The Bible should NOT be taken literally.
I had to take a few breaths to steady myself there. Even after three years as a Catholic, it was still a little difficult to write that! Every now and then, I still feel a bit haunted by the ghosts of some false doctrines that I subscribed to during my time as a fundamental Baptist. In fact, I half-expect a brick of condemnation to be hurled through my window at any moment by an angry Protestant! You see, one of the core beliefs of the Fundamentals — and other denominations, no doubt — is that the entire sixty-six books1 of the Bible should be taken literally. Creation occurred in seven days, Jonah spent three days in a whale’s belly, and God really did let Satan kick the snot out of Job.
I’m currently about halfway through Surprised by Truth. Edited by Patrick Madrid, this short book (less than 300 pages) contains the stories of 11 converts to the Catholic Church. They are pastors, teachers, and authors, and many of them were Protestants, Presbyterians, and Evangelicals. It’s been a wonderful read so far, and will no doubt provide some excellent reference material for future articles.
This book is so good that I might even pass it on to Uncle Richard. That’s really saying something, since I have yet to find a text that I believe he might actually read instead of automatically discarding it as “the devil’s work.”
You can purchase your copy from his store or at Amazon.
Understanding the Catholic Teaching on Communion
One of the most distinctive (dare I say, “fundamental?”) differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is the celebration of Communion. While both denominations observe Communion as a recreation of the Lord’s Supper, they differ on several points:
- Catholic: Using leavened bread and naturally fermented wine, they typically celebrate Communion on at least a weekly basis, and believe that the bread and wine become the Most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in a process known as transubstantiation. They also believe that partaking of Communion is critically important in getting to Heaven.
- Protestant: Using grape juice (or sometimes wine) and oyster crackers, their schedule varies by branch, and often even within each branch. Observance is anywhere between twice a month to four times a year. Rather than transubstantiation, they believe that the grape juice or wine and crackers are merely symbols. Observance is not seen as a vital part of salvation.
After reflecting on the time I spent learning about Catholicism before ultimately deciding to join the Church, I’ve come up with a list of the most critical questions and assumptions I had. These were based on the knowledge I had — or thought I had — at the time, based mostly on my upbringing as a Baptist. If the Church couldn’t answer these questions to my satisfaction, there was no way I was going through with Confirmation and all that jazz.
Here’s the list, in almost no particular order:
- The Eucharist, known to me as Communion: “It’s just a symbol, it’s not real blood or flesh.”
- The Pope: “He’s not God, he’s just a man. What’s the big deal?”
- Confession of sins: “The only person I need to confess my sins to is God.”
- Baptism for salvation: I was taught that, once you were “saved,” nothing could keep you out of Heaven. You could rape, pillage, and burn to your black heart’s content, and you’d still go to Heaven. An extreme example: if Adolph Hitler had been “saved” as a young boy, he’d be in Heaven today. I’ll readily admit that I had a problem with that… no surprise there!
- Mary: “It’s a sin to worship anyone other than God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.”
- Purgatory: “The Bible tells us about Heaven and Hell. There’s nothing in there about Purgatory.”
- Celibacy of priests: “That’s probably one of the reasons so many priests become sex offenders.”
- The Bible must be taken literally!
There’s so much wrong with #7 that I was tempted to remove it. But, it had been a concern of mine in the past, so it stays on the list.
These are the subjects I will explore in greater detail in future articles. As I do so, I’ll try to update this post with links as appropriate.
It’s important to articulate why I hold with the Catholic Church’s teachings in these areas. If someone were to ask me today, I could defend each one of these our beliefs. This is known as the discipline of apologetics (a Greek word which means “speaking in defense”).
Perhaps you’re exploring the differences between your faith and that of the Catholic Church. Or maybe you’re already a Catholic, but would like a deeper understanding of the various aspects of our faith. You may even be a Baptist or other Protestant looking to debunk Catholic beliefs. You are all welcome! I encourage healthy discussions and debates, so please comment here or on other articles.
There’s a strong possibility that you’re going to hate this article. Especially if you like Perkins. I’ve wanted to put these thoughts down in print for years, but was finally inspired when I heard “Does Anybody Hear Her” by Casting Crowns on the radio for the umpteenth time the other day. You’ve been warned.
I used to hate Sundays.
Quite a few years ago — I won’t say how long in a likely futile attempt not to date myself — I managed a fairly busy Perkins restaurant. My particular area of responsibility was the front-of-house staff, which included roles such as hosts and servers. Anyone who has managed a restaurant can tell you how difficult the process of creating an employee schedule can be. It’s rarely static from week to week, since the majority of the staff is part-time and engaged in much more important activities such as school and excessive partying.
The restaurant was open 24×7, so of course I had to staff for 24 hour coverage. Like so many other restaurants, the busiest, most profitable shifts for my servers were Friday and Saturday evenings. However, not everyone could work even one of those shifts, since doing so would mean that 1) I’d have more people than I needed, thus blowing my labor cost out of the water, and 2) it would undoubtedly push some into overtime, which is a huge no-no in restaurants.
I was listening to one of Matthew Kelly’s presentations on Relevant Radio a few weeks ago when he started talking about the Classroom of Silence. When he was 19 years old, Matthew started spending 10 minutes every day at church. He visited outside of Mass hours, sitting in the chapel and asking God, “What do you want me to do?” Those little interludes in the “classroom of silence” really started the process of grounding him in the Catholic faith.
I started doing the same thing a few weeks ago. My attendance hasn’t been perfect — I’ve missed every weekend AND Monday through Wednesday of this week — but I’m already starting to appreciate the value of that time. When I’m sitting in the front row of the chapel, I try to open myself up to God’s will. I try not to think about my day, my work, or any of the many other distractions that threaten to intrude. Instead, I focus on why I’m there and try to hear God’s voice.
No matter how turbulent my day has been, I find myself surprisingly refreshed when I’m finished. What a fantastic return for such a small investment!
I am challenging myself to make this a regular, daily habit. Give it a try. Stop by on your way to work, on your way home, or during a lunch break. I think you’ll agree that it will become one of the best investments of your time.
I have enjoyed reading and writing for as long as I can remember. My parents remember me writing science fiction and scripts for video games. I briefly hosted a blog on the old MySpace (I’m so ashamed!) as well as one on Blogger. For one reason or another, I haven’t kept up nearly as well as I wanted to over the past six or seven years.
This blog is my project to fix that. It is my attempt to discuss topics that directly related to my journey from Baptist to Catholic. I also plan to touch on other aspects of our faith, and may dive a bit into current news as it relates to the Church. In addition to providing myself with a creative outlet, I hope that what I write is informative and perhaps even thought-provoking. And if I can help even one other person come home to the Catholic church — either through conversion or as a returning cradle Catholic — then I’d say it will have been well worth the effort.
Please feel free to comment on anything I write and share as appropriate. Thank you for visiting!