Christmas Is Christian

Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness we were constantly taught that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had re-established authentic Christianity that was originally taught by the Apostles but had been corrupted by pagan practices and beliefs such as the celebration of Christmas.  Therefore, as Jehovah’s Witnesses we did not celebrate Christmas.

The story is that the date of Christmas was basically chosen by the Early Church to co-opt a pagan Roman holiday that celebrated the “Unconquerable Sun”.  Because of this, the Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Christmas and the traditions associated with the Christmas celebration are pagan and this is just another example of how Christianity was corrupted in the centuries after the apostles died.

I usually respond to these objections in a couple of ways:

1. As a Catholic, I believe that human nature, while wounded, is basically good and that all religions contain some truth in it.  So, it is a common practice for Christian missionaries to look at a native non-Christian culture and religion and to emphasize those practices that are good and consistent with Christian beliefs so as to evangelize.  Therefore, if the claims made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses are true and the early Church did Christianize a pagan holiday and did take those elements of a pagan holiday that were good and give them a Christian meaning, I really have no problem with it.  That is an example of how we, as Christians, are commanded to evangelize and use those good beliefs and practices found in a native non-Christian culture or religion as a springboard to giving these people the fullness of truth in Christ.

2. In recent years, it has been demonstrated that much of the historical scholarship making the claim that the Early Church chose December 25th as the date for the birth of Christ because they wanted to co-opt a pagan festival is not accurate.  According to Professor William Tighe, the date that the Early Church chose for Jesus’ birth had nothing to do with the ancient Roman festival of the Sun but had to do with the Early Christian’s attempts to set a date for the death and resurrection of Christ.  In the West, the date that many Christians settled upon for this event was March 25th. Evidently there was a tradition in the early Church based on a Jewish understanding of the birth and death of the great Jewish prophets that Jesus, who would be the fulfillment of all of the prophets, would be conceived on the same date that he would die just like all of the Jewish prophets of old.  This means that the early Church believed that the Blessed Mother conceived Jesus on March 25th.  In fact, to this day, the Western Church celebrates March 25th as the Feast of the Annunciation when Jesus was conceived.  If one counts nine months from March 25th, one gets December 25th as the birth date for Jesus.

Furthermore, the earliest Christian source that places Jesus birth on December 25th is recorded for us by Hippolytus of Rome in his Commentary On Daniel in 202 A.D.  While this section of his work was thought to have been a forgery, it appears as though more current scholarship suggests that this section of his writing is authentic.

If one realizes that the earliest record we have of a pagan Roman celebration occurring on December 25th is dated to 274 A.D., one could conclude that Christians claimed this date as Christ’s birth some 72 years before the pagans chose that date for their festival. In fact, Professor Tighe suggests:

“Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians. The Christians, in turn, could at a later date re-appropriate the pagan “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” to refer, on the occasion of the birth of Christ, to the rising of the “Sun of Salvation” or the “Sun of Justice.””-Calculating Christmas

Kind of funny as with most things taught to us by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, that just the opposite of what they claim is most likely true.

In any case, the birth of Our Lord is a joyous occasion for Christians throughout the world.  It is something that was celebrated with song by the angels in heaven and with amazement by the Shepherds of the fields and with gifts from the Wise Men of the East.  When I read the Christmas story in the Gospels, it sounds like a party to me and it is one party that I would like to celebrate with the hosts of heaven and all people of good will.

For more information, here are some links to other sources:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

http://piousfabrications.blogspot.com/2010/12/pagan-origins-of-christmas.html

http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/christmas.asp#location1

Introduction to the Catholic Faith- Lesson 1

The Great Divorce(s)

Catholics believe that mankind was established in a state of holiness and original justice in the beginning.  The first chapters in Genesis describe this state as being without any shame.  It appears as though God spoke directly with the first man and woman as a parent would with a child.  The relationship was full of trust.  (See Genesis Chapter 1 and 2.)

