Thursday, June 14, 2007

Southern Baptists Avoid the Devil' Potion.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Bars along San Antonio's Riverwalk do brisk trade when a convention is in town -- unless that convention has drawn over 10,000 Southern Baptists.

"Nothing," is how Shana Larson, manager of the Coyote Ugly Saloon on the Riverwalk, summed up business this week as the city known for its carefree exuberance hosts the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Everybody gives us no business at all. None of them is going to come to a bar to drink any kind of alcohol," she said.

Southern Baptists follow a conservative brand of Christianity that discourages alcohol consumption.

The Riverwalk is a popular tourist attraction that follows the San Antonio River through the downtown area and is lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and bars.

On Tuesday night restaurants along the Riverwalk were packed with long lines of people waiting for tables, but bars were conspicuously quiet.

"Obviously, most of our sales come from sales of our spirits, liquor, beer, and wine, and we're not seeing any action there this week," said Cory Neal, manager of Pat O'Brien's on the River.

One Baptist convention delegate said he could tell that waiters and waitresses were less than thrilled, not least because a big bar tab often translates into a hefty tip.

"You're in a Mexican restaurant and they say you must try the margaritas. When you order a raspberry tea you can see the look of disappointment in their faces. But I try to be a generous tipper," the delegate said.

This News just in from Seth: For some reason, this here news is cracking me up something fierce. The poor Khaki Pants and Perfect Hair-Part Club just cant get a break these days.

In other news: 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus was spotted in a bar with a bunch of sinners. This of course was after he went to a wedding and turned a bunch of water into wine and made the Bride and Groom really happy. Not to mention the rest of the Party. So if you had the choice, do you think a sinner would ask a Southern Baptist to their wedding or Jesus? And no, Jesus wasn't a Southern Baptist.

Btw, I was at the SBC convention and apparently, moderates have retaken the convention and a Moderate President sits on the throne instead of “the chosen one” that the high Fundie council had anointed. Hallelujah. There were 3 things the NEW President said that stuck out to me. (From memory so a bit paraphrased.)

1. "We (Southern Baptists) have been obsessed with our own personal agendas instead of winning souls and we should repent."
2. We need to stop worrying if a Missionary believes in speaking in tongues or if they drink in moderation and worry about Lost souls. We’ve been to busy trying to align Jesus with the SBC and not aligning ourselves with Him and his Great commission.
3. We have lost sight of the Gospel and have been preoccupied with fighting each other, thus setting a poor example of the body of Christ. (I thought I was going to have to restrain my dad from the rejoicing.)

So I hear his wonderful statements, (and I really do think that they are wonderful and its ABOUT FRIGGIN TIME) and then I read about the complaining bartenders and I think the Southern Baptists could have killed 3 birds with one stone!

I say, the Southern Baptists should have all got together at the local bars, had a beer with a couple of sinners (or maybe bought them a beer), talked with them about Jesus and the Gospel, gave them a big tip, and voila! Mission accomplished.

All in all, I was just amazed that there weren’t any resolution this year banning Women from something, or something bashing Gays. I was sure we would get some kind of Gay Bashing resolution or “Women-shut-the-hell-up -the-fat-mouthed-husband-is-the-boss” commandment from the grand Baptist Kingpin Kahuna. But alas, there sits a president who believes “the truth is important, but so is the truth spoken in love.”

Those dang moderates. They just spoil all the fun and make us look like we love people. I don’t think I can take another year of the moderates. Time to bus all the kids up and fake them as delegates again. Maybe they can get the current President fired and escorted out by armed guards like they did the moderate peace-loving hippie sombitch President of Southwest Seminary a few years back. I WAN’T SOME FUNDIE ACTION AND I WANT IT NOW.

38 comments:

Stephen said...

The real reason they weren't drinking alcohol was because there were too many Baptists around. As the old joke goes, "What is the difference between Methodists and Baptists? The Methodists wave to each other in the liquor store."

When Frank Page was elected president, one of the things he said was "I believe the Bible is true, I'm just not mad about it". But don't worry, the Fundamentalists are doing their best to regain control of the convention and save it.

tannehill said...

YEAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! RIGHT ON!!!!!! WOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!
i am the queen of margaritas. ask any of my girlfriends. and somehow, Jesus still talks to me. maybe i'm hearing voices because i'm sauced?
i don't think soooo....
preach on, bruthuh ward.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Oh, you sinners. I don't ever drink The Devil's Brew. It's been several years since I've even had so much as a sip.

Is it because I'm more holy and spiritual than anyone else? No, sorry.

Is it because I used to be an alcoholic, and can't touch alcohol without losing control and falling off the wagon? No, I never was, and it's never been a part of my life.

Is it because I fear being judged by my fellow Christians, and don't want to destroy my witness? Not even close.

It just so happens that I'm a member of the small minority among the adult population who can't drink alcohol because it simply doesn't agree with us. I get a headache, feel sick, feel generally crappy -- and I'm talking about shortly after drinking, not a hangover.

I can't even smell Nyquil without feeling nauseous. I did drink a little when I was much younger (did most of my drinking before I was of legal age, in fact) but even then it was never my intoxicant of choice.

But hey, bonus: I always get to be the designated driver whenever my small group gets together. (Okay, I'm kidding about that). The women in the small group do like to get together for "Girls Night" from time to time and try out various margarita or other flavored-drink mixes, and spill their guts to one another. Seems to be cathartic for them.

The Cachinnator said...

An open note to Reuters:

Re: "Southern Baptists follow a conservative brand of Christianity that discourages alcohol consumption."

Hahahahahahahahahah!! Whew... Ah, Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!

Ahem... I mean... Dear Reuters editorial staff,

Southern Baptists do not follow a conservative brand of Christianity that discourages alcohol consumption so much as they are a conservative brand of Christianity that discourages doing anything in public that might make them appear less "holy and pure" than the guy in the next pew according to their limited interpretation of the terms "holy and pure." It's kind of the suburban version of conservative Christianity where everyone is trying to outdo their neighbor with newer and fancier versions of whatever they deem as "treasures and rewards."

Self-righteousness and the ability to boast that you don't drink are the actual goals, not some honest form of abstention or from a real biblical conviction.

I know many Christians who do abstain from alcohol through personal conviction or other honest spiritual reason, but they're not the SBC variety. Pretending there's a biblical mandate against it is foolish and in error, and railing and preaching and boasting about the subject would defeat the purpose anyway.

So, again... hahahahahaha!

Jeremy said...

Wow... that's quite the post, and you're getting some great reactions. I'm with you, Seth - I keep trying to like wine or champagne... it would be a great way to top of a nice meal with my wife or a romantic evening in ... (I can't say that 'cause I attend a Baptist church and we don't talk about sex, right? Oops - I said it!) But I just don't like the taste of it! But you're right - being the designated driver isn't all that bad...

