Monday, April 28, 2008


Now that things have settled down in the Richard's house, I can finally have a few moments to get back to some serious blogging. I had an awesome experience last week of having lunch with an old (emphasis was mine---sorry Jacob) college acquaintance who I probably haven't seen in at least 15 years. After we caught up with marriage and kids and the family stuff, the question came: " So how does one go from 'We bring the sacrifice of praise' to 'Ave Maria'?" You have no idea how many of people from my past ask me that question. And to be honest, I never tire of answering it.

A couple of blogs ago, I really put into metaphor what my conversion was like. It truly was a love story that blossomed between me and the Church that our Lord established. But exactly how did it happen? What caused me to "flip" or "cross the Tiber"? I have gotten all sorts of answers from what other people think. Some believe that I have been possessed by a "religious spirit". Others think that I have psychological imbalances. I have even been told that I have fallen for the pomp and circumstance. Lastly, I have been told that I converted just to "be stand out". I mean, after all, there is no good reason that a "free Charismatic" would give up his freedom to return to the "slavery of Rome." And now that I look back on it, I can understand why any good protestant would ask. After can you explain Tradition, Confession and penance, the Eucharist, Mary, Purgatory, Saints, Priestly celibacy? Aren't these all unnecessary, cumbersome inventions of the Catholic Church to keep people in line. That is what I was told. Control mechanisms to keep people in line and intimidate them into "submission".

For us, it happened a bit differently. Sometime in 2002 there was an unrest in our hearts with our spiritual journey and where we were at the time. Just as a background, Laura and I had been raised in a Charismatic Non-Denominational background for our entire lives....nothing else, so everything else to us was foreign. We were used to the entire Charismatic experience and all that goes along with it. As a matter of fact, Laura and I met each other at Liberty Bible College in Pensacola, Fl., and we were very happy. After moving to Jackson, MS for a few years, Laura and I returned to Pensacola and began attending Liberty Church again until 2oo2. We had been very active there in the Church, working with the youth, worship team, prayer teams the whole nine yards. At that point, Laura and I knew that we had to make a change. We talked about it and we both agreed that our time in the Charismatic movement was over. There were many concerns that we had with the direction that the Charismatic overall was headed, not necessarily with Liberty itself. The Charismatic gifts that I had been brought up with were not satisfying this longing I had to truly know Christ and move closer to him. How do I go about this? Worship to us began to be more of a performance trying to engage the congregation emotionally and I was tired of pretending. I didn't want emotionalism, I WANTED TO KNOW JESUS! Who He was, where He was, what He wanted me to believe, who He wanted me to be. I began to question and search everything that I had ever been taught. Why do we believe that the Bible is the Sole Authority of our Faith? And if this is the case, which of the 10,ooo+ denominations is correct in their interpretation? How did I know that what any pastor was teaching was absolutely correct? Is there anyway to know that? I was told that Scripture was the guideline. The only way this can be true, however is if you have a correct interpretation of Scripture. How can we have that verification that our "yardstick" is the correct interpretation? By the Holy Spirit that is within us? If that is the case, then which of the 1o,ooo+ denominations have the correct interpretation? (I will address these questions individually in separate blogs.) This was my dilemma, and it was no small potatoes. At this point I decided that it would be best for us to make a move to a denominational Church......but which one? It was at this time that a buddy at work who knew that I was searching for a new church asked me if I would be offended if he brought me some reading materials. The reader that I am, I gladly accepted his offer. The next day, I found on my desk a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
along with a subscription to This Rock Magazine, a Catholic Apologetics Magazine. I readily devoured this material and honestly at that point, even though I could not put my finger on it, I knew that there was some truth in what was was being taught. It was at this point that I had my introduction to the writings of the Church Fathers. Wait, Church Fathers, what are you talking about? I am talking about the early writings from the disciples of the first apostles, the ones that actually established the Church after Christ left us. People like St. Clement, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, St. Irenaeus, Origen, St. John of Chrystostom, St. Jerome, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine and Gregory among others. This was a whole new world to me? Why didn't I know about these guys and their writings? I had to find out more. It was at this time that I visited my first Catholic Mass.....all by myself. I sat on the very back row, and had no idea what was going on. I was lost as a goose and now I had even more questions that ever, so I had to have some questions answered.