However, in Genesis chapter 3, we read of the disobedience of Adam and Eve against God’s command not to eat of the Tree in the middle of the Garden.  The result of this disobedience is known as the fall of mankind from this original state of holiness and justice.  Notice also that this disobedience was instigated by the serpent, the devil who wished to bring mankind into a state of opposition against God just like him.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in paragraph 391:

“Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”

The Fall of the first human couple is described as follows in the Book of Genesis in Chapter 3:

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”  The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”-Genesis 3:1-6

The reaction of the man and the woman after the fall is very interesting.  Notice the following in Genesis chapter 3:

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”  He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.”  Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.”  The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” –Genesis 3:7-13

Notice that the man and woman recognized their nakedness after eating of the forbidden fruit.  In addition, the man and the woman hid from God which appears to be something that they had never done prior to this event.  The trustful relationship that they had with each other and with God was now over.  They now had to cover themselves from each other and hide from God.  Why?

The consequences of their act of disobedience are explained to them by God Himself in the following verses:

“To the woman he said: “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.” To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat, “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”-Genesis 3: 16-19

If you notice, there are a number of formerly harmonious relationships that have been destroyed by this act of disobedience of the first human couple.  I like to call them the Great Divorce(s).  Let’s list them:

1)      The relationship between God and mankind had been separated from one of trust to one of distrust.  (Notice how they cover themselves and even hide from God.)

2)      The relationship between man and woman has been separated from one of trust to distrust.  (Notice how they must cover themselves from each other and even God says that the husband will be the master, and not in a good way, over the woman.)

3)      The relationship between mankind and nature is now one of discord where mankind will have to fight with nature to survive.  This is very different from the way in which the Garden of Eden was mankind’s home that provided for everything that they needed.

4)      The union between mankind’s spiritual nature and our desire to do good now turns into a war within due to our attraction to being disobedient to God.

5)      And, the ultimate divorce is the coming separation of the soul with the body resulting in death where mankind returns to the dust from which he was taken.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the first sin of man as follows in paragraphs 397 to 400:

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”. Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives. The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.”

The Catholic Church understands the consequences of this original sin of the first human couple to have been transmitted to all of Adam and Eve’s descendants in the sense that now all humans are in this state of original sin where we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, are deprived of the original justice and holiness that Adam and Eve received from God prior to their fall.  The results of this are that we, the descendants of Adam and Eve, must live in a world that is separated from God and must deal with all of the consequences of the great divorces listed above.  While we are still basically good due to being created by the all good God, we are wounded and have this inclination to do evil known as concupiscence.  Our giving into our concupiscence results in us committing personal sins, which, of course, separates us from God on a personal level.

While it may seem that we are without hope due to the situation we were placed in by our first parents, God gives us the first prophecy and promise of salvation in the same chapter of Genesis where the fall of mankind is described.  Here is the scripture:

“Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”-Genesis 3:14, 15

Here God speaks of a war between this woman and her offspring and the serpent (who represents the Devil) and his offspring.  Notice the offspring of the woman will wound the serpent in the head—a death blow and the offspring of the serpent will merely strike the offspring of the woman in the heal—a blow that is not fatal.  This scripture is known in Christian tradition as the protoevangelium (The First Gospel or Goodnews).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how Christians have understood this prophecy in paragraphs 410-412:

“After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the “Proto-evangelium” as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life. But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”

In our next lesson we will look at how God continuously reaches out to mankind to reconcile with us throughout history and how this leads to the coming of the Messiah.

Are the JWs Really the Re-establishment of 1st Century Christianity?

The JWs taught me that their organization is the re-establishment of authentic 1st Century Christianity without the “pagan” influences found in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Churches.  So, I reasoned that if the JWs are correct, then I should be able to find their doctrines in the writings of those Christians who were alive when the Apostles were still alive.  What I found was quite shocking to me.

