I Fought the Church, and the Church Won

Sep 23rd, 2012 | By Jason Stellman | Category: Featured Articles

This is a guest post by Jason Stellman. Jason was born and raised in Orange County, CA, and served as a missionary with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa in Uganda (’91-’92) and in Hungary (’94-’00). After becoming Reformed and being subsequently “dismissed” from ministry with Calvary, he went to Westminster Seminary California where he received an M.Div. in 2004. After graduation he was ordained by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America and called to plant Exile Presbyterian Church in the Seattle area, where he served from 2004 until resigning in the Spring of 2012. He is the author of Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet (Reformation Trust, 2009), and The Destiny of the Species (forthcoming from Wipf and Stock Publications). In 2011 he served as the prosecutor in the trial of Peter Leithart in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery of the PCA. He currently resides in the Seattle area with his wife and three children. He was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on September 23, 2012.


Jason Stellman

Part of me has wished for a while now that I was born early enough to have been a fan of The Clash back in the Seventies. The first song I ever heard by them (several years after its release) was their cover of Sonny Curtis’s hit, the chorus of which goes, “I fought the law, and the law won.” Despite being a fairly law-abiding guy, I can relate to being on the losing side of a battle, only mine was not against the law, but against the Church.

As many of you know, I recently resigned from my pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church in America (you can read my resignation letter here, as well as some clarifying posts here and here). My stated reasons for stepping down were that I could no longer in good conscience uphold my ordination vow that as a PCA minister I sincerely accept the Westminster Confession and Catechisms as containing the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture. More specifically, I no longer see the Reformed doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide as faithfully reflecting what the Bible teaches, which is why I will, Lord willing, be received into full communion with the Catholic Church sometime in the next several months.

The purpose of this piece is not to unpack those claims in detail (there will be plenty of time for that in the future), but rather to provide a little more insight into the process that led up to my resignation, as well as to respond briefly to those who have sought to analyze me and the supposed internal psychological factors that must have led to my making such a drastic decision.

The Lure of Rome?

One of the things I found especially curious (slash bemusing, slash maddening) while reading the diagnoses of my volunteer analysts was the fact that my being drawn to, or lured by, Rome was simply assumed, and that the only real question was what, exactly, was it that ultimately did it. Was it some positive aspect of Catholicism that appealed to me, or was it a nagging drawback of Protestantism that finally proved to be the deal-breaker?

Now, I realize that I went into a period of radio silence during the weeks following my resignation (one that was not exactly self-imposed, but that has turned out to be a blessing), and that this created something of a vacuum that invited speculation on the part of some. But now that I am no longer “off the grid,” I would like to clear something up once and for all:

Catholicism never held any allure for me, nor do I find it particularly alluring now.

Now to be honest there has always been an attraction of a “Wouldn’t-it-be-nice” or “stained-glass-windows-are-rad” variety, but when it came to an actual positive drawing to Rome or a negative driving away from Geneva, there has never been any such thing. In fact, since much of my theological output has been part of the public domain for so long (especially in the form of my preaching, teaching, and writing), this claim of mine can actually be proven. If anyone cares to go back and listen to or read what I was talking about right up until the day I was confronted with the claims of the Catholic Church as they relate to those of Protestantism, the inquirer will easily discover that I was about as staunchly confessional an Old School Presbyterian as anyone would want to meet. There was not even the slightest hint of discontent with my ecclesiastical identity, not a trace of longing for greater certitude, nor a smidgen of regret that my soteriology didn’t have enough works in it.

I will raise the pot even more: I wrote a book whose entire purpose was to demonstrate, in the highest and most attractive terms possible, how ironically boastworthy all the supposed disadvantages of amillennial Protestantism are. Messiness? Lack of infallible certitude? The need for faith over sight? Check, check, and check.

Further still, so far from longing for a type of kinder, gentler Catholicism that I could disguise in Reformed garb, I was the prosecutor in a doctrinal trial against a fellow minister in my presbytery for espousing views that I, and many others, considered dangerously close to being Catholic. No, there was never any desire to place human works anywhere but where the Reformed confessions say they belong: in the category of sanctification and never justification.

In a word, I was as happy and comfortable in my confessional Presbyterian skin as anyone, and the trust I had earned from many well-known and respected Reformed theologians, as well as having graduated with honors from one of the most confessionally staunch and academically rigorous Reformed seminaries in the nation, should be sufficient to dispel any notions that I never really understood Reformed theology in the first place or that I was always a Catholic in Protestant clothing.

Driven, Not Drawn

One of the things that made fighting against the claims of the Catholic Church so frustrating was that there was no single, knock-down-drag-out argument to refute; neither was there an isolated passage of Scripture or silver-bullet issue of theology to deal with. If it had been simply a matter of answering one specific challenge that came from a single direction, the battle would have been much easier to win. But as it happened, there were two distinct issues that were coming under attack (Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide), and the attacks were coming from multiple directions: the biblical, the historical, and, in the case of Sola Scriptura, the philosophical as well.

In the case of Sola Scriptura, I, as a self-described Reformed non-evangelical, considered the distinction between Solo- and Sola Scriptura as absolutely essential to my own spiritual identity. It was the evangelicals who were the heirs of Anabaptism, not the Reformed; it was the evangelicals who espoused “no creed but Christ,” not the Reformed; it was the evangelicals who interpreted the Bible in isolation from history and tradition, not the Reformed. Therefore as one can imagine, when I was confronted with Catholic claims that called this crucial distinction into question, it was a sucker-punch of epic proportions. Needless to say, my confessional brethren and I did not appreciate our ancestral city of Geneva being confused with Saddleback.

But the more I read and wrestled, the more I began to see that Geneva was not being “confused with” Saddleback at all; the two were just different sides of the same coin (or to be more precise with the metaphor, they were sister-cities in the same Protestant county). Readers of this site have no need for the arguments to be rehearsed here, so suffice it to say that, philosophically speaking, it became clear to me that Sola Scriptura could not provide a way to speak meaningfully about the necessary distinction between orthodoxy and heresy (or even between essentials and non-essentials); neither could it justify the 27-book New Testament canon, create the unity that that canon demands, or provide the means of avoiding the schism that that canon condemns.

Historically speaking, the idea that the written Word of God is formally sufficient for all things related to faith and practice, such that anyone of normal intelligence and reasonably good intentions could read it and deduce from it what is necessary for orthodoxy and orthopraxy, is not a position that I see reflected in the writings of the early Church fathers. While there are plenty of statements in their writings that speak in glowing terms about the qualitative uniqueness of Scripture, those statements, for them, do not do away with the need for Scripture to be interpreted by the Church in a binding and authoritative way when necessary.

This discovery in the church fathers is unsurprising if the same position can be found in the New Testament itself, which I now believe it can. To cite but one example, the Church in her earliest days was confronted with a question that Jesus had not addressed with any specificity or directness, namely, the question of Gentile inclusion in the family of God. In order to answer this question, the apostles and elders of the Church gathered together in council to hear all sides and reach a verdict. What is especially interesting about Luke’s account of the Jerusalem Council is the role that Scripture played, as well as the nature of the verdict rendered. Concerning the former, James’s citation of Amos is curious in that the passage in the prophet seems to have little to do with the matter at hand, and yet James cites Amos’s words about the tent of David being rebuilt to demonstrate that full Gentile membership in the Church fulfills that prophecy. Moreover, Scripture functioned for the Bishop of Jerusalem not as the judge that settled the dispute, but rather as a witness that testified to what settled it, namely, the judgment of the apostles and elders. Rather than saying, “We agree with Scripture,” he says in effect, “Scripture agrees with us” (v. 15, 19). And finally, when the decision is ultimately reached, it is understood by the apostles and elders not as an optional and fallible position with which the faithful may safely disagree if they remain biblically unconvinced, but rather as an authoritative and binding pronouncement that was bound in heaven even as it was on earth (v. 28). Despite some superficial similarities, no existing Protestant denomination with an operating norm of Sola Scriptura can replicate the dynamic, or claim the authority of the Jerusalem Council (or of Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon for that matter). The fact that the Bible’s own example of how Church courts operate was hamstrung by Protestantism’s view of biblical authority was something I began to find disturbingly ironic.

Moving on to Sola Fide, I found myself wrestling with this issue from both a historical and biblical perspective as well, and this is what ultimately proved to be the coup de grâce for me as a Protestant. As long as I believed that Catholicism mucked up the gospel so severely, its arguments about authority remained merely annoying, like a stone in my shoe that I would eventually get used to (after all, better to be unauthoritatively right about justification than authoritatively wrong about it). But when I began to dig into the issue more deeply and seek to understand Rome on its own terms, I began to experience what some have referred to as a “paradigm crisis.” A severe one.

As a Protestant minister, I had always operated under the assumption that the fullest treatment of the gospel, and of justification in particular, came from the apostle Paul, and that the rest of what the New Testament had to say on these issues should be filtered through him. But as I began to investigate again things that I had thought were long-settled for me, I began to discover just how problematic that hermeneutical approach really was. If justification by faith alone was indeed “the article on which the church stands or falls,” as Reformed theology claimed, then wouldn’t we expect it to have been taught by Jesus himself, somewhere? Moreover, wouldn’t John have taught it, too? And Peter, and James? Shoot, wouldn’t Paul himself have taught the imputation of alien righteousness somewhere outside of just two of his thirteen epistles?

Having realized that I was using a few select (and hermeneutically debatable) passages from Romans and Galatians as the filter through which I understood everything else the New Testament had to say about salvation, I began to conclude that such an approach was as arbitrary as it was irresponsible. I then sought to identify a paradigm, or simple statement of the gospel, that provided more explanatory value than Sola Fide did. As I hope to unpack in more detail eventually, I have come to understand the gospel in terms of the New Covenant gift of the Spirit, procured through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, who causes fruit to be borne in our lives by reproducing the image of the Son in the adopted children of the Father. If love of God and neighbor fulfills the law, and if the fruit of the Spirit is love, having been shed abroad by the Spirit in our hearts, then it seems to follow that the promise of the gospel is equivalent with the promise of the New Covenant that God’s law will no longer be external to the believer, but will be written upon his mind and heart, such that its righteous demands are fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. And again unsurprisingly, when I turned to the early Church fathers, and especially Augustine, it was this very understanding of the gospel that I encountered over and over again.

Conclusion

While the case for the Catholic Church may not be immediately obvious or easily winnable, the fact remains that Rome’s claims are philosophically compelling, historically plausible, and biblically persuasive. Yet despite the claims of most Reformed believers who, when wrestling with the issue of people like me leaving Geneva for the supposedly-greener pastures of Rome, insist that such a move betrays a “quest for illegitimate religious certainty,” the fact is that if it is a sense of personal and psychological certitude that one is searching for, Catholicism will more than likely disappoint. Ironically enough, Protestantism provides more certitude for the seeker than Catholicism does, since the ultimate basis for the truthfulness of its claims is one’s agreement with one’s self and one’s own interpretation of Scripture. But if what you are searching for is not subjective certitude but the Church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church’s case for being that Church, when harkened to with charity, humility, and faith seeking understanding, is as compelling as it is disruptive.

And make no mistake, the Catholic Church is disruptive. It is audacious and confrontational, sucker-punching and line-in-the-sand drawing. Like the Lion Aslan from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, it is not a tame Church, and will make no promise not to devour and discomfit its subjects as they partake of its life-giving water, causing them to constantly bend the knee and cede their worldly wisdom to the foolishness of the cross. In the words of Aslan to Jill, who expressed fear about letting down her guard to drink from the water by which he stood, “There are no other streams.” Or the words of Peter to Jesus when asked if the Twelve would forsake Him because of His difficult and demanding message, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

The Catholic Church, wistfully alluring? Hardly. Tidy and tame? Not by a long shot, for once discovered it demands that the seeker relinquish the one thing above all others that offers him confidence, namely, his own autonomy. In fact, submitting oneself to the authority of the Catholic Church is the most harrowing experience a person will ever endure, which is why the suggestion that converts from Geneva to Rome are simply opting for a feel-good, fairy-tale romance betraying an “over-realized eschatology” and desire to skip blissfully down the yellow-brick road to heaven, utterly trivializes the entire ordeal.

