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Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Pentecostal Christian takes a second look at Mary

The Mother of Our Lord

I suppose one of the most distracting Catholic practices that continues to annoy the Protestant community is the adoration (which they see as excessive, and for all intents and purposes unwarranted) ascribed to Mary.

Doctrinal issues aside for a moment; however, let me see if I can help by suggesting that this prejudicial view of Marian devotions is, in my opinion, the same as judging Pentecostals by the practices of their snake handling cousins.

Next, may I also suggest that devotion is not necessarily adoration or worship; it may also result from fear as we seen present as a result of the Fatima aberration—also known as the aberration of Our Lady of the Rosary— when Mary supposedly appeared to three peasant Portuguese children and entrusted them with three secrets which reportedly involved Hell, Hell, World War I and World War II, and the attempted assassination by gunshot of Pope John Paul II (the details of which would be discursive at this point). However, providence would have it, the Lady of the Rosary (Mary) offered a way out which (not so surprising to the critics) included not just wholescale repentance, but a rigorously praying of the rosary, as well. Of course, we all know the results. Apparently, the faithful did not pray the rosary enough; because, God forbid that Our Lady of the Rosary could fail at such a crucial time as that. 

So, in my opinion—because of so far unproven practices such as this, we must set devotional practices aside when considering Marian theology. As someone remarked long ago, “What is, is not necessarily what ought to be.” However, after having made that comment, it should be noted that the Lady of the Rosary cult has a huge following, including the late Pope, now saint, John Paul II who credits her with saving his life.

On the same token, for instance, even a distorted and fearful worship of God although wrong does not necessarily negate the worship of God all together—any more than an excessive Mariolatry, rules out  a proper respect for the role of Mary, The Mother of Our Lord, in the Church.

The problem, however, for the Protestant community (although, not all non-Catholics or Orthodox like high Anglicans; and, yes, even Luther and Calvin) is rooted not in who she was, but who she is. For those that pray to her, she is very much alive—as a matter of fact, more alive than ever. Now, if to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, as Paul said, then we must believe that death for the saint is only a move; and in her case, a move upward.

Now, if these saints—modern or otherwise, are alive and present with the Lord, the reasoning goes, then why can we not also pray to them? Furthermore, they continue, the book of Hebrews tells us that we are surround by a great cloud of witnesses, those heroes and heroines of the Faith that have gone on before us—people like: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and Moses; and, yes, a prostitute named, Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, and the list goes on and on to include Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets. Oh, my, quite a cloud, I would say. None-the-less, it is needless to say, that any one of them was saintly than Mary, the Mother of God’s only begotten Son.

Furthermore, is she not the second Eve, if contrasted with Jesus, the new Adam who is God incarnate? If not, the reasoning continues, then who is the woman in the book of Revelation, chapter 12, that was clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars, who was pregnant and gave birth to a son, if not Mary? Neglecting, of course, to see that even though the vision appears in Heaven, it is on earth that all the action takes place. None-the-less, they are able to get around this by saying that Mary, since she embodied the Son of God—which makes her the Theotokos, the mother of God, also gave birth through Christ in a spiritual sense to all of God’s children. So, if you are able to follow this line of reasoning, since the Church is the Body of Christ, she is also the Mother of the Church which is composed of all the saints living and dead.
Convoluted to say the least; however, this is in essence what is believed.

So, when Protestant theologians say that the lady mentioned in above reference is the Church, they, of course will hardily agree, but they are not willing to stop there.

How then, do make sense of all of this?

