things are evil and good in the first place?

Now that is a great point. We wouldn't if God hadn't already put the knowledge of good and evil in us. Animals have very little sense of that. It's because we're made in the image of God, and because God is love, and morality is grounded in Him, that we instinctively know what is right and wrong. We're quite capable of unlearning that, though. Women learn to think it is okay to kill their own children, for heaven's sake. What could be more unnatural and instinctively wrong than that? But they do because it's usually men involved (playing the role of the tempter and accuser, Satan) , exploiting and using them and making them feel isolated and alienated; along with wicked male-originated feminist ideology. I've long thought that if it weren't for irresponsible, selfish men, it would never occur to virtually any woman to have an abortion.

I'm only seeking, and trying to expand my thinking!

I hope so. We can tell by how a skeptic responds to the answers we try to give him. If he automatically blows off everything we say (especially if it is done with condescension and smirking) then it is a safe bet that he doesn't want to hear the answers and is in rebellion. If he listens with attentiveness and respects and actually interacts with us, then it's safe to say that he has an open mind, though he could possibly be simultaneously courteous and closed-minded.

How can we completely understand suffering and evil?

The philosophers and apologists have given it a shot, to explain it as best as is possible. The Bible mostly opts for the explanation in Job, which is less an explanation than a plea to trust God no matter what. Of course atheists and skeptics find that thoroughly unsatisfactory because they have no faith yet.

And how can we totally understand God?

We can't. Why would anyone think we can? That's why philosophy has to operate in steps. First we determine if belief in God is rational. If we conclude that it is, then we conclude that men cannot totally understand an infinite, omniscient, eternal God. That's a given. It's silly to think that we could. Most of what we have come to truly know about God has come from revelation, not philosophy. We're not totally autonomous because we're made in God's image and every person has some knowledge of God within (Romans 1). God has to give us grace to understand Him at all. The grace is already there prior to our attempts to reason about God and theology.

Skeptics like this should be given Pascal to read. It's really different. Perhaps they'd be interested in Peter Kreeft's running commentary on Pascal. It's an excellent book. If a skeptic or atheist or agnostic wants some very heavy philosophical "meat" about faith and reason, I highly recommend An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent by John Henry Newman.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What is an "Evangelical"? Can Catholics be Described by the Broader Adjective [Lower-Case] "evangelical"?

By Dave Armstrong (3-20-08)

My good friend Paul R. Hoffer, a regular on this board (and lifelong Catholic), asked an excellent question:

What is the definition of an "evangelical" Protestant? Aside from the denominational labels which are not an altogether accurate description of what an individual Protestant believes, is there something which distinguishes an "evangelical" from a "reformed" or "mainline" Protestant? Or is it more how one perceives the Holy Spirit working in their lives so a person can be both "evangelical" and a "Lutheran" or "evangelical" and "reformed Presbyterian or Baptist" let's say.

The reason that I ask this is that one sees these terms bandied about in the news or on others' blogs so often in so many different ways that the meaning of the word "evangelical" tends to get washed out or becomes so general so as to have no meaning and instead becomes merely a label.
It could be approached from many angles, but without getting too lengthy, I would reply as follows:

1) Centrality of a definite conversion experience (getting "saved"), after hearing the gospel, and repenting and dedicating one's whole life to God (radical discipleship). A sub-argument that occurs on this score is the nature of the gospel itself: many Calvinists, for example, collapse its meaning to their own distinctive of TULIP, but I have long argued that this is improper and unbiblical. The central aspect of the gospel is Jesus' life, death, Resurrection, and atonement on the cross, on our behalf, as Redeemer of the world, not a particular technical theory of soteriology.

2) Personal relationship with God and an active prayer life.

3) Transforming of one's life after getting saved (deep roots there in the Wesleyan / holiness tradition; i.e., sanctification).

4) Revivalism and high emphasis on evangelism and "witnessing" (sharing the gospel and one's spiritual discoveries and experience with others; giving "testimony" -- sometimes we would joke about these in self-effacing manner as "testiphonies").

5) Presupposition of the two pillars of the "Reformation: sola Scriptura and sola fide ("Scripture alone" and "faith alone"). Sola fide presupposes grace alone, which is shared with Catholics and Orthodox.

6) #5, by definition, entails no infallible Church or Tradition (since sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the "only infallible authority"). Thus, an evangelical, strictly defined, is a Protestant, though the description, more broadly defined, shares many key elements with Catholicism, and indeed, I would call myself an "evangelical Catholic" (more often, however, an "orthodox Catholic") because of common elements other than these two "solas".

7) Strong belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.

8) Adherence to the "fundamentals of (Protestant) Christianity" (basically the Nicene Creed).

9) Relatively more attention to Reason and Faith and Christ and Culture, over against the anti-intellectualism of Fundamentalism. This is stressed to differing degrees in different camps: most notably among the Reformed (people like Francis Schaeffer and Charles Colson).

10) Being more traditionally-minded in a Protestant sense, doctrinally and morally, so that "evangelicals" can be found in most denominations, as the more "orthodox" wing.

11) Evangelicalism transcends denominations (which is why it often thrives in "para-church" organizations like Inter-Varsity or Focus on the Family). It is more like a movement, like it's half-sister, the charismatic movement. Often, if not usually, the movement of "evangelicalism" is regarded as far more important and self-defining than the denomination one happens to be in.

12) It is a wider category than Reformed vs. Arminian or Baptist vs. Presbyterian. It also incorporates different views of the sacraments and (somewhat) of the relative importance or authority of Church history. The agreement is on the "big tent" elements above, while there are differences in many other areas.

This much is fairly clear; however, many today use this label because it has a certain pride to it, without believing one or more of the requirements as understood in the post-WWII period, and theological ignorance is becoming more and more widespread, as I have often noted.

Usually the first things to go are the infallibility of Scripture and the usual sexual doctrines that are hard to follow (divorce, cohabitation, etc.). Hence, more conservative denominations such as the Southern Baptists or Missouri Synod Lutherans, are constantly engaged in in-fighting, to preserve the traditional denominational "orthodoxy" (or to redefine or "update" it, from the perspective of the so-called more "progressive" factions).

This compromising or "downgrading" of traditional distinctives of a denomination is precisely what inexorably leads to "mainline Protestantism" -- which today is essentially synonymous with "liberal" or "postmodernist" Protestantism. Large denominations start merging together (note all the large "United" denominations) because they no longer believe what they used to believe and have less things in common, in a sort of "lowest common denominator" sort of skeletal Christianity. They have no doctrinal reason to be separated any longer.

Because that process of secularization and compromise has been going on for some 200 years (from the emergence of modern liberal religion, after the French Revolution and so-called "Enlightenment"), this in turn gives the "evangelicals" who reject and rebel against that additional self-definition and self-conceptualization as the "faithful remnant," etc. And it leads to further splits, often for good reason (to preserve orthodoxy) but deleterious in the long run because there is no way to stop the incessant splintering of Protestantism and this ironically leads to further relativization of theology, defining of more and more doctrines as "secondary" and up for grabs (for the sake of peace), and the institutional chaos that was trying to be avoided in the first place.