In a word, I fought the Church, and the Church won. And what it did was beat me, but it didn’t draw me, entice me, or lure me by playing upon some deep, latent psychosis or desire on my part for something Protestantism just couldn’t provide. Catholicism went from being so obviously ridiculous that it wasn’t even worth bothering to oppose, to being something whose claims were so audacious that I couldn’t help opposing them. But what it never was, was attractive, and in many ways it still isn’t.

But what Catholicism is, I have come to discover, is true.

(Update: See also “How the Church Won: An Interview with Jason Stellman” – eds.)

Tags: Conversion, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura

649 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. Those commenting here for the first time should read our comment guidelines, which will be strictly enforced.

  2. Ditto. Well said. Thank you. KB

  3. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Jason!

  4. Welcome home. You are being prayed for by people you don’t even know. You will not be sorry you swam the Tiber.

  5. Jason,

    Thank you for these thoughts. They resonate so well with my own experience. I was a reluctant convert in many ways also – there was no allure for me either – only a strange, somewhat terrifying uncomfortableness. Yet, like yourself, I had come to see the truth of Catholicism. And when that happened, there was no turning back.

    It is a great joy to see you here at CTC. God is good and merciful and full of patience towards us, isn’t He? I have kept you in my prayers these past 4 years….

    Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!
    -Carol

  6. Welcome Home Jason!

  7. Welcome home, Jason. The good news about the Catholic Church is that she’s like a big family. Of course that’s also the bad news, but you seem to know that well, as I have since I returned to the Catholic Church as a kicking-and-screaming college student. And that is why I’m confident you’re home for good, as I am.

    Best,
    Mike

  8. Thank you and welcome home. I really enjoyed your conclusion. Well done!

  9. Welcome Home Jason! Yes the Church is very untidy, unruly and sometimes downright scary! But it is the barq of Peter launched by Christ himself. Hang on tight, welcome aboard!
    Russ
    (aka some heretic you used to know)

  10. Jason,

    I have been following your story and want you to know that there are many of us who are greatly moved by your courage and sacrifice. I am more than thrilled to see this post.

    You and your family are in my family’s prayers. I have no doubt God will bless you for your faithfulness in ways you would never imagine.

    Welcome home!

    Dave

  11. It seems to me this verse is pretty key to your argument: http://bible.cc/acts/15-28.htm

    “Necessary” in what sense? In the sense that if you do not submit to this you are in certainly in danger of excluding yourself (or you automatically exclude yourself?) from the Church and Christ? Really? That seems unlikely to me. Or is it more about being respectful of those with Jewish sensibilities so the unity of faith that already had been given and existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians did not get strained (leading first to schism, *then* heresy)? If it was the first option, when were these commands rescinded? To my knowledge, we don’t say all of them must be followed now (or does Rome)? Didn’t Paul say that we could eat food sacrificed to idols but we dare not do so if it means harming a brother who was weak in faith? Where in verse 28 does it say this was an: “authoritative and binding pronouncement that was bound in heaven even as it was on earth”? I understand words like that as regards God’s pastors granting forgiveness or withholding forgiveness based on their evaluation of whether or not a person is penitent, but not in this context.

    Jason – I’m curious as to whether or not you considered Confessional Lutheranism (Chemnitz’s view of Sola Scriptura is quite different, and Lutherans do not absolutely insist that the 27 NT books are all of the same authority: for more see “round 1” referenced here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/update-on-my-humble-contributions-to-honest-ecumenical-dialogue/ ) and if not why not?

    +Nathan

  12. Jason,

    Welcome home! You and your family are in my prayers (as they were for some time now).

    Pax Christi,

    Brent

  13. Jason,

    (one more comment)

    Your story reminded me of Peter Kreeft’s words (I was in the audience when he said this) in reply to the question, “Why did you become Catholic?”

    A: “It’s true”

  14. […] an article over at Called to Communion by Jason Stellman which points out the crucial significance of the Jerusalem […]

  15. Jason,

    Welcome.

    Re: Wistfully alluring. As a “lifer,” I know there have been times when I have been wistful for a church which perhaps has better singing and preaching, or which didn’t take such a literal position on John 20:23, or which didn’t make me part of or complicit with the events or views of less progressive eras, or, as a divorced man, took a more, well, “flexible” position about remarrage after divorce.

    But, hey, truth is truth. If the Catholic Church is the church founded by Christ, and if Christ was God, then it seems that nothing else matters.

    For cradle Catholics, the choice is easy. In contrast, in light of your great sacrifice, I am infinitely amazed at the courage and fortitude of people like you, who join the Catholic Church as an act of the will, in obedience to their reason and faith.

    Good luck to you and your family.

  16. Excellent to hear! I just joined the Church on Pentecost from an evangelical background. Nice to hear of other people working very hard to not become Catholic before finally giving in.

  17. Welcome home, Jason. I am also a convert of over 20 years now. I know the you do not find the Church alluring. I predict that after you begin to receive the Eucharist, the True Presence of the Jesus Christ Himself, you will feel an incredible allure. The more you learn about all things Catholic the more alluring it becomes. Enjoy your journey and God bless.

  18. “But what it never was, was attractive, and in many ways it still isn’t.”

    Yes, I remember thinking the–exact–same thing immediately before and after my sudden, terrifying, and deep conviction to leave Protestantism for the Church.

    Thankfully, I came to love everything about Catholicism, and I now cannot imagine being anywhere else. I think you, too, will come to rejoice in the beauty of everything about the Church, especially the little things–the Rosary, the statues, the incense, Latin, the sacraments.

    I rejoice with you!

    All with Peter to Jesus through Mary!

  19. Welcome to the Church, Jason. I love being Catholic and pray that you will love it as well. Thank you for sharing your journey here.

    Blessings to you and your family!

  20. Hi Jason,

    What you said about the harrowing experience of submitting to the Catholic Church is no exaggeration! Yet John Paul II says that she imposes nothing and that she only proposes. She’s more pushy than winsome that’s for sure! To think, that of all the churches in Christendom of which to choose from you ( and me too) had to go and choose the most unlikely:)
    I told my husband that all of Protestantism has come from the Roman Catholic Church and that “She is our mother…..our great big mother.” My sweet but completely teed-off husband responded, “She’s a Big Mother, alright!” I couldn’t help but stop and laugh when he came back with that! Since most of our conversations have become arguments and crying, it’s good when it is punctuated with laughs even if it is at my expense.
    Welcome home!

    Susan

  21. Welcome Home, Jason! I hope to see you on The Journey Home someday. :) My husband & I were received into full communion at Easter Vigil 2011, and I think his journey was a lot like yours.

  22. Jason,

    I enjoyed reading your story– thank you for sharing.

    You’re exactly right that the Catholic Church, like her Head, is “not a tame lion”. But I believe you will find that, like the stable in The Last Battle, it is bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. Or, to use the analogy Pope Benedict used when he preached at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it is like stained glass windows that appear dark and lifeless from the outside but are bright and luminous inside.

    The only good reason to become a Catholic is because you believe the claims of the Catholic Church are true. However, I hope that some of the things which you currently feel you have to accept with gritted teeth will become things you fall in love with (this happened to me with the liturgy).

    I was very saddened reading through the comments on the post announcing your resignation on your own blog. To those commenters who disagree with Jason’s decision, I would say this (not that I have any standing or authority, but here it is anyway): It’s perfectly fine to disagree and to argue forcefully the reasons for your disagreement. And I perfectly understand the feelings of shock, betrayal, anger, confusion, and frustration that could result from learning that someone you had previously admired and respected has, in your view, abandoned the gospel. But you do not support your argument and you disrespect the name of Christ which you claim to defend when you engage in name-calling and make baseless attacks against anyone’s honesty and integrity. (This goes for everyone on whatever side, including myself.)

  23. […] Stellman Has Officially Gone to Rome I Fought the Church, and the Church Won – Called to Communion Rev. Benjamin P. Glaser, M. Div, ARP Pastor, Ellisville Presbyterian Church (Independent) […]

  24. Jason, I loved reading your story. I converted 21 years ago but not for any of the reasons you did…you actually knew what the heck you were talking about and I didnt have a clue. Theologically I’m a simpleton, but God spoke to my heart in terms I could understand.

    Even though I can’t explain complex theology, when I am in need, I know that at 915 at St Marys Church downtown, the host will be elevated and Jesus will enter the room. If I dont know anything else, I know that and it is enough to get me through some really hard stuff and a tough vocation.

    Thank you for being able to describe my religion better than I can. Welcome home !!

  25. Jason,

    Welcome to the Catholic Church, brother!! I can relate to your account of your journey in a visceral way. For all of the years that I was a Protestant, I had absolutely no dissatisfaction with *being* a Protestant (other than in the fact that, in the *last* of those years, increasingly, I reached the conclusion that certain of its claims were not true or even tenable).

    Particularly, when I moved from broadly evangelical, Arminian beliefs to an acceptance of the five points of Calvinism, as a “Calvinistic Baptist,” I was convinced that God had led me to the most “Biblically faithful Christianity” that could be found. Within perhaps two months, I had resigned from my post as a deacon in my (non-Calvinistic) Baptist church and had found a strongly Calvinistic church. I was more than happy. I was elated.

    The sermons there were so exegetically careful *and* deeply stirring– from within a “Reformed Baptist” framework, of course, of which the main preaching pastor was convinced and *very* exegetically persuasive . To this day, I have never heard a better preacher, in many ways, than him (though I obviously disagree with him now, in certain important ways, as a Catholic). I’ll put it this way– well-known PCA pastors were happy to “guest preach” at *this* particular Baptist church and, to say the least, that is *not* always the case between Presbyterians and Baptists!

    The community there was very warm and tight-knit– still, to this day, the most strongly evangelistic (in the greater city), and the most deeply mutually supportive community (within the church) that I have ever encountered in *any* church. Even if it had not been so, I would have been happy to stay, because of the preaching, but the community was, indeed, amazing.

    A geographical move eventually took me from this church and to another, similar church in another state. Still, I was completely happy being a Protestant and, particularly, a “Calvinistic Baptist” Protestant, as I continued to believe that that thinking most clearly reflected the soteriological and ecclesial teaching of the Bible. I became deeply involved in the church, happily volunteering many hours a week and beginning in training, with our on-staff Biblical Counselor (of the “CCEF” kind), to eventually become a Biblical Counselor myself. I had no intentions, not even a thought, of leaving Protestantism. The 5 Solas (with Christ at the center of each of them) were the very air that I breathed.

    I have written all of the above, Jason (and others here), simply to say that I know how it feels, brother. In light of all of the above, it was an upsetting, and even angering, time for me when I began to notice serious Scriptural problems with Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. I had already begun to discover that the thinking of so many early Church Fathers did not resemble Reformational Protestantism in distinctive ways, but when I began to see that the teaching of *the Bible* posed significant problems for the same– I can barely describe how it felt. It was like waking up in a sort of nightmare.

    Eventually, I did find a joy, of sorts, in discovering the truth(s) of the Catholic Church (as a “revert” to her)– but it was a joy amidst much pain and sorrow. It was not the joy of “smells and bells” or supposed “unwarranted epistemic certainty.” It was the joy of Truth. (For anyone who wishes to equate my discovery of the Catholic Church with my earlier exegetical move from Arminianism to Calvinism, please see these articles:

    /2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

    /2010/05/the-tu-quoque/

    Jason, I write this to you, brother to brother, man to man– you may well already be experiencing this yourself; I don’t know– coming (back, for me) to the Catholic Church has been deeply joyful and deeply painful. Having been back, now, for almost two years, being in the Church continues to be joyful and painful. I simply could not return to Protestantism now, any more than I could become a Muslim. (To be clear, I am *not* equating Protestant Christianity with Islam!) Catholicism is historical Christianity. If I were not now a Catholic, I would likely be an agnostic, or perhaps, even, an atheist.

