Tom, Dick and Teri

Tom, Dick and Teri are employed by a large corporation. Although each is a member of a different Protestant denomination, they meet in the lunchroom every day to encourage and pray for one another. Today Teri is running late, and Tom and Dick have started their lunch without her.


“So you’re moonlighting?” Tom asks Dick as he cuts his lasagna into bite-sized pieces. “Really?”


Dick shakes his head. “No, I don’t get paid for it. But I’m excited to have the chance to help this ministry get off the ground. A deacon at my church has written a historical defense of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s really well done. It shows why skeptics like C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell became Christians when they sat down and examined the facts concerning the life of Christ, facts like the historical witness of Josephus and Tacitus. Our deacon started a website and got his articles translated into 8 different languages. It’s great! I can’t tell you how good it is to go home from this place and spend a couple of hours doing work of eternal significance!”


Tom nods as he wipes his mouth with his napkin. “It must be very rewarding! What exactly do you do? Are you the tech guy?”


Dick stabs a cherry tomato with his fork. “Well, no – the deacon’s son is the tech guy. My job is actually to translate the Norwegian comments into English.”


Tom’s eyes widen. “I didn’t know you spoke Norwegian!”


Dick looks down at his salad. “Well, actually, I don’t really. My father’s mother was Norwegian, and she taught me a little when I was a kid. I actually don’t know much at all.”


“So, how does that work?” Tom asks through a mouthful of garlic bread.


“Well, it leaves a lot to be desired. I actually rely on Google Translate,” Dick admits.


“Seriously?” Tom replies. “But, Google Translate is notoriously….”


“Inadequate?” Dick agrees. “Yeah, no sense many the translations don’t make. But what can we do? The articles were professionally translated, so we’re confident that they’re comprehensible. We’re pleased to be reaching Norway with the word of God. For now we’re just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”


“Are the other languages being handled that way?” Tom wants to know.


“Well, we’ve got people in this area who actually speak a few of the languages. For the others, they’re making do with people like me.” Dick shrugs.


Tom leans back in his chair. “Well, I’m glad you’re able to take part in this. It must be really faith-building.”


Dick nods. “It is. I was a little disturbed by one incident, though….”


Tom leans forward, and Dick continues.


“This woman wrote to us practically begging us to help her. If I understood her correctly, she said that she’d basically made the rounds of all the Christian denominations. She said she was really seeking the truth, and since different denominations teach different doctrines, she asked us to point her towards the denomination that teaches the truth.”


Tom frowns. “So what’d you do?”


“Well, I forwarded the comment to our deacon, and he sent me his reply to send back to her.” Dick explains.


“And?” Tom asks.


“And he basically told her to Google churches in her area, then pray about it and go to the one she felt God was leading her to.” Dick shifts uncomfortably.


“Your deacon told her that?” Tom questions him.


“Well, yeah, he pretty much had to,” Dick admits. “You see, some of the people working on this project don’t belong to our denomination. We’re all working together towards this common goal, so he really can’t take the opportunity to tout our denomination as ‘the church that’s teaching the truth.’ How would that sound? What bothered me was that the woman had done just what he suggested before she ever contacted us, and the best we could do is suggest that she do it all over again and hope for better results the second time around.”


Tom’s frown deepens, and Dick looks embarrassed. “So how did she take it?” Tom asks.


“No clue – she never got back to us. Of course, that could be because she couldn’t understand what we were getting at. I had to Google Translate it back to her….”


Tom chuckles in spite of himself. “It’s too bad you can’t connect with a Christian group in Norway that can help you out. You know, you could refer inquirers like her to them.”


Dick shakes his head as he bites thoughtfully into his breadstick. “Can’t do that. Most Christian groups in Norway seem to be Lutheran. There’s no way my Presbyterian deacon is going to officially encourage anybody to join up with the Lutherans. The best he can do is remain totally nondenominational about the whole thing. He gives the same advice as Billy Graham: attend the Bible-believing church of your choice.”


