Understandably, Protestants try to find ways to demonstrate that the authority of the Catholic Church is illegitimate or that Catholic doctrines are somehow corrupt. The more Catholics they find who can’t refute an argument, the more effective that argument appears to be. Even after arguments have been refuted by knowledgeable Catholics, Protestants often keep using them. With a bit of homework, Catholics can prepare themselves to address persistent misconceptions.
A classic Protestant argument has popped up on my radar from three different sources lately, so I think it might be good to address it in a public way, in order to help my fellow Catholics.
The argument goes something like this: “Did you know that the Catholic version of the Ten Commandments is different? They re-arranged the numbers, taking out the second commandment and splitting the tenth commandment into two! Of course we can see past the scheme of these sneaky Catholics… by removing God’s clear commandment against making graven images, they can get away with worshiping their statues!”
Before we go any further, I need to clarify a few things. First of all, Catholics are strictly prohibited from worshiping/adoring anyone or anything other than God (this is serious stuff). Secondly, the definition of “worship” can be a debate in itself, and if it comes down to a Protestant insisting that a Catholic person is worshiping something involuntarily… well that dog just ain’t gonna hunt. Thirdly, although the “ten commandments” are referred to in Exodus 34:28, nowhere in the Bible are they assigned numbers. The numbering of the commandments is an extra-biblical matter settled (for Christians) by Church authority.
Right off the bat we can see that the Protestants are appealing to tradition in the way they number the commandments. But, setting that aside, let’s proceed…
There are two places in the Old Testament where we see the Commandments listed. First, let’s take a look at Exodus 20:3-17
3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Protestants claim that verse 3 should be kept separate from 4-6, and that dividing verse 17 into separate references against coveting your neighbor’s wife and possessions is a stretch by Catholics in order to fill out the number of commandments to ten. However, let’s pause for a moment and consider a slightly awkward question…
Why are Protestants so determined to number wives in the same category as possessions, when Catholics are pointing out that it’s not necessary?
But it gets stickier from there. The case can biblically be made that verses 4-6 are a further clarification of the larger point made in verse 3, which is to not worship anything other than God (note also how verses 9-11 further clarify verse 8 regarding the Sabbath). There is good reason to not interpret words like “graven image” or “likeness” (depending on your translation) literalistically, because God instructed the people to make images, as seen in Exodus 25:18, Numbers 21:8-9, and 1 Kings 6:23-28. Finally, a blanket rejection of statues and images puts many Protestants in a tight spot, if their households contain photographs of loved ones or little statues in Nativity scenes during the Christmas season, or if they appreciate statues of historical figures.
You might still be thinking that dividing verse 17 into two distinct commandments (and ones apparently out of order, for that matter) is a bit of a stretch. That’s fair enough, and it brings us to the other list in the Old Testament of the Ten Commandments: Deuteronomy 5:6-21. This list is just as legitimate as the one found in Exodus 20, by the way. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just quote verse 21:
21 Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife.
Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Here we can see two distinctly different commandments… the ones Catholics know to be the 9th and the 10th.
This was not a comprehensive examination of the subject, but hopefully enough explanation to be helpful.
For a much better explanation:
Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I’m becoming Catholic. We now have December 21st scheduled as the day that my wife and kids and I will be officially received into the Church. We’re so happy!!!
Like many other converts we are blessed to become aware of the fullness of the Christian faith during this great time of Pope Francis’ leadership, and when apologetics books and media are readily available to help people efficiently understand the Catholic Church. Coming from Protestantism, we came to the uncomfortable realization that Protestant answers to questions of Christianity were insufficient in comparison to Catholic answers. But all credit must go to God for patiently leading us home to His Church through the ups and downs of the process.
Looks like this year we’ll be putting the “Mass” back in Christmas.
My wife and I (and our little girls too) are practically giddy with excitement. The thought of taking part in the Eucharist at Christmas time is like a dream come true, and the thought of seeing my girls baptized into the faith will be a relief to say the least, and although I do feel a healthy bit of trepidation, I look forward to the liberation I’ll feel from my first confession. I will welcome the Holy Spirit at confirmation, and trust that He will adequately equip me to serve.
This day is at least as big of a deal as a wedding day, involving at least as much commitment.
We would be thrilled to have family and friends there for us, but we also understand that some loved ones may find supporting us in this to be difficult.
I know that the day-to-day year-after-year life of being a Catholic will not always be easy or fun, but I have counted the cost, and it is wonderful to know that my kids, and my kids’ kids can be in the same Church all their lives, anywhere in the world.
We’ll be home soon! Thank God.
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” -1 Cor. 15:17-19
“The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the New Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross:
Christ is risen from the dead!
Dying, he conquered death;
To the dead, he has given life.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 638
On October 7, 1571, the Battle of Lepanto was fought, which can be called the Battle that Saved the Christian West. The victory of that battle can be seen as a result of many people fervently praying the Rosary. To this day, October 7 is known throughout the Christian world as the day we remember Our Lady of the Rosary, the close call at the Battle of Lepanto, and the importance of sincere and frequent prayer.