It's a Pandora's Box, and there is no way to ultimately fix it (I must say, with all due respect to my esteemed Protestant brethren) than to become a Catholic, where all the problems that evangelicals are perpetually working through and never solving, have long been resolved, within the fullness of theological and spiritual truth that resides in the Catholic Church.

Richard Dawkins and Double Standards of the "Religion vs. Science" Mentality / Galileo Redux

By Dave Armstrong (3-20-08)

A Catholic commented in a thread devoted to a post of mine regarding Galileo:
I think the Church would not get into these types of situations or be the cause for such questions if she would stick to religion and religious topics and leave science to scientists.
I replied:

But you neglect to see that Galileo was being overly dogmatic and intruding into the theological realm. This is not simply a matter of the "Church" making a dumb mistake and overstepping its bounds. The "Church" (i.e., the magisterium) never spoke on the matter one way or the other (see the lengthy quotation in my post referred to above, from The Catholic Encyclopedia). Certain members of the Church held erroneous cosmological views. But so did Galileo in some respects too. Big wow. Folks made errors. No big deal. As I wrote in my treatment of the Galileo issue, in my book, The One-Minute Apologist:
But the scientist (though basically correct) was overconfident and quite obstinate in proclaiming his scientific theory as absolute truth, and this was a major concern. Accordingly, St. Robert Bellarmine, who was directly involved in the controversy, made it clear that heliocentrism was not irreversibly condemned, and also that a not-yet proven theory was not an unassailable fact. Bellarmine actually had the superior understanding of the nature of a scientific hypothesis. Galileo was scientifically fallible, too. He held that the entire universe revolved around the sun in circular (not elliptical) orbits, and that tides were caused by the rotation of the earth. True heliocentrism wasn’t conclusively proven until some 200 years later.
As in all my apologetics, and especially when about these "notorious" instances of Catholic error, I want the "whole story" to be known and understood, not just one-sided propaganda that seeks to discredit the Church first and foremost and ignores all of the relevant information.

We get the added bonus that the whole, real truth is invariably far more interesting than the self-interested, self-promoting myths and legends that are too often bandied about by academics and so-called "intelligentsia" (in this case, in the name of "science").

If anyone is overstepping the largely legitimate methodological boundaries of science and religion today, it is the subgroup of atheist, materialist scientists: folks like Richard Dawkins, who insist on stepping outside of their area of expertise and proclaiming dogmatically that there is no God. Dawkins as a scientist cannot say that, because science deals with matter (and God is Spirit, and the supernatural is outside the realm of science per se).

But he won't shut up about it because it makes him feel important and smarter-than-thou and sells lots of books and makes lots of $$$$$. He won't say (at least not very often, or loudly) that as a scientist he has no prerogative to speak about it, and that when he does so, he is doing it merely as a non-expert amateur philosopher: scarcely more qualified than you or I. That would be too honest and real and counter-productive.

So these guys transgress the boundaries all the time, and it's fine, but let a Catholic scientist like Michael Behe dare to say only that not all things can be explained by conventional evolution, and the sky falls down. That is bringing religion into science, and flat earth creationism and "Bible science," blah blah blah.

The double standard is wider than the Grand Canyon.

* * * * *

I refuse (as an apologist and enthusiastic student of the history of ideas) to let a complex issue like the Galileo affair be reduced to secular-inspired slogans. We owe much more than that to our Catholic forefathers who weren't nearly as "dumb" as they are so often made out to be.

As I see it, I am simply collecting all the relevant facts and presenting them, so that readers can have a more accurate picture of what actually happened. Like most people, I was spoon-fed the secular line that made out that the Church was this troglodyte, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, know-nothing monster and Galileo and his cohorts were all open-minded, enlightened truth machines, persecuted as such by the reactionary Church.

The truth is far more complex than that, as I think I have shown in the few words that I devoted to the issue in my latest book, and in some longer papers. For one thing, Galileo remained an orthodox Catholic, and he was guilty of now-known scientific errors, too. St. Robert Bellarmine (no intellectual slouch) actually had a more accurate notion of scientific hypotheses and theories than Galileo did (by today's definitions and criteria). And that ain't just me saying that. As usual, I back myself up with the relevant sources (as much as possible, from non-Catholics). In this instance, it was well-known philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn:
Most of Galileo's opponents behaved more rationally. Like Bellarmine, they agreed that the phenomena were in the sky but denied that they proved Galileo's contentions. In this, of course, they were quite right. Though the telescope argued much, it proved nothing.
(The Copernican Revolution, New York: Random House / Vintage Books, 1957, p. 226)
Kuhn, in this same book, even defends, at length, the contributions and brilliance of the lifelong geocentrist Tycho Brahe (describing him as "the preeminent astronomical authority" of the second half of the 16th century, who had "immense prestige"), as I documented in a paper of mine.

Truth is stranger (and far more interesting) than fiction. It's not the case that the Catholics were (to use the caricatures and stereotypes constantly utilized by materialist scientists and other like-minded secularist academics) the anti-science dummies who were all geocentrists, and refused to look through Galileo's telescope, while the scientists were (to a person) the ultra-smart, forward-looking, inquisitive folks (gee, kinda like scientists today!), who were never geocentrists, and who would never, ever believe something as "unscientific" as astrology.

WRONG on all counts. One must look at individuals, and in the context of their time, and have some understanding of the intellectual milieu as well and a sense of the development of both science and theology over time. Kuhn understands this. The ones who truly study the matter on both "sides" with an open mind do, as a general rule.

What happened, happened. The Church is on record as having apologized for the errors that some high-ranking Catholics made, through Pope John Paul II and others. They had nothing whatever to do with infallibility. They were simple human errors, of a sort that many scientists and philosophers also made. I noted in my book chapter on Galileo that the Lutheran philosopher Leibniz: one of the most brilliant minds of all time, fought against Newton's theory of gravitation.

No one is denying that such errors occurred (last of all, me). But the fuller picture should also be discussed because of how the incident is used and exploited by secularists and non-Catholic Christian opponents of the Catholic Church.

My methodology is always the same regarding all these "scandals" in Catholic history: whether it be the Inquisition or the Crusades or the current sexual scandal. I don't deny the real wrongs and errors at all, but I put them in proper perspective and refuse to accept the nonsense that always makes the Catholic Church the Big Bad Boogeyman and ignores similar scandals in non-Catholic circles. I will not bow to intellectual double standards, ever.

Atheist scientists want to go back to the early 17th century and even then have to distort what happened and only present one side of it, when there are plenty of far more scandalous "skeletons" in their own closet (that we rarely hear about), and more recently, at that. We need only go back less than two hundred years to find stuff like phrenology, where the shape of a person's skull was thought (by mainstream science) to have a direct relationship to their intelligence. The science of, say, 1900, was shot through with racism: hardly a proud chapter in scientific history.

But Christians of two, three generations earlier, like William Wilberforce and the abolitionists were far more "progressive" on the race issue. Christians (not "progressive" scientists) are always on the cutting edge of societal progress, whether we look at slavery, or civil rights, or the fall of Soviet Communism (Pope John Paul II and Christians in Eastern Europe, and another "dumb guy": Ronald Reagan).

