Finding the Church of Christ has been one of my biggest challenges. I began my search for authentic Christianity when I was thirteen, and thought I had completed this search seven year later when I was baptized into the Edmonton Church of Christ. Little did I know that this baptism was only one more step, albeit one of the most crucial steps, in the completion of my quest, which eventually led me to the true Church of Christ, that is, the Catholic Church.
Although I was raised as a Christian, Missouri Synod Lutheran to be exact, I was never satisfied with what I had been taught, and I somehow felt that the Christian Church was more than what I had come to know. As was traditionally done in my congregation, I began confirmation classes in grade seven. It was in these classes that I began to question my faith, and I soon dropped out of them to investigate other churches. My mother was very considerate in allowing me to do this, and she helped me in my investigation with the condition that I would return to confirmation classes next autumn if I had not found a church that I was satisfied with. My mother played a key role in my investigation. She took my sister and I to the Sunday services of the various churches in my home town so that I could experience these other Christian churches first hand. She also obtained a book that described the different Christian denominations, and we read about the basic difference between them.
Being only thirteen, I was not very theologically mature, and my evaluation of other churches consisted mainly in gut feelings and not in research and study. The only thing I could really do was compare these churches to the Lutheran Church, and since I was raised on Lutheran theology, the Lutheran Church always won out.
There were four mainstream churches that we did not investigate: the Mormon Church, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. The Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses were obviously not Christian, so they could not be seriously considered. The Seventh-day Adventists, while appearing to be Christian, had some very strange doctrines and practices that disqualified them from consideration, such as worshiping on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, and believing that Jesus was crucified on a stake rather than on a cross. Likewise, the Catholic Church had some very strange doctrines and practices, such as the belief in purgatory, the worshiping of Mary, and confession of one's sins to a priest. As well, to support these strange doctrines, the Catholic Church had added books to the Bible. Clearly a church that was not based on the original Bible could not be considered.
Like I said, the only thing I could do was compare the churches I did investigate to the Lutheran Church, and since I was raised in the Lutheran Church, it always seemed to be the most plausible. Hence, the following autumn, I returned to confirmation classes, and two years later, I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church. I remained in the Lutheran Church, but I was not content. I continued to feel that there was more to Christianity than what I had been taught, but for the time being, I did not persist is my search for what I felt was missing.
Returning to confirmation classes coincided with something new in my life: rebellion. While I continued to go to church on Sundays, I began to act more and more as if I were not a Christian. If asked, I would always say that I was a Christian, but I was openly doing things that a Christian would not do. In my last year of high school, I had a drug related brush with death, which caused be to re-evaluate my life. I was not living a Christian life, and so I was not dying a Christian death. This quite literally scared the Hell out of me, and in short order, I made some very positive changes in my life.
One of these changes was reading the Bible. I had read it a little bit when I was younger, and I had had it read to me every Sunday morning, but I had never really studied it. I still felt that there was something missing in the Lutheran Church, but I did not find it in any of the churches that I had examined, so I decide to try and find it in the Bible. I remember one rainy Saturday where I read the entire book of Revelation. I enjoyed reading it, but I did not understand most of it. This was the problem: I just knew that the answer I was seeking was in the Bible, but the more I read, the more I realized that I did not understand what I was reading.
By this time, I had decided that all Christian churches had corrupted Christianity somehow, and that the only solution was to restore the Christian Church through thorough analyses of the Bible. I even thought that God was calling me to this task of restoring His Church, but it was such an enormous task that it overwhelmed me. The more I thought about it, the more I put if off, and the less I read the Bible.
After around a year of putting off restoring Christ's Church, a momentous event took place in my life. During an appointment with my chiropractor, he asked me what I thought the Kingdom of God was. I never really thought about it before, and I said that I guess it would be Heaven or the second coming of Christ. He said that this was true, but it was much more than that. He then invited to lead me in some private Bible studies to learn just what the Kingdom of God is. I very much wanted to study the Bible, and if the Kingdom of God was more than what I thought it was, I also wanted to learn more about that. I accepted his invitation, and over the next few days, I went to his office during lunchtime and we studied the Bible.
At first I was cautious, and asked what the name of his church was. He told me that it was the "Church of Christ." I became a little worried, and asked if this was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He assured me that it was an entirely different church that was not even remotely related to the Mormons. I decided that he and his church were in fact Christian, and I became very open to what he had to teach.
This Bible study changed my life. While I had difficulty reading and understanding the Bible on my own, which discouraged me from reading it, the guidance my chiropractor gave me brought clarity, which gave me a desire to read it more.
