Three stages of conversion

This is an exerpt from a great book by Dale Ahlquist, All Roads: Roamin’ Catholic Apologetics:

23448315Chesterton describes the three stages a convert goes through. The first is deciding to be fair to the Catholic Church. But there is no being fair to it. You are either for it or against it. When you stop being against it, you find yourself being drawn towards it. Then comes the second step, the fun one. It is learning about the Catholic Church, which is like exploring an exotic country full of strange new animals and flowers that you had never imagined existed. It is fun because there is no commitment, and you can run away anytime you want. Which is what the third step is: running away. You do everything you can to avoid becoming Catholic. You know it is the right Church, and you will not admit it, because admitting it means changing your life forever. Your head is convinced, but your heart is still trying to talk you out of it.

One by one, I had dealt with each of my Baptist objections to Catholicism. Any good Baptist is raised with a subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle anti-Catholicism. The Baptist way could almost be described as a point-by-point reaction against and rejection of Catholicism. We rejected the Pope, the priest, the Eucharist, celibacy, saints, confession, crucifixes, and so on. We identified ourselves by the name of a sacrament we also rejected. Though we insisted on “believer’s baptism” and full immersion, we also insisted that it had absolutely no effect on a person whatsoever. It was merely a symbol. The Bible was our final authority in all matters, and we were quite convinced that the Catholic Church deliberately kept its members from reading the Bible in order to keep them ignorant and malleable—which is quite a trick, especially if you can do it for two thousand years.

There is a major hole in the logic of those Christians who protest against the Catholic Church: you cannot use the authority of Scripture to attack the authority of the Church because it was the Authority of the Church that gave Scripture its authority. The hierarchy, the sacraments, the major doctrines of the Catholic Church were all well in place before the Biblical Canon was in place. Centuries in place. And of course it was the Church that authorized the Biblical Canon. Chesterton says he can understand someone looking at a Catholic procession, at the candles and the incense and the priests and the robes and the cross and the scrolls, and saying “It’s all bosh.” But what he cannot understand is anyone saying, “It’s all bosh—except for the scrolls.” The Protestants took the scrolls and walked out of the sanctuary. They left the Church behind. It was a surprise to learn that the Catholic Church, in spite of its reputation among Baptists, is intensely scriptural. Ironically, at any Catholic Mass you will hear far more scripture than at any Baptist service. And it was also my observation that every Protestant sect at some point simply disregards certain Scriptures that are not convenient to its own teachings.

Ahlquist, Dale (2014-10-01). All Roads: Roamin’ Catholic Apologetics (Kindle Locations 384-405). ACS Books. Kindle Edition.

Church Fathers on the Church and Apostolic Succession

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The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ, therefore, is from God, and the apostles are from Christ. Both of these orderly arrangements, then, are by God’s will. Receiving their instructions and being full of confidence on account of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in faith by the Word of God, they went forth in the complete assurance of the Holy Spirit, preaching the good news that the Kingdom of God is coming. Through countryside and city they preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the spirit, to be bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty: for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. Indeed, Scripture somewhere says: “I will set up their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith” [cf. 2 Sam. 7:13]. — Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, c. A.D. 95.

Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest. . . . Be subject to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father, so that there may be unity in both body and in spirit. — Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, c. A.D. 107.

As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same . . . nor will any of the rulers in the Churches, whatever his power of eloquence, teach otherwise, for no one is above the teacher. . . . It is necessary to obey those who are presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion. . . . But since it would be too long to enumerate in a volume such as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who . . . assemble other than where is proper, by pointing out here the succession of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition. — Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, c. A.D. 180.

[The apostles] founded Churches in cities one after another, from which other Churches borrow the sprout of faith and the seeds of doctrine, and are daily borrowing them, so that they may become Churches. And it is in this way that they may regard themselves as apostolic; for they are the offspring of apostolic churches. Any group of things must be classified according to its origin. Therefore, although the Churches are so many and great, there is but one primitive Church of the apostles, from which all the others are derived. Thus, all are primitive, all are apostolic, because all are one. . . . From this, then, we draw up our demurrer: if the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, no others ought to be received except those appointed by Christ. For no one knows the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son gives a revelation [cf. Matt. 11:27]. Nor does it seem that the Son has given revelation to any others than the apostles, whom he sent forth to preach what he had revealed to them. But what they preached, that is, what Christ revealed to them—and here again, I must enter a demurrer—can be proved in no other way except through the same Churches which the apostles founded, preaching in them themselves viva voce as they say, and afterwards by their epistles. If these things are so, then it follows that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic Churches, those nurseries and original depositories of the faith, must be regarded as truth, and as undoubtedly constituting what the Churches received from the apostles. And, indeed, every doctrine must be prejudged as false, if it smells of anything contrary to the truth of the Churches and of the apostles of Christ and God. — Tertullian of Carthage, Demurrer against the Heretics, c. A.D. 200.

Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles, and who have lived in perfect righteousness according to the Gospel. — Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, c. A.D. 202.

From that time the ordination of bishops and the plan of the Church flows on through the changes of time and successions; for the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this has indeed been established by divine law, I marvel at the rash boldness of certain persons who have desired to write to me as if they were writing letters in the name of the Church, “since the Church is established upon the bishop and upon the clergy and upon all who stand firm in the faith.” — Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to the Lapsed, A.D. 250.

Christ breathed upon the apostles alone, saying to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they shall be forgiven; and if you retain any man’s sins, they shall be retained” [John 20:22–23]. Therefore, the power of forgiving sins was given to the apostles and to the Churches which these men, sent by Christ, established; and to the bishops who succeeded them by being ordained in their place. — Firmilian of Caesarea, Letter to Cyprian, c. A.D. 255.

Dear protestants, before you write against the Church, learn what it teaches.

If you are a Catholic who sometimes ends up on a protestant site, you find yourself staring at the screen with en expression of shock and confusion.  Sometimes it seems like our protestant brothers and sisters know nothing about the Catholic Church.  They do however often post about the Catholic Church and that is when it becomes obvious to anyone with even the tiniest knowledge of the Church how incredibly misinformed these people are about the subject they are writing.  I find this embarrassing since this is mostly coming from the pen of preaches and ministers. I am all for having a discussion about our disagreements, we have many and there should be discussion about it, salvation of souls is at stake after all, but what these ministers do is borderline lie.  I hope they do it out of simple ignorance and not intentionally.

As an example here is just one of such articles.

Let’s take a journey through this article. Text from the article is in italics.

With the hope of accumulating that merit, the monk candidate then stepped foot into a life of austere devotion to Roman Catholic tradition. It would not be easy, but with enough rigor and exertion, the candidate could move himself that much closer to the possibility of heaven. (The author implies merit means earning salvation.  Not Catholic teaching.)
No Assurance, Necessary Torment (Surely the author is not saying that the Catholic Church teaches that torment is necessary for salvation?)
The section on Luther’s life is not too bad, mostly it is Luther speaking for himself.
Anyone knowing a bit of Luther’s history knows that he suffered from scrupulosity.
In Catholic moral teaching, scrupulosity defines the spiritual and psychological state of a person who erroneously believes he is guilty of mortal sin and is therefore seldom in a state of grace.
In a way yes, Luther was a bit psychotic and does not represent a state of mind of a normal Catholic.
 Assurance Rediscovered section (this section is quite bad, it misrepresents the Churches teaching at almost every line)
With that, the once tormented monk rested in the righteousness of Christ. Christian assurance had been rescued from the dark dungeon of Roman Catholicism. [Holy Moly! Dark Dungeon!!! ]Luther realized that truth which every Christian has embraced and celebrated: the sinner’s assurance of right standing with God depends not on man’s moral proficiency before God, but on faith in the Person and finished work of Christ. Sinners do not progressively render themselves righteous before God through works, but are instantaneously declared righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. (That’s almost exactly the Catholic position when we talk about justification.  We would simply swap the word “declared” with “declared and made”.  The author implies that Catholics “render themselves” righteous before God, which is a heresy the Church condemned long long long before there were any protestants. See Council of Carthage in 418.)The penalty for our sin is not gradually purged through a mixture of man’s works, saintly merit, and time in Purgatory, (All merit when Catholics speak of merit is merit through Christ’s grace. No such thing as “saintly merit” apart from Christ, as the author implies Catholic’s believe. Not so.) but instantly forgiven through faith in Christ’s sin-bearing death on the cross. Righteousness sufficient for my assurance of heaven is not accumulated through careful keeping of the church’s sacraments, but is instantly credited by trusting in the righteous Christ alone as my mediator. Luther understood that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. (We say grace alone as faith alone is not in the bible) The result is that there is not one ounce of condemnation from God towards the sinner. (When we are in the state of grace “in Christ” that is true, when we reject Christ and are no longer “in Christ” that is not true. Surely the author is aware of many passages in the bible when one can lose his/her salvation?  Consulting other Protestant groups who go by bible alone would be sufficient to show it.  Not even a need for Catholic bashing!  Even some protestants don’t agree with the author.) And where there is an absence of condemnation, there is a presence of assurance. (Yes, just not absolute assurance the author is talking about, see the Trent definition that follows)
We are now in the Assurance Denied section.  The quote from Trent should be as follows:
“For as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”
The Church simply states that your assurance of salvation is not at the same level of certainty as revealed faith.  You can have moral assurance but not certainty of faith kind.  That’s why the bible says that not everyone who says “Lord Lord” will end up in heaven. If the author actually read that section from Trent, he would not make all the mistakes he made up to this point.  The Catholic Church teaching is not a secret, anyone can look it up.
If you listen carefully to contemporary Roman Catholic theologians, you will hear of assurance only in relation to those who have been canonized as saints. ( how carefully? To the point of misrepresenting everything they say?  Out of context type of carefully?  Which theologians has the author consulted for this article?  )
 Biblical Assurance section is finally where the author presents his version of Protestantism, not to be confused with other versions of Protestantism teaching the opposite.
Lets just focus on few passages he quotes:
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).   Yes that’s biblical!  Exactly what the Catholic Church teaches!
“To be justified here refers to having been declared in an absolute, unalterable state of perfect righteousness by God through Jesus Christ.” < not biblical. Incorrect interpretation of the text. Reading a doctrine into the text.  
 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).   Yes that’s biblical!  Exactly what the Catholic Church teaches!
The consequence of union with Christ (“in Christ Jesus”), is a state of no-condemnation. << YES! Correct, exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. We call it “state of grace”

