Converting confusion


#1

I hope this is the right forum… I tried to find the answers by searching to what I’m looking for, but I just ended up confusing myself. I’m hoping someone can help me understand a little more. Thanks to any who respond. :slight_smile: And sorry this is so long.

First of all I am currently a protestant attending Calvary. I was an atheist for most of my life until in my late twenties I had quite an experience that made me a believer in God and His Son Jesus as the only way to be saved from hell. So for several years I went to church with my husband and kids and all was fine.

Now however I feel really drawn to the Catholic Church. So I spoke to my pastor and friends and family about it and that opened up a huge can of worms.

This is what I have basically been told. I was told that the Catholic Church is wrong mostly because they believe that salvation is accomplished through Grace AND my own works. I was told that if I rely at all on my own works to be saved then I am basically telling Jesus that His sacrifice was not enough and therefore am not putting 100% of my trust in His work. My good works must be totally done out of a desire to please God and not as a condition of my salvation. I was told that the devil is tempting me with the idea that Jesus is not the whole thing. I do believe He is the only way, but at the same time I KNOW the Bible says that faith without works is dead. What is wrong with me that I can’t make sense of this?

I feel so incredibly drawn to the Catholic Church because I am beginning to believe that the sacraments are pleasing to God and were comanded by Him. I am also beginning to believe that Jesus really IS present in the bread and wine and if I am not partaking then somehow I am missing a huge part of what He told us to do. I also feel drawn by the history of the Church and the fact that it has stood through everything thrown at it. Also, something feels wrong about the whole “I said one prayer and now I’m saved” idea.

I feel like God is telling me to convert, but at the same time I’m being told by friends and family that it is actually the devil telling me to do this. I have never been so confused in my life and I wish God would tell me what to do without this confusion. I have tried to not listen to people and just keep it between me and God, but now that I have told others no one will leave me alone about it. So, I came here hoping someone had a similar experience and could tell me how they got through it.

Did anyone else here convert from being a protestant and go through something similar? How did you get past the confusion? Or was it very clear all at once? I feel like a freak now not fitting in anywhere.

I’m afraid that I’m not doing what God wants me to by not joining the original church (Catholic Church), but then I worry that if I do convert I will not be trusting in Jesus 100% (others keep telling me that over and over and over). Oh, and I have read many things regarding doing good works and the Catholic Church, but for some reason I am having an almost impossible time really and truly understanding what it means. I feel like such an idiot.

I apologize for rambling on, but it is hard for me to express what I’m going through. I hope some of this made some sense to someone and they can help me. Oh, and I keep picking up the phone to call my local parish, but I keep chickening out. I don’t know what to say to them. Do I say “I’m confused and hurt and I want to come Home, but I don’t know what to do”? I feel like they will tell me that dummies like me aren’t welcome. :frowning:

Thank you all for any advice, and any prayers sent my way are most welcome.

Oh and I should probably mention that my husband is going through the exact same thing as I am. So I’m not having any trouble with him at all. We are both so confused together.


#2

Hi Ladycat, I’m a convert too. It must be especially hard when your family is so against the Catholic Church, yet you feel drawn to it. (Luckily I didn’t have that problem). But it took me over 10 years before I answered that calling. About your questions about faith AND works: remember the story about the talents? I sort of see this pertaining to it. God give us His Grace. BUT we need to respond to this grace, make it grow and not bury it. Also Jesus said “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” and Jesus told us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. So yes these things are necessary for salvation, but also doing all those things without faith won’t save you either…so it’s not by faith alone and it’s not by works alone… I hope I didn’t confuse you further. If you want to PM me (private message) you can…


#3

I was told that the Catholic Church is wrong mostly because they believe that salvation is accomplished through Grace AND my own works.

They are incorrect. And, it may seem likely to you (it does to me), that non-Catholics and ex-Catholics are rather un-trustworthy in teaching what the Catholic Church teaches. I’m of the opinion that the Catholic Church knows more about what is taught than non-Catholics.