While I gained many insights during these sessions, three were pivotal. The first was that Kingdom of God came in the first century. In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist said that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," which is also what Jesus said in Mark 1:15, and commanded His disciples to preach in Matthew 10:7. What really hit me was Mark 9:1, where Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." Obviously the people Jesus was talking to all died in the first century; therefore the Kingdom of God had to have come in the first century. This made sense once I realized that the Kingdom of God is the Church of Christ, which was established in the first century, and continues today.
The next significant insight I gained was that the Church of Christ was one and united. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and Ephesians 4:1-6 made this quite apparent, but Jesus' prayer in John 17:21-23 made it unmistakable clear: "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me."
With these two insights, denominationalism proved to be a collection of false churches without any unity:
- the Lutheran Church was established by Martin Luther in the 16th century
- the Presbyterian Church was established by John Calvin in the 16th century
- the Baptist Church was established by John Smith in the 17th century
- the Methodist Church was established by John Wesley in the 18th century
- and the Mormon Church was established by Joseph Smith in the 19th century
The Church of Christ was established by Christ in 33 AD, 50 days after He was crucified, and remains as a united body of believers. All other churches that call themselves Christian are not really Christian at all.
Finally, my chiropractor taught me how one becomes a Christian: by being baptized into the Church of Christ. This was demonstrated over and over again in the book of Acts, but the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39 made the biggest impression on me.
At this point, he asked me if I was a Christian. The full impact of what I had just learnt had not hit me yet, and I said to him that I would like to think that I am a Christian. He immediately corrected me, and explained that I was not a Christian.
It took a few hours for this to sink in, and by lunchtime the next day, I knew what I had to do. I had to be baptized into the Church of Christ; immediately! My chiropractor was please, but he thought I should wait a bit. We had only been studying the Bible together for a few days, and I had not even been to any of his church's worship services. I was adamant in receiving baptism as soon as possible, and I cited the Ethiopian eunuch's words in Acts 8:36: "See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?" The very next day I was baptized into the Edmonton Church of Christ after their Sunday morning worship service.
In less than a week of Bible study, I had found what I had been looking for during the last seven years of my life, or so I thought.
Having found what I thought was authentic Christianity, I was very happy indeed, but one dark thought hung over me. I was a Christian on route to Heaven, while all my family and friends were not Christians, and were on route to Hell. I had to save them, or should I say, I had to open their eyes to the truth so that Christ could save them. I was desperate, and I took every opportunity to evangelize them.
At first, everyone was under the impression that I had joined a cult like the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses, but this notion quickly subsided, and they all concluded that the Edmonton Church of Christ was simply an extreme fundamentalist Protestant denomination. Some of my family members even attended Sunday worship services with me, but never more than once. The exception was my wife. She accompanied me a number of times to the Edmonton Church of Christ, and even began to think that there might be something to what I had been preaching, but her strong faith in the Catholic Church won out, and she stopped attending with me.
Our differences in religious beliefs put a real strain on our relationship. She knew that I believed that she and her family were going to Hell, and I knew that she would never convert. Converting my wife was a major priority for me. First, I wanted her to be saved, and second, I wanted to enter the ministry program to become a professional evangelist, which could not happen unless she converted.
Again, and again, I failed in my attempts to convert my family and friends. I did not understand why I could not win them over. It had been so easy for me to see the truth in the teachings of the Edmonton Church of Christ; why was it so hard for them to see it? I was using the same Bible study material that my chiropractor had used with me, so why was it so ineffective on my family and friends?
I determined that the best thing I could do was to concentrate all my effort on converting my sister's new husband. He was studying to be a Lutheran minister, and so I thought that with his theological background, I could reason with him and show him the truth. Not only would his conversion serve as a compelling example to the others, but with his ministerial training, I believed he would be more effective in evangelizing than I had been. I reasoned that the two of us together could easily convert everyone else.
The best way to prove that something is right is to attempt to prove it wrong. I was totally confident that the teachings of the Edmonton Church of Christ were right, and so I was totally confident that I could not prove them wrong. Once I had exhaustedly failed in proving the teachings of the Edmonton Church of Christ wrong, I planned to show my brother-in-law that they were right.
While I was preparing my plan of attack, my brother-in-law was doing his own research. I stumbled for a bit when he presented the fact that the Edmonton Church of Christ was the result of the American Restoration Movement; specifically Thomas and Alexander Campbell's branch of that movement. Not only that, but an associate of the Campbells, Sidney Rigdon, left the Campbells, along with 150 others, and was baptized into the Mormon Church, thereby increasing the size of the Mormon Church fourfold. As a result, Campbell theology went on to become a dominant influence in Mormon theology.
