This post is a response to the great work that Brandon Vogt has been doing to promote the New Evangelisation, in this case through “Support a Catholic Speaker Month” (September).
Since the only Catholic Speaker I have heard speak is Steve Ray, I decided to do a post highlighting his background and the substance of his talks to St. Patrick Church in East Hampton, CT. If, technology challenged as I am, I can figure out how to embed some video of Steve speaking I’ll do that too. You can check out more about Steve Ray at http://www.catholic-convert.com/
Steve Ray was raised by his parents as a devout Baptist and in a community that was strongly anti-Catholic. Much of his current work is as he says, “arguing with my former self.” As a young man he actively worked to ‘save’ Catholics and was quite successful in using his encyclopedic knowledge of Scriptural ‘proof texts’ to demolish the poorly catechized beliefs of the Catholics he met.
It was Steve’s wife, Janet who first started looking at Catholicism through reading Tom Howard’s book “Evangelical is not Enough”. For a long time Steve and Janet had been dissatisfied with the evangelical churches they were attending but they had been content to be ‘generic’ Christians. After reading Tom Howards book as well as hearing Francis Schaeffer’s account of his journey into Eastern Orthodoxy, the Ray’s read every book they could find on the Church Fathers, by the Church Fathers and slowly but surely they were convinced that the early Church was emphatically Catholic and that the Church Christ founded was founded on Peter, the Rock. The whole family joined the Catholic Church on Pentacost Sunday, May 22, 1994.
I recommend checking out the “About the Rays” page on Steve’s website to learn more about their conversion story.
Why I am Catholic
The first talk I heard Steve give was on a Friday night in December of last year. This talk was his story, his journey from anti-Catholic Baptist to joyful and grateful Catholic convert, some of which I’ve related above.
One thing that struck me about Steve was his absolutely intense joy and passion for telling the story of his own conversion. For someone who hasn’t been through a conversion process testimony like Steve’s (and mine for that matter) could perhaps be seen as ego. But for me, and I suspect for Steve, every time I tell my story I am admitting that I was wrong and sharing my profound joy and thankfulness that God still loved me and drew me closer to Himself and into the Church.
As Steve tells his story you get swept up into the events he is describing, the people, places, joys, challenges, tears. He makes a very convincing case for why he is Catholic and directly challenges many traditions that are believed to be Scriptural by fundamentalist Baptists and many in the broader Evangelical community.
A quick example has to do with the efficacy of water baptism. Many fundamentalists believe that baptism is not necessary for salvation. That all you need to do is ‘believe’ that Christ is Lord (by which they mean say the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ or something similar and assent in their mind that Christ is Lord) and you will be saved. Steve makes a very strong case that not only is simple assent not enough but that baptism by water was taught by Jesus and is the only Scriptural way to become a Christian.
Starting in the beginning of the Bible, he laid out an argument that whenever God begins something He always does it in the same way: with water and Spirit. He goes on to argue that Christ didn’t change that pattern but rather continued it with water baptism as the mechanism for transmitting grace and reception of the Holy Spirit. The early Church continued in the exact same manner. Every convert was baptized with water and received the Holy Spirit.
For more on this topic I highly recommend Steve’s book “Crossing the Tiber” which if you know me personally I can lend to you.
Peter, the Rock, and the Keys
Steve’s talk on Saturday covered much of the material in his book “Upon This Rock” which lays out his argument for the Papacy. I also own a copy of this book if anyone local would like to borrow it.
I’m running out of time for writing this week so I’m going to leave this post as it is and try to write some more about Steve and the great work he does as a scholar, speaker and apologist. But don’t wait for me, go book him for your event or parish speaking schedule, go hear him speak, or go on pilgrimage with him. He’s great!