I started with the writings of St. Ignatius who was the Bishop of Antioch.  He was taken to Rome where he was martyred for the faith.  During his trip to Rome, he wrote a series of letters to the Christian communities along the way.  These letters are believed to have been written as early as 98 A.D. which means that St. Ignatius was a contemporary of St. John the Apostle.

In the his writings, St. Ignatius confesses Jesus as God and, furthermore, is willing to die for this belief.  He also refers to the Eucharist as the flesh of Jesus Christ which is a very Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.  Here are some examples:

“being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God.”-The Epistle to the Ephesians

“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible— even Jesus Christ our Lord.”-The Epistle to the Ephesians

“For our GodJesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.”-The Epistle to the Ephesians

“Be on your guard, therefore, against such persons. And this will be the case with you if you are not puffed up, and continue in intimate union with Jesus Christ our God, and the bishop, and the enactments of the apostles”.-The Epistle to the Trallians

For our GodJesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed[in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness.-The Epistle to the Romans

“I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink of God, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.”-The Epistle to the Romans

“Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God.”-The Epistle to the Romans

The writings of Ignatius really affected me because as a JW I was taught that after the Apostles died all of the “Catholic type of false doctrines” began to arise among the early Christians.  However, here was a leader of the Christian community in Antioch willing to die for these “Catholic” beliefs and he was alive during the time of the Apostle John.  Furthermore, no matter what Early Church Father I read, I discovered that their beliefs were in no way, shape or form similar to anything that the JWs taught or continue to teach at this time.  Therefore, I had to wonder if the claims that the JWs make of being the re-establishment of organized first century Christianity on earth was really something that I could believe in.


If you would like more information on the Early Church Fathers and what they believed compared to what the JWs claim you may wish to read the following:

THE WATCHTOWER AND THE ANTE-NICENE CHURCH FATHERS  by Michael J. Partyka

Jehovah’s Witnesses on Trial:  The Testimony of the Early Church Fathers by Robert U. Finnerty

After I read about the beliefs of the Early Church Fathers, I began wondering how it is that Christians decided what books to place in the New Testament or, as the JWs call it, the Christian Greek Scriptures.  The information I discovered here went a long way to attracting me to the Catholic Church.  I will talk about this in my next blog post.

Academic Dishonesty or Incompetence-What Did the Experts *Really* Say?

About the time Wayne Rogers and I had our discussion on how to properly interpret those proof text used by Trinitarians on the nature of God, I got a phone call from some Lutheran friends of mine who lived in Nebraska.  At the time I was a professor at Concordia University in Seward, NE and there was a small Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall there. 

Evidently, some JWs were visiting some Lutheran friends of mine who attended the local Lutheran parish in Seward and these JWs had given them a copy of the brochure “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”  I had heard that the JW author of this booklet, which is still published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, had included many quotes in this booklet from history and theology experts to support the JWs’ views on the nature of God.  When my Lutheran friends had read the booklet they were confused by these quotes and troubled because there were no references in the booklet other than at most an author’s name and perhaps a title to a book or article.

Since, the local Lutheran college had a rather extensive theological collection, I told my Lutheran friends to meet me at the college library and that we would try to find as many of the references cited in the JWs’ booklet as we could to see if they had been taken out of context in some way.  The results of this exercise were shocking not only to my Lutheran friends but to me as well.

