Monday, September 27, 2010

How Protestants Explain (or Explain Away) Conversions to Catholicism: a Collection of Links

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_FOIrYyQawGI/TKDsw38LP1I/AAAAAAAADBQ/tSVrXlORDNw/s1600/ThomasHoward2.jpg

Conversions to Catholicism, and away from Protestantism are definitely a trend. We know that because we see the alarm in Protestant circles (and quack analyses). Having had my conversion story published, it is often amusing to me to see how much people think they know about what supposedly went on inside of my heart and head during that exciting time.

Most times they don't have the slightest clue. It's like music critics pretending that they know what Bob Dylan or someone like that is talking about in their music lyrics. They're just winging it. But here we have vested interests. Someone thinks Catholicism is false; therefore they have to explain away by any means necessary (usually irrational, arbitrary ones) a person who became convinced of its truthfulness.

Even the analyses of more ecumenical Protestants, who acknowledge that Catholics are still Christians, are filled with "psychoanalytic"-type observations and fallacious explanations of why such a move has occurred. Most of these pieces are entertaining reading, but also disturbing and sad insofar as they miss the mark so widely.

* * * * *

Romeward Bound: Evaluating Why Protestants Convert to Catholicism (David Hagopian) [7-18-96]

From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals become Roman Catholic (Scot McKnight, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Sep 2002)

Shifting Boundaries and Protestant Conversions (Dan Clendenin) [13 January 2003]

Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and the Beckwith Controversy (Sam Storms, 10 May 2007)

They Went Out from Us, But They Were Not Really of Us (Elliot Miller, Christian Research Journal, Issue 30-06, 2007)

Why Evangelicals are Returning to Rome: The Abandonment of Sola Scriptura as a Formal Principle (Bob DeWaay) [April 2008]

The Church Fathers: A Door to Rome (Fundamental Baptist Information Service) [18 August 2008]

Going Catholic (Jason Byassee, The Christian Century, 22 August 2008)

Whose Rome? Which Catholicism? A Review of Beckwith’s Return to Rome (James K. A. Smith) [24 March 2010]

Why do Evangelicals convert to Catholicism? (Adam Omelianchuk) [25 March 2010]

Evangelicals ‘Crossing the Tiber’ to Catholicism (Jonathan D. Fitzgerald) [28 July 2010]

Why Evangelicals Convert to be Catholic, and Why Evangelicals should Care (Andy Gustafson) [18 August 2010]

A Summary Critique: Surprised by Truth (Ralph MacKenzie; PDF file) [unknown date]

Emerging Church is Leading Protestants back Home to Rome (Mike Gendron) [unknown date]

Why Are Evangelicals Converting to Roman Catholicism? (Michael J. Vlach) [unknown date]

Surprised by What?: A Defense of Sola Scriptura (Jake Magee) [unknown date]

20 comments:

Adomnan said...

That anyone at all is an Evangelical never ceases to amaze me. I see it as one of the (unfortunately) many proofs of the irrationality of so much of mankind.

On the one hand, Evangelicals are people who are supposed to carry their bibles around, read them assiduously, meditate on what the scripture teaches and derive all of their beliefs from the scripture alone.

On the other hand, their "gospel," the evangel they name themselves after, is the message that God the Father imputed others' sins to Jesus Christ and punished Him as if He were guilty. This belief is wholly absent from the bible, a complete fabrication.

How is it possible for people who read the bible daily not to see that their bedrock conviction, their reason for being, their "gospel," is not to be found there? There is nothing complicated about it. It's as simple and obvious fact as one could wish: the Evangelical "gospel" is not taught in the bible.

They don't understand what they read, nor -- and this is the most astounding thing of all -- are they interested in understanding it! Because if they were interested, they would come to understand it -- and quickly! It is hardly a secret or a difficult thing that there is no penal substitution in the Bible. It is the plainest, simplest, clearest thing imaginable.

That's why I say that I never cease to be amazed that such a person as an "Evangelical" can exist at all. The only explanations I can think of are: ignorance and blindness. In some people these are forgiveable; in others, they are willfull.

All I can say to them is: Read the book you claim to reverence. Read it with a real desire for understanding, not a desire to confirm what you think you already know. Read it while awake.

Dave Armstrong said...

Then you are attacking me when I was an evangelical, too. I wasn't obsessed with penal substitution. That is your own obsession (that I expect to see almost anytime you mention Protestantism). It's not that big of a deal at all in the overall scheme of things, for evangelicals.