Catholicism teaches that we are saved through grace alone. The grace that God gives gratuitously can and does work in humans, for the benefit of the kingdom of God and for our salvation. But it is God working in us that is meritorious, not man’s works.


#4

Dear Friend, I am a convert to Catholicism from the Evangelical church, and your experience sounds very familiar. This is a challenging time, but please know that God will bless you as you draw nearer to Him. A wonderful resource is the Coming Home Network (chnetwork.org). They help people who are on the journey to the Catholic Church, or are considering the journey. I, too, met w/ the leadership of my Evangelical church, and they were never really ever able to refute what I learned - and some of them sure got agitated.

Don’t be surprised if this is a time of great trial and testing for you - Satan will try everything he can to keep you from being united w/ Christ in the Eucharist. The Surprised by Truth series is helpful - it shows us that many others have gone through the same trials and testing as they drew nearer to God through the Church His Son founded on St. Peter.

We’re praying for you. Your Sister in Christ, Kate


#5

Hi Ladycat,

Don’t feel bad if issue of grace and works and faith is confusing. You’re right; it is confusing, especially with all the differences in terminology. See if this helps:

Catholics believe that we are saved by grace (unmerited gifts from God). But like any gift, we are free to reject it. We have veto power.

When we do good works and when we believe, we are keeping our veto power unused and letting God work through us.


#6

Let me see if I am understanding this correctly.

You are saying that the Catholic Church teaches that it is through Grace alone that I am saved, but it is by my good works (that are not my own, but rather God Himself working through me/using me) that is for lack of better words proof of my salvation? That my good works are not my way to salvation, but rather evidence of my obedience to God and His will?

And thank you all for your prayers. I really need them.


#7

Wow! You have most definitely come to the right place! I’ll see how I can help.

I was told that the Catholic Church is wrong mostly because they believe that salvation is accomplished through Grace AND my own works. I was told that if I rely at all on my own works to be saved then I am basically telling Jesus that His sacrifice was not enough and therefore am not putting 100% of my trust in His work. My good works must be totally done out of a desire to please God and not as a condition of my salvation. I was told that the devil is tempting me with the idea that Jesus is not the whole thing. I do believe He is the only way, but at the same time I KNOW the Bible says that faith without works is dead. What is wrong with me that I can’t make sense of this?

Here’s the way I understand it. Everyone will correct me if I’m wrong. If you really believe in Jesus and the faith He gave us, you would be doing good works. Jesus talks about judging the tree by its fruits. In the parable of the two sons, the better son is the one who does what his father asks, even though he said he wouldn’t . The son who said okay, but then didn’t do it, was bad.

There are two bad extremes. One is to do stuff only because you are supposed to (like the Pharisees). The other is to not do anything at all because you “don’t need to” (that’s presumption). The correct mentality is to do stuff because you love God, to do stuff because it pleases Him. That is what we should be doing and why. That is the position of the Catholic Church, the union of faith and works.

Did anyone else here convert from being a protestant and go through something similar? How did you get past the confusion? Or was it very clear all at once? I feel like a freak now not fitting in anywhere.

Don’t worry, you’ll fit in here. There are many converts here at the forum.

I’ll be praying for you.


#8

I want you to know that I read your whole story and will be praying for you and your family. To become a Catholic it takes a lot. My wife at one point when we met didn’t want anythng to do with the Catholic Church. She wanted me to go to a non-denom. group instead. She said that the Catholic Church had to much rules. She said all the same things we read on this forum. But wouldn’t you know this past Fathers Day she was Baptized, Holy Communion and Confirmed. She was told the same thing by her sister, that you are being told by your friends.

You are right, “Faith without works is dead.” The disciples had the all the faith in Jesus, but they also did the work of Jesus. If you feel it in your heart to become Catholic then follow your Heart, because Jesus is in there. The devil is not tell you to become Catholic like your friends are saying. The devil would want you to have no religion what so ever. It is your firends who are misled. Good luck and God Bless.