    Yet, emotionally speaking (purely emotionally), there are days, in my sinfulness, when I wish that God had simply left me alone (so to speak) in my Calvinist Protestantism. By returning to the Catholic Church, I have lost so many friendships that it increasingly seems will never be restored, this side of eternity. My career life has taken a deep blow from which it still has not recovered in any externally noticeable way at all. (I am unemployed at 39, living alone, and surviving through disability benefits.) I do battle (spiritual warfare) with temptations toward despair now regularly– not for theological reasons, but because of the ongoing social and economic consequences of my Catholic “reversion.”

    I had to do it though. It was, and is, a matter of Truth– of following Truth back to the one place to which I never thought I would return– the Catholic Church. The fact(s) that Christ founded her, that He is Really Present there, in the Eucharist, and that the Holy Spirit guides her, in official teaching of faith and morals– these truths give me deep joy, even amidst the suffering, and the conviction that I will, that I must, live and die as a Catholic. It’s a matter of sober, hard, and wonderful Truth.

    God bless you and be with you, Jason. I am praying for you.

  26. P.S. I love The Clash (have for almost 25 years)! :-)

  27. Thanks so much for your encouraging words, everyone!

    Nathan,

    “Necessary” in what sense? In the sense that if you do not submit to this you are in certainly in danger of excluding yourself (or you automatically exclude yourself?) from the Church and Christ? Really? That seems unlikely to me. Or is it more about being respectful of those with Jewish sensibilities so the unity of faith that already had been given and existed between Jewish and Gentile Christians did not get strained (leading first to schism, *then* heresy)?

    I will let the actual Catholics here weigh in on the technical distinction between dogmas and disciplines.

    I do think the context of Acts 15 indicates that one of the primary concerns was sensitivity to Jewish believers, which is why James points out that “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues” (v. 21).

    Jason – I’m curious as to whether or not you considered Confessional Lutheranism … and if not why not?

    No, I did not consider Lutheranism, since it seems to me to fall prey to the same objections I have to Presbyterianism. We’re talking about big, paradigmatic issues here rather than mere differences over details. If Geneva and Saddleback exist in the same county, then Wittenberg is right next door.

  28. Well said. I read your blog post about your resignation from the PCA pastorate and tried at the time to comment. I wasn’t sure where you were headed, but prayed for you then, and continue to now. My own journey to the Catholic Church, though not identical to yours by any means, included some of the same realizations. May all Protestants wrestle with the same truths, and may we all finally achieve unity. Welcome home.

  29. I noticed at the bottom of the church website Jason is still listed as the pastor.

  30. Thank you very much! So lovely to have you! Make yourself right at Home.

  31. Jason:

    Is there some place where you have written about your move from Calvary Chapel to the Reformed Church?

    I am very interested in what you found lacking to make that move from evangelicalism.

    God bless you for your courage and obedience.

    Thanks so much, brother.

    Dabn

  32. Jason,
    Let me add a big welcome home to all the others.
    Like you, I came to the Church because her claims are true (19 years ago). I was also extremely hesitant, but I have never regretted it. I do thank God continually for the riches of grace he poured out in my life. All these years later, the amazing aspect of the Church is the depth of the riches that are there to explore. Enjoy !
    God bless.

  33. Welcome home, Jason. I know the journey can be long and difficult, but the end result is sweet and the sacramental life revives the soul.

  34. Excellent piece. I came into the Church a hard core Evangelical two years ago and still kneel and stare at the Real Presence and wonder at it all.

  35. Welcome home!! God bless you!

  36. Dan,

    I wrote the following piece many years ago:

    http://calvarychapel.pbworks.com/w/page/13146593/CC-Anti-Calvinists

  37. Welcome Home, Bienvenido a Casa… you are in our prayers!!!

  38. Welcome, Jason and family. The only thing really TRUE about the the Church is that She is full of sinners. I am amazed at your intelligence, and enjoyed reading your article.

    Christopher Lake, I am praying for you.

  39. Jason, as a fellow traveler for many years on the highways and byways of Reformedville, it is so very good to be able to join in the “Welcome Home” chorus! God bless you as you continue this great journey!

  40. I just want to send you a warm, catholic Welcome from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Thanks for dividing this with us. So, let’s walk together, with Him.
    Ney V.

  41. Thanks for that link, Jason. How do you now understand Rom 3:11?

    Thanks

    Dan

  42. By “welcome home” do you mean that a man in Christ but not submitted to the Bishop of Rome is not home?! It is very hard not to read that as supremely sectarian.

  43. Tim, (re: #42)

    Keep in mind that for anyone who doesn’t believe Christ founded a visible Church, any claim to the effect that Christ founded a visible Church, and it is this Church right here (pointing), is going to seem sectarian. But in such a case, that definition of ‘sectarian’ begs the question, by presupposing ‘invisible church ecclesiology,’ whereas Catholics believe Christ founded a visible Church and that essential visible unity is one of her four marks. That’s why for St. Optatus and St. Augustine, the Donatists were in schism from the Church. In that respect the Donatists weren’t home. (See “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.”) So persons who treat any claim to being the Church Christ founded as ‘sectarian’ only show that theirs is not a visible church ecclesiology, and that they have no conception of schism from that does not reduce to heresy (see “Michael Horton on Schism as Heresy“).

    I discuss the charge of ‘sectarianism’ in more detail in “Ecclesial Unity and Outdoing Christ.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  44. Jason, it’s my honor to welcome you home. I’m a recent convert myself and it feels good to finally be a part of the welcoming committee!

    I could relate with much of your story because I grappled with many of the same issues myself. I too was a “kicking and screaming” convert. Some people are shocked to learn that anti-Catholicism exists as it does today, but one needs only to read the comments on your resignation post for evidence. Though I had less to lose than you did, I found my conversion to be a real cross to bear. It was absolutely worth it. You will never regret this.

    I am praying for you as you enter full communion with the Church. Keep writing, if only for yourself. You’ll always remember this!

  45. […] I Fought the Church, and the Church Won by Jason Stellman […]

  46. To God be the glory. I’m awed, moved. And very humbled that I need to live my faith more and more and much better each time. Welcome HOME Jason to the One, True, Holy and Apostolic Church.

  47. Just tuned in. I will read this tomorrow when I can absorbed your interesting journey home. This leads into my question. Have you ever been on the Journey Home Program with Marcus Grodi on EWTN? One of my favorite programs is The Journey Home because converts are some of the most inspiring catholics and I always learn more and get more excited about my faith when I hear the journey home stories. God bless

  48. Lots of love and many prayers sent to you from the folks of St. Brendan Parish. Mexico, MO. Peace!

  49. Thank you for sharing your story. I am moved by it. It is tremendously encouraging, and real– it’s important that people know that coming to the faith happens for different people in different ways. For some, it is in consolations and joy, for others, it comes with loss and pain (or somewhere in the middle). But the courage to say yes to truth, no matter how it comes, is itself a grace from God. Welcome home, indeed! God bless you on this new journey! –from a”cradle” Catholic wife of another convert.

  50. Welcome Home Jason! I am a revert to the Church! I pray that with time your love and passion for being a Catholic will increase :) I, too, read a lot of the comments where your resignation letter was posted, and it broke my heart to see so many hurtful comments! Your story and courage is very inspiring and I will be praying for you and your family! Again, welcome home to the beautiful Church that Christ founded.

  51. As a new convert, welcome home! I’ve been praying for you since I read about your resignation from PCA earlier this year. It’s good here, you’ll like it!

  52. I’m a Roman Catholic. And everything that Jason and Scott Hahn discovered about Catholic dogmas and doctrines – after striving for years to discredit it – is the reason why I will never convert to other religion. Protestant theologians, past and present, are striving to study and discover theological truths that Catholic Church fathers have already long uncovered and more than sufficiently explained. The fact that this is so is solid proof of how Jesus has faithfully guided – and continues to guide – His Church and protects it from all subtle – and not so subtle – attacks from the evil one. When I compare the theology of the best Protestant minds with that of the Church Fathers – sadly, they (Protestant theology) always pale in comparison.

    Holy Trinity, One God, praise Your Holy Name FOREVER!

  53. The Lord has done wonderful things for you. Thank you for generously sharing your experiences with others. I give thanks to the Lord with you for all that He has done and will keep doing in and through you. God bless.

  54. Mr. Stellman I am happy you have found your “Truth”. I do not know if you remember me I posted at PP a few times, usually emotional rants that Michael in his kindness put up with. I hope you and your family have great peace and joy.

  55. Welcome Jason. My wife and I converted in 2008 after fighting the truth for a while. We went through RCIA for 2 years! We are now home; welcome home.

  56. Welcome Home Brother!

  57. I am always amazed to hear about conversions from people who have a financial interest in not converting. As a former Protestant pastor, your livelihood is gone and your education is now of no help to you in obtaining work at a Presbyterian ministry. When my wife and I converted, we had no such financial constraints, but I know it would have been much more difficult if we had. I pray you find the peace, joy, and grace of Christ offered to us in the sacraments.

  58. […] his controversial departure from the Presbyterian Church of America to the Roman Catholic Church in “I Fought the Church, and the Church Won”–a guest post for the blog Called to Communion. He says that Catholicism was not alluring to […]

  59. Welcome home, Jason!

  60. Welcome home, Jason!

    The Devil always makes it seem like we’re going to lose everything when we submit ourselves to Jesus’ authority through the Church. But then, after we do so, God finds ways of paying us back one hundred fold. Hang in there and don’t give up, because God does not punish us for following Him. You will be so joyful after your first confession and your first communion, because joy comes from gratitude and you will be more grateful than you can imagine. I know there is some suffering heading your way, but just remember that life is short and eternity is long. This is a happy time, and I am so happy for you.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  61. Wonderfully expressed. The best I can do when asked why I’m Catholic by my Protestant friends is say “The Catholic Church is the hardest to belong to, but it’s the only True Church.”

  62. Jason,

    Former PCA greetings to you bro.
    In 2010, you asked me to share what my PCA session said concerning my conversion to Catholicism. I perhaps now know why you were interested! I wish I had been more open with you at that time.

    I relate to your making the move because of truth. It certainly can’t be for the awful Gather hymnal (Wow I never realized how awesome people can sing in the PCA) or the scandalous Catholic politicians. In many ways, the PCA is a more “homey” place than the Catholic Church. But it is the homeyness of a club or something. Like if I got together to trim bonsai trees with a group of people every week, I would feel really at home with them, and other “non-bonsai” people would just not get it. This kind of “church based on agreement over doctrine” naturally produces this club atmosphere. But the Catholic Church is not homey, it is home in a different way, and ultimately (for me) in a supremely satisfying way. As a Calvinist, when I submitted to a doctrine I disagreed with, I did it with my eyes peeled for a better situation. Now as a Catholic, I am learning what the obedience of faith is. To conform my mind to that of the Catholic Church’s two millenia of saints is humbling and frustrating sometimes, but it brings an expansive freedom I had never thought possible. I can truly rest now.

    Welcome home Jason, come on in! Father is in his easy chair and is eager to forgive you when you ask, and Mother has bread in the oven for you.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  63. Oh, and Jason, you seriously need to get on the horn with Marcus Grodi. I would love to see your story on the Journey Home. And that show reaches an audience that may not read blogs.

  64. Welcome Home Brother Jason and Family. The Catholic Church is full of Sinners who later became Saints from the time of the Apostles and until now, but indeed it is true and beautiful.

