It is not only the criticisms of other religions that tested my faith as a Catholic but also their comparison of the Bible and the Qur’an particularly their claim that the Bible is corrupted.
Did I become a die-hard Catholic because there are many Catholics? Did I become a die-hard Catholic because religious organizations such as the “Flock of the Divine Mercy,” to which I belong, are happy? Was I convinced the Catholic Church is the right place of worship because many cancer patients in this community get well? All these things helped but they are not the main reasons I got converted to Catholicism. I was convinced this was the true Church established by Jesus Christ because of the Bible, History and the Church Fathers.
Many of my friends found out on social media that I belonged to a Baptist church before. Yet, I did not share the full details thereof because of the numerous journeys I went through. I wish to share thiem one by one and how they happened until I was persuaded that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ.
A NOMINAL CATHOLIC
I was born a Catholic, the kind who heard Mass every Sunday and prayed before sleeping. I thought that the true Catholic only had to go to Mass and ask God for forgiveness of sins. I was exposed to many vices ever since high school. Some seminarians went to our school to catechize but I did not pay attention to what they said. My grandmother owned a bible but I did not read it like other Catholics who put their bibles on the altar where they accumulated dust. I was also a fan of superstitious beliefs and thought that what the Catholic Church taught was just part of Catholic traditions.
I did not care about my faith. All I cared about were my friends, regardless of whether they were good or bad influences. I joined gangs and did nothing but create trouble. I was involved in many sorts of disturbance. May people were mad at me to the point that I no longer dared to walk around for fear of being assaulted. Yet, I thank God because He did not allow me to be swallowed by the ills of society.
I tried the Catholic faith because of my kidney problem.
It was the last week of December 2000 when I felt pain in my kidneys every early morning. I became afraid since I did not believe In God like a true Christian. I thought of the opportunity to live a new life with God. Several months later, a very good friend who serves the community of the Divine Mercy in our province mentioned to me about their group. At first, I ignored what he told me but thought about it. I also asked several persons on how to join retreats. Many good things happened to me after I joined one. More importantly, I recovered from my ailment completely.
MY FAITH AS A CATHOLIC WAS CHALLENGED AFTER I MET A BAPTIST PASTOR
In another province where I attended summer classes, I met a very good Baptist pastor. He influenced me to read the Bible and memorize verses. He was also the first person who taught me to question the images in the Catholic Church. When I met him, my perception about Catholicism changed and became negative. I joined Baptist bible studies and fellowships. I debated with my peers in the community because of the Baptist insight on the images and started comparing the Catholic Church to my new group.
The pastor gave me a King James Version Bible which they consider the best bible ever, as well as a textbook containing attacks against the Catholic Church, which added to my doubts about the Catholic Church. When I read the Bible later, I found out that the teachings of Baptists about “Faith Alone” were not true so I decided to leave them.
I WAS DECEIVED BY A CULT THAT BELIEVED JESUS AND RIZAL ARE JUST ONE
A few months after I left the Baptist church, I met a new friend who invited me to attend their weekly activities. They wore white clothes and made the sign of the cross. They also prayed to the Father in Cebuano. They prayed facing the East. It did not take long before I joined the group and became interested in their teachings. They taught me how to interpret dreams during their gatherings after prayers. Every Sunday, we prayed at 6 am, 9am, 12 noon, 3 pm and 6 pm. I was surprised when one of the elders told me to stop reading the Bible. I admit that I still read the Bible after joining them. I also did not stop my 3 o’clock prayer habit. It came to a point that I left this group since their teachings reflected a big lie. One of these lies is preventing members from sharing the doctrine which contradicts what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16.
I WAS NEARLY CONVERTED INTO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES BUT CHOSE TO BECOME AN AGNOSTIC
I was visited by members of Jehovah’s Witnesses at home. They were nice and good at memorizing verses in the Bible. I nearly joined them but I was confused by the many religions which I believed used the Bible but gave different interpretations. I did not know what to believe since even my friends spoke about contradictions in the Bible particularly James 2:24 which said that”Faith without works is dead.” Meanwhile, St. Paul said, “It is through faith that all of you are God’s children in union with Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Another friend told me that Science and the Bible did not agree. I was further confused so I chose to dispute God and the Bible.