#9

Here’s an answer I posted some time back, with quotes from St. Augustine and Scripture… (hint: St. Augustine was a pretty orthodox Catholic :wink: )

St. Augustine taught: “God works in man many good things to which man does not contribute; but man does not work any good things apart from God, since it is from God man receives the power to do the good things he does.” We believe in salvation by grace alone, and we do not believe man EVER earns grace by his own efforts. Not initially, not finally. It is always unearned by man. It is always merited by the Christ. However, by God’s providence, Christ merits our salvation by working in man.

God desires man to be a co-worker with God in receiving his gifts. We can resist the Holy Spirit, or we can be God’s co-worker. For example, God could have poofed manna into the bellies of His people. They need not have done a thing. Yet, He didn’t. He gave them the heavenly gift called manna without their earning it, while at the same time He required their participation, their synergy, in the receipt of that gift. They had to collect the manna a specific way or it would turn to worms and fail to have its effect. He required their obedience in order to receive the *still unearned *gift. One must remain clear, it was the gift, not their obedience that feed them. The obedience added nothing to the effect of the gift. The disobedience, however, detracted from the effect of the gift.

Same with other more perfect heavenly gifts such as salvific grace. God desires man to accept his salvific grace, not by resisting it, but instead by obeying it, in order to receive it. That obedience is not man attempting to work to earn heaven, but man’s “faith in action”–a faith that is impossible without grace. God requires obedience in order to recieve the *still unearned *gift of salvific grace. It is the gift, not the obedience that saves. The obedience adds nothing to the salvific effect of the free gift of grace. Yet, disobedience does indeed detract from the effect of the gift, such that like manna which turns to worms, it may be received in vain.

“Working together with (Gk “sunergountes”) Him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

In the above passage, “working together with God” does not mean to a Catholic that man contributes some portion of the merit which is all Christ’s. It simply means, we are NOT working against God, but allowing the Holy Spirit to move us to obey God’s will.

Good works are not our works. They are “God working in man … which man does not contribute” (St. Augustine). While we do not contribute in ANY WAY our own salvation, we are indeed called to work together with God such that the unearned gift of grace is not accepted in vain.


#10

[quote=Ladycat]Let me see if I am understanding this correctly.

You are saying that the Catholic Church teaches that it is through Grace alone that I am saved, but it is by my good works (that are not my own, but rather God Himself working through me/using me) that is for lack of better words proof of my salvation? That my good works are not my way to salvation, but rather evidence of my obedience to God and His will?

And thank you all for your prayers. I really need them.
[/quote]

I think you could put it that way, but be careful of the word “alone” as it could cause people to think that God takes away our free will.

I’ve seen one word throw people for a heap of misunderstanding. :slight_smile:


#11

“… proof of my salvation?”

I never really understood this phrase. Who on earth needs me to prove my salvation? Quite frankly, I could care less if anybody on earth thinks I’m saved or not. The only one that matters is God, and he doesn’t need my proof, he knows who is saved, because it was HIM ALONE that saved them.

Works of Charity are not just the “proof” of our love for God, IT IS OUR LOVE FOR GOD.


#12

I will definitely be praying for you and your husband. I always pray for my loved ones (and myself of course) to find and embrace the fullness of truth and I’ll include you and your husband. I was never baptized as a child, but I was always familiar with the Catholic Faith from exposure through other family members. My husband and I joined the Catholic Church back in 1998. I never even considered anything else. I am sure you will probably be getting a flood of replies here pretty soon, with much better advice than I can give. I have a lot of family members (on my husband’s side) that are all some other denomination, and they are all wonderful, faithful people, but my heart aches for them to come home to the Catholic Church. It is not Satan leading you there. It’s the Holy Spirit. If and when you and your husband decide you want to become Catholic, you will no doubt be greatly discouraged from others and it can be very confusing. You could call a priest and visit with them. Usually RCIA programs start in the Fall, and you could attend the meetings to learn more. I have found that people are pleasantly surprised with what they learn. So many people hear a lot of negative (and untrue) things about the Church. If you have cable or satellite tv, there is a show that you can watch on EWTN, it’s on Monday nights and it’s called The Journey Home. It’s a show that has people on there that converted to the Catholic Faith. I’m not a convert and I’m hooked. Also,(I’m sure you’ve heard this one), Scott Hahn books or tapes are so wonderful- he is also a convert and he defends and explains the Faith so well straight from scripture- even Marian Doctines which can be a little more difficult for some to accept. I get so excited when I hear about someone being drawn to the Catholic Church! Hope that helps a little!