It bothered me that the Edmonton Church of Christ could be given a date of establishment other than the first century just like the denominational churches. What bothered me even more was that the Edmonton Church of Christ had a connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I took my concerns to the elders and evangelists. They told me that while the Reformation was good, it was not enough. What was needed was restoration. They explained how the Church of Christ died out around the third century, and was restored in the nineteenth century. I accepted this explanation quite readily. After all, before I found the Edmonton Church of Christ, I thought that God was calling me to restore His Church. I was glad that someone had already completed this task. I was given some more study material, and I returned to my task of failing to prove the Edmonton Church of Christ wrong.
The first teaching I scrutinized was that although it is recorded in the book of Acts that whole families were baptized, the Greek wording of these accounts does not imply that young children were included. It was without effort that I found this teaching wrong. In Acts 16:15, the word οἶκος (oikos) is used, which means one's household or one's entire property. In Acts 16:34, the word πανοικεὶ (panoikei) is used, which quite specifically means with all his house, or with his whole family. The use of these words did not mean that there were definitely young children in these families, but they did imply inclusion of young children if there were any, something the Edmonton Church of Christ said they did not. This was a small point, but nonetheless, a teaching that I was able to prove false.
The next teaching I tried to prove wrong was that since the use of mechanical instruments in worship services was not explicitly requested in the New Testament, they are forbidden. This teaching hinged on scriptural accounts that supposedly give examples of persons being punished by God for doing something that He had not explicitly requested; however, I found that this was not the case. Each account either described a person being punished for failing to fulfil an explicit request, or a person being punished for their ill motives, not for their actions. I could not find an example anywhere in the Bible of God punishing someone for doing something that had not explicitly requested. In fact, I found examples where God was pleased with someone who had done something that was not explicitly requested. In addition to not having and biblical support, this teaching failed basic logic. If the logic behind the teaching were applied to everything, many more things would also be forbidden. The Edmonton Church of Christ put major emphasis on this teaching, but I decided downplay its importance because I could not support it with the Bible nor with logic.
Finally, I came to a false teaching that I could not ignore. To support their claim that the Spiritual Gifts passed away in the first century, the Edmonton Church of Christ interpreted the word perfection in 1 Corinthians 13:10 to be the canonization of the Bible; thus, the Spiritual Gifts would pass away once the Bible was canonized. This teaching had a number of things wrong with it. First, the Edmonton Church of Christ specifically asserted that the word perfection here could not refer to the second coming of Christ because it is in the neuter gender and not the masculine. This assertion relied totally on an ignorance of Greek grammar. The word in question here, τέλειον (teleion), is in the neuter gender because that is the normal gender for this word. The subject of this word has no bearing on its gender, just as Christ is referred to as the light, which is also neuter, or as the life, which is feminine.
The gender of the word perfection did not determine its subject, but its context did. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." (1 Corinthians 13:11-12). If the canonization of the Bible was the perfection, denominationalism would not exist; but since through the Bible "we see in a mirror dimly," and only "know in part," denominationalism does exist. When Christ comes again, then we shall see "face to face," and "shall understand fully."
In addition to an ignorance of Greek grammar to support this misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, this teaching seemed chronologically impossible. The Spiritual Gifts supposedly died out in the first century because they were no longer needed once the New Testament was canonized. However, the New Testament was canonized at the end of the fourth century. Therefore, the Edmonton Church of Christ inadvertently suggests that Christians were without the Spiritual Gifts and the New Testament for three centuries; an impossibility.
Looking more closely at the canonization of the New Testament, I discovered a disturbing fact: it was the Catholic Church that canonized the New Testament. Not only was the New Testament added to the Bible by the Catholic Church, this was the only addition they made. The extra books in the Catholic Old Testament were put there by the Jews before Christ, and they remained there until the Protestant took them out in the sixteenth century. The Bible I was using was an incomplete Catholic document that only existed because of the efforts of alleged non-Christians.
This led to another disturbing realization: almost all of the books that the members of the Edmonton Church of Christ suggested for me to read were written by alleged non-Christians. How could the Christian library be almost entirely made up of literature written by non-Christian?
Not only did alleged non-Christians write almost all Christian literature, they were instrumental in the alleged restoration of the Church of Christ. The Restoration Movement was only made possible by the Protestant Reformation. John Lockes, John Calvin, John Knox, John and Charles Wesley, and Martin Luther were all supposed to be non-Christians, but yet it was the work of these men that Thomas and Alexander Campbell relied on in developing their own doctrines. The logical conclusion of what the Edmonton Church of Christ was teaching me was that the Church of Christ was completely based on the Church of Satan.