  65. Hi David (re#63)

    You know my situation through email( thank you for all the encouragement), but I don’t think you know that I am currently in RCIA ;) This journey is very very tough, so I take comfort from the testimonies of others that I too will be able to say that it was all worth it. You’re right that the CC isn’t homey; I’m fighting a ton of incredulity because of my Protestant sensibilities, but at the same time being certain that it is The Truth. You come to realize that because Catholicism is everything that it, in truth, is, there ain’t no way Protestantism can be a credible alternative. It’s hard to explain, but one can sense the way likeness highlights disparity, and you’re like, “Wait, Protestants borrowed that.” As much as our separated Brethren desire our return they just can’t see that it is impossible to go any place else, and that the situation really is, as Jason said above, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

    Susan

  66. Jason – welcome to the Catholic Church. As a former Methodist my story of conversion is much simpler – I wanted my future family to belong to one denomination and I chose the Catholic Church since I knew my wife could not leave the Catholic Church because of her parents. (My father was the son of a Methodist minister and my mother a non-practicing Catholic – at the time my father had been dead a few years). I made the decision for unity in the family. Little did I know that calling to family unification was a silent calling by God to my future ordination as a Catholic Deacon. As a Catholic it took me about 11 years before I actually embraced the Church completely – my stumbling stone was Mary – a conversion story that finally got me to fully embrace Catholicism – I have never regretted my conversion. May God Almighty continue to bless you on your journey!
    Deacon Dale

  67. Welcome Home! We came at the ages of 70 and 76 – after years of loving the Lord and serving him – but always longing for worship – then we found it – and it was that funny Church we never wanted to go to! Never been happier since finding TRUTH!

  68. Welcome home, from a Catholic brother in Sacramento.

  69. Welcome home, Jason.

  70. Thanks for the welcomes, everyone!

    Hey David,

    In 2010, you asked me to share what my PCA session said concerning my conversion to Catholicism. I perhaps now know why you were interested! I wish I had been more open with you at that time.

    Man, I had completely forgotten about that. I can totally relate to your being a bit defensive about it you were at the time, though. When I currently experience even honest questions, I can easily react as though I am bracing for an attack, even if one is not forthcoming. A couple weeks ago TurrentinFan asked me a pretty simple question over email, and I about bit his head off!

    I relate to your making the move because of truth…. In many ways, the PCA is a more “homey” place than the Catholic Church. But it is the homeyness of a club or something…. This kind of “church based on agreement over doctrine” naturally produces this club atmosphere.

    That’s similar to what I was referring to when I wrote about Presbyterianism offering more subjective certitude than Catholicism does. After all, if other converts are like me, then they’d admit that their subjective amen-level agreement with everything the CC says is much lower than it was when they joined whatever their former church was. When I joined the PCA, I agreed 100% with everything it taught, whereas as now there is a LOT more faith-seeking-understanding at work.

    But like you say, because of the Church’s divine authority, my eyes are no longer peeled for a better option.

    I can truly rest now.

    Yeah, there have been several instances over the past few months where I have felt a deep-seated relief that (1) the wheel already exists, and that (2) I don’t need to lead the charge to reinvent it. The trust in ecclesiastical leadership that an apostolic church makes possible allows one to sit back and receive the grace of the sacraments without constantly having to wonder whether they’ve got a bunch of stuff wrong that I am accountable to fix or expose.

  71. to a fellow convert (but I was only 12ish)- welcome!

  72. Former Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, convert to Catholic Church Jan ’06 wishing you and your family a warm Welcome Home, Jason. My final Protestant charge was a large Presbyterian boomer styled church. All told, 18 years as Protestant pastor at the point of our conversion. I can relate then to much in your own story.

    Our experience on ‘coming home’ is that it has been very, very difficult, much harder *after* converting, financially and in nearly every way so I cannot pretend roses. However, though the cost has been truly great so has been the gain in terms of treasures stored up in heaven and had I to do it again I would remain compelled by the Holy Spirit to make the same decision. God bless you.

  73. Jason, I came into the Catholic Church on September 23rd, 2007!! (5 years ago!) It has been very hard (jumping into a brand new culture) but also very rewarding. No going back!

  74. Jason,

    I was looking for the difference between this piece and your earlier published one, and I see that, as of yesterday, you are now in full communion with the Church! Congratulations, brother!

    Offering some thoughts here that may be helpful for you: take your time in getting used to everyday life as a Catholic. It definitely involves some serious adjustments, especially coming from Reformed Protestantism. Even after having been back in the Church now for over two years, I continue to adjust to certain things. For example, I am coming, more and more, to understand and appreciate the Catholic veneration of Mary, but deep *participation* in it still feels a bit “alien” to me. I do affirm all that the Church officially teaches about her role in our redemption (a non-salvific role, strictly speaking, as compared to Christ Himself, though without her, we would have never *had* Christ by Whom we are saved!). However, many of the Marian *practices* still involve some moments of theological vertigo for me, for lack of a better way to put it, simply because I was taught, for so many years, to not involve Mary in my devotional life as a Christian *at all*.

    If you are struggling to adjust in similar ways, yourself (whether about Marian belief and practice, or about any other aspect of the Church), don’t beat yourself up about it. It takes different people different amounts of time to get Catholicism into their bloodstream. For some people, the adjustments are very easy and natural; for others, they can be more difficult. Speaking honestly, I am in the latter group– though I should also say that I can no more imagine *not* being Catholic now, than I could imagine embracing Islam!

    Blessed John Henry Newman is right when he says that if Christianity is historical, then Catholicism *is* Christianity. The only *possibly* historically reasonable alternative, in my view, is Eastern Orthodoxy. Not that the faith of serious Protestants is altogether ahistorical, of course– they do hold to much of historic Christianity, including, thanks be to God, the most crucial claims of Christ about who He is. However, by apostolic standards, serious Protestants are also missing crucial parts of historic Christianity, such as apostolic succession and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    Jason, if you discern a serious conviction to put your “Catholic conversion story” out there even more (such as on “The Journey Home”), then, by all means, I encourage you to do so. It could help many people in various stages of thinking about the Church.

    However, please *do not* allow yourself to feel pressured into telling more of your story, publicly, than you are actually comfortable with doing. In recent months, I have decided that I simply need more time, being back in the Church after almost fifteen years of being away, before I will be ready to put more of my story out there, in a very public way, for thousands, or even millions, of people to read/hear/watch. This decision does not involve doubts about what the Church teaches at all in any way. It has to do with a knowledge of my own weaknesses, as a sinful human being, and an awareness that, at this stage, even *beginning* to go on the “Catholic convert testimony circuit” would be harmful for me.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that you have written (some of) your story for us here. If you sense a calling to do more in that vein (soon, I mean), it could be great and very helpful. Just don’t feel pressured to do so, and again, if it takes some time for you to get the Catholic “hang of things,” in daily life, don’t feel bad about it. Welcome home, brother. It’s good to have you as a fellow member of the Church that Christ founded!

  75. Jason,

    Wonderful post, again. In comment 65 you note:

    “After all, if other converts are like me, then they’d admit that their subjective amen-level agreement with everything the CC says is much lower than it was when they joined whatever their former church was. When I joined the PCA, I agreed 100% with everything it taught, whereas as now there is a LOT more faith-seeking-understanding at work.”

    This is a very true comment. I’ve been a Catholic 15 years now and there are aspects of the Church’s teaching that: a) I didn’t understand or fully get when I came in that became clearer as time went on (an example being the Church’s teaching on contraception, which I took on faith upon entry, but now believe, understand, and wholeheartedly find intellectually persuasive); b) I wasn’t even aware of at the time, but now find it impossible to live without (I think of a number of aspects of what is going on in the liturgy); c) I still find difficult to understand (yes, free will and predestination are still puzzles to me, though many of my Thomist friends have tried to enlighten me to no end:)); and d) that are no doubt not even on my radar yet, but which I’m excited to think I may discover.

    Like you, I’m glad I don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

  76. Jason, Peace to you brother. Sometimes i wish i hadn’t been born and raised in the Church so i could have a great story like yours. But that wish would be dumb. Anyway, i will keep you in my prayers and ask you to keep our Pope in your prayers. I think you will come to see what that man has on his shoulders….

  77. God bless you, and welcome home!

    Pax Christi,
    Tele

  78. How small that is, with which we wrestle,
    What wrestles with us, how immense;
    Were we to let ourselves, the way things do,
    Be conquered thus by the great storm-
    We would become far-reaching and nameless.
    What we triumph over is the small,
    And the success itself makes us small.
    The eternal and unexampled
    Will not be bent by us.
    This is the Angel, who appeared
    To the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
    When his opponent’s sinews
    In that contest stretch like metal,
    He feels them under his fingers
    Like strings making deep melodies.

    Whomever this Angel overcame
    (who so often declined the fight)
    He walks erect and justified
    And great from that hard hand
    Which, as if sculpting, nestled round him.
    Winning does not tempt him.
    His growth is this: to be
    Deeply defeated by the ever-greater One.

    – Excerpt from Ranier Maria Rilke, “The Man Watching,” translated by Edward Snow in The Book of Images. New York: North Point Press, 1994.

  79. Susan (#65)

    Just an encouragement regarding RCIA. RCIA can be wonderful (or so I am told) – or utterly awful. I remember our own experience, my wife’s and mine and our children’s. Internet friends, when they knew we were going to become Catholics (this was late 1994 or early 1995), hearing from us of some of the RCIA details we had heard of, told us we should not go through with it. Find an orthodox priest to instruct us privately. I decided not to go that way. I had had 25 years, I said, of being a Protestant, of doing it my way. I thought it a bad idea to enter the Church on my own terms only. I said we will just go through RCIA in our own pretty blah local semi-rural parish, put up with whatever they presented, and not worry about it. I am very happy we did.

    Our RCIA class was dominated by us – and we had read our way into the Church, so were able to discount the rubbish. There was only one other person in the group (my family were five). She was received into the Church – and promptly stopped attending Mass.

    We were sponsors for another convert (someone who had been in our Reformed church) in another parish, a couple of years later. That RCIA was considerably worse than ours. At one point we were all to join hands, close our eyes, and (the leader’s words) “feel the love flow from left to right around the circle; now feel the love flow from right to left around the circle.” At one point we were all supposed to talk about our image of God. I felt a little uncomfortable, but when it came to my turn, I said that I didn’t really have an ‘image’ of God – but that I would know Him when I saw Him by the holes in His hands and feet. “Oh, no,” another catechist said, “that’s Jesus; we’re talking about God.” The same lady said, when it came to her turn, that she sometimes felt that God was “like a big teddy bear.”

    Sigh.

    And yet, that same woman is very devout. In a parish without kneelers, and where many don’t kneel for the Consecration – she does.

    So … the Church is an enormous mixed bag. That woman’s heart is right, I think; her head is full of cottonwool.

    Welcome to the family – Jason AND Susan :-)

    jj

  80. Another big Welcome from a fellow convert! Thank you for having the courage to share your story. I’ll be celebrating 2 years as a Catholic in Nov., but I still find such encouragement in a good conversion story! Blessings to you and your family!

  81. You should feel comfortable there (Roman Catholicism).

    The theologies of most Evangelical churches and the Catholic Church are pretty close…’a lot of God and a little bit of me’. We always say of them (the Evangelicals) that “they are Rome without the vestments”.

    In any event, I hope you have found what you have been looking for.

  82. Susan,

    Echoing John’s comment #79, I fervently hope and pray that you are in an RCIA class that accurately reflects the teaching of the Catholic Church. As much as certain aspects of Catholicism may rub against the grain of your Protestant sensibilities (and I can certainly understand that), it is all the more important that you get a correct understanding of what the Church teaches *now*, so as to save you from possible confusion and grief later.

    I now believe that my own RCIA experience, back in the mid-90s, helped to plant the seeds for my eventually leaving the Church for, first, nihilism, and then, later, anti-Catholic Protestantism. In retrospect, I don’t think that I would have ever left the Church in the first place, if the content of my RCIA class had accurately reflected the content of the Catechism (in substance, I mean, not necessarily in presentation).

    God bless you and be with you on this journey, my sister in Christ! I can’t wait to welcome you home to the Catholic Church!

  83. Steve (re:#81),

    As a Reformed Protestant, Jason did not share the theology of (in your words) “most Evangelical churches.” He was a PCA minister. The Presbyterian Church in America, as a denomination, is Reformed and confessional– decidedly unlike most broadly evangelical communities, at least in America.