Unfortunately, I really didn't think before I proceeded further. I had no contacts in the Catholic Church other than my buddy at work and I certainly couldn't tell him that I had questions. That would have been crossing a line that I was not ready to cross yet and and I needed a "neutral" opinion. So where did I go? A former Liberty instructor who was a former Catholic Priest that lived in town. I remember that day like it was yesterday. We met at a local restaurant for breakfast so I could get a good opinion on me moving to the Catholic Church (he didn't know that. I just told him that I needed some questions answered). After that meeting, I was done. I begged forgiveness from our Lord for even considering the Catholic Church. I was made aware that Catholic Church was full of Sacrilege and idolatry. I was scared to death......I knew I could never, ever become Catholic. I was convinced and sold................for then.


angie said...

Allan, I know we've discussed this before. Our journey away from church and then back into Jesus (allowing church to be tolerable and even enjoyable again)parallels your journey quite a bit. I have a few questions for you and they are truly questions not challenges. Let's start with just one. What is the proof/history/validity behind the Catholic church being "the church that our Lord established" (BTW, I love the liturgy etc. of the "old dead denominations" that Bro. Bill used to bash so frequently)

Allan Richards said...


So good to hear from you. It has been a while. What a good question. That is one that I went over and over and was one of the major ones that factored into my conversion. First, I would probably recommend you reading a book by Scott Hahn: "A Father Who Keeps his Promises.("

I will try to give you a short answer to this. The problem begins in the fact that you and I not truly taught what the relation between the Old and New Testaments. I felt for so long that the Old Testament was just history and reference and that it really didn't apply to us. If you step back and take a birds eye view at the totality of Scripture, you will see that from the very beginning of creation, God set a covenant up with His people. It began with Abraham and expanded from a person to a family, to a tribe to a nation. What you will also see is that throughout the entire Old Testament God had his people (One body) under a single leader, whether it be a Prophet, Priest, or King. What are we to think of this? Was this just God's "Plan A"? No. This Old Testament plan was a framework, a structure of what God wanted. The main thing to remember in all this is that the Old Testament system was powerless to obtain what God intended however without Christ and his Sacrifice.

Therefore, when Christ comes, he is the King, the head of this new Kingdom which has now expanded from the Nation of Israel to the entire world. One thing that you also have to know is the way that Old Testament Kingdoms were run. Very similar to the story of Joseph, and again in Isaiah 22:19-23. What we see happening is that when a King is absent from a kingdom, he hands the control over that kingdom over to a vizier, who has control over that kingdom until his return. This is exactly what Christ does when He was here. It was no coincidence that he chose 12 diciples to replace the 12 tribes of Israel. Furthermore, when He knows that His time has come, we see in Matthew 16:17-18 that Christ tells Peter: "You are Peter (Rock) and upon this rock, I will build my Church.....I will give you the Keys to the Kingdom, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." What does this mean? It is not some type of authority that he has given to all believers to "speak into existance" what they want, but rather Christ is passing the authority of the Church to Peter and the Apostles in his absence. We see this again in Christ's command to the Apostles in John 16:13:"But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming" This again is a direction to the Apostles....the leaders of the Church that the Holy Spirit would lead and direct them into all truth. If this was actually a promise to each and every believer, it would be very hard to explain why then, if we all are guaranteed that promise, why we have the 1o,ooo+ denominations in the Christian Church. There is much more, but I hope this gives you something to chew on.

Heath said...

ok, first let me say that any disagreement I may have is in no way reflective that I think you are wrong for choosing to be a part of the catholic church. I have no problems with that and know that you along with many of my catholic friends at work love the Lord and are committed to serving him. So, if this turns into a debate (which is not my goal) then let it be a debate that has no effect on us personally. Having said that, I definitely understand the story of Joseph pointing to Jesus coming which in turn, in your view, (I think I understood correctly) is passed on to Peter specifically and the apostles generically. I don't quite understand the Isaiah reference. If looked at in context, it was speaking of Shebna, who spearheaded the revolt against Assyria. Shebna was going to be replaced by Eliakim. So, in context, it is a specific prophecy against a government leader who has usurped power and joined an uprising. If taken out of context it gets quite confusing, especially verse 25 which states:

"In that day," declares the LORD Almighty, "the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down." The LORD has spoken.