I DECIDED TO READ THE BIBLE FROM COVER TO COVER AND ANALYZE IT CAREFULLY
Despite my doubts about God and the Bible, I decided to read the Holy Bible from Genesis until the Revelation including the seven books not included in the bible but used by non-Catholics. I became a friend of Msgr. Guillermo Belvis, also known as “Bing Belvis” and called “Amay” by many. I owned an Ilongo bible, thanks to him. I borrowed his books, including the three volumes of “Radio Replies” and continued to read the Bible. However, I was not yet convinced that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ.
I had questions for my fellow Catholics and those who serve the Catholic Church; I was not satisfied with their answers. I was not sure of what I was looking for. I listed verses in each book that I believed were important and slowly memorized them. It took me six months and I learned many things. I realized that the correct teachings of the Catholic Church are in the Bible. I just wondered why many Catholics did not read the Bible. The time came when I understood the reason. I realized some members were just lazy and some of them transferred to other sects because they did not know how and what to answer when asked difficult questions. I wanted to go back to God but not Catholicism. I just did not want to join any religion but wanted to simply pray. This was my position until I met Brother Vicmar Solano, servant leader of the “Flock of the Divine Mercy.” He taught me how to defend the Catholic faith although not all of my questions have been satisfactorily addressed. I was not 100% satisfied so I decided to borrow the books of Msgr. Belvis, especially the “Where We Got the Bible” by Henry G. Graham, where I learned that Catholic Church did the compilation of the Bible. I also found out that Catholics developed the chapters and verses of the Bible. The Flock of the Divine Mercy conducted a seminar encouraging Catholics to read the Bible. This was headed by Brother Vicmar Solano. I learned a lot and chose to return to the Catholic Church.
YET THE CHALLENGES ABOUT MY FAITH WILL NOT END THERE BECAUSE OF A BIGGER CHALLENGE THAT IS MY STUDIES
I thought the foremost adversary of the Catholic Church was Eli Soriano of “Ang Dating Daan.” When I studied the original texts of the Bible, I was amused by the statements of Eli Soriano. Many people believe Soriano because of his familiarization (or memorization) of biblical verses. However, I tend to believe that his false teachings will be put to test by a smart confronter. One person who challenged my faith in the Bible was former evangelical scholar Bart Ehrman who became an Agnostic. He studied New Testament manuscripts and questioned their reliability. He presented many alleged corrupted verses and contradictions.
I started to study and research original texts. Why do I have to study Hebrew and Greek when there are many English and Tagalog translations that I can easily understand? I was wrong since it is not enough to rely on translations. They say the King James Version is accurate but the truth is, there are numerous inaccuracies in this version based on original texts. I became interested in Biblical Hebrew when I met Fr. Nicholas Diestro, who teaches biblical Hebrew. I decided to enrol in an Institute later. This Institute partnered with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. More challenges emerged since I found it hard to read Hebrew initially.
Some Jews made it appear they were the only ones who understood the Bible. My knowledge of Biblical Hebrew was enhanced when I met a Professor Emeritus in Hebrew Scriptures who used to teach at the University of Notre Dame. We communicated for three years and I felt blessed when I treated him as my second father. I also got a lot of help from some Catholic priests like Msgr. Sozonte Cataluna, Fr. Freddie Billanes, and Fr. Cris De Asis. They inspired me to study the Bible further.
I also took interest in studying the New Testaments’s original text in Greek. I met many personalities because I bought their books and put them in my personal library. In fact, I often asked Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, who is not a Catholic but is respected by many scholars because of his wide knowledge of Textual Criticism and the Greek Grammar. I noticed that Dr. Wallace and other non-Catholic scholars use quotations from the Church Fathers. They use these to defend the reliability of the Testament against the attacks of Bart Ehrman. Because of this, my faith in the Bible and the Catholic Church became stronger. The Catholic Church valued what the Church Fathers said. I realized non-Catholics could not defend the reliability of the Bible by simply using or perusing it.