We don’t, unless we are willing to admit that it is extra-Biblical, as it were to the naked eye. It makes perfect sense, however, if one is willing to accept the testimony of sacred history. There we find as early as the latter half of the second century. Here is what Father Matthew R. Mauriello writing on the behalf of The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute[i], Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, has to say—
The first insight regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given by the Church Fathers was the vision of Mary as the New Eve. The earliest patristic texts regarding the Eve-Mary parallel begin in the latter half of the Second Century. St. Justin, the Martyr, (+165) in his work, Dialogue with Trypho, states that, "Christ became a man by a virgin to overcome the disobedience caused by the serpent the same way it had originated."
The name Eve is taken from the Hebrew word, HAWAH, a verb which means "to live." "The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living."(Gen. 3:20) Eve, the first woman, was a virgin at the time that she was tempted by the serpent in the garden. Thus, Eve, a virgin, conceived disobedience and death, whereas, Mary, a virgin, conceived the Word in obedience and brought forth Life.
St. Ireneus, Bishop of Lyons, (+202) is considered the first theologian of the Virgin Mary. He took up St. Justin's Mary-Eve theme and further integrated it into his theology. Therein, Mary is treated as the New or Second Eve who is the beginning of the second Creation or re-creation of humanity through the Redemption.
He wrote, "The knot of Eve's disobedience was loosened by Mary's obedience. The bonds fastened by the virgin Eve through disbelief were untied by the virgin Mary through faith." (Adv. haereses, 3:22)
Jesus Christ is the New Adam, the Lord of the New Creation (I Cor. 15:45-49) and Mary the New Eve who undid what the first Eve had done. The first Eve disobeyed God and thereby brought sin and death into the world. The New Eve, Mary, obeyed and believed God's message which was given to her at the Annunciation (Lk .1:26-38), and brought salvation and life to the world in her son, Jesus, who crushes the head of the serpent. Mary, like us, shares in this victory.
Tertullian (+220), another Church Father, used the Eve-Mary parallel as a secondary argument in favor of the virginal conception of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the act of faith involved. Building on the insights of Justin, Ireneus and Tertullian, the theme of the Eve-Mary parallel was expanded upon after the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.
St. Ambrose of Milan (+397) writes, "It was through a man and woman that flesh was cast from paradise; it was through a virgin that flesh was linked to God." St. Jerome (+420) succinctly stated, "Death through Eve, Life through Mary." (Epist. 22, 2 I). St. Peter Chrysologus (+450) picked up on this theme in his writings, "Christ was born of a woman so that just as death came through a woman, so through Mary, life might return."
In our own century. Pope Pius XII is responsible for the principle papal contributions on this theme. In the Encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam. Dated Oct. 11, 1954, he wrote: "Mary, in the work of Redemption was by God's will, joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death."
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council recall the Eve-Mary parallel in the document on the Church. Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8, the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They quote from the Church Fathers, Sts. Ireneus, Jerome, and Epiphanius: "What the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”(L.G. 56)
In the same document, the Eve-Mary parallel is treated in relation to the Church: "For believing and obeying, Mary brought forth on earth the Father's Son. This she did, knowing not man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, as the New Eve, who put absolute trust. not in the ancient serpent, but in the messenger of God.( L.G. 63) We, the faithful of the Church are called to follow Mary's example of trusting faith and fidelity to the Holy Will of God."
Further, we find that—
Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296 – 373) was the main defender of the deity of Christ against the 2nd century heretics. He wrote: “O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O (Ark of the) Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which Divinity resides.” Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.
(Thus, I find it ironic that we can trust [and quote] Athanasius on matters as delicate as the Holy Trinity, but ignore him on matters pertaining to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord.)
Gregory the Wonderworker (c. 213 – c. 270) an early Christian teacher wrote: “Let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, “Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the Ark of Thy sanctuary.” For the holy Virgin is in truth an Ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.[ii]
The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the words from the earliest centuries, “Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God . . . with men.”  (CCC 2676).

