Teaching & Suggestions

Evangelicals with Statues?

by Steve Ray on November 16, 2017

A while ago I took off running through a commercial area behind the hotel where I was staying while doing a parish mission. I discovered a nice jogging trail through the woods so I swung onto the trail and headed through the trees. Soon I came into the open to see a beautiful lake. A sign caught my eye. It had an arrow pointing to “Baptismal Pool.” I kept running.

Sure enough a little distance ahead there was an elaborate structure with seats, railings and a ramp down into the lake. It was obviously designed for full immersion baptisms (see pictures).

I was puzzled. Why a baptismal pool in a commercial park? I looked carefully at the large building to the right which appeared to be a large office building – but surprise! it was a large mega-church with a sign “Fellowship Church.”

I looked back at the baptismal pool and remembered my upbringing in modest Baptist churches. They didn’t have lakes with elaborate ramps down to the ducks and white egrets sharing the water. We had huge bathtubs behind the pulpit where people were immersed after church services – all wearing white robes and holding their noses.

But what does baptism do for these good meaning folks? According to their theology baptism does nothing – it’s not even necessary. Jesus commanded it so they do it but nothing happens. It was just an external act we did to show the world (even if it was in the privacy of our little church) that we had believed on Jesus. I know because I was raised this way and later passed on the Baptist tradition myself.

Of course evangelicals condemn Catholics as unbiblical for teaching that obeying Christ in baptism actually does something – bringing about new birth (John 3:5), washing away sins (first words Paul heard from Ananias when he hit the dust, Acts 22:16), and incorporating us into the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:1-5).

Funny that they make such a costly structure to do something that doesn’t do anything. According to most of them – baptism is unnecessary for salvation and is merely optional since we are “saved by faith alone and not by sacraments.”

Funny that Baptists are called Baptists even though they consider baptism as unnecessary! Originally, after splitting from Martin Luther who believed baptism did something, even with infants, Baptists were originally called “Anabaptists”. “Ana” means again. Since they rejected their infant baptism as Catholics they decided they all had to be baptized again – thus “Anabaptists.” it was actually a way of demonstrating their protest against the Catholic Church (thus the title Protestant). Later they dropped the prefix “ana.”

I continued running around the next curve and stopped again. There in front of my eyes was was a big outdoor statue. I took a double-take, blinked and looked again. Yup, it was a statue! A statue of Jesus ascending to heaven!

Wait a minute? Aren’t Catholics accused of being idolaters because of statues? What is a statue doing in the garden of an

Evangelical mega-church? It brought to mind the inconsistency of Protestants, remembering my Baptist mom’s little statue of Mary and Jesus on our table at Christmas, part of the nativity scene.

If I was staying over the weekend I’d have visited this “church” just as an observer out of curiosity. I’d follow the arrow to “worship space.” I’m not sure whether I’d buy a cappuccino or an espresso to enjoy while watching the worship show entertainment. I would not want to be the only one with an empty cup holder in my theatre-style seat.

After shaking my head and wiping the sweat from my brow I ran back to the hotel to pack and fly back home after giving a Catholic Parish Mission. I prayed a quick prayer along the way – while huffing and puffing – and thanked Our Lord for His Catholic Church and for opening the eyes of one more unworthy servant.

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“Life is all about the Journey, not the Destination!” (paraphrase of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.) I saw this sign at the airport recently. Imagine! In an airport of all places!

What stupidity! Grab a passenger arriving at the airport to catch a flight and shout, “Hey, take any flight you want sir, it doesn’t matter; it’s not about your destination, it’s only about the journey – experience of the flight.”

He would tell you you’re nuts.

I don’t know about you, but if life is only about the journey and there is no destination (other than becoming worm food) then this life is ultimately a sadistic, cruel, cosmic joke and I want out!

St. Paul says if Christ is not raised from the dead then neither is there resurrection for us and we, of all men are the most to be pitied (1 Cor 15:19) and if there is no resurrection and life after death – the destination – then we should eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die (1 Cor 15:32).

But I know better. Life is a journey in preparation to arrive at the destination which is all important. The journey is a means to the chosen destination. My destination and goal is heaven and union with God for eternity. There is another destination as well, but I’m preparing for the better of the two.

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By Elizabeth Scalia | Sep 25, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 5.38.14 AM“Before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen…”

Participating in a London conference on the topic of “The Christian Future of Europe,” Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, head of the External Relations Departments of the Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate, spoke on September 22 at the Russian Embassy to Great Britain, and his talk was something of a warning to the Churches of the West.

Opening his talk with an acknowledgement of Christian persecution throughout the world, and armed with research figures hewn from recent PEW polls and other studies, Hilarion painted a grim but up-to-date and accurate picture of what Christianity is currently facing due to migration and Western secularization, and also what the future of Christianity will look like without a deep and strenuous effort at evangelization.

The Archbishop presented a sobering look at how migration is impacting Europe:

“According to figures by the European Union agency Frontex, more than 1.8 million migrants entered the EU in 2015 alone … the number of migrants in Europe has increased from 49.3 million people in 2000 to 76.1 million people in 2015.”

“The other reason for the transformation of the religious map of Europe,” said Hilarion, “is the secularization of European society. Figures in a British opinion poll indicate that more than half of the country’s inhabitants – for the first time in history – do not affiliate themselves to any particular religion.”

This trend is not holding true in Russia, where an identification with faith is on the upswing, although “many defined themselves as ‘religious to some degree’ or ‘not too religious’ … However, the number of people who define themselves as being ‘very religious’ is growing steadily.”

That good news must be balanced an understanding of the rapid decline of religious practice in Europe and North America, and here Hilarion suggested that history must be given its due study, as a warning:

I would like to remind you all that in Russia before 1917 nobody ever proposed that the collapse of a centuries-old Christian empire would happen and that it would be replaced by an atheistic totalitarian regime. And even when that did happen, few believed that it was serious and for long.

The modern-day decline of Christianity in the western world may be compared to the situation in the Russian Empire before 1917.

The revolution and the dramatic events which followed it have deep spiritual, as well as social and political, reasons. Over many years the aristocracy and intelligentsia had abandoned the faith, and were then followed by common people.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia spoke of this in January 2017:

“The fundamental rupture in the traditional way of life – and I am now speaking … of the spiritual and cultural self-consciousness of the people – was possible only for the reason that something very important had disappeared from peoples’ lives, in the first instance those people who belonged to the elite.

In spite of an outward prosperity and appearance, the scientific and cultural achievements, less and less place was left in peoples’ lives for a living and sincere belief in God, an understanding of the exceptional importance of values belonging to a spiritual and moral tradition.”

Hilarion seemed to reserve a special condemnation of the resistance to religion demonstrated by the European Union:

And when half a century after the creation of the European Union its constitution was being written, it would have been natural for the Christian Churches to expect that the role of Christianity as one of the European values to have been included in this document, without encroaching upon the secular nature of the authorities in a unified Europe.

But, as we know, this did not happen.

The European Union, when writing its constitution, declined to mention its Christian heritage even in the preamble of the document.

I firmly believe that a Europe which has renounced Christ will not be able to preserve its cultural and spiritual identity.

The Archbishop’s full speech may be read here.

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