Tim Tebow, the Philippines, and the Catholic Church

Just a couple of nights ago, I returned home from teaching the Bible Study class at St Justin Martyr, and, exhausted, flopped down to watch the end of the national championship game for U.S. college football. The University of Florida Gators, led by quarterback Tim Tebow, last year’s Heisman winner, defeated the University of Oklahoma Sooners. 

Tebow, a devout Evangelical Christian, wore eyeblack with “John 3:16” written across it in white letters (see photo). From all accounts, Tebow is sincere in his beliefs. He was actually born in the Philippines, where his parents are missionaries. They run, among other things, an orphanage. Tim himself often travels there to help out and preach to the kids there about Jesus Christ.

The only problem is, he’s defeating his own purpose.

No doubt most of his “converts” are Catholics. The Philippines, as most are aware, is a heavily Catholic country. During my Evangelical years, my own pastor and his family would travel to the Philippines and conduct crusades. I still possess a coffee mug he brought home for me. It says, “Reaching and touching Filipinos for Christ”. My wife (whose parents were born in the Philippines) and I still laugh about that mug. But we could just as easily shed tears. That’s because, as sincere and as well-intentioned as my pastor – and Tebow – are, they are sincerely wrong.

Unaware that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ and is the true Church, they, in convincing Filipinos to leave it, are unwittingly drawing them further from the touch of Christ.

And sadly, because some Filipinos (like many Catholics everywhere) are not well grounded in the reasons for their faith, they’re easy pickins’ for these movements.

If only they and their would-be evangelizers would heed the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, writing in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans (c. 107 AD), echoing the words of Jesus in John 6:

Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the very same flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes. 

It is by the Eucharist, safeguarded in the Catholic Church, that we are physically reached and touched by Christ himself.

13 replies
  1. Brent
    Brent says:

    Hey, I know this post is old, but I enjoyed reading it.

    My background is this – I’m an Evangelical who is the son of a lapsed Catholic and the husband of one who is practicing. I go to Catholic Mass with her and my children each Sunday and generally understand what differentiates my beliefs from Catholic doctrine. Now, I pretty much agree with a majority of what true Catholics believe – Jesus Christ was the son of God – and we are saved through His blood shed on the cross and our faith in Him. I also am a fan of the fact that the Catholic Church does not give-in to the rapidly changing world-views on certain issues such as abortion and capital punishment.

    The Philippines may have a high Catholic population, but do you think that every single one of them is taking their faith seriously? My father was Baptized and raised in the Catholic Church, but he led a lifestyle that was contradictory to what the Bible says and had no role models from his fellow Catholics who also lived in sin. Almost all the Catholics I’ve encountered in my family and in my circle of friends don’t practice what they preach – they go to Mass and Confession to start with a clean slate, but they keep their sinful habits. That is the problem I have with their followers, not necessarily the Church though.

    Now, I do believe that a ton of Protestant faiths are full of it as they have the same problem – think of the Anglican/Episcopal church who ordains homosexuals and whose priests call abortion ‘a gift from God’ – completely anti-Biblical. They distort the Bible to what they want to believe in – Protestant churches are good at this unfortunately.

    My beef with the Catholic church is the ‘our way or the highway’ attitude. It’s hard to call it the one true church when thousands were killed during the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition by the Pope’s command. Don’t get me started about the sexual assault victims at the hands of Catholic priests – completely ridiculous. The thought that any church is perfect and infallible is a joke since churches are governed by man who is driven his sin nature. This goes for Evangelical churches as well – think about all those money-driven televangelists who live extravagant lifestyles at the cost of those seeking help. In my humble opinion, churches are there for worshiping and praising God, hearing his Word, and having fellowship with those who share their Faith. Going to a Protestant or Catholic church isn’t going to get you into heaven. Think of the thief on the right hand of the cross Jesus was being crucified on – he asked Jesus for forgiveness while on the cross and Jesus turned to him and said, “You will be with me in Paradise”. He didn’t say, ‘well, you didn’t break bread with me, and you didn’t do enough good in your life – so I can’t help you out’. This is essence of Christianity, and what (most) Evangelicals are getting back to.

    Now, don’t get me wrong here – I can’t say to someone that they are going to hell or heaven, that is completely up to God.

    Now, I do have a somewhat unrelated question – if the Catholic church allowed me to marry my wife in their church (because I was baptized in a non-Catholic church), why would they say that my faith is void without the Eurcharist? Seems kind of odd.