My faith strengthened because of the Bible’s original texts.There are advantages in studying the original texts to sustain our beliefs as Christians rather than relying on the translations. You can use Greek grammar to understand the New Testament better instead of the translations. How can a person teach the truth if s/he uses the wrong and unreliable translation of the Bible?
It just boils down to the wrong teachings of the Bible because wrong translations were employed. I believe all these happened because God has mercy on me and that He loves me.
I WAS CHALLENGED TO READ THE QUR’AN, THE BOOK OF MORMONS, AND OTHER BOOKS THAT TESTED MY FAITH
I heard from Muslims that the true word of God is the Qur’an which challenged me to read the Qur’an. I do not know the Arabic language and the original text of the Qur’an is in Abamic and there are translations of the Qur’an close to Arabic. These are recommended by experts of Islam. In reading the Qur’an, I understood the contradictions in the verses. The contradictions also apply to the Book of Mormons which Mormons say should be read to understand the mysteries of the Bible. Do you know the difference among the Bible, Qur’an and the Book of Mormons?
First, there are manuscripts preserved in the New Testament and the Old Testament. There are manuscripts of the Qur’an but the quality and value are not like the Bible. There are ancient manuscripts of the Qur’an available but the dating of them is very controversial. They do have some variants of the Qur’anic text as we know them. As regards “corruption,” the most important point is that Uthman burned competing copies of the Qur’an.
The manuscripts of the Book of Mormons do not show that they have preserved the very same manuscripts.
Second, the contents of the Bible are different from what the Qur’an teaches. In the Bible, God says that no matter how serious your sins are, you only need to repent and God will forgive you (Isaiah 1:18, Ezekiel 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9) since God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God in the Bible is not like the god in the Qur’an who cannot forgive those who worshiped other gods (Surah 4:48).
“Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases, and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, He has indeed invented a tremendous sin.”(Surah An-Nisa’ 4:48)
The Gnostic Gospels confuse readers. Many books were allegedly not included in the Bible like the Gospel of Judas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Mary Magdalene. I noticed one manuscript in the Coptic language which claims Jesus mentioned He had a “wife” which encouraged me further to study the New Testament manuscripts and discover the errors in the Gnostic gospels.
WHY WAS I CONVINCED THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST
Aside from my studies of the Bible’s original texts as well as quotations of Church Fathers, there are two other reasons I was convinced the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ. Other than these two reasons, the history of the Catholic Church can be traced back to the first-century Christians. Many religions claiming to be the true Church of Christ just came out using the names of God and Christ in their religions. They claim to be true although their churches cannot be traced to the 1st century.
We know that there was a Christian community in Rome from the mid-first century. We know (from the Roman historian Tacitus) that Emperor Nero tried to blame them for a major fire that occurred in 64 A.D., but most people didn’t believe it. And we know that Sts. Peter and Paul were executed there around the mid-60s, and were buried in cemeteries located beneath the present churches dedicated to them. Their graves have become places of pilgrimage since at least the middle of the second century.
Here are a few recent books on the subject that are clear and well argued:
- Bernard Green, Christianity in Ancient Rome: the First Three Centuries.
- W. H. Wagner, After the Apostles
- Clayton Jefford, Conflict at Rome
- J. M. R. Tillard, The Bishop of Rome
I have other reasons to read the Bible and these can be found in Acts 2:46, “Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts,”
What kind of modern religion compels followers to gather daily in the church to talk about the breaking of the bread? Are there other religions doing this in our time?
I know the Catholic Church has other challenges. It is not only their doctrine being assailed by other religions. They also criticize the attitudes of other Catholics.
I want to inspire my fellow Catholics with my conversion story. I want to share with them that as they learn, they should ask from God two important things: First, the virtue of nurturing pure intentions of serving Him without asking for recognition and attention from others. And how to study the Word of God to help other people; Second, learning how to obey Church Leaders. This is the measure of our humility and obedience which is taught in the Bible (Hebrews 13:17) although it will never be easy. Yet if we learn all these things, true wisdom will grow in us, the kind that is as eternal as Wisdom Himself, Jesus the Christ.