This conclusion was devastating for me. I had put all of my hope for salvation in the Edmonton Church of Christ, and now I had discovered that their teachings were unreliable. I did not know what I should believe and what I should not believe. I even began to question my assurance of salvation.
I felt very lost. I wanted to belong to Christ's Church, but I did not know where His Church was.
At the time, I had been meeting with a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses with the intent of converting them; however, I became so bewildered spiritually that it crossed my mind that they might be right. I abruptly stopped meetings with them; not only for fear of being converted, but if I were successful in converting them, what would I convert them to?
Although I desperately wanted to belong to the Edmonton Church of Christ, I could not in good conscience continue to attend their worship services and Bible studies. This was made even harder by how foolish it made me look in the eyes of my family and friends. It was humiliating, after all my zeal and fervour, to admit that I was wrong about the Edmonton Church of Christ: wrong in claiming that the teachings of this church were without fault; wrong in insisting that salvation can only be found in this church; and wrong in allowing myself to be baptized into this church.
After a couple of weeks of no contact with anyone from the Edmonton Church of Christ, two young men from the ministry program came to visit me. I was happy to meet with them, and in my heart I was hoping they would change my mind. I wanted them to show me where I was wrong so that I could be taken back into the fold. This was not what happened. They were totally unprepared to answer any of my questions, and what answers they did give were weak and illogical. At the end of our meeting, I was convinced that I had made the right decision to leave the Edmonton Church of Christ, and they knew that there was no hope for my return.
I was prepared for many more encounters with members from the Edmonton Church of Christ because my brother-in-law had read that this denomination did not let its members leave easily. He had read that they would phone and show up unannounced, both at home and at work, and that this could go on for over a year. I was ready for this, but nothing ever happened. I can only assume that they considered my reasoning and questions as too dangerous, and did not want any other member to come to the same conclusions that I had come to, so they left me alone.
I was now without a church. This was very unsettling because one could not logically be a Christian without belonging to the Christian Church, and I did not know where to find the Christian Church.
For the next few Sundays, I again attended the worship services of the different churches in my home town. I knew that this would be no more constructive than it was when I was thirteen, but I did not know what else to do.
The big question I had to ask myself was whether or not I was a Christian. Since I had no reason to think otherwise, I decided that I was indeed a Christian. Now, if it was true that I was a Christian, then it must also be true that I was member of the Christian Church; and if I were a member, the Church must be visible to me.
I immediately dismissed the idea that I was the only Christian. Such an idea is the root of Restorationism, and could only be possible with divine intervention. Like Thomas and Alexander Campbell, I had received no miraculous revelations, and was only building on what I had learned from of others. Therefore, God did not want me to restore a church that was dead, but to recognize an existing church as His Church.
It was at this time that I was introduced to the concept of the invisible church. This concept suggests that because nothing human is perfect, there is no human institute that can call itself the one, true, perfect Church of Christ. The true Church of Christ is made up of all true Christians from different Christian Churches. Not all who belong to a Christian church are true Christians, but all Christian churches have some true Christians in them. In essence, a Christian is one who accepts Christ as his Saviour and devotes his life to Him, not one who belongs to a particular church.
This idea of an invisible church satisfied me for a little while, but it had one major flaw: it did not account for the doctrinal difference between the different Christian Churches. For every doctrinal difference, one view must be correct, and all other views must be wrong. I could not find a church that I agreed with on all questions of doctrine, so I was left with the notion that all churches are collectively right; each being correct on some points and wrong on others. I could not accept this notion as the Will of God, and I felt it was my responsibility to sift through every doctrinal difference, and come to a resolution. This was not restoration, but reformation. Where the Protestant Reformation failed, I planned to succeed.
It is a historical fact that all Christian churches stem from the Catholic Church, and although I thought that this was the most corrupt church, it was the logical starting point for my reforms. Like Martin Luther, I did not plan to start a new church, but reform the existing Catholic Church.
I began studying Catholic literature and attending Mass.
As I studied, I discovered two things: most of what I thought were corruptions in the Catholic Church were simply just misconceptions; and, authentic Catholic doctrines were both biblical and logical. It seemed to me that true Catholic doctrines were secretes that were even hidden to the majority of good Catholics.