  2. admin
    admin says:

    Hi Brent,

    Great to hear from you! Thank you for reading – and for your thoughtful comment.

    You raise a lot of questions that I think many others share. Let me try and respond to them as best I can.

    First of all, to the issue of nominal Catholics: there’s no question that this is a problem – the biggest one we have (just imagine the impact it would make on earth if all Catholics practiced their faith – the world would be transformed in no time). I was one of those nominal Catholics myself for years. And, you’re right to note that Protestants have more than their fair share of non-practicing adherents (and clergy) too.

    Of course, the test of any religion is not whether or not people are practicing its tenets, but rather, whether or not it’s true. Having said that, regarding the issue of practice, the basic rule of thumb here is not to judge a religion by who doesn’t practice it, but by who does. And when a serious attempt to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church is made, the result is someone like a Blessed Mother Teresa or a Saint John Bosco. We need to consider the lives of the saints (and all of us are called to be saints – no exceptions), not those who aren’t cooperating with God’s grace.

    The Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ. That doesn’t mean that all of her individual members are infallible, but that its teachings are. And, as you have noted, even some of her leaders have failed in their own personal lives to live out these ideals. But that doesn’t mean those ideals and teachings are not God-given. Remember, Judas was one of the Twelve.

    Catholics aren’t being prideful when we say that we are members of the true Church. Christ said it, not us. And, truthfully, no one deserves this grace. It is sheer gift. It’s actually a huge responsibility that we will be judged on: “From whoever has been given much, much will be demanded”. But this isn’t some private club just for us – membership is a gift for all people, and we’re supposed to be inviting everyone in. That’s why the Church is Catholic, which, of course, means “universal”.

    Strictly speaking, you’re right about a couple of things – the ultimate fate of each individual is only known by God. And the criteria for heaven is to do God’s will, as Jesus himself noted: “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” With regard to the “good thief” as he is known, clearly his was an 11th hour conversion. If he had lived longer, we assume he would have gone on to receive baptism and the other sacraments, and become a vital member of the Church. The point is that he responded to what he knew was the will of God at the time, and would have kept on responding has he known more about it.

    I’m not sure who told you that your faith is “void without the Eucharist”. I would say something different: your faith is not complete without it, because Jesus wants you to have it – or rather, him – because the Eucharist is Christ himself (remember the quote from Ignatius of Antioch in the post above). This was proclaimed by the Lord himself and believed from the earliest times. Yes, Christ wants to give you himself, the best gift of all.

    Regarding the Crusades, here’s an article you may find helpful:


    And the Inquisition:


    Brent, once again, sincere thanks for the comment. If there’s any other way I can be of help, please let me know.


  3. Brent
    Brent says:

    Hi Cale,

    Thank you for your detailed response. I really enjoy this thoughtful conversation.

    Regarding Tim Tebow – I think the relationship he has with his coach Urban Meyer, a Catholic, sums up how him and his parents treat other Christian faiths. Tebow inspired his coach to take a mission trip to Central America and to speak with him at several prisons – Tebow is not trying to get his coach to move away from his Catholic faith, he is just inspiring him to put his faith into action. Sure, there are plenty of old school Protestants who think that Catholics should convert as Protestants feel that faith through justification is contrary to Biblical teaching, but if Tebow’s missionary work is anything like the mission trips I’ve been on, they are not there trying to get a Christian to convert to Christianity. The outreach is there for those who do not know the Gospel and do not have access to the Word of God. An example of this is the life of Nate Saint (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nate_Saint), who went to Ecuador to evangelize to their indigenous population. Ecuador is 90+% Catholic, and me saying that Nate Saint was ‘defeating his own purpose’ because of this fact is preposterous. Do you honestly think the Tebow family is going to aim at trying to convert the Catholics in a primarily Catholic country? No, they are there aiming to help the poor and spreading the Word of God while doing so. Sure, they will encounter Catholic followers there, but they won’t be wasting their time trying to get them to jump from one Christian ship to another.

    Thanks for the links – although it seems a bit odd to think that these answers are unbiased as they are from a Catholic web site. They seem to be telling me to ignore what non-Catholics are saying about the inquisitions and the crusades. Not sure if I can do just that, but I’ll take it as it is.