I have shown how Galileo himself and other scientists of his time like Kepler, were neck-deep in astrology.

Eugenics is another sad chapter in scientific history. We saw what the Nazis did with that. In America, we had sterilization of black men and suchlike. Remember, Germany was one of the most scientifically advanced societies then and now. But this was supposedly "good science". Margaret Sanger picked it up and institutionalized her racism in her group, Planned Parenthood, and indeed, this played the key role in promulgation of the immorality of contraception and later, of abortion itself. That's why the best Christian apologists of the period, like Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, wrote about these kinds of follies that were rampant within science. Lewis often satirized the tunnel vision materialist scientist of his time. Chesterton went after eugenics; both of them lambasted contraception, etc.

Many Protestant and Catholic Christians accept the typical secular line about Galileo. They may be persuaded by the secular intellectuals to think that the Catholics of former times were dumb, just as many academics think we're dumb today, too, just as the more anti-Catholic Protestants also do. We all must be vigilant to avoid being taken in by secularism and its ways of thought. It's a constant battle. But we have to be aware that we are doing it.

My perspective is that we should be critical of the information we get, and understand the presuppositions and biases of those who give it. Catholics have biases, too. Everyone does (as I've always stressed). That's exactly why I have constantly advocated hearing "both sides" of any issue and getting all the facts, and never relying on one account only, and why I am a huge advocate of dialogue and debate, because it is, in my opinion, the very best way to learn and to use one's mind to its potential.

My task as an apologist and amateur historian of ideas (that and development of doctrine are two of my very favorite areas of inquiry) has been to fight the stereotypes that are passed down by critics of Catholicism or of larger Christianity and to demonstrate on a popular level that there was much more complexity and nuance in play than is usually assumed because of uncritical acceptance of biased secular history.

I not only defend the Church's position (truly defend it, with reason, not just parrot or regurgitate it), but I interact with severe critics of it, and make arguments not only for why our position prevails, but why theirs fails and falls short, as well. This is critical thought and having the courage of one's convictions. In dialoguing, one is forced to look more closely at their own position, and I have posted some 400-450 dialogues and debates on my blog.

* * * * *

Further discussion, with questions from CHNI board members paraphrased and in blue:

Doesn't the discussion of (and in) the Galileo affair depend in large part on whether to literally interpret biblical passages about the movement of the sun?

A lot of it had to do with that, yes.

Has the Church actually defined this matter?

The problem had to do with literalizing what was intended as phenomenological language, or over-literalizing in some places, and how science and the Bible can be interpreted in harmony; respecting both areas of knowledge. It can be done. In a pre-scientific understanding, the sun going up and down would imply that the earth is not moving and the sun is.

The Church hasn't defined this (as far as I know) because it has nothing to do with faith and morals per se. The Church as a whole simply accepts heliocentrism based on scientific proofs of same. At the time of Galileo, there was quite respectable science (given the state of knowledge at that time) for geocentrism too (as I discussed, regarding Tycho Brahe, above), so believing such a thing was not as wacko and reactionary as is customarily made out today. The math involved in either system, as I understand it, was not even all that different. It's easy with hindsight to condemn our ancestors as dumbos, and to stand on the shoulders of giants. We can call those in the past mental midgets, but it doesn't follow. They made it possible for the knowledge we have today: scientific or otherwise.

A lot of the prevailing attitudes, I'm convinced, are based on a prior "chronological snobbery" (C.S. Lewis's delightful term) or disdain for the "age of faith" or the Middle Ages. G.K. Chesterton wrote about this:
There is something odd in the fact that when we reproduce the Middle Ages it is always some such rough and half-grotesque part of them that we reproduce . . . Why is it that we mainly remember the Middle Ages by absurd things? . . . Few modern people know what a mass of illuminating philosophy, delicate metaphysics, clear and dignified social morality exists in the serious scholastic writers of mediaeval times. But we seem to have grasped somehow that the ruder and more clownish elements in the Middle Ages have a human and poetical interest. We are delighted to know about the ignorance of mediaevalism; we are contented to be ignorant about its knowledge. When we talk of something mediaeval, we mean something quaint. We remember that alchemy was mediaeval, or that heraldry was mediaeval. We forget that Parliaments are mediaeval, that all our Universities are mediaeval, that city corporations are mediaeval, that gunpowder and printing are mediaeval, that half the things by which we now live, and to which we look for progress, are mediaeval.

("The True Middle Ages," The Illustrated London News, 14 July 1906)
Scientifically speaking, we can't say the earth is the center of anything, since it is just one planet in one solar system in one galaxy. I think we should say it is the spiritual center of the universe, as far as we know. And we can say that the universe is "theocentric."

If science disagrees with the Church, it is in error.

The Church, by and large, doesn't try to proclaim on scientific matters. It's more concerned with ethical situations that scientific advance has made matters of discussion, such as cloning or artificial insemination or birth control, or assisted suicide. There is no glaring conflict with science at present. The Church hasn't ruled out the possibility of evolution. It only says that there was a primal human pair, and that each soul is a special creation by God, and holds, of course, that God created the entire universe and all matter in it and that He continues to uphold it by His word of power, using the scientific laws of nature that He created to do so, mostly in a natural manner.

As it stands, Big Bang cosmology is quite consistent with the biblical account of creation. Current speculation of a cyclical or oscillating universe is sheer speculation. There is no proof of that whatsoever.

The Church only speaks authoritatively about matters of faith, and so we have to interpret the Galileo incident in that light, right?

Both sides (i.e., the parties) were at fault. Some in the Church were making false notions of biblical interpretation dogmas and "scientific," while Galileo was being unscientifically dogmatic in proclaiming as "proven" and "fact" his new theories, that were not yet proved by the criteria of science itself.

I believe firmly that revelation and science (and the logic, mathematics, and philosophy that lie behind science) are two harmonious forms of knowledge that do not conflict and that all truth is God's truth. I've seen nothing that causes an irreconcilable contradiction. Evolution doesn't do that. Relativity doesn't. Biochemistry, as far as I am concerned, leads to a quite appropriate conclusion of intelligent design, and ties into the traditional teleological (design) argument for God. I also agree with Galileo's statement that "the Church teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

If science conflicts with the Catholic faith, it is false, no?

Yes, but in practice sometimes it takes years for the scientific community to catch up with the knowledge of the Church. We've been saying the universe began in an instant from the beginning. Science figured this out and made it "orthodoxy" only in the last forty or so years (as the agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow has noted). We've said all people were equal, while science was toying with phrenology and eugenics. Eventually they got it and got up to speed. The Catholic Copernicus advanced heliocentrism, with the blessing of the pope. Etc., etc.

For some folks to make out that the Church was somehow "anti-science" is an exercise in showing their own profound ignorance about the history of science and the relationship of Catholicism and Protestantism to it. Some Catholic individuals were on the wrong side of some particular scientific question, but that is true of scientists as well, so big wow. It's all part of the overall advancement of knowledge and science. Some folks are gonna be wrong.

