Theology

When I was a kid, the “Sinner’s Prayer” was a big deal. It was at the heart of everything we knew about Jesus and getting saved. It was almost used as an incantation.

My mom coached me to pray the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 4 years old. We knelt together in front of the green vinyl couch, and she helped me pray,

“Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and the wages of sin is death. You sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I ask Jesus to come into my heart. I know my sins are now all forgiven past, present and future. Thank you Jesus for saving me and assuring my entrance into heaven. Amen.”

Saul of Tarsus reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer”? I don’t think so :-)

It never dawned on me as a young man that such a prayer is never found in the Bible. Nor do we ever see anyone coach sinners to pray such a prayer. The Bible never encourages us to “ask Jesus into our heart.” And the whole idea of sins forgiven into the future with no guilt for future sins is – so unbiblical that I can’t even believe now I ever believed it.

I am grateful to my good mother for loving Jesus and wanting me to be saved. She believed what she was taught and never questioned the Baptist tradition she learned after hearing Billy Graham.

But now that I have read widely and studied these matters from Scripture and the early Church I realize there is much amiss with this Sinner’s Prayer. The Catholic Church is the fullness of the faith and explains salvation as faith in Christ, repentance and water baptism.

You never find St. Paul espousing such a prayer nor St. Peter on the day of Pentecost. My, it is good to be Catholic and cling to the rich and full teaching of the faith.

******************************

One of my old favorite Protestant writers, A. W. Tozer wrote, “I believe that a true ‘sinner’s prayer’ will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Matthew 5:6) The very act of ‘leading someone in a prayer’ is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me) brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples ‘repeat after Me,’ I believe He wants them to follow after Him!

{ 9 comments }

Christian Gratitude (posted on The Catholic Thing, to which I highly recommend you subscribe)
. WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2020

Some years ago, during a particularly dark and troubling time, an American Jew living abroad wrote to his Catholic friend in the States to commiserate: “Looking across the seas at my native land, I see that the barbarians have taken over everything. You are lucky: for you, despair is a sin.”

Between the resurgent COVID closings, the long-awaited-but-still-painful McCarrick Report, and the post-election fevers to which we are daily subjected, things have been a bit of a slog lately. I have thought to myself more than once that we Catholics really are lucky that despair is a sin. At times like this, a little perspective and a little humor go a long way.

The truth is that things have been a bit of a slog since round about the third chapter of Genesis, when our ancestral orchard thieves pilfered their way out of Eden and left the rest of us in the lurch. The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Such resignation in the face of a fallen world might not be despair, but it is a close cousin to it.

Sometimes humor can show us the line between resignation and despair. Pope John Paul II once managed to slam his fingers in a car door. Someone near to him heard him mumble under his breath: “Thank you, Lord, for loving me in this way.” That prayer has been one of my favorites since I first heard the story, not least because it is the only prayer I know that can be prayed, simultaneously, with equal measures of piety and sarcasm.

When Our Lord bestowed the blessing of a minor hardship upon St. Teresa of Avila (she fell in the mud), the Carmelite famously informed the Lord of the Universe, “If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder You have so few!”

There is love in that sort of humorous rebuke. The bonds of friendship do not only permit such rebukes, within the bonds of friendship such barbs are a sign of true intimacy and even delight. It is a sign of a strong friendship when one can poke fun at the other and the result is the strengthening of the friendship rather than its dissolution.

Not everything is a big joke, of course. The world is in a bad way. The world is filled with suffering. There are more than enough reasons to feel betrayed and cynical and angry. Hope doesn’t grow on trees. And just like that, we’re back at Ecclesiastes again: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

The beginning of trust in the providence of God begins with the loss of our sense of control. In this sense, being resigned to the futility of human efforts in the face of the world’s difficulties is close to despair, but also the beginning of the way to hope. The realization that we are not in control, that we are not gods, is decisive. We should be grateful that we are not responsible for saving this broken and miserable world. If its salvation were up to us, the world would be utterly without hope.

As I say, it has been this way since the beginning – or just about the beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned, their punishment was suffering and toil and death. Their punishment was just. But the justice of their punishment was also a sign of God’s mercy.

Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken.

Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden as just punishment for their sin, but also so that they would not remain in this fallen state forever. Death is the path God gives us to escape this vale of tears. Grace was there in the Garden, even at the Fall. Grace was there in Gethsemane and there on Calvary. God’s grace was not just present, but actively transforming the worst of the devil’s manipulations and the most heinous of our sins into the very means of our salvation. What is the line between resignation and despair, between abandoning our pride and losing hope? The dividing line is God’s own providence.

We will suffer. We will die. And because we know that the very worst calamities that could ever befall us are nothing less than opportunities for God to pour out his grace and mercy on the world: in all things God works for the good of those who love him.

I can think of no thought more comforting than that. I can think of no greater reason to be grateful. No greater reason to exclaim: “Thank you, Lord, for loving us in this way.”

{ 1 comment }

Are You Born Again?

by Steve Ray on November 20, 2020

I posted this for the listeners of Catholic Answers Live on Wednesday evening, March 21. I will post the audio link as soon as it is available and a list of all the questions we answered.

It seems that God is kind of predictable in a way :-) since He always starts new things in the same way — with “water and the Spirit“. Consider the following:

1) The first creation came from the earth which was covered with WATER and the SPIRIT hovered over the waters and from the water emerged land and man and God’s first creation (Gen 1:1-2).