In summary, the strongest argument for the Old Testament type that prefigured Mary is The Ark of Covenant over which the Spirit hovered. Contained inside the Ark was the golden jar of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the table of Commandments—foreshadowing, some feel Christ as the Bread of Life, The  Eternal High Priest, and The body of Jesus Christ—the Word of God in the flesh. Thus, in the true sense Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant—which is illustrated in the charts below:
Mary as the Ark Revealed by the Items inside the Ark
Inside Ark of the Old Covenant
Inside Mary, Ark of the New Covenant
The stone tablets of the Law—the word of God inscribed on stone
The body of Jesus Christ—the word of God in the flesh.
The urn filled with manna from the wilderness—the miraculous bread come down from heaven.
The womb containing Jesus, the bread of life come down from heaven (Jn 6:41)
The rod of Aaron which budded to prove and defend the true High Priest
The actual and eternal High Priest

Mary the Ark as Revealed in Mary’s Visit to Elizabeth
Golden Box: Ark of the Old Covenant
Mary: Ark of the New Covenant
Traveled to House of Obed-Edom in the hill country of Judea (2 Sam 6:1-11)
Traveled to house of Elizabeth and Zechariah in the hill country of Judea (Lk 1:39)
Dressed as a priest, David danced and leapt in front of the Ark (2 Sam 6:14)
John the Baptist of priestly lineage leapt in his mother’s womb at the approach of Mary (Lk 1:41)
David asks “Who am I that the Ark of my Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9)
Elizabeth asks “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43)
David was shouting in the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:15)
Elizabeth “cried out” in the presence of the Mary (Lk 1:42)
The Ark remained in the house of Obed-edom for three months (2 Sam 6:11)
Mary remained in the house of Elizabeth for three months (Lk 1:56)
The house of Obed-edom was blessed by the presence of the Ark (2 Sam 6:11)
The word “blessed” used three times and surely the house was blessed by God (Lk 1:39-45)
The Ark returns to its home and ends up in Jerusalem where God’s presence and glory is revealed in the Temple (2 Sam 6:12; 1 Ki 8:9-11)
Mary returns home and eventually ends up in Jerusalem where she presents God enfleshed in the Temple (Lk 1:56; 2:21-22)

The Virgin Mary, too, is easily thought of symbolically as the New Ark of Covenant also overshadowed by the Holy Spirit who miraculously infused God into her womb, after which she gave birth to Jesus, the only begotten Son of the Father,  who became the Chief Architect of the New Covenant, Jesus, the Christ, and so-forth.

There are many quotations, comparisons and charts that I could provide because the early Christians taught the same thing that the Catholic Church teaches today about Mary, especially about her being the Ark of the New Covenant.[iii].

For sure, Scripture is full of types; however, we as Protestants without a clear exegetical insight must not accede to our imagination in this regard—unless, we are willing to concede to sacred tradition and take the Catholic Church’s word regarding on this matter. Be that as it may, however, I do not see how we can take the Scriptures serious if we are not willing to concede that Mary was prefigured in the Old Testament by the Ark of the Covenant.

The remaining task, for me—at least, is figure out just what the role of Mary is in contemporary Christianity. That task, I am sure, will begin with a clear understanding of what we are to believe when we recite the Apostles creed and repeat the words—
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
And, further, how all of this is to be acted out as Christians.


[i] The International Marian Research Institute (IMRI) was founded in 1975 in affiliation with Marianum, a pontifical institute in Rome, allowing students to study in America instead of having to travel to Rome to complete their studies. IMRI's programs include a doctorate in sacred theology (S.T.D.) and licentiate in sacred theology (S.T.L.); students can also earn credits towards a master's degree through the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Dayton.
[ii]Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VI : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. Fathers of the Third Century: Gregory Thaumaturgus, Dionysius The Great, Julius Africanus, Anatolius and Minor Writers, Methodius, Arnobius. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You can't get there from here . . .

Now, consider this—

“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”— Lewis Carroll


Have you discovered, as I have, that some people are really good at talking, but actually poor communicators? I can’t count the number of time that I have felt like shouting like a New Yorker, 
“All right, enough already!”
Case in point. Recently, I asked someone for the address of a place that I wished to visit so I could goggle it for directions. The replay was, 
“Oh, don’t do that. It simple. Let me tell you how to get there.” 
Well, 30 minutes later (at least it seemed so) and after wearing out an out of date road map, I finally interrupted with, 
“So, what you are saying is that we can’t get there from here. Right? So, why don’t you just give me the address and let’s see if old Cirri can help me.”
Cirri was in that case a godsend, except for the distracting Australian accent.