    For myself, I was a “Reformed Baptist” whose ecclesial background included adherence to “The New Hampshire Confession of Faith” and the joyful signing of a “church membership covenant,” both of which which I took seriously– but neither of which, as a Protestant, I believed to have anything at all to do with my justification before God.

    I know that you believe to be the theology of Rome to be “a lot of God and a little of me.” However, the historical fact is, Martin Luther came to his beliefs on justification by faith alone and imputed righteousness through his *individual interpretation* of the Bible, as opposed to what Biblical exegetes in the Church had taught for 1, 500 years– which, to my “Catholic revert” ears, definitely sounds like “a little of God and much more of Martin Luther.”

    I’ve been on both sides of the Tiber, and only the Catholic Church has an authoritative teaching safeguard against stumbling into “Biblically-based” heresy. I know well that my Protestant brothers and sisters claim the Holy Spirit (and careful exegesis, comparing Scripture with Scripture) to *be* this safeguard for them, in their reading of the Bible– but the 500-year history of denominational disagreement and fragmentation in Protestantism would seem to argue otherwise.

  84. Sorry for the typos in #83, Steve and everyone! Rushing here, so as to get to my graduate reading for the evening! :-)

  85. JJ :) !!
    So far, I’ve heard comments that make my internal Scottish Covenanter twitch a bit and then my beloved Protestant formularies come to mind, but I have no place to deliver them, so I feel a let down. For sanity, I sometimes just repeat “The Jesus Prayer”, and I keep reminding myself: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever! This belongs to all of Christendom, as does everything the CC teaches. It’s just that I need lots of reprogramming ;)

    Sheesh, I became Reformed because of the nutty stuff that was going on in the late ‘90’s! I listened to Hank Hanegraff on The Bible Answer Man program here in Southern CA., and was on the lookout for a “healthy well-balanced church” and I really desired everything that was orthodox, since that was a word that was thrown around a lot by biblical apologists. I knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t “bubbling out my belly” or animal imitations, but I still didn’t know how to find an orthodox church so my point of reference became the Calvary Chapel nondenomination that my favorite apologists kept recommending.
    But then, over time as a Protestant, I found myself with no spirituality. I began to miss that same so-called subjectivism in worship that I had derided. I alsmost wanted to hear “Lord light the fire again” for the umpteenth time. I tried to find it in the puritans. I wondered where I could get meaty theology and philosophy, beautiful music, and a sense of crossing a “sacred threshold” (as R.C. Sproul called it). The EO and the Catholics both had mystics, and since I am a spiritual being, it made sense that there should be some mysticism. Right now I don’t know what orthodox mysticism is but I am sure that Rome has a balanced approach.
    I feel fortunate that my Priest is a new Anglican Personal Ordinariate who was once a member of the PCA. I have to remind him of my Calvinistic tendencies as we are working through Evangelium. I am in good company and Lord willing, will be received around Christmas. This is will be the most exciting Christ-Mas for me; I always wanted to sneak into a CC to see a Christmas Eve Mass. Look forward to having the most beautiful nativity in my home! It’s all coming together and it all makes perfect sense.

    Many blessing, my friend,
    Susan

  86. Christopher, my dear brother, thank you for the months of prayer and always saying the most helpful things. This is Jason’s moment certainly, but we are coming in because of the work of people at this site whether they are a member of the project or adding their own questions or perspectives. I especially benefit from your being a Calvinist at one time, and your honesty about the things you struggle to accept. You have the gift of encouragment and you are such a clear communicator. Blessings to you always!

    Aside: I see from other blogs that people recognize that Protestant ministers are losing their vocations by becoming Catholic, and that is a huge loss. We all are giving up something that may never be regained or replaced in an equivalent way. But, as far as Jason is concerned, I think he will have a career in writing.

    S.D.G.

    Susan

  87. Christopher (#82)

    FWIW I would think it would be a rare RCIA programme that would give much in the way of actual teaching. Almost the best one could hope for, I would think, would be no heresy and – perhaps of great importance – directing you to resources for growth as a Catholic once you have been received.

    If I am right – I may well be wrong – but if I am right, I think the reason is inherent in the RCIA procedure itself. The amount of time available is limited. It is a group thing, and must in its nature be aimed at a rather lowish level. And much of its function seems to me helping people to become members of a group, rather than actual knowledge transfer. In a way, I think that’s right.

    Once upon a time, when there were more priests, and if you had a fairly well-educated priest – by no means certain, I suspect – individual instruction could be tailored to the needs of the convert. I think such fortunate situations must be rare now.

    But on the other hand the availability of materials for the person who is a reader is very good – including such resources as Called to Communion itself and other Catholic blogs. So there are pluses and minuses. But I think that in general one may be disappointed by expecting an RCIA programme to produce well-formed Catholic minds.

    jj

  88. Welcome home to the one, the only, the original! As blogger Happy Catholic says, I’m not always happy, but I’m always happy to be Catholic.

  89. Susan (re#86),

    I’m happy to be of encouragement to you, sister! You’re very welcome!

    I agree with you that Jason might well have a long career in writing! He published one book as a Reformed Protestant, and I’d love to see many more from him (if God wills) as a Catholic!

    Please pray for me in career discernment. As a happy Calvinist Protestant, after years of struggle in the job market, largely related to issues involved with my physical disability, my career life seemed like it was *finally* starting to come together (I was training, under an elder, to become a Protestant nouthetic “Biblical Counselor”)… *just* when I began to be convicted to re-investigate Catholicism. Honestly, I was angry with God, on and off, for months about the timing of this conviction. I was wrong in that anger, but it was what it was.

    Those who are prone to psychoanalysis might say that I was actually trying to sabotage myself economically– but I know better. It was God who led me back to the Catholic Church and away from Protestantism and a career in Protestant counseling ministry. I never would have chosen for myself my current *economic* place in life, if the matter had not been one of following Truth, wherever the visible evidence of Scripture and church history led me.

  90. JJ (re:#87),

    In reference to RCIA, you wrote:

    Almost the best one could hope for, I would think, would be no heresy and – perhaps of great importance – directing you to resources for growth as a Catholic once you have been received.

    I think it is very possible for the RCIA process to be one in which all people taking the classes are instructed clearly (not at the level of a graduate theology seminar, to be sure, but clearly!) on what they must believe and do to be faithful Catholic Christians. I did not receive this clear instruction. Some of what I was told was, indeed, heretical.

    Unfortunately, I was also coming into the Catholic Church from a background of, partially, cultural, largely doctrine-empty, Southern Protestantism, and, much more, Godless hedonism. I was not the best equipped, to say the least, to “deal with” my particular RCIA process.

    In retrospect, I should have just stuck with the Catechism and ignored (or studied to refute) the very poor RCIA materials, and what I was hearing in and out of the classes. However, at the time, I was young, somewhat naive, still influenced by culturally Protestant ways of thinking, and confused by the discordant voices in the Church.

    If only… but God has brought me back home to the Church, with a much more firm grounding in the faith now, so I cannot allow myself to pine too much for what I *wish* would have been the case those many years ago. Thanks be to God that He has brought our brother Jason home too!

  91. Jason, welcome home. My wife and I came into the church at Easter after a lifetime as protestants (including a stint in the PCA). Praise God for you conversion and keep writing!

    Peace,
    JDD

  92. Dear Jason, Laudate Dominum!

    Your Guardian Angel must have been doing hand-stands when you received the Blessed Sacrament for the first time, Deo Gratias!

    The Church is the Spotless Bride of Christ, but we her children can often be unruly, disobedient and downright ornery. Please bear with us and call us to account with loving fraternal correction.

    Welcome to you and your family. God bless you :-)

  93. John and Christopher,

    It’s possible to be in the right church( ok well there is only one right church. the rest are heterodoxys) and have some things confused……this much I am realizing. Here’s the beef Protestants have with Catholics; i.e. after this long they can’t even get their New Members Course together. But if you realize that even in a Protestant church people have been members for years and still have not studied Reformed doctrine or they don’t read their bibles personally, you can see that there might always be something doctrinally mixed-up. Is it damning? I don’t think Protestants think their members believe anything that is heresy, until they start examining the tradition that is prior to the Reformation that is.
    No matter how much one knows there is always more to learn. Some people neglect learning regardless the ecclesial body. The thing is, this is excusable in a Reformed church, as long as you profess “the gospel”. If you join this body you eventually learn the nomenclature and you will adapt, knowing what is group speak and what isn’t. Catholicism seems to have the same thing. There are little grandmas lighting candles to get their loved ones out of purgatory, but they are doing this because Catholicism teaches it, not because they are scripturally ignorant, though they might be. If we assume that the Church is wrong we will find the practitioners wrong, but if She is right, her members don’t have to be scholars.

    After saying that, I hope that I am getting everything that is Orthodox and nothing that is heresy from my RCIA class. My priest also handed me a copy of the Catholic Catechism, so I really have no excuse when I am in error except that I am lazy or I haven’t read that part yet;) But, I am now onboard the Barque of St. Peter and allowing some epistemic uncertainty is par for the course, right? I see through a glass dimly, but there is a day coming……..!!

    Christopher, you are great with souls. I will pray for wisdom and direction.

    Susan

  94. Susan (#93

    My priest also handed me a copy of the Catholic Catechism…

    You give thanks for that priest!

    jj

  95. Thank you so much for sharing your story Jason. As a 43-year-old cradle Catholic I am always amazed at how much those who have come from outside the Catholic faith have been able to teach me about my faith and to help strengthen my faith. No longer taking things for granted when seeing it through the eyes of someone new to the faith. Thank you and God bless, Mike

  96. Congratulations!!! Welcome home!!! As a revert, submitting to the Church was hard, though, ridiculously rewarding; so beautiful. It is submitting to the Will of God, being obedient to Him, which is why it’s so beautiful. As a MA student in Theology, I invite you to Franciscan U. of Steubenville. Here, you will see life lived fully in the Spirit. Please consider coming. Praise God!!!

  97. Dear Jason, your story was beautiful, but needed a soundtrack. Here it is:
    http://archive.org/details/IFoughtTheChurchAndTheChurchWon
    Sometimes you just got to laugh. Welcome home!

  98. I reread Mr. Stellman’s story possibly for the 5th time, because I am still in the thick of it and my pain is very raw, but he does make a very compelling case.
    All detractors, know deep down that the things he wrestled with are the same things they too wrestle with or should do so.

    “Moving on to Sola Fide, I found myself wrestling with this issue from both a historical and biblical perspective as well, and this is what ultimately proved to be the coup de grâce for me as a Protestant. As long as I believed that Catholicism mucked up the gospel so severely, its arguments about authority remained merely annoying, like a stone in my shoe that I would eventually get used to (after all, better to be unauthoritatively right about justification than authoritatively wrong about it). But when I began to dig into the issue more deeply and seek to understand Rome on its own terms, I began to experience what some have referred to as a “paradigm crisis.” A severe one.

    As a Protestant minister, I had always operated under the assumption that the fullest treatment of the gospel, and of justification in particular, came from the apostle Paul, and that the rest of what the New Testament had to say on these issues should be filtered through him. But as I began to investigate again things that I had thought were long-settled for me, I began to discover just how problematic that hermeneutical approach really was. If justification by faith alone was indeed “the article on which the church stands or falls,” as Reformed theology claimed, then wouldn’t we expect it to have been taught by Jesus himself, somewhere? Moreover, wouldn’t John have taught it, too? And Peter, and James? Shoot, wouldn’t Paul himself have taught the imputation of alien righteousness somewhere outside of just two of his thirteen epistles?’

    I did the same examination( almost) and was forced towards Rome. I hope that no one takes this lightly.

    God bless him for his courage. The pain is immense.

