To say that I came to my decision to become Catholic lightly, would be like saying one “accepts Jesus as his personal Savior” lightly. It’s true that some people seem to have a conversion experience one day and then months or years later there is no visible sign of a relationship with Jesus. Others go through the motions of prayer, devotional times, bible studies, and church attendance, but a true devotion to Jesus is lacking. It becomes very confusing if one actually thinks about the implications of these practices. How does one truly know that he has the spirit of God within him? I said the prayer, but was it truly effective? If I accept by faith that it’s true because someone told me the Bible says it’s true i.e. “if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord you will be saved”, how do I know that they interpreted that portion of scripture correctly? I could go on and on with these questions, but for now I’d like to break down some of the main reasons that I had to conclude that the Protestant formulas of Christianity fall short under a closer look at the foundational teachings. This is what brought me to the Catholic Church.
The bible says; “A house built on sand will fall.” It also says that the “pillar and foundation of truth is the Church.” There are some key elements of Christianity that go into determining whether or not we have built our faith on a firm foundation, and on a doctrine of truth and not one of error.
I’m going to break this into 5 sections: 1. Truth 2. Church History 3. Bible History 4. Salvation 5. The Lord’s Supper
I heard a sermon from a Protestant preacher who stated to the congregation the utmost importance of knowing the truth when it comes to our Christian beliefs. He spoke of how the Bible alone was the final authority on what we are to believe. The problem is that someone has to interpret the words correctly in order for them to have meaning that results in us knowing the truth. What this preacher cleverly sidesteps is that our interpretation of the bible is what determines whether or not our belief is true or right. There are many people who have interpreted the Bible in contradictory ways. Some believe in the Trinity, some don’t. Some believe you can lose your salvation, some don’t. Some believe in infant baptism, some don’t. So who’s interpretation is valid? These are no small issues! Both the bible and this preacher stated that many people will follow false doctrines. How do you determine false doctrine from true doctrine?
The answer is, Jesus left us his church and sent the Holy Spirit to guide that Church into the truth, and to protect it from error. I know that some people don’t want to follow the Catholic Church because they don’t like the idea that one institution could possibly possess the truth, especially if they don’t agree with some of that institutions mandates. But let’s be honest, many people just don’t want to have an authority that they themselves can’t control. They are willing to follow the Bible, as long as they feel comfortable with what people say it says and it doesn’t disrupt their strong desires. For example, a lot of Christians believe that divorce is sinful and should never be accepted, until one of those people gets in that situation and strongly desires a way out. So they leave that community of believers and go to a more “divorce friendly” church. Or, and this is a true story, a married man decides that he’s gay and leaves his family and church to be with a church that is more open to homosexual believers. So who’s doctrine is correct, and who decides? Without an authoritative interpreter, truth is irrelevant. There are only 2 options here. 1. Truth of doctrine is truly unknowable and neither the bible or the church possesses it. 2. Truth of doctrine is knowable and has an official representative. I submit to you that the evidence points to the Catholic Church as having that authority. If not, then the search for truth is quite likely irrelevant.
2. Church History
For the last 2,000 years the Catholic Church has been recognizably present in History. Through hundreds of historical documents written in the first few centuries immediately after Jesus, we can identify the essence of what the Catholic Church is today. Through people like Ignatius, who knew the Apostle John for 40 years, we can read his descriptions of the early Church. He affirms the importance of the line of Bishops, using their existence as a proof that the true gospel is being preached through the church. Church Fathers affirm many Catholic teachings such as the baptism of infants, the body and blood of Jesus in the bread and wine, apostolic succession, purgatory, prayers for the deceased, and devotion to Mary. But let’s be clear, it’s not the people who are protected from error, but the deposit of faith. The Church is full of sinners from the pope on down. This is no different than any followers of Christ. But the teaching of the Church is that the truth of Christ and His teachings will always be guarded by the Holy Spirit, and despite the sins of many leaders in the Church (including the Apostles), the doctrines and teachings of the Apostles, received from Jesus, will remain with the Church. This is recognizable through apostolic succession. Without this official passing on of the faith, (such as that done in Acts when Judas’ position is replaced) there would be no recognizable church to infallibly determine true doctrine from false doctrine.