In light of Catholic theology, the invisible church concept made more sense. All Christians are actually members of the Catholic Church, although those that do not conform to all Catholic doctrines are not in full communion with the Church, and therefore are only partially Christian. The Second Vatican Council referred to these Christians as Separated Brethren, and since I was loosing what separated me from the Catholic Church, I thought I was fully Catholic, and I began to receive the Eucharist.
While I thought I was fully Catholic, I had a lot to learn. One thing I had to learn was that I could not arbitrarily decide that I was fully Catholic, and begin to receive the Eucharist. When the priest became aware of the situation, he corrected me, and I stopped receiving.
At first I was furious, but as I learnt more, I saw that this priest was right. First, he was right because I had not made a public profession into the Catholic Church; and second, I did not really understand and respect the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
Coming from a Lutheran background, it was easy for me return to the belief that the Bread and Wine were more than just symbolic of Christ's Body and Blood. Jesus specifically said, "This is my Body," and "This is my Blood;" not "This is a symbol of my Body," and "This is a symbol of my Blood." However, I thought that the difference between the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation was one of semantics. Once I did understand the difference, and really believed that Christ was fully present in the Eucharist, it was with great anticipation that I waited to receive the Eucharist.
In addition to the Real Presence, there were many more Catholic doctrines that I had to struggle with, one of which was the veneration of Mary and the saints. Once I had dismissed the misconception that Catholics worship Mary the same way they worship God, it was not long before I began to give Mary the respect she deserved. It was Mary's words of prophecy in Luke 1:48 that convinced me of this: "For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed." It was actually these words that transformed my intention of reforming the Catholic Church into allowing the Catholic Church to reform me.
Giving Mary the respect she deserved was accompanied by the realization that I can ask Mary and the saints in Heaven to pray for me. Since Mary and the saints are in Heaven with God, it was a simple step in logic to assume that they share in God's universal awareness, and could therefore hear my petitions for prayer. This obviously led to praying the Rosary.
When I initially started to pray the Rosary, I had a big problem with the Forth and Fifth Glorious Mysteries. In their place, I made up my own mysteries: instead of the Assumption of Mary, I meditated on the resurrection of the dead; and instead of the Coronation of Mary, I meditated on all Christians being co-heir with Christ.
After a year of praying the Rosary, I did begin to believe in the assumption and coronation of Mary. The stumbling block I faced in believing in the Assumption was the belief that Mary never sinned. Again, it was the Scriptures that brought me to the truth; specifically the words Archangel Gabriel in Luke 1:28: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." To be "full of grace" is to be without sin, and to be without sin means her body would not see corruption; hence God assumed her in to Heaven body and soul.
Likewise, it was the Scriptures that brought me to believe in the Coronation of Mary. "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the starts of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days." (Revelation 12:1-6). It was without a doubt that the child was Jesus, which meant that the woman crowned with twelve stars was Mary. This was a very clear description of Mary's coronation.
Having accepted these and many other Catholic doctrines, I felt it was time for me to start RCIA. Like many, I mistakenly thought that RCIA stood for Roman Catholic something or other, and that it was a course like the confirmation classes I took when I was younger. RCIA actually stands for Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults, and is the process of initiating adults into the Catholic Church by celebrating a progression of rites that culminates with full reception into the Church.
To prepare a person for the celebration of these rites, sessions are held where the Catholic Church and her doctrines are explained. These sessions are not really classes, but presentations. They present what the Catholic Church teaches, and leaves it up to the individual to decide whether to accept these teachings and continue with the next rite, or to withdraw from the process. I chose to accept these doctrines.
Three years after leaving the Edmonton Church of Christ, I made my Profession of Faith in the Catholic Church. This three years of searching and study contrasts the amount of time I studied with my chiropractor before joining the Edmonton Church of Christ, which was less than a week.
Maybe I should have taken more time to study before being baptized into the Edmonton Church of Christ; however, I do not regret the time I spent with them. In fact, I feel eternally indebted to the Edmonton Church of Christ, particularly my chiropractor. Without them, I may have never found the true Church of Christ, that is, the Catholic Church.
Many of the things I learnt in the Edmonton Church of Christ still hold true for the Catholic Church: the Catholic Church is the kingdom of God that came in the first century; the Catholic Church is one and united, unlike the denominational churches; and one becomes a Catholic by receiving Christian baptism.
I do not consider myself an ex-member of the Edmonton Church of Christ, but a member that has entered into the fullness of the Church of Christ. I do not want to fight and argue about doctrinal differences, but to lead others into the fullness of truth.
The Catholic Church is the Church of Christ. All other churches that make this same claim are only imitations. After all my years of searching, I am so glad that God has allowed me to see this, and I pray that He will allow you to see it too.