There are dozens of reasons why I converted to Catholicism and it would take a very long time to document them all. For this reason I am only going to touch on some of the highlights and hopefully they will enable others to see the logical progression and reasonableness of my conversion to the Catholic Church. More importantly, I hope God uses this as a seed to be planted into the hearts of other Christians that will eventually grow and lead them to the Catholic Church.
Before I get into the reasons why I converted, I believe it is necessary to at least give a very brief overview of my journey from my life without Christ to my life as a Catholic. I was born into a Christian family but did not have any real convictions of Christianity as a child. Around the age of seven my mother converted to Judaism and brought my sister and I to Israel, for the second time, to practice Judaism in the Holy Land. I did not practice Judaism out of any real convictions but merely out of a sense of duty to my mother. When I returned to the United States at the age of twelve I moved in with my father, who was a non-denominational charismatic at the time. Shortly after this, I became a Christian and was baptized in a non-denominational charismatic church. For a while I was interested in God and wanted to follow Christ but this eventually turned into a nominal lifestyle when I became a teenager. By the time I was nineteen I moved from Louisiana to New York City and was living a very profligate lifestyle. I eventually hit rock bottom and it was during this time I began to cry out to God for help. I met a few Christians one day where I worked and one of them gave me a Bible. I was so impressed by the fact that someone would give me a Bible that I read it cover to cover in a little over a month. Ever since then I have not been the same and it was during that time that my life radically changed. After about a year of being involved in what can at best be described as a house church, if that, I moved back to Louisiana and began to attend a local Southern Baptist church. It was one of the Rick Warren kinds of churches and after about a year of attending I began to become frustrated with the lack of preaching on sin and the Gospel. Usually the sermons were the kind that either made you cry your heart out or they made you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. They rarely exposited Scripture and addressed the real needs of the people. Needless to say I wanted something with more substance, something with more meat, and especially a church that didn’t decorate its sanctuary with football themes and use football illustrations during football season in order to accommodate the local culture. I was also a staunch Calvinist at this time and I wanted to find a church that was at least open to such views and I did not get the impression that the football church was such a church. I began to attend a different Southern Baptist church and shortly thereafter my wife and I joined the church. It was during this time that I began to look into the Reformed Baptist view and as I did so I became more aware of the paedobaptist versus credobaptist debate. I eventually became a paedobaptist, having been convinced of the Scriptural arguments for paedobaptism from Theologians such as R. C. Sproul. Since my wife was pregnant I realized we had to join a Presbyterian church in order to be faithful to the Bible by baptizing our infant when he or she was born. I joined a Presbyterian (PCA) church plant, which was founded as an alternative church to the Federal Vision church in Monroe, La. My daughter was baptized in this church plant when she was born, however, the pastor left the church plant due to practical differences with the session and this resulted in the near collapse of the church. I did not agree with the session’s views for the future of the church plant once the pastor left so I joined a local ARP church, which was originally planted by the Federal Vision church but shortly thereafter became a “refuge” for those who did not want to be part of the Federal Vision. During this time I began to look more intensely than before into the Federal Vision and I became painfully aware that many modern Presbyterian churches were almost nothing like the churches of the Reformation in doctrine and in practice. This was one of the factors that made me look outside of the groups that lack Apostolic Succession. I considered Anglicanism, mainly Anglo-Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy but after a great deal of study I became convinced of Catholicism and became a Catholic.