    Here’s my perspective on the Catholic Church – Roman Catholics are taught that the Catholic church headquartered at the Vatican in Rome is the only true church. Many believe that salvation is only to be found in the Catholic church. In the Roman Catholic worldview, the Bible derives its authority from the Church, not the other way around. The Bible is seen as just another Tradition of the church – one that was written down. From this viewpoint, any attempt to use the Bible to show the errors of Catholic tradition is a misuse of the Bible – because it is only really the official living teaching organ of the Church which correctly interprets the true meaning of the Bible. You can correct me on any of this if I’m misunderstood.

    Now, Roman Catholics argue on the basis of history and Christ’s words that the Catholic Church must be the church of which Jesus spoke, since he promised that “the gates of hell would not prevail against (or overpower) it”. It is clear enough that the view of the reformers was not the general view of the church during the dark and middle ages. This is seen as proof enough that Jesus was in favor of the views of the Church at this time. To deny this would be to imply that somehow the gates of hell did prevail against the church, which would be a contradiction of Jesus’ own words on the subject.

    Now, I feel this teaching has done more to undermine the authority of the Holy Scriptures than any other I know of. The practical result is that even now the majority of Roman Catholics never bother to read their Bibles. This is because they feel that all they’ll ever need to know and receive from God will come through the teaching and ministry of their church, and not through personal study and consideration of the Scriptures. Let’s now get down to the issues.

    An important principle in evangelical thinking is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Since “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness – that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” it follows that every interpretation of Scripture should be in harmony with the rest of Scripture. The Scriptures have a lot to say about who ‘the rock’ is in Matthew 16. For example:

    1 Corinthians 10:4 – “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ”.

    Romans 9:33 – “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

    Habakkuk 1:12 – “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One? We will not die. Thou, O Lord, hast appointed them to judge; And Thou, O Rock , hast established them to correct”

    Isaiah 26:4 – “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, [we have] an everlasting Rock .”

    Psalm 144:1 – (of David.) “Blessed be the Lord, my rock , Who trains my hands for war, [And] my fingers for battle”

    Psalm 94:22 – “But the Lord has been my stronghold, And my God the rock of my refuge.”

    Not only is the Lord God Himself consistently portrayed as the rock throughout both the Old and New Testaments, but the Scriptures go so far as to say that only the Lord God is our rock.

    Psalm 62:2 – “He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

    Isaiah 44:8 – “Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any [other] Rock ? I know of none.’ ”

    2 Samuel 22:32 “For who is God, besides the Lord? And who is a rock , besides our God?

    The interpretation of the Lord God being our only true rock ties in nicely with the words of the apostle Paul, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Truly then, Jesus is the foundation upon which the true church is built, not Peter.

    Peter therefore, cannot be the primary rock on which Jesus will build his church. As we will see, Peter himself did not have the stability or the stature to be the foundation rock upon which the eternal church of Christ was to be built. Peter denied the Lord during the trial of Christ. And a few verses later in the Matthew 16 passage Jesus identifies Peter as being inspired by Satan (Matthew 16:23), while in Galatians 2:11 Paul reports an incident which revealed Peter’s ongoing tendency to weakness. According to Paul, Peter was in the wrong and stood condemned, and was not being straight forward about the truth of the gospel! This is hardly the image of a solid infallible rock upon which all future generations of Christ church were to be built. Only Jesus Himself can carry that weight, and thank God, He does.

    It is also interesting to note that Peter certainly did not fit into the current conception of a pope, since he had a mother-in-law, meaning he was married. Read Mark 1:30, which speaks of “Simon’s wife’s mother”. The topic of celibate priesthood is outside my point, but it is another aberration from the plain teaching of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:2-4; 1 Timothy 4:2).

    Incidentally, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were not given exclusively to Peter. The same authority of binding and loosing were given to all Jesus’ disciples in Matthew 18. All Jesus’ disciples have the authority to use his Name, and the truth is, Jesus never gave anyone the authority to abrogate (nullify) His own plain words and teachings.

    The reasoning of the Roman Catholic church is circular on this point, because they assume and do not prove from Scripture that Jesus was describing their system as “His church”. Their point would be powerful if they could prove that at some point in history there were no disciples of Christ who did not acknowledge the bishop of Rome as their supreme pontiff. However, history just doesn’t support this view. The supremacy of the Roman bishop indeed rose because of the political power of Rome as the capital of the empire, but there were always groups of Christian disciples who did not hold to the doctrine of the papacy. The doctrine of the papacy wasn’t really spelled out until the time of Gregory the Great in any case, in the 6th century.