I think you take it too far. We don't need to despise or belittle evangelicals. Much of what they believe is true. We need to gently persuade them that Catholicism is the fullness of truth. Putting them down in this fashion will get nowhere. If you want to help produce some conversions to Catholicism, I think you would do well to be a lot kinder, charitable, and less prone to extreme generalizations, my friend.

You do have a gentler side. I've seen it (exhibited, e.g., in your recent gracious apology to Pilgrimsarbour.

Adomnan said...

Dave: It's not that big of a deal at all in the overall scheme of things, for evangelicals.

Adomnan: I disagree. Penal substitution is the heart and soul of Evangelicalism. If you subtract penal sub, what is left of their gospel? They say that the gospel is "what Jesus did at Calvary." And, for them, what Jesus did at Calvary was that He was a penal substitute for sinners. Period.

If penal sub goes, then "the imputation of the righteousness of Christ" goes because this is dependent on the same notions supporting penal sub. (Sinners' guilt imputed to Christ; Christ's righteousness imputed to sinners.)

And "justification by faith alone" goes, too; because the "faith" that "justifies" for them is belief in "what Jesus did on Calvary," "the finished work," etc.; i.e. penal sub.

Luther invented penal sub in his neurotic, unsystematic and emotional way, but Calvin made it a dogma. My impression is that many Lutherans quietly dropped the idea (as they did other ideas of Luther's like double predestination). The Calvinists, on the other hand, dogmatized it and it became central to their conception of the gospel. American Evangelicalism inherited this Calvinist dogma. And so here we are today.

If the Evangelical gospel is not penal sub, then what is it?

Are there any Evangelicals out there willing to say they reject penal sub? If so, then how do they understand the gospel? And are they willing to join us in helping to rid Christianity of this absurd notion?

Adomnan said...

Dave: Much of what they believe is true.

Adomnan: I will grant that there are Evangelicals out there for whom penal substitution is a sort of vague idea. I'm not sure what "gospel" they thought they believed when they converted, but perhaps it was not that the Father punished Jesus for their sins, even though "The Four Spiritual Laws" and all popular Evangelical tracts depict the gospel as penal sub. ("This is the gospel: You have a sin problem. Your problem is that God is going to punish you because you're a sinner. However, if you believe that God punished Jesus in your place on Calvary, then you won't be punished. Problem solved.")

Now, is anybody going to tell me that this isn't the "gospel" for most Evangelicals?

Adomnan said...

Dave: We need to gently persuade them that Catholicism is the fullness of truth.

Adomnan: No doubt that works with many.

However, I regard the Evangelical gospel of penal substitution as false; and I am bound to say that.

I believe it radically subverts the whole message of Christ and posits an image of God that is not the God of the Bible. The more people believe in it, the further they drift from Christianity.

That is why the anti-Catholics you criticize have, as you put it, committed "intellectual suicide." Belief in penal sub is intellectual suicide and a denial of the Biblical God. That explains why they behave the way they do and why they hate the true Church, the true gospel and the true God so much. They are not Christians.

What's harder, constantly trying to pretend these heretics are brothers in Christ or recognizing that their Christ is not the true Christ, their God is not the Biblical God?

John MacArthur said that Catholics and "Christians" (like him) don't worship the same Christ. I agree with him! He ought to know whom he worships.

MaurĂ­cio said...

Dave, by one side you are right on what you said to Adomnan, but on other side Adomnan (what a name) is right.
I mean, you can go slow in the conversations (something that they can use against you, and prolong conversations/finish conversations thinking that they don't need to make any big decision right now),
or you can (as it seens to me is more or less what Adomnan is saying)"show the truth in the face".
Well, not that you don't do it on your articles, haha. But that, if you, on certain subjects, keep "going slow", it seens they would usualy use this to keep not having to see the truth.
hum... something like that, hahaha (I guess what I just writed can seen a little confunsing to read)

Adomnan said...

Dave: If you want to help produce some conversions to Catholicism, I think you would do well to be a lot kinder, charitable, and less prone to extreme generalizations, my friend.

Adomnan: I don't have your patience.

Besides, you don't think penal sub is a big deal. I do. What am I suppose to do? Tell them: Oh, you believe that the gospel is about the Father punishing the Son for others' sin? Well, that's an interesting way of looking at it. But maybe there are other ways that are also valid, etc., etc.

Penal sub establishes the "Reformed" system. It is the key to whole thing. It overturns the Catholic sacramental system. In my view, there is no way that it can be ignored, minimized or made to conform to Catholic teaching.

Ben m said...

Adomnan: John MacArthur said that Catholics and "Christians" (like him) don't worship the same Christ. I agree with him! He ought to know whom he worships.

