Steve’s Writings

As a Protestant, I went to an Evangelical church that changed an important and historical word in the  Apostles Creed. Instead of the “holy, catholic Church,” we were the “holy, Christian church.” At the time, I thought nothing of it. There was certainly no evil intent, just a loathing of the Catholic Church and a distinct desire to distance ourself from its heresy and man-made traditions. 

 I assumed that early on Catholics deviated from “biblical Christianity” so they simply invented a new word to describe their new society. Since we Evangelicals were supposedly the ones faithful to the Bible we had no interest in the word catholic since it was found nowhere between the covers of the Bible. It was a biased word loaded with negative baggage so we removed it from the Creed. 

 I should have asked myself “Where did the word catholic come from, and what does it mean?” Was I right to assume that Roman Catholics invented the word to set themselves apart from biblical Christianity? 

 A short and interesting investigation will turn up some valuable information. Let’s start with an understanding of doctrinal development and the definition of catholic, then  let’s “interview” the very first Christians to see what they thought of the Church and the word catholic and then we will study the Bible itself. 

 How Doctrines and Words Develop
The development of doctrine is not just a Catholic phenomenon. It is also a fact among Protestants and all religions or theological traditions. Over time, theological words develop to help explain the deeper understanding of the faith. As Christians ponder the revelation passed on by the apostles and deposited in his Church the Church mulls over God’s Word, thinking deeper and deeper. It is not unlike peeling the layers away from an onion as one goes deeper to the heart. 

 Development of doctrine defines, sharpens, and interprets the deposit of faith. The Bible is not a theological textbook or a detailed church manual, such as say a catechism or study guide. The Bible’s meaning is not always clear as St. Peter tells us (2 Pet 3:15?16). Thirty-three thousand competing Protestant denominations also make this fact apparent as they fail to agree on what the Bible says. It takes the authority of a universal Church and the successors of the apostles to formulate the doctrines of the faith. As an Evangelical, I was naïve enough to think I could recreate the “theological” wheel for myself.

  To illustrate doctrinal development, let’s look at the word trinity. The word trinity never appears in the Bible, nor does the Bible give explicit formulas for the nature of the Trinity as commonly used today, such as “one God is three persons,” or “three persons, one nature.”  Yet, the word Trinity, as developed within the Catholic Church, is an essential belief for nearly every Protestant denomination. The first recorded use of the word trinity (trias) was in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch around the year a.d. 180.  Although not found in the Bible, the early Church developed words such as Trinity, which are used to define and explain basic, essential Christian doctrines. 

Interestingly, while many Protestants object to the idea of development of doctrine within the Catholic Church, they seem to have no problem with developments in their own camp—even novelties and inventions. Take for example the Rapture, another word not found in the Bible and not used in any theological circles until the mid-19th century. After a prophetic utterance from two women at a Scottish revival meeting, the new doctrine of the Rapture spread like wildfire through England and America.

 It was the Catholic Church that defined the Blessed Trinity, the divinity and humanity of Christ—the hypostatic union of two natures in the one divine person of Jesus—, salvation, baptism, the Blessed Eucharist, and all the other doctrines that have been the bedrock of the Christian faith. It is also the Catholic Church that gave birth to the New Testament—collecting, canonizing, preserving, distributing, and interpreting them. 

As a Protestant I was quite willing to unknowingly accept the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the closed canon of the  New Testament, etc., but I willfully rejected the full teaching of the Catholic Church. I now realize that it is in the Catholic Church that we find the fulness of the faith and the visible, universal body of Christ.

 The Word “Catholic” Defined
However, we have yet to define the word catholic. It comes from the Greek katholikos, the combination of two words: kata- concerning, and holos- whole. Thus, concerning the whole. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the word catholic comes from a Greek word meaning “regarding the whole,” or more simply, “universal” or “general.” Universal comes from two Greek words: uni- one, and vertere- turning. In other words, a “one turning”, “revolving around one,” or “turned into one”. The word church comes from the Greek ecclesia which means “those called out,” as in those summoned out of the world at large to form a distinct society. So the Catholic Church is made up of those called out and gathered into the universal visible society founded by Christ.

