Skip to comments.A Convert's Pilgrimage
Posted on 05/25/2007 5:19:25 PM PDT by Titanites
My pilgrimage to the Catholic Church began when I was 18 years old. I was a first-semester college freshman enrolled at one of the most prestigious evangelical Protestant colleges in the country. I was a theology/philosophy double major, and my childhood heroes included men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, R.C. Sproul, and Greg Bahnsen. My grandfather was an evangelical pastor. My uncle was a Presbyterian elder. Reformation theology was deeply imbued in every aspect of my being.
My lifes dream was to become a Protestant seminary professor, so that I could help instruct a new generation of theologians and pastors. I stood with the famous Baptist pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon in affirming that Reformed theology was just a nickname for biblical Christianity. My sole desire was to delve ever deeper into Reformed thought and to help others deepen their Calvinistic affirmations and convictions. As an eager student of Reformed theology (also known as Calvinism) I was deeply committed to the Protestant notions of justification by faith alone and the Bible alone as the sole source of authority for Christians. Further, I was a staunch adherent to the famous five-points of Calvinism, which stressed mans total depravity in relation to Gods utter sovereignty.
I was also ardently anti-Catholic. I thought that the pope was the Antichrist, and that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon. Little did I know that things were about to change.
Most pilgrimages are not traveled alone, nor are they usually completed without help. There is often a pilgrimage leader or guidesomeone who has made the trip before, and is acquainted with many of the challenges that lay before the pilgrims. I had one such guide on my pilgrimage to the Catholic Church: Scott Hahn.
As an evangelical Protestant, Scott Hahns story had always been a puzzle to me. I had read Rome Sweet Home and listened to the tape of his conversion story while I was in junior high. To say that I found his story disturbing would be an understatement. He was someone from my own theological mold, so to speak: a committed Calvinist, Presbyterian, very anti-Catholic, very passionate about the Lord and His written Word. And yet he defected to Rome? How could this be?
My conclusion after reading his book and listening to his tape was that Scott Hahn was either a flake or a fake. Either he was too blind and ignorant of the full majesty and richness of the Reformed tradition, or he was a fake, someone out to make a big name for himself and willing to sell his soul to the devil in the process.
Through a series of providential events, I became acquainted with Scott Hahn shortly after I got settled in at college. He was visiting my college campus one evening in late September, and he invited me out to dinner so that we could talk theology. I admit that I was a bit intimidated at the prospect of talking theology with a Catholic theologian, but I agreed.
It couldnt hurt anything, right?
Dr. Hahn and I immediately clicked. Not in a Catholic-Protestant kind of way, but in a real and vibrant brothers in Christ kind of way. Through the majority of our initial three-and-a-half hour conversation, distinctive Catholic beliefs were not brought up once. We spent most of our time talking about theological topics of mutual interest, and swapping stories of theological heroes we both shared. To my utter shock, I quickly discovered that Scott Hahn did not despise his former Protestant professors and colleagues. Quite the contrary, he explained that while he had changed his mind on certain issues, his respect for his Protestant mentors had only increased over the years. This surprised me, but I believed him. He had a real sincerity and zeal for God and His truth. Not once did I feel like he was trying to manipulate or cajole me into the clutches of Rome. In fact, I was shocked by how easily the conversation flowed and how much unity we shared in our doctrine and belief.
Toward the end of the conversation, we did get around to discussing some of our Catholic-Protestant disagreements. However, because it was late, we really didnt get to examine the issues in a thorough fashion. At the end of our discussion, Dr. Hahn recommended several book titles and gave me his contact information in case I wanted to dialogue further.
I can still remember shaking his hand and saying goodbye after dinner. My mind kept replaying our conversation as I walked back to my dorm.
To be honest, I really didnt expect the books that Scott Hahn recommended to be very persuasive. I flipped through several of the titles, and I shelved most of them thinking that I might get around to reading them when I had some extra time on my hands. One of the book titles did catch my eye, however: Catholic for a Reason. I looked at the subtitle: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God. My curiosity piqued, I opened the book and decided to read the introduction just to get a feel for what the book was arguing. Nothing more. I probably wouldnt even read it for more than ten minutes. . . .
My feel for the book quickly turned into a full-fledged intellectual immersion. I couldnt put the book down. In fact, I read the entire book in one sittingtwice, actuallyand I immediately began pouring through the other titles Dr. Hahn had recommended. One book turned into two. Two turned into four. And soon I was completely enamored with the Catholic vision of God and reality. The result was actually pretty alarming: By the end of that month, I had worked my way through about forty books on numerous issues in Catholic theology, apologetics, and history. I dont say this in a prideful way, but only to express how urgent all of this was to me. Never before had I come across such clear, intelligible, scripturally- saturated explanations of Catholic teaching. While I was intimately acquainted with the various facets of Protestant theology, I was almost completely ignorant of true Catholic teaching. I quickly learned that my understanding of Catholicism was extremely misinformed and that my ideas about Catholics were obviously wrong.