So, here we are, having first laid out a basic overview of my journey to the Catholic Church, it is now time to address in more detail why I became a Catholic. The first, and also the biggest, seed that was planted into my heart that eventually led me to the Catholic Church was a desire to study church history. By the time I was a Presbyterian, I wanted to know what happened in the period between the time of the Apostles and the reformation. I knew that surely something had to have been going on during that long period of time but I had no earthly idea what happened then. I began to read historical theology and church history works by well-respected Protestants such as J. N. D. Kelly, Philip Schaff, Jaraslov Pelikan, Everett Ferguson, Bruce Shelley, Geoffrey Bromiley, Henry Chadwick, as well as less known Protestant historians such as Bryan Litfin, Tim Dowley and Harry Boer. I devoured any church history lectures I could get a hold of and especially benefited from lectures by Reformed Theological Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary. As I studied church history I remember reading historians such as Kelly and becoming exceedingly frustrated to learn that the early church maintained a number of important Catholic doctrines, such as the Eucharist as a real sacrifice, and were completely silent on important Protestant doctrines, such as justification by faith alone. I became very upset because I was taught, as a Protestant, that the Catholic Church became corrupt in the middle ages and by the time of the reformation the Reformers were forced to restore the church to the way it was in the days of the early Christians. To my astonishment the early church did not seem to resemble Protestantism. As I continued to study I learned that the earliest Christians believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a distinct Christian priesthood, baptismal regeneration, the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, the Marian doctrines, relics, veneration of images, Bishops, Apostolic Succession, purgatory and worst of all…the Papacy! I also began to read the Church Fathers, which only made things worse. I read all of the Apostolic Fathers and some of the ante-Nicene and post-Nicene fathers as well. By doing so I was forced to wrestle with the question: how could Christ’s church fall away from the faith so quickly without any opposition or any early witnesses testifying to such a great falling away and abandoning of the teachings of the Apostles? Whenever people began to teach heretical views in the early church, a great deal of opposition showed up immediately and people quickly noted that such corruptions were not the teachings of the Apostles that had been handed down to their successors the Catholic Bishops. This can especially be seen in the second century in the writings of St. Irenaeus who fought against the heresies of the Gnostics. However, there are not any records of people disputing whether or not, for example, the Eucharist was a sacrifice or whether or not God regenerates people in the waters of baptism. Such views were taken for granted in the early church and were not disputed, with the exception of some of the Gnostics who at times denied that God used matter in salvation. Such information forced me to concluded that either the vast majority of Christians had fallen away from the Apostolic faith within one generation without any trace of evidence that their doctrines were in opposition to those taught by the Apostles, or the early church had faithfully maintained the teachings of the Apostles and Protestantism is simply a radical departure from the teachings of the Apostles. I began to suspect that the latter was true and soon I realized that I needed to be part of a church that maintained continuity with the early church, otherwise, I could not legitimately claim to be part of the church Christ established.
Divisions! Divisions! Divisions!
It was during this time as a Presbyterian that another factor influenced my decision to become a Catholic. I noticed how many major divisions there are between Protestants. There are Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, non-denominational Christians and many others. In addition to these main groups there are many subgroups for each of these denominations, for example, there are Southern Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Independent Baptists, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, Missouri Synod Lutherans, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in North America, and the list goes on ad nauseam. I saw how these various subgroups rarely had any kind of interaction with each other and most are completely divided from each other often in doctrine and especially in visible fellowship. I wondered how Christ’s church could be so divided given the emphasis on how Christians should be united and avoid schisms in the New Testament. I saw church splits with some groups calling other groups “heretics” and saying that they were leading people to hell, and sometimes this was between groups that were part of the same denomination! I could not get beyond this and it forced me to consider Catholicism since it has been able to maintain a visible unity for nearly 2,000 years. I then began to ask questions like: how can one tell which group was in schism after a church split and what do the Catholics have that Protestants do not have that enable them to have such visible unity? The answer was the papacy and the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Questions that Could Not Be Answered Sufficiently
During my time as a Presbyterian I also noticed that the Reformers didn’t agree with each other on very important doctrines. For example, Luther believed Christ was truly present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, while Zwingli did not. Luther maintained the view of auricular confession while Calvin and Zwingli did not. Cranmer maintained the office of Bishops while Calvin did not. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all agreed that Mary was a perpetual Virgin while almost none of their Theological descendants believe so today. I also noticed that the Theological descendants of the reformers in the present day have many disagreements with each other Some Protestants today believe justification by faith alone is essential to the Gospel, while others do not even believe it is a Biblical doctrine. Some maintain sola scriptura while others maintain solo scriptura. Some Protestants affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, infant baptism, and baptismal regeneration, while others reject these doctrines. Dozens of other examples can be noted. Seeing all of the Theological differences among Protestants made me begin to ask questions like: how is it that all of these Christians can have the Bible and yet arrive at so many different conclusions? I began to see the need for an authoritative voice that would be able to determine whose interpretation of Scripture was heretical and whose interpretation was orthodox since without such an authoritative voice one could ultimately only appeal to their own subjective and private interpretation of Scripture. Other questions began to follow, such as: where is sola scriptura in the Bible, who determines the canon of Scripture and how can one determine which doctrines are essential and which are adiaphora? Needless to say, I was not able to find sufficient answers to these questions in Protestantism and this made me very suspicious of Protestantism.