In its early years, the Church was small, both in geographically and numerically. For roughly the first decade the Church was made up exclusively of Jews in the area of Jerusalem. The word catholic hardly seemed to apply. But as the Church grew and spread across the Roman Empire, it incorporated Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, Romans, freemen, and even slaves—men and women from every tribe and tongue. But by the third century, oneout of ten people in the Roman Empire was a Catholic. Just as the word Trinity was appropriated to describe the nature of God, so the term catholic was appropriated to describe the nature of Christ’s body, the Church. 

But let’s get back to the history of the word catholic. The first recorded use of the word is found very early in Christian literature. We find the first instance the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch who was a young man during the time of the apostles and the second bishop of Antioch following Peter. Ignatius was immersed in the living tradition of the local church in Antioch where the believers in Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). He was alive early enough to know the apostles and was taught and ordained directly by the apostles. 

From the apostles St. Ignatius learned what the church was from the apostles themselves. From them he learned how it was to function, grow, and be governed. History informs us that St. Peter was the Bishop of Antioch at the time; in fact, Church Fathers claim that St. Ignatiuis was ordained by St. Peter himself.Ignatius must have worshiped with Peter and Paul and John. He lived with or near them, and was an understudy of these special apostles. St. Ignatius of Antioch is known and revered as an authentic witness to the tradition and practice of the apostles. 

 In the existing  documents that have come down to us, St. Ignatius is the first to use the word catholic in reference to the Church. On his way to Rome, under military escort to the Coliseum where he would be devoured by lions for his faith, he wrote, “You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8).  

 Another early instance of the word catholic is associated with St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who used the word many times. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John just as St. John was a disciple of Jesus. Like Ignatius, Polycarp also suffered the martyr’s death in a coliseum in a.d. 155. In the Martyrdom of Polycarp, written at the time of Polycarp’s death, we read, “The Church of God which sojourns in Smyrna, to the Church of God which sojourns in Philomelium, and to all the dioceses of the holy and Catholic Church in every place” (Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrnam, Preface)  

 Later in the same book it says, “When Polycarp had finished his prayer, in which he remembered everyone with whom he had ever been acquainted . . . and the whole Catholic Church throughout the world.” They then gave him up to wild beasts, fire and finally, the sword. The epistle then concludes, “Now with the Apostles and all the just [Polycarp] is glorifying God and the Father Almighty, and he is blessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world” (8).

 So we clearly see that early in the second century Christians regularly use the word catholic as an established description of the Church.  From the second century on we see the term catholic being used consistently by the theologians and writers. One can easily conclude that catholic was a very early description of the Church, probably used by the apostles themselves

 St. Augustine in the  fourth century, relaying the tradition of the early Church, minces no words asserting the importance and wide-spread use of the term catholic. He writes, “We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church which is Catholic, and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies” (The True Religion, 7, 12). And again, “[T]he very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called Catholic, when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house” (Against the Letter of Mani called “The Foundation”, 4, 5).

 The early usage and importance of the word can also be seen by its use in both the Apostles and the Nicene Creeds. If you were a Christian in the first mellenia you were a Catholic, and if you were a Catholic you recited the Creeds affirming the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Unhappily, some people today try to make a distinction between Catholic with a capital “C” and catholic with a small “c”, but such a distinction is a recent development and unheard of in the early Church.

 Biblical Understanding of the word “Catholic”
Jesus commissioned his apostles with the words “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19, 20). As Frank Sheed reminds us, “Notice first the threefold ‘all’—all nations, all things, all days. Catholic, we say, means ‘universal.’ Examining the word ‘universal,’ we see that it contains two ideas, the idea of all, the idea of one. But all what? All nations, all teachings, all times. So our Lord says. It is not an exaggerated description of the Catholic Church. Not by the wildest exaggeration could it be advanced as a description of any other” (Theology and Sanity [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1993], 284).

