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There is an article from Christianity Today about “Evangelical conversions to Catholicism.” Mark Galli, who is the senior managing editor of Christianity Today, writes an insightful article that covers issues of conversion, parts of the ecclesiology of the church, the leading of the Holy Spirit, among other items of interest. The article begins with a question that was posed by the author.

On a recent trip to Durham, North Carolina, I was asked, “What do you make of all the evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism?” What immediately came to mind was two recent and well-known conversions of evangelical scholars: Christian Smith, sociologist at Notre Dame, and Francis Beckwith, who at one time was president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Other well-known conversions to Catholicism in my generation—by men whose writings have been important in my intellectual growth—include the late Richard John Neuhaus and Robert Wilken (not from evangelicalism as such, but from Lutheranism).

This is an issue that has been occuring for awhile now, as I understand it. Also, it does seem odd with all the scandals that have been going on within the Roman Catholic church. Then you have the disturbing history. Yet, there does seem to be a move going on. And not just from the people in the pews, but some scholars as well.

Mark states one issue for the conversions as being,

…longing for authority. One of the most frustrating things about being Protestant, and especially evangelical, is that there is really no place to turn when you are ready to end a conversation on a controversial point. There is no authority figure or institution that can silence heterodoxy.

Then he makes a very insightful statement in the next paragraph. Basically that the evangelical world has become tired and lazy.

So, we understand the pull of the Catholic magisterium. We’d love to be able to say, “The church believes X,” and then back it up with a papal encyclical. We want “evangelical” to have clear and firm boundaries, so that when someone says they believe something outside of those boundaries, we can tell them definitively and assuredly that they are no longer evangelicals. We’re tired of arguing, of having to prove our point through the careful examination of Scripture and patient deliberation. Frankly, we’ve given up depending on prayer to change hearts and minds. We want to be able to say, “The church teaches …” or “The Holy Father says …” or “All biblical scholars believe …” in a way that separates the sheep from the goats.

We then are taken on a quick journey through church history and the issues that were faced and how conclusions were drawn.

Paul and Peter and John used their authority as apostles to try to settle disputes, though they mostly argued from Scripture or the teachings of Jesus. But even after they spoke or wrote, the church had to go through a period of discernment to determine what the Holy Spirit was, in fact, teaching the church.

Mark brings to mind that we need to listen to one another and discuss the issues, looking to the historic and scholarly sources, and most importantly, mining the Scriptures to see what the Holy Spirit has revealed.

He then closes beautifully.

We don’t need a magisterium. We already have a Lord, who told us that not even the gates of Hades (whose landlord loves to sows confusion in the church!) will prevail against the church.

In short, we don’t need premature closure as much as we need persevering confidence that the Spirit will lead us into all the truth we need, when we need it.

Now, I would personally tweak the last statement he made to read, “In short, we don’t need premature closure as much as we need persevering confidence that the Spirit has led us into all the truth we need.”

I believe we will do another post on some other thoughts I have gathered while reading this article. I hope you have some insights also.

I was notified of this article by Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed. To read the comments there click here.

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Read the rest of the article here.

I was given a heads up about this article from Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed.

Repentance and Joy

Oh, the wonders and joys of parenting! The lessons that the Father teaches us through our children. The examples of His love towards us and responses we should have towards Him are enumerable. We learn about grace, in that we love our children and show them “favor” even when that “favor” is not merited. Yet, at the same time we learn why He disciplines us, and why we need it. He teaches us about His patience and long-suffering, His kindness and compassion. We experience the pain, in a small way, that He feels when we are ill, both physically and spiritually, and the all encompassing urge to do whatever it takes to remedy the illness.

We also learn about repentance and the joy that it brings. The other day, which in my mind can stretch from yesterday to a year ago, Isaac and I were playing, and he did something that he already knew was wrong. Now, it wasn’t anything that deserved strict discipline, but I would have had to of talked to him about what he did wrong. Yet, instantly, he said he was sorry and grabbed my neck. Now it wasn’t out of fear, because I believe he knew that all I was going to do was say, “That’s not nice, we don’t do that.” However, he knew what he did wrong and immediately tried to remedy the situation. You know what kind of joy that brought to me. You know how I did not hold back any love or compassion.

We act, respond, and think so differently when it comes to our heavenly Father, don’t we? We act like our ancestors, Adam and Eve, and hide. We tend to run from Him. Sometimes it is out of shame, sometimes out of fear, and sometimes both. We understand that He is El Elyon[1], El Shaddai[2], YHWH Ts’vaot[3]. Yet, we forget that He is also, Abba[4].

He is our Father and as such has feelings towards us as earthly fathers have towards their children.

“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,…” (Exo 34:6b-7a ESV)

“with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” (Isa 54:8b ESV)

Why do we feel this way? Do we not know His character and love?