Catholicism Not an Option Yet
As a Presbyterian, many issues and questions that made me doubt Protestantism were taking place at the same time but I was not exactly ready to consider Catholicism yet. Why? First, because I was taught that Roman Catholicism was the Whore of Babylon in the Book of Revelation and this wasn’t something I could quickly undo. Second, because I still had a number of misunderstandings about the Catholic position. Third, I could not consider Catholicism because I was not yet willing to practically throw away my career goal of becoming a pastor. The reason for this is because I chose my Bachelor’s degree with the idea that I would go to seminary and become a Pastor and if I were to abandon that goal then my Bachelor’s degree would not be very helpful to me since it was in General Studies. Also, I could not imagine doing anything other than pastoring a Church, with the exception of being a seminary professor or teacher. So, to become a Catholic would practically require me to give up my main career goal. Fourth, I knew that converting to Catholicism would further alienate myself Theologically from the rest of my family that is almost entirely Protestant and it would also practically end many of my friendships since I knew many of my friends did not have a great amount of respect for Catholicism.
Consideration of Alternatives to Catholicism
The first option I considered was Anglicanism. However, this was a very bad time to consider Anglicanism since the Episcopal Church in the U.S. recently became very liberal and began to adopt positions such as same-sex unions and sodomite priests. I knew I could not be in communion with such people so I had to consider some of the breakaway Anglican groups. I strongly considered the Anglican Church in North America and I may have had the opportunity to eventually become an Anglican priest. However, the fact that there are women Priest in the ACNA was problematic for me and I saw that this was also a source of division between many in this denomination. I realized that this issue will eventually boil over and lead to another schism. I wanted to find a church that could definitively decide on matters such as women’s ordination and same sex unions, while also able to maintain a visible unity and continuity with the early church. I realized this could not be found in any of the Anglican churches since even if a group such as the ACNA definitively decided on the issue of women’s ordination, a schism would immediately erupt and there would be no objective way to know which group was in schism since both would appeal to Scripture to prove their positions. I knew there had to be a more objective way to determine who was right about the issue of women’s ordination other than my mere subjective opinion of what the Bible teaches and I realized Anglicanism did not have such an objective way to determine such matters.
Since Anglicanism did not seem to be an option for me I began to consider Eastern Orthodoxy. Yet I noticed there were many divisions among them as well. Some Orthodox Christians believe the filioque is something that prevents communion with Catholics, while others do not. Some Orthodox believe Catholics should be rebaptized if they become Orthodox while others do not. Some Orthodox Christians oppose contraception and remarriage after divorce, while others do not. Some Orthodox Christians reject the deuterocanonicals as Scripture, while others do not. I wanted answers to know who was right but I realized the Orthodox could not give a definitive answer because they cannot determine which councils are ecumenical and therefore binding on all Orthodox. So, it was essentially for the same reasons I rejected Anglicanism that I rejected Orthodoxy, it lacked an objective and authoritative voice to define doctrine.
Catholicism: the Answer to My Questions
My rejection of Protestantism, Anglicanism and Orthodoxy left me with the option of either abandoning any kind of historic Christianity or becoming a Catholic and I knew I could not do the former. At this time I began to seriously consider Catholicism with an open mind. I had question after question after question and I found answers to most of them, with the exception of a very few that I simply had to take by faith until I found the answers after I became Catholic. As I studied Catholicism, I stumbled across a few Scott Hahn lectures and one his lectures on the papacy floored me. It answered many of the questions that I could not find answers to in Protestantism and after I heard the lecture I knew that if what he said about the papacy was true then I had to become Catholic. As I continued to study I realized that the magisterium was the solution to all of the problems God had allowed me to see with Protestantism. It was the solution to all of the questions I had as a Protestant that I could not find in Protestantism. For example my questions about how one can know what is the correct interpretation of Scripture, what is heretical and who determines the canon were answered by a discovery of the authority of the Catholic magisterium. Additionally, I learned that it was the Bishop of Rome as an objective and visible point of unity that gave Catholics the ability to remain in one visible body. I realized that if a group of people or Bishops break away from communion with the Bishop of Rome then it can objectively be determined who is in schism, the one who breaks communion with the Bishop of Rome. This enabled me to objectively determine who is orthodox and who is in the visible church as well as who is a heretic and who is in schism. In the midst of these discoveries I began to attend a local Catholic Church and fell in love with the liturgy. I also began to attend RCIA classes at the same local Catholic Church. During this time I realized that the Catholic Church was the Church Jesus Himself established nearly 2,000 years ago and if I rejected it then I would in essence be rejecting Christ Himself. For this reason, after a very long and hard journey through all of the problems of Protestantism, I finally found rest in the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, and on Easter Vigil of 2012, I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church, and my wife, a cradle Catholic, was confirmed in June of 2012.
Ad Gloriam Ecclesiae!