My Conversion Story

To read my conversion story, I have posted it in .pdf format available for download.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

No Native-born American male Saints?

At the men’s group at church we have been going over the “Catholicism” series by Fr. Robert Barron. Last night’s episode was about the Saints. I was surprised that of the four saints that were covered in the video, all were women. I don’t have a problem with that. I was just surprised that he didn’t cover any male Saints.

I made a comment that I had heard on the Catholic Answers that as of now, there have been no native-born American male Saints. It was a surprise to pretty much everyone I knew, so I thought I’d look into it further to see if that statement was correct.

And it was. There are two who are being considered for Sainthood, and I have no doubts that it will happen one day. These two are Father Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus; and Bishop Fulton Sheen, the very first ever televangelist who used to give Milton Berle a run for his money when it came to ratings on the 1950s.

But I looked further and noticed that really very few women Saints are also native born. There are only three who were born in the boundaries of what is NOW the U. S. St. Katharine Drexel is the only Saint, female or male to have been born in the U. S. after the birth of the nation in 1776. The other two were both born in what is now New York. St. Kateri Takawitha, canonized only this past year, was born in the 1680; and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was born only less than two years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

But it shouldn’t be too surprising. The Church has a 2,000+ year history, and the U. S. has only been around for 237 years. Also the standards for becoming a Saint are much more stringent than in times past. At one time, people became canonized by popular support. Later, the Church decided to formalize proceedings so that all people could know beyond reasonable doubt, that the person in question is actually in heaven. The best way to do that is by seeing evidence of their intercession, usually in the form of bona-fide miracles--which is why the Church investigates "miracles"so thoroughly.

I was reading about today’s Saint, Salvator of Horta at The commentator make an important point. In it he says that in times past, some of the miracles that were wrought, would probably not be considered miracles per-se today. Some of the miracles performed by this Saint, could no doubt be attributed to psychological healings by helping people re-prioritize their lives, reducing stress, leading to better health and a better sense of well-being.

That in no way belittles the miracles. For the Creator of the Universe(s), healing cancer is a no-brainer. What is hard even for God, is changing a person’s life when He is up against human free-will, stubbornness, and hard hearts.

Keep in mind that becoming a Saint (with a capital “S”) is not a title we give them that would bestow anything new on them that they don’t already have. If Bishop Sheen is canonized, it does not mean that he is NOW being welcomed into heaven. It is us recognizing that he is already there and interceding on our behalf. And becoming a Saint also does not mean that NOW this person is worthy of our attention, veneration, and to be emulated by us. We can certainly do that before the person is declared to be such.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thoughts on Eternal Security and Once Saved, Always Saved

One proof text that many Protestants used to “prove” once saved, always saved” is 1 John 5:13. In fact, it is probably the one used most often as the language seems to clearly indicate this. It reads:

Revised Version-Catholic Edition: “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

King James: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

NIV: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

As you can see, there are almost no differences between the versions, so you can see that Catholics are not playing semantics when it comes to how to translate this verse.

The points that I used to make as a Baptist were:
  1. This life is “ETERNAL” meaning no end, with some interpreting it as also having no beginning (part of the Calvinist tradition of predestination)
  2. St. John says that you HAVE (currently possess, not a future event) eternal life
  3. You could KNOW that you have eternal life
Conclusive, eh? Let's see. As is often the case, the Protestant takes this verse completely out of the context of the chapter, and out of its Biblical and historical contexts.

What is eternal life, and what does it mean to “have” it?

Often the Protestant will talk about eternal life as if it is an object that God creates and then hands to you. By accepting Jesus as your personal Savior (a concept found only found in Protestant tradition, not in Scripture) you receive eternal life from God and wrap it around you as if it was a coat.

In this act you receive eternal life. And because by its nature, eternal life cannot end, it must mean that once you are saved, you are always saved. Note that these words do not exist in the text. It is an extrapolation imposed by the reader in a process called eisegesis (the interpretation of a text by reading into it one's own ideas), rather than exegesis (critical explanation or interpretation of a text).

The source of eternal life is God. The life is eternal because God is eternal. Eternal life flows from him and this is why water is used so abundantly in the Scriptures as a symbol of life, or in the case of baptism, actually granting eternal life. Many times in scripture, the imagery of a river flowing with living water is used. In Revelation, this river flows from the throne of God. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman that he who drinks of this water will never thirst again.

As this imagery is so prevalent, it is prudent to try to stay within its framework. If eternal life is so often symbolized in Scripture as water and not just a mere covering, it is more like the following illustration:

One of my favorite summertime activities is going to Grand Haven, Michigan which is on the western coast of Lake Michigan. If I go to the lake and sit by the water, I may get splashed, but the water on my skin will dry up. If I go into the water, I am wet all over. I am immersed in the water and I will stay wet for as long as I stay in. If I leave the water and sit on the beach in the sun for a while, again the water on my skin and suit will dry. When I leave the water, Lake Michigan is still there waiting for me to jump back in when the sun gets too hot. And when I have left the water, Lake Michigan is still Lake Michigan, and it remains unchanged regardless of whether or not I was ever in it.

Think of the lake as eternal life. Rather than putting it on (getting splashed) it is something that I become-- immersed (baptized) into. As long as I stay in the water (stay in God's river of eternal life), I have this life from God. If I turn away from God and leave that life behind, it is the same as leaving the waters of Lake Michigan. I have “lost” my eternal life, but that eternal life still exists. It is still eternal—right there in the lake, just waiting for me to enter it again.

So, the Protestant will ask, how then can you KNOW that you have eternal life if it is something that you can lose? This is where we have to look at all of Scripture and not only this verse all by itself.

Look at all of chapter 3, not just verse 13. The first five verses say:
  1. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God
  2. Everyone who loves the father loves his child (in this case he is talking of each believer being a child of God) as well
  3. To prove your love for God you must keep his commands.
  4. Obedience and faith are equated, just as they are in the book of James.
This means to be “saved” you have to obey, because obedience IS faith and to fave faith is to obey. If you stop obeying, you do not have faith, you do not have the love of God in you, and you are still in your sins.

These concepts are reiterated later in the chapter, with slightly different wording. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” But again we have the word “believe” (faith). Again the biblical definition of faith is closely integrated with obedience. If you do not obey, you do not have faith, you do not have the Son of God, and you do not have eternal life.