My big beef is that every (non-dogmatic) Catholic mistake in history is trumpeted from the housetops and made far more than it was in historical context, while similar whoppers and embarrassing skeletons in the closet of science itself are rarely if ever heard about. And so, e.g., in secular treatments about Galileo, one rarely reads about how deeply he was into astrology. That doesn't fit the mold and the plan and the usual spin, so it is left out. The goal is to make Christians and the Church look like idiots, not to present what actually happened, and to explain all the relevant considerations. The goal in most secular presentation and public education (consciously or not) is propaganda, not true education, where a thing is analyzed properly and fairly.

I include all these relevant factors in my treatments of the subject, so people can have a well-rounded treatment that respects all sides, rather than trying to make one out as idiots and the other as selfless truth machines, along with anachronistic projection of current scientific approaches back to a time 500 years ago that was very different from today.

Galileo was right about the science (i.e., heliocentrism), but for (partially) the wrong reasons. The folks in the Church who condemned his theories were wrong, but for (partially) the right reasons.

The Church as the Church is not an organ of scientific inquiry. Even when dogmas proclaim something like creation, they don't explain the "how" but only state the bald fact that God created.

The Catholic theologians who claimed that Galileo didn't see what he saw in his telescope were out of bounds.

And these were the minority, which is itself caricatured, as I noted above, with a quote from Thomas Kuhn.

Scientists shouldn't get all angry about a caricature of actual Catholic teaching and action.

There are all kinds of distortions about the history of this affair. The Catholic Encyclopedia makes it clear that no dogmatic proclamations were involved:
As to the decree of 1616, we have seen that it was issued by the Congregation of the Index, which can raise no difficulty in regard of infallibility, this tribunal being absolutely incompetent to make a dogmatic decree. Nor is the case altered by the fact that the pope approved the Congregation's decision in forma communi, that is to say, to the extent needful for the purpose intended, namely to prohibit the circulation of writings which were judged harmful. . . . As to the second trial in 1633, this was concerned not so much with the doctrine as with the person of Galileo, and his manifest breach of contract in not abstaining from the active propaganda of Copernican doctrines. The sentence, passed upon him in consequence, clearly implied a condemnation of Copernicanism, but it made no formal decree on the subject, and did not receive the pope's signature.

When the Church defined that a soul is created at conception, was it trying to scientifically explain conception?

No. It's not trying to explain it, because that is a physical, scientific matter. As to the soul, that is non-material, and so science cannot speak authoritatively about it. Likewise, science can't say anything about the soul. The minute a scientist does so, he is acting as a theologian or philosopher or both, not as a scientist.

The Church in Galileo's time was concerned with the teaching that Man is the center of the universe, right?

Yes; but that in turn does not require geocentrism. I don't see how it makes any difference, but that was the notion that had been passed down, and was from Aristotelianism.

Does the universe somehow illustrate that man is at the center?

The Anthropic Principle might be said to be one argument in that regard, used today. Most scientists today don't want to do such a thing, and would relegate it to philosophy. I think, myself, that there is a borderline area between science, philosophy , and religion, where they all intersect, since science is itself derived from philosophy (empiricism) and presupposes metaphysical categories and existence and the trustworthiness of our senses for observation before it can get off the ground at all. Religion has many philosophical elements. Some philosophies are quasi-religious in either character or at least how they function in a person's life.

But there is very little intelligent discussion about these "border areas" today. Only a few who understand the different areas to a decent degree even try to do so. It's one of my big goals in my "general apologetics": to bridge the gaps of these areas which are seen to almost be mutually exclusive. They are, in a sense, methodologically, but not altogether, when closely scrutinized.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Biblical Evidence for Building Expensive Church Buildings and Cathedrals (vs. "Grubb")

By Dave Armstrong (3-18-08)

This is a rather common complaint of Protestants of a certain sort (usually "low church"). Here are some comments made by "Grubb": a friendly Baptist regular of this forum, in an older discussion thread (here and here), and my response. He also makes more "positive" statements about churches in the same context, and admits some ambiguity and nuances in his own position, and decries excesses of materialism (much as I argue below), but I am responding primarily to sentiments such as the following (and using his comments as a "springboard" to larger concerns of mine, as I often do):

The early Christian churches were often outside or in people's homes. Were they less holy, because they didn't have statues and stained glass? Obviously not. One's surroundings can impact how he feels and may even impact his ability to worship well, but the building isn't more holy because of the statues or stained glass. It may seem more reverent, but the presence of God makes a place holy, so any place the body of Christ gathers together is holy.

* * *

I'm pretty sure you can't have fancy ornaments, statues, and stained glass and be "without excess" and "without ornament". "Austere" and fancy ornaments are mutually exclusive. While I've been in beautiful churches and worshipped well, I've also been in simple churches and worshipped equally well. While a beautiful cathedral may display some of God's glory, it can't hold a candle to an autumn sunset, an ocean sunrise, a blooming dogwood, a summer rain, a giant oak tree, a simple rose, a field of daffodils, or any of God's other wonderful, marvelous, and beautiful creations that attest to his magnificence more than any church building ever could. Maybe we should look to nature rather than a building to see God's brilliance on earth. It's a lot cheaper too.

* * *

First of all, I am a virtual nature-mystic (in the Romantic, Lewis-Tolkien sense), so you need not convince me of the beauty of the natural world.

I would be a lot more inclined to accept your reasoning if indeed with all the riches we have built up, we didn't lavish them on ourselves in houses (veritable mansions for richer folks, yet few children to fill them up) and in countless wonderful, expensive structures (including automobiles, yachts, personal jets, etc.) devoted to the glory of capitalism.

Since we do that, I say it is all the more appropriate to devote some of our ingenuity and riches to building beautiful buildings devoted to God and the worship of God (rather than of mammon), and receiving Him and hearing His Word taught.

If you spoke out against all buildings whatever (at least "fancy" and "excessive" ones) as materialistic and unnecessary, you might have a decent point. Somehow I don't expect that to happen anytime soon. So we have a scenario where it is perfectly acceptable to build mansions to the glory of man and mammon, but not (beautiful) churches to the glory of God. We must give God our aesthetic mediocrity and worst efforts rather than our best. We can personally live in luxury in fine mansions in idyllic settings, but must worship in "gymnasiums" or "glorified barns". Really makes a lot of sense . . .

Nuh-uh. I don't buy it. I'm willing to tolerate men's love of money and what it results in, architecturally-speaking (actually, I am very fond of good architecture of many "old-fashioned" types), but when people start going after church buildings as excessive and unnecessary, I cannot accept the glaring double standard.

And then you would have to explain away the Temple as a waste of resources too. Why did God command that? Did He not know that all that money could have gone to feeding the poor? God obviously was not a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat . . .

At least King Solomon had the sense of proportion and priority to think of building a temple for God at the same time he was building his own royal palace (2 Chronicles 2:1,12).