Being the amateur theologian that I am, I immediately thought of my prayer life and begin to wonder how many time I get all sidetracked and convoluted in my prayers that God must think, 
“Alright, Jim, enough, already!” 
No, not really, but I can’t say that it didn't cross my mind.

In any event, Jesus must have had something like this in mind when he said—
"When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Then he continued with—“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:7-8, 9-14)
Brief, succinct, and to the point. So, in my opinion, there’s no room for whining here, or complaining. If you are hurting, all you need to do is to ask God to heal you or help you endure the hurt, whatever His will might be. He knows what’s best for you, anyway.

Better to enjoy a dry morsel of bread, as Scripture say, with contentment, than to be miserably wealthy. Unfortunately, however, many never discover that truth, and like Robin Williams, I am sure they would give anything to have it.

So, let us pray, not with a lot of fanfare but with the integrity of simplicity for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give good things to his children, and to keep in mind that we are not beggars, we are children. (Luke 12:32)

Just remember, you are not alone because we're on this journey together,

 P.S. Please continue pray those Christians suffering in Iraq and northern Pakistan.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Embracing the inevitable, and being the better for it . . .

When I was a boy, growing up in south Texas, one of my favorite pastimes was going to church—I know, I was weird in that regards; however, being in church didn't necessarily mean that I wasn't up to mischief. 

Part of the fun—mischief, if you please, was to substitute words or phrases into the songs we were singing. Of course, all of this was done with a straight face and a holy demeanor—like for instance, when we would sing “This Is My Father's World” an old hymn written by Maltbie D. Babcock way back in the early 1900's. The first stanza of that old familiar hymn is:
 This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

Beautiful words, aren't they? Well, when we got down to “This is my Father’s world: of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—His hand the wonders wrought” we kids would substitute words like: “Of snails, and nails and puppy dog tails” and keep right on singing not missing a beat.

Really, it was amazing the number of words we could come up with. Words like: of smells and whales and bumble bees—the list was inexhaustible.

Well, kids will be kids, but on second thought, we weren't all that wrong. He is the God of all; it is our Father’s world. That we must keep in minds when we lose patience with the slow paced snails in our lives—like the car in front that seems to be meandering all over the road blocking your every chance to get past it to hurry on to your next appointment; or that nail that punctures your car’s tire at just the wrong time; or that annoying barking dog of the neighbor’s next door, or whatever.

Now, I know—like so many of you, I do not always practice what I preach; but I preach it none-the-less in hopes that it will change me for the better, eventually. And, to be honest with you, friend, that is what our walk with Christ is all about—change; and change for the better.

So, in the midst of life's little annoyances let us keep in focus that, Yes, this is our Father’s world, and He is there to help us in every imaginable way. For Scripture teaches us that
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

Now, before you scratch you puzzled head, trying to figure out how that verse fits into the theme of this little narrative, just insert the word ‘change’ to replace the words ‘to come to repentance’ and you will clearly see the application. So, let’s read it again, as edited—
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to change. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

Change is what repentance is all about, anyway. And, our Heavenly Father has done everything possible to make our change for the better possible. For starters, let’s think of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection—that’s enough, but there’s more. More joy, satisfaction, peace, hope, happiness—you name it, let’s more.

So, in face of all of life's distractions, annoyances, what have you, the real purpose in our daily walk with Christ is not to just get past them so we can go about our business uninterrupted, but rather to take the opportunity to changeto grow in patience, in trust, and to develop a real sense of hope for a better tomorrow. It will come. That is His promise.

Yes, this is our Father’s world—so, let us embrace it and we shall be the better for it.

