To Explain Why
I wrote this testimony in April of 2002, just after my conversion to Catholicism, for my Protestant friends so they would understand what happened.
For the last three years or so (previous to March 2002) I had been moving progressively farther away from Protestantism. I had no idea at the time that I would end up a Catholic.
On November 28, 2002 my daughter and I were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Read about the event. It's a wild story.
For those of you who have been following the story of my walk with God over the past few years, you will notice that I have been drifting farther and farther away from some of the beliefs of Calvary Chapel. Many of you may consider these beliefs as core beliefs, but others of you may recognize all of them as being non-essentials.
In my journey, I have not for even a moment considered liberal Christianity as an option because it rejects the essentials of the Christian faith. Examples of these essential doctrines that I believed even as a Catholic are:
The beliefs, doctrines, and practices that I have one-by-one considered and rejected are:
Briefly, here are the steps that I went through in becoming a Catholic:
Since I became a Christian in the first place because of my concern for following what was true, I chose the option of becoming a Catholic.
Written July 28, 2002.
Years ago I heard Hank Hanegraaf on the Bible Answer Man radio program explain that Catholicism was not a cult and that many Catholics are true believers. I believed him and was friendly with Catholicism since then, but I never knew much about it. What I have learned since is that Protestants in general have completely distorted what Catholics believe and practice. As a result, many Protestants think that Catholicism is very heretical. I expect that some of you think this way and are horrified that I have converted to Catholicism. I have no intention to attempt to convert any of you, but I would at least like to clear up the misconceptions you might have.
Catholicism hinges on one proposition which needs to be supported from the Bible and which can be supported from the Bible. That proposition is that Christ intended to establish an institutional church which would be the authority for interpreting the Bible, for determining moral positions, and for developing church doctrine and practice. The church will have this role until Christ returns at his parousia (second coming) at the end of the world.
Since the time of the New Testament Apostles, each new generation of church leaders has been ordained by the previous generation and given the responsibility of ruling the church as well as receiving the deposit of doctrine and tradition that was passed along to it. The New Testament formed a key part of this body of information.
As the church battled heresy and managed the various issues that came up, it considered various doctrinal viewpoints and put them into writing. Doctrines such as the Trinity were formulated in this way. Because the Holy Spirit indwells the Catholic Church leadership and guarantees it to be free from error, we can trust the statements it has made over the centuries. Thus, we can trust the formulation of the canon, the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible, and the truth of the Trinity.
Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Catholic Church and changed a half-dozen key doctrines. He was annoyed by the excesses of the leaders of the church of his day. In doing so he created division in the church which continues even today as denominations fragment and new denominations are created almost yearly. The Protestant church is not unified.
Catholics honor the baptism of Protestants and consider them to be brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ.
On November 28, 2002 my daughter and I were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. There was a public ceremony at the Thanksgiving morning mass and my daughter and I were the only two being confirmed so it was very personal. We were allowed to join early instead of waiting until Easter. This was very special for us. Thanks to all who made this possible.
For those of you not familiar with the ceremony of joining the church I'll give a brief overview. During mass you wear white robes and walk down the aisle at the beginning of mass with the priest and the others. Then after the homily (sermon) the priest calls you forward and says a few things. Then you say a few things. At Easter they do a baptism as part of the ceremony but my daughter and I skipped this step since the Catholic Church accepts as valid the Protestant baptism we had in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then you are anointed with oil for the Sacrament of Confirmation which is the Catholic equivalent of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then you sit down and are now able to participate in the Eucharist.
Pat, the leader of the RCIA, showed us in a book the rite we were about to do and helped us select robes. Then we waited for Father Bernie, the priest, to arrive. When he did, we went to confession (the Sacrament of Reconciliation) right then.
I went into the confessional and told Father Bernie what I had prepared to tell him and he blessed me. It was all very routine except that I had the sensation that I was in the presence of Jesus and was talking to Him instead of Father Bernie. It was weird but to be expected — after all, I was participating in a Sacrament of the church.
After I came out my daughter went in and a minute or so later she was done. Meanwhile, the entire congregation was waiting for us all to begin the service and to come down the aisle. So we did and found our seats.
At the designated time my daughter and I got up and did our bit and Father Bernie did his bit. It was cosmic. I was beginning to have a strong experience of some sort of altered state of consciousness. But that is common for me at mass anyway. For example, often as I was in line waiting to receive a blessing during the Eucharist (as a non-member I couldn't receive the actual bread and wine but would, instead, be blessed by the priest or the Eucharistic minister) I would have a strong sense that I was in the presence of Christ. As I got closer and closer to the wafer the sensation would intensify. Once I learned that this is why it is called "the Presence." I even began to bow in reverence. Protestant anti-Catholicsmight think I was bowing to a wafer but I was actually worshipping Christ.
Finally it was time to receive the Eucharist. I went forward to receive the wafer and put it in my mouth. I didn't think much of it at first but I started noticing that I was totally absorbed in the experience of tasting the flavor. But the wildness really began when I sipped the wine.
I sipped what was only a few drops of wine and there was an explosion in my mind and again I was totally absorbed with the experience of tasting the flavor. As I found my way back to my seat I was totally immersed in the awareness of Christ and his presence.
After the mass we chit-chatted with friends and family.
Since then I have a feeling of connectedness with Christ that lingers and that I've never had before. I have images of Jesus and his life on earth floating around in my mind, and with my mind's eye and can see him sitting on the throne. I also have a sense of peace and a feeling that I belong as a member of his family. It is very comforting.
A few days later I went to mass again and received the Eucharist again. This time there was no wild experience but as I was kneeling back in the pew I felt loved by God and that I was his child who he loved and cared for. I understood for the first time the meaning of the line we say as part of the mass that the Eucharist is our spiritual food. It seemed like I was nourished spiritually by the Eucharist.
Some of you Protestants might think that all this emphasis on experience is not good, but it is one of the things I like about the Catholic Church. I like sitting in mass and feeling like I am at the last supper with Jesus and the disciples. And I like having the feeling that I am standing at the cross and watching Jesus as he suffers and dies for me. I like the mystical and experiential past of the Catholic Church which includes the images, icons, statues, liturgy and ceremony. But enough of my preaching.