Being Evangelical

I’m a Christian. I take my faith seriously. That’s why I think part of my job is evangelizing. Which doesn’t necessarily mean I’m an evangelist.

For some folks, an evangelist is someone like Saints Mark, Luke and John. “The Evangelist” often gets added to their name. Saint Matthew is an evangelist, too. So are Saints like Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier and Thérèse of Lisieux.1

“Evangelist” has quite a few meanings. Merriam-Webster says it’s a Protestant minister or someone who enthusiastically advocates something. Oxforddictionaries.com adds “…the writer of one of the four Gospels….”

I don’t know about the ‘enthusiastic’ part, but I think sharing what I believe is a good idea. (Matthew 28:1920; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 898907)

I’m evangelical in that sense. But I’m not “an evangelical.”

In my dialect of English, “evangelical” is a bit more specific. Dictionary.com says it refers to the ‘Bible-believing’ outfits. Apparently it’s what fundamentalists were called, starting in the late 1970s.

Evangelical” also means ‘from or about the Bible, particularly the Gospels. Or Christian teachings.’ My views are evangelical in that sense. But I’m not a Bible-thumper.

Evangelical

‘Bible-believers’ I’ve known had an admirable enthusiasm for memorizing select Bible verses.

A Bible verse associated with a particular idea is apparently called a proof verse or prooftext. Memorizing lots of prooftexts is impressive rote learning, demanding dedication and persistence.

I don’t imitate them. Not quite.

I read and believe the Bible. The whole Bible, not just excerpts. It’s part of being Catholic, or should be. I also realize that the Bible wasn’t written from a contemporary Western viewpoint. (Catechism, 101133, 390)

I think God authored the Bible. And that humans from many eras wrote the books. They used their talents, what they knew and how their culture worked; and wrote what God was ‘saying.’ In that sense, the Bible is “true.” (Catechism, 105108)

But Christianity, my sort, isn’t “a ‘religion of the book.'” (Catechism, 108)

It’s not ‘just the Bible, God and me.’ We have a living Tradition, from our Lord, passed along by the Apostles and their successors. That, the Bible, and the Magisterium, tell me what our Lord said, and why it matters in my life.2 (Catechism, 7595, 101133)

Tradition

Our Tradition is ancient.

But it’s not old-fashioned. Valuing our Tradition does not mean trying to act as if 1967, 1954 or 1848 never happened. (October 20, 2017; August 14, 2016)

I realize that rules and customs change. And must change as our cultures and needs change. Underlying ethical principles written into this universe? Those haven’t changed, and won’t. (Catechism, 19541960)

Sometimes changing obsolete customs means shelving traditions: lower case “t.”

My experience has been that what’s new sometimes doesn’t work very well. And change is seldom, if ever, comfortable. Particularly when it means giving up cherished customs. (November 5, 2017; June 18, 2017)

That may help explain why “traditional Catholics” apparently feel they’re the only ‘real’ Catholics left. It’s not, sadly, the only division in Christendom.

Some ‘evangelicals’ say Catholics aren’t ‘Bible-believing.’ And not Christian. I’ve run into some Catholics who say the same thing about ‘evangelicals.’ Minus the ‘Bible-believing’ bit.

The catchphrases differ, but I see their attitudes as facets of the same ‘only me and thee’ mindset. How I see folks whose beliefs aren’t just like mine is — complicated. (Catechism, 811856)

The Darwin Fish and Me

I’m not sure who made the first ichthys symbol, or “Jesus fish.”

Sometimes it’s just the two curves, sometimes “Jesus” is written inside.

I like the ichthys symbol.

It’s simple, easily recognized, and reminds me of jobs some Apostles had. There’s the loaves and fish incident too, and the working lunch described in Luke 24:3649. Jesus eventually convinced the Apostles that he’d stopped being dead, and that’s another topic.

I’ve got a bit in common with both the Bible-wielding chap and the one wearing a “Darwin fish” T-shirt.3

That may need some explaining.