 Jesus used the word church twice in the gospels, both in Matthew. He said, “I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). He didn’t say churches as though he were building a subdivision; nor did he imply it would be an invisible church made up of competing groups. He was going to build a visible, recognizable church. And in Matthew 18:17 Jesus said that if one brother offends another they were to take it to “the Church”. Notice the article “the” referring to a specific entity. Not “churches” but one visible, recognizable church that can be expected to have a recognizable leadership with universal authority. 

 One can see the sad state of “Christendom” today by comparing Jesus’ words about “the Church” with the current situation. If a Methodist offends a Baptist, or a Presbyterian offends a Pentecostal, which “church” do they take it to for adjudication? This alone demonstrates the problem when 33,000 plus denominations exist outside the physical bounds of the “one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Jesus expected there to be one universal, authoritative, visible and Catholic Church to represent him on earth until his return.

 Just before he was crucified, Jesus prayed not only for the universality and catholicity of the Church, but for her visible unity:

 “[T]hat they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that  You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me” Jn 17:21?23 NASB).

 The early Church understood Jesus’ words. What good was an invisible, theoretical, impractical unity? For the world to see a catholic unity, the oneness of the Church must be a visible, real, physical, and visible reality. All of this the Catholic Church is. Since the earliest centuries Christians have confessed that the Church is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” One because there is only one, visible, organic, and unified Church; holy because she is called out of the world to be the Bride of Christ, righteous and sanctified; catholic because she is universal, unified, and covers the whole world; apostolic because Christ founded her (Mt. 16:18) through his apostles, and the apostles’ authority are carried on through the bishops. Through the centuries, this creed has been the statement of the Church. 

 In these last days, Christians need to stand confident and obedient in heart of the Catholic Church. She has been our faithful Mother, steadfastly carrying out the mandate of Jesus Christ for 2,000 years. As an Evangelical Protestant I thought I could ignore the creeds and councils of our Mother, the Church. I was sadly mistaken. I now understand that Jesus requires us to listen to His Church, the Church to which he gave the authority to bind and to loose (Mt 16:19; 18:17)—the Catholic Church, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).

 Steve Ray is the author of Crossing the Tiber, Upon this Rock, and St. John’s Gospel. You can contact him at his website at www.CatholicConvert.com

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Here are a few paragraphs from my new book on Genesis which is nearly done.

Genesis 2:7 is foundational and crucial to the whole story of the cosmos, Man and salvation. God takes dust or clay from the ground and like a potter he fashions a human being. The scientific formulas used by God still elude us.

Imagine God making the first human brain from the chemical compounds he had already created as part of the earth. The intelligent design of the brain is beyond our comprehension, immensely complicated with intricate and precise electronics, hormones, connections, blood passageways, molecules, minerals, living cells and more.

And this amazing “machine” is able to learn, process and recall information, and even heal itself. It is more than a brain—it is also a “mind.” 

 Then God moves to the heart that will pump 40 million times in a year, 2.5 billion times in a lifetime of 70 years—without maintenance and without missing a beat. Right now, as I write this book, my heart has beat over 2,000,000,000 times since my birth.

Then on to the lungs which will take in necessary oxygen produced by the plants. Since my birth until now I have breathed 629,000,000 times! Then God shaped the liver, the kidneys, the glands, the reproductive organs, the stomach with its incredibly fine-tuned and intricate digestive system . . . 

 God did not just form a “machine” or an animal. He took this incredible body he had fashioned from clay and with his own breath he breathed into the nostrils the breath of life—like divine CPR. This is face–to–face, warmly personal, almost as the intimate kiss of God.

The body of clay came alive; it was animated. The created object was now a Man with body and soul; he became a living, spiritual being (CCC 362–363, 704).