Hey - you and your wife need to join Kat and I for this 40 Day Fast. We'd love to have you be a part of it. I've also added you to my Blogroll - if you get a chance, "love" me back at http://jeremythiessen.typepad.com. Take care!

MamasBoy said...

Personally, I can't stand the taste of 99% of beer products (the exceptions being a couple that taste like fruit juice). I have taken quite a ribbing about it at work and among family, which doesn't bother me. I even had a coworker tell me that "nobody" likes the taste when they first start drinking. My response was, "Well then why do it? Why conform?" Besides that, it's terribly expensive. Personally, I have better things to spend my money on than a beer at a restaurant. So, yeah, when I took my family to the riverwalk, we certainly didn't rack up a large alcohol tab either.

People tend to give Southern Baptists a tough time, but I bet their spousal abuse rates are much lower lower than the general public. I've seen too many women with bruises and black eyes after their husbands got drunk and started acting like complete assholes to diss on the SBC too much for being teetotalers. Personally, I think they are out of balance, but not nearly so much as our culture that tends to go the other way with drunkenness being popular and common in many circles.

How much do you think the rape rate would drop if college students all decided to follow the SBC on this issue? What do you think the rape rate is at BJU (for instance) compared to other non-teetotaling Christian universities? Why does our society encourage and even pressure people to drink?
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas/Documents/rapeintox-pressRelease/

MB

Bill Hensley said...

I believe the joke was:
If you want to invite a Southern Baptist to go fishing with you, be sure to invite two of them. If you only invite one he'll drink all your beer.

Or:
Three Great Religious Truths
1. Jews don't recognize Jesus
2. Protestants don't recognize the Pope.
3. Two Baptists don't recognize each other in a liquor store.

Seriously, though, instead of blasting everyone who chooses not to drink, I think you need to focus your ray gun a little tighter. If the problem is self-righteousness, say so. If the problem is misinterpreting Scripture, then let's talk about that. I am a Southern Baptist and I drink on occasion, but I have tremendous respect for those who have made a principled decision to abstain. Not because Jesus only drank grape juice (that's bad exegesis) but because alcohol abuse is a tremendous problem in our society.

FancyPants said...

It's not the people abstaining from alcohol whose motives are questioned. It's those who try to make laws concerning what "good' Christians should and shouldn't do.

I can completely respect anyone's decision not to drink, as long as they can respect mine to enjoy a glass of wine...or two. And I'm no worse of a Christian for it. And neither are they for abstaining.

MB, you raise great points. Some immediate thoughts without getting a chance to check out your link....About society pressuring us to drink...who in society? Budweiser commericials or the college frat boy? Well, I think as adults we're smart enough, or should be, to know when someone is pressuring us to drink irresponsibly. That's not necessarily the alcohol's fault, but the person pressuring, or maybe the part of society that didn't teach how to drink responsibly, or the person choosing to ignore it.

Brody Harper said...

... but ... but drinking is cool... especially when it's on a party boat and I am in really good shape...

at least that's what the commercials tell me.

This article makes me laugh because I wonder how the bars do in Nashville during GMA week. I've never heard a complaint.

Susanne said...

Mamasboy, you have such a great point. So many of the problems on college campuses (everywhere else too, for that matter) would be lessened if more people would abstain from alcohol (or at least reduce their intake). I drank socially for a while in college, and I saw firsthand what it did to me and so many of my friends. My college has never been known to be a "party school," so it made me wonder how much worse would the partying have to be for your school to be called a "party school!" I had many friends who had been date-raped while intoxicated. I had more than one alcoholic friend. Having an alcoholic roommate was what turned me away from drinking altogether. I was so sure that it was okay for me to drink every now and then, as long as I didn't get wasted. Then I saw my roommate crying after a party, and she told me how hard it was for her to be the only person in the room without a drink in her hand. She said that she'd actually bought a fifth of Jack and driven out to a deserted road. Thankfully, she just sat and stared at the bottle and didn't open it. In the years following that incident, she because a very strong Christian and is now a wife and mother of three boys. I realized that I wanted to be that one person in the room to help someone who might be really tempted to take that drink that would send them over the edge. I read 1 Corinthians 8:13 and it hit home for the first time. I would still love me some rum drinks if I let myself, but I always think of my friend and just can't give in. Sorry for the long comment, but this subject is so close to my heart. Hope you had a great visit with your Dad! Thanks for letting us know about what the SBC President said. I'm comforted to know that the moderates are coming back before Jesus does. :)

MamasBoy said...

Fancypants,

FP: "About society pressuring us to drink...who in society? Budweiser commericials or the college frat boy? Well, I think as adults we're smart enough, or should be, to know when someone is pressuring us to drink irresponsibly."

Regarding who in society pressures people to drink irresponsibly, I don't think that is all that common outside of the college frat or ghetto scene. However, pressuring people to imbibe just a little is quite common. I've experienced it mostly at work, myself. So has my coworker in the office next to mine, though she was pressured most at her former job. For other people the pressure occurs mainly at school or some other social scene. Given the changes Protestantism is undergoing these days, it wouldn't surprise me if one soon saw this pressure in more spiritual settings (e.g., church small group or Bible study). "Bob, why don't you have a beer? Don't you know that you made the (pagan) visitor John uncomfortable last week? You don't really believe all that bull about the Bible forbidding beer do you?" **At this point, I should probably state that I'm NOT accusing anybody here of acting this way.** I'm just stating that I see a sea change of opinion on this topic in certain Protestant circles, and I wonder if there isn't a danger of growing unappreciative of the good aspects of abstaining from drink and going to the other extreme. I think it would be a mistake to normalize drinking to the point that social drinking became a part of everyone's Bible study and people who don't drink because they don't think the Bible supports it are made to feel less holy or good or just downright stupid. People can have legitimate Biblical concerns about drinking beer and such. I personally think they are wrong in their exegesis, but it isn't any worse than thinking the Eucharist is merely a symbol or thinking Jesus didn't give the apostles special authority that he expected to be passed on to the bishops they would appoint. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, it's a relatively harmless interpretive error that has led to more than a small bit of good in the lives of individuals around the country.

I read an article about Christianity in China last week. The teetotaling Protestants are having tremendous success, and they even make people prove they have stopped drinking before they will baptize them or accept them for membership in their churches. It's amazing how attractive a sober, joy-filled life can be when one sees the emptiness of the bottle all around.

Anyways, I need to stop blogging and head home. Dinner and a glass of wine awaits.

MB

Seth Ward said...

Hmmm. I guess you might be able to ask the same question about Sex, Mamas boy. What if everyone just stop having sex? That should solve the rape problem right? In fact, that would pretty much solve sexual problems altogether. In fact, what if we just banned anything to do with sex altogether and we all men just emasculated themselves? That should fix the world's obsession with sex right?

