I have some dear Christian cousins who happen to belong to the 7th Day Adventist movement. The below letter was in response to one from each of them, condemning the Eucharist, praying to Mary, and questioning the accuracy of the "Passion of the Christ" movie, gently reminding me that those who played it in were "just actors". What initiated our communication was the post you see here regarding my "Journey". Apparently they are more concerned about me being Catholic than whether I live a holy life or not. Neither of them mentioned my former gay lifestyle, but one did say she was glad I was "finding Jesus". That same one sent me two thick books by Ellen G White, the "papess" of Adventism, and the book was page after page of attacks on the Roman Catholic Church, and the other one was about the Passion, and had numerous inaccuracies such as stating that Mary Magdalene did not believe Jesus was risen until Peter and John had checked it out for her (the Bible as well as Church tradition teach PRECISELY the opposite), as well as stating that even the non-fallen angels did not realize that satan was evil at first! Talk about being steeped in traditons of (wo)man!!! I sent the letter below, as well as a booklet that is also in article form on the Catholic Answers website (www.catholic.com I believe), called PILLAR OF FIRE PILLAR OF TRUTH. It answers a lot of Protestant objections to our Faith in quick fashion, and I figured that they would not read a 200 page book (even though they expected me to!), so anyway this is a first attempt at heavy duty apologetics to family. I will keep you "posted", and please keep them in prayer.
November 12, 2006
Thanks so much for your books and encouragement. They are very deeply appreciated. I don’t really have any questions as such, (at least not at present) but I do have a few thoughts or reflections on your note and books. I certainly am already aware, as you are, that those who played in the “Passion” movie were imperfect people, and I hope that I did not give the impression that I thought otherwise, or that I thought Mel Gibson was somehow infallible in his interpretations of those events either. It was simply a movie, as you said, however, at least in my opinion, probably the best and most accurate portrayal of the Passion that Hollywood has ever turned out. I was simply saying it deeply inspired me, particularly in the fact that Jim Caviezel, who played Christ, is a deeply committed Catholic Christian in his personal life who, unlike many “Hollywood” types, has not compromised his career with such things as doing nudity or questionable movies, even long before the part of Jesus was offered to him. That in itself is, unfortunately, pretty rare in Hollywood these days, especially for a relatively unknown young man trying to build up his career in that crazy industry! When I heard him speak last year, he shared movingly about how it felt to be on the cross in apparently near freezing weather for days at a time, suffering greatly while playing the part (was struck by lightning 2 separate times, was accidentally beaten “for real” a couple times while filming the scourging scene, which incidentally they actually kept in the movie (so at least portions of that particular scene were not just “acting” on his part), developed hypothermia, and damaged his rotator cuff! Although it was hidden, of course, he also used a Walkman with Christian worship music such as Michael W Smith and others while hanging on the cross day after day just to help him get through many excruciating hours of filming, besides starting each day with much personal prayer, attending Mass, and devotion. He said none of this in a bragging way, but rather to show how deeply and inwardly he personally was changed by playing this part, and I truly believe that the Lord did choose him as an instrument for that particular role, just as He chooses each of us in our various roles in life. He never implied that he had a full sense of the true depth of how much Christ really suffered for each of us, only that it had really helped draw him to God in his daily walk, and I am certain it did.
I want you to know I have always had the utmost respect for your walk with Christ as well, and hope you realize I too have been a Christian for many years, although certainly have had times where I have not lived it fully. My purpose in sharing my “journey” was simply to let people in the family know where I was at these days in that area. I am sure it was probably puzzling to many, including yourself, when one day I was a supposedly “happily married Bible based minister” and then quite suddenly (although it was not as sudden as people may have thought at the time) became divorced and left the ministry. I now realize that God had His Hand on me during all of those years, but as we sometimes do, we run and hide like Jonah at times. I am certainly not proud of parts of my life during those years but deeply thankful that Christ never left me nor forsook me, and that my former wife too has forgiven me for any hurts I caused to her as well. It is good we serve a God of mercy, isn’t it?
Lastly, I want to say this carefully, but, after spending much of the weekend perusing the books you sent, I am pretty sure we are not going to see eye to eye on Catholicism, nor was I aware until recently of how adamantly opposed Ellen G White was regarding the Faith I and several in my family belong to. I also realize that she was a product of her times, living in an era where Catholics and Protestants did not work together but rather attacked and hurt one another constantly, (and both sides were very guilty of this), and that many huge strides have been made on both sides since the time of her writings to understand one another better. Yes, there are still major differences but not in regards to the Trinity, the belief that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God (many are surprised that the Catholic Church teaches this, but it, in fact, always has done so), in salvation through faith in Christ and His one sacrifice (the Mass does not repeat the sacrifice of Calvary but rather draws us into it, giving us a chance to appropriate it in our own lives), and the fact that we not only are to commit ourselves to Christ personally but to live it on a daily basis. That is why some think we believe in “salvation by works”, something your denomination also has been falsely accused of by groups who believe in “once saved always saved” and other such doctrines.
Thankfully, Ms. White also briefly mentioned in the “Great Controversy” that she believed there were true Christians within the Catholic Church, even though she disagreed deeply with some of our other beliefs. In the day and age she wrote that, I am sure that was considered a fairly revolutionary statement by many, so certainly on that point she was far ahead of her time. The bottom line to me, as I told your sister, who also wrote to me, is that we make a true and heartfelt change of heart, repenting of all known sin, and turn to the Cross of Christ for our salvation and redemption. On that key point, both your church and mine certainly agree, and perhaps on the rest we may need to “agree to disagree”. In return for your gift to me, I have enclosed a copy of a small booklet regarding my Faith too, and ask that you read it prayerfully, just as I have read your generous information regarding Adventism. It is always good for us to learn about the beliefs and perspectives of other Christians. I too wish you Happy Holidays, only I will be daring and say “Merry Christmas” hehe. Again thank you for both your help and especially your prayers. They mean a lot to me.
Your cousin Richard