The Man was dual in nature: body and soul, related to earth and heaven (1 Cor 15:45). The potter has made a Man for glory out of the clay of the earth! Man is the crown of the creation! The drama of salvation is under way, being directed and controlled by God himself. 

 Remember what Jesus does to the Apostles in the Upper Room (Jn 20:22)? How does this signify the creation of the new being—the Church?

Remember also that the wind of the Holy Spirit blew on Pentecost at the birth of the Church! You can already see a pattern forming: “For God so loved . . . that he gave” (cf. Jn 3:16)—an act of self–giving as well as of making; God invests himself in his new creation. This passage is rich with symbolic and typological meaning, ripe for the picking.

Pray for me as I work on finalizing this manuscript which is almost done! It will be published by Ignatius Press and available on Verbum Catholic Software.

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So, Why is Abraham the Father of our Faith?

by Steve Ray on May 19, 2014

To purchase Steve Ray’s Talk “Abraham: Father of Faith & Works” on CD or MP3 visit SteveRaysStore.com.

Well for starters, let’s see how he DID or DIDN’T respond to God when called to leave his homeland and go to a place that God would show him. Let’s put ourselves in his sandals and see what WE would have done.

(This is a section from the Catholic Scripture Studies guide I wrote on Genesis.)

Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.’” (Genesis 12:1-3).

That is all that Abram had to go on. We are not aware of other conversations or proofs that God may have given to Abram—just pack up and go to  — well, he didn’t know where to!

So, put yourself in Abram’s sandals:

In Our Image AbrahamSm.jpg“Where Lord; where do you want me to go?” you ask. God says, “I already told you—to a land that I will show you.” “But Lord,” you answer, “I have a house and cars, a job and a family here.” “I’ve noticed,” replies God, “sell everything you can’t transport to another land, and pack the rest. Then I will tell you where to go.” “Where is this land you want us to to?” “I haven’t told you yet,” God says, “ just get packing.” “But God, if I quit my job here, will I have work in this new place?” “Don’t worry” answers God.

Under your breath you mutter, “Don’t worry?” Then you turn back to the Voice and say “What about a house and everything else we will need? What about a mortgage and an employment contract?” Patiently God responds, “I haven’t promised you any of that right now,” says God, “just trust me; I will bless you.” You turn away and mutter again, “Trust him?” before turning back to the Voice, “What do you mean trust you? What do you mean that will bless me? I have family here and no sons to care for me in my old age. I am already seventy-five years old—I’m past retirement and you say ‘Trust me?’” “Yes,” says God, “trust me to bless you!” “Hey God, where did you say we are going again?” I didn’t say, but I will show you.”

You are still thinking about all this and ask, “Should I leave my other gods here, all the idols we have worshiped for generations?” Now God mutters under his breath, “Who does he think I am?” Then with a bit of exasperation God exclaims, “Of course you should get rid of the idols; from now on I will be your God.” “But,” you answer, “I don’t even know your name.” “My name is not important right now, just do as I tell you” says God. You hesitate for a few minutes, scratching your head, then you ask “Are you sure I can trust you? And where did you say we are going again?”

Journey.jpgThat’s how most of us would have responded to God—part of the reason we are not the “father of the faith.” Abraham was no fool. He wasn’t gullible or easily pushed around (his actions displayed throughout his life prove that). He was not stupid, but neither was he set in his ways and stubborn. He was a bright man who was smart enough and decisive enough to perceive the truth. He put his life, his family, his possessions and his whole future in the hands of God—and God would not let him down.

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan,” (Genesis 12:4-5).

“And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. . . . By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Hebrews 11:6, 8).

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Purgatory? Doesn’t that Deny the Work of Christ?

May 11, 2014

What’s the Deal with Purgatory? by Steve Ray Isn’t the finished work of Christ sufficient? Didn’t he pay for all my sins? Why the heck do Catholics teach that we have to suffer in Purgatory for our sins? Plus, the Bible never mentions purgatory so it must be an unbiblical doctrine, right. Wow! Sounds like [...]