    ~Susan

  99. Great article!
    And welcome to the church! :)

  100. Dear Jason,

    The ancient Syrian Church welcomes you, even amid tears. We love you, and we lift up our hands in a sacrifice of praise – todah, eucharistia – thanking our kind Lord for drawing you, like a weaned child, closer to home, closer to his Eucharistic heart. May all our separated brethren be given the grace to see what you see and to eat what you eat. Change our hearts, Lord, humble us Catholics, and teach us to fear God alone.

    – brother David-Marie
    Community of Mar Yakub al Muqata, (St James the Mutilated)
    Qara, Syria

  101. Jason,

    I know I’ve already commented and maybe said as much, but welcome home! Now in full communion with each other, I am filled with great joy. I will continue to keep you and your family in my prayers. Being in full communion with the Church Christ founded is not the end of a journey but just the beginning.

    Pax Christi

  102. […] I’m so excited about this news! […]

  103. Christopher @#83,

    The Bible is God’s Word to us. Martin Luther was in search of a gracious God. He found the demanding God of Catholicism. The gracious God was there, too, but the way the Catholic Church was handling the Christian faith was from a ‘law’ perspective, or ‘what we do’.

    The Roman Church had gone WAY off the rails during Luther’s time. Selling indulgences to get people and their families right with God. That is certainly not biblical. Luther did not desire to start anything new, just to get centered on Christ again. But they (the powers that be, in the Church) were making lots of money doing it their way and they threw Luther out.

    A lot of God and a little bit of me, is still the default religion of most of Christianity and it clearly compromises the pure gospel, and sets people on a path of ‘what they do’, to become right with God. Why then the cross?

    Luther just rediscovered Paul and was parroting Paul from the Scriptures. He wasn’t making anything up on his own accord.

    This is a very good and interesting mp3 audio (class) on just this topic:

    http://theoldadam.com/2012/02/21/here-it-is-the-question-that-percipitated-the-reformation/

    And how it was that Luther went from a law scheme in reading Scripture (‘what we do’)…to a grace scheme (‘what Christ has done, s doing).

    Even if you don’t agree with it, it will give you a much better understanding of why we believe what we do regarding the faith.

    Thanks.

  104. […] who recently swam the Tiber (at great cost to himself and his family). I regard him as a hero.Anyway, he has finally been able to begin to tell his story. A good, good man and I hope we welcome him and help him and his family as they struggle to adjust […]

  105. Dear Jason,
    I shared some of my own conversion experience in a comment to an article on line and was rewarded with an accusation of having presented a rant against evangelicalism with a demand for an apology and disclosure of my full name so that I could be publicly shamed by the other person. So, in case no one has done so, I want to thank you for your “rant”; it is so clearly stated and parallels what so many of us life-long evangelicals have experienced. Suddenly our blindness was cured. God Bless

  106. Jason,

    Thank you for sharing your conversion story. I can relate to your intellectual/spiritual appraisal of Protestantism. Allow me to suggest that the Catholicism which won your heart and mind may not be the same that you hear and see in a typical Seattle archdiocese parish. I recommend Romano Amerio’s book “Iota Unum: A Study of the Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century” and Fr. Cekada’s book “Work of Human Hands: A Theological Critique of the Mass of Paul VI.” (Fr. Cekada has video overviews of each chapter on Youtube). Shorter articles that ask and answer some of these tough questions can be found at http://www.traditonalmass.org.

    Your fellow Catholic in the Northwest,

    David M.

  107. Welcome aboard the Barque of Peter, Jason!

    I was raised in a mix of Methodism and Evangelicalism…swam the Tiber twenty years ago this coming Easter, and finally feel I am starting to get the hang of it.

    May you grow steadily in the Faith…and may us fellow Catholics not drive you too crazy (some of us have a knack for it!).

  108. Myself a convert to Catholicism, welcome. Pax.

  109. Jason,

    You use the analogy of reinventing the wheel. In The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton said “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back.” In Protestantism’s separation from Rome, the subsequent dismissal of 1500 years of Sacred Tradition resulted in this journey out and away from the Church. Reinventing the wheel is part of the return journey. Only that lacking authority, it has only resulted in further division, not unity.

    However, I do think in many cases, God is using the journey of many of our separated brethren to prepare them for greater service in His Church. Your passion and skills to articulate your faith are a great gift, a grace from God that is to be used and co-operated with. I pray you continue to spread the Word and help make the Church a place that is more alluring. The Truth shall set you free, but no one ever said that the Truth doesn’t sometime hurt. Welcome Home!!

  110. Let me add my voice to the welcome and tears of gratitude to those from all over the world–now leave the door open for my daughter to follow…she wandered off. I always told her to ask God to place her where she belongs. (what did I do wrong???)

    Its in Your hands Lord….

  111. Brother Jason —

    First of all, welcome Home from a fellow convert also from the PCA.

    Your journey, like all journeys of all converts, is quite amazing. It is heartening to see the Lord’s hand at work in this century, drawing so many good and balanced Protestants into the fullness of the truth. I can certainly appreciate your journey, as I was probably much more a diehard anti-Catholic than you appear to have been, although I would imagine that you had better theological reason than I had. I was just an ignorant bigot who had been fed on Chick tracts and Lorraine Boettner.

    I found the covenant of God a compelling reason to consider Catholic soteriology and eclessiology. It also explained for me a number of very sticky wickets which Protestants find hard to hurdle, such as our Lady’s Queenship and where that is found in Scripture. It’s a covenant matter, and with the covenant in hand, I find I am able to give decent apologia for the hope that lies with in me as a member of our Lord’s Catholic Church.

    Good to have you home with us! May the Lord bless you and make of you a fine warrior in the cause of truth and one who can win others to the fullness of the Truth.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Ed Hara

  112. Dear Jason,

    I join with everyone in the great chorus of “Welcome Home!”

    How fascinating that each journey is different and some are very different indeed. I, for instance, was dramatically drawn to the Church after reading the works of Tolkien and Chesterton and after an awakening of love for traditional liturgical music (from Bach, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Palestrina and others). But I firmly refused to join her because I believed she was in error regarding her doctrines on authority and justification.

    So discovering the veracity of the Church’s teachings on authority (once that issue is resolved, everything else falls into place) was like getting to marry the girl I always secretly loved.

    And I think that sooner or later most people who come into the Church see it that way, too. Frustrations with human imperfections are there (the state of how the liturgy is celebrated is presently abysmal…thanks be to God there is one parish reasonably close where we get the Novus Ordo celebrated reverently, faithfully, and in Latin), but there simply is no substitute for the Bride of Christ, the very Kingdom of God on Earth.

    The modern world has unexamined assumptions about how things should be. That is responsible for so much of Protestantism’s disdain for Catholicism. Once those assumptions are questioned they begin to fade, and the glorious beauty of the Church becomes clearer and clearer. It is of the Church which Chesterton spoke when he called it “bright at the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.”

    Blessings and Peace to you,

    Philip

  113. Steve (re:#103),

    I will listen to your MP3 and consider its content. I should say, though, that four years ago, I could have basically written your reply to me, word-for-word, because you actually presented the basic Protestant interpretation of Scripture and church history that I used to hold myself.

    I, too, thought that Martin Luther was basically “parroting Paul.” I thought that Luther had rediscovered the Biblical Gospel of justification by faith alone, with the imputed righteousness of Christ counted to believers– the Gospel that had been “obscured” (and/negated) by “Romish doctrines.” I thought that the Catholic Church pointed us toward ourselves (and Mary) and away from Christ. I would have died for my Protestant convictions– which included believing that the Catholic Church anathematized the Gospel at the Council of Trent.

    I am now firmly convinced that I was *Biblically wrong* in these Protestant convictions. (I do still believe that Luther was right to protest against the selling of indulgences. The Pope himself agreed with Luther on this subject. It, however, was not the ultimate reason for the Reformation.)

    For some Biblical, exegetical reasons as to why I no longer believe that the Bible teaches Luther’s *interpretation* of St. Paul on justification, please see my reply to Hugh McCann here: /2009/09/does-the-bible-teach-sola-fide/#comment-37678

    For more Biblical exegesis that provides evidence against Luther’s understanding of the Biblical teaching on justification, see my reply to Andrew McCallum here: /2009/09/does-the-bible-teach-sola-fide/#comment-37753

    I understand the “law/Gospel paradigm” way of understanding Scripture, Steve. I was once convinced that this paradigm reflected the clear teaching of the Bible. However, continuing to study the Bible convinced me that I was wrong there. It didn’t help, either, that I found no early Church Fathers teaching anything which resembled Lutheran *or* Reformed thinking on justification– but if reading the Bible, itself, had not convinced me of the wrongness of justification by Sola Fide, I likely could never have even *begun* to take returning to the Catholic Church seriously as a live option.

  114. Christopher

    I don’t mean to take focus away from this thread but would you point me to a source that articulates the ultimate reasons for the Reformation?

    Jason

    I applaud your courage. I am on that same journey. I’m further along than when I began. Pray for me.

    Blessings,

    Dan

  115. What an amazing journey you’ve had. Welcome home.

  116. Welcome home, & thank you for your very frank testimony. I am a cradle Catholic, & reverted after a period of rebellion. One thing that helped me was the story of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. When his friends pointed out he would lose everything: a great number of friends, a stellar public reputation, a prestigious Fellowship & pulpit at Oxford, and a substantial income (approaching 6 figures in today’s terms), he is said to have replied that it would be worth it for just one Communion. Difficult as it was, he was just beginning to pay the price: the failure of the Dublin university project, the Achilli trial, the Rambler, the abortive Oratory at Oxford, & friction & distrust from Catholics were still to follow. After all that, Charles Kingsley lambasts him, for which we should be thankful, as we certainly would not otherwise have his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, which you must read, in the unlikely event you haven’t. All this is to say you now have the Pearl of Great Price, but like the oyster from which it comes, it is an acquired taste.

    Either Jesus is Who He says He is, or He is the greatest liar or lunatic ever. It follows that the Eucharist is What He says It is (cf John 6) or the same 2 alternatives apply. You have (rightly) discerned that Calvin’s authority, however meritorious, does not exceed Peter’s.

  117. Jason:
    Thanks so much for your story. May God bless you and your family as you acclimate to the Church! I taught at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, MS from 1988 t0 1994 when I realized that, like you, in my conscience I could no longer subscribe to the PCA standards. 1 June 1996 I was confirmed and received into the Church that is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. I have never looked back. The Church is truly a treasury of spiritual, intellectual, and cultural riches. But most of all, it is true.

  118. Before I make a comment, I wanted to point out that David Meyer’s comment seems very insulting to Protestants, and baseless. I have found plenty of healthy, loving disagreement over significant theological issues in many protestant churches, with a unity found in the historic creeds. Regardless, this kind of belittling analogy does not seem like it belong on this kind of website.

    David’s comment was as follows . . .
    “In many ways, the PCA is a more “homey” place than the Catholic Church. But it is the homeyness of a club or something. Like if I got together to trim bonsai trees with a group of people every week, I would feel really at home with them, and other “non-bonsai” people would just not get it. This kind of “church based on agreement over doctrine” naturally produces this club atmosphere. But the Catholic Church is not homey, it is home in a different way, and ultimately (for me) in a supremely satisfying way.”

  119. Congratulations from the sower ministry! Saw your story on Scott Hahn’s facebook page! Congrats again!
    Mr. D Sower Catholic Evangelization Ministry!

  120. Jason,

    Thank you for your article. I am fascinated by your journey.

    You describe yourself in this post as having been as ” . . . staunchly confessional an Old School Presbyterian as anyone would want to meet.” As I have met several theologically trained ex-Protestants who have crossed the Tiber over the past few years, I have noticed that all of them tended, at some point, toward such a self-professed, “staunchly confessional” mindset. In the end, they criticized the Protestant church for craving too much theological certitude, for wanting to dot every theological “i” and cross every theological “t,” so to speak.

