Backroads in the Bible Belt
The early years
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3, KJV).
Among my earliest memories: reading John 14 with my Dad. I’m grateful for God’s grace and mercy. I am thankful for my parents, and for having grown up at Fulton Road Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama; where the seed of God’s Word was planted in my heart.
My story is another in a long line: the Incomparable Christ of the Gospels pursues His lost sheep, leading them home; one by one. Having entered the Catholic Church, I rejected nothing that was true. Rather, I carried with me what was true and good from my Protestant past.
Fulton Road Baptist was a small congregational church in the struggling part of Mobile, along what is affectionately (or derogatorily) known as D.I.P. (Dauphin Island Parkway). Also, that was school through the fifth grade; until transferring to a small, independent Methodist school through graduation. We were in church all the time: Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday night (Royal Ambassadors), Wednesday chapel at school, and Wednesday night prayer meeting.
Don’t get me wrong. I was not overly devout, preferring parking-lot duty on Sunday nights with my Dad. Maybe once or twice a year, fiery evangelists came through town holding week-long revival meetings. I remember Lee Castro, the evangelist from Mexico with his beautiful voice and guitar; and Anis Shorrosh, the Palestinian Christian born in Nazareth who came down to the Parkway showing films from the Holy Land. I grew up knowing there was something special about the Bible.
Lee Castro, Evangelist
By grace through faith
Don’t expect to find here my version of Saint Augustine’s Confessions. While I may have shared many of his sins, I have little of his brilliance or eloquence. Suffice for the purpose: by grace, through faith, I responded to God in Christ who came to save sinners. I’ve discovered “the absence of God in sin, the need for God in anxiety, the coming of God in salvation, [and] the presence of God in the life of grace.” The Power of Silence, Robert Cardinal Sarah, 192.
A reluctant convert
I did not fall willy-nilly into the arms of Rome. I was a reluctant convert. Ashamedly and embarrassingly, I was one of those Protestants who believed and repeated the worst things about the pope and the Catholic Church. I’ve since come to know and love Saint John Paul II who led the Church when I was coming of age on those backroads.
While in law school, the study of Scripture became more intense. My studies convinced me of the authenticity and reliability of the Bible. C.S. Lewis, John R.W. Stott, F.F. Bruce, Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul and Oswald Chambers were among my teachers. I read so many sermons by Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth-century Prince of Preachers. While in law school, I was part of a jail ministry and joined a mission to Ponta Pora, Brazil to save Catholics.
Well into adulthood, married with children, my wife and I joined a (reformed) Presbyterian congregation (Presbyterian Church of America or PCA). John Calvin’s theology fit with my Spurgeon-taught understanding of the gospel. I was part of that small PCA congregation when I became convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church’s claims. Fundamentalism, evangelicalism and reformed theology were the roads that led me toward Rome.
A well-known Protestant goes over the wall
In the Spring of 2017, satellite radio shocked me with news that Hank Hanegraaff had entered the Eastern Orthodox Church. On May 26, 2017, I was driving along U.S. Highway 98 East between Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Mobile. I had deposed an economist in Jackson, Mississippi, getting ready for trial in a catastrophic personal injury lawsuit pending in Vicksburg. On the way to Dauphin Island for the Memorial Day Weekend, the news about Hanegraaff stirred in me something that had been slowly brewing, but mostly dormant, for longer than I could remember.
I discovered the Bible Answer Man’s radio host, Hank Hanegraaff, while a law student at the University of Mississippi. He was on the front lines countering heterodoxy. Hanegraaff was one I considered orthodox, at least in that Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) version of orthodoxy. Almost two and a half decades later, the Hanegraaff-surprise began, or rather restarted, what became an unforgettable summer.
More to follow
In posts to follow, I discuss the discoveries that led into the Catholic Church: authority; the Sacraments; Sola Scriptura; history; Church Fathers; ecumenical councils; John 6 and the Eucharist; John 17 and unity; Saints and miracles and holiness. I wanted to know: What do I really believe, and why do I believe it? If those questions occur to you, I hope this blog is helpful.
Go to Myth became fact