A gallop with the King
According to Sacred Scripture, one day this fallen world will be much different. And it is not merely our souls that might be saved, but our bodies too; redeemed together with all of creation.
Yes, in joy you shall go forth, in peace you shall be brought home; Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, all trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12 (NAB)
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NAB)
Questions precede answers; problems before solutions
Back to my Roman Road, first came problems; only later, solutions. The good news of the Gospel makes most sense the more we realize our predicament. “Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.’” Luke 5:31-32 (NAB). If you see no problems, you’ll find no answers here. The Hanegraaff-surprise jarred me awake to deal with the problem again. Two issues had been focus points: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
My Protestant defenses were down
By the Spring of 2017, I was no longer the anti-Catholic I once was. On our Protestant side of the ledger I’d seen too much negative evidence. On the Catholic side, there were unexplainable positives. Everybody knows Catholics are solid on Life issues, family and morality. Then there was G.K. Chesterton.
For 25 years I had been reading C.S. Lewis. His writing was cool, clear water. Then I came across G.K. Chesterton, a prolific Roman Catholic writer. Chesterton was Lewis on steroids. The Apostle of Common Sense was more concerned with my soul than my feelings. I ignored his Calvin-bashing because his work was so refreshing, so good. Maybe the Catholics accidentally got the Life issues right. But how did the Catholic Church produce a Chesterton? Something wasn’t adding up.
My questions probably took decades to germinate and sprout. Hanegraaff having gone over to the other side made me revisit an old search. I took from my shelf The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In the front cover I’d written the date I started reading the first time: September 11, 2000 (exactly 17 years to the date I entered the Church). I recall putting it down because I ran into what I thought was a theological brick wall. Looking back, I am ashamed of my sloth and shallowness.
On a lonely outpost, cut off from history
In preparing this post, I came across a bookmarker from Mobile, Alabama’s Christ Anglican Church, dated September 30, 2000. I had just left one of Mobile’s large Baptist churches (for reasons too remote and unfocused for this story). No doubt I had been influenced by C.S. Lewis; so I visited a recent break-away from the Episcopal Church. That was the same month I started reading the Catholic Catechism. Lewis had impressed upon me that our faith flowed from real facts that occurred in history. Of course, I knew that. But in Lewis’ unique way, he brought it home to my imagination.
There was an impression that our Baptist world was cut off from historic Christianity. We were flying our Christian flag on a lonely little outpost; just a dot on the vast timeline of history. We were cut off from our roots. Professing an ancient faith tied to facts found in the New Testament, were we reinventing the wheel. Wasn’t the Faith once delivered handed down from real people that lived in an age of writing? Why were we all alone on this hilltop; our flag flapping in the breeze? Certainly, this Bible had not just fallen from the sky.
So I picked up the Catechism over seventeen years ago. However, I tend to recall having stumbled at a Marian doctrine, convinced that Rome was wrong and I was right. My effortless study enabled me to debunk the Catholic Church. Arrogance and presumption were lenses in the dark glasses I wore.
Myth becomes fact
I grew up believing the Bible to be true. As a law student, I began to study the evidence for the authenticity and reliability of Scripture. I knew our faith was married to the facts of history. The message of the cross is a convergence of facts and eternal realities. As my teacher explained,
The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.
Myth became fact, essay published in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, C. S. Lewis.
Do we have Sacraments or not?
Back to Protestant’s two Sacraments. Instead of means of grace, I found baptism and the Lord’s Supper to be sources of unrest. Ultimately, they led me home to Rome. Over the years, I had an uneasiness at church during these Sacraments. During Communion, I heard the pastor say something like “this is just a symbol” or “this is just a picture”. I found myself inwardly cringing. The dismissive “just a” seemed contrary to Sacred Scripture. Similar negations accompanied baptism. Our Protestant traditions seemed to convey that the Sacraments meant nothing, or at least very little.
I was suspicious of the reductionism and rationalism. I know our faith is a gift. But I also know there is abundant evidence for our rational mind. However, based on those same Scriptures, I know we do not have a faith deduced from rationalistic principles. Our faith has been revealed and passed down.
Returning to Holy Communion, something seemed wrong. It was as if we were to be careful to understand nothing was really happening during the Sacraments. It was just a picture of some other reality that happened at some other time, in some other place. I found myself silently praying to receive the Bread and the Wine in the fullest sense in which Jesus meant the words.
Riding bare-back, confident and rejoicing
Nagging problems required answers. Still I did not suspect the Catholic Church to have the answers. Above, Saint John the Evangelist wrote that the Eternal God took on flesh and blood and dwelt among us. C.S. Lewis, the Anglican who Catholics and Calvinists both claim as their own, helped me make an important connection. The Incarnation changed everything. The corporeal is the way God designed to meet us. He meets us in the Sacraments – – in a very real (not merely spiritual) way. Our Protestant tradition’s negation of things eternal to the merely spiritual did not fit. Let Lewis slake your thirst, awaken imagination and make the connection:
The thought at the back of all this negative spirituality is really one forbidden to Christians. They, of all men, must not conceive spiritual joy and worth as things that need to be rescued or tenderly protected from time and place and matter and the senses. Their God is the God of corn and oil and wine. He is the glad Creator. He has become Himself incarnate. The Sacraments have been instituted. Certain spiritual gifts are offered us only on condition that we perform certain bodily acts. After that we cannot really be in doubt of His intention. To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world- shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else— since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?
Miracles, Chap. 16, C.S. Lewis
Still, the truth and goodness and beauty of the Catholic Church remained off the radar.
Go to The Wheat of God