Archive for the My Journey Category

God Does Not “Overlook” Our Sin

Posted in Doctrine, My Journey on August 31, 2008 by Sarah Long

Growing up in the Church of Christ, I thought that after baptism, every time I sinned, I had to pray to God for forgiveness. In response, the ever-patient and forgiving God would wipe my slate clean (the slate on which He kept track of my demerits) because of His inexplicable love for me. So every time I prayed for forgiveness, I was starting over – getting a second chance. One of the most difficult things to understand was why God would be willing to pass out “second” chances when we all knew I was on chance number five million. It was my job to stop sinning. Sanctification was understood in terms of the most basic definition of the word – a setting apart. So when God sanctified me, He excluded me from the class of people who are the “world” and included me instead in the class of people who make up his church. So I lost my sanctification every time I sinned and was re-sanctified every time I was forgiven.

When I became a Calvinist, I believed something a bit different. I believed that God had chosen me specifically (and many other people) out of the entire human family to be saved from my sin. I believed that because I was one of the chosen ones, it was impossible for me to die without having repented of all sin. The repentance and forgiveness still worked basically the same way in my new belief system. The reason God kept giving me chances was that He had chosen to save me, and His will would prevail even over my sinfulness. My sanctification was something that God was working out in my life so that I will sin less and less as my life goes on. However, I could not expect to reach complete sanctification in this life.

Now that I’m Catholic, I understand this entire process differently. I do not believe that God ever “overlooks” my sin. He forgives it, yes. But He doesn’t ever pretend it doesn’t exist or that it didn’t happen. He looks unflinchingly on what I am and sees both what I was designed to be and the horror that I have become. God works my sanctification, declaring me righteous only after I become truly holy. My holiness may be achieved in this life or after it (in Purgatory), but it will be achieved. (This, incidentally, is why I find Purgatory comforting, rather than scary.) The good news of Christianity is that it’s not my job to make myself perfect, but God’s. And the great promise is that God will not give up on my sanctification.

My Journey

Posted in My Journey on June 22, 2008 by Sarah Long

I was raised in the Church of Christ. All Churches of Christ believe in a congregational form of church government – meaning there is no higher office than the local elder and the local elder is answerable directly to God, not to any man or board. They all claim to be the first-century church – either a reincarnation of it, or a continuance of it. They all teach that for the church to be what it should, our only guide should be the bible. My family attended only non-institutional congregations. This means that we taught that any formal cooperation between congregations is unscriptural. We believed that it is sinful to use the church’s money to help institutions, such as orphans homes or missionary boards/societies. Some people have pejoratively called these groups “anti” and their members “antis”.

I went to Florida College, which is officially and financially NOT associated with any church, but all of the faculty and almost all of the students are members of the non-institutional Church of Christ. I met my husband there. A year or two after graduation, we were married by a Church of Christ preacher in his house. We moved around a good bit the first few years while my husband was in school. Eventually he finished school and was offered a job in the suburbs. He took the job and we’ve been in the same area since then.

When we moved to this area, we found a “sound” (non-institutional) Church of Christ and visited once or twice and then placed our membership there. We attended there for several years. During that time, my husband was on the rotation of men that would preach once a month, and he also filled in sometimes when the preacher went out of town. After a few years, he decided he needed to be preaching more often and he found a preaching job at a small Church of Christ in the area. We moved to be closer to their meeting place. He preached there for a year. Toward the end of our year there, we became convinced that it was unscriptural for a church to own a building. (If it’s unscriptural to use church money to fund an orphans home because we can’t find that in the bible, then it must be unscriptural to have a church building, because that isn’t in the bible, either.) Because of this issue and a heavy dose of family politics, we were asked to leave that church. For some months we met in homes with two other families. We eventually realized that our house church didn’t really function like a church because it couldn’t. We went back to the church we’d found when we first moved to this area, and we bought a house within a 15 minute drive of that church.

One of the major themes in my journey is the status of women. We were always raised to believe that a wife should submit to her husband. This is de rigour for the Church of Christ. We were also always taught that people should dress modestly. We took these to extremes. At some point I began wearing only long dresses or skirts. When our daughters were born, we dressed them in long dresses exclusively, from birth. I grew my hair as long as it would grow. For a time, I wore a headcovering everywhere I went. After some time, I wore one only in church. I read Me, Obey Him? and took it to heart. I believed that I should obey my husband even when he asked me to break the law. I believed that God would protect me from sin if I simply obeyed my husband. I encouraged other women to obey their husbands the same way and to dress very conservatively.

Sometime during the time we were away from the church we attended when we first moved to this area, I became Calvinist. I read Romans 9, without blinders on, and recognized that God is much more sovereign than I had believed. I was also heavily influenced by Credenda/Agenda and Doug Wilson. Eventually, my husband also came to believe that Calvinism was true. We found a church in our area. This church had two other families and met in the pastor’s home. This church was working toward becoming a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. I won’t go into much detail about our time there. I will say that they encouraged us to relax our standards of dress some, and they encouraged us to strengthen our ideas about a man’s leadership and headship in the home. They had been heavily influenced by Bill Gothard. And it wasn’t long before I realized I did not want to be there.

The pastor there found the ex-church of Christ website and shared the link with us. It was there that I first “met” some Catholics who were adept at defending their faith. It didn’t take me long to realize that almost everything I had been taught about the Catholic Church, whether from the Church of Christ or from the Reformed, was incorrect. I had been miserably misinformed. I read some of the writings of the earliest Christians – Irenaeus, the Didache, the Protoevangelium of James, and others. And it was obvious that the Catholic Church is truly the historic church. I studied various scriptures again, and was convinced. I needed to become Catholic.

I started RCIA in the fall of 2007 and was received into the Church at the Easter vigil 2008. This caused an unbelievable strain on my marriage, as my husband remains Reformed. We have fought terribly over this, and over where our children should go to church. Eventually, on the advice of my priest, we now attend both my Catholic parish, and my husband’s PCA congregation. I pray for my husband, and I’m sure he prays for me.

Whew! That took longer than I expected. I intend to go into more detail about doctrine and faith in future posts.