Ben: No doubt about it, John MacArthur does say some interesting things, doesn't he? ;)

"The truth is, I am no more righteous to the satisfaction of God now, than I was before I was declared righteous."

Irreconcilable Differences: Catholics, Evangelicals, and the New Quest for Unity, 1995.
_______________________
“In 1578, the consistory of Delft expressed these sentiments in a draft remonstrance to the Jacobskerk:

“‘Since the church is God’s house and the Apostle Paul wishes that all things proceed in the same house with order and decorum, [and] since God is a God of order and not of disorder, so do we consider it insufficient that God’s word be preached purely; a regime and order must also be maintained, which does not happen if every minister, following his own head, governs his church as seems best to him, without consulting anyone.’”

The Reformation: critical concepts in historical studies, 2004, Andrew Pettegree, Routledge, ISBN 0415316707, p. 293

Adomnan said...

Hi, Ben.
Good to hear from you again.

MacArthur: "The truth is, I am no more righteous to the satisfaction of God now, than I was before I was declared righteous."

Adomnan: In other words, "The truth is... a lie!" According to MacArthur, God is a liar, declaring men to be what He knows they are not. And, of course, if we aren't "righteous to the satisfaction of God," then we aren't righteous at all, now are we?

Or to put it another way: "God declared, Let there be light; and there was light."

Yet, "God declared, Let him be righteous, but he wasn't righteous."

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Adomnan,

You have had your say. We've been through this over and over (and it ain't the topic of the thread). Your quick judgment that anti-Catholics are not (doctrinally) Christians, and based on penal sub, is not my view, and I don't think it is the view of the Church.

When challenged to back yourself up on these points with Church documents, you haven't produced anything yet.

Last time we went into it, you conceded, as I recall, that it was simply your own opinion. Why, then, the extreme rhetoric and dogmatic approach to the issue? Making something dogmatic when the Church has not so declared is (ironically) an essentially Protestant approach of private judgment.

You can't just pull a definition of Christianity out of a hat (one who denies penal sub).

Adomnan said...

Dave: We've been through this over and over (and it ain't the topic of the thread).

Adomnan: Arguably it is. All these Evangelicals who explain away conversions to Catholicism are taking it for granted that Evangelicalism is something that is credible. That's what I'm questioning.

The real mystery isn't why people convert to Catholicism, but why anyone remains an Evangelical. And that, I think, is the best rejoinder to their attempts to explain away such conversions.

Dave: Your quick judgment that anti-Catholics are not (doctrinally) Christians, and based on penal sub, is not my view, and I don't think it is the view of the Church.

Adomnan: It wasn't a quick judgment. I tend to look for the big idea behind a movement, the single idea that explains everything. There is something unified about Protestant, an essence -- it's not just a collection of disparate and unmotivated opinions. The unifying element, the "insight" that empowered Protestant theology was penal substitutionary atonement. Everything else derives from that. If you understand that, you understand Protestantism. Otherwise, you don't.

Dave: When challenged to back yourself up on these points with Church documents, you haven't produced anything yet.

Adomnan: At Trent, the Church was not ready to issue a "Decree on the Atonement," as such. (Actually, "atonement" is a word unique to English; it can be translated variously into, say, Latin.) And so the Church focused on justification. However, rejection of the Protestant atonement theory is implicit in both the Decree on Justification and the one on the eucharist, which latter posits a different idea of sacrifice than the Protestant idea that sacrifice means punishment of the victim.

Dave: Last time we went into it, you conceded, as I recall, that it was simply your own opinion. Why, then, the extreme rhetoric and dogmatic approach to the issue?

Adomnan: Because it is a well-founded opinion, one of which I am certain. It's the key to Reformational Protestantism. Everything else is pretty much a side issue. No penal sub, no Reformational Protestantism and no American Evangelicalism. Overturn this one idea, and you've overturned the whole lot.

Dave: Making something dogmatic when the Church has not so declared is (ironically) an essentially Protestant approach of private judgment.

Adomnan: I'm not making it dogmatic. Only truths of the faith are dogmatic. The various ways that heresies deviate from the truth aren't. I just find it an effective way to refute Evangelicalism, because it goes to the root of it.

Dave: You can't just pull a definition of Christianity out of a hat (one who denies penal sub).

Adomnan: If the definition of a Christian is one who believes in the gospel, and the gospel is the message that Jesus died for our sins and rose for our justification, then believers in penal sub aren't Christians, because their gospel that "the Father punished Jesus Christ for our sins and this is justification" contradicts the true gospel. It is "another gospel," to use Paul's phrase.