“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
-St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way #558
The Rosary consists of very important, biblical prayers, said while meditating on events involving Jesus and Mary. The “Hail Mary” derives from the greetings of the angel Gabriel and Mary’s cousin Elizabeth which can be found in Luke chapter 1. The “Our Father” was taught to the disciples by our Lord and can be seen in Matthew chapter 6. The Apostle’s Creed is perhaps the oldest statement of Christian beliefs from the early Church. And it is believed that the Fatima Prayer was given to three small children at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 by Mary herself:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are in most need of thy mercy.”
The more I ponder that simple prayer, the more amazed I am at its depth. If only all Christians prayed it every day!
Here is a fun old video that does a really good job of summarizing the history of the Rosary:
“…a powerful means of renewing our courage will undoubtedly be found in the Holy Rosary…”
-Pope Leo XIII
“No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary- either he will give up sin or he will give up the Rosary.”
– Bishop Hugh Boyle
The Rosary is the best prayer for men.
When I first began investigating Catholic Christianity as a Protestant, I had a hard time seeing myself ever praying to Mary or any saints, asking for their intercession. It took a step of faith, combined with an understanding of the effectiveness and origins of such prayers, and a realization that the most trustworthy Christians are the same ones saying that we should be praying the Rosary often. Over time, I learned to really appreciate the humble opportunity we each have to take time out of our day and pray these wonderful prayers. I encourage you to learn them and pray often… it makes a difference.
“Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world.”
-Our Lady of Fatima, 1917
“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church- which is, of course, quite a different thing.”
-Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the preface to Radio Replies
“…the Church is always looking toward the future. She constantly goes out to meet new generations. And new generations clearly seem to be accepting with enthusiasm what their elders seemed to have rejected.”
-Pope St. John Paul II in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope
I’ve already shared significant portions of my journey from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism in my posts Considering Catholicism, On the Road to Rome, and How Francis Chan Helped Me Become Catholic, however I also wanted to share a pivotal moment of my testimony that I haven’t shared on my blog before.
By the time 2013 was winding down, I was facing some very real questions about my faith. Some questions had begun to nag me years before, such as why someone as intelligent as G.K. Chesterton could conclude that Rome was right. But others were more recent, such as how Catholics can point to Jesus’ clearly articulated words in John chapter six to explain Christ’s Body and Blood being present in the Eucharist (a.k.a. Communion or Lord Supper), while Evangelical Protestant explanations were falling short to say the least in their explanations of symbolism.
Facing the very real prospect of being convinced of the truth of Catholicism, but struggling with the unfamiliarity of it compared to my prior beliefs, I began looking for a way out of the spiritual conflict. Turns out, it’s easy to find a way out, especially when you’ve been raised in the fringe minority of Christianity that thrives in modern American culture.
It’s easy to lose yourself in American culture whenever you get tired of theology (the study of God). I even found a song that I felt I could adopt as symbolizing my new determination to pursue only minimalist Christianity. “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd was how I felt and by determining to believe that God wanted nothing more from me than wholehearted simplicity, I decided to just read the Bible in a simple way, pray in a simple way, and serve others in a simple way, and Christianity didn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
The admonitions of my relatives and friends seemed to echo the lyrics of the song:
“Boy, don’t you worry you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you my son is to be satisfied
And be a simple kind of man
oh, Be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me son if you can?”
Trust me, if you drive down the road blasting songs like this with the windows down, it’s easy to forget about things like sacraments and ancient beliefs.
But some things still rise above the noise:
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” -1 Cor. 10:16-17
I had a nagging suspicion that the little symbolic crackers that are passed out in Evangelical Protestant churches are not the body of Christ, even if I wished that it might be true, and if it wasn’t “a participation in the body of Christ”, was I even part of the body of Christ: His Church? Nonetheless, all of the Christians I grew up with and hung out with were all able to shrug it off as no big deal, and I was determined to do the same. Forget the Catholics and their evidence, they’re weird anyway! Perhaps the less I think about it, the better…
Well, God had a patient way of working in my restless mind, and I should mention that even though I was growing weary of theology and wanted to live a simple life, I was also praying earnestly for God’s direction. In the mean time, my wife and I decided to back away from Catholicism and we determined to make our Pentecostal church home work for us.
We were sitting in a sparsely populated worship service at the Assemblies of God church one Sunday morning, and it was time for communion. I had been raised to take communion very seriously growing up, and I did, using it as a time of quiet reflection and bringing my sins before God. The pastor usually goes out of his way to remind everyone that it’s a symbol, even while hearkening back to Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. Even though I had been wrestling with the biblical, theological, and historical evidence put forth by the Catholics, I decided that I was just going to leave it in God’s hands and take my time figuring it all out… someday.
As we sat in what was nearly the center of the sanctuary waiting for the crackers and grape juice trays to make their way to us, it gradually dawned on me that the ushers had somehow missed us. I tried to think whether in all my years of attending Evangelical Protestant church services this had ever happened to me before… it never had as far as I could remember. How could they have missed us? I had determined that it would be fine to partake of this symbolic communion as I always had, but had God prevented it? A crazy thought… or was it?