Here is an example of one of the many misquotes we found in the JWs’ booklet “Should You Believe in the Trinity?”  The JW author of the booklet is constantly making the argument that a faithful Christian would reject the Trinity doctrine because the Christian Greek Scriptures (that is JW speak for the New Testament), does not clearly present the Trinity doctrine.  In support of this view, they quote a ton of scholars who appear to support the JW author’s point of view.  Here is an example of one of the quotes that they use:

“Bernhard Lohse says in A Short History of Christian Doctrine: “As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity.””  http://www.watchtower.org/e/ti/article_03.htm

For the trusting reader, this quote seems to be quite convincing.  However there is no page number cited in the booklet where one can go and read the original quotation in its entirety.  If one does, then one would get a whole different perspective on what Bernhard Lohse was trying to say.  Here is the quote in its entirety on page 38 of the book A Short History of Christian Doctrine:

“As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity.  This does not mean very much, however, for generally speaking the New Testament is less intent upon setting forth certain doctrines than it is upon proclaiming the kingdom of God, a kingdom that dawns in and with the person of Jesus Christ.  At the same time, however, there are in the New Testament the rudiments of a concept of God that was susceptible of further development and clarification, along doctrinal lines.”

As one can see from the entire quote (as well as by reading the entire book), Lohse does not reject the Trinity and neither does he say that the Trinity is not found in the New Testament at all as the JW author claims he does.  What Lohse does say is that the fully formulated Trinity doctrine is not found in the New Testament but the “rudiments” of such a concept of God are found in the New Testament and the Church, over time, developed those ideas into the Trinity Doctrine.  In fact on page 41 of the book A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Lohse says:

“From the beginning, of course, certain fundamentals were firmly held by the church, namely, that God is one, i.e., that it did not believe in two, let alone three gods; that this one God has revealed himself in a threefold way as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;”

The worse of the misquotes and misrepresentations that the JW author uses is when he quotes from Father Edward Fortman’s book entitled The Triune God.  To the trusting reader the JW author makes it appear as though Father Fortman, a Catholic priest no less, rejects the central doctrine of the religion that he is supposed to be advocating.  However, any reasonably intelligent individual can tell by reading just the first few pages of his book that Father Fortman is a very strong believer and defender of the Trinity doctrine and that his book is dealing with how the Church formulated this belief from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. 

The JW author’s reputation for misrepresenting and misquoting scholars in this booklet alone is the subject of TONS of websites.  If you want more examples, I will refer you to the following links:

http://www.bible.ca/trinity/trinity-jw-deceptions.htm

http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/trinity.php

http://www.towertotruth.net/ShouldYouBelieveintheTrinity.htm#top

In any case, after discovering these misquotes and misrepresentations, my Lutheran friends were very upset that someone would write and publish such a dishonest brochure.  They made photocopies of the full quotes and also checked out those books from the college library that they could to show their JW visitors how the author of the “Should You Believe in The Trinity?” booklet was misrepresenting things. 

About two months later, I got another call from my Lutheran friends and they told me that they had shared their information with their JW visitors.  They told me that the JW visitors were visibly shaken at what had been shared with them and that they took the photocopies with the promise that they would come back with an explanation.  However, my Lutheran friends said that their JW visitors never returned on the day they said they would.  In fact, when my Lutheran friends saw their JW visitors at a local restaurant and went over to say hello to them, the JWs quickly left the restaurant and refused to speak to my Lutheran friends.

I told my Lutheran friends that they should now pray for their JW visitors because obviously some seeds of doubt had been planted in them about whether or not the Watchtower Society leaders could be trusted when it comes to dealing with subjects about the nature of God.  It is one thing to believe differently than others but it is a whole other thing to grossly misrepresent the beliefs of others in such an academically dishonest, at worse, or academically incompetent, at best, way.

About a week or so after I had coached my Lutheran friends and after they had been shunned by their JW friends at the local restaurant, two JW elders knocked on my door.  The little town where I lived in Nebraska was quite small so it did not take the local elders long to discover who it was who had been coaching the local Lutherans in their discussions with the local JWs.

 Evidently, one of the elders who visited me was the Presiding Elder of the local congregation and his daughter was one of the JWs who had visited my Lutheran friends.  I imagine that the presentation that my Lutheran friends had given her must have really shaken her up to make her father go on a search and visit mission to meet with me.  The two elders tried to discover who I was and where I was from and when I did not give them the information they wanted and when I told them my intention was to continue to share this information with whomever would visit my home and the homes of my Lutheran friends, the two JW elders got quite angry.  (In fact, one of them got in my face and began to close his fist as if getting ready to hit me when the other elder pulled him back and convinced him to leave.)