Besides, penal sub distorts the attributes of God so severely that the deity supposed by the doctrine cannot be the God of the Bible. A God who punishes the innocent is not the same as a God who calls punishing the innocent an "abomination." Proverbs 17:15. Utterly different attributes; different Gods.

Adomnan said...

Dave: We've been through this over and over (and it ain't the topic of the thread).

Adomnan: Arguably it is. All these Evangelicals who explain away conversions to Catholicism are taking it for granted that Evangelicalism is something that is credible. That's what I'm questioning.

The real mystery isn't why people convert to Catholicism, but why anyone remains an Evangelical. And that, I think, is the best rejoinder to their attempts to explain away such conversions.

Dave: Your quick judgment that anti-Catholics are not (doctrinally) Christians, and based on penal sub, is not my view, and I don't think it is the view of the Church.

Adomnan: It wasn't a quick judgment. I tend to look for the big idea behind a movement, the single idea that explains everything. There is something unified about Protestant, an essence -- it's not just a collection of disparate and unmotivated opinions. The unifying element, the "insight" that empowered Protestant theology was penal substitutionary atonement. Everything else derives from that. If you understand that, you understand Protestantism. Otherwise, you don't.

Dave: When challenged to back yourself up on these points with Church documents, you haven't produced anything yet.

Adomnan: At Trent, the Church was not ready to issue a "Decree on the Atonement," as such. (Actually, "atonement" is a word unique to English; it can be translated variously into, say, Latin.) And so the Church focused on justification. However, rejection of the Protestant atonement theory is implicit in both the Decree on Justification and the one on the eucharist, which latter posits a different idea of sacrifice than the Protestant idea that sacrifice means punishment of the victim.

Dave: Last time we went into it, you conceded, as I recall, that it was simply your own opinion. Why, then, the extreme rhetoric and dogmatic approach to the issue?

Adomnan: Because it is a well-founded opinion, one of which I am certain. It's the key to Reformational Protestantism. Everything else is pretty much a side issue. No penal sub, no Reformational Protestantism and no American Evangelicalism. Overturn this one idea, and you've overturned the whole lot.

Dave: Making something dogmatic when the Church has not so declared is (ironically) an essentially Protestant approach of private judgment.

Adomnan: I'm not making it dogmatic. Only truths of the faith are dogmatic. The various ways that heresies deviate from the truth aren't. I just find it an effective way to refute Evangelicalism, because it goes to the root of it.

Dave: You can't just pull a definition of Christianity out of a hat (one who denies penal sub).

Adomnan: If the definition of a Christian is one who believes in the gospel, and the gospel is the message that Jesus died for our sins and rose for our justification, then believers in penal sub aren't Christians, because their gospel that "the Father punished Jesus Christ for our sins and this is justification" contradicts the true gospel. It is "another gospel," to use Paul's phrase.

Besides, penal sub distorts the attributes of God so severely that the deity supposed by the doctrine cannot be the God of the Bible. A God who punishes the innocent is not the same as a God who calls punishing the innocent an "abomination." Proverbs 17:15. Utterly different attributes; different Gods.

Ben m said...

Hi Adomnan,

Good hearing from you also (and hey to Dave!).

Adomnan: It's the key to Reformational Protestantism. Everything else is pretty much a side issue. No penal sub, no Reformational Protestantism and no American Evangelicalism. Overturn this one idea, and you've overturned the whole lot.

Ben: And one wonders why certain of our separated brethren are so attracted to this penal sub business??

In rejecting Catholicism and the historic faith, they must inevitably fall prey to blasphemous charlatans like Luther and Calvin, or even worse crackpots such as these!

Of course not all of our Protestant friends are to be lumped in with the above. John Wesley for example, despite certain errors and blind spots, managed (by God's grace) to retain enough Catholic truth (and a basic sense of decency) to not be utterly blinded by certain unfortunate "Reformed" notions. Addressing the Calvinists he said:

“You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say, you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by scripture? That God is worse than the devil? It cannot be. Whatever that scripture proves, it never proves this: whatever be its true meaning, it cannot mean this.”
source.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Ben,

How ya be? Long time no c!

Fascinating Wesley citation. Thanks much!

At this very moment I am working on chapters about limited atonement and irresistible grace, in my upcoming book about soteriology.

Lots more "biblical evidence" comin' soon!

Adomnan said...

Sorry about the double posting.

Ben,

That was a great selection of crackpots. My favorite was the guy who said that Jesus wore designer clothes. No doubt duds He picked up in those chic Jerusalem boutiques. Maybe He had a designer T-shirt that said, "What would I do?"