Just remember—you are not alone on this journey,


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Without holiness no man shall see God

Now, consider this—
"You cannot study the Bible diligently and earnestly without being struck by an obvious fact—the whole matter of personal holiness is highly important to God!" — A. W. Tozer



Two verses that any mature evangelical Christian must seriously consider—including we Pentecostals, are found in the epistles of Paul. The first is 1 Timothy 3:15—
“[If] I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

And the second one is Ephesians 3:10, where Paul declared that it was God’s intent—
 “[That] through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

Interestingly enough, nowhere does Paul declare that the Scriptures provide that certainty. Now, bear with me before you get all riled up and get ready to anathematize me, because I am not through yet.

The Church is the foundation on which truth rests, and the framework, including the pillars that give that truth structure. Truth, as much as we would like to believe to the contrary, does not stand alone. Each nugget of truth stands in relationship to all truth, or it is not truth at all. This is just one way of saying that truth (with the exception of God, or course) is contingent—such truth depends on something greater than itself not just to function, but to make sense.

The Church is no different, either. The Church does not stand alone. For sure the Apostles and Prophets with Christ as the Chief Cornerstone form the foundation (Ephesians 2:20).  We, the fellowship—the ecclesia, the building blocks must rest solidly on this solid foundation, or we will crumble. 

Paul also reminds us that we—the Church, are also a body. He therefore writes—
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV)

That is to say that without Christ there is no Church, and without the Church that mystical body disintegrates into a corpse.

Trumpet the inerrancy of Scripture all you want, but I am here to tell you that unless we as the Church do not embody the very likeness of Christ in holiness—not just a passive holiness, but one that is actively righteous, then we can never be “the manifold wisdom of God that is now made known.”

Scripture contains truth, that’s for sure, but it remains a dead letter unless it comes to life through the Church. You and I have that responsibility—that is, to be “living letters seen and read by all men.” (2 Corinthians 3:2)

For sure, we are not saved by works, but we are rewarded according to the good works we perform. Everything else is wood, hay and stubble which will be purged. Check it out, it’s in the Bible—
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV)

 Now, if you disagree, please explain Paul’s comment that—
“For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)

Therefore, let us continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) for—
 We must persevere to the end if we would gain eternal life (Romans 2:7)

Sober words, but none-the-less, Biblical in every sense of the word, “for without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

And, oh, by-the-way, what is holiness? Obedience is holiness, pure and simple, that's the answer in a nutshell. Nothing less, nothing more.

Just remember, we are not alone on this journey,

Jim R/


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Roman Synod on the Church, Evangelicals and Pentecostals

Bishop Denis Madden

1. The Changing Landscape of Catholic Evangelical Relations

The Second Vatican Council of the mid 1960’s marked a watershed in the Catholic Church with regard to her relationship with other Christian communities in the United States, as was true throughout the world. In the years immediately following the Council, the Catholic Church ventured into emerging and deepening relationships with many of the historical mainline Protestant Churches. But dialogue between the American Catholic community and the American Evangelical community seemed the furthest at reach. Separated by years of difficulties and mistrust built atop strongly held differences on doctrine, there appeared little immediate hope toward warming relationships between the two communities. An illustrative example is Harold Ockenga, the first president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who lead the effort to stop John F. Kennedy from being elected president on the basis that he was Catholic. 1

Yet the tumultuous years of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, with the vast social changes transpiring on America’s cultural landscape, brought an unforeseen consequence. Evangelicals and Catholics increasingly found themselves as players on the same field, and often each other’s most like-minded and dependable ally. There were a number of factors that contributed to this phenomenon.

a. The sexual revolution and Roe v Wade.

The sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s brought radical social change in the US, iconized in the 1972 landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Many mainstream Protestant churches embraced the legalization of abortion and an ever-widening liberality of sexual expression and practice as the cultural norm in subsequent years.