I tend to think that a rapist will rape because of an unhealthy or insane view of sexuality rather than "oh the drink made me do it." That goes for the wife-abuser as well. Studies show that there is a lot more going on than a drinking problem when there is spousal abuse. A sadder thing that is going on in Christian marriages is the emotional abuse. There are so many wives out there who feel totally worthless and unloved it is tragic... another subject.

Anyways, that whole issue could be solved if everyone would follow the bible, not the Southern Baptist stand on it. "Don't get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery." "GET DRUNK." Not "Don't drink." An old argument but still a goody.

However, I do sympathize with those with drinking problems. Alcoholism is a serious problem just as is pornography. A person with a healthy porn problem has to be extra careful where he goes in case he falls into sin. That goes for any sex addiction. There are some places that a man with these addictions must avoid and certain extra things he must do to limit his sexuality to his wife and his wife only in order to not let it run rampant.

Once again, all this smells of "wine is evil" rather than the person who drinks the wine is prone to evil. We like to try materialize sin into matter when sin is really the absence of God. It is nothing. Is a naked woman a bad thing? No. Is the lust for that woman a bad thing? Yes. Where is the sin? It is in choosing the absence of God's true purpose for sexuality.

Feeding the mind with thoughts from looking at any picture, not just playboy, is the filling-up of your soul with NOTHING, i.e. Death. I don't care if it is a poster of Bethany Dillon, perfectly clothed. The paper, the woman, the flesh, the staples, the atoms, the matter the synthetic clothing material, all that is a part of the created universe. The sin lies in the heart of man to choose that obsession with sexuality over God's way.

Mama's boy, I believe the divorce rate is higher than it has ever been in the Southern Baptist Church. In fact, as far as divorce goes, I read a study that said that Atheists have Christians altogether beat. Once again pointing towards the truth that Wine or Sex does not cause one to sin, YOU are responsible for your sin.

If you know that drinking it will indeed cause you to sin, then don't drink it. If you are to be in a situation where you know there will be a bunch of liquor, then don't be there if you have the problem. Sometimes situation arise that the alcoholic cannot help but thank God that they can claim a victory in a Holy Spirit that can make them more than Conquerors.

We all know that putting yourself in the line of temptation is where the real sin begins and not the temptation after you have made the choice to sit in front of it and smell its alluring aroma.

An addiction to ANYTHING is a sin. At the core of that addiction is Pride, which is naked sin.

There is thins great quote by Chesterton that I like: “No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness- or as good as drink.”

Seth Ward said...

Just re-read my comment MB, and it sounded a bit pointed for some reason.

NOT INTENDED. Typing fast there and hopefully didn't come off as I didn't respct your opinion. Carry on sir!

Bill Hensley said...

Seth, I still think what you're missing is that there's more involved in the decision to drink than whether it's a problem for you, personally. I agree with you that we have freedom in Christ with regard to drinking alcohol. Yet there are several ways in which by exercising my freedom unwisely I can hinder the cause of Christ:

First, I must not drink to excess. The Bible specifically condemns drunkenness as a sin. So far, I know you agree. But there's more.

Second, I must not cause my brother to stumble. If he believes that drinking alcohol is sinful, then by drinking in his presence I am encouraging him to sin.

Third, I must be mindful of the message my drinking might send to nonbelievers. We live in a culture in which flagrant abuse of alcohol is not only common, it is often celebrated. If I am drinking at a time or place which suggests I condone such behavior, I bring dishonor to God.

Some of my very good friends agree with all this, but they go further and have decided to abstain totally. They reason that abuse is so widespread the best way to avoid sending the wrong message is simply to have nothing to do with it. They also point out that no one really knows whether they are susceptible to alcoholism until they start drinking.

By the way, it's silly to say that the same argument could be made for abstaining from sex. A better analogy would be to decide not to go movies or read books that celebrate adultery and fornication. And, of course, that's exactly what some Christians have decided.

Seth Ward said...

Good points Bill,

But I wouldn't go so far as to say that they are silly. The vine and juice is a created thing by God. It just happened to be Jesus's first miracle and it is also what he said would represent his blood. Both things being good things, can be used in a sinful way or a way that is pleasing to God. Wine is not the same thing as movies, a medium created in the 20th century.

FancyPants said...

MB,

"In fact, in the grand scheme of things, it's a relatively harmless interpretive error that has led to more than a small bit of good in the lives of individuals around the country."

While I readily agree...somewhat...with this statement, I raise some points to consider. In the grand scheme of things, yes, the erroneous interpretations that lead to abstaining from drinking are relatively harmless.

But not entirely harmless. The abstenance itself could not be considered dangerous in its most basic from. It is the false sense of righteousness that evolves from the abstinance that some, not all, religious non-drinkers assume. (I repeat, some, not all.) It is dangerous to assume oneself more holy than another because of such matters. In some cases, those ideas produce a false sense of spirituality, in which case wrong judgment occurs, and I think we can agree that is a dangerous place to be. (This goes both ways.)

And really, there is something to be said about the effects when a non-believer feels accepted and not judged for something like consuming alcohol. Of course, we shouldn't condone or encourage drunkeness, but sit down and have a beer with a non-believer and they're way more interested because all of the sudden they feel liked and on the same level. Not judged, or even feared.

About the pressuring people to drink... If an adult feels pressured to have "just a little", I would have to assume that person didn't like drinking in the first place, and I would hope that they'd just say no. But I've been to social events where drinking was available, and no one was pressuring anyone. The people that are pressuring others to drink are usually those that abuse it. Most responsible people know better.

And while I've never been to a Bible study where we all sat around with the Sam Adams, maybe some have? I mean I actually have to laugh because with that statement you have now shown me Protestants through the eyes of a Catholic, and...well, I guess I don't really blame you. But in all seriousness, I've never heard of this.

I read an article about Christianity in China last week. The teetotaling Protestants are having tremendous success, and they even make people prove they have stopped drinking before they will baptize them or accept them for membership in their churches.

May I ask? What magazine? Because it's sad to me that in order to accept some they exclude so many others. Jesus didn't make people stop drinking before he sat down to dinner with them. Why do we think it's good to do that for church?

It's amazing how attractive a sober, joy-filled life can be when one sees the emptiness of the bottle all around.

One can surely consume alcohol and retain a sober, joy-filled life.

Seth Ward said...

A few other things Bill,

I can certainly sympathize with your friends, and have put myself been in the same situation, but again I bring in the comparison of sex. In fact, sex is used more than alcohol ever thought of being as an advertisement for sinful behavior. In fact, it is sex that is advertised to invite the person to drink.

The point that is being missed is that Satan uses good things, or things that are not innately bad to start with to tempt us to follow our Pride and ourselves. Then he tries to tell us that the things that he used to do it are the evil and not ourselves and that if we just think that these things are evil and we avoid them, we'll be holy.