“Which leaves your inquirer high and dry,” Tom points out. “Pretty much all churches are ‘Bible-believing.'”


“No, they aren’t,” Dick argues, dipping a carrot into his salad dressing. “There are dozens of liberal denominations that try to explain away Biblical accounts like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or even the Resurrection itself. Our deacon wrote his articles to combat that kind of thing! He’s not going to send anybody to one of those churches!”


“Actually,” Tom explains, laying his fork down on his plate, “I think those ‘liberal’ denominations believe the Bible, but they don’t take literally the same passages that we do. It’s a matter of interpretation. If you ask them if they believe the Bible, they’d probably say that they do – all the while merrily re-interpreting various passages to suit their postmodern outlook. Take your Presbyterian church and my nondenominational church, for example. You believe that baptism regenerates. My church teaches that baptism is just a symbol. Both of our churches believe the Bible, but we interpret it differently.”


Dick frowns. “So what’s your point?”


“My point is that if someone is seeking a ‘Bible-believing church,’ they could even end up in a non-Christian group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The JW’s believe the Bible, but they interpret it in a radically different way from the Christian understanding. My aunt Lou became a Jehovah’s Witness because they showed her all their non-trinitarian doctrines straight from Scripture.”


“They don’t believe that Jesus is God, do they?” Dick asks.


Tom shakes his head. “No, they believe that Jesus was created by God. My uncle was really disgusted when she joined their group – not that he believed in God, quite the opposite. He thought Jesus never really existed.”


“See, that’s the kind of nonsense these articles of ours are attempting to debunk,” Dick enthuses. “We’re taking a solidly historical approach to the Resurrection, laying out all the evidence, the witnesses, and the reaction of the terrified apostles who became martyrs for the faith after encountering the Risen Christ, whom they called God.”


“Write down the website for me; I’d love to read this for myself.” Dick takes out a pen and writes the address down on a napkin.


“I do have one question, though,” Tom says as he accepts the napkin. “Your deacon has thoroughly researched the historical evidence concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to write these articles, right?”


Dick nods vigorously.


“And he accepts extrabiblical accounts of the Crucifixion as valid, right?”


Dick nods again as he tastes his tiramisu. “Of course he does! That’s the great thing: we can use the historical record to buttress what the Bible says. There’s no contradiction there.”


“Right, I agree with you,” Tom acknowledges. “So here’s my question. If you accept the historical evidence for the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, using it to buttress your contention that the biblical Crucifixion and Resurrection accounts must be taken literally, why do you reject the historical evidence that shows that the early Christians were convinced that John 6 and Matthew 27 must be taken literally – you know, “unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you” and “This IS My body – this IS My blood”? Why is the historical evidence for the life of Christ admissible, but the historical evidence for the beliefs of the first Christians not admissible?


Dick stops chewing. “We don’t accept that evidence because it contradicts what the Bible teaches,” he tells Tom. “That’s how we know that some Christians in the early church taught error.”


“No,” Tom insists. “Think about it, Dick. You don’t accept that evidence because it contradicts your narrative, your interpretation of what the Bible teaches – and that’s exactly how a Resurrection-denying liberal Christian would feel about your historical evidence for the miracle of the Resurrection!


Dick scowls, but Tom plows ahead. “When a denomination’s interpretation of the Scriptures conflicts with the historical evidence, that denomination’s witness is kind of like Google Translate – all the words are there, but the sense is garbled. When a denomination’s interpretation of the Bible jibes with the evidence of history – then and only then does everything make sense.”


Dick opens his mouth to reply, but sees Teri approaching and thinks better of it.


“Hi, guys,” Teri chirps as she places her tray on the lunch table. “You talking about me?” she asks jokingly.


“We’re talking about Google Translate as a metaphor for Protestant life,” Tom quips.




Tom looks meaningfully at Dick. “Exactly.”



On the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker


Deo omnis gloria!