While the short communion time proceeded without me, I pondered the possibility that God was saying, “I am fine with you taking your time to work through the process of understanding the Catholic Church… but you know better than this.” My wife wasn’t as sure that God had intended to send a clear message, but she did find it strange at least that we were missed, especially since we had been wrestling with whether or not to continue the Evangelical Protestant version of communion in a symbolic way.
An usher came up to us after the service and was genuinely apologetic for having missed us. He didn’t realize it until after he had passed us by.
I happily informed him that it was no problem at all.
Little did he know how much God may have used him in that moment.
The journey was still long after that point, but it did seem to be the final clincher in the subject of symbolic communion. And knowing what I know now, it would probably be a sin for me to do something that I know to be a symbolic reinvention of what God intended to be a Sacrament, without the defense of unknowing sincerity.
I know that people can quickly and easily disregard this story as coincidental (and even bring up instances of being missed in communion themselves), but I see this as being just the sort of thing that God would use to speak to a specific person in a specific way, and in a way that cannot be used as proof for anyone else. In and of itself, it is hardly evidence of anything, but as it was a tipping point for me (on top of a pile of evidence and prayers for God’s guidance), it might be helpful to others in a similar situation.
In closing, I’ve noticed that if there is one subject that even the most biblically-minded Evangelical Protestants like to avoid, it’s the subject of the Eucharist. Once the biblical evidence is honestly examined, you need to do some very creative footwork to justify that communion is a symbolic “ordinance” rather than a sacrament.
After ruling out the churches of our upbringing, we still had to choose between the options that remained. For awhile, we tried out the local Episcopal church, and we would have gladly gone to an Anglican church (at the time) if one was nearby. Also, the Eastern Orthodox have some substantial arguments… but we knew we could never innocently go back to where we were before.
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” -1 Cor. 11:27
The planet Jupiter has been quite visible in the dark early morning sky lately (and perhaps other times of the night as well) if you know where to look. First of all, you can tell the difference between a star and a planet because planets have a steady, unblinking light, while stars twinkle. It has to do with the planets being much closer as compared to the pin-point light of the stars coming from such a distance that it’s affected by the earth’s atmosphere before we see it.
This is one of my favorite times of year to be looking at the stars, because the constellation Orion is visible (do you guys in the southern hemisphere get it the rest of the year?). Once you recognize it, it practically leaps out at you from the other stars. Orion was a hunter in Greek mythology, and the constellation really does look like a hunter with a belt that has a sword/scabbard hanging down, and his arms upraised holding a club and/or shield or a bow. It kind of depends on your imagination.
I bring up Orion because you can use Orion to easily pinpoint Jupiter. I figured out a way to describe where it is right now, and its location hasn’t changed in weeks so this should be relevant for quite some time. Most planets move around (relatively) quickly, but Jupiter is very far away, so it’s been sitting in the same place in the sky. Now… as far as finding it and identifying it… Many of you probably have some kind of app on your phone, but I’m a bit old fashioned… I use a computer program. Stellarium is “a free open source planetarium for your computer”, and I’ve been using it for years to be able to identify planets and stuff that I notice. It’s worth downloading and playing with, especially if you have kids.
Okay, finding Jupiter. It’s really easy in a way, because it’s the brightest unblinking light in the night sky right now from what I’ve seen (obviously except for the moon, haha). But for those of you who can find Orion easily enough, find the top two bright stars in the constellation. Imagine a line being drawn from the star on the right (Bellatrix), to the star on the left (Betelgeuse), and continuing on in a straight line until you see the big unblinking light of Jupiter.
For those of you who haven’t run out the door to look for Jupiter, and you’re still reading…
It’s difficult for many of us these days to keep an eye on the sky like people used to do throughout history. Understanding the night sky can be very useful for knowing the seasons and even navigating. Even though the practical application is seemingly outdated, it’s still really cool to be mindful of it so we can better appreciate God’s creation. You don’t need a telescope either. Betelgeuse, the aforementioned star found in Orion, is actually a “red supergiant”. You can see its red color if you look closely enough, and it’s wayyyy bigger than our sun. Look it up and read about it. It’s cool to think that the light we see from a star like Betelgeuse has traveled for hundreds of years through space to reach our eyes.
It doesn’t take much to learn where true north is by a glance at a clear night sky (my apologies to people in the southern hemisphere if this doesn’t apply to you guys). If you can learn to find the “Big Dipper” constellation, the two stars of the end of its scoop point to Polaris, the North Star, which is the only star in the sky that doesn’t seem to move around. Polaris is at the end of the curving handle of the “Little Dipper” constellation. These constellations basically look like scoops with handles. The Big Dipper seems to rotate around the North Star throughout the night (as the earth, and therefore our perspective, rotates), but the two stars of its scoop always point to Polaris. If this is confusing I encourage you to look it up and check it out.
If you’re like me, there’s little chance of a career as an astronomer, but it can be a worthy goal to try being as aware of the universe around us as people were in ages before city lights.