That means to me, that it all depends upon the reason you drink. If it is for escape or control or for any other reason besides a moderated leisure or taste, communion, or for good health, then it is bad. I.E. "I drink to get drunk, or I drink to forget about my problems, or I drink to say whatever I want, or I drink because I think I won't be cool... I should be common sense for any Christian to abstain from any behavior around another that has an addiction or could tempt them to give in to their own addictions.

As far as addiction goes, addiction is a sign of the person wanting control of their environment and escape, which is another version of control. This again is Pride and the real sin. The assertion of self, not the drink containing alcohol is the sin. You could substitute anything for the alcohol and it could become just as harmful.

One cannot tire of pointing the finger to the actual sin, which is Pride. I cannot think of one material thing that God has made that is evil. Not one. It is man's treatment of those things that are evil.

I think that Christians have for too long decided to divorce themselves from anyTHING that is "sinful" and in doing so they have actually missed the sinful thing altogether, which is asserting one's own will over God's. This "missing the sin" takes its form in a bunch of rules and regulations. We like our lists of do and don’ts and by golly don't try to shake our view of them lest you loose sight of sin.

I believe that much of the time this is what Satan loves to do the most. Get us distracted from what the actual sin is and start to get us making up a bunch of rules. In doing so, we ostracize ourselves from the world. We don't drink this, we don't eat that, we don't dance, we don't "cuss” Pretty soon, we don't feel anything at all including sexual desire. Just ask a few Christian psychologists how many people they council that have been brought up to think that sex is a dirty dirty thing. The guilt they are plagued with is overwhelming. Some even try to kill themselves over it.

Sin is Pride. Pride is choosing what is not the will of God. As far as I am concerned, there hasn't been one good argument that would lead me to believe that drinking fermented wine in moderation is not the will of God. Especially around communion time.

That all being said, I never really intended to lambaste people for NOT drinking. If they are making that choice then that is between them and the Lord. I have a friend that won't drink Coke. It caused him to be obsessive and Prideful. It sounds silly but he gave it up because he felt God was leading in that way. The temptation he faces daily is monstrous. (This guy is an extremely intelligent Christian with a Doctorate in Conducting and a Masters in psychology! The story of his journey to abstain from Coke is interesting, but at the root again is Pride.)

I simply thought it was funny that the local businesses hate seeing the Christians come around because of their self imposed rules, and because of those rules which are supposed to be there to "set them apart" and "be Christ like” the local businessmen can't feed their families and the waiters go home barely breaking even.

I do not fault anyone for abstaining from drinking. I would never pressure a soul to do a single thing they did not want to do. That includes drinking a beverage with alcohol. That would be me asserting my Pride and need for approval from someone other than God.

Discontented Refuge said...

This is classic!

Seth, I would really love to get together and meet you sometime!

Bill Hensley said...

Thanks, Seth. I appreciate your thoughtful response. I agree with you, as C.S. Lewis said, that Pride is the Great Sin, the root of all other sins.

I still think the analogy to sex is off base, though. With drinking, my friends have decided to give up something that is not ultimately very important in order to avoid any possibility of harming themselves, harming others, or encouraging others to harm themselves. Sex, on the other hand, is a vital and intrinsic part of marriage. In fact, it is a commandment! (I Cor 7:3-5) When a married couple has sex in the privacy of their bedroom I don't think there's any possibility that others will be misunderstand it as an endorsement of adultery or be harmed in any other way.

Mz Jackson said...

Where the heck did you get that picture?

Seth Ward said...

Dis. Ref.

Love to get together and hang out. Say the word brother.

Where bouts do you live in H-town?

MZ Jackson, I just googled moonshine and that pic came up.

Tannehill, queen of margaritas... Stinking funny. Is that the mexican version of the Queen of the Night?

Jeremy, Will do with the blog list.

I have some pretty strong feelings about fasting that I should post about soon but in short, I usually don't tell people if I am fasting about something. NOT THAT YOU GUYS DOING IT IS BAD!!!! Its just something that I decided a long time ago between me and God. I do think what you guys are doing is really cool though and I'll be looking forward to reading your accounts. So if I was doing the fast with you guys, you wouldn't know about it. (darting my eyes back and forth like a spy.)

BTW, I really like your band. Its been a while since I've heard a new band that connected with me in and felt honest and you guys are kicking some butt! Look forward to hearing more from you all.

Susanne said...

I've been on both sides of this (being a teetotaller through high school, then drinking socially, now a teetotaller again). In high school, I was so uncomfortable being around people who drank that I wouldn't go to any parties. I had a terrible feeling in my heart whenever I was around alcohol. Something deep down in my heart made me think that it was evil. I think it all comes down to the reason that you're drinking. I think I had a really bad feeling about the high school kids drinking because they were doing it to get drunk and to lower their inhibitions. Now when I'm around friends who drink, I'm not usually uncomfortable because most of my friends who drink do so because they like the taste. Maybe they like the way wine enhances their food. But as their friend, I expect them to respect my decision not to drink alcohol in the same way they would respect my decision to not eat sushi. It has nothing at all to do with them, so why should they feel uncomfortable? The only reason they would feel that way would be because they know something they're doing is wrong. Christians should be free to abstain from alcohol as long as they never try to make other people feel badly for drinking (unless, of course, the other people are abusing alcohol...in this case we should try to help those people). I see no reason why a Christian should have to down a few pints in order to be a good witness. It really should not matter to the other person whether I'm drinking beer or Diet Mountain Dew (which I'm convinced is addictive!)

Susanne said...

I also meant to say that things can be different in other countries. When we were in France, we drank some wine with our meals (I thought my husband would gag to death!) because Cokes were more expensive for our hosts to buy, and we didn't want to drink too much of the water. But in America, choosing another drink over alcohol should not be a problem since our water supply is usually pretty good.

I also wanted to say that the "not causing your brother to stumble" has a deeper meaning when you have an alcoholic friend. I pray that our Christian churches don't have alcohol at their class socials, etc. (I heard recently that one of my friends moved from my church to another one because she and her husband were horrified to see a margarita machine at their Sunday School party!). Our churches should be places of refuge where alcoholics should not have to worry about being tempted to drink. To me, having alcohol flowing at class parties would be equal to the ushers handing out Penthouse magazines to porn addicts.

We should just always pray for God to give us wisdom in all of our decisions (where/when to drink, etc.). And I agree, Fancy, that we should never think that not drinking makes us more holy or better than anyone else. It's a personal decision, and we should involve God in that decision.

Susanne said...

(Sorry...another post from me!)
I reread your original post, Seth, and I see what you were saying about the SBC Convention. I agree to some extent. I'm sure that plenty of SBC preachers partake of alcohol every now and then, and I think that the ones who do so should not have been too shy to do so on the Riverwalk during the Convention. I don't like hypocrisy either. And I agree that Jesus would've been in those bars talking to the people. I have an idea, though, that nowadays (with water and other drinks being so plentiful, and with so many people hurting because of alcoholism) he might stop after one beer, though, and switch to a Coke or something. Who knows. The important thing is that he would've mingled with everyone. You're right.