A Wikipedia page calls creationism “a hallmark of American Christianity.”

The Darwin fish contrasts scientific theories and creationism. It’s not the only ichthys parody around. But it’s the only one I’ve seen, apart from that Wikipedia page.

I could start ranting about evolution, the evils of science, and all that. Or get enraged that someone thinks American Christians believe creationism. But that wouldn’t make sense.

I’m a Christian, and an American. I don’t see evolution, or science in general, as a threat to my faith. I certainly don’t have a problem with what we’re learning. And I’ve known too many American Christians who don’t like what evolution. At all.

I call myself a Christian because I follow Jesus, the man who is God. Who was killed and stopped being dead. (October 8, 2017; June 18, 2017; April 16, 2017)

That’s why I try to love God and my neighbors, and see everyone as my neighbor. (Matthew 5:4344, 22:3640; Mark 12:2831; Luke 6:31 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

I wouldn’t wear a Darwin fish T-shirt. But like I said, I don’t see science as a threat.

I see what we learn as opportunities for admiration of God’s work. Science and faith should get along fine. (Catechism, 159, 283, 341)

God’s Decisions

The fish with legs is a stylized picture of critters like Ichthyostega and Tiktaalik.

They’re a lot like fish, and a lot like the earliest known land tetrapods. “Tetrapod” is a fancy name for an animal with four limbs that lives at least partly on land.

I’m sure God could have made this universe along the lines of Mesopotamian cosmology: a plate under a bowl, supported by pillars. Or something like Aristotle’s spheres. Or a cosmos that started about six millennia before someone’s “now.”

Maybe God created another physical reality like one of those. Or several.

“Our God is in heaven; whatever God wills is done.”
(Psalms 115:3)

I sure won’t try telling the Almighty ‘you can’t do that.’ Or ‘you must do that.’ I figure my job, part of it, is admiring the wonders around us. Not second-guessing God’s decisions.

The Best News Ever

Kvetching about folks not knowing everything a few thousand years back isn’t, I’m sure, going to help me share the best news humanity’s ever had.

It’s what I said last week.

God loves us. And wants to adopt us. All of us. Each of us. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:35; Peter 2:34; Catechism, 13, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

I don’t think trying for ‘most argumentative pest of the year’ would help me do that.

The ‘I’m right and you’re stupid if you don’t agree’ approach rubs me the wrong way. It’s likely enough true for most folks. And I’d worry about those who enjoy verbal abuse.

Besides, I’ve got the best news ever. Happiness is okay. Joy makes sense. Hope is an option. And we live in a universe filled with wonders:


1 Evangelical Saints:

2 Definitions (and see Catechism, 95, 113, 126, and 174):

BIBLE: Sacred Scripture: the books which contain the truth of God’s Revelation and were composed by human authors inspired by the Holy Spirit (105). The Bible contains both the forty-six books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (120). See Old Testament; New Testament.”

MAGISTERIUM: The living, teaching office of the Church, whose task it is to give as authentic interpretation of the word of God, whether in its written form (Sacred Scripture), or in the form of Tradition. The Magisterium ensures the Church’s fidelity to the teaching of the Apostles in matters of faith and morals (85, 890, 2033).”

TRADITION: The living transmission of the message of the Gospel in the Church. The oral preaching of the Apostles, and the written message of salvation under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Bible), are conserved and handed on as the deposit of faith through the apostolic succession in the Church. Both the living Tradition and the written Scriptures have their common source in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ (7582). The theological, liturgical, disciplinary, and devotional traditions of the local churches both contain and can be distinguished from this apostolic Tradition (83).”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)

3 Cartoon by Rod Anderson, via Christian Post, used w/o permission

About Brian H. Gill

I'm a sixty-something married guy with six kids, four surviving, in a small central Minnesota town. I mostly write and make digital art. I'm only interested in three things: that which exists within the universe; that which exists beyond; and that which might exist.
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