Hi Dr. Beckwith,
I was listening from about 4:40 onward, then later heard all of it on the podcast.
I’m a new convert myself as of this Easter, and you have NO IDEA how encouraging it was to read of your reversion right after Easter. It was especially interesting to see how, after your reversion, suddenly the evangelical media “discovered” that “thousands of Evangelicals have made the journey to Rome,” whereas throughout my journey I only read of such conversions from Catholic sources.
I felt for you in the debate. I heard myself in your answers – I discovered early (as I’m sure you had before this weekend as well) that it’s REALLY hard for someone who’s not used to debating Protestant-Catholic issues to come off sounding convincing until they’ve done it quite a bit.
Here’s another factor that can actually be quite deceptive to the listener: often the very fact that I’ve wrestled and wrestled with a topic, and figured out every side of it, can actually lead to answers that sound confusing to the listener. In other words, great depth of thought can lead to answers that try to answer too much, and therefore don’t sound well-thought-out at all.
(By the way, that last comment was more a critique of myself than of you. And I certainly don’t have the theological background and knowledge you have).
A few thoughts:
Earlier in my journey I used to sort of dismiss certain Catholic apologists – their answers sounded too simplistic and not convincing to a Protestant. I still feel that way about a couple people – but I think I have more respect for them now. They’re a lot better at this than I am, and the reason they get a lot of air-time (and write articles) is because they’re effective.
One thing you said struck me, that you didn’t want to be a Catholic apologist. I completely resonate with that. I didn’t either (and I’m still not “out of the closet” with lots of people, other than family and my closest friends). In fact, I used to say, “you believe a Catholic CAN POSSIBLY be a Christian? Good, that’s the kind of Catholic I’M going to be.”
But I don’t know if we have a choice (about becoming Catholic apologists). What I’ve learned is that when a Protestant becomes a Catholic, that’s a scandal. If you’re right about your decision, they’re wrong in a big way. Cradle Catholics who never left can get smiles from Protestants, because many Protestants sort of assume, “well, it’s hard to leave family upbringing, and he probably doesn’t know any better.” But if you actually leave something to which you were committed to become Catholic, that’s a scandal. I think EVERY Protestant who becomes Catholic becomes a de facto Catholic apologist, whether he wants to or not – the very fact that he LEFT is an act of proclaiming the Catholic faith.
In addition to your feeling at that one point that you had been slightly blind-sided, I think Catholics are at a bit of a disadvantage when entering into these kinds of debates with Protestants. The disadvantage is that the Protestant (and I think this is strikingly true of Greg) assumes that Protestantism is the norm that Catholics add to. The new Catholic has come to realize that the faith of the 15th Century (and each of the previous centuries) was the norm, and Protestantism was the new kid on the block. So suddenly the Catholic is put on the defensive with “how do you justify this doctrine?,” when the very idea that it would HAVE to be justified because it’s not explicitly in the Bible is the doctrine that should FIRST be defended.
So I completely resonated with your response at one point, “you realize I didn’t come up with purgatory, right?” I don’t know if Greg caught the significance in that – he probably thought you were just putting the blame on Rome – but I took the subtext of your point to be, “why wouldn’t we defer to the Church’s authority?” A Catholic has a TOTALLY different attitude toward authority than a Protestant does.
Anyway, I’m SO glad you had the guts to go on the show, and I look forward to hearing more from you! Your comments on the STR blog (which I just read tonight) were superb!