Also (sorry again for writing so much on this subject), I reread what Bill said, "...no one really knows whether they are susceptible to alcoholism until they start drinking." That is what my Daddy always told me growing up. His Daddy, my Grandpa, never drank because he had an alcoholic/abusive father. I think my Grandpa was afraid that if he started drinking the same thing might happen to him. And judging by the alcoholic friends I have (they both had alcoholic fathers), that might have happened for sure. The same thing happens with smoking. I tried it once or twice and it didn't affect me at all. I thought it was disgusting. My cousin, however, was addicted after about 2-3 smokes. Drugs affect everyone differently, so it's scary to even dabble in it.

Seth Ward said...

YOU TRIED SMOKING???!!!!!

I just can't see it. ;-)

Thanks for those post Susanne. Very good wisdom in there for me and everyone else. Love should be our motive in everything.

Discontented Refuge said...

Seth,

I work in SoHo, live in Rosharon, and our church is in Sugarland. :P go figure.

u?

MamasBoy said...

Seth,

Your comments didn't seem pointed to me. In fact, I'm not sure I could find anything I disagreed with, so if you were refuting anything I said, then either I must have been terribly unclear or I didn't get your point.

In summary: Amen, brother.

FP,

Just a couple comments.

1) Where did I read the article on Chinese Christians? I forget and couldn't find it. The closest thing I found was a book on Chinese Christians in America by Fenggang Yang. That's a far cry from Chinese Christians in China. I do remember that the article was in the MSM and not a journal article or book. I'm sorry I can't do more there. Playing Devil's advocate, it could very well be (most likely is?) the case that the practice of denying baptism until one demonstrates a converted life including abstention from alcohol is only a part of the radical fringe. It could also be that the temperance movement among Chinese Christians is weak, though the article would have had to be completely off base for that to be the case.

2) My example of the person being judged for not drinking was purely hypothetical. In my 20 some odd years as a Protestant, I never once saw anything like this, but that was because drinking was frowned upon in spiritual settings like Bible studies. It wasn't and isn't the cultural norm.

I used to wear ties to Sunday services at my home church (Calvary Chapel). I can't tell you the number of times I caught flak for doing so. The reproach was occasionally something along the lines of, "Don't you know that you don't have to dress up to please God?" Sure, the leadership would never avow such views, and it was an obvious misunderstanding of the mantra, “God cares about your heart, not your clothes.” At the same time, such criticism was astoundingly common in the high school/young adult crowd. Where they just immature or stupid? Perhaps, but I think there was more to it then that. When the memory of the good reasons why people used to act a certain way is lost, then people will naturally judge their actions. I'm not advocating temperance as the norm, just the memory of the good reasons why people might do so.

When I have heard people advocate for doing away with temperance standards among groups like the SBC, I've often heard the example given that Christians would win more souls if they were willing to sit down and have a beer with nonbelievers. Take that to the individual level. Are we obligated to have a beer with unbelievers if it will help us to relate to them and win them to Christ? To what extent might such an obligation apply? When knowledge of and respect for the reasons people act certain ways is lost among a large percentage of a subculture, then judgment will likely occur, if only among a small segment of that subculture. It’s a combination of human nature and the shallow American theological miliea.

------------------------
Only semi-related comment.
Heh, heh. While you laugh at my perceived suggestion that the beer might flow freely at a church gathering, it happens in some places. Specifically, I attended an old German Catholic parish in Cincinnati with a bar in the basement of the fellowship hall, complete with banners for German beers. I think there was as much beer as soda at the church picnic. In almost every major city across the country, you will find regular meetings of Catholics at various bars and pubs (like the Black Lab Pub not too far from Rice http://www.diogh.org/youngacm/TOT-May2007.pdf ).

At the same time, Catholics are (in)famous for giving up things like sex, money and control over one’s day to day life. I can assure you, that with a culture that has embraced the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to such an extent, it is also not uncommon to find a teetotaler. It’s an odd mixture of contrasting experiences, but speaking for myself, I love it.

MB

FancyPants said...

MB,

OK, first things first, I have to ask. I hope I'm not delving into your personal life here without your consent, but...

Calvary Chapel? Like, the Chuck Smith, expository teaching, "fellowships"? For 20 years, really? I've come into contact with this church a couple of times. Once we played at a Calvary Chapel in Indiana, I think it was. And then I met a guy that was getting into that teaching when we played in Missouri. Without going into detail, both times I walked away feeling strangely separate from these people. (But at the same time, in awe at the way they ministered to the community around them.)

Maybe here isn't the time to ask, but what was your reason for converting?

About the topic at hand:

Are we obligated to have a beer with unbelievers if it will help us to relate to them and win them to Christ?

No, not at all. I'm with you that temperance should be respected and remembered for its good reasons, not judged but welcomed. It would be better to practice temperance for those good reasons rather than out of fear of what others would think of our own spirituality. If our actions just protect our spiritual vanity, well then we should re-evaluate. It would be better to sit down with a non-believer over a beer.

I think there was as much beer as soda at the church picnic.

Hilarious! Banners and all. Well, I had heard that a good Catholic enjoys his drink. =-)

MamasBoy said...

FP: "It would be better to practice temperance for those good reasons rather than out of fear of what others would think of our own spirituality. If our actions just protect our spiritual vanity, well then we should re-evaluate. It would be better to sit down with a non-believer over a beer."

Amen, Sister!!!!!

Regarding my past, yes, I grew up in Calvary Chapel as in Chuck Smith Calvary Chapel. In every city I've ever lived in (only 4 states), I've been able to hear my old pastor preach at noon pacific on the Calvary Satellite Radio Network (TM). It's amazing how much one can remember, even if it's been 10 years since I had heard the original sermon preached. Unfortunately, my job interfered with listening more regularly and CSN dropped him within the last couple years when they shuffled the lineup.

No, I didn't spend 20+ years at Calvary Chapel, though. My mom was a convert from agnosticism/nominal (read clueless) Christianity. She went to Sunday school for a bit as a kid and that was about it. My dad was/is agnostic, though he was raised nominal Catholic (not as clueless as my mom, but saddeningly uncatechized). My family moved around a bit, so we changed churches regularly when I was younger. Often this involved a denominational switch, so I was baptized a Southern Baptist and spent a year or two there. Then I was at a foursquare church for a few years before moving. After that we attended a "non-denominational" church that was affiliated (I'm not sure how closely) with the Vineyard movement for about 3 or so years. Then I spent the next decade plus at Calvary Chapel. For high school youth group, though, I attended an Assemblies of God church on Wednesday evenings instead of the Wednesday evening Calvary madhouse. At least that's what I thought of it then. I have always related to people better on a one-to-one basis and the AG YG was small and had a large percentage of kids from solid families who knew and cared deeply about their faith as opposed to being more focused on evangelistic outreach with a core group surrounded by a lot of people who were really new and not too dedicated.

