Former Evangelical Converts, I need your help


#1

After three years of conversations, a good friend of mine has come to the realization that he is on the fence. He can’t call himself an evangelical, because he’s started believing in some Catholic doctrine, but he’s still struggling with the authority of the Church, the Virgin Mary, and the notion that OSAS is false, and thus can’t become Catholic. He’s feeling alone and unwanted by either church, because he can’t agree with all that either teachers.

It doesn’t help that a friend he highly respects just handed him good old Mike Gendron’s “Is A Catholic Christian An Oxymoron?” article.

Please, if you’ve ever been in this situation, share your story. What helped you make the decision for the Catholic faith? What was the turning point? What explanations or resources helped you?

The Holy Spirit must be working on his heart–when I met him, he was staunchly anti-Catholic.

God bless,

:heart: Love is Patient


#2

I was raised in a Conference Baptist church. My pastor’s wife was Evelyn Christenson, my associate pastor was Gary Smalley, and I grew up with John Ortberg in my Sunday School classes and youth groups. Also, Steve Douglass was a member of my church (while he was on staff with Campus Crusade). Regular speakers at our church included Erwin Lutzer, Leighton Ford, and Josh McDowell.

Your friend will recognize all these names as stellar evangelicals. What I’m trying to do is prove that I have impeccable “credentials.”

Please feel free to do some searching through my past posts for the testimony posts.

It might encourage you to know that my husband and I spent three years studying and investigating Catholicism before deciding to convert. We tried very hard to NOT become Catholic. We looked for reasons not to become Catholic! We tried to disprove it.

Basically for me, it came down to recognizing that the Catholic Church matches up with the Bible. I had read the entire Bible dozens of times in my life (that’s what evangelical do, or at least, we used to do that). When I started attending Mass and reading about Catholicism, I saw that it all lined up with the Scriptures.

I would challenge your friend to actually begin attending Mass and bring his Bible along. Listen, look, smell, and touch (don’t taste yet). He will see the Bible come to life.

Another thing that put me over the top was recognizing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I had asked Jesus into my heart when I was 7, and I knew Him, my Savior and Lord. When I saw the Blessed Sacrament, I saw Him, the same Jesus that I had known all those years. (I was 47 when I became Catholic.)

A third thing that helped was reading up on the history of the church. I suggest that your friend read Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley.

amazon.com/Church-History-Plain-Language-Updated/dp/0849938619

It’s easy to read, not boring, and I’ve read it several times. I read it before I became Catholic, as an attempt to “talk myself out of becoming Catholic.”

This is a Protestant history written by a Protestant professor, but it lines up with Catholic histories. I brought this book along to a Catholic apologetics class taught by a college professor (a former evangelical who converted to Catholicism). Never once did the professor say anything to contradict what was in my PROTESTANT history book!

Reading the history written by a Protestant helped me to see that the church of the apostles, the church in the New Testament, was Catholic. It was the reformers who broke away, and this Protestant history text did NOT present compelling arguments as to why they broke away. To me, it was obvious that they broke away because they rebelled against the Christ-granted authority of His Church.

Another book that really helped me as an evangelical was Evangelical is Not Enough by Thomas Howard. This man is Elisabeth Elliot’s brother (she is another evangelical with a huge following). I highly recommend this book to your friend.


#3

You could encourage him to read my blog. But for most it is a long process, different issues have to be worked out, and those issues aren’t the same for everyone. Is he a dispensationalist? He will have to work through that mess first. Have him study the Covenants of Scripture and Covenant theology.That will provide him with a good foundation toward understanding the Sacraments, in particular the Eurcharist. He can read the writings of the Early Church.
Some issues can be put on the back burner while others are studied out. Pray for him, and be patient. For me the seeds were planted ten years before I put on my swimming trunks.


#4

Another fantastic book is Evangelical is Not Enough by Thomas Howard. Howard is now Catholic, but wrote the book when he was a Protestant.

The title seems a bit off-putting, but it isn’t intended as an insult to evangelicalism. It’s an expression of the feelings that the author had when he was beginning to leave Evangelicalism: that evangelicalism is just not enough. He had not yet given in to all of the Catholic doctrines, but he knew evangelicalism wasn’t enough. He was sort of caught in between, in very much the same way as your friend.

It addresses some of the issues you have mentioned, and may really help him given the similarity of feelings.