    The Eastern Orthodox church, for all its weaknesses, did include many true believers in Christ, and the schism which was formalized in the 11th century between Rome and the Orthodox church based principally at Constantinople reflected a major difference in opinion concerning the authority of Roman bishops that had been going on already for centuries. At that time the Pope and the Patriarch at Constantinople basically excommunicated each other because of their differences – a natural outcome of their common rejection of the Word of God as their highest and supreme authority. For their man-made traditions had evolved in different directions and because of this neither could accept the other as truly being of God.

    Apart from this, I’m sure there were many Christian churches, such as the Celtic churches in the British Isles and many nameless faceless Christian groups with no political power who enjoyed the life of Christ without seeing the Pope as their spiritual Father. (Incidentally Jesus himself taught against the use of the word “father” as a spiritual title for men (Matthew 23:9). I have never heard any reasonable Roman Catholic explanation on why this verse has been apparently abrogated in the favor of Popes and priests!). In the middle ages various groups such as the Waldeneses, the followers of John Huss, Wycliffe and others were faithful believers in Christ and suffered cruel persecution for their stand against the Roman Catholic tyrants of the day.

    Furthermore there were obviously people in the Roman Catholic system itself who, for all their loyalty to the pope, had a revelation of the true Christ and were truly the Lord’s children. A shining example of Christian discipleship was St. Francis of Assissi. Whichever way we look at it, the church was not utterly defeated by Satan at any time although obviously there were some pretty dark moments.

    God has always had a faithful remnant, and today they number in the hundreds of millions – a fact for which we may praise God. Truly the gates of hell have not overcome the true church of Christ. Believers in Christ are more than ever on the increase today and with the increase of knowledge that is upon us today there is no way that we will ever return to the Dark Ages where men just simply did not have access to the Bible in their own language to check out things for themselves.

    I hope it is noticed that I am not arguing that all believers who identified with Rome were not real Christians. I am sure than many Roman Catholics today are true born again Christians. But this is true in spite of, not because of the teaching of the Roman Catholic church.

    If Matthew 16:16-19 does not mean what the Roman Catholic church says it means, then what does it mean? We can get plenty of valuable truth out of Matthew 16:16-19. Firstly, God the Father Himself revealed to Peter the true identity of Jesus as being the promised Messiah, or Christ – the one whom God sent to save the people from their sins. Secondly, this had nothing to do with the fact that Peter saw Jesus physically as a man. This makes this kind of revelation available to us also. It is timeless. Thirdly, Peter confessed with his mouth the revelation which he received from God the Father. Fourthly, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Peter on account of this revelation of who Jesus was.

    We too will be blessed if we received from God a true revelation of who Christ is and then confess Him before others. The surest way to open yourself up for such a revelation is to read the Bible for yourself with an open heart and mind. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). If you have not done this I urge you to believe the teaching of this Scripture here and begin to openly confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master in all you say and do.

    God Bless

  4. Marion
    Marion says:

    I know this is an old post but I enjoyed reading it. I’m a Catholic, a wife, and a mother to three children. I enjoyed going to Church with my parents when I was younger but over time I got fed up with how most Catholic devotees including my parents seem to change their attitudes after the Mass is finish. Although, I’m a loyal follower of Catholicism’s teachings, I think the Christians are doing a good job practicing their beliefs on an everyday basis. My mother in law was a Catholic before she converted to Christianity.
    She’s a much better person now according to my husband and his siblings. I, myself, hardly go to Church but I do practice faith and good values which to me is much more important.

  5. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Marion: Your comment is very very very confusing… did you mean to say that we Catholics are not Christians??

    “My mother in law was a Catholic before she converted to Christianity.”

    What’s that about? I suggest you get some good authentic Catholic books and start reading.. preferably those that are not endorsed by the likes of “Fr.” Hans Kung…. I’m a Christian.. and Catholic is my surname. Maybe if you would go to Church and study your faith better, you would know the beauty and the depth of our beautiful faith! Stop judging the Church by the sinners but by the saints.. The Catholic Church is a factory for saints. Sure we have sinners outnumbering them 100:1, but I meet saints everyday in my life as a Catholic. I feel sorry you never met any good Catholics in your life…

    PS: I know you posted this comment looooooong ago…

  6. Slt
    Slt says:

    The catholic church was not found by Christ. The church was built on Jesus thee stone but nothing is said about catholic. The catholic church has many unbiblical teachings. That is why Luther came out against them.