Likewise, King David gave graciously out of his own riches, to the Temple (1 Chronicles 29:1-5) and urged others to do the same (29:6-13) and knew from Whom all riches derived in the first place (29:12,14,16), and recognized that the Temple is at least as important as a palace: "the work is great; for the palace will not be for man but for the Lord God" (1 Chron 29:1).

The prophet Hosea saw something like the selfish, materialistic hypocrisy that I discuss above, too:
For Israel has forgotten his Maker, and built palaces . . .

(Hosea 8:14)

* * * * *

Good to hear from you.

And you, my friend.

Have you read The Treasure Principle? This is one of the items God is using to help me view money and stuff in a more Godly sense. I agree with you on the things you speak against: luxurious houses, expensive cars, jewelry, and a posh life style.

I haven't read the book you cite, but I've read Ronald Sider (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger) and other works that advocate a simple lifestyle, and make a critique of modern-day attitudes towards money and riches. Many go too far and get legalistic.

I've advocated and lived a simple lifestyle for many years (mostly by necessity, given my non-lucrative profession!), but I try to avoid the legalistic excesses of condemning capitalism altogether (as Sider and certain similar groups and guys like Jim Wallis tend to do, or come close to doing).

There is a difference between THE Temple that Solomon built and David helped fund and the church building of the New Testament. The Temple Solomon built was actually God's house. God in some form was in the Ark, and the Ark was to be in the Temple.

Every Catholic and Orthodox church is "actually God's house" too, since Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Thus, today's churches (i.e., the ones that preserve apostolic succession) have God present in a way that goes beyond even the Holy of Holies, because God is physically present, as a result of the incarnation, where God took on flesh.

This is one reason why we have very ornate churches and altars, because God is present. It's exactly the same principle of the Temple: if God is present, then it is clearly appropriate to be ornate, so as to celebrate His presence, just as we do every earthly king.

You, denying the Real, Physical, Substantial Presence, obviously would see no need to build a beautiful church because you deny that special presence of God. And that's why your brand of Christianity (I used to argue exactly the same way) denies the notion of "sacred space" or "holy places." It's the anti-sacramental and quasi-Docetic, semi-Gnostic "anti-matter" mentality. These churches are holy precisely because Jesus is there, not just spiritually (as He is everywhere, in His omnipresence) but physically. That's the crucial difference. That's why we believe in sacred space, and act accordingly when present in it.

Since you reject this Substantial Presence of God, for you, one church is as good as another, and (as a straightforward logical deduction, though virtually no Protestants would admit this or feel comfortable with it) there is no essential distinction between worship in a pig sty or city dump, and worship at Chartres Cathedral. We both believe God is everywhere; that is not at issue.

Every synagogue wasn't commanded or intended to be as lavish as the Temple of the Ark.

I didn't say they should be. It was an analogy: if a gorgeous, ornate Temple was commanded to be built by God, by the same token, we can make beautiful buildings for God as well. It's not a "waste" or mere materialism. We certainly have the resources to do so, but we prefer to spend our money on other things.

What is the Temple of God in the NT era? Anyone who follows Jesus whole-heartedly. Paul said, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple." (I Cor 3:16-17) and again, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you." (I Cor 6:19a)

That continues the Old Testament temple concept in the sense that God is now spiritually inside of us through the indwelling, just as He was in the Shekinah cloud and in the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Covenant.

But eucharistic physical presence takes it a step further and continues the Temple concept and develops and expands it, making God's presence even more profound for us than it was then, for them. Every time a Catholic or Orthodox receives the Eucharist, we are closer to God in a tangible way than even the high priest was in his yearly visit to the Holy of Holies.

The second fallacy in your argument is that it presupposes that an earthy, physical Temple and ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit are mutually exclusive, with one replacing the other. But this is untrue and unbiblical, as I already showed in a past dialogue between you and I.

After Pentecost (i.e., after they became themselves the "temples of the Holy Spirit"), the Bible informs us that "Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour" (Acts 3:1). So now you have two temples, not mutually exclusive (secondly, Jesus referred to His Body as a "temple" when standing before the Temple building: John 2:19-21). The only reasons that this worship ceased were: 1) the split between Judaism and Christianity and subsequent ill relations, 2) the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D., and 3) the inclusion of Gentiles in Christianity. But there was nothing intrinsically improper in a (Jewish) Christian worshiping there. I added in our last dialogue:
The notes in my RSV explain that the ninth hour was 3 PM "when sacrifice was offered with prayer (Ex 29.39; Lev. 6.20; Josephus, Ant. xiv.4.3)."

Acts 2:46 described the early Christians:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts,
The "biblical evidence for church buildings" was originally presented elsewhere. As far as I know, these aren't mentioned in the New Testament. The early Christians continued to worship at the Temple, and in their own homes. So why do we have our own church buildings when it is not a NT concept? Well (as in the present case) it is a straightforward deduction from what we know. One could argue it as follows:
Biblical Evidence for Church Buildings

1) The Jews, from whom Christianity derived, worshiped in synagogues.

2) The Jews, from whom Christianity derived, worshiped in the Temple.

3) The early Christians worshiped in their homes, and clandestinely in caves or catacombs, as the case may be.

4) These are not buildings expressly constructed for Christian worship.

5) However, it stands to reason (by analogy) that Christians, whose belief-system developed from Judaism, would also eventually (especially after official persecution ceased) have buildings of worship, just as the Jews did.

6) Therefore, deductively and analogically, the Bible sanctions Christian church buildings, and the "biblical evidence" for same is the above.

Gratefulness for My Evangelical Protestant Background and its Wonderful Teachings and Blessings

By Dave Armstrong (3-18-08)

Interviewer [Al Kresta]: What was your experience like as an evangelical?

Well, I loved it . . . most conversion stories I hear from Catholics, they don't run down their evangelical experience. . . . I have great memories and fond memories. I learned all about the Bible when I was there, good moral teaching . . . I just think there was more to it that the Catholic Church can offer, along the lines of sacramentalism and tradition and matters of Church and authority. (1997)

* * *

I greatly admire and respect conservative, orthodox Protestantism. I once was an evangelical Protestant, and praise God for that experience, which was exceedingly beneficial to my spiritual advancement and theological education. (2001)

* * *

Do we have a great deal of respect for Protestant pastors, ministers, clergymen? Absolutely. I certainly do. Some of the people I respect the most to this day are, for example, the pastor under whom I began my serious evangelical Christian walk with the Lord in 1977: (Lutheran) Pastor Dick Bieber in Detroit (now in Halifax, Nova Scotia) or Gus Flaherty (Assemblies of God) who married us in 1984. I have immense admiration for Protestant pastors, most of whom are very godly men, devoted to the gospel and the spiritual edification and growth of their flock. I have lots of pastor friends as well (Baptists, independents, Anglican; you name it). I think I've always shown a great deal of personal respect towards them. And I don't think my outlook is all that different (if at all) from other seriously committed Catholics that I know. (9-26-07)
Recently I made passing reference on the CHNI discussion board, about how I used to attend a Lutheran church and that Rev. Dick Bieber in Detroit was one whom I consider a highly influential spiritual father in my life. I was looking to find some material from Rev. Bieber online and discovered a great deal (including audio files of sermons). That in turn led me to considerable reflection upon the evangelical Protestant period of my life (1977-1990): how much it taught and formed me; the innumerable blessings and benefits I received, and how many wonderful Protestant teachers contributed to my Christian life, and even (indirectly) to my present Catholic apostolate of apologetics and evangelism. It is always good to ponder our experience and the paths through which God has led us, in His mercy and by His grace.