I became Catholic because of a variety of factors. I had a friend in college who was a former Catholic who decided to return to the Catholic church. This frustrated me and I tried in vain to set her straight and keep her away from those idolotrous Catholics. I even went to a former priest who I knew had a "ministry" of converting Catholics away from the church into "real" faith in Christ (Richard Bennet of www.bereanbeacon.com). Instead, all Bennet did was trot out half-baked truths and insults of popular Catholic theologians when faced with my friend's arguments. This greatly frustrated me, since I could see that Bennet wasn't being fair but thought that it was merely his approach that was wrong. This went on for about a year, to no avail. About the only progress that was made was me coming to the conclusion that the Catholics were wrong, but often for different reasons than what I had been told growing up, since Catholic teaching had been totally misrepresented to me by many in the Presbyterian, Baptist, AG, Calvary C and Vineyard crowd. After unsuccessfully trying to convert my friend back to Protestantism, we both graduated and she moved away. That summer, I was asked to come back to the university and lead a Bible study. I'm don't remember how the topic ended up being on divorce, but it did. As I started studying what Jesus said about divorce and remarriage, I realized that the only denomination that I knew of who had faithfully maintained the teachings of Christ was the Catholic Church. I had always been told that Protestantism restored true pre-Constantinian Christianity, so I decided to apply that principle to divorce and remarriage. Again, I was astounded that the early church, in its earliest explanations of Jesus teaching on divorce and remarriage were exactly what the Catholic Church taught and not what I had been taught growing up. In all my years of growing up listening to sermons multiple times a week, not once did I hear Jesus teachings on remarriage preached on as clearly and plainly as the early church and the Catholic Church did. Since marriage is so foundational an idea in the Bible and the consequences of this compromise with the culture were so apparent, this shocked and astounded me and got me wondering if there might be more to Catholicism than I had formerly thought. To make a long story short, I began to ravenously read everything I could get my hands on to learn what the Catholic church really teaches. It was amazing to me, even though I had been trying to persuade my friend to convert for nearly a year, how little I understood and how many misperceptions I still held. It took me about a year of study before I decided to become Catholic. Throughout this time I was still attending Calvary Chapel every Sunday (though the rest of my immediate family had ceased to attend). Since I was working and out on my own, I was able to go on their retreats that I had never been able to afford as a kid and asked the young adult pastor some questions. I also spoke with a former Lutheran pastor turned Catholic priest that my friend had recommended to me and an associate pastor at calvary chapel whom I had known since before I began attending there. I will always be grateful for the gentle way in which both of them talked to me. Pastor Ralph Cassel of Calvary Chapel even gave me a decent book comparing both Catholicism and Protestantism in the fairly neutral manner. I think though, that I got the most out of the appendix on Eastern Orthodoxy as I was seriously considering that if I could no longer accept Protestantism, but wasn't willing to accept the authority of the pope. Anyways, after my year of study of Scripture, Catholic Doctrine and the early church, I asked to be received into the Catholic Church. I then had to undergo another full year of formal instruction before I could be confirmed at the Easter vigil. An entire year of attending mass every Sunday and sometimes more often and not once being able to partake of the Eucharist. I would have to say that the Easter vigil at which I was confirmed rivals my wedding mass as the happiest moment of my life. At the same time, it was very sad. I tend to keep friends and my two closest friends I had had since gradeschool. One of them had and continues to have unfortunate misperceptions about the Catholic Church and was very hurt at my joining. I hadn't shared as much with him as I should have along the journey and I think he felt betrayed. None of my immediate family, except for my agnostic dad came to my confirmation and that has been very hard. Part of it was probably my overzealous nature in sharing with them my discoveries and part of it was the deep seated anti-catholic prejudice that is so hard to root out in our culture. To this day, my Protestant family is convinced that I am wrong, even though they can't explain the simplest Catholic doctrine accurately.

I learned later that in the book "The Catholic Church and Conversion" GK Chesterton has generalized conversion to Catholocism as taking place in roughly three steps. The first where one is simply defending a group whom one feels has been wronged. This came for me with my experience with Richard Bennett of Berean Beacon ministries. The second step is when one discovers that there might actually be some truth in Catholicism and decides to learn about it. This started for me with my discovery of Jesus teachings on divorce and remarriage and my discovery of the writings of the earliest Christians. The third step is when one tries to run away as fast as can be. Though this step was muted for me, it came when I realized that my closest friendships would be forever changed and that I would likely never be close to them like I was at that time. It also came when I thought about the hurt it would cause my mother and the separation it would cause with my thoroughly anti-catholic brother in law and thus my sister. I had been blessed with good strong male friendship and a close family growing up so this was hard. Though these steps take on a variety of forms, it is amazing to me how much the general outline holds true for a variety of backgrounds. Indifferent defense, seeking/inquiry and running.

The reaction was swift when I announced my decision. My good friend was deeply hurt and an older gentleman who had mentored me had me over for dinner to discuss in great detail why this was a bad decision. He grew up in as a missionary kid in Mexico, copastored an elder ruled church for awhile and is convinced to this day that I am only saved in spite of Rome and that if I were to fully embrace Catholicism that I would lose my salvation. Despite that, he was able to respect my decision and still love me. He even read the Bible at my wedding mass later. To this day, I still keep in touch with him and consider him a good friend and much more of an example to me of what a father and husband should be than my own dad.

On can never sum up several years experience in a single blog comment without even reading it through to edit out mistakes, but since you asked and I'm in a rush this was my attempt.

MB

FancyPants said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FancyPants said...

MB,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to a prying question. I very much enjoyed hearing your story.

MamasBoy said...

Mission Territory recently documented his conversion experience, if you are interested.

http://missionterritory.wordpress.com/2007/06/01/its-not-about-me-part-iii-the-agony-of-coming-home/

FancyPants said...

MB, you still there?

Remember the discussion with John...the guy with the really long name...about the salvation of Catholics. Well, after condemning all Catholics to hell, he mentioned reading the Catechism...and I realized, while defending the faith from which we (Protestants) came, I hadn't read it and might want to do the same. I'm not sure about this yet, but I was thinking of going through this process on my blog. Posting a section at a time. Maybe once a week or something, either encouraging discussion, or maybe just for awareness.

I realize this might take quite a while, but it would make it easier for me to digest a bit at a time.

Do you forsee any problems with this approach or have any suggestions? Like if there's a different source I should go to first to get the basic Catholic beliefs? Or maybe a (some?) good helpful source(s) to use along the way?

I don't want to force readers into this, so I may start up a new blog for it, but I would love any input you have along the way. Thanks, MB.

MamasBoy said...