So far as everything else is concerned, I’d ultimately, ask this simple question:

If we concede to those who reject the Church all of their interpretations of Scripture and the Church Fathers, still we find that from 600 to 1500, the Church was undeniably Catholic, with Marian devotion, Church authority, the strong sense of the possibility of losing one’s salvation, and so forth. Virtually no trace of anything the least bit Protestant can be found in this period of time. In fact, there was such an emphasis on works in this period that one may question whether these people entrusted themselves to faith alone, and so many of them may indeed have suffered eternal damnation. How could it possibly be that God permitted His Church to become altogether heretical for almost an entire millenia - half of its entire history!? How could He let 900 years worth of people go without the concepts they needed to be saved?


#5

Read Mark Shea’s By What Authority?


#6

I was raised in an evangelical church that ended up going through a huge split and hurting many people. After a friend of mine debunked sola scriptura, the rest was very easy for me. It only took a few weeks of studying after that point. Send me a PM if you want more details :slight_smile:


#7

My suggestion is to tackle the issue of authority first. Find his current pastor, and tackle him or her. This will establish the superiority (and ultimate coolness) of the Catholic Church.

Of course I’m kidding.

But not about the authority. I found that once I accepted other sources than the Bible, I was willing to accept things on good faith until I could understand them better, based on the fact that it was the Church who believed these things.

In other words, I didn’t know if the Catholic Church was where it was at,but I was willing to suspend my “That’s-ridiculous-how-can-anyone-believe-that” train of thought in place of “Well, maybe. Let me see what they have to say.”

Jumped several Marian hurdles that way. Or was thrown/kicked from behind by Christ. Up and over!

Off to teach CCD! Good luck!


#8

I would start by telling him what Catholic things are like. He asks how we can ask Mary or a saint to pray for us, and you tell him it’s like calling the intercessors witha prayer request. He asks why confess, and you say it’s like when the pastor calls everyone to the front who has a sin on his heart and the elders come and pray with the people. – only private, and with a clear idea when it’s over. He asks why baptize newborns, and you say it’s just like dedicating them, only it does them more good, it’s a major blessing. He asks why you need traditions and not just the Bible, and you ask where every one of his church’s practices is in the Bible. If he can’t find the verse for some of them, ask who started it ad why it is followed. He’ll probably say the founders of the denomination started it for practical reasons or reasons of trying to be respectful. Then you start talkng about authority.
If he believes the theory that the real church was hidden from some time before the Fifth Century, in the form of some known band of heretics, find out which group he thinks is the real thing and then show him a good encyclopedia entry on their history and beliefs. Tell him no one disputes that there have always been other beliefs but these have been addressed from the beginning.


#9

It truly does come down to AUTHORITY. Either you accept and submit to the Authority of the Church to declare doctrine/dogma or you don’t. Once you place yourself under the Authority of the Church, swimming the Tiber is the only thing you can do.

I’ll second previous recommendations given for Evangelical is Not Enough and By What Authority? and add:

The Surprised By Truth books by Patrick Madrid are compilations of conversion stories from various and sundry backgrounds.

David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic would hit him right between the eyes.

A good friend of mine is working on debunking Gedron’s claims on her blog, Answering the Berean Call.

What did it for me was the CDs I got from the Bible Christian Society, which can also be downloaded in MP3 format for free. I recommend listening to One Church first, then Apostolic Authority and the Pope, Sacraments and the Bible, Mary and the Bible/Purgatory and the Bible, and then whatever else he thinks looks interesting. One Church was my burning bush when I was sitting the fence. :thumbsup:


#10

He’s already attending Mass every Sunday. :smiley: Sometimes he goes without me if I’m out of town. So I think this is one positive step. And he’s beginning to believe in the Blessed Sacrament. Slowly, but surely. He’s actually quite frustrated that the church he attends hasn’t distributed communion for nearly 2 months–going to Mass has made him realize that communion is important. :wink: now if only he can totally recognize that the Eucharist is Christ…

I will have to suggest those books for him.

Thank you so much.