NoahsArk3.jpg2) A new humanity was started with Noah through WATER and SPIRIT. The ark went through the water and a dove (representing the Spirit) hovered overhead with an olive branch. Peter said this represents baptism which “now saves us” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

pillar of fire3) The nation of Israel was created through the WATER of the Red Sea (baptism) with the cloud and fire of the Holy SPIRIT overhead — my oh my, again we have water and Spirit (Ex 14).

4) Ezekiel then describes what the New Covenant will look like and he said we will be sprinkled with clean WATER and his SPIRIT will be placed in us (Ez 36:25). Born again, I suspect.

5) Then Jesus, right before saying you must be born of “water and the Spirit” had just gone down into the WATER of the Jordan and the SPIRIT came down and landed on his head. Again, water and the Spirit (Mt 3:16; Jn 1:29).

6) Jesus teaches Nicodemus that he must be born again, or from above which is accomplished through “WATER and the SPIRIT.“

Jesus-Baptized-077) When Jesus finished these words what was the first thing he did? He went down and baptized people in the Jordan with his disciples (Jn 4:1-2).

8) At the first Holy Ghost Gospel Revival meeting :-) Peter stood up at Pentecost and said,  “Repent, and be baptized (WATER) every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy SPIRIT“ (Acts 2:38).

9) Peter also says “Baptism now saves you“ (1 Pet 3:21), and Paul is told “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16), and Paul writes that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration (WATER) and renewal in the Holy SPIRIT“ (Titus 3:5).

Other verses you should know — click here!

For my article on Infant Baptism, click here

My book Crossing the Tiber has over 50 pages on Baptism from the Bible and the Church Fathers.

*******************************************************

JordanSm.jpgToo bad many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists refuse to see it but the Bible is pretty clear about new birth through the sacrament of baptism. Jesus is not ambiguous in this matter and he is alluding quite clearly to new beginnings in the Old Testament. The Early Church is also very clear and so is the teaching of the Catholic Church today.

(Picture to right is the place in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. Click for larger image.)

St. Augustine said, “Who is so wicked as to want to exclude infants from the kingdom of heaven by prohibiting their being baptized and born again in Christ?”

When someone asks me “Have you been born again?“  I simply answer “Absolutely, but I’ve been born again the Bible Way!“

{ 45 comments }

What Do We Mean by “Unanimous Consent of the Fathers”

November 19, 2020

Unanimous Consent of the Fathers By Steve Ray The Unanimous Consent of the Fathers (unanimem consensum Patrum) refers to the morally unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers on certain doctrines as revealed by God and interpretations of Scripture as received by the universal Church. The individual Fathers are not personally infallible, and a discrepancy by […]

Read the full article →

Is there Evidence for Jesus outside the Bible?

September 16, 2020

Some people may think Jesus is a mythical figure like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Others think Jesus might be historical but only mentioned in the Bible is the only source of information on the existence of Jesus. They question whether Jesus really existed as a real historical figure. Is the Bible the only […]

Read the full article →

You Know You Are a Heretic when…

September 15, 2020

                    Catechism definition of heresy: ” “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.” (CCC 2089)

Read the full article →

Why Did God Allow Man to Sin? “O Happy Fault of Adam”

September 9, 2020

This is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him. I don’t want […]

Read the full article →

Peter and the Primacy in Scripture and the Early Church Discussion

July 16, 2020

Had another great evening with William Albrecht and Michael Lofton on their popular and wide-ranging Reason & Theology show. It was a great time of discussion, challenge and digging deep into the issue of the primage of Peter and Rome in Scripture and the Church Fathers – East and West. Enjoy the lively discussion…. Throughout […]

Read the full article →

Mary and the Trinity

June 7, 2020
Read the full article →

St. Patrick Explains the Trinity to Simple Irish Peasants :-)

June 6, 2020

In preparation for Trinity Sunday, here is a clever little video that says a lot in a short time with good humor.

Read the full article →

My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

June 5, 2020

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It […]

Read the full article →

“Saved by Grace through Faith, not of Yourselves…”

May 27, 2020

Uh oh. What do we do now? Someone just discovered a Bible verse that destroys the Catholic view of salvation. Here is the previously “undiscovered verse” which Catholics seem to have missed somehow! Ephesians 2:8–9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of […]

Read the full article →

Nine Truths about Purgatory: What Catholics Need to Know about Heaven’s Ante-room

May 1, 2020

Nine Truths about Purgatory: What Catholics need to know about the ‘anteroom of heaven’ By Emily Stimpson – OSV Newsweekly, 9/29/2013 (Steve Ray’s article on Purgatory HERE) Some fear it. Others hope for it. Some see it as proof of God’s mercy; others as testimony to God’s wrath. Many don’t know anything about it, while many […]

Read the full article →

Dialog: Saved by Faith Alone or Faith & Works

April 28, 2020

I am responding to a polite gentleman named David who posted a comment on my blog. He was responding as a kind Protestant who was reacting to my article “Response to a Southern Baptist.” He is kind and well-spoken and I wish we could sit and have a cup of coffee together to discuss this […]

Read the full article →

Did God Die on the Cross? How Can God Die?

April 10, 2020

Almost every day I get questions. I always try to answer, even if briefly. Today I received a question from Raymund in the Philippines. He is part of a apologetics group and they got very hung up on whether God died on the cross. Here is his e-mail: Greetings Mr. Stephen:  I am a great follower […]

Read the full article →

The Dark Side of Luther – by Steve Wood

March 25, 2020

The Dark Side of Luther  (View online version at Steve Woods site here)     This is the last of my newsletters responding to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I’m sending you some of the overlooked statements of Luther revealing his thoughts on Catholics, his claim to infallibility, and his hatred of the […]

Read the full article →