In what follows, I shall do a bit of a run-through of my past spiritual life, and acknowledge and honor the men who have taught me so much, and also make an analysis -- in retrospect -- of how many of these Protestant influences are very much in line with what I believe today as a Catholic. As such, it will be essentially an ecumenical endeavor, though I'm quite sure that some people involved might not care all that much (some, not at all!) for the topical / causal connection I would make between my Protestant past and present Catholic apostolate.

I described the limited spiritual understanding I had as a child in the following way, in my "standard" conversion story, published in Surprised by Truth:
My first exposure to Christianity came from the United Methodist Church, the denomination in which I was raised. The church we attended, in a working-class neighborhood of Detroit, appeared to me, even as a child in the early 1960s, to be in decline, sociologically speaking, as the average age of the members was about fifty or so years. In my studies as an Evangelical later, I learned that shrinking and aging congregations were one of the marks of the deterioration of mainline Protestantism.

As it turned out, our church actually folded in 1968, and after that, I barely attended church at all for the next nine years. My early religious upbringing was not totally without benefit, though, as I gained a respect for God which I never relinquished, a comprehension of His love for mankind, and an appreciation for the sense of the sacred and basic moral precepts.

At any rate, for whatever reason, I didn't sustain an ongoing interest in Christianity at this time.
In a 1997 radio interview, I added:
I was raised Methodist; pretty nominal. It wasn't very vital, and there wasn't much fire there, for whatever reason. So it took really, till 1977 to become an evangelical Christian . . . But a big influence on me was the movies about Jesus that would come on, like The Greatest Story Ever Told. One time we were watchin' that (this would be mid-70s, I guess), and my brother Gerry said "well, Jesus is God." And I didn't even know that! That's how ignorant I was. I didn't even know the Trinity. I said, "no, he's the son of God!" And he said "no, He's God the Son." So I started thinking about . . . it gave me a different perspective, watching the movie, even, that this person is God in the flesh.

At least in the Catholic tradition, generally kids are going to parochial school; they get some kind of catechetical instruction. But I really didn't have that. I didn't have a good Sunday school, or much at all. I think if I had learned earlier, some of the things I learned later, that I think I would have had more zeal for being a Christian.
The first major thing that changed this was the influence of my brother Gerry (1948-1998). Asked how it happened that I became an evangelical Christian, I replied in the same interview:
Basically, my brother Gerry, getting "saved" around 1971, and the spectacle of his long-haired friends comin' around, carrying Bibles; truth is stranger than fiction! And just observing them; it kinda got me wondering, "what's going on here? These people are talking about Jesus . . . " I thought you had to be a square [to be a good Christian].
I wrote about the same thing in Surprised by Truth:
[M]y brother Gerry, who is ten years older than I am, converted, in 1971, to "Jesus Freak" Evangelicalism, a trend which was at its peak at that time. He underwent quite a remarkable transformation out of a drug-filled rock band culture and personal struggles, and started preaching zealously to our family. This was a novel spectacle for me to observe. I had already been influenced by the hippie counterculture, and had always been a bit of a nonconformist, so the Jesus Movement held a strange fascination for me, although I had no intention of joining it.

I prided myself on my "moderation" with regard to religious matters. Like most nominal Christians and outright unbelievers, I reacted to any display of earnest and devout Christianity with a mixture of fear, amusement, and condescension, thinking that such behavior was "improper", fanatical, and outside of mainstream American culture.

My late (evangelical) brother Gerry, in 1984
[family picture]

What my brother Gerry taught me the most at this stage of my life, was that Christianity was a Way: a Way of Life. It wasn't something that was merely consigned to a few hours on Sunday and then forgotten the rest of the week. It was a total commitment, and a life-changing force. And he demonstrated (or, "witnessed") by the example of his own life, that this was the case. Since I had always looked up to him, this couldn't help but have a huge impact on me. He had been profoundly influenced by Rev. Dick Bieber and Messiah Lutheran Church in Detroit. I would attend this church every now and then before my evangelical conversion (when Gerry managed to "drag" me there, for some reason), and so I wrote in the above testimony:
During the early 1970s I occasionally visited Messiah Lutheran Church in Detroit where my brother attended, along with his "Jesus Freak," long-haired friends, and would squirm in my seat under the conviction of the powerful sermons of Pastor Dick Bieber, the likes of which I had never heard. I remember thinking that what he was preaching was undeniably true, and that if I were to "get saved" there would be no room for middle ground or fence-sitting. Therefore, I was reluctant, to say the least, because I thought it would be the end of fun and fitting-in with my friends. Because of my rebelliousness and pride, God had to use more drastic methods to wake me up.
The "drastic method" was what I sarcastically refer to as the "Great Depression" period of my life (March-October 1977). I continued the narrative:
In 1977 I experienced a severe depression for six months, which was totally uncharacteristic of my temperament before or since. The immediate causes were the pressures of late adolescence, but in retrospect it is clear that God was bringing home to me the ultimate meaninglessness of my life - - a vacuous and futile individualistic quest for happiness without purpose or relationship with God. I was brought, staggering, to the end of myself. It was a frightening existential crisis in which I had no choice but to cry out to God. He was quick to respond. . . .

It was the combination of my depression and newfound knowledge of Christianity that caused me to decide to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior in a much more serious fashion, in July 1977 what I would still regard as a "conversion to Christ," and what Evangelicals view as the "born-again" experience or getting "saved." I continue to look at this as a valid and indispensable spiritual step, even though, as a Catholic, I would, of course, interpret it in a somewhat different way than I did formerly.

In my radio interview I stated:
[I]t took a huge depression that I went through. I was 18 years-old at the time, and God - the way I look at it - God more or less had to put me right on my back to see that I couldn't survive on my own. Because I was under this illusion, "well, you don't need God." I had lived for ten years without goin' to church - a very secular life; kinda like what you see in England now, where 4% go to church every Sunday.
Today I again wrote about this traumatic experience:
God sometimes gives a person up to their sin (and to Satan) for a time, with the ultimate goal of causing them to repent by hitting bottom and waking up (rather than being lost).

I dare say that this happened in my own life. Being content, at age 18 (back in 1977), to live without God and pay Him very little notice at all, all of a sudden I found myself in a deep (very serious, clinical) depression and utter despair, that lasted six months. God knew what it would take in my case to wake me up. It worked. I soon cried out to Him (having nowhere else to go, and no hope). God in His tender mercy, accepts even this "default" / last resort discipleship. So I devoted my life to Him, as an evangelical Protestant. The depression didn't go away immediately, but the black despair did, and once the depression left after six months, it never returned (thank heavens).