:heart: Love is Patient


#11

this is my position. i know you were looking for converts to share their stories, but i felt compelled since i am where your friend is in a lot of ways.

i was raised catholic. baptized, first confession, first communion, confirmed. went to catholic school for a few years and then attended CCD. went to youth group through high school. i had a conversion experience while inn high school. my catholic faith (to me) was simply a bunch of stories with morals at the end. sort of like fables or fairy tales. i liked them, but they didn’t impact me.

it was when i began to hang out with some protestant friends that i saw people living their faith. not that those people didn’t exist within the catholic church i grew up in, they were just not part of my experience. i longed for what they seemed to have. i began splitting my time between my catholic church and the protestant church many of my friends attended. no one ever said anything negative to me about the catholic church (this is a bit of a difference from scott hahn’s experience in the same organization. i have actually talked with him about this). i just was experiencing faith in a way that i never had and it seemed more real to me.

i became involved i study of the faith. the history, the doctrines, whatever i could get my hands on. i also became involved in the ministry (protestant). i loved being with people and sharing the love and truth of God with them. i never held any ill will towards the RCC and never encouraged catholics to leave their church.

i hit a point where somethings were not adding up for me. really, it was communion. i had always harbored the idea in the back of my head that it was more than just a symbol and even more than just a spiritual union with God and each other. that there was a presence there. whether it was physical or spiritual, there was a presence and john 6 justified my feelings on this. so i began looking at other beliefs i held. i also began to see that i could not find all the evidence i needed to join the catholic church since i still had problems with some of their doctrines and disciplines (understanding that disciplines can change).

i now feel as if i don’t fit in anywhere. i am not formally involved with the ministry anymore (although i do meet with folks and still teach but i also try to learn and am back in school right now). i still attend a protestant church and feel connected there but i keep many of my more “catholic” beliefs to myself, my wife, and a few close friends. it feels a bit like limbo.

i would say to encourage your friend to keep searching. those who seek will find. i trust in that passage daily and continue to try to seek the truth. i study both sides as fully as i can. i study history as much as i can. i also pray. pray. pray.


#12

There’s no reason why one can’t believe in lots of Catholic doctrine and call oneself an evangelical.

If your friend takes people like Gendron seriously, what he is considering abandoning is more likely to be what most of us “neo-evangelical” types would call “fundamentalism,” though Gendron and his ilk of course prefer the less pejorative term.

Edwin


#13

I was thinking the same thing earlier. I’m still evangelical, just not an evangelical protestant. :slight_smile: As Thomas Howard says in his Journey-to-Rome book, Lead, Kindly Light - “I have nothing to protest.”


#14

LoveisPatient,
Check out these posts I made a while back. Look at posts 27-35 specifically. I’m an historian, and I went through the various arguments for the Real Presence in depth. You may want to print this out and let him look at it.
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=3330797#post3330797


#15

Thank you, all of you. You’ve given me much assistance and numerous resources. I’ll keep you posted. :slight_smile: Please pray for him. :signofcross:

:blessyou:

:heart: Love is Patient


#16

An honest, open minded reading of Christian Church history *should *convince any skeptic that, at the very least, the Catholic faith represents the earliest and fullest expression of genuine Christianity. The Reformers, far from “restoring” Christianity, actually and ironically ended up detracting from it. I am what you might call a proto or quasi-Catholic. I sometimes attend Mass but usually go to a protestant service on Sundays. I must admit, however, that the further I study the more convinced I become that the Catholic Church indeed is the guardian of the original, full deposit of the faith! I was raised in the Catholic Church and have nothing but the fondest of memories of my years at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Pendleton, Oregon.


#17

As the magnet toward Rome was getting stronger, I was still attending occasionally a Christian Missionary Alliance church. They great, uplifting, hand clapping, hand-raising music. Very emotional. Everyone was having a great time.
Except me.
I was bored to tears and it all seemed so lifeless and artificial.
What would have attracted me years before, had no more meaning to me.
I knew then I was no longer evangelical.


#18

The suggestions you have received are all excellent, can’t hardly even add to them.

But in the end, after he goes through all these steps, it will come down to whether he really wants to know Christ completely, in the way He intended to be known by us. If this friend’s heart is that hungry, the Holy Spirit will guide him home, in His perfect time.

Pray, pray and pray some more. And keep doing what you are doing. :gopray:


#19

**Same **thing happened to me, only it wasn’t a CMA Church, it was a casual, seeker-oriented rock concert with a motivational speech kind of place.


#20

The main thing is the Eucharist. Look at John 6 and disect every angle of it. Then know that it is Jesus there present with us now! After all, don’t the Prots always receive Jesus as their personal Lod and Savior? What more a profound way than to receive him as he actually was here on earth. In substance(flesh) and spirit(God) that is. The substance being the bread and spirit in the consecration and invocation of the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine. So to receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior in the Catholic Church in the Eucharist is the most powerful and profound form of worship on the face of the earth!!!:thumbsup:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.