#13

Hello Ladycat;

I was raised Catholic, but left the Church before I was confirmed. When I came back about 10 years ago, I went through the “RCIA” program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) at a local parish here in San Diego. The RCIA program is for people in your position, who are curious about what the Catholic Church is (and what it is not). You can call your local parish and ask to speak with the director of the RCIA program. He or she will contact you and you can meet with them for more details. It’s a very “no pressure” type of program that begins with an “inquiry” period - where Church beliefs and practices are initially explained, then moves on to a sort of spiritual formation stage, where you look more deeply at Church doctrine and the reasons behind the beliefs. You are free to walk away at any time that you feel you cannot proceed.

FYI - When I went through RCCIA back in 1995, my group (about 40 people) met once a week, beginning in about September, for various presentations, workshops, lectures, etcetera. After several weeks we were invited to begin the process of becoming a full member of the Catholic Church. The process was slow, taking several months, and culminated with reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil (the Saturday evening mass before Easter Sunday). Because I was raised Catholic I already received the Sacraments of Baptism and First Communion, but others in my group - who had no Catholic or even Christian upbringing actually received all three sacraments at the Easter Vigil ceremony. It was a very moving experience for me - personally.

I recommend that you find out who at your local parish runs the RCIA program and then you and your husband can meet with them to find out the specifics of that parish.

Best of luck to you and your husband on the journey.

Peace :slight_smile:


#14

Ok I feel like I’m getting closer to understanding.

It is not through Grace alone that I am saved, but rather through Grace that I have willingly accepted by my own free will that I am saved? So, it is through Grace alone that salvation is “possible”, but it is only through my acceptance of that that I am saved. (That makes sense to me)

And with the “proof of my salvation” I’m sort of at a loss of words on how to describe what I’m thinking about that. I guess I meant more that if my good works are not necessary for salvation then they must be “evidence” of my salvation? Am I getting close?

Please forgive me for my ignorance. I’m really trying to understand. And thank you all so very much for your replies, help, and prayers.


#15

(Well, looks like the Forum gremlin ate my inital post. :frowning: )

Welcome Ladycat to the forums.

I can understand some of what your going through. I was born and raised a Baptist and have always felt drawn to the Catholic Church. Like you, I had heard “all about the CC” from relatives and other Protestant friends. Luckily, I decided to not listen to what they had to say about the CC and read from the source itself as to what the Church really believed. Picked up a Catechism and a few books by Steve Ray and Karl Keating and found out that the CC was nothing like what I had been told by friends and family. It really was and is the Church Jesus founded. And wouldn’t Satan want to discourage you from joining the Church our Lord founded?(Believe me, he knocked me off my path last year during RCIA. This year not a chance.:wink: )

Anyway, listen to the promting of the Holy Spirit, read some Catholic books (the Catechism is great) and join an RCIA class. It’s very non-pressure class and if you feel at the end you want to convert, you can. Good luck and G*d bless you on your journey home!


#16

[quote=Ladycat]I hope this is the right forum… I tried to find the answers by searching to what I’m looking for, but I just ended up confusing myself. I’m hoping someone can help me understand a little more. Thanks to any who respond. :slight_smile: And sorry this is so long.
[/quote]

Bless you and welcome. I think using the reference material will get easier as you develop more questions regarding the Catholic Faith. I’m sure your are feeling torn and desiring of the Truth.

