3 Reasons This Protestant Became Catholic

[ 29 ] October 31, AD 2012 |

In January of 2006, just short of my 20th birthday, I stood in front a priest, my friends, and 2,000 people at a parish and read the following out loud:

“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

With those words professed, this little Lutheran boy traversed almost 500 years of controversy and division between his founder and the Pope of Rome.

I did the unthinkable. I became Catholic.

My entire story from growing up Lutheran, to making a stop in Non-denominationalism, and eventually to Catholicism is a long one. The story itself is quite fascinating, because I have unofficially entitled it “How a Mormon Made Me Catholic.” I have yet to write out the entire testimony in detail, which I will do soon. When that goes live, I can let you know if you follow me on twitter or become my friend on facebook.

In the end, the intellectual process of assenting to the propositions of the Catholic Church was not the most difficult part in becoming Catholic. The most difficult part, for me, consisted in dealing with the emotional baggage of ‘crossing over’ to the other side of the Protestant/Catholic divide.

When a Lutheran becomes a Baptist, no sweat. But when a Protestant becomes a Catholic, it’s a big deal. It involves a thorough intellectual analysis, months, maybe years of study, inquiry, and classes. You have to  ‘come out Catholic’ to your friends and family, which unbelievably, sometimes comes at the risk of loosing some of them. And finally, you have to go to confession, which is no small deal for somebody who has never been.

While my parents didn’t like my decision at the time in 2006, they eventually came around to not only accept that I was Catholic, but they decided that they also wanted to come back to Rome, which they did in 2010. Thanks be to God.

But like I said, I’ll leave that story for another post.

For now, here are the three main reasons I became Catholic. (Please note: before you comment, my explanations here are meant to be brief. Books upon books have been written on these subjects. Apologetic and theological comments resulting in discussions which belong on theological forums will be blocked.)

History

There’s no way I can write all of the historical reasons why to be Catholic. But there’s no doubt about it: the Catholic Church has history on her side when it comes to theology. Whether its infant baptism, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, or the teaching authority of the bishops of the Church, I had to eventually concede that the early Church, as revealed by history, did not have Protestant theology.

I’m simply going to stop there, because entire books have been written on the subject, and it’s not a great place for a blog post.

There are several resources available online that you can find with a simple search on “The Fathers of the Church.” A great resource for this topic is Jimmy Akin’s book, “The Fathers Know Best.” Check it out here.

The Bible

There came a point in my conversion when I no longer believed in Martin Luther’s man-made dogma known as sola scriptura, or “scripture alone” theology. What do I mean? Undoubtedly you’ve heard of “Bible Churches”, “Bible Christians”, or you have met Christians that say they only use the Bible as their sole guide to faith. In other words, if it’s not in the Bible, they’re not believing in it.

I realized an ironic fact, though. Holding the belief that everything regarding faith, morals, and theology must come from the Bible is not actually biblical. That is, the Bible doesn’t say that your church should be exclusively bible-based, or that you should only use the Bible to “do theology.”

In fact, the scripture points out that the church is the “pillar and the bull-work of the truth” (1 Timothy 15-16). That, of course, is not justification for turning to the Church as a co-authoritative entity, but it negates the claim that the bible has to be the sole authority to be sure.

And we see the problems with sola scripture today. Ask five pastors what a verse means and you will get seven different answers. Don’t worry, though- each of them prayed to the Holy Spirit and are “true Christians.” So you can trust their interpretation.

There are arguments that counter these Catholic points, and if you’ve ever visited a Catholic forum you have seen pages upon pages, years upon years of debates between people who have nothing better to do with the precious time God has given them on earth, other than to go back and forth into oblivion.

For me, accepting the position that sola scriptura was a man-made tradition was enough for me to seek a new paradigm or context in which to interpret scripture. I found the answer deep in history. And that is that the scripture was given as an authority, to be read in context of the teachings of the apostles and their descendants. It’s not what my pastor thinks the bible says, or what I think it says, but it’s what the Apostles teach it says.

My favorite resource regarding these points is without a doubt Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating. Every Catholic should have a copy of this book and read it regularly in order to effectively witness to the faith with strong points. I always keep a copy in my car to hand out to pastors and other Christians who authentically want to know why I believe what I believe.

The Eucharist

The Catholic Church has a claim that any Protestant ought to seriously investigate before deciding to be Protestant. That claim is this: the Catholic Eucharist, or Holy Communion in the Catholic Church, is somehow the actual and real body and blood of Jesus Christ himself.