I've always interpreted this as God, in effect, saying, "okay, Dave. You want to live without Me? Do you truly want to see what it would be like to live a life of no hope and meaning; a world without God? Alright; I'll let you do that." And I saw what a truly Godless, nihilistic universe would be like and wanted no part of that!

There are also times that a person rejects God utterly and so God "gives him up" because God honors the free will of man and will force no one to follow Him by compulsion. It's more a semi-sarcastic or ironic manner of biblical speech. Man chooses to rebel, but to phrase it as "God giving him up" conveys the sense of God's control of everything, or relinquishing control (of human free will) as the case may be.

In my case, obviously God knew (being omniscient) that I would soon cry out, so it was literally an act of mercy to give me totally over to my own corrupt desire of living a life of "practical atheism". Many atheists can play games and pretend as if a world without God still has meaning, but I was allowed the privilege of seeing what a consistent atheism leads and reduces to: black despair and meaninglessness.
Following this dedication of my life to God, I started attending Messiah Lutheran, but with some self-imposed limitations:
I would go to Bible studies, at Messiah Church. That's a very good church. It was a good place to start. But I didn't even go to church on Sunday; I just went to the Bible studies.
I was still (as I was for the entire time before I became a Catholic), extremely "unliturgical." It always bored me (going back to my Methodist days). On the few occasions that I went to Messiah on Sunday I "endured" the liturgy, counting the minutes, and always looked forward to the sermon (a very good "low church" Protestant I was, concentrated on the "Word" and preaching!). Rev. Dick Bieber is an extraordinary preacher and teacher (and man). As I look back at what he taught me and gave to me in my Christian life (and to my brother and sister and many many others), I see that it was the firm conviction that discipleship and following Jesus has to be a total, radical commitment. This is central to all Christianity: be it Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or groups which consciously attempt to defy all three categories.

This aspect, and the high emphasis on sharing the gospel with others (including street evangelism) was what Messiah was about: what it was known and renowned for. And it had a profound and lasting influence on my life. I've always sought to radically follow Jesus (not that I always succeeded, by a long shot!), and evangelism and specifically its "half-sister": defense of the faith, or apologetics, have been my vocation in life.

These emphases are almost a case study of what Catholics can learn from evangelicals. Neither a total, heartfelt commitment to Jesus nor evangelism are at all foreign to Catholicism, in terms of what we believe. In fact, in the 16th century when Protestantism began, Catholics were doing virtually all of the world evangelism and missions work, while Protestants did very little, and it was hardly stressed at all by Luther and Calvin. But in practice, today, many Catholics do not have this sense of urgency, to commit one's life to Jesus and to share the exciting truths learned as a result.

Therefore, to the extent that a person has received these teachings in an evangelical setting, one has been taught what they should have been taught in the Catholic Church, but often are (sadly) not taught. That's a failure of Catholic teaching and catechesis, not of the Catholic worldview itself (which completely agrees). And so such teachings received in my life literally have made me a better Catholic today.

Recently, I discovered many online resources from Dick Bieber and Messiah Church. The latter (no longer Lutheran but part of the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination) has a web page. On the sub-page "Our Past" we find a broad description:


In 1958, Richard Bieber accepted the call to serve as pastor beginning what would be a thirty year commitment. The years 1958 through 1969 saw many changes and much fruit being born. More and more the church opened its doors to the local neighborhood and community and experienced a strengthening in its base of committed believers as members. Annual visitations of church members and others in need or open to the Gospel numbered into the thousands. Individual intercessory prayer on behalf of each member was encouraged. Strong proclamation of the Word of God in preaching and teaching and sincere worship of the Living Lord was the foundation upon which all hope for church growth was laid.


The decade of the ‘70s was one of harvest. Beginning with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit there was a fresh anointing of the congregation which many believe happened around Palm Sunday of 1970. This, coupled with a large influx of what was known as “Jesus People” in that same year caused a rebirth in the congregation that would forever impact this church.

Much of what had been regarded as standard church life and practice gave way to burgeoning nets filled with people. Young, long-haired anti-establishment types as many of their older, more mainline and conservative parents and relatives were being drawn into the kingdom as those in the dark being drawn to a great light. “A city on a hill cannot be hid,” it was preached: and so it was.
I managed to find an online collection of Rev. Bieber's written sermons, and also audio versions (where the power and heart-stirring nature of his preaching is, I think, plainly evident). One book (Set Our Hearts on Fire) is listed on

Also in the late 1970s I often attended a related group: a mixture of messianic Jews and "Jesus People" (mostly young people) called the Northwest Fellowship. There I was blessed by the wonderful teaching of the late Haskell Stone (a "completed Jew" who taught philosophy of religion at a local college: listen to his audio files; see also a second source page) and Harry Martin (see many audio files of his teaching mixed in with other teachers).

The emphasis here was much the same as with Messiah Church. One might roughly categorize both as forms of what is historically known as "pietism." This school of thought and practice has its limitations (arguably, underemphasis on doctrine and theology being one) but as far as it goes, this brand of Christianity is, I think, very edifying and beneficial. I also acquired my great love of Jewish influences on Christianity from Northwest Fellowship.

The next move in my evangelical Christian life was to attend Shalom House: another non-denominational, "Jesus People", hardly-anyone-over-the-age-of-50 type of fellowship that began with a weekly coffee house of Christian musicians. I wrote about this in my radio interview:

[I]n 1980, when I went to Shalom House . . . that's when I really started to - I would say - commit myself to Jesus, and since then, it's been pretty constant.
And in my published conversion story I added:
Despite my initial burst of zeal, I again settled into lukewarmness for three years until August 1980, when I finally yielded my whole being to God, and experienced a profound "renewal" in my spiritual life, as it were.

Throughout the 1980s I attended Lutheran, Assembly of God, and non-denominational churches with strong connections to the "Jesus Movement," characterized by youth, spontaneity of worship, contemporary music, and warm fellowship. Many of my friends were former Catholics. I knew little of Catholicism until the early 1980s. I regarded it as an exotic, stern, and unnecessarily ritualistic "denomination," which held little appeal for me.
God uses different environments and people to affect people in various ways. I certainly had enough solid teaching at Messiah Church and Northwest Fellowship to grow and flourish spiritually, yet I didn't experience a profound "revival" in the Holy Spirit until I went to this church. All things in God's time . . . it took time for me to wake up and acknowledge and worship God as God, and it took time for Christian truths to travel from my head to my heart, and to "catch on fire."

The pastor at Shalom at the time was Joe Shannon (who in the last year has returned to the Catholic Church). Several profound influences on my life happened during this period (1980-1982). I first saw a book by Josh McDowell (Evidence That Demands a Verdict) at Joe's house one day. I had already read C.S. Lewis, after discovering him in the Messiah Book Room (and he has since become my favorite author). I had encountered Francis Schaeffer and others in Inter-Varsity at college. Now the new thing was the historical apologetics that McDowell specializes in. I date my overt interest in and devotion to apologetics from this particular moment and time (1981). From this date I knew (finally!) what I wanted to do with my life.

