Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Letter to Roger Magnuson (Updated)

In this blog is a letter I wrote on December 5, 2005 to Roger Magnuson, who is a lawyer and "preaching elder" at a church he started in Minneapolis called The Straitgate Church. Today, December 4, 2013, almost exactly eight years later, I read an Anonymous comment and learned that Roger died November 30, 2013. I am very distressed to learn this sad news.

Dear Roger Magnuson RIP
I met Roger when he was a Bible study leader at the First Free Evangelical Church in Minneapolis, when First Free had what they called a "busing ministry." They went door to door at the high rise apartment building where I lived with my two children while I was trying to finish my college degree. They knocked on my door one day soon after I had "made a commitment to Christ" through the outreach of a college student who was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. Every Sunday for at least a year, my kids and I got into the First Free bus and went to services. I also started going to Bible studies and women's group meetings. I learned a lot from them. I whole-heartedly admire how they turn to the Bible as an inspiration for a closer walk with Christ and reach out to bring as many others as they can find to a saving faith in Christ.

But eventually I left First Free, partly because I didn't find the feeling of belonging I was craving, and partly because the Lord had planted in my heart during my Catholic upbringing a belief in the literal reality of the Eucharist being the Body and Blood of Christ hat eventually brought me back to Catholicism.

Frankly, I have to add that when I was at First Free, like several of the single women there, I was interested in Roger. He was close to my age (I think I was about 34). We were disappointed when he married a younger woman. I took it hard, because the fact that he hadn't been really interested in me crushed one of my dreams. (I thought I had been chosen by a decent man and cherished because of my intelligence and zeal and enthusiasm for God.) I came to realize that Roger was actually a bit of a flirt, and I stupidly thought that upright Christian men wouldn't flirt.

Now I believe I wasn't in love with him, but I had my dreams. I was a divorced single mother with two children and I dreamed I could find a faithful Christian man to marry, and that maybe he could be the one.

Now, I think of him fairly frequently, especially when I hear about the influx into the Catholic Church of fundamentalist Protestants who find the claims of the Catholic Church to be compelling. I believed in my heart that Roger wa too smart to accept some of the cramped doctrines of his background. With the enclosed letter, I sent him Rome Sweet Rome by converted sola-scriptura believing Scott Hahn, who with his wife discovered that the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding contraception were irrefutable and who eventually found their way into full faith in all the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

I am very grateful to be able to say that Roger replied to this letter. And we exchanged a couple of emails. I couldn't make any headway with my arguments against his adamant Protestantism. What he wrote disabused me of any notions that he is anywhere close to converting to Catholicism. He started out his reply to me by saying that we "differ on the Roman church. . . . You view it as the true and ancient church. I view it as the scarlet whore of Babylon depicted in Revelation." Well, he couldn't be more against the Church than that.

December 28, 2005

Dear Roger,

I hope this finds you and your family and friends very well. I send love and greetings to everyone that I knew when I was a member of First Free. I am still very grateful how you all worked hard to gather us unchurched ones in and feed us with God’s Word. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

I sent you and your family a Christmas card from Jerusalem last week. I planned to mail my Christmas cards from Bethlehem, but our tour organizer wouldn’t allow it. He thought that the Palestinians at the post office might copy the mailing addresses from the cards and use them for some nefarious purpose! Even though your card isn’t postmarked Bethlehem, it was taken through a Palestinian checkpoint into Bethlehem and into the site of the birthplace of Our Lord. It was a high point of my life to sing Silent Night there. The card I sent you was with me in my backpack.

Before I left for my pilgrimage, I bought you the enclosed book [Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism]. I have thought many times about sending you a copy. (And since I am getting absent minded, I might have already done so.) Scott Hahn, the author is a former Protestant minister who now teaches theology at one of the few authentically Catholic universities, Franciscan University at Steubenville, OH. He also regularly appears on EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network).

If you read it, you will see why I keep thinking this book is for you. It is the story of the conversion of a very-bright Bible-believing couple to the Catholic faith, which came about through their close reading of the Bible and the early Church fathers. They stopped believing in the principles that many Protestants use to deny the truth of the Catholic faith, one after another:

Sola scriptura: If there hadn’t been a Church, the canonical books of the Bible would not have been defined. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that scripture alone suffices. Many passages say that the tradition is also necessary. It was amusing at First Free to see the Lady’s Bible study leader give one exegesis on the prohibition by Paul of women speaking in the Church and to see the pastor the next Sunday to use the same passages to prove the opposite opinion. With that and many other examples in front of me, I had to return to the Catholic Church because she serves as an infallible guide.

Bible literalism: When the sense of the words are literal, I’m all for it, especially when I read the passage where Jesus said “This is my Body” and “this is my Blood.” If the Eucharist is just a symbol, Christ wouldn’t have lost many followers who were sickened because He seemed to be advocating cannibalism. And I also take literally the passage where Jesus told Simon, “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Your close reading of the Old Testament has to have shown you how intimately God’s care for us was linked to His being our Rock. How wonderful that Christ in an artful play on words ordained a human man and his successors to be our New Testament Rock for His followers to shelter under!

Faith alone saves: Ah but “faith without works is dead.” Once saved always saved: This is a huge topic, but it just doesn’t make sense that someone who embraces a sinful life after believing in Christ will still enter the kingdom of Heaven. We have to accept God’s invitation, but if we show up at the wedding feast without wearing the garment of Christ’s purification, we will be cast into the outer darkness. From reading about Luther’s life, I suspect poor sin-bedeviled Luther came up with that doctrine of once saved always saved because he just couldn’t win in his struggles with impurity. James Joyce gave up a similar struggle because it was just too hard. At least Joyce didn’t start a whole new religion. St. Francis in the same era as Luther responded to the corruption of the Church by embracing Christ and becoming personally holy. I believe that is the response God wants.

The doctrine of sola sciptura has a necessary consequence of splintering of the churches. I witnessed that splintering effect first hand when I saw you leave First Free and start your own church. I am not finding fault with you: you are a wonderful man, zealous for Christ and for the great commission. I pray that your zeal will be tempered with humility and obedience to the Rock. When we build on the Rock, we can stand firm against tempests. If we don’t build on the Rock we get more new denominations every year, each one following its own individual interpretation of what God wants.

After trying many Protestant churches, I came back to the Catholic Church because of the Eucharist and because of the tradition of the Church. The Catholic Church needs zealous Bible-believing evangelists like you. So my prayer is that you will be led to bring your gifts to the one true Church.

Hope you read and like the book.

With much love from a fellow-sinner, in Christ, and in His Mother,
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