Think about it for just one second. If you are a Christian, a Protestant Christian, and somebody claims that they receive the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ every morning at church, the same personal Lord and Savior of every Christian, wouldn’t you think that that is a claim you would want to at least check out and investigate?

I mean, think about it! The body and blood of God himself! Available to eat and drink! What a remarkable thing! Any Christian who loves Jesus Christ ought to investigate and see if what the Catholic Church teaches in this matter is true. Because if it is true, and you’re that Protestant who is not currently receiving the body and blood of God, you’re surely missing out on something phenomenal.

Okay…breather. I get excited when I talk to Protestants about this one.

But really, it’s worth a second look to be sure. Which is what I did.

Once you believe that the Catholic Church, via apostolic succession and the passing on of the gifts of the priesthood, actually has the power to change bread and wine into the the body and blood of Jesus Christ, there’s no going back. It’s too good. Too real. Too incredible not to want it.

Some resources on the Eucharist:

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About the Author ()

Ryan Eggenberger is a partner at Little Flower Strategies, LLC. He writes about travel, marketing, and his terrible parking skills. Follow him on twitter at @RyanEggenberger.
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  • Matt S

    I love reading others “coming home” stories. I came home to the Church in 2010. I was raised Pentecostal and my family has just now come to terms with my conversion. I would like to say that it is a big step and it hasn’t been easy but our Lady and our Lord of Lords are always with us through it all. God Bless.

  • Mok

    It’s “bulwark” — NOT bull-work.

  • http://bpburnett.wordpress.com B. P. Burnett

    What an ignorant man. He didn’t really talk about the historical points (and didn’t consider Eastern orthodoxy), he blatantly misdefined sola scriptura, and merely asserted the wonder of the Lateran IV 1215 Eucharistic teachings. I’ll pass.

    • Micha Elyi

      A number of people must have been on that road to Emmaus but only a few of them engaged that man they didn’t recognize in any conversation. And of that number only two conversed at length and would invite that man to stay and break bread with them. And then their eyes were opened.

    • MaryW

      He accurately defined sola scriptura. It means “scripture alone.” And he accurately rebutted the doctrine. As a practical matter, the Bible was not put together for a very long time after Christ founded the Church. How did those early Christians know what Jesus taught before the Bible was put together? Through the Church. The way they determined which writings were divinely inspired and should be included in the Bible was based on whether the writing was consistent with the teachings of the Church.

      • Chris Gemmell

        The catholic church does not believe in the gospel as presented by the apostle Paul.

      • Tom_mcewen

        You have that right, in protestantism, Paul is the theologian and Christ is the one with the not well thought out ideas, the second bench so to speak.There can not be a difference between what Paul speaks of and what Christ said was truth. But protestantism has made that so. The truth is 2+2=4, luther with Christ being put on trial instead of luther truth was 2+2=4.5, Calvin with some are damned before they are born, truth is 2+2=5 and knox where baptism is not necessary is 2+2=5.5 on and on for 33,000 different sects all preach very little of what Christ said, but a lot of what gnostic knowledge they find between the words of Paul.

      • Chris Gemmell

        The Apostle Paul was entrusted with the gospel of Jesus Christ by revelation. He only preached salvation through faith in Christ. We will all be judged on the basis of whether we obeyed Christ’s words. Not on the basis of what we labelled ourselves or what denomination we belonged to. We can only know Christ through faith, otherwise he will say depart from me, I never knew you.

        Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father
        will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23

        People who do not have the Holy Spirit, need the magisterium to teach them.

        Gal. 2:16, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”

      • Tom_mcewen

        Christ taught that you must have faith, but faith without works is dead as he shows us in matt ‘You must feed the hungry clothe the naked, etc.. or into the fire you go, words that you have faith are not enough. You quote Paul and then ignore Christ. There cannot be be a difference between Paul and Christ but you make one up by your private interpretation of scripture. Why are you right when 33,000 other protestant sects do not agree with your private interpretation? works of the law which Paul talks about on law is the 613 laws of Moses. You do not obey Christ. The bible is not one verse, it has context and time and place you make an error into making it into a universal statement for all times and all places. Protestantism is in error big time, and so is all private interpretations. Do you follow Luther who said it was okay to rape the maid, because he shielded by Christ’s justification, or do you follow Calvin who said you are totally depraved and damned to hell before eternity? or do you follow Knox or the local pastor, who do you follow.