Well you’ve come to the right place! (but I’m biased ;))

First of all I am currently a protestant attending Calvary. I was an atheist for most of my life until in my late twenties I had quite an experience that made me a believer in God and His Son Jesus as the only way to be saved from hell. So for several years I went to church with my husband and kids and all was fine.

Now however I feel really drawn to the Catholic Church. So I spoke to my pastor and friends and family about it and that opened up a huge can of worms.

Most people don’t like change. Especially when you are changing away from their philosophies. But have strength, and Faith. You are doing the right thing by finding out about Catholicism- and discerning these claims yourself.

This is what I have basically been told. I was told that the Catholic Church is wrong mostly because they believe that salvation is accomplished through Grace AND my own works.

Well this part is true- and is a unique claim from a protestant religion. Most “just know” Catholics only believe in salvation through works. At least your family and friends have the right claim. They just seem to interpret it a little wrong.

I was told that if I rely at all on my own works to be saved then I am basically telling Jesus that His sacrifice was not enough and therefore am not putting 100% of my trust in His work.

The parable of the talents is a good one! (I’d not thought of it like that so thanks Spooky!) What an insult to God for us to not use the graces He gives us (becaue of Salvation) to forward His Will (through works) here on Earth.

My good works must be totally done out of a desire to please God and not as a condition of my salvation. I was told that the devil is tempting me with the idea that Jesus is not the whole thing.

Well I’m sure you know the Truth of this in your heart. It is not the devil guiding you, but the Holy Spirit. :slight_smile:

I do believe He is the only way, but at the same time I KNOW the Bible says that faith without works is dead. What is wrong with me that I can’t make sense of this?

Nothing is wrong with you. This is a natural process of understanding. Have Faith that God will give you all the information you need. Just keep looking- you will know the Truth.

Here are some nice articles regarding Salvation:

catholic.com/library/salvation.asp

I feel so incredibly drawn to the Catholic Church because I am beginning to believe that the sacraments are pleasing to God and were comanded by Him.

That’s good, because they were commanded by God. They offer the FULLNESS of the Faith- and they are an amazing way that we communicate directly with God!

I am also beginning to believe that Jesus really IS present in the bread and wine and if I am not partaking then somehow I am missing a huge part of what He told us to do.

Again, the Eucharist is the epitome of our communication and reverence to God. It is this that your soul craves- and believe me, you will not be dissapointed!

I also feel drawn by the history of the Church and the fact that it has stood through everything thrown at it.

Reading many of the Scott Hahn books can shed some light on many of these issues. A number of protestant converts recommend them to those who are also looking to convert for explainations of many of these issues.

Also, something feels wrong about the whole “I said one prayer and now I’m saved” idea.

Hopefully this too will be answered in the link I provided above. But you are right to question it.


#17

I feel like God is telling me to convert, but at the same time I’m being told by friends and family that it is actually the devil telling me to do this. I have never been so confused in my life and I wish God would tell me what to do without this confusion.

He IS telling you. That’s why you are here, asking the questions and doing the research :)!

I have tried to not listen to people and just keep it between me and God, but now that I have told others no one will leave me alone about it. So, I came here hoping someone had a similar experience and could tell me how they got through it.

Give it to God. I’m sure you realize that they just want the best for you. Eventually they will let it go- people tend to get bored pretty quickly with those who are strong in their convictions. Your conviction right now is to learn the TRUTH for yourself. You can tell them to pray for you, that you find the Truth- but to please stop harassing you about it.

Did anyone else here convert from being a protestant and go through something similar? How did you get past the confusion? Or was it very clear all at once? I feel like a freak now not fitting in anywhere.

There are a number of converts on the boards, I’m sure you will find a lot of kindred spirits in that regard.

I’m afraid that I’m not doing what God wants me to by not joining the original church (Catholic Church), but then I worry that if I do convert I will not be trusting in Jesus 100% (others keep telling me that over and over and over). Oh, and I have read many things regarding doing good works and the Catholic Church, but for some reason I am having an almost impossible time really and truly understanding what it means. I feel like such an idiot.