Tom, Dick and Teri are friends who all work at the same big company. Although each is a member of a different Protestant denomination, they meet for lunch to encourage one another in their Christian walk. On this particular day, Tom arrives last, and is surprised to find Teri and Dick glaring at each other over their macaroni and cheese.

“Hey guys! What’s up?

Dick looks down at his plate as Teri pipes up.

“Oh, not much! I just found out that Dick here is a heretic, that’s all.”

Tom does a double-take and seats himself across from Dick. “Dude,” he asks in a stage whisper, “Why didn’t you tell me?

Dick scowls as Teri chatters. “Well, don’t feel bad – he didn’t tell me, either. It seems our friend here is calling into question the reliability of the Word of God!

Tom refuses to take the bait. “Aw, come on, Teri! You know that isn’t true. What are you talking about?”

Teri stabs at her mac-and-cheese as she continues to glare at Dick. “Our friend Dick is an evolutionist!”

Dick squares his jaw and struggles to keep his voice down. “You know that’s not what I said, Teri!”

“It most certainly is!” Teri shoots back. “You said the first two chapters of Genesis can’t be taken literally – that makes you an evolutionist!!

“Whoa! Whoa!” Tom cautions. “Let’s just calm down here. Start from the beginning. What did you actually say, Dick?”

Actually,” Dick emphasizes as he scowls at Teri, “what I said was that it isn’t absolutely necessary to take every word in the first two chapters of Genesis literally. In other words, when it talks about ‘days,’ it may not mean literal 24-hour days, just as Peter said that 1,000 years are like a day to the Lord….”

“Copout!” Teri calls out. “You don’t believe the creation account, and you’ve found some kind of ‘proof text’ in another part of the Bible to justify your unbelief!”

“That’s called ‘allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture!‘” Dick protests. “We know from the Bible that when God talks about a ‘day,’ He doesn’t always mean a 24-hour period!”

“Well,” Tom points out as his macaroni and cheese cools, “that’s not exactly what that verse says….”

Dick’s mouth drops open. “Are you siding with her?” he asks.

“I’m not ‘siding’ with anybody!” Tom protests, ” I’m just saying that 2 Peter 3:8 actually says ‘With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.’ That’s not the same as saying ‘When God talks about a day, He doesn’t always mean a 24-hour period!'”

Of course it is!” Dick insists, but Tom holds up his hand and turns to Teri.

“So I believe what Dick is saying is that he’s a Day-Ager – he believes the Biblical account of creation, but thinks that the 6 ‘days’ of creation are much longer time periods than normal days. That doesn’t make him an evolutionist, Teri.”

Teri snorts. “People who believe that are already half-way down the slippery slope. Once you compromise the truth of the Scriptures, you start to question everything the Bible teaches.” She leans towards Dick, and her eyes narrow. “I bet you think it’s okay to baptize by pouring, don’t you?”

Dick’s mouth drops open. He starts to answer, but Tom interrupts. “Teri, no Christian takes every single word or phrase in the Bible literally. For example, you…”

Dick cuts him off. “It would be crazy to take every word of Scripture literally! You’d end up like the people who read Psalm 91:4 and think that God is a celestial chicken!!”

It is Tom’s turn to scowl. “Come on, Dick! Nobody believes that God is a chicken!”

“You know what I mean!” Dick insists. “People who take the last chapter of the book of Mark literally, with all the snake-handling and poison drinking!”

Teri stiffens. “My church takes the last chapter of Mark literally.”

Tom and Dick stare at Teri, glance at each other, and fall silent.

“If you’re a Christian, you HAVE TO take the Bible literally!!” Teri announces loudly, and several people at the surrounding tables glance in her direction. More quietly, she hisses at Dick, “The Bible says it – I believe it – that settles it!!

“Teri, be reasonable!” Tom implores. “There are many, many passages in Scripture that you don’t take literally!”

Name one!” Teri challenges incredulously.

“I can name several!” Tom responds. “1 Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Dick grins at Teri. “Yeah, see, you have to take that figuratively, Teri. Baptism obviously doesn’t save us!”

“Yet that’s exactly what that verse says,” Tom comments softly.

