Saturday, July 25, 2009

Confessions Of A Bookworm Conclusion..I promise

Well, here I am again. Me and my library. I left you hanging in the stream of Catholicism. Perhaps one of my greatest dreams is to see once more the church as one church. It would please our Lord to no end to see us united in Christ. I know that is a pipe dream, but still, it's what Jesus would want. One in Christ, one in faith, one in communion. I lamented the passing of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus earlier this year. Fr. Neuhaus was the former editor of First Things magazine, a very heady philosophical and theological journal that was praised by Protestants and Catholics alike. I urge you to read this magazine regularly as it represents the best of religious commentary for the entire church. Fr. Neuhaus teamed with Chuck Colson to promote dialogue between Catholics and Protestants with the hope of breaking down the walls between us. I feel this an essential goal and must be continued. I'm don't know if anyone can fill Fr. Neuhaus' shoes, at least at this point in time. He was a giant among giants.

The Catholic church is a splintered church. Thanks to my study, I probably understand it more now than the majority of the average Protestant church attendee. And, from the questions I often hear on Catholic Answers, I think I know more than the average Catholic. I'm appalled at the ignorance of the average Catholic. (I'm also appalled at the lack of scriptural knowledge by many Protestants as well). As I've said, there is a major splintering within the Catholic church.

On the other hand, there is a handful of wonderful people that are bringing new life back into the Catholic church. You may call them reformers. By the admission of many Catholics themselves, the church is at one of it's lowest points in history. But these reformers, who hold true to the "mother church" have recognized their own shortcomings and are breathing new life back into the church. These people have had the "born again" experience. They shudder at that phrase. For them, they'd call it repentance and "conversion of heart."
Read these folks. And oh, by the way, forget anything you read in news media regarding anything regarding the Catholic church, or any Protestant church as well. The media simply are liars and only tell half truths. Sorry, but after years of study, that's my conclusion. You'll never get the whole truth out of the secular media.

So whenever you read anything in the secular media, go and get the whole story. You can trust some of these sites. (Be careful on this as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is riddled with bad priests)

Those are just a few. Check out the links on my blog. I've tried to be careful to list the best of the trustworthy Catholic sites.

I spent a lot of time on my Catholic section because that is where the bulk of my renewal has been taking place in the last few years. My faith has been strengthened, and as many of you can attest, I've become bolder in my witness. That brings me to my last section of my library. After several years of burying myself in the dry dust of church history and Catholicism, I pulled my head out of the sand, shook the dust out of what was left of my hair, washed my glasses and was confronted with a new world.

My old evangelical world didn't look the same. New terms confronted me. I had spent so many years of intense study, I'd not paid a whole lot attention to the changes taking place in the evangelical world. Boy, did I get a wake up call. New words like Post-modern, Emergence, Emergent Churches, New Reformation, Process Theology, Seeker Friendly, and on and on. I found an evangelical world that seemed to have lost its way and abandoned its moorings. Doctrine and theology had taken a back seat to an experiential, what ever feels good religion. Our churches went from houses of worship to auditoriums of entertainment. Hallowed halls to basketball stadiums.

It is an everyone for himself movement anymore. No one knows for sure where we are going. Confusion seems to reign. Or at least it seems to me. Tolerance has replaced discipline. Free thinking has replaced obedience. Psychology has provided the basis for scripture exposition. The old ways seem to have been proven inefficient and everyone is struggling to find what works.

In the meantime, the world goes on it's merry way to hell. Oh, there are a few who have awakened to some of the major deficiencies of our church. Peace and justice has emerged into the vocabulary of the evangelical church. It's about time. Jesus' main talks dealt with peace and justice. He is more concerned about how we relate to the poor and disadvantaged than how marvelous our worship services are conducted.

Forgive me for saying this, but the Catholic church has recognized this for centuries. It's greatest ministry has been to the poor and disenfranchised. It's just they forget how to emphasize the fullness of repentance and conversion. So now my library reflects this. I have books from many of the emergent writers. As a result, my library, at present looks a little confused. Just as I am with what is going on in my evangelical world.

But by the grace of God, there is one book left I haven't mentioned in this overly long blog subject. And that is my Bible. It has been the rock and foundation of all I've read. Which Bible? You ask. The Bible of history. I've come to accept the Bible that has was canonized by the early church councils. It includes the Deuterocanonicals. (pass the smelling salts to my Protestant brethren and sisterns) (misspelling on purpose)
Don't get excited. Remember, the Bible of the reformers included those books. They weren't removed from our Bibles until, under pressure from the reformed Protestants, they were removed in the middle 1800's by a bible publisher. I don't hold them in high esteem like the Roman Catholics. I'm more in line with the Orthodox Church that sees the Deuterocononicals as a little less inspired than the rest of the scriptural books. And they add more than the Roman Catholics with other books as well. At best, they are inspired in the sense they convey some spiritual truth, but not fully inspired at the rest of the books of the Bible. They are rich in history and tradition from which we gain enormous understanding of the inter-testament period.

In conclusion, the Bible has and will remain my most trusted source of teaching and learning. I'm gradually learning Lectio-divina which is simply reading, reflecting and praying the word into my heart. I'm not proficient at it yet, but am learning. My favorite versions are the English Standard Version (ESV) which the those of the reformed faith seem to love. The New International Version (NIV) for understanding, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Catholic Version. Yes..even the gender inclusive version. Don't get me going on that silly argument. And I even like The Message bible. When you understand it was written for Eugene Peterson's kids so that they could relate in everyday language the general principles of the Bible, it is very good.

Well, that's my library and my life. I know I've painted myself into a corner. There are not many of my friends who share my belief or discoveries. It is controversial and will be misunderstood. But one of my gifts is an ability to see both sides of an issue. That is not popular with many people. We live in a polarized society. And as Christians are more and more marginalized, the more we become defensive with our own belief systems.
I hope to avoid that so that should the opportunity ever arise, I will be ready to share Christ to anyone who asks the reason for what I believe.

God bless you all and thank you for taking the time to read my rambling and poorly expressed thoughts. And apologies to Scott Mcknight for breaking every literary rule in the book.

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