FP:

The catechism is kind of like the encyclopedia. It has lots of really useful information, but most people don't find it helpful to read from cover to cover. It can be long and boring and doesn't tend to keep people's interest. On the other hand, it is laid out in a more helpful format than the encyclopedia, and I have known a handful of people to read it straight through and get something out of it. All of them had a good background understanding of Catholicism to start with, though, so I'm not sure how it would work for somebody without that.

Vocabulary is another concern. John's a pretty good example of somebody who has read snippets here and there of the catechism and still didn't understand what he had read. His misperceptions regarding basic Catholic ideas/doctrine were glaring. My guess is that the vocabulary issue was probably one of John's biggest hindrances in understanding what he had read and it can be especially problematic since the vocabulary that most differs is also where the doctrine most differs. On the other hand, if you are reading it straight through (and have the patience to do this), you are much less likely to misunderstand words than if reading only a snippet. It also could be that John misunderstood because he was reading to simply validate a misunderstanding and had blinders on. I don't know, so I'm only speculating why his misperceptions persisted.

I've never told anyone not to read the catechism, since it can be an invaluable resource for understanding or verifying what Catholics believe. Those are just a couple concerns that you might keep in mind.

Regarding different sources...

I'll have to think about that some more. What are you looking for specifically, an overview of Catholic thought? In what areas?

The early church fathers were especially helpful to me because of the important role magisterium/Tradition play in determining Catholic doctrine and practice. This also took me back to a point where Catholic and Orthodox were united and to a point prior to where the Protestant claims of corruption under Constantine take effect, so it is a helpful way to see how the different faith traditions (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) have developed from there.

The Catholic Answers radio program was helpful for me in understanding what Catholics believe, since the program by nature of being a live Q&A session deals with many of the common questions people have both inside and outside the Catholic Church. They also have a podcast of the program and several tracts/short explanations of what Catholics believe and why for common topics.

I hope that helps. If you want any more suggestions for reading material, let me know. It's tough to address such a broad topic as Catholic belief and practice in a concise manner, so you have your work cut out for you. If you were only to read one book and wanted to cover everything in the shortest amount of time possible, the Catechism would probably be your best bet. You would also want the companion to the catechism, though, since it has the quotes in expanded form to give more context without buying a million resources. The Baltimore catechism isn't a bad resource either. It's pre-VII, but the teaching didn't really change: just the practice in a few areas. The Baltimore C. has the advantage of being shorter, though it also was written for a Catholic audience and is short on reasons for those beliefs.

MB

FancyPants said...

The Catechism I've been reading online is post-VII. I see how the long and boring applies. It may be something I just work out for myself through time. I find the beginning incredibly beautiful, alot of it beautiful. I haven't found it sufficient in exploring views on Mary, the Sacraments, Purgatory,...these types of things that are very different from Evangelical Protestantism.

But so many Protestants wouldn't even think that their views on God allign in such a beautiful way. Many think because you pray to Mary, that you view her as Trinitarian, as a Savior of sorts. Or that because of the Sacraments salvation through faith does not apply.... The humility, the awe, the devotion toward the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that the Catechism uses is completely in line with Protestant views and more beautifully stated! People should know that.

I have dabbled in writings of Augustine, Aquinas, Chesterton, and Merton, but in no way extensively. Perhaps the most useful for an overview of Catholic belief that we have here would be Frank Sheed...Theology for Beginners. I forgot we had that.

I would like to read pre-Constantinian writers. The ones I know of are St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, St. Athanasius, and Eusebius. As far as which writings to focus on, I don't know.

As I'm sure you know, the most questioned views are the Pope, Apostolic Succession, Mary, Sacraments (salavation through works?), Eucharist, and Purgatory. I'd like to look at these more closely. I'd love any suggestions you might have on what to read.

So going back to the Catechism. I'm thinking that working through the whole thing on a blog would get pretty tedious. It would be useful to take parts from it, however. Thanks for your suggestions. I'm all ears about other sources that you can think of.

Thanks again, MB!

MamasBoy said...

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. The question you asked is a bit overwhelming since there is so much material and my own interest has primarily been in the early church fathers and small articles, not books. Also, I've been working 80 hour weeks recently (multiple 20-30 hour shifts), so I've had trouble finding time to address this properly. I hope this helps and you can ignore my typos in this unedited response.

"The humility, the awe, the devotion toward the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that the Catechism uses is completely in line with Protestant views and more beautifully stated! People should know that."

There is so much that Catholics and Protestants have in common. It is encouraging to understand that.

"As I'm sure you know, the most questioned views are the Pope, Apostolic Succession, Mary, Sacraments (salavation through works?), Eucharist, and Purgatory. I'd like to look at these more closely. I'd love any suggestions you might have on what to read."
I feel rather awkward answering this because the types of books people like and the preferred way to look at things varies so much. Here are some suggested sources that I found helpful. You may find better resources.

Regarding the topics, you left out tradition, which is in my opinion the biggest difference in how Catholics and Protestants approach theology. In many ways, understanding the Catholic view of tradition will help understand the basis for the other topics. A good book on that topic is Mark Shea's "By What Authority: an Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition"
http://www.amazon.com/What-Authority-Evangelical-Discovers-Tradition/dp/0879738510

For a brief overview covering basically all those topics, you might try "Surprised by Truth" by Patrick Madrid. It is a compilation of conversion stories in which people outlined their spiritual journeys, reasons and difficulties in becoming Catholic. I personally have an affinity for this book because it is in reader's digest form and it was given to me by a Catholic who couldn't answer my questions when I first started asking for Scriptural reasons for why Catholics believe what they do. Instead of pretending to know it all, the older gentlemen gave me this book and encouraged me to ask others who knew more than him.
http://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Truth-Converts-Biblical-Historical/dp/0964261081/ref=pd_sim_b_3_img/002-4048693-6211227

A former Lutheran pastor (now priest) whom I know recommended me reading the letters of Ignatius and Steve Ray's book, Crossing the Tiber. He and I both found them immensely helpful in understanding Catholic doctrine and practice. Who can forget Ignatius' famous appelation of the Eucharist as the "medicine of immortality." (more on Ignatius of Antioch later)
http://www.amazon.com/Crossing-Tiber-Evangelical-Protestants-Historical/dp/0898705770
Steve Ray also has an excellent video series on salvation history from Abraham through augustine entitled, "The Footprints of God."
http://www.footprintsofgod.com/DesktopDefault.aspx

Regarding the papacy, I don't know of a single work. For me, I mostly read articles and the looked at church history and Scripture. Pope Clement (30-100 AD) wrote a letter of correction to the Corinthian church, telling them how to run their affairs. Rome had a unique position as arbiter and counselor among the early church. It was to Rome and to the chair of Peter that many of the early Christians appealed in refuting the early heretics. One finds this in the writings of such a diverse crowd as Cyprian of Carthage, Clement of Alexandria and Cyril of Jerusalem. If there were churches that could challenge the rule of Rome in the early church, surely it would be Alexandria and Jerusalem! One can find an overview of quotes by these various people here.
http://www.catholic.com/library/Peter_Primacy.asp
However, I would highly recommend getting the context, if you are at all interested. I can't tell you how amazed I was the first time I read Cyprian of Carthage's appeal to Rome in his section on Christian unity. His description of the unity of the early (non-heretical) church seemed so unattainable to me as a Protestant. The battle for doctrinal fidelity was fierce in the early church and how it was approached can offer very interesting lessons for us today.