Dick frowns. “Well, no, Tom – I mean, the verse says that baptism is an appeal to God for a clear conscience, so we understand that it’s our FAITH that saves us, and baptism is just the outward sign of our obedience!”

“It says,” Tom reiterates, “BAPTISM now saves you as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus.”

“Well, then, what’s that part about the appeal to God for a clear conscience?” Dick asks.

“In Greek it’s eperōtēma, and it refers to the formal acceptance of a contract or covenant in which the terms of the agreement were proclaimed and the compliance with the terms was solemnly promised. It’s like what the early Christians pledged in their baptismal rites. They were asked to publically reject Satan. They were asked ‘Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God?’ and the answer they gave, their rejection of Satan and their proclamation of faith, was their “I do,” their pledge, which then served as their ‘appeal’ to God for a clear conscience. The early Christians definitely did take this verse literally. They believed that ‘baptism now saves you.'”

Teri has whipped her King James out of her purse. “Are you sure that verse is even in the Bible?” she demands.

“Trust me on this,” Tom retorts wryly. “And how about John 20:22-23? ‘And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’ Taken literally, this indicates that the risen Lord appeared to His apostles to confer the authority to forgive and retain sins!”

Dick is grinning broadly. “Whereas we all know that Jesus was just explaining to them that they could assure believers that their sins were all forgiven – past, present and future – because of their faith in Christ, and they could likewise assure unbelievers that their sins were NOT forgiven!”

“Thereby making a hash out of what Jesus actually said,” Tom comments. Dick’s eyebrows shoot up. “Why did He even bother to make this special appearance, Dick, and breathe on them, filling them with the Holy Spirit, just to pass on a trite observation like that?”

Dick does a double-take. “Are you kidding? What do you think Jesus meant, Tom?”

“I think He probably meant what He said,” Tom observes quietly.

Teri is flipping furiously through her Bible. “Is that verse in John or in 1 John?”

“And what about Paul’s command in Philippians 2:12?” Tom continues. ‘Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling!‘ Teri, you don’t take that literally.”

Teri’s mouth opens as she thinks. “But…” she stammers, “but, you can’t take that literally!”

“That’s the point, Teri!” Dick crows. “If you take that verse literally, you’re admitting that you might be able to lose your salvation!”

Tom’s not finished. “And Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.’ You know you don’t take that literally.”

Teri looks up from her Bible, shocked. “I take every single word of that verse absolutely literally,” she announces.

Tom tilts his head as he questions her. “Really? Really? Every single word?

Teri puts her Bible in her lap and leans forward in her chair. “EVERY SINGLE WORD. For ALL have SINNED, and FALLEN SHORT of the GLORY OF GOD.”

“All right,” Tom says quietly. “And you’ll agree that Paul is talking about actual sin here, not the original sin that we inherited from Adam.”

Teri nods emphatically.

“Okay, Teri – for ALL have sinned: Two-week-old babies.”

“Huh?” Teri and Dick respond in unison.

“Two-week-old babies – have they sinned?” Tom asks Teri.

There is silence as Teri and Dick contemplate this.

“Do you believe that infants sin?” Tom asks. “How about the profoundly mentally retarded – can they sin? How about the fetus in the womb? You would be the first to insist, Teri, that from the moment of conception the embryo is a living PERSON, and therefore falls under Paul’s blanket statement here. For ALL have sinned….”

Teri and Dick sit silently frowning, as Tom continues.

“Remember, when Paul was talking about Jacob and Esau in the womb of their mother, he said, ‘Yet before the children had been born or had done anything good or bad.’ He’s basically saying that the unborn can’t sin, right? So even if you do believe that newborns and the profoundly mentally handicapped can somehow sin, to say that an unborn child can sin contradicts Scripture. Teri, millions of those unborn children have lived and died without sinning! So how can you take Romans 3:23 literally?