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16 HCSB)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1 ESV)

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1Jn 4:18 ESV)

He calls us to repent and return to Him.[5] He is the Father of the prodigal, who looking and waiting, runs to embrace the repentant.[6]

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luk 15:10 ESV)

I emphasize “before”, because the Saviour is telling us that the Father has joy before the angels over your repentance. We are told that we are to be as children. Will you be as one today, and run to your Father’s waiting arms?


[1] God Most High

[2] God Almighty

[3] LORD of Hosts

[4] Vine’s “Abba is the word framed by the lips of infants” cf. Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6

[5] cf. Acts 3:19, 17:30, James 4:18-20, 1John 1:9

[6] Luke 15:11-32

Three Crosses

The accounts of the crucifixion tell us that on “the place called Golgotha” there were placed three crosses. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, give us little information about two of the three who were to be crucified on these three crosses.

Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left…And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way. (Mat 27:38, 44 ESV)

And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. (Mar 15:27 ESV)

There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. (Joh 19:18 ESV)

Luke’s gospel, on the other hand, gives us a little more detail.

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left…One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luk 23:32-33, 39-42 ESV)

I wonder about these two men. We know that they are robbers, but is thievery punished by crucifixion? Some commentators suggest that they committed murder in their act of thievery. Some also suggest that they belong to Barabbas, whom Pilate had released. Yet, it is their attitudes towards the Saviour that causes me to have questions about their lives. Was the one who “railed” at Him a thief at heart, and would have been such regardless of the circumstances? Was the other a thief because of circumstances, stealing out of hunger or for someone else? It doesn’t excuse the sin, but due to the nature of his heart as he hung on his cross, it does make me wonder.

The real dilemma I have, though, is which thief am I? Most people want to talk about their rights, the status and possessions that they deserve, and what is owed to them. They “rail” against the Master, either directly or by extension in the way they treat others. They are right in saying they have rights and that something is owed them. They, you and I deserve to be on that cross between two thieves.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:23 ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, (Rom 6:23 ESV)

Do we not realize that the fact that we are even alive is a gift of His grace? From the moment we first sinned, we have fallen under the penalty of death and do not even deserve the very breath that He gives us.

The one thief rebuked the other, saying,

we are receiving the due reward of our deeds

Which thief am I? Which thief are you? Will you rail against Him? Or will He remember you? The choice is yours. Believe in Him and obey, and if you were to pass from this life today, He could say the same to you that He did to the thief,

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Infinite and yet an infant.
Eternal and yet born of a woman.
Almighty, and yet nursing at a woman’s breast.
Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms.
Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son.”

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon

That man should be made in God’s image is a wonder,
but that God should be made in man’s image is a greater wonder.
That the Ancient of Days would be born.
That He who thunders in the heavens should cry in the cradle?”

—Thomas Watson

Man’s Maker was made man
that the Bread might be hungry,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired from the journey;
that Strength might be made weak,
that Life might die.

—Augustine

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory,
glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.”
(John 1:14)

Gathered these thoughts from a blog post by Justin Taylor.

Reading

“Reading is more important to me than eating.” John Piper

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.
Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”  William Faulkner

“The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” Abraham Lincoln

“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.” Mortimer Adler

While I cannot verify the accuracy of the quotes above, I believe you get the point. I love to read. I would love to be able to write.

As to the quotes:

I almost completely agree with Piper, except I had rather read and eat, at the same time.

I love receiving books as gifts, or as a loan because someone really enjoyed the book.

Agreeing with Adler, a good book, and a cup of coffee, rank in the top ten of tools of the good life, behind faith in Messiah, loving wife and children.

Yet, I have trouble with Faulkner’s quote. I love to read. Fiction and non-fiction. Short stories and academic essays. Also, as I said I would like to be able to write well. However, as I have grown older, at the ripe old age of thirty, I find anything other than topics dealing with Scripture, using term broadly, as a waste of time. When I wish to pick up a book of fiction, my first thought is why read something that would possibly take my mind off of the Saviour, when I could be reading about Him.

I notice that most writers, read widely. I wish I could. At this point in time I just cannot. I guess I am just weird. While people are reading the books on the NY Times bestsellers list, I wonder what it would be like to read Calvin’s institutes or purchasing a set of commentaries. Most probably read National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, etc., but I just subscribed to Biblical Insights and enjoy reading Dad’s Truth Magazine subscription. All the blogs that I read, except one, are religious blogs.

So, if you would like, pull out your copy of Barth, or Bonhoeffer, and read with me.

Resident Aliens

I would like to recommend a series of articles by Jay Guin. This is the first installment and sounds interesting. I hope to do some post on David Lipscomb’s “Civil Government”, which Jay Guin mentions, at some point. The topic being addressed is very difficult especially for Americans. Enjoy.

Resident Aliens, By Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Part 1