This, if pointing to Christ and eventually the Catholic church established through the apostles, sounds like everything that we "hang on" Christ and the church, will bring us disappointment and disillusionment when it is cut down.

In I Peter 2:9-10, Peter is talking to the members of the churches (predominately Gentile) scattered by persecution throughout Asia Minor. He is reminding them that "they", the people, are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. The word "nation" is literally ethnos. We get the word ethnic from this. The verse is saying that we are a holy ethnicity. When we (Jew, Gentile, Protestant, Catholic (even Charismatic) become a follower of Christ, we have joined a new ethnic race. He was encouraging these scattered Christians that they are part of a new ethnic group, a stone in the spiritual house.

This may be brainwashed into me, but that has always been one of my beefs of ancient catholicism. The institutionalization of the church. Peter was speaking to individuals saying, you are holy, you are priests carrying the message, you are part of this new ethnic group, it is you individually, one stone at a time that is going to build my kingdom on earth. Early catholicism was very segregating of the individual. Certainly much of the catholic faith has been redeemed from those times when you were dependent on the church to redeem you, when you couldn't read the scripture b/c you weren't allowed to learn Latin, or when it was a crime to learn the scriptures. This is what made Martin Luther such a heretic, he said the commoner should be treated like a citizen in this ethnicity. So...much of what I'm saying may be tainted with the bigotry of Protestanism, but it's what I'm thinking.....what think you?


Allan Richards said...

Heath....such good questions. Questions and debate (all done in charity) is good. It stretches our minds and causes us to consider other facets of our faith.

My reasoning in mentioning the Joseph was more of an example of being able to see how an actual vizier (someone who rules for a king in his abcense) looks. Joseph had total control of Egypt with the exception of Pharoah's throne. There are a couple of parallels between Peter and Jospeh. One being that Joseph was elevated to vizier as a direct result of a revelation given to him by God. Reading further we also see that he was given the final binding authority in legal matters and infallible interepretation on words from God and was also given the signet ring of Pharoah, which was a sign of the authority given to him.

As a similarity, Peter was elevated to primacy in the Church after God gave him the Revelation that Christ was the Son of God. Our Lord gave him the keys to his kingdom which represented that Christ was leaving his authority to Peter and the apostles. In addition gift of infalliblity on matters of faith were given to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit. As another interesting side note, both Simon and Joseph had name changes in their new roles. There is much more on this, but I am trying to be concise.

In regard to Isaiah 22, let's look actually at what is going on.

At this point in time, Hezekiah is the King of Israel and his during his absence, his "keys" were resting on the shoulders of Shebna, his steward. We read here that Shebna is going to be removed from that place and replaced with Eliakim. In Matthew, what we are seeing is that Jesus pulls this imagery into question on what he is doing. Look at vs. 20-22:

On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.

Now compare that with Matthew 16:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

There is no question that Christ was pulling on the disciples knowledge of the Old Testament Prophets and their understanding of the Kindgom hierarchy to convey to them what was going on. The authority that Jesus has was now being passed to Peter in his absence.

Now looking briefly at 1 Peter 2:10. There are a lot of issues here that you can deal with, but again, trying to keep it concise. In the OT, there was a way for foreigners or slavesto be accepted into Israel--by circumcision. This was a symbol that was fulfulled in the Sacrament of Baptism. In the early Church, there were no "denominations", only Jews, Gentiles, and "other". If you chose to become a follower of Christ, you did so first by Baptism and through Baptism, you were then a member of this new nationality...the Kingdom of God, where there is to Jew or Greek, slave or free. As Christians we do share in the priestood of Christ; for example, you and I as fathers are priests of our homes.

I will be the first to admit that the Catholic Church has it's issues and I have some to add to the list. There have been many bad decisions that have been made and bad Popes--really bad. However what the Catholic Church teaches is that the Church will never be perfect. Remember that Christ told the parable about the wheat and tares that are growing in the same field? What we do believe is that the Holy Spirit would protect the Church, his Body, from teaching errors in the matter of Faith and doctrine. Therefore, each person shall be judged on his individual judgments and errors, no matter who he is or what position he holds. What you see however is that the doctrines of the Church have not changed in 2000 years. They have been developed and expanded, but never changed.

Hope this helps and here is a link for a quick read through: