Thursday, April 2, 2015

Teresa Beem's Confessio

Teresa Beem's "Confession"

When I say that I am like Timothy and have known the holy scriptures since childhood, this is what I mean:

I began reading scripture as soon as I could read. As I have written before, I would take all my earnings from childhood chores and combine them with my birthday and Christmas money then purchase Bibles. Strange thing for a kid to do, right?

I think my attraction to Bibles began when I walked into a Christian book store and realized that there were all sorts of different Bibles. So when I was twelve, I started my collection. 

Originally, I had wanted a pocket Bible so I could take it to school with me in my purse. But after I got this beautiful little, tan-leather Revised Standard Version ($12), I was walking up to the counter and I saw this big Bible for sale—only $5—and it had a pretty cover. I had never heard of that kind of Bible before, but it sounded religious: The Jerusalem Bible. There was also a big black Strong's Bible Concordance that was on sale. So I counted my dollars and sure enough, I could purchase them all. I remember how heavy those items were as I carried the sack to the car. (I was a small twelve-year-old.) Thus began my lifelong dedication to getting as many Bible versions as I could.

That night, all alone in my room sitting on my bed, I began paging through my pocket Bible with such love. From that moment, I began memorizing passages and highlighting verses that had meaning to me. The first one was "Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God." I had tremendous fears growing up and I wanted to memorize this in order to recite it in the night after waking up from nightmares. The next passage:

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice....In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil. 4:4-8
At twelve, I made a commitment to myself that I would read through scripture from beginning to end each year. It is possible that some years I didn't complete the entire Bible, but the next year I would read even more than once, just in case.

Why was the Bible so important to me?

Prayer was my reaching out to God, and since I never heard anything back audibly, the Bible was His Word to me. Scripture was my only link to Christ. The Bible and prayer was my relationship with Him. And I was totally devoted, even if I didn't go around talking about it.

I was young and sheltered. Most people scared me. I could perform a song in front of a crowd of thousands, but individually? Most kids my age were into things that were frightening—things like KISS and AC/DC and Alice Cooper. I was into Roger's and Hammerstein. From the time I was five, I knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up. I was going into musical theater. Dancing, singing, acting—the stage! That was my thing. I would be the new Judy Garland. And my friends were not supportive. They were rebellious.
Unlike most of my elementary and high school friends, I never went through a time when I wandered from the Lord. 

To me, there was a darkness in breaking the rules that my friends seemed to think was exciting. They would listen to horrible sounds coming from screeching electric guitars and smoke pot and say bad words and act cool and talk about breaking the commandment of sexual purity. Now as boy crazy as I was, and I assure you, I was—I never allowed my mind to go anywhere near anything past a kiss. I didn't want to. It made me feel dirty. I ran from anything sexual, it made me panic.

I can't say I felt alone. I had a wonderful family. Lots of fun brothers and sisters. My parents were Seventh-day Adventists party animals! My family threw lavish parties and invited everyone. Our house was a continual chaotic amusement park. Everyone came to our house because we had a swimming pool, a pool table, a ping-pong table and my parents enjoyed games and pizza—and paid for it for all of those who showed up. We served the no-no drinks like Coke and Dr. Pepper. My childhood was nothing but one long buzz of good old-fashioned and moral fun.

However, I certainly didn't fit in with my peer group. In order to cope, I emotionally withdrew into my Bible. Most people had no idea how I felt because I didn't let on. In fact, I was so small when this began to happen, I couldn't express what I was feeling anyway. One person on earth outside my family I felt completely free to be myself—and that was a girl named Lauretta Rice. Everyone else made me uncomfortable or scared me, just a little or a lot!

After years of being teased for being uncool, I became defensive and began celebrating my differences. However, because I took a leadership role in school, I wasn't a wallflower. I was very adept at being in charge and slid easily into handling even adult responsibility. 

My five siblings and I had a singing group. We were the Partridge Family of the Dallas First SDA Church. We sang at church and at parties. 

I was popular. Not because of my winning personality. To be frank, I was popular because my family was rich and fun and exciting. Everyone wanted to come over to our house. I was popular but hated all at the same time. And that can be confusing for a child growing up.

The Bible was the only thing that made me feel safe. And by the time I was married with children and had read it through a dozen or so times, I knew it. I knew my Bible backwards and forwards. Not that anyone noticed how well I knew it, nor was I aware of the fact I knew it so much better than anyone else. I just assumed all good SDA kids knew it as well as I did.

"Are you serious? You didn't know that Mt. Horeb and Mt. Sinai were the same place? Really? Huh?"
 That was strange. And gradually I came to understand that even good Adventists kids didn't know what a nephilim was or wouldn't catch my casually references to Abimelech in everyday conversation. It is not that I stood out in anyone else's mind, I assure you. It was inside my own mind that I felt different. And that difference thrust me towards clinging to Him as my pillar in my awkward life. And the Bible was how I heard Him and how I knew Him. 

And as I studied more in depth and with all those Bibles I had in my collection, I was uneasy with the different versions. The translations were…different, (duh? Of course) At first I thought the differences were not important, then the occasional true difference in meaning concerned me. And I wondered which version was really telling me what God was saying. After all, if this is my only lifeline to God, then the Bible needs to be… well, informing us unmistakably what God meant to say. Differing versions seemed to be telling us different things which would mean that I might not be getting the right message from God. Which one was the correct version? Scholars differed. Some said the NASB, p'shaw..totally. Others were certain it was the NIV. I ran into some KJV only proponents—and Christians probably know what that is like.

Learning Greek and Hebrew! That's it! I could read the original version and then I'd know what scripture really said. I decided to teach myself. That didn't go well.

Oh and in there somewhere I left Adventism because it didn't line up with what I was reading in scripture. That was hard.

From morning till evening I was insatiable about learning theology and Christian history. I read Lewis and Tozer, Chambers and Shaffer, Luther and Calvin, Merton and Kierkegaard, Augustine and Chesterton, Kempis and Kant, the Ante-Nicene Fathers (all 10 volumes!) Every word I read was scanned through the filter of what I knew the Bible said and was judged.

And as I read the Bible daily, devouring it on a new non-Adventist level, I started cross referencing the New Testament passages with the old.

Yikes. Something was wrong.

Ya know…. Jesus picked some really obscure texts to use to make His point. When you read the context of the verse, it shook me. How did Jesus get that meaning from that text? No one else would have taken that verse from that Psalms or from the Prophets and fit in into the context Jesus was putting it in. And in fact, many of Matthew's references of Jesus doing something "in order to fulfill the scriptures" didn't really match up either. Jesus and Satan slung texts at each other like grenades but when you look up the references of those texts, it makes you wonder why they would choose them. They knew something about those texts that we don't.

And Peter? Uh? How did he get those Old Testament references (such as the Psalms) fit in with the situation he used them in? See Acts 1: 15-21. And the texts used at the Jerusalem Council? If anyone had tried to use those texts today to prove what the Apostles expected them to prove to their listeners, we would accuse them of taking them out of context and twisting them! And Paul? He was either totally misquoting scripture or deliberately mixing texts up. For one such example read his first letter to the Corinthians (v. 2:9). He seems to have cut and pasted from Isa. 64:3 and Jer. 3:16 combing too unrelated texts as if they were one!

When you cross-reference these types of passages as a 21st century Christian, it can unsettle your faith. We are taught the Bible is clear and the unerring Word of God. Well, Jesus and His Apostles didn't understand the doctrine of perspicuity, because they sure used Old Testament texts in very obscure ways. Where did we get this idea that the Bible is so clear? Peter clearly tells us that it isn't. (II Peter 3:15-16)

When I began reading the Jewish Talmuds, I felt better. The Hebrews did the same thing too. Pulling a text out and making it fit into the oddest situations was… normal… evidently. They saw layers of possibilities of scriptural usage that today we would vehemently reject as twisting scripture. That knowledge made the growing panic subside, but it dawned on me that… just everyone can't do that.

If scripture was now open to a multiplicity of interpretations, then pretty much anything could be argued as Biblical. Yikes. Uh… double yikes. Then Ellen White could be correct. And David Koresh. Anyone then could do this and claim the authority to do it like Jesus and Peter and Paul. If scripture isn't clearly one interpretation, then how in the world can we know who's a false shepherd giving us a false interpretation?

This wonderful, beautiful, golden life-line to God I had always depended so much on was starting to stretch. Scholars who could read Greek and Hebrew manuscripts interpreted scripture differently. There are a multiplicity of versions with various if not discrepant meanings. And now I discover that Jesus and the Apostles used scripture in a way we would find… alarming. Hum.

During this time, I was amassing a library on how the Bible was put together. Also, I was emailing and personally interviewing Bible scholars in every denomination pouring out my concerns. (People like J I Packer, Bart Erhman, religion teachers at Hillsdale College, Tel Aviv, dozens of pastors on the East Coast). I took university classes about the subject and visited places like Bob Jones University and any other place where there were original manuscripts—such as the Library of Congress and the British Library. I scheduled vacations around this quest.

If your faith is not extremely strong, I suggest you don't study how the canon of the Bible was put together. If God wasn't directly involved in the messy, long, chaotic process then there is no possible way this Bible is true.

At first, no Christians thought of Paul's or Luke's or Mark's gospels or epistles as anything but important letters to the churches. They might have been venerated, but they were never seen to be fully, infallible, inerrant scripture for decades or longer. And there were hundreds of copies of them floating around. Many were hasty and sloppy transcripts.

It was only later, as the importance of these letters became clear, they were carefully copied. But to add to the possible problems, earlier Bible manuscripts were burnt when they became old--out of respect. So we have no original or even close to original copies of scripture to verify later transcriptions. These letters and gospels were hand-reproduced for three centuries before anyone decided to put all these various letters and gospels together into one book.

Pastors I would throw myself in front of begging to be counseled heard all the details and facts I had uncovered in my quest and were frazzled. They were visibly demoralized with my questions. I once was courteously, yet forcefully, thrown out of a pastor's office, albeit after three hours of passionate discussion. (To be precise, the pastor who had kept the door open to his office to protect us both was sorry he did because people down the halls could hear our yelling.) 

I was left empty. And as the years past, I was discouraged. Then close to despair. All these great scholars, these men of God, tried to give me good answers. They really did. We spent hours, days and weeks together trying to pound them out. But I got nothing that satisfied me. In fact, even the scholars themselves usually finished our study with some version of, "Some things we won't know this side of heaven."

I couldn't accept that answer. I just couldn't. If the Bible is our sole way of knowing the will of God, if the Bible is God speaking to us, then I cannot believe He is speaking so enigmatically that we cannot know for certain what He is meaning. How can we "go and sin no more" if we don't know for certain, clearly, decisively what sin is? When an entire denomination can say that sabbath is a necessity of faith but being against abortion isn't or when another denomination can claim that believer's baptism is a necessity of faith and another baptizes babies, when one denomination is demanding that homosexuality isn't condemned in scripture and no one can even agree on what version of the Bible is the correct one…well…


My golden chain to the Lord broke. My faith in scripture was demolished. If the Bible isn't trustworthy, then how would I hear God's voice? Would the Holy Spirit directly speak to me since I no longer believed Scripture trustworthy? John did write that the Holy Spirit would bring us into all truth, right? That passage didn't say that the Holy Spirit would bring us into the truth using the Bible. So, perhaps I could trust the Holy Spirit… But wait. I got that information from the scriptures. So if the scriptures aren't trustworthy, then I can't trust them about the Holy Spirit bringing me to all truth.

What about Jesus Himself? 

Really, all we know about Christ historically comes from the witness of the four gospels. So if the scriptures aren't trustworthy, how do we know that Jesus resurrected? Did miracles? Was crucified? Or was even a true person and not a character made up by a group of fanatics?

Oh dear. My mind and heart wanted to shut down. I shouted a theological version of Patrick Henry's "Give me truth or give me death!" And I meant it. God knew how I had honestly searched, body, soul, strength and spirit. All my life I had searched and scraped for the buried, priceless pearl. I had indeed searched the scriptures to show myself approved. I had thrown myself into seeking the kingdom first. And I was left confused. While I still clung to faith in God, how was I to know His truth, when I suspected the Bible was fallible?

Satan was using this to tempt my very foundation of belief.

All the while, unbeknownst to me, the answer was coming into view. The knight in shining armor riding on a white horse was coming at me full force and I couldn't see through the midst. 

When I left Adventism, I promised myself I would look into all the major denominations and give each one a true shot at being the right church for Arthur and I—the most Biblical. I had been studying different denominations for almost a decade. 

I didn't care if the church members sang "Zippidee do dah" in purple Barney the dinosaur outfits for church or if the pastor hung from the ceiling naked while giving the sermon or if fist-fights broke out at potlucks. I didn't care what the church service looked like or how the members acted as long as it was Biblical. That was my standard. Just let the church be…. Biblical, I whimpered to God in my prayers. Ironically, at that time I wasn't convinced the scriptures were God's authentic word. 

Total cognitive dissonance, again. I had already gone through this once leaving Adventism. "Truly God!!" I cried out to Him,"not again! Shouldn't You be logical, consistent, reasonable, understandable?" My search was extensive:

Anglican. United Methodist. Centenary Methodist. Russian Orthodox. Greek Orthodox. Church of Christ. Assemblies of God. Mormon. Church of God. Southern Baptist. Free Will Baptist. Evangelical Lutheran. Missouri Synod Lutheran. Wisconsin Synod Lutheran. Prespyterian USA, Prespyterians of America. And various other Pentecostal and Baptist churches. 

I was attending four to five different churches (of different denominations) each week. And during the day, I was studying their beliefs. Really. No exaggeration. I really did this.

Deliberately I had saved the "Whore of Babylon" for last. I resented that it was even a church I had to look into.
As I studied more and more into Catholicism their entire system of how they looked at scripture, as fearful and bewildering it was for the first few years, started to make sense.

When a Catholic would explain a doctrine, I would test it just as I had everything else. First I would put it through the mental Bible filter which could do a preliminary scan for outright heresy. If it cleared that hurdle, then I would go home and study it myself comparing different versions of scripture and Bible research material—commentaries, dictionaries, lexicons, concordances . If the doctrine cleared that hurdle, I would begin discussing it with my Bible scholar friends. Those Catholic doctrines were put to the test in various ways.

However, what helped clear things up the most profoundly for me was the authority of the Bible itself. The Catholic Church solved what to me was the unsolvable mystery of how we trust scripture and whose interpretation is the correct one.

Bullseye of theological consistency.

They explained that the scripture was never supposed to be our only means of approaching God. In fact, if the Bible had never been produced, we would still have total access to Him through another conduit.

Jesus didn't come to earth to establish a book to lead us. Even if that book were His very Word! (Which I am now, in a new way immovably convicted that the Bible is the infallible Word of God.) 

Jesus always had an authority for His people. Christ came to establish an authoritative church. (Scanning Bible for heresy....Abraham. Jacob. Moses. King David. Solomon. Jesus. Peter. Yes! Of course! Why didn't I see that before?)

When that fact sunk into my head and heart, it made all the sense in the world. Zero cognitive dissonance. Jesus set up a church with Apostles and teachers who had His own authority to rightly interpret scripture. He gave them the right to organize, codify, copy, translate and interpret scripture. Jesus didn't establish a church of sand… millions of tiny little rocks. No. He built His church upon the Rock. (Petros, Petra, Kephas, Cephas, however you wish to translate the title.)

This to me was the ultimate Sabbath. I could put down the spiritual battle I had been internally waging for decades. All this time I knew there was an enemy but I couldn't quite discern who he was. I had been swinging at windmills. And now things cleared up.

Most of me was set free with giddiness, exhilaration, pure joy and thanksgiving to God. God had not abandon us to relativism and theological chaos. There was a golden standard! Maybe I had to let go of the golden thread, but what I received in return was the golden mountain of God! The very kingdom itself! Rock solid.

There was a small part of me that was incredibly irritated that the answer lay in Peter, the Rock—the whore of… I mean the C…C…Caaaaa..the Caaaaatholic (gulp) Chur…It seemed impossible that God wanted this Naaman (me) to go wash in that dirty Jordan River. This was humiliating. No one I knew would believe that my husband and I had gone from Adventism into Catholicism via scripture. People would think we had gone stark raving mad.

But I could not be those nine cured lepers who walked way. I had to be the one who came back to God with thankfulness. And I was. And I still am.

It is hard to be Catholic. As I continue to research each and everything the Catholic Church teaches, I still go back to the scripture to back it up. Like the Bereans, I listen to the Apostle and then returned to scripture for verification.