      • Chris Gemmell

        God does give revelation of his words to individual Christians. The bible is quite plain that the Holy Spirit is our teacher when wenare born of God. I know this is true by experience. I had no desire to walk in God’s ways until I received his Spirit. I had no revelation of his word, no fellowship with believers and no capacity to worship until I received his Spirit. The bible speaks into my life with authority because the Spirit illuminates it. If you need the magisterium to guide you into all truth then my prognosis is that you don’t know Christ. Religion will not do the job, only repentance and faith.

      • Chris

        I will have you know that Paul’s letters are read and revered during EVERY Mass. We adore Paul ‘who was Saul’ for his teachings and his faith. and because of Peter was made the coner stone of the church, the first Pontificate, Paul became a Christian. If you truly want to understand and follow Christ, experience the sacrements in the Catholic church. God bless!

      • Chris

        Apologies! I get what you were trying to say haha sorry.

        btw for all those who question; we don’t worship Mary! nor idols. We love her as the holiest of holy woman (born without sin). If you’ve ever thought differently, stop now. We only worship God, being the Trinity. Mary and all the Saints intercede for us ;)

    • R.C.

      B.P.Burnett:

      Be cautious. I don’t know about Ryan, but I did consider Eastern Orthodoxy on my way into the Church; and I did consider all “the [relevant] historical points.”

      And, it is only recently that defenders of sola scriptura, realizing its fundamental untenability, have tried to distinguish between solo scriptura and sola scriptura in order to save their bacon. Unfortunately the two reduce to exactly the same thing, as demonstrated by the folks over at Called To Communion. Which is why so many Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Wesleyan evangelicals, once they dared to face the question squarely and with humility, found themselves irrevocably outside Protestantism.

      After that, one’s options are Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, or a rejection of Christianity.

      Eastern Orthodoxy is respectable, but once one examines the failure of sola scriptura to functionally serve as a source of authority for the Christian faith, one doesn’t wish to uproot oneself from one liturgical tradition only to plant oneself in another liturgical tradition with similar problems. The East is therefore a good place to go if one absolutely must — if, for example, one is unable to muster the faith required to honestly profess the dogmas or obey the moral code of Catholicism confidently, in areas where the East is more vague or more lax.

      But if one is enabled by the grace of God to be a Catholic, then it allows one finally to rest, to come home, to a place where there is no need to re-litigate the core doctrinal and moral truths every half-century or so. That is the advantage of retaining the Al-Beit, the Messianic Kingdom’s office of Chief Steward (foreshadowed by Eliakim son of Hilkiah, if you wish to investigate the background). For the Eastern Orthodox have stewards, without a doubt; but they lack the office which allows the stewards a tie-breaking vote. They lack an office who can bind, and none shall loose, and who can loose, and none shall bind. And thus no new decisions can be made with universal applicability, nor ever will be made, until there is reconciliation with the Successor of Peter. It stinks, but them’s the breaks.

      Now that’s a very abbreviated response. It must be, since a detailed response would be book-length at least. And Ryan was only making a blog post; it necessarily could not address everything you might like to see addressed!

      But the fact that Ryan didn’t, in a quick and less-than-systematic blog-post, address whatever you yourself might be most interested in does not make the man ignorant. Find, if you please, your Christian charity.

      • Chris Gemmell

        My Queen, my Mother, I give myself entirely to thee, and to show my devotion
        to thee, I consecrate to thee this day, my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart,
        my whole being without reserve. Wherefore good Mother as I am thine own, keep
        me, guard me as thy property and possession. Amen.

        (You might be sincere but the gospel of Mary is not the gospel)

    • Physiocrat

      I have the greatest admiration for Eastern Orthodoxy and its practices and practitioners but there is a problem which in essence is summarised here.
      http://physiocrat.blogspot.se/2011/08/why-orthodoxy.html

  • Ashank D’souza

    ”To be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant”
    —John Henry Newman
    Hi everyone.
    I am a Catholic teenager from India.
    Does anyone want to talk?

    • Chris Gemmell

      If you don’t believe in sola scriptura then you can believe anything that the catholic religion spouts. God has given us his inspired word to keep us from deception and to know his mind.

      • Tom_mcewen

        No, the Catholic Church and its councils have given you the word of God. We are the agents of God, by the command of Jesus and the others are not.

      • Chris Gemmell

        Your religion teaches that the word of God gives you license to make the Pope a higher authority than the word of God. Therefore unbiblical pronouncements about Mary become truth.