Before Dick or Teri muster up a reply, Tom goes on. “And then there’s John 6:22-71. Jesus emphasized over and over that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us. ‘Whoever eats this bread will live forever’ – ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ – ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life’ – ‘My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink’ – ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them’ – ‘The one who feeds on me will live because of me’ – ‘Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.’ Teri, you don’t take one word of that literally.”

Dick is beside himself with glee. “Of course you don’t, Teri! This is a prime example of why certain verses just can’t be taken literally! Jesus Himself told us not to take this discourse literally when He said ‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life,” meaning that we are to take this passage FIGURATIVELY!”

Before Teri can answer, Tom retorts quietly, “And this is a prime example, Dick, of how you have decided not to accept the literal meaning of a passage because it would demand too much faith, so you have found a “proof text” to justify your unbelief.”

Dick and Teri both gasp. Teri grins broadly as she recognizes her earlier objection being used to demolish Dick’s assertion. Dick defends himself. “Jesus said, ‘the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life!’ That means that His words were meant to be understood in a spiritual, not a literal sense! ‘This is My body’ is a figure of speech!

Tom explains, “When Jesus said ‘the words I have spoken are spirit and life,’ He couldn’t have meant ‘I have spoken metaphorically.’ You think you are using Scripture to interpret Scripture, but seriously, Dick, where in the Bible is the word ‘spirit’ ever used as a synonym for ‘symbolic’?? And if Jesus was saying ‘Take everything I’ve just said metaphorically,’ there’s another problem, because right in the middle of this supposedly metaphorical discourse Jesus mentions ‘My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’ Is that a metaphor?? Did He not literally sacrifice His very flesh on the Cross for the life of the world?? How do you justify exempting the one passage you happen to believe from the metaphor?? And why, while we’re on the subject, didn’t Jesus take His disciples aside to explain this very hard saying in private? That’s what He did with every other hard saying – but with this one He just asked them ‘Are you leaving me, too?’ Kind of harsh, when He could’ve just explained the ‘metaphor’ to them….”

Tom leans back in his chair, pushing his untouched macaroni plate away. Teri, struggling to understand how her excellent argument has just been used to prove something she vehemently rejects, reaches for her water glass. Dick squints angrily at Tom. “Every one of your examples, but one, is a case in which we don’t take the Bible literally but Catholics DO, and Romans 3:23 is a case where we insist on a literal, rigid interpretation of the word “all” in order to disprove Catholic doctrine – an interpretation,” Dick admits uncomfortably, “which you’ve just shown to be unworkable.”

Teri chokes on her water, and Tom passes her a napkin.

“Cath-licks!” she gasps, and Dick pats her firmly on the back till she stops choking. “Catholics,” she repeats after she has cleared her throat, “don’t take the Bible literally! Catholics don’t believe a word the Bible says – the pope makes up Catholic doctrine! His worst fear is that people are actually going to read the Bible and find out what it really says!”

Ignoring Teri, Tom leans towards Dick. “My point is that all Christians take certain parts of the Bible literally while taking other parts figuratively. Every denomination does this. So the question isn’t ‘Should I take every word of Scripture literally?’ No, because then we’d end up with your ‘celestial chicken’ proposition. The question is, which parts of the Bible were meant to be taken literally, and which parts were meant to be taken figuratively,
and how can we know which are which?
It just so happens that Catholics take many passages of Scripture literally, which is what makes their doctrine distinctively Catholic – Protestants explain those verses away, claiming that they were meant to be taken figuratively. Yet, can we claim that we somehow know which verses were meant to be taken figuratively? We can’t even agree amongst ourselves on that! How can we be sure that we’re not taking these ‘Catholic’ verses figuratively because we lack the faith to take God at His word?”

“I wish you’d get off this Catholic kick,” Dick grumbles. Teri stands up.

“They’re not gonna believe me at church when I tell ’em,” she declares with a toss of her head as she picks up her tray to go. “I had lunch with TWO heretics!”


On the memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Deo omnis gloria!