If the Christian dies with unconfessed sin, not to worry. < What is “unconfessed sin”  does that include turning away from Christ?  As in not being “in Christ Jesus” anymore?  How can protestants maintain this umbilical assertion? It even contradicts what he said before.

How do you reply to such an article? How do you deal with it?  Pretty much everything said about the Church is incorrect. I will try to reach out to the author and ask him.

Review: The Apostasy That Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church

The Apostasy That Wasn't: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church
The Apostasy That Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church by Rod Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read many books about the early church and especially about the time of the emperor Constantine. I have read many accounts of the council of Nicea and the subsequent council of Constantinople. I knew about Athanasius, Anthony, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great. I knew about the Arian controversy and the upheaval it caused in the Church. I knew all of this so when I picked up this book I just thought it will be a similar treatment of the historical data, not much to be excited about if you already know the story.

This book is excellent. It reads like a novel. It places you right in the middle of this great drama. You meet the characters on both sides of the debate. Even though you know how it ends the way this book is written, the reader is held in constant suspense.

For those who don’t know the story of our Church, and don’t know how close it came to dying out in the fourth century this is a must read. It will forever change the way you look at these great Church Fathers. How much debt we own them. St Athanasius is forever my hero now.

Rob Bennet has done a great job putting the myth of apostasy from true Christianity to death. There was no apostasy. The Church of the Apostles is the same as the Church of the Early Fathers which is the same as the Church of St. Athanasius which is the same as the Catholic Church, to say anything else is to completely ignore the entire history of Christianity.

Do yourself a favour and pick up this book. You will not be disappointed.

View all my reviews

The Art of Accompaniment

Remarks from Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto at 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Delivered Saturday, October 10, 2015

Instrumentum Laboris Part III: Section 110; The Art of Accompaniment

 We are called to accompany people with a compassion that challenges, and that leads to conversion, and to a heart on fire for Christ. Here are some ways to do that: 1. Pastors, who must daily accompany their people in their struggles, should imitate Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and with clarity and charity preach the call to conversion, which is the foundation for the liberating message of Jesus “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

2. The Gospel message is entrusted to us; but our greater task is to form messengers, for all the faithful are called to the apostolate, especially parents entrusted with the evangelization of their children.

3. Men in particular need to be challenged in order to assume their responsibilities in society, so that the young are not deprived of paternal models to guide them along the sure path that can sustain their hope.

4. Young people should be presented with the fullness of God’s plan for human love, with all of its challenges, and its invitation to heroic sanctity. Pastoral experience shows that they rise to this challenge with a reaction similar to the disciples of Emmaus: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)

Our mission is to make disciples, but secular culture is more effective in unmaking them. This is nowhere more evident than in the secular vision of the family, of sexuality, of gender, of fidelity, and of the human person.

We must certainly start where people are at, in their subjective personal situations, and accompany them. But to do so with evangelical integrity, we must effectively share with them the objective truths of Sacred Scripture and Tradition which challenge the secular assumptions that they draw in with the air they breathe. The goal is to form missionary disciples within the family who will evangelize the world.

“Go, make disciples”. (Matthew 28:19) That is the mandate Jesus gives us at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. In Luke, on the road to Emmaus, he shows us how to do so.

First, he drew near, and accompanied his downcast disciples as they walked in the wrong direction, into the night. He started by asking questions about their present disposition and by listening to them, but he did not stop there. Instead, he challenged them with the Word of God: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” (Luke 24:25) His presentation of the objective vision of Scripture broke through their subjective self-absorption and, along with his loving presence, brought them to conversion. The disciples of Emmaus accepted the Word of God that challenged them, and asked Jesus to remain with them. When the Lord was made known to them in the Breaking of the Bread they changed direction and, with burning hearts, raced through the night to Jerusalem to bear joyful witness to the community gathered there.