  7. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Hi Brent,

    I don’t believe you will respond to this after such a long time but is case you do can you explain the following,

    “An important principle in evangelical thinking is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.”

    as your entire denial of teaching authority of Christ’s Church clearly hinges upon this presupposition and so I ask a good “bible alone” believer,

    Question, where exactly in scripture does it say scripture interprets scripture or itself?

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  10. MBales
    MBales says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I am writing this to answer your question. I grew up Catholic and
    left the Catholic Church for a few years. A problem I encountered was I worked on Sundays so my children could not attend Religious Education Classes. Taking them to Mass wasn’t enough. We left the Catholic Faith to learn about Jesus in a youth group and fellowship with other believers. My kids had a Catholic foundation from their elementary school years going to a Catholic School. Long story short we had to return to the Public School System in Jr High and High School years. Even though we continued going to mass they were not getting anything out of it and other parents were not willing to take my kids on Sundays. Most of my church friends still had their children in Catholic Schools. My kids are grown now and I feel I’ve done the best I could do with being a single mom and teaching them who the Lord should be in their life. I have been a model and they know my values and morals. During those years I occasionally attended mass and had an open mind about the difference in teachings . I have read the complete Bible and I have always defended the Catholic Faith, and now returned to my Catholic Faith. I know both sides of the coin now, and I have my own opinions about what I believe about the Catholic Church docterine. These are some of the things I dont agree with by things I’ve read ; The Church docterine says I’m a sinner if I am not true to the Catholic Church as my only Religion. ( I know the Lord wanted me to see beyond limited boundaries through my kids) Indulgences (I call them Blessings) The Pope is infallible ( He is as human as you and me) Priest forgiving Sins (again human like me.. but being accountable to right and wrong) and needing the Catechism of the Catholic Church to interpret the Bible( God inspired and written… Holy Spirit interpreted to me personally).
    I see the Catechism as how the Catholic Church teaches on what the Bible says, but not necessarily what the Holy Spirit is telling me. The Holy Spirit will always come first in teaching me direction.
    I came back to the Church because I was directed by the Holy Spirit to do so, it is the Faith that feels like Home. I understand the Supernatural or Spiritual, traditions, and the Eucharist. Not because of the people, Clergy, etc…. A Spiritual journey that is hard to explain to most protestant believers. But also being led by God’s word that most Sunday or Cradle Catholics don’t understand. Unfortunately, most Catholic Converts know more about the Catholic Church than Cradle Catholics. Converts have made a concious decision to join the church, most Cradle Catholics have grown up in the Church, and accept or practice in routine their Sunday Mass attendance and forget the rest of the week how to live and be an example of their faith. I’m still looking for a Parish I feel that is for me.
    There are many benefits of the Catholic Church;
    Anywhere you go to mass it is a comfort to know what to do ( a little variation of how they do it, but a comfortable familiarity. Options of Mass times. Opportunities to grow in Spiritual programs, Spiritual directors, as well as many opportunities to volunteer at Church activities and organizations. Charities that are ran by Catholic organizations and a wider Community to fellowship with and with some parishes Community outreaches.
    I do not believe Tim Tebow or any other Christian Faith would be waisting their time reaching out to any of the unbelievers. All believers of the Christian Faith should be Planting Seeds and Watering them.
    It is then left up to God and the Holy Spirit to Harvest those seeds in the direction he wants them to go.
    I also believe that all Christian Religions, and in their own Faith doctrines that work together are Blessed by teaching His Word to the Least of us. One of the Apostles complained to Jesus about someone else teaching his word to the people the apostle was trying to teach in the same area. Jesus told him; if they are not teaching against my word, then let them be.
    Too many worry about the other guy getting more, when the real goal is to teach them what God instructs us to do. Every individual is accountable for themselves and after God’s word is given, it is up to the Individual and the Holy Spirit where they go. God is the only one who can judge their heart. We are only instruments to be used and
    Tim Tebow is one of them.
    My Faith is in the Lord Personally, and not about ANY Religion.
    If the Catholic Church is where he wants me, he will give me the tools to grow. If not any Church, I’ll grow.
    For the church may change, but God doesn’t, and I may change in Health, finances, location, etc… but God doesn’t!

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