Rooted in strong convictions about the sanctity of human life, sexual morality, and the role of the family in educating children, Catholics and Evangelical found themselves heavily engaged in related social issues, and in one another a partner with political and social will. Everyday Evangelicals and Catholics were encountering each other on the picket-lines in front of abortion clinics, on the streets of Washington DC marching for life, and before the public square defending the nature of the family. A rising cooperation between Catholics and Evangelicals in the public square over values we both held dear was becoming the new norm.

b. The Growth of the American Evangelicalism

Evangelical Christianity experienced a demographic burst in the US throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, bringing an increasing numbers of highly educated Evangelicals to positions of greater political, social and intellectual leadership in the US. As a result, the Evangelical community began searching for deeper philosophical traditions and legal language to enhance its argumentation in defense of a Christian world view. They found much forage in Catholic social doctrine. Evangelicals were the first to comment on their surprise at the discovery.

Similarly, many Catholic activists found in the vast Evangelical social institutions, such as Focus on the Family, The Family Research Council, and the Evangelical home-schooling movements, energy, enthusiasm and models from which to borrow, learn, and imitate unhesitatingly.

c. Rise of the Catholic Charismatic Movement-

Since the 1960’s the Catholic charismatic movement has had a presence in the United States, perhaps reaching a climax in the 80’s and 90’s. While retaining a commitment to Catholic teaching, doctrine, and sacramental life, the charismatic movement introduced to the mainstream of the Catholic Church forms of worship and expression that appeared far more akin to Pentecostal revival movements than the liturgical traditions of our Church, emphasizing baptism in the Spirit and the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit and his gifts in the life of the Christian. In this shared experience, Pentecostal, Evangelical and Catholic communities were unexpectedly side-by-side with one another once again, this time in that which is most intimate to the Christian, in his worship. Pentecostal and Evangelical pastors spoke of their surprise to find a growing number of Catholics attending charismatic worship services on Sundays, only to arrive late or leave early because they were rushing to or from their Catholic Mass. Eventually, Protestant charismatic communities began to include well-known Catholic charismatic speakers in their rosters alongside protestant speakers, and vice-versa. 2 This dialogue of shared worship and spirituality went a long way to thaw age-old misconceptions and mistrust between members of the two communities, more easily able to recognize the person in heartfelt worship at their side as a fellow Christian imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit.2

Many Catholic bishops and pastors raised their eyebrows in concern over the emergence of the Catholic charismatic movement. But as the years went on, the presence of the charismatic movement in the US proved to be a force of revitalization in the Church. In many places the charismatic renewal gave birth to a new kind of “dynamic orthodoxy” distinguished for fusing the energy and evangelizing spirit characteristic of the Evangelical churches with a deep love for Catholic tradition. This became particularly attractive to the youth, yielding a new generation of faithful, theologians and vocations in every area of Church life. A phrase has been coined with increasing frequency in young Catholic circles: “Evangelical Catholicism.” Appearing in pastoral programs of dioceses and youth or university student movements around the country, the term is meant to describe a fusion between a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and an enthusiastic commitment to the spreading of the Gospel, both characteristics of American Evangelical Christianity, with a love and appreciation for Catholic traditions and life. This year, George Weigel published his most recent book by the title “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church”3, in which he describes the future era of Catholicism with a vision that resonates with the same spirit.

2. Historical Moments in Our Relationship

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops held official dialogues with the Southern Baptist Convention from 1978 to 2000, engaging in theological discourse over topics such as the environment, poverty, racism, sickness and healing, scripture and salvation. Blessed John Paul II’s historic visit to the United States in 1987 was facilitated by Billy Graham who provided the platform and set for the papal event in the University of South Carolina stadium, and who attended the ecumenical service.

The 1994 document “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” 4 and its 1998 counterpart, while not an official documents representing the United States Bishops but works of independent Catholic theologians and Evangelical colleagues, were landmark documents spelling out the need for Protestants and Catholics to deliver a common witness to the modern world on the eve of the third millennium.