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Do Catholics Worship Mary?

May 7, 2014

In response to the show I did with Drew Mariani on Relevant Radio: I thought it would be a good time to respond to an e-mail I received a while ago. It was a questions from a friend wrote to ask me for my take on Mary. He was corresponding with someone that said Catholics [...]

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The Trail of Blood or Baptist Successionism

May 3, 2014

The Trail of Blood by Steve Ray What is the history of Baptists? Can they trace their roots back to the 1st century? Many ”fundamentalist” Baptists believe they can. Are they correct? There is a booklet that is very popular among this fundamentalist crowd. It is entitled “The Trail of Blood”. The booklet claims that Catholics persecuted the [...]

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Follow Steve in Twitter

March 19, 2014

I can’t put everything on my blog that I can quickly share on Twitter. Plus, Twitter notifies all my followers immediately of everything I share on my blog. Ain’t technology grand? If you want to keep up with all our adventures, blog posts, pictures and videos, pilgrimages and other fun stuff – as well as [...]

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God said “Please”; Abraham said “OK”

February 2, 2014

Studying Scripture like this is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. Nice little tidbits pop out, like the one Which I share from you while visiting the sites related to Abraham in Hebron in the Palestinian a West Bank. When God said to Abraham: ”Take Isaac, your only son, the one whom [...]

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A Walk thru Bethlehem’s History for Christmas – Steve’s End of Year Newsletter

December 21, 2013

To see the content rich and colorful Newsletter with stories, news,  a free gift, upcoming trips and speaking events and riddles, click here. The Real Bethlehem   by Steve Ray The donkey tried to bite me as I climbed on his back. Flies were buzzing incessantly around my head and my clothes were drenched with perspiration. The [...]

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Steve’s Short Story “The Last Nightmare” Might Scare the Hell Out of You!

November 25, 2013

The Last Nightmare A Short and Terrifying Story by Steve Ray Everything went blank for a moment, but that moment seemed like eternity. He felt a motion, not with wind and breeze, but a motion none the less. He was traveling, moving, floating, transcending-he wasn’t really sure. The sudden blackness gave him time to regain [...]

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Mary and the Other Body of Christ; Visiting the Upper Room (Pentecost May 19)

May 12, 2013

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal. They were also anxious about the promise. [...]

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Entering the Empty Tomb; A Contrast – Now and Back Then (our 1st group arriving in Israel today)

April 22, 2013

It looks different today, but the place is the same. It is darker now, covered with a dome that blocks the sun. There is no grass, no hillside, no trees waving their leaves nearby.   Instead there are the hushed voices of hundreds of people, the Muslim call to prayer echoing in the distance and the [...]

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My Two Books to Help Understand the Papacy and the Process

February 12, 2013

Ray, a former Evangelical Protestant and Bible teacher, goes through the Scriptures and the first five centuries of the Church to demonstrate that the early Christians had a clear understanding of the primacy of Peter in the see of Rome. (Click on book image to learn more or to purchase) He tackles the tough issues [...]

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Did Eastern Church Father St. John Chrysostom’s Accept the Primacy of Peter?

November 27, 2012

Many non-Catholics like to argue that St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, did not accept the Primacy of Peter. I have written much about this in my book Upon This Rock. I have written on it extensively on my website HERE (scroll down to 3rd section “My Books”) The Navarre Bible Commentary gets this [...]

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The Cross & the Crucifix: Letter to a Fundamentalist

November 13, 2012

The Cross & the Crucifix (From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix) Dear Evangelical Friend: You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the [...]

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New Wikipedia Entry for Steve Ray; What Do You Think?

August 7, 2012

There is now an entry for me on Wikipedia. What do you think? How could it be approved? Any suggestions for the editors? You can see it HERE.

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