Another thing that happened during this time was that in addition to misquoting Biblical Scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries in this booklet, the JWs also misrepresented a group of individuals known as The Early Church Fathers.  These individuals wrote about the beliefs of the Christians during the end of the 1st Century and beyond.  I will discuss what I discovered in these writings next.

The Creation Contradiction

One of the contradictions that was pointed out to me by Jay Hess had to do with answering the question, “Who created the heavens and the earth?”

For example in the New World Translation the following scriptures from the Old Testament indicate that Jehovah, whom the Jehovah’s Witnesses would say is God the Father, is the One who created everything by Himself with no assistance from anyone:

“This is what Jehovah has said, your Repurchaser and the Former of you from the belly: “I, Jehovah, am doing everything, stretching out the heavens by myself, laying out the earth.  Who was with me?”-Isaiah 44: 24 -New World Translation

“This is what Jehovah has said, the Holy One of Israel and the Former of him: “Ask me even about the things that are coming concerning my sons; and concerning the activity of my hands you people should command me. I myself have made the earth and have created even many upon it.  I –my own hands have stretched out the heavens, and all the army of them I have commanded.” –Isaiah 45: 11, 12 New World Translation

However, the JWs believe that Jesus was created directly by Jehovah and was used by Jehovah to help him create the rest of the Universe.  To support this view of Jesus being responsible for the creation of the Universe they cite the following scripture (remember that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Word (in Greek “Logos”) is Jesus in his pre-human existence):

“In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God.  All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” John 1:1-3 New World Translation

Note that the JWs’ own Bible indicates that not one thing that came into existence came into existence apart from the work of the Word-Jesus Christ.  However, if one accepts the belief that Jesus is not equal in nature to God the Father and that the Word, Jesus, cannot also be rightly referred to as Jehovah (or Yahweh), then it appears as though the Old Testament claims made by Jehovah in Isaiah are contradicting the New Testament claims made about the Word, Jesus, in the Gospel of John.   In other words, how could Jehovah (or Yahweh) make the claim that He created the heavens and earth by Himself if Jesus was there to help Him as the JWs claim?

For a Trinitarian, however, this is not a problem because Trinitarians believe that Jesus has all of the attributes and abilities of God the Father and, therefore, can also be referred to as Jehovah (or Yahweh) so then there is no contradiction here.   As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 292:

The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative co-operation is clearly affirmed in the Church’s rule of faith: “There exists but one God. . . he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order. He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom”, “by the Son and the Spirit” who, so to speak, are “his hands”. Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.”

If you remember, this discussion on the Trinity started when a former JW, Wayne Rogers, asked me why I accepted the divinity of Christ after leaving the JWs. What I have written over the last few weeks is what I learned from mostly Protestant Bible Scholars about what most Christians believed about the nature of God.  After sharing these views with Wayne, his response to me was, “You know, all of these scriptures that you shared with me were pretty much the same ones we used as JWs, you have just interpreted them differently now.  How do you know that your interpretation of these scriptures is correct?”

I thought that was an excellent question so I told him that I would do some reading to see how Christians interpreted these scriptures back in the first and second centuries.  This lead me to discovering the writings of the Early Church Fathers.  I will share these findings with you in the coming weeks.

Book Review: Attic Alone-An Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Finds the Church by A. McGinley

This book starts off with a terrible scene.

A. McGinley tells the story of her large, imposing and abusive Jehovah’s Witness father placing drops of acid on her arm.  This was a common practice among the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 1940’s as it was against their religion to receive smallpox vaccinations.  The scar left behind from the acid burns on her arm would look like a scar from a smallpox vaccination.  This imitation vaccination scar along with a falsified medical record was all that her father needed to get McGinley into grammar school since children who were not vaccinated against smallpox back in the 1940’s were not allowed to attend school.