I didnt know what to do.
It was late October when all of this finally came to a head. I was in a true crisis of faith. The only thing that I could do to keep my sanity was to keep studying, with the prayerful hope that everything would be worked out in the end. Thus, I threw all formal academic caution to the wind. I began skipping classes on a regular basis. I started missing meals. All of this for the sake of devoting more hours of the day and night to reading and studying Catholic theology. My gradesand my appearancebegan to suffer. But I didnt care: I needed the security of knowing where I stood in relation to the Catholic Church. This was absolutely essential to my personal peace and sense of well-being.
During this time, Dr. Hahn and I had several lengthy telephone conversations about the things I was reading. While encouraging, he wasnt pushy. He merely answered my questions, and he encouraged me to keep reading and praying. The more I read, the more I prayed. And the more I prayed the more I felt that maybe . . . just maybe . . . the Catholic Church might be calling me home. It was time to make a decision.
I can still vividly remember the day. It was a slow afternoon. I was sitting in my dorm room, praying. I had just finished a chapter from a book by a Catholic theologian on the Churchs teaching on salvation. Never before had I heard the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ described as divine sonship. I had always thought that justification was mere legal acquittal. This theologian was telling me that it was much more than that: It was divine adoption. Salvation meant being made a son of God.
With tears in my eyes, I bowed my head and gave consent. While I knew that I still had so much to learn, the forty or so books that I had read were enough to persuade me that the Catholic Church really was the Church Christ had instituted. All doubts were gone.
It was time to come home.
I looked up, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the calendar hanging on the wall next to my desk. I looked at the date: It was October 31, 2002. I jerked out of my seat. I couldnt believe it. October 31? It couldnt be. . . .
But it was. I couldnt help but smile at Gods ironic timing. Previously, October 31 had been a very special day to me. For it was on October 31, 1517 that the young Martin Luther had nailed his revolutionary Ninety-Five Theses to the Church door of Wittenberg, lighting the spark that ignited the flames of the Protestant Reformation.
On the anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, I became Catholic. While I had yet to go through the RCIA programI was officially received into the Catholic Church the following Easter Vigilmy heart had given consent to Catholicism.
My pilgrimage was over.
I was home.
Christopher Cuddy entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 2003. He is a theology student at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also a research associate for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a staff apologist/writer for NextWave Faithful (www.nextwavefaithful.com).
I quickly learned that my understanding of Catholicism was extremely misinformed and that my ideas about Catholics were obviously wrong.
**and my childhood heroes included men like Martin Luther, John Calvin,...**
I don’t see how one can have both Luther and Calvin as heroes. Don’t their doctrines disagree with each other?
It would be like having both President Jefferson Davis of the C.S.A. and Lincoln as heroes. Or the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and Juarez.
Disagreement with Luther's doctrine doesn't seem to prevent many Protestants's from viewing Luther as a "hero" because of his role in the so-called Reformation.
And here is your reading assignment :-)
An important point that would be a revelation to many of the sons of Luther.
**I thought that the pope was the Antichrist, and that the Catholic Church was the “whore of Babylon.”**
Regardless of their many doctrinal disagreements that is the one thing that ALL protestants have in common!
I had just finished a chapter from a book by a Catholic theologian on the Churchs teaching on salvation. Never before had I heard the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ described as divine sonship. I had always thought that justification was mere legal acquittal. This theologian was telling me that it was much more than that: It was divine adoption. Salvation meant being made a son of God.
This about says it all.
There. Fixed it.
**I was home.**
Wonderful words. And what a feeling that must be for converts. The story of a lady in our parish — she was Lutheran and had moved to the little town close to Salem. She set out a plan to follow down the main road reasearching locations and attending each church in the path. When she got to the Catholic Church, her words, “I knew I was home.” And she searched no more. She was received into the Catholic Church this last Easter Vigil and is already active in parish activities.
A fellow convert’s welcome to Mr. Cuddy. May Our Lord bless and keep him as he begins what will no doubt be a lifetime of significant contribution to the Church Christ founded. We are truly blessed to have him!
Alex, it looks like he already “fixed” it.
Trying to mess things up again?? LOL!
I will keep this thread in mind whenever another thread is accused of “bashing Catholics”.
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