Photo credits: Macaroni and cheese with panko topping and a Soju-based cocktail in a tumbler at Blue at 2337 Market Street in San Francisco, California. “Gourmet Mac & Cheese: Fresh mozzarella, sharp cheddar, Parmesan, elbow pasta, topped with Japanese bread crumbs.” Description from their online menu as viewed on 2007-05-27, by Rick Audet from San Francisco, California, United States /Wikimedia Commons

Tom, Dick and Teri are employed by a large corporation. They meet in the lunchroom every day to encourage and pray for one another. Today, Teri is running late. She enters with a large salad, and seats herself next to Dick, who is discussing something earnestly with Tom.

“I’m so hungry, I could bury my head in this salad and eat my way to the bottom of the bowl! Move over, guys. What are you talking about? Not me, I hope!”

Dicks smiles and obligingly scoots to the right. He waits while Teri prays over her food.

“Tom’s just thinking way too much, as usual. He’s all twisted out of shape over Christian history.”

Teri chews on a carrot. “Christian history? You mean, like Martin Luther?”

Tom shoots Dick a “see what I mean?” look. “Yeah, in a way, Teri, that’s exactly what I mean.” Tom glumly slurps his soup, till Dick feels obliged to explain.

“Tom’s worried about people becoming Catholic. For some reason he thinks Christians just don’t know enough about Christian history, and he thinks if we were better informed we wouldn’t be tempted to become Catholic.”

Teri looked shocked. “Who’s tempted to become Catholic? Protestants don’t become Catholic – it’s the other way around! My church is full of ex-Catholics!”

Dick continues to speak for Tom, who is staring down at his soup bowl.

“Yeah, mine too. But he thinks a lot of theologically astute Protestants have become Catholic, and that worries him.” Dick peers skeptically at Tom.

“Name one!” Teri challenges belligerently.

Tom sighs. “Thomas Howard, Robin Maas, Reinhard Hütter, Bruce Marshall, Trent Dougherty, Robert Koons….”

“Who?” Teri asks.

“…J. Budziszewski…”

“Who??” Teri repeats.

“… Jay Richards, R.R. Reno, Joshua Hochschild, Leroy Huizenga, Richard John Neuhaus, Robert Wilken…” Tom drones on.

“Who are these people?” Teri asks. “Do they go to your church?”

“…Paul Quist, Richard Ballard, Paul Abbe…”

Dick speaks up as Tom adds to his list.

“No, they are apparently well known, well respected Protestant scholars – theologians, philosophers, seminary professors, pastors – who have turned Catholic! Tom’s all upset because he thinks this proves something.”

“…Thomas McMichael, Mickey Mattox, David Fagerberg…”

“I haven’t heard of any of these guys!” Teri asserts as she bites into a tomato.

Dick, who has apparently finished his burger, says he knows a few of them.

“I know J. Budziszewski – he was a prominent Protestant philosopher. I heard about Joshua Hochschild getting kicked out of Wheaton when he turned Catholic.”

“…Philip Max Johnson, Michael Root, David Mills…”

Dick perseveres. “And Thomas Howard, he’s Elizabeth Elliott’s brother.”

Teri looks shocked. “THE Elizabeth Elliott?”

“Yep,” Dick continues. “He was a professor at Gordon College before he became Catholic.”

“…Douglas Farrow, Gerald Schlabach…”

“We get the picture, Tom!” Dick cries in exasperation. “What do you think it proves?”

It is Tom’s turn to look exasperated. “Don’t tell me you didn’t hear about Frank Beckwith!”

Teri opens her mouth, but thinks better of it.

Dick explains. “Beckwith was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society. He reverted to Catholicism.”

“And then there was the Geisler/Betancourt fiasco!” Tom blurts out. “Norm Geisler and Joshua Betancourt wrote a book trying to put Beckwith’s reversion into proper perspective from a Protestant point of view. Then, Betancourt becomes Catholic!”

Dick looks shocked. Teri looks bewildered. She stabs at her salad as she speaks.