The physical pain that McGinley describes from this imitation smallpox vaccine is a fitting metaphor for the emotional and spiritual pain that she received from the imitation Gospel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Just as I could imagine hearing her screaming in pain due to the acid burns while her Mother comforts her, I could also feel her emotional and spiritual pain that she recounts for us throughout the book as the imitation Gospel of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is foisted upon her by her JW father and JW grandmother while her Mother comforts her as best she can.  Throughout the book, the only other place she can go for comfort besides her Mother’s embrace is the Attic of her home all alone which soon becomes the Attic of her soul.

However, while suffering due to the effects of the mind controlling and abusive nature of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the destruction they caused on her family, A. McGinley recounts the many rays of light that she experienced in her life.  She walks us through the grace that God gives her as she makes her way home to the fullness of the Christian faith in the Catholic Church.  From learning how to say the Lord’s Prayer while in grammar school, which turns out to be the only prayer she can say for many years, to the altar call at the same Church which she saw through the hospital window during her son’s illness, she recounts the amazing ways in which Our Lord called to her in her moments of need.

A. McGinley’s book is truly a journey of grace and reminds us that while problems in this world may make us want to retreat into our “Attic Alone”, that we really do have a friend in Christ who is with us at all times and at all places along our journey to heaven.

Pray Without Ceasing

In the Mass Readings for the Ordinary Form of the Mass we hear about the Israelites’ battle against Amalek as recorded in Exodus 17:8-13.  Joshua leads the Israelites in battle against the Amalekites while Moses stands on top of the hill with the Staff of God in his hand.  It turns out that as long as Moses has his hands raised, the Israelites are successful in battle but when he would rest his hands, the Amalekites would be successful.  This resulted in those who were with Moses upon the hill, propping his hands up so that the Israelites would be successful and win the day in the battle.

This reading is matched with the readings from the New Testament, namely, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 where St. Paul reminds us that we, as Christians are to be persistent in proclaiming the Gospel to others whether it be convenient or inconvenient to do so.  In addition, we read in today’s Gospel reading from Luke 18:1-8 about the parable of the persistent widow who badgered the unjust judge until he gave her a just verdict.  Our Lord reminds us that God is even more in tune with what is just than we are and that if we persevere in prayer to God for justice as this widow did with the unjust judge, that we should be confident that God will answer our prayers.

Since becoming Catholic, I have become amazed at the variety of ways in which the Church teaches us to pray.  There are tons of devotions ranging from the Liturgy of the Hours to the Rosary and others.  It makes sense that the Church would develop such a variety of forms of spirituality since she has been praying to Our Lord and for the salvation of all humanity for the past 2000 years.

Like the leader of the Israelites, Our Lord Jesus raises the Staff of God, His Cross, to heaven as we attempt to fight our sinful ways.  Without the prayers of the Saints who join with Our Lord on heaven’s hilltop and the Sacraments which we receive through Our Lord’s Passion on the Cross, we would never be successful.

In addition, it is tempting at times for us to give up particularly during those times in our lives when we are having difficulties.  St. Paul reminds us that, as Christians, it is our family duty to continue to pray and live out the life of Christ.  We must be determined to make our entire lives and every action that we do in life a prayer to Our Lord.  Imagine what great witnesses we would become for Our Lord if we actually did this and did it well.

And, finally, we must persevere in our prayers knowing that Our Lord is not at all like the unjust judge in the parable.  He hears our prayers and knows what is best for us in all things.  With the help of God’s grace through the Sacraments that we receive through Our Lord’s passion we can, if we are open to it, answer Our Lord’s question at the end of the parable, (“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”) in the affirmative each and every day and ultimately at the end of time as we enter into the new heavens and new earth at His second coming.