    On the other hand, I also converse with other theologically-trained still-Protestants on a regular basis. For those who seem to require less certitude, who are more gracious toward and understanding of Roman Catholic doctrine, and who are generally less disputatious (not that this word describes you), crossing the Tiber seems much less likely. They seem truly comfortable in their own skin, and apparently not because they have a false sense of theological certainty.

    I would be interested to hear your perspective in how to talk to these still-Protestants about our faith.

    David

  121. Dan (#114

    …a source that articulates the ultimate reasons for the Reformation?

    Karl Adam’s Roots of the Reformation is excellent.

    jj

  122. Edward,

    I found the covenant of God a compelling reason to consider Catholic soteriology and eclessiology.

    That’s interesting, especially because many Protestants read things like this (as well as Scott Hahn’s stuff) and dismiss it as being nothing more than Presbyterians importing their former theology into the Catholic faith.

    My response to this charge is to do a bit of spiritual judo and use the force of the objection to the advantage of the Catholic Church. If the CC is, as Chesterton says, the “trysting place for all the truths in the world,” then it would make perfect sense for a convert to find his former theology in his new ecclesial home, albeit now in its perfect fullness, and in the proper relation to all the other truths of the Catholic faith.

    So I agree, covenant theology was hugely instrumental in bringing me to Rome as well. Only now, the things I gleaned from Moo, Vos, Ridderbos, and Fee fit much more confortably alongside the things I read in Jesus, Paul, Peter, and James.

  123. David L,

    David Meyer’s comment seems very insulting to Protestants, and baseless. I have found plenty of healthy, loving disagreement over significant theological issues in many protestant churches, with a unity found in the historic creeds. Regardless, this kind of belittling analogy does not seem like it belong on this kind of website.

    I know David can defend himself, but I would just point out that it is not “baseless” to say that what unites Protestants is often an “us vs. them” mentality (the whole movement began as one of protest against the established church). I don’t know what denomination you are in, but from my experience, many of them are defined almost solely in terms of what they’re not, and what they stand against. In fact, the PCA is often looked upon with derision by those in the OPC or URC for being too broad and evangelical (it has a whopping 300,000 members, after all).

  124. David,

    You describe yourself in this post as having been as ” . . . staunchly confessional an Old School Presbyterian as anyone would want to meet.” As I have met several theologically trained ex-Protestants who have crossed the Tiber over the past few years, I have noticed that all of them tended, at some point, toward such a self-professed, “staunchly confessional” mindset.

    Verily I say to you, if any thinks he can have confidence in his former confessionalism, I more so!

    In the end, they criticized the Protestant church for craving too much theological certitude, for wanting to dot every theological “i” and cross every theological “t,” so to speak.

    Interesting. I find that this charge is the one usually leveled by Protestants against the Catholic Church, and people like me: we are on a “quest for illegitimate religious certainty.”

    On the other hand, I also converse with other theologically-trained still-Protestants on a regular basis. For those who seem to require less certitude, who are more gracious toward and understanding of Roman Catholic doctrine, and who are generally less disputatious (not that this word describes you), crossing the Tiber seems much less likely. They seem truly comfortable in their own skin, and apparently not because they have a false sense of theological certainty.

    I would be interested to hear your perspective in how to talk to these still-Protestants about our faith.

    Yes, I know many people like this (many of them, in fact, have insisted that my understanding of the gospel is perfectly consistent with the Westminster Standards!). When I speak to men like this I usually focus on the authority issue: “At the end of the day, even if the PCA and the CC were to agree completely on justification, it wouldn’t change the fact that according to the latter, the former is not a church, but is in schism from the Church.”

    Not to name names, but not a few of the Catholic-friendly Presbyterians like the ones you describe seem highly unlikely to become Catholic because (in my mind) they treasure too much their exegetical autonomy.

  125. […] I Fought the Church, and the Church Won – Jason Stellman, Called to Communion […]

  126. John suggested Karl Adam’s Roots of the Reformation is excellent.

    The Coming Home Network reprinted this. Visit
    https://store.chnetwork.org/

    and use the search tool.

  127. Thank you John & Kenneth.

    Dan

  128. David L.,

    I wanted to point out that David Meyer’s comment seems very insulting to Protestants, and baseless. I have found plenty of healthy, loving disagreement over significant theological issues in many protestant churches, with a unity found in the historic creeds.

    I sincerely don’t want to insult anyone, and I apologize if I have. I should have been clearer than I was that I was giving my personal experience from 23 years of being a Protestant of various stripe, and extrapolating from that experience, combined with that of many others, something I see as much more of a trend in Protestant communities than I have seen in Catholic parishes.
    And strangely, you seem to concede my point, or at least to understand it, by pointing out one type of “unity” experienced by Protestants:

    …healthy, loving disagreement over significant theological issues in many protestant churches, with a unity found in the historic creeds.

    For people like myself, this definition of unity has always been utterly maddening. For one thing, who ever said the “historic creeds” are to be the final measure of unity? What about the councils after those creeds? Why can we reject them? This is arbitrary.

    Also, disagreement over “significant theological issues” is not loving. Christ called Christians to be one as the Trinity is one. We must be of one faith. I believed this as a Reformed Christian as much as I do now, and as you can imagine, that drew me to be in a very small group of likeminded Protestants (the PCA). From my perspective, if I had to describe the feeling, I would describe it as a club feeling. But even surrounding yourself with like-minded Christians is not comforting ultimately, and the club gets more political, because my opinion of the true doctrine changed over time (as it always will). So enter a crisis on the scene when I had to then decide at what point I should leave the group to go somewhere more “true” to my newfound doctrine (Paedocommunion and baptismal regeneration in my case). So can you see how this situation was (for me) both a tight knit club and also very spiritually unsettling? When our fellowship is based on our agreement with each other and our agreement to ignore the points we disagree on, arbitrarily designating them as not important enough to break fellowship (who decides this?), then a huge tension grows (for many of us at least).
    Here is the tension:
    On the one hand, there is a “homey” unity of a small group who agree on what they (arbitrarily) determine are the most important doctrines, and whose agreement is often very much a lowest common denominator where even (as you mentioned) important doctrines are sacrificed for the sake of “unity”.

    On the other hand, as one grows in the spiritual life, learns more, reads more scripture and becomes convinced of different things and more specifically convinced of things, he will inevitably be disagreeing more and more with his co-religionists. Does he continue to go to a church he feels is not biblical? Does he submit to elders who are not teaching what he now sees as the truth presented in scripture? To a man, I was told by my Presbyterian brothers to just find a community I agreed with more. Huh? What about truth? What about being one like Jesus commanded us to be? And if I go somewhere else, won’t I just get tired of that too and move again? So the problem is more basic. I came to see the whole Protestant system as flawed to the core. I came to see biblically and historically that the Church needs to tell me what to believe, not the other way around. And any church that refuses to do that (PCA) or can’t do that (invalid authority) or both, is no true church. Now I am part of a Church which actually has unity of doctrine, can plausibly claim authority, authoritatively commands me in the name of Christ himself, and seeing as they comprise 52% of all Christians on the globe (over a b-b-billion souls), which is what I would expect the true church to look like after 2000 years, it makes sense to follow that Church rather than my best tries at exegesis and biblical interpretatin’. And I will follow this Church founded by Christ to my death.

    I hope that clarifies where I was coming from. Really more of a personal view of things drawing from years as a Protestant. It’s not for me to try to get philosophical or anything.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  129. David L (re: #118),

    Regarding the contrast between the conceptions of Church as “catholic” and as “club,” see the quotation at “Club Church.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  130. Having received from Jason a nod of the head towards the covenant of God, which drew me in to the Catholic faith (albeit not to Rome, I am a Reuthenian Byzantine Catholic), I would like to mention a book that Scott Hanh and I talked about when I met him in 2003 at St. Joe’s in Mechanicsburg PA. It is THAT YOU MAY PROSPER — Dominion by Covenant by Ray Sutton.

    Scott said that he personally knew of two men who were drawn into the Catholic Faith by reading that book. I told him to add me to the list. I wonder if anyone else here is familiar with the work.

    A Biblical covenant is not a legal piece of paperwork. It is the relationship of two people who have given themselves without reserve to each other. The Calvinist definition in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is totally devoid of this intimacy. Listen to its language:

    Q: WHAT IS A COVENANT?
    A: AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE PERSONS.

    That’s it. Barren. There is nothing about love between two persons. There is nothing which indicates the action of one giving one’s self totally to the other. It is a legal contract and nothing more. And it is not a biblical covenant.

    Ezek. 16: 8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.

    There is the definition of covenant, according to the Bible. The analogy we are given in Scripture is marriage – the beauty of two people giving themselves completely to one another in love. They make vows to one another. We seldom hear marriage described as “the covenant of marriage” anymore. But that is exactly the picture.

    The children of this marriage covenant are born into a family covenant which has its own set of rules. These rules are set before them for their profit, and that the family might enjoy the best of family unity in love. It is the wise child (who is blessed with good parents, may I add) who does not rebel against the good, but in recognizing it, submits to it to receive the blessings of obedience. The covenant relationship of the parents produces life.

    Just as it is inevitable that the union of man and woman (think back before contraception made sterility in marriage seem normal) should produce life, so the covenant of love between the members of the Godhead had to produce life. Union produces life, and God, by the very nature of Who He is in covenant between the members of the Godhead, must create. By His very nature, God creates life. Life is the result of covenant union. This is why the Catholic Church is correctly pro-life. We reflect the life giving nature of our Trinitarian God in unity. For the Catholic Church to ever sanction death would be to commit spiritual harlotry of the worst sort, for the representation of God’s character would be deeply marred. It is the gods of paganism who are the deliverers of death.

    In the covenant of marriage the bride and groom, on the day of their union, make vows to each other with the understanding that there is a certain boundary, which if crossed, will break this covenant and render it null and void. Christ spoke of this boundary in Matthew:

    Mt 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

    Why only for this sin did Christ say that the wife may be put away? Because in the covenant, man and wife are made one flesh, so much so that the product of their physical union is one child with the features of both. Scripture says that we become one flesh in the sexual act, therefore, when one has intimacies with another in adultery, he has broken the physical and very real seal of unity, the physical joining which is the outward sign of the inner covenant relationship. Being harsh and mean with one’s mate does not do this. It may make you miserable to live with, but it does not break that unity and violate covenant vows of fidelity. It does not destroy the physical particulars of marriage which so distinctly show what a covenant is: a union of two people in love so profound that they become intimately joined one to another, both in body and in spirit.

    This union is a shadow and type of the state of being between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit from eternity past. They are One, yet Three in One. We are given the bond of marriage as a pattern of the heavenly union of the Blessed Trinity. If you understand the positive good of marriage with its blessings and love, you can then transfer, in a very limited way, the truths you find there to the relationship the Godhead enjoys. This is why God said that it was not good that man be alone – because Adam alone was no pattern of the divine covenant relationship between the persons of the Trinity. As the one created to be king over creation, Adam needed a completeness in relationship which was a shadow and type of the relationship of the Godhead in covenant. I believe that one of the worst features of hell will be the solitude, the total separation from the joy which comes in knowing and being known by one whom you love and who loves you. It is the rare (and usually mentally unbalanced) person who is happy with no human contact at all. Even the monks did not go to the desert to seek complete solitude. No, they went out there to find a greater depth in loving God than they could experience in the hustle of the noisy world. It is solitude which seeks a more fulfilling unity. It was not solitude they sought, it was He Who is love.

    Absolutley shameless plug. The above quote is from my book THE DANCE OF ISAIAH: If what I have written is of any interest to anyone here, you may purchase a reasonably priced copy at Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Isaiah-refutation-Calvinism-regarding/dp/0615556647/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348668530&sr=1-3&keywords=Seamus+Patrick+OHara

  131. Thank you. Lovely conversion story. Lovely comments. I am comforted by the fact that Jesus wrote nothing, save what He traced with His finger on the sand before Him. I am comforted He meant for me to spend more time on my knees in adoration, confession, communion, serving my brother as living the faith lovingly invites.