“Well, I don’t see where it’s a big deal. I’ve never heard of any of these people except Elizabeth Elliott, and she’s not Catholic. So what if these guys wandered off? I mean, it’s tragic, but Catholics become Protestant every day. I mean, Catholics are converting to Protestantism in droves!”

Tom stares out the window.

Dick leans back in his chair. “Tom’s point is that these guys he’s talking about are theologians and professors, the cream of the crop who’ve been recognized by other Protestants as excelling in their fields. You can hardly say that they never really understood what the Bible teaches. So why are they going over to the other side?”

“To the Dark Side, you mean,” Teri snorts.

Tom glowers at her. “A well-known Reformed pastor said that all those former Catholics you’re talking about, the ones who are filling our pews, wouldn’t be welcome at his church because they’re ‘religious consumers’ who don’t care about doctrine! After saying that, HE became Catholic!”

“Look,” Dick says to Tom, who is slumped over his minestrone. “So a bunch of well-known Protestant thinkers defected. Teri’s right. Catholics become Protestant every day. I bet they’re losing their theologians and philosophers to us at 10 times the rate we’re losing ours to them!”

“Oh, yeah?” Tom queries, turning to look at his friend. “Name one.”

“I can name five!” Dick asserts, “Chris Castaldo, Josh McDowell, Rick Warren, James McCarthy, and Tim LaHaye – all well-known Protestants who are former Catholics. I’m sure there are dozens more.”

“You’ve got it exactly backwards,” Tom retorts sourly. “I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill Catholics who converted and then went on to become well-known Protestants. I’m talking about well-known, well-respected, theologically astute Catholics who converted to Protestantism – whether they then became well known as Protestants isn’t my point. And you can’t name anyone like that, can you?”

Dick frowns. “What difference does it make?”

“We’re losing our best and brightest!” Tom laments. “We’re losing our teachers – our leaders! Why? How? These people certainly understand the Bible – a lot of them were seminary professors; they taught the Bible!”

“My pastor didn’t go to seminary,” Teri chimes in. “He studied the word of God for 7 years before he founded our church. He’s like the apostle Paul; he learned the Gospel from no man.”

Dick senses the need to keep Teri on track. “Tom thinks the problem is Christian history.”

Tom becomes animated. “If we could just do a better job of teaching Christian history, I think that would help. I mean, the average Christian thinks that Christian history begins in 1517! People need to know what Christians were doing before the 16th century! A lot of these Protestants-turned-Catholic quote a 19th-century Protestant-turned-Catholic who said, “To be deep in history is to cease being Protestant.” We just do a lousy job of teaching Christian history!”

Dick looks thoughtful. “Well, yeah, but it’s pretty hard to teach about an underground church that left no records! I mean, after Constantine took over the church, the real Christians moved up into the mountains. Our minister explained that the last real Christians produced the Nicene creed in the 4th century, and from that point on the church basically lived in hiding. You know, Augustine, Athanasius, Ambrose, Jerome,” he eyes Teri, but decides not to explain,” they were still Christians – the Reformers referred constantly to their writings. But the reason no one hears about the Christians between the 4th century and the Reformation is that they went underground! There’s no way to tell the story of those people.”

Tom looks skeptical. “Actually, the ‘church fathers’ you’re talking about were already apostate. Augustine said things like “Faith without works is not sufficient for salvation,” and “Mortal sins are forgiven through repentance, prayer and almsgiving.” Athanasius, too, believed that a Christian could lose his salvation through “mortal sin.” He called Mary “the Mother of God” and believed in her perpetual virginity. He believed that the bread and the wine really become Jesus’ body and blood. I mean, seriously, the men who formulated the Nicene creed were Catholic bishops! No, Christianity went off the rails earlier than the 4th century. My pastor read to us from Fox’s Book of Martyrs about Ignatius and Polycarp dying for the faith in the 2nd century – they were real Christians. But after that, it was all downhill. That story about the true Christians going into hiding bothers me, though….”

Dick is about to ask Tom about this, but Teri pipes up.

“I know who those guys are!”

“What guys?” Dick asks.