In fact, my blog theme of "biblical evidence" comes from the phraseology of this book (just as I named by (1985-1989) college campus missionary outreach "True Truth Ministries" after a phrase in Schaeffer). In the same year I started doing a lot of research in opposing non-trinitarian cults (eventually specializing in Jehovah's Witnesses), and doing my own in-depth research, such as biblical support for the divinity of Jesus and also trinitarianism and opposition to name-it-claim-it charismatic excess (papers still posted on my site today).

I described other evangelical influences at the same time (early 1980s):
I was, you might say, a typical Evangelical of the sort who had an above-average amateur theological interest. I became familiar with the works of many of the "big names": C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell, A.W. Tozer, Billy Graham, Hal Lindsey, John Stott, Chuck Colson, Christianity Today magazine, Keith Green and Last Days Ministries, the Jesus People in Chicago and Cornerstone magazine, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (a campus organization), as well as the Christian music scene: all in all, quite beneficial influences and not to be regretted at all.
The other thing about Shalom that had a profound influence on me was their annual forays to the Ann Arbor Art Fair, to do street evangelism there, from their own booth. This was my first chance (in Summer 1981) to do both evangelism and apologetics in a live, spontaneous street setting. I had just become fired up about apologetics and had been taught about (and urged to do) street witnessing for the previous four years in the Christian circles I moved in, but now I was actually doing it (and enjoying it very much!). This began ten straight years of attending the Art Fair and talking and reasoning with folks of every imaginable belief-system.

Evangelizing Mormons at the Ann Arbor Art Fair in Summer 1989
[photo taken by my wife Judy]

A third thing that changed my life at Shalom House was a pro-life conference that was held in, I believe, January 1982. Prior to that point I knew I had to study more about abortion and make up my mind about it, but I was thoroughly ignorant and so not yet really pro-life. Because Joe Shannon thought it was an important enough issue to teach his flock about, I learned a ton of things in one day and instantly became a committed pro-lifer. This would later have a direct effect on my becoming a Catholic, because I got involved in the rescue movement in 1988, met several Catholics who actually knew and could defend their faith, started wondering about the contraception issue, and that started the "conversion ball" rolling for me.

From 1982 to 1986 I attended an Assembly of God church and the singles group there, where I met my wife Judy, got married in October 1984, made many friends (many of whom we still keep in contact with) and began my campus ministry. I met one of my very best friends, and kindred spirit, Dan Grajek, there. He and I collaborated, starting in 1985, on evangelistic "cartoon tracts" and did a great deal of street evangelism. Dan later returned to the Catholic Church and his wife Lori converted to Catholicism.

Also, during this period, I had some significant contact with Trinity Baptist Church, in Livonia, Michigan: a Reformed Baptist congregation that placed a great deal of emphasis on the typically Reformed, Schaefferian theme of "Jesus as Lord of all of life," and "Christ and culture" issues: the motif of the "thinking Christian" or "thinking man's Christianity." This was another big influence on my Christian life.

My own theology was as much Baptist as anything else (and I had gotten "baptized" in 1982 as a reflection of this belief; my real baptism having occurred as a baby in the Methodist church). Paul Patton, who eventually became the pastor there, started Trinity House Theatre in 1981, which sought to produce distinctively Christian dramas. He had taught on occasion at Shalom House, and is now Associate Professor of Communication and Theater at Spring Arbor University on Michigan (hear a talk he gave in the university chapel on 10-22-07, and another from 3-26-07).

I was further blessed and "convicted" in the early 1980s by the fiery, charismatic-style preaching of George Bogle in Detroit (see also his Wikipedia entry). He is an immensely respected and influential pastor and valiant prayer warrior, who is still active today. I did a radio talk on Jehovah's Witnesses (my only one of about a dozen, from my Protestant days) on the largest Protestant radio station in Detroit: WMUZ (103.5 FM): a show associated with his ministry, on 3 November 1989. Rev. Bogle is heard briefly at the end of the show. The same program remains on the air to this day (hear some of the messages and listen live: 12-3 AM EST weekday nights). The host was assistant pastor, Emery Moss, Jr., who is a friend of a Baptist friend of mine, Martin Smith, with whom I still keep in contact (his brother is Jerome Smith, author / editor of Nelson's Cross-Reference Guide to the Bible: Illuminating God's Word Verse-by-Verse).

I attended Shalom House again from 1986-1989. By this time, Al Kresta was the pastor. I had known him from 1982. He was a good friend of both Joe Shannon and Paul Patton and managed Christian bookstores. Al's emphasis was also strongly on Christ and Culture and a thinking man's Christianity. He began hosting a popular talk show on WMUZ, called Talk From the Heart, that ran about 10 years: from about 1985 to 1995. But Al returned to the Catholic Church a few years after I did (I have transcribed his marvelous conversion story, from a talk given in my own home) and now hosts a daily, nationally-syndicated Catholic radio show on Ave Maria Radio. He has also authored two great books of popular apologetics: Why Do Catholics Genuflect? and Why Are Catholics So Concerned About Sin?.

I've known Catholic apologist Steve Ray since 1982 as well (long before he became a Catholic), though not as well as the others mentioned here. Back then he was a virtual Francis Schaeffer disciple (having actually studied with him in Europe). Al Kresta was practically a Schaeffer disciple, too. All three of us might accurately be described (in those days, in the 80s) as "Schaefferites." I wrote recently about Steve:
We've come a long way since we met in 1982 or 1983 at my Assemblies of God singles group where he came to speak one night. Around 1991, Al Kresta and I visited Steve at his house, right after I converted and not long before Al returned to the Church. Steve and I joked recently about how he was glaring at me when I criticized Luther. There were a few negative vibes in the room that day! Luther was his hero (he had been mine as well, and I still can't help but like and admire the guy in many respects, even though I fundamentally oppose his outlook when it differs from the Catholic Church).

Steve had studied with Francis Schaeffer, and shortly after I first met our mutual friend Al Kresta he (Al) was acting the part of Schaeffer in a local Christian playhouse [Trinity House Theatre] (later he was my pastor and we wound up being the last two contributors to the conversion compilation, Surprised by Truth). I had recently (in the early 80s) read a lot of Schaeffer as well, and had been profoundly influenced by his thought. All three of us came from that evangelical milieu (and we would all say we have fond memories of it and that it was a tremendous blessing in our lives).
To me it is unthinkable (in terms of my own life and development) to have not had these wonderful experiences or to not have learned all these wonderful things as an evangelical. It is an important, crucial part of who I am, and always will be. This is why I frequently stress that becoming a Catholic is not at all an utter rejection of Protestantism. The Catholic convert from Protestantism takes with himself or herself a huge amount of true teaching and practice and zeal for God, in the move from Protestantism to Catholicism. The Catholic Church joyfully acknowledges this (most notably in the Decree on Ecumenism from Vatican II).

It's not so much a matter of going from "bad" to "good" but rather, from "good" to "very good". I thank God for my evangelical background, and that is why I have again "paid homage" to it in this paper. I feel a deep, sincere gratitude and thankfulness to God and the people involved, for having had all these manifest blessings and great teachers and friends in my Christian background.