While I might never have seen the Catholic view on my own, I now realize it was there all along staring me in the face. I just had been programmed to understand scriptures the SDA Protestant way.

Each morning when Arthur and I have our morning devotions, I am shocked at how Catholic the Bible is. Having read it almost forty times through, I still am amazed at how I missed the most obvious meanings and how they all fit together perfectly.

If it had not been for the Catholic Church, I know I would no longer be a Christian. Because if the Catholic Church had not been authorized by God to orally pass down the truth, then inscripturate the truth, then copy and protect the truth, then interpret the truth, well… there would be no such thing as truth. We would have no Bible, we would have no way of knowing the correct interpretation of that Bible. And to me, it is totally useless, illogical and completely impractical to have an infallible, inerrant written Word of God if there is no infallible interpretation of it.

That would be like God giving His children the perfect, infallible, unerring antidote to a fatal bite, but then hiding the correct antidote among millions of vials of erring, fallible antidotes. But then add to that the Lord commanding you to take the correct antidote or you will die.

So here I stand. I can do no other. I am madly and passionately in love with Christ and His Church. I see its past and present mistakes. They are horrible. What can I say? The Catholic Church has bad and good people in it who have done bad and good things.

But she is mine and I love her. 

Long ago I gave up wanting to be an actress. Watching what Hollywood and Broadway were putting out in 1970's and '80's killed it for me. However, in that vein...There is a song from the musical Cabaret that fits my feelings about the Catholic Church (and is rather ironic if you know the musical). The lyrics (slightly modified) go:

I know what you're thinking:
You wondered why I chose her
Out of all the Churches in the world.
That's just a first impression,
What good's a first impression?
If you knew her like I do
It would change you're point of view.


If you could see her through my eyes
You wouldn't wonder at all.
If you could see her through my eyes
I guarantee you would fall (like I did).
When I went public about her
I heard the Protestants moan.
But if they could see her through my eyes
They'd toss out "Scripture alone."

How can I speak of her virtues,
I don't know where to begin?
She's perfect, she's smart, she chants music
She gives grace, forgives but hates sin (like I do).
When walking to Adoration together
They sneer, with my rosary in hand.
But if they could see her through my eyes
Maybe they'd all understand.

I understand your objection
I grant you the problem's not small
But if you could see her through my eyes
She wouldn't look unbiblical at all.

Maybe that song isn't in the Bible, but it's true.

That is my confession.


Christian Sermons And Music said...

What a testimony!!! As a life long Adventist it is indeed almost unimaginable for an Adventist to convert to Catholicism in view of Adventist understanding of the role of Catholicism in end time events. I however respect your decision.

I am interested to find out how you reconcile some Catholic teachings that are of pagan origin with the fact that the bible is infallible. For instance how do you reconcile prayers to dead saints instead of praying through Christ

Teresa Beem said...

I don't know if you are Adventist or not, but most Christians do not believe that when you die you go to sleep. Most Christians believe you go straight to judgement and then, if one goes to Heaven, you are no longer dead. You are more alive than we are here on earth. You live perpetually and eternally in the presence of God and are not sitting on thrones. You are co-heirs with Christ and are kings and queens in heaven. So therefore, asking someone to pray for us in heaven is just as valid as asking someone to pray for us on earth. That is what Catholics do. They are not worshipping the saints who are in heaven, but are asking them to pray for us!

If the prayer of a righteous man availeth much--can you imagine what the pray of a saint in heaven can do for us? Wow! What strong prayers they must have. Therefore, Catholics ask them to pray in our behalf, to intercede for us just like our family and friends would do for us here. All of it is through Christ. All of our prayers are TO God.

Teresa Beem said...

Any other questions?

Remember that Christianity is a religion of redemption. So just because something has pagan origins doesn't mean that it is evil. WAY before Christians or Jews, people prayed, sacrificed, worshipped,etc. Just because pagans tried to worship correctly but couldn't doesn't mean WHAT they did was wrong. It means that they didn't know WHO to worship. Christianity came along and showed people who to worship. We were given the mystery that those former pagans had no access to. So just because a pagan had some rite, doesn't mean Christianity should reject it. We must REDEEM it and return the ritual to the one who should have been worshipped all along.

Of course their are some rituals that are intrinsically evil. Those we should NOT do.