“Ignatius and Polycarp!” Teri proclaims. “My pastor warned us about them!”

“He did?” Dick asks.

“Yeah, he warned us about the writings of the so-called ‘Christians’ who lived after the apostles. Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna were two of the names he mentioned. They were the false teachers mentioned in 2 Peter 2! As soon as the apostles were out of the way, those false teachers commandeered the “Church.” It’s all there in the writings of the “church fathers”! My pastor said there was a first-century document called the DDK which told people to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day, and that gave prayers unknown in the New Testament as a pattern for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper! That’s not Christianity! Ignatius of Antioch called his church “Catholic” – that really oughtta tell you something! He said that communion bread really WAS “the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ”! That’s cannibalism, not Christianity! Polycarp – he is supposed to have been the disciple of John the apostle, but he went off the rails preaching works-righteousness. He wrote that the Lord Jesus will raise us from the dead IF we do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things He loved, abstaining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, and false witness. That’s WORKS! And both of those men insisted that Christians must submit themselves to the “presbyters and deacons” as to God and Christ! “Look upon the bishop even as upon the Lord Himself,” is what Ignatius said. My pastor told us to run screaming if anyone tried to get us to read the writings of the ‘church fathers.’ There wasn’t a Christian among them! The true Christians went into hiding just as soon as the apostles died!”

Dick and Tom stare at Teri, and then look at each other.

“So, what’s your problem with the true Christians going into hiding?” Dick asks Tom.

Tom shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “Well, I’ve been thinking about that. That’s the story that I’ve heard all my life – that true Christians were driven out of the “Church” and were persecuted for their beliefs. So they took their Bibles and went up into the mountains, living in their own communities and teaching their children to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.”

“Right…” Dick says leadingly.

“Well,” Tom admits, “I can think of a few reasons why that seems… implausible.”

“You think too much,” Teri tells him.

Tom continues. “I mean, what if Teri’s version is true – what if the apostasy happened almost immediately? Then there couldn’t have been all that many Christians, but they were scattered over a broad area, from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome. So those Christians went into hiding in “the mountains” where they would escape notice. So that means no one was left in society to give a faithful witness to the truths of the Gospel. Isn’t that the opposite of what Jesus commanded? Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature was the commandment! If they were hiding, how did they do that?”

Dick frowns. “I’ve always assumed that when they went into hiding, they converted the people they came into contact with. I mean, it’s not like they would have refused to share the Gospel. They were running from the Catholic Church that wanted to silence them. Of course they would have converted the people in the areas they settled.”

Tom nods. “Okay, then who did they convert?”

Dick snorts.

“I’m serious!” Tom asks earnestly. “Who did they convert? If they were really fleeing from the reach of the Catholic Church, they would have gone out into barbarian territory, right? Well, who did they convert? Which pagan people groups were ever converted by Bible-believing Christians before the Reformation?”

Teri and Dick stare at Tom, thinking this through.

“The Catholic Church did not control the whole world – far from it! Those people most likely would have moved to other lands to get away from the Catholics, to places where their proclamation of the Good News would have set things on fire! Right? Where did that ever happen??

Tom is not done. “And another thing. My pastor preached a sermon on the canon of Scripture. He told us that the New Testament canon of Scripture wasn’t even decided until the 4th century. So if I’m right, or if you’re right, Teri, then those real Christians fled to “the mountains” without Bibles! I mean, I suppose they would’ve had the Old Testament, but not the New! How did that work??

Tom is looking genuinely disturbed. “Seriously, are we talking about a tiny, inbred group of Bible-believing Christians living up in “the mountains” for centuries without Bibles? A group that went unnoticed by Catholic Europe because they were so ineffectual, so silent, so withdrawn, so invisible that no one knew or cared that they were there, until Martin Luther rediscovered the Gospel and they could come out of hiding? Seriously???”

Dick shakes his head slowly. “That doesn’t sound right….”

Teri stands up to go back to work. She scowls at Tom. “You think too much.”


On the sixth Sunday of Easter

Deo omnis gloria!