You might say “perhaps those heretical teachings were actually the true gospel and they just didn’t have the voice of the Catholic Church until the Reformation in the 1500’s”? Well, the problem with that thought is that the Books of the Bible were formed through the meetings of members of the Catholic Church by the 5th century. Therefore, you would have to say (by faith, because there is no evidence) that the Holy Spirit not only spread through a small group of believers (secretly) for over 1500 years, while the Holy Spirit also worked separately through the Catholic Church in the 5th century to put together the New Testament. Then the Holy Spirit revealed the correct list of books to the world and this lead to private bible interpretation, which led to over numerous denominations and a dividing of the church body. The Catholic Church has been visible for 2,000 years, the earliest Protestant Church can only go back about 500 years. It’s hard for me to accept the teachings of a group of people who can only trace their roots back that far. How does this differ from anyone else who says they had a personal revelation from God on how to interpret a passage of scripture? How does this differ from Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses? They all make a claim that they have a truth that differs from the Catholic teaching of Christianity. I’ll admit that much of protestantism is not as far away from the Catholic Churches teachings as the others, but why be away from it even a little if it has been taught this way from the beginning? Who gives us an accurate interpretation of scripture? If it’s the Holy Spirit in each of us, then I have to conclude that many Protestant denominations are listening to something other than the Holy Spirit and there’s is no way to determine with certainty which one got it right. And since there is no other authority to declare a true or false interpretation, I just have to pick the one that works for me. It becomes the gospel according to Rob, instead of the gospel according to Jesus and His Church.
3. Bible History
I’ve read quite a bit on the development of the canon of scripture from both sides. It appears, at this point, that it is a very complicated topic that people have been debating with great passion. Instead of giving my reasons for favoring one side over the other, based on the evidences presented, I’d like to propose another question. If it is so difficult to come to an obvious conclusion when it comes to the correct canon of scripture (Catholic Bibles have 7 more Old Testament books, plus a few extra passages in other OT books) then what is the final determining factor? For me, it makes more sense to simply accept the books the Catholic Church has deemed inspired based upon her authority as the official representative of Christ on earth. Without going into a debate here, it has been my opinion that Protestantism has no answer as to why they accept the 66 books that they do, and not the other parts of scripture that were all accepted and used by the Church up to and beyond the reformation period. It seems that the basis for their argument is that the books themselves somehow prove their own authority. This seems very subjective and speculative.
I will make this short. Catholics do not believe you are saved through your works! They believe exactly what the Bible teaches; you are saved by Grace, through faith, not by works. However, that does not mean you can say a prayer and turn your back on God down the road. You must, as Paul says, work out your salvation in fear and trembling. Jesus , when asked “what must I do to have eternal life” (Matthew 19:16-19), answered keep the commandments, and then he gave him a list of commands. I think the mistake that is made is that people try to simplify salvation into one act of repentance. When we make things that simple we tend to misinterpret the other passages of scripture that clearly speak to the contrary. Faith without works is dead. But Faith and Works together lead to eternal salvation. Salvation is confirmed at the end of our life, not at the moment we gain a particular knowledge of Jesus, or at a moment we have an emotional experience that convinces us to accept Him as Savior, or the day we make a decision to live for him from now on. And even then, it is only God who grants us salvation through his mercy. I do not live in guilt, I live in a state of thankfulness that God provides us His Church to guide us into his kingdom and that I may take part in the Heavenly Mass, and share in the Supper of the Lord!
5. The Lord’s Supper (Eucharist)
Jesus said “This is my Body….This is my Blood”. The Church has never wavered on what that means. Ignatius again confirmed the meaning of this. How could a Disciple of the Apostle John have gotten this wrong?! Not to mention every Church Father after him. For those who say “it’s just a wafer, you can see that it’s not really the Body and Blood of Jesus”. I ask you this, how do you know that when you accepted Jesus that you really received His Spirit? Can you see it? If you felt something, was that feeling necessary for you to know you received it? How do you know He’s still there? Is it because you read it in the Bible or because someone told you it was so? There are those who say you must speak in tongues to receive salvation, how do you know they are not speaking from the truth? And even if you did, by what authority can you say that your interpretation is the correct one? How do you know you got it right? Do you trust your pastor’s interpretation that is only a few hundred years old, or do you go with the one that’s been around for 2,000 years? Even Luther believed in the real presence in the Bread and Wine. Christianity was built on that belief. If it weren’t true, why didn’t somebody challenge that belief in the early church? And why would people believe something so crazy. Even non-christian sources referred to the Christians as cannibals because they heard that they were eating the body and drinking the blood of their Savior.
Those are my main reasons for my conversion to Catholicism. I welcome your comments and would love to hear from anyone. I want to be clear that my intention here is just to share my experience and to discuss matters of faith in a fruitful way. I’m not trying to force anyone into becoming Catholic, I’m simply sharing something meaningful to me, and if my findings lead others into the Catholic Church, it is only by God’s Grace and not by my doing. I believe Protestant and Catholic believers have their share of true followers of Jesus, and those who simply go through the motions. I’m not here to judge, but to share the hope that I have in Jesus and the luxury of being able to experience the faith through His Church and all that it offers.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I pray that each person here will seek the truth in love and live every day for Jesus. He is the way, the truth , and the life.
Glory to God in the Highest!