As long as the church fathers have come up, you can find many, many of the early church writings (complete with occasional anti-catholic commentary) at Calvin College's Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html
The first ten volumes are devoted completely to ante-nicene writings. Personally, my favorite is the first volume, because it offers a glimpse of what Christianity was like within living memory of the apostles. Two authors I enjoy reading the most are Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr. Ignatius (AD 30-107) was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John (and probably knew the apostle John himself). He wrote in the early about 107 as he was being led away to martyrdom and offers a glimpse of what Christianity was like in those early days of persecution. His letters are preserved in shorter and longer forms and there is some debate over which was more genuine, though I think the evidence probably goes to the shorter versions.
Justin Martyr's writings are unique among many in the early church because his most famous works are intended for non-Christians. As such, they go into much detail that we don't find elsewhere. So much of Christianity was transmitted orally and not written down (such as the liturgy). Most early church fathers don't get into it because their audience was Christian. In that respect, Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) can be a helpful source for us today wondering what the early Church was really like and living nearly 2 millennia after they died. His first apology has the earliest detailed description of Christian worship on record, as well as beliefs on what the Eucharist was, who could partake of it and what the process of conversion entailed.

Moving on to the other topics listed, apostolic succession was the established practice of the church before the apostles had died and Clement of Rome claimed in about 80 AD that the practice/teaching came from the apostles themselves. It is really interesting in the face off people today who claim that Christ wanted to establish a church without hierarchy, how Clement says in 80 AD that the apostles predicted strife over the office of bishop. See the CCEL website above for the complete context or skip to
http://www.catholic.com/library/Apostolic_Succession.asp
for a teaser on this teaching in the early church.

Mary is a favorite topic of mine recently. When I first became Catholic I had no idea of the Biblical and historical roots of Marian dogma. I was convinced that it wasn't unbiblical, but didn't understand where much of it came from. John Henry Cardinal Newman's compiled writings in the very brief (and cheap) book, Mary: the Second Eve, lays out the historical and Biblical roots for Marian doctrine. http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Second-Henry-Cardinal-Newman/dp/0895551810
Scott Hahns book, "Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God" is also a good reference. Hahn does an good job developing the idea of the Queen mother in the Davidic kingdom and applying that to the role of Mary in the kingdom of God. He also gets into Biblical typology, which is what much of the Marian doctrine is based on. As an aside, Scott Hahn also has a really good book on Revelation.
http://www.amazon.com/Hail-Holy-Queen-Mother-Word/dp/0385501692/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182938753&sr=1-1
http://www.amazon.com/Lambs-Supper-Mass-Heaven-Earth/dp/0385496591/ref=sr_1_2/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182938782&sr=1-2

Scott and Kimberly Hahn were graduates of Gordon Cornwell (the premier Presbyterian seminary/college) and have written the most popular conversion account since Newman/Chesterton in their book Rome Sweet Home. Personally, I didn't get a ton out of it, but my wife really liked it (she is a revert herself).
http://www.amazon.com/Rome-Sweet-Home-Journey-Catholicism/dp/0898704782/ref=sr_1_3/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182938782&sr=1-3
Incidentally, Scott is also an editor/author of the Catholic for a Reason series, covering beliefs of the Catholic Church. You might find that useful, though I haven't read it myself, so I'm going on the recommendations of others on this one.
http://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Reason-Scripture-Mystery-Family/dp/0966322304/ref=pd_sim_b_4/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&qid=1182938782&sr=1-15

I haven't got to sacraments, salvation, purgatory and others, but I hope that is a start. I guess I can't quit before talking about the Eucharist, though. It is the "source and the summit of the Christian life." VII document (I forget which one). Ratzinger also wrote a book on the eucharist a few years ago. It was meant primarily for Catholics, while Mark Shea's book was meant for both Catholics and Evangelical Protestants. "I'm not Being Fed: Discovering the Food that Satisfies the Soul" is also a book one might consider reading on the topic.
http://www.amazon.com/This-My-Body-Evangelical-Discovers/dp/0931888484
http://www.ignatius.com/ViewProduct.aspx?SID=1&Product_ID=2005&SKU=GIN-P&ReturnURL=search.aspx%3f%3fSID%3d1%26SearchCriteria%3deucharist
http://www.amazon.com/Not-Being-Fed-Discovering-Satisfies/dp/1932645330/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182941277&sr=8-1
http://www.amazon.com/Not-Being-Fed-Discovering-Satisfies/dp/1932645330/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182941277&sr=8-1

One last note on the early church fathers. Fist of all, if you want to focus on pre-Constantine writers, then Athanasius and Eusebius are out, since Athanasius was a contemporary of Constantine and Eusebius came after. Regardig references (other than the web one above) Faith of the Early Fathers is a very nice set, in that it has a topical index and brief selections of a wide variety of writings. One should be forewarned that the index is does not reference page numbers, so read about how to use it before trying. I forgot this the first 5 times I picked the book up after not reading it in awhile and was very frustrated. You'd think I would have learned the first time...
http://www.familylifecenter.net/cart/product_detail.cfm?ID=297&user=84358158
My first intro to the early church was through Bart Ehrmen in his book "After the New Testament, A Reader in Early Christianity".
http://www.amazon.com/After-New-Testament-Reader-Christianity/dp/0195114450/ref=sr_1_13/002-4048693-6211227?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182941586&sr=1-13
A note of caution about Ehrman. He is an agnostic church history professor who graduated from Wheaton and has a strong evangelical background. He has a tendency to not distinguish between Orthodox Christianity and heretical teachings. Thus, (for example) he doesn't label Tertullian's teachings on marriage as having roots in his Montanist tendencies later in life, though they were certainly influenced heavily by Montanism. He also thinks that what we consider Christianity today is merely a small branch of Christianity and that the heretics also had valid claims to the title. Oh yeah, and he thinks the Scriptures were corrupted by the Catholic Church/orthodox scribes in their bid to squelch those heresies. While I certainly disagree with his conclusions, he raises issues that need to be addressed intelligently and not simply dismissed.

I hope that helps. It would probably be easier to correspond via e-mail on this in the future (or via your new blog), since it is hard to find this old post. My wife and my e-mail address is resumptum at yahoo dot com.

MB

FancyPants said...

Again, thank you for such a thoughtful response, MB. I'm looking forward to your reading suggestions....

MamasBoy said...

Gordon-Conwell, not Gordon Cornwell. Dugh.