A Quest For Truth ~ A Journey Home!
May 1, 2023 | View PDF
At six years old traveling with my family and passing several churches along our way to church, I recall asking my father, who is right and why are there so many different churches? My father did not have an answer.
Fast forwarding as an adult, routine discussions in Christian circles were often centered around; what did the New Testament Church look like? Every church wishes to emulate the early church this side of the resurrection. Since the reformation in 1517, this discussion continues with church splits and approximately 45,000 denominational expressions of Christianity worldwide. When you get past God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit and the bible being the inspired word of God, unfortunately interpretations and divisions fiercely emerge. So, the question today is still relevant, why are there 45,000 Christian varieties and what did the New Testament Church look like? Did Christ intend on their being so many divisions within one body?
In 1979, I began a seven-year quest researching the answer to this question, and my early conclusion was, if you were a Christian in the first 1500 years AD, you were either Roman Catholic or Orthodox (Coptic). My research also concluded that all post Reformation Christian expressions are less than 500 years old. Here is what triggered my search; please stay with me.
After attending a pro-life event in Birmingham, my wife Deborah and our family attended a church service, where Jim Pinto was the pastor. He and his wife Joy organized the pro-life event. During the service, we recited the Apostles Creed, which is still embodied in many Christian services today. I called Reverend Pinto on my way home and asked him where did it come from, his simple answer at that time was: “I do not know.” This one question began my expedition of Christian history. The facts I unearthed on this journey, changed my perspective for life. With only the Old Testament around, the Creed became the “Mission Statement for Christianity.” I always found it interesting, we always made a big deal swerving away from the word “catholic” in the creed and stress “universal,” but the facts and history confirms this is the language chosen by the early church.
Continuing on this exploration, I bumped into the Nicene Creed, now what is this? From about 150 AD when the Apostles Creed was written until 325 AD, a disagreement arose earning the title as the “Arian Heresy.” The core of this heresy was rooted in the view that Jesus could never be humanity and divinity all in one person. Severely splitting the Roman Empire apart, Constantine being the head of state called a church meeting, including Arian to settle this notion. The Nicene Council was formed in 325 AD giving birth to the Nicene Creed, which tightened up and eliminated any wiggle room in the language from the Apostles Creed. Both creeds are divided into 4 sections: God the Father, Jesus the son, the Holy Spirit and one holy, catholic and apostolic church. This was another weight point for me, the Catholic church is authenticated for having apostolic succession, meaning there is a line of senior pastors (Pope’s, Cardinals and Bishops), much like the Wall of Presidents with 2000 years of history. All other expressions of Christianity are less than 500 years old.
My next convincing check point on this tour was in 397 AD, the Council of Carthage canonized the 27 books of the New Testament. Christianity was now almost 400 years old, there was no New Testament, just the creeds, word of mouth, letters sent around and traditions passed down from the linage of Apostles. I was a sola scriptura advocate until these 4oo years without the New Testament became a sobering reality. Fast forward now to 1611 AD, the Gutenberg Press prints the first King James Bible, but wait a minute, where did these extra books in the Old Testament come from? What do you mean, I thought there were 66 books in the Old Testament? It blew my mind to learn the Martin Luther, who led the reformation stripped these 7 books from the Old Testament. The Catholic Bible today has the 73 Old Testament books as printed in the original King James. Study this one out for yourself, but be careful, you too may find yourself saying…all roads lead to Rome.
Just after Easter 2004, the front-page of almost every daily newspaper in Alabama cited; “Christian Coalition President converts to Catholicism.” Who cares, but the media saw this as a divisive opportunity, particularly in the deep south. The Christian Coalition had been catapulted into several high-profile statewide encounters including defending the Ten Commandments in State Judicial Building, defeating casino gambling and the lottery, passing a constitutional marriage amendment and opposing a $1.2 billion tax hike on Alabama families. This is a plausible explanation for the media coverage, but the real story lead is a lifelong Protestant converting to Catholicism, Why?
After my seven-year historical exploration, it became clear to me the Roman Catholic Church dates back to Peter emerging as the lead apostle launching the New Testament Church with his powerful message converting and baptizing 3000 on Pentecost Sunday. In addition, the Catholic church gave us the New Testament. Like the early apostles and all Christian churches down through the years, the catholic church has experienced the leadership of flawed men, but the seven sacraments and the catechism has remained intact and core beliefs were inked in. Publicly noted sinful lifestyles of leadership never changed or affected the core teachings and beliefs of the church. All of my perceptions about what I thought the Catholic Church taught and believed were proved incorrect and a misguided view, slowly dissolving my observations that were opinion only, not fact.
I have noticed in candid talks with fellow Christian friends that are not Catholic, often they mention something is missing or void in their current worship setting. I have three observations, the creed, ancient liturgical worship and the seven sacraments.
When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom. Up until that point, there were daily sacrifices at the temple, while readings and prayers were done in the synagogues. In a catholic service, there is the liturgy of the word, which is what took place in the synagogues and the liturgy of the eucharist (communion) sacrificing the lamb presented at the temple. The two forms of worship became one. Jesus the word and Jesus the sacrificial lamb found in ancient liturgy.
The Catholic Church reflecting on Jesus earthly ministry, instituted seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick and holy orders. The Eastern Orthodox left all sacraments intact when departing the Catholic Church around 1054 AD. Post reformation, only a hand full of Christian expressions (Denominations) actually listed any of these as sacraments. The Creed, Seven Sacraments and the Ancient Liturgy are at the three-legged stool of Catholicism.
Looking back, the Catholic Church was never on my multiple-choice list, but at least now I know the answer to the question I asked my father 63 years ago. On this voyage I also concluded what others were missing in their expression of Christianity, and since my decision in 2004, never once looking back.
One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.