Evangelical and Pentecostal individuals have joined Catholic individuals in sustained conversations on sociological and political research and theology. Jesuit Father Tom Rausch edited a book with help from Richard Mouw and others, Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future?5 Ronald Sider and Dianne Knippers edited a volume, Toward an Evangelical Public Policy, which included one Catholic voice. This was an important volume because it contained the statement that became the National Association of Evangelical’s policy statement, “For the Health of the Nation.”6

Institutes such as the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue of Baylor University and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology of Loyola University in Baltimore have emerged, producing ongoing scholarship on Evangelical-Catholic relations. Georgetown University was host to the Evangelical-Catholic Dialogue on the Common Good and Public Policy from 2008 through 2013, convened by two of America's most prominent religious leaders; Pastor Rick Warren and Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.

Last year in Rome, Dr. Lamar Vest, President of the American Bible Society, became the first Pentecostal to address the Synod of Catholic Bishops on the New Evangelization, the 25th session since Pope Paul VI established the synod in 1967.7 Also addressing the synod was an American representing the Baptist World Alliance, Dr. Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University.8 While hardly a comprehensive study, these developments can be seen as signs of the times of a rising tide of Catholic- Evangelical relations in the United States.

3. The Primary Issues Catholics and Evangelicals Face Today

There continues to be an ever-growing list of issues which are of common concern to Evangelicals and Catholics in our nation today. We continue to be strong partners in the fight for a right to life from conception until natural death. We have stood together in the defense of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman. We collaborate on many social justice issues combatting poverty, discrimination, and injustice. And recently we find ourselves side-by-side in an increasing battle to protect the first amendment right to religious freedom in our nation, and a human right for religious freedom abroad.

4. Continued Obstacles to Catholic Evangelical Relations

There are still issues of real concern to our individual communities regarding one another. One such issue that comes to mind is the question of converts and how we relate to one another as fellow Christians. For the Catholic Bishops there is concern over the loss of Catholic identity in immigrant communities in the United States that are traditionally Catholic, as well as among the faithful in largely Catholic developing nations.
Catholics read scripture with critical tools and in light of a long tradition of commentary and application of scripture to daily life, acknowledging the teaching office of the church. Evangelicals hold to a belief in the inerrancy of scripture. This is a point of deep historical difference between us. While Vatican II may not have resolved the issue of the relation between Scripture and Tradition, it clarified it to the satisfaction of those Protestant scholars who were watching its outcome carefully, that it was moving forward from a position that was reactionary to the Reformation’s emphasis on Bible to one acknowledging a serious need for better study and scholarship. In recent years,

Protestant and Catholic scholarship in cooperation has made available better translations and resources.

As we look toward the horizon of Catholic-Evangelical relations in the United States, we can emphasize the positive if we allow ourselves to delve deeper in what we truly hold in common—the Word of God, our love for Our Lord, and our desire to see Him reign in the hearts of all men and in society at large. Differences in theology should not continue to be an obstacle to our warm and congenial collaboration as fellow Christians who, motivated by the values of the Gospel we hold dear, meet together side-by-side in the public square to combat secularism and relativism while building a more just and charitable society on solid Judeo-Christian values rooted in the natural law, with respect for human life, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion as non-negotiable foundational tenets.
End Notes:

1 Mark S. Massa, S.J., Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 2003), 77-78.
3 Weigel, George. “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church” Basic Books, 2013.
2 Olson, Roger E. “Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue” March 4, 2012.
5 Thomas P. Rausch, ed., Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future? (New York: Paulist Press, 2000).
6 Ronald J. Sider and Diane Knippers, Toward an Evangelical Public Policy (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Baker Books, 2005).
8 See the paper by Bro. Jeffrey Gros, “The New Evangelization: Unity in Proclamation and the Proclamation of Unity,” soon to be published. Vest’s intervention can be found here:,_PRESIDENT_OF_THE_AMERICAN_BIBLE_SOCIETY_(UNITED_STATES_OF_AMERICA).
George’s intervention can be found here:,_Dean_of_the_Beeson_Divinity_School_of_Samford_University_(UNITED_STATES_OF_AMERICA)_

Headed nowhere, but making record time?

Now, consider this—
“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”— Lewis Carroll


The last few days my thoughts have riveted on Paul’s comment to young Timothy, when he wrote—
 ‘[If] I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth’.” (1 Tim. 3:15)

I guess that one of the reasons that the verse has captured my attention is that it is a pretty inclusive statement. The church, not scripture, not theological discourse or philosophical opinions; but rather, the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

Now, the sobering fact is, if that be the case then you and I have the heavy responsibility to embrace that church—which, however, we find out is us. Yes, us. We are that mystical body—or the ekkl├ęsia, that is, “the people called out from the world and to God” as the Greek indicates. Of course, the first question that comes to mind is ‘Where is that Church?’ Once you ask that question, however, you will be surprised how many people will step up and claimed to have found it. One of those knocked on my door yesterday and handed us a tract which had a lot of amazing things to say about their church—which, just happened to be the Jehovah Witnesses. The Mormons came by days earlier, and of course we just recently received a nice little invitation in a pretty envelope to check out the new Episcopal Church just down the road from us. That I did, and quickly exited when I discovered that not only were they will but they were also eager to sanction same-sex marriages.

So back to square one. What or where is that church—that pillar and bulwark of the truth?

Well, one thing for sure, it is Biblical, but then that all depends on who is interpreting the Bible, doesn’t it? When I was a boy, we used to sing that old song, ‘A Glorious Church’ that was without spot or wrinkle. Remember that one? Here the first stanza and the chorus, just to refresh your memory—

Do you hear them coming, brother
Thronging up the steeps of light,
Clad in glorious shining garments —
Bloodwashed garments pure and white?

'Tis a glorious Church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.
'Tis a glorious Church, without spot of wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.
 (Written by: Ralph E. Hudson)

Now, after singing that chorus over a few times, most often some sister or brother who had been washed would begin to get happy, and they were not ashamed to let everyone around them know it either. Some of the times these happy souls were content with just shouting out a few hearty ‘Amens’ or ‘preach it brother.’ Other times, however, some would breakdown and start crying or laughing, and, of course, being Pentecostals a smattering of  ‘tongues’ going off throughout the congregation was a common thing. Don’t see much of this happening these days, though.

Excesses? Of course, there were excesses. That was nothing new, however. The church in Corinth had that, too. So, it was excused. Pastors were not apt to clamp down too hard on the excess, though, because ‘tongues’ seemed to be the authenticating mark. This was the church without spot or wrinkle. But, was it? No, not really. It was the church, but a soiled one at that. Oh, they had been washed. They were forgiven and on their way to Heaven, but spotless? Hardly.

So, what’s the point? What are you driving at, Jim?

Simply this—truth cannot be soiled with excesses; otherwise, it would not be truth, would it? Now, while you put that in your thinking cap let me say this. You will never find a perfect church, but you will find perfect truth in an imperfect church. Spiritual imperfection is not heresy, it is simply immaturity.  We’re not talking morals here, we’re talking practice. So, least we get sidetracked, let’s keep in mind that we ‘blood washed’ saints don’t have all the answers, but we do have the truth. We have Christ, and Christ in His fulness. And, really, in the long run, that’s enough.

So, since I know where I am going, any road is not good enough for me.

Now, to be honest with you, this is precisely why I have stuck with my denomination which I believe has been guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) as it was revealed to His Apostles and Prophets which are the foundation of the Church with Jesus Christ himself as the Chief Corner Stone (Ephesians 2:20).

Thus, in a real sense, I am a restorationsist and fully aware of the challenges inherent in that position.
Remember, we’re in this journey together,