Ben m said...

Dave: How ya be? Long time no c!

Ben: Still hangin in there! Hope all be well with you and yours (and glad to see all is still “normal” around here). ;)

Dave: Fascinating Wesley citation. Thanks much!

Ben: You’re welcome! Seems Wesley had the Calvinist’s pegged pretty well! But of course the Calvinist’s defend their every theological blasphemy and slanderous attack on the One Church with mumblings about “God’s glory” and “praise to Jesus” etc! And who does this remind us of?

“But it will be said that these very men themselves praise and preach the Lord Christ. They are therefore those of whom He says Himself, "They come unto you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them." Matthew 7:15-16 The sheep's clothing is seen in the praises of Christ; the fruits of their wolfish nature in their slanderous teeth.

St. Augustine, Answer to Petilian the Donatist (Book II)

Yep, same old game / tactics, just new characters! And always attended by shameless abuse and propaganda against the One Church!

Well anyway, wishing you much success with your next book, Dave.

Adomnan: That was a great selection of crackpots. My favorite was the guy who said that Jesus wore designer clothes. No doubt duds He picked up in those chic Jerusalem boutiques. Maybe He had a designer T-shirt that said, "What would I do?"

Ben: LOL! Yep, pretty crazy folks indeed, to put it mildly (but I guess they figure one simply has to look one’s best when redeeming a fallen world!). Dear heavens! Ya just gotta pity our really separated brethren. Their idiocy needs - really needs - severe correcting and prayer!

As for me, maybe I try to find a deal on designer hair-shirts! ;)

Maroun said...

Hi again Dave.
David Cloud said : All of the “church fathers” were infected with some false doctrine, and most of them were seriously infected. Even the so-called Apostolic Fathers of the second century were teaching the false gospel that baptism, celibacy, and martyrdom provided forgiveness of sin (Howard Vos, Exploring Church History, p. 12). And of the later “fathers”--Clement, Origen, Cyril, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Theodore, and John Chrysostom--the same historian admits: “In their lives and teachings we find the seed plot of almost all that arose later. In germ form appear the dogmas of purgatory, transubstantiation, priestly mediation, baptismal regeneration, and the whole sacramental system” (Vos, p. 25).
If the protestants in general think like this guy,then no wonder that they are still protestants...I mean this is really ridiculous.This guy here condemned practicaly all the church fathers and accused them of heresy,just because they believed and taught the same things the catholic church teaches and believe...lol
So this David Cloud expert,is one of those which believes that he is the only one right,and whosoever disagree`s with him must be a heretic,lol.Another one of those which are led by the Holy Spirit,and cannot be wrong....I would like to know though , if knowing the truth from scripture is so easy and clear,then how come all those hundreds of thousands of protestants which are (all led by the same Holy Spirit)how come they disagree on just about everything?and which one of them is right and which one is wrong?and who could and should decide on who`s right and who`s wrong?
So with all my respect,let the protestants first agree among themselves,then let them come and teach us ....

Maroun said...

Hi guys.
My wife is lutheran and i work in a Finnish evangelical missionary.I speak a lot,like very often,almost daily with the lutheran pastors about catholicism and the teachings of our church and our faith and so on...One very clear and specific thing which i have noticed,is the misconception and falsities which the lutherans heard about the catholic church...Like the late archbishop Fulton Sheen once said,that you wouldn`t find a hundred persons in the US which hate the catholic church,but there are millions which hate what they think is the catholic church....Many among the lutherans with whom i speak,including my wife have told me,that almost before they learn about our Lord Jesus,they already teach them false things about us catholics,like we worship Mary and the saints and the angels and so on...But things are getting better i have to say...Nowadays,people are begining to read the cathechism and the church fathers and other things available for all and they are begining to understand,at least some of them,that not everything they heard about us is true...
So in my humble opinion,the biggest problem for the catholic church does not come from the outside but from the inside.Many times we catholics are a stumbling block for the non catholics,i mean that there are many catholics which really dont know even the most basic things about our faith and about the teachings of the church....I am not trying to excuse the protestants,but that`s a fact...GBU

Dave Armstrong said...

All very true. The biggest stumbling-block to become Catholic is usually to observe your average Catholic. We've got our work cut out for us.

Steven Buehler said...

I looked back on my three years in bible college since I came back to the Church in September '09, and in particular one class I took called "integrative practicum" that focused on spiritual disciplines. I'm not sure they realized it then, but they were basically trying to be Catholic, without being Catholic. :-)