Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Calvinist Leaves His Former Communion

Here's an exchange between a young lawyer who is leaving Calvinism for Catholicism and his pastor who is attempting to intercede.

Please pray for him, his wife and son as they make the sojourn across the Tiber. His depth of understanding of the Catholic faith is amazing so early into the journey and his response to his former pastor is a "tour de force" of solid Catholic apologetics particularly as it pertains to sola scriptura.

My Protestant pastor wrote:

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One more follow up based on our earlier conversation (Oct 7) and the previous emails included below.  I really want and need to talk with you.  Frankly, I have a responsibility, as an undershepherd of God called to tend the flock (which includes you and your family), to meet with you.  And I also have a desire to do so because of my love for you and your family.  My concern is for the spiritual well-being of your family, and I am trying to exercise my role as one called to lovingly tend to you.  So please reply to me quickly so that we can talk.

I'm trying to be careful but forceful about this.  We did agree together that we would meet again to talk about the issues surrounding your leaving.  You expressed a willingness to do this, and even to schedule a meeting with me, you, and [your wife] together at a later point.

In addition, that is really what you agreed to in your membership vows:
Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church's worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?

As I already mentioned, I am not so naive as to assume that the submission mentioned in that vow implies that you will always agree with and follow what the elders say.  Although it does commit you to listen to our instruction as it is based on the Scriptures and submit to God as he speaks through His Word.  And at minimum, you agreed by this vow to listen.  And that's what I'm asking -- that you will take the time to sit with me to talk and listen.

Please respond to me as soon as possible so that we can get together and talk.

God bless,

My Response Today:

Dear [Protestant Pastor],

I know this response is long overdue and I apologize.  The congregation has grieved over the loss of {  } and I regret not being paying able to visibly pay my respects, but I reasoned that my presence would only make the tragic event worse.  I still pray for his soul.

It's painful to write this letter over the holiday season, as well.  I appreciate the follow up and the prayers.  You are doing what you know is God's will.  Yet, I believe I am doing the will of God, too.  We both cannot be right.  You are praying that I either return to [your congregation] or another Protestant communion, but I am praying and asking for saintly intercession that the one holy Catholic and apostolic church receives me this Easter.  I am going to be doing penance for the mortal sins and rebellion I've been in for a long time.  At this point, I am a member on paper, but Vow #4 of the membership vows I took almost five years ago mean little to me.  If [your congregation] is not in communion with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Archbishop (undershepherd) John Clayton Nienstedt, I can no longer submit to it in good conscience.

[Your session] was correct to point out that I have been struggling spiritually.  Yes, it's been a battle.  The problem I've been having is not just in the last six months or the last six years; it's the last 20 years.  I was baptized into the Catholic Church, received the Eucharist and Reconciliation.  But in my youth, my parents adopted an anti-Catholic, evangelical fundamentalist stance and I followed suit.  I bounced from congregation to congregation trying to figure out who had the most accurate biblical interpretation to the text.  Was it the Westminster divines, Mac Hammond, Doug Wilson, NT Wright, Joel Osteen, John Piper?  They all claim the same method of private interpretation-the believer's ultimate authority.  Under this method, it's every believer for himself.  At the end of the day. I could not see a principled difference to approaching scripture between a Rick Warren-fundamentalist or Peter Leithart-high church Protestant.  The question I should have been asking is not "What is the correct interpretation?" (for I am wholly incapable of finding it on my own) but "Who rightly has the authority to interpret scripture?".  Why is Catholicism not just an interpretation of scripture?  Not only does it have the authority to interpret scripture and make it binding upon its members, it assembled the canon we know as scripture today and declared the canon centuries ago.  The Church defined doctrinal truths through ecumenical councils and I see those as more than just interpretations or "advisory opinions but check scripture first".  The pillar and foundation of the truth, as stated in the epistle to Timothy, is the church, and not an invisible one that nobody can easily identify.  I just could not accept the notion of an invisible church with 50,000 manifestations all disagreeing and quarreling with each other on basic doctrines AND claiming Christ as head.  That is not what Jesus prayed for in John 17.  Christ came not to write a book but to start a church.  The Catholic Church is 2,000 years old and global.  There's a parish in every major metropolis and city in the United States.  It's united by a single earthly head.  That has to say something.  Christ wanted the church to be easily found and to be that city on a hill.  The Church was staring me in the face all along and I had been rejecting it.

You are probably wondering about my family.  [Wife] has authorized me to speak for her, and she is making the move to the Catholic Church with me out of her own free will. [Son] is not at the age of reason, but he is coming with us, too.  We do not see a need for additional meetings regarding this situation, for they have only succeeded in stirring negative emotions.

I really do love you and everyone there, and I have no ill will against anybody.  It's just that we will no longer worship together in the same manner as we have in the past.  I do not regard my time spent with the [denomination] in vain.  Unlike other denominations, it emphasizes a need for a visible church, sacraments and takes history into account when examining the faith.  The personal piety, love for the God's word, and devotion of its members are unmatched by any other denomination.  We have just reached different conclusions over where the church is.  I pray daily for the unification of Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox.  The call to join the Catholic Church is as much for you, your family and [your congregation] as it is for me.

Here are some of the resources I have consulted.  Some conversions are high profile, but many of them were Calvinist laypeople and ministers who made the move.  I'm not a lone ranger here:

Called to Communion: Reformation Meets Rome

Dr. Scott Hahn

Francis Beckwith

Have a Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Peace this season,

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Anonymous nikki said...

Will be praying for this family. A difficult but exciting time, to be sure.

December 22, 2011 12:32 PM  

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