      • jj

        I”m sorry, Chris, but Catholicism doesn’t teach that the pope is a HIGHER authority than Scripture, only that we as individuals cannot decide for ourselves what Scripture means or applies to, hence we have a unifying apex for worldwide Christianity, aka the pope, to guide us outside of our own brutal biases and embarrassingly limited perspectives.

        Also, using the Bible to claim sola scriptura leads AT BEST to sola old testament, because that was the ONLY holy Scripture at that time. It was actually the Catholic Church that gave us the New Testament and ordained it Holy Scripture. And look through the Gospels and Acts and you’ll see clearly that Jesus did not leave us with a book, He left us with a Church. That Church, then, gave us the Bible.

        It’s also extremely ironic that you think denying sola scriptura leads to individualism when it’s the Protestants who believe in sola scriptura that are as individualistic and divided as they come. One Roman Catholic Church, 40,000 Protestant denominations. Which one gets to “believe anything” ??

      • Chris Gemmell

        Jesus Christ did not leave us the Catholic religion. His body on earth are those born into his family through new birth. The Pope has exalted himself as a higher authority than scripture because numerous dogmas particularly concerning Mary are foreign to the truth of scripture. If the Catholic religion were the body of Christ it would be like it’s master and not burn persons it deemed heretical. It would not damn anone that would not bow to Rome AKA the inquisition and steal their possessions. The Pope sits as head of the church which is Christ’s office alone. He will not share his glory with another. He suffered on the cross to be our mediator and our head and our high priest and the author of our salvation.

      • jj

        You’re clinging to the papacy evils of the dark ages. The pope is not, nor ever will be, above Jesus or Holy Scripture. That’s like saying your college math professor is above the laws of math. The popes have been and always will be human beings. Holding the failings of past humans as reasons to reject a religion is exactly what many atheists do to Christianity as a whole. And there are TONS of other atrocities performed by virtually all facets of Christian religions the past 500 years. If the strongest evidence you have against the pope is 500 years old, then you need to look a little deeper into what it is you’re fighting against.

        Jesus specifically gives the 12 disciples (the foundation of the Church) the ability to forgive or condemn in his name. The Church has abused this power at times, because power does that to humans. But abuse of the power doesn’t mean the power was never granted or was a mistake. It means that abuser as a lot to answer for, and future leaders had a lot to make up for.

        You’re also gravely mistaken about the “dogma” surrounding Mary. You say that like it’s a heretical theology to honor the epitome of womanhood, motherhood, and the one person who had the closest, most intimate relationship with the physical Christ in all of history. She literally was the mother of God. We do not worship her. She is not our salvation. Catholics believe in the Mystical Body of Christ, something evangelicals painfully ignore. We believe the saints in heaven are still fully invested in the battle for souls here on earth. If I can ask you to pray for me, then I can ask the saints in heaven to do the same thing. Mary has the additional honor of being considered the greatest of the saints because of her relationship with Jesus and her sacrifice of watching her son be crucified, which was only surpassed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

        It’s not dogma, it’s family. Jesus is and always will be my savior. Jesus is the reason for everything. But honoring Mary as my spiritual mother, and the strongest human example of Christian servitude and devotion, in NO WAY leads me away from Christ. On the contrary, joining with the Mystical Body of Christ in worship of Jesus, and inviting Mary and the Saints into your home, your family, your prayer life, brings out a fullness in your heart and faith that makes you love Jesus and God’s whole plan all the more deeply.

      • Chris Gemmell

        She has become a trinity in her own right now.
        The gospel of Mary is not in the scriptures. The dogmas surrounding Mary, her offices, statues, rosary, only demonstrate that the catholic religion does not know the gospel of Christ.

        Only these three titles and roles of Mary as Co-redemptrix,
        Mediatrix, and Advocate combined accurately express her entire mission
        as Spiritual Mother of humanity: to suffer and redeem with
        Christ, to dispense all graces of salvation from Christ, to intercede
        for us and to invoke the coming of the Holy Spirit of Christ, on behalf
        of all humanity.

        Note here that we speak not of “three mothers”, but of one mother
        with three aspects of maternal service for her children. We therefore
        are not speaking of three separate truths about Mary, but one central
        truth, her spiritual motherhood, which is manifested in three profound
        and inseparable expressions of her spiritual maternity as Co-redemptrix,
        Mediatrix, and Advocate. (fifthmariandogma.com)

        ……………………………………………………………………..