Just stop trying to “figure it out” and GIVE IT TO GOD. He will take you in the right path if you just let Him. Visit Catholic sites, speak to your local Catholic priest- and maybe joing an RCIA group for the information. If you give your efforts to God so He may guide you- rather than relying on your own stamina (in regards to education and enduring your family)- you will find solace, and the answers you seek.

I apologize for rambling on, but it is hard for me to express what I’m going through. I hope some of this made some sense to someone and they can help me.

By all means keep rambling! Things will begin to take shape in your mind. And all will become more clear.

Oh, and I keep picking up the phone to call my local parish, but I keep chickening out. I don’t know what to say to them. Do I say “I’m confused and hurt and I want to come Home, but I don’t know what to do”? I feel like they will tell me that dummies like me aren’t welcome. :frowning:

Heck no! Just call them and tell them you wish to speak to the priest. Or make an appointment with him to discuss “Faith questions”. They will be more than happy to get something set up for you, and the priest would love to hear from you- remember that’s part of why he became a priest! To shepard to the flock.

Again, Bless you for your questions, and I will pray that you find clarity and peace in this!

Thank you all for any advice, and any prayers sent my way are most welcome.

Oh and I should probably mention that my husband is going through the exact same thing as I am. So I’m not having any trouble with him at all. We are both so confused together.

BONUS!! (There’s half your battle! Lean on eachother for support!)


#18

[quote=Ladycat]Let me see if I am understanding this correctly.

You are saying that the Catholic Church teaches that it is through Grace alone that I am saved, but it is by my good works (that are not my own, but rather God Himself working through me/using me) that is for lack of better words proof of my salvation? That my good works are not my way to salvation, but rather evidence of my obedience to God and His will?

And thank you all for your prayers. I really need them.
[/quote]

Ladycat,

I think the source of confusion is over what people mean by “works.” The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by God’s grace and through no merit of our own, but that we have to cooperate with God in His saving us. There is absolutely no question about our earning our salvation by doing good deeds; we can’t do it, and the Catholic Church teaches that we can’t do it. In Philippians 2:12 Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling;” this is what the Catholic Church is talking about. We need to cooperate with God in order to be saved, not just to provide evidence of our salvation to others.

I never attended a Calvary Chapel, but I used to be Southern Baptist for a few years on my way to Rome. The Southern Baptists preach salvation by grace through faith alone, but when you press them hard enough you find the same practice as the Catholic Church. They will say that you do not have to do anything to be saved, but then they will say that you have to “accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior,” which is after all doing something. I never was able to resolve that paradox while I was a Baptist.

  • Liberian

#19

Hi Ladycat…Welcome…Everyone has already given you wonderful advice and explained the works/faith thing very well, so I will only say this:

**Conversion is a journey that ends only when we meet Jesus face to face…Our lives are graced with many conversion experiences…not only one, although one or two may really stand out. **


Conversion experiences begin with an awareness that something isn’t right, or needs to change…We feel confused…gather information, pray, reflect, and out of all that finally comes a need to act. When we finally “act” we experience a sense of release, relief, and peace…


You are smack dab in the middle of a conversion experience…They can last for a very long time, and are quite intense…It seems that you can think of nothing else but your “situation”…I have been in this spot many times, and I can tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnnel…All the trumoil, all the anquish, all the feelings of restlessness and unease will be resolved…You will finally be at peace…It just takes time and patience, and an open heart. Pray that God will lead you, and help you make the right choices…You will know you have made the right choice by the sense of peace that will settle over you…Even if there is conflict roiling around you…You will be at peace within the storm.


God bless…


#20

It is not through Grace alone that I am saved, but rather through Grace that I have willingly accepted by my own free will that I am saved? So, it is through Grace alone that salvation is “possible”, but it is only through my acceptance of that that I am saved.

I think that it is through grace alone that we are saved. Grace does not merely make it “possible” but grace and only grace saves.

Think of infant baptism. What “works” saves the infant? They are saved by grace alone. All they do is eat cry and poop, and none of that, added to grace, helps them one iota.


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