        The bible says there is only one mediator, the man Christ Jesus.
        There is only one redeemer, one name given under heaven by which we must be saved.
        There is only one advocate, the Holy Spirit.

      • jj

        It’s clear that the only perspective you have of the Catholic Church is one that you soaked up from other anti-Catholics and are here regurgitating passionately.

        You know how frustrating it is when a non-Christian takes something out of the Bible, or out of history, out of context, then throws that in your face as to why Christianity is a joke? That’s the same exact thing you’re doing to Catholicism.

        The fact that there are 3 ‘profound and inseparable expressions’ describing what spiritual maternity means, and why we are attribute those most strongly to Mary, does not mean that she trumps the entire Trinity. All 3 of those expressions our own mothers assume in attempting to raise children to know Christ. If you’re a parent, you already assume all those roles. That doesn’t mean you are replacing Christ in the life of your children.

        Listen, you clearly only understand, or know, just enough of Catholicism to defend your own repulsion. But the reality is the Catholic Church stands on 2000 years of the most devote investigation of Scripture, humble prayer, and community service. The reason some of the facets of the Church seem extra-Scriptural, is because the Church is 2000 years deep into Scripture and prayer, whereas Protestantism stands on nothing, not even the 500 past years. There is no collective effort in Protestantism. Every generation relearns the same thing. The result is a night-and-day difference between the depth of understanding and the breadth of theology between Catholicism and Protestantism. Every facet that you’re on here attacking is in reality a beautiful mystery of the faith that leaves you desperately in love with Christ and God’s ultimate plan and character. These are all things of immense beauty. Furthermore, these are things that none of us would ever reach on our own understanding in our own lives. That is why the Catholic Church is so beautiful. It is a culmination of the faiths of all the saints. Against that, you’re repulsion is nothing but shallow egotism and superficial self-justification. It takes true humility to be Catholic, something all of us could desperately use more of.

      • Chris Gemmell

        The great mystery is that you think you belong to the true church when it is completely foreign to the gospel according to Christ, Peter, Paul.
        You do have a gospel of Mary that was never expressed in the entire new testament, unless you take into account the twisting of a couple of scriptures.
        I don’t hate you bro, but I hate the doctrines of demons that have alienated you from knowing the Father through his Son.

      • jj

        Every single facet of my faith is centered entirely around Christ. You continue to believe that adding to our comprehensive understanding of God and his family and his love for us, and his plan for us all, somehow distracts me from Christ. Every point you’ve made on here is a misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church teaches. Please understand that. Just like an atheist will never understand Christianity as well as a passionate Christian, a Protestant will never understand Catholicism from the outside. I’m not asking you to convert, only to understand you are horribly mistaken. It’s you against 2000 years of collective and culminating wisdom gained after thousands of lifetimes of passionately seeking Christ through Scripture, prayer, and community service. There is nothing even remotely close to that kind of congruency in Protestantism. Every generation repeats the same lessons, and repeats the same horribly misinformed accusations towards the Catholic Church, which the Church asked of itself and answered probably over 1000 years ago.

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  • Episteme

    Ryan, my pastor is actually himself a convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism. About a decade ago, he — as a Lutheran minister, no less, had a similar sort of journey and sat down with his wife and children to talk about his feelings on what he thought that he had to do for his faith. In the end, his wife and two of his four adult children converted along with him. He got the dispensation from the bishop to attend Catholic seminary, and is now both our pastor (technically “priest-in-charge,” due to the odd issue of having a wife in the rectory!) and our Knights of Columbus chaplain. While some in the parish were weird about it at first — and we *did* lose some members over the “married priest” issue, I find his convert zeal infectious and his knowledge of scripture from his days as a Lutheran a benefit to his interpretation of readings & Gospel in the homily. As a more theological sort myself, I have long conversations with him in off hours about church history, doctrines, liturgy, and scriptures.

    What I mean to say with this, Ryan, is two-fold. Firstly, welcome home! Secondly, you have a unique and beautiful perspective to share with your fellow Catholics, especially younger ones. Ours in a tradition that had gotten away from the scripture and has been struggling to relearn how to connect with it — the new generation of young adult Evangelical Catholics have made that a priority. Among the Protestants, the Lutherans have a rare position of scriptural focus *without* dramatically altering the exegesis of much it the way that the likes of Calvinist creeds have. You, my pastor Father Johnson, and others who have returned are the ones who will help tutor the rest of us non-hermeumetic Catholics on what we’re trying to remember about the scripture, to further inspire the wider ranger of the works that we do! :)