  132. Dan (re:#114),

    Thanks for your question about resources concerning the Reformation. As you’ve seen above, John and David have given you some recommendations, and I know that they would not steer you in a wrong direction. In addition, I’m going to recommend some other resources, including one that may seem quite counter-intuitive.

    The Reformed apologist James White has a book entitled “The Roman Catholic Controversy” that I believe contains some of the strongest articulations of why Reformed Christians, historically, have objected to Catholic belief and practice– or, I should say, to *their Reformed understanding(s) of* Catholic belief and practice (which have not always been accurate).

    The reason that I recommend White’s book is that I think it could be very helpful for you, as a Catholic, to actually “get inside the head of” a strongly anti-Catholic Protestant and see the thought processes at work. When you read James White’s views, I believe it will be much easier for you to understand Reformed Protestantism and the Reformation as a whole. The Reformation was based, partially, on protests against things that actually were objectively wrong (such as the selling of indulgences in the medieval era), but it was based much more, ultimately, on Luther’s *misunderstandings of* Catholic teachings in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition– misunderstandings that have been passed down to many, many generations of Protestants. In “The Roman Catholic Controversy,” you will see many of these misunderstandings laid out by a Protestant apologist himself.

    However, at the same time that you read James White’s book, I also recommend that you read some strong Catholic resources which correct and refute his misunderstandings. To Martin Luther and other Reformers, the heart of the Reformation was the question of justification– meaning, how we sinful people can be “right with,” and in a right relationship with, a perfect, holy God. James White goes into this issue, from his Reformed understanding, in his book. *However*, so that White’s book will not damage your faith, I also recommend that you pick up a great, great book on the issue of justification by a Catholic apologist, James Akin. The book is “The Salvation Controversy.” It explains very well, from Scripture, why we Catholics believe what we do about faith needing agape (which *entails* works) in order for us to be justified before God. “The Salvation Controversy” is possibly the best response (other than the early Church Fathers’ and their exegesis of Scripture) to Protestant objections to Catholicism on justification.

    James White also has many objections to the Papacy and to Catholic belief and practice concerning Mary. In that light, as you read his book, I also recommend that you read “Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words,” by Rod Bennett, a former Protestant who became Catholic. This book has many, many passages from the early Church Fathers which show that the early Church was the Catholic Church and did not resemble Protestantism in crucial ways.

    Another very helpful book to refute White’s claims is “Born Catholic, Born Again Fundamentalist,” by David Currie, another Catholic convert from Protestantism. This book appeals almost entirely to Scripture to defend Catholic beliefs and to refute almost every possible Protestant objection to Catholicism. This book should be in every serious Catholic library (no exaggeration there!), particularly for Catholics who want to defend their faith, from Scripture, against Protestant objections.

    Finally, these books are written on a bit of a higher level than anything else that I’ve mentioned here, but in order to further understand (and refute) Protestant objections to Catholic Marian beliefs, I recommend “Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church’s Marian Belief,” by Pope Benedict XVI (written while he was Cardinal Ratzinger) and “Mary: The Church at the Source,” co-written by Hans Urs von Balthasar and Cardinal Ratzinger.

    I hope that I haven’t overwhelmed you with too many resources here! If finances are tight for you at the moment (as they often are for me these days!), and you can’t afford to buy all of these books, I would recommend that you start with a simultaneous reading of “The Roman Catholic Controversy” (from the Protestant side) and “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” (from the Catholic side, which covers and refutes many of the objections in James White’s book). Then, move on to “The Salvation Controversy” and the other books.

    I hope this has been helpful! Thanks for the question, brother!

  133. P.S. to Dan: I meant to say “John Thayer Jensen” and “Kenneth Howell” at the beginning of my reply to you. Both of these men are very knowledgable about Catholicism and the Reformation, and I would definitely check out the resources that they recommended (and my recommendations too, of course, to the extent that you have the time and the finances!).

  134. All Catholics here,

    I humbly request your prayers, as I will be giving my “Catholic conversion/reversion story” tonight for my parish men’s group. My story is quite tumultuous, and revisiting some of my past (from childhood to the present day) will probably be difficult, especially in front of a group of men– men being socialized, as we are in the U.S. especially, to not talk much about painful personal things. I want to be a blessing to these men, to the glory of God, and in the service of Christ and His Church. Thank you for your prayers.

  135. Bless you, Mr. Stellman. Many things in your article resonate with me, and what you have mentioned about the issue of “autonomy” really strikes home to this particular ex-apostate “revert”. I was particularly struck by your comment about the Protestants that can never reconcile with the Catholic Church because they “treasure too much their exegetical autonomy”.

    Men who “treasure too much their exegetical autonomy” – it seems to me that this exactly describes Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Menno Simmons!

    I, as a self-described Reformed non-evangelical, considered the distinction between Solo- and Sola Scriptura as absolutely essential to my own spiritual identity. … Therefore as one can imagine, when I was confronted with Catholic claims that called this crucial distinction into question, it was a sucker-punch of epic proportions.

    Ouch! I know from experience that it hurts to see the truth that “when I submit, so long as I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.” All heretics and schismatics are willing to submit on the basis of “so long as I agree”. Even apostates “submit” on the basis of “so long as I agree”, and I speak from experience on that matter.

    If I really am the final temporal authority for determining what interpretations of the scriptures I will or won’t accept, then I am also the ultimate temporal authority for determining what I am conscious bound to accept as orthodox religious belief. But how can I claim that I am being “scriptural” if I claim that each individual Christian gets to decide for himself what constitutes orthodox religious belief? Where are the scriptures that teach that each individual Christian is endowed with an autonomous authority for determining what constitutes orthodox religious belief?

    … [the Catholic Church] demands that the seeker relinquish the one thing above all others that offers him confidence, namely, his own autonomy.

    Amen! It is a good thing to give up one’s autonomy – “whosoever would save his life shall lose it”.

    I find that this charge is the one usually leveled by Protestants against the Catholic Church, and people like me: we are on a “quest for illegitimate religious certainty.”

    Sheesh! When, exactly, does one cross the line and come to posses an illegitimate desire to know what constitutes orthodox Christian belief?

    Welcome home Mr. Stellman!

  136. Thank you Christopher for that detailed response. By way of introduction, I was raised Catholic, but left the church in my early twenties (after a conversion experience) for evangelicalism. It’s only in the last couple of years that I (inexplicably, in my mind) have felt myself being drawn back to Catholicism and have been reading more source material to investigate their claims this time than I did the first time around.

    I’m a regular reader at this site and have to say that I am very impressed by the patient and charitable way Catholics respond to their detractors. It speaks volumes to their faith.

    I already have two of David Currie’s books – “Born Catholic, Born Again Fundamentalist” and “Rapture”, both of which were excellent. I ordered Karl Adam’s “Roots of the Reformation” this morning from the Coming Home Network. I’m also reading through the Catechism. In time, I will also look at the other resources you recommended. I listen to Catholic Radio daily now and while I am still committed to serving the church we go to as a family, with each day I find more glaring inadequacies in their theology.

    I guess it’s only a matter of time :-)

    Dan

  137. Jason and Family, welcome home!
    My wife and I were received into full communion with the Church at Easter 2011. We came from the PCA and caused quite the stir when we left. The chink in my Reformed armor that grew and grew was the realization that so much of the Reformed world insisted on understanding Jesus in light of Paul instead of the other way around. It seems from your article that you had the same realization.

    My wife and I attend a Latin Mass parish and I don’t know if there is one in your area but I would highly recommend seeing the Extraordinary Form of the Mass if you get the chance; it is beautiful and timeless.

    Shalom,

    Aaron Goodrich

  138. Jason,

    I can see by the intensity of the discussion here, at some Reformed sites and your own blog that you are spending significant time responding to numerous comments and questions. Thanks ahead of time for addressing mine.

    I have spent many evenings over the past few years discussing these issues with my PCA elders and other friends. I had begun to question the principled means by which our tradition defines orthodoxy and schism. (Solo Scriptura had long since become philosophically implausible for me, and I have been grateful to be a part of a church tradition that emphasizes the importance of defining truth through the lens of the tradition and experience of a wider historical body of believers.) The nearly universal initial response to my questions has been the implausibility of the RCC’s claim to represent an historically consistent, monolithic magisterium capable faithfully and infallibly adjudicating the clear dividing line between heresy and orthodoxy. Given my lack of expertise, I am somewhat at the mercy of the experts on either side of the argument regarding the historical plausibility of the Roman claim. What strikes me is the starkly opposing conclusions arrived at when presumably evaluating the same data. You say the RCC’s authority claims are historically plausible. My pastor states (emphatically) the opposite. I certainly don’t have the time or capability to do the primary source work necessary to evaluate these opposing views.

    I would guess that at some point not too long ago you would have placed yourself in the “historically implausible” camp. Was there some specific line of historical study that changed your mind?

    Burton

  139. Christopher, will say prayers and will offer up our anxiety for you as we give our conversion story tonite to an rcia class . God bless

  140. Dan,

    I made a mistake on the name of David Currie’s book: it is titled “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic.” I simply mixed up the order of the words “Fundamentalist” and “Catholic” in the title. The book is a very strongly Scriptural account of the author’s reasons for moving from being a seminary-educated evangelical Protestant to being Scripturally convinced of the claims and teachings of the Catholic Church.

  141. Burton,

    I have spent many evenings over the past few years discussing these issues with my PCA elders and other friends. I had begun to question the principled means by which our tradition defines orthodoxy and schism. (Solo Scriptura had long since become philosophically implausible for me, and I have been grateful to be a part of a church tradition that emphasizes the importance of defining truth through the lens of the tradition and experience of a wider historical body of believers.)

    Hey man, good to meet ya. I’ve seen you comment here quite a bit over the past while.

    I trust you have read Bryan’s and Neal’s demolition of the supposed distinction between Solo and Sola? I think it addresses your point above, as it shows that the position of someone like Mathison devolves into Solo in about three seconds’ time.

    The nearly universal initial response to my questions has been the implausibility of the RCC’s claim to represent an historically consistent, monolithic magisterium capable faithfully and infallibly adjudicating the clear dividing line between heresy and orthodoxy. Given my lack of expertise, I am somewhat at the mercy of the experts on either side of the argument regarding the historical plausibility of the Roman claim. What strikes me is the starkly opposing conclusions arrived at when presumably evaluating the same data. You say the RCC’s authority claims are historically plausible. My pastor states (emphatically) the opposite. I certainly don’t have the time or capability to do the primary source work necessary to evaluate these opposing views.

    I would guess that at some point not too long ago you would have placed yourself in the “historically implausible” camp. Was there some specific line of historical study that changed your mind?

    It’s easy for a Protestant to try to poke holes in the Catholic position (in fact, many have made an industry out of the attempt). But what I would encourage you to do is ask your pastor to make a positive case for Sola Scriptura arising in the context of the immediately post-apostolic church (the church with no universally-recognized canon). Would he admit that there came a moment immediately following the death of John in which the whole church suddenly realized that the way things had worked for the past 60 years (with the word of God consisting of both oral and written teaching) had ceased, despite the fact that the apostles nowhere gave any indication that such a thing would occur?

    My experience tells me that if you take away Mary and the pope, Reformed folks run out of stuff to complain about pretty quickly (which is why a few of them have suggested I just become Orthodox).

    So my point about Rome’s claims being “historically plausible” (those words were carefully chosen) was simply that a study of the history of the early church cannot prove Catholicism any more than it can prove Orthodoxy. At some point the empirical evidence’s ability to prove things ceases, and the need for humble faith comes into play. Are Rome’s historical claims scientifically demonstrable? Of course not. But philosophically the only two serious options are the CC and EO, and of those two, Rome is much more plausible, at least to me.

  142. Jason,

    As an evangelical in the process of discovering the Catholic Church, I want to thank you for sharing your story. Much of what you write rings true for me as well.

    I wonder if you could elaborate on the reasons that you believe the Catholic Church to have a more plausible claim to truth that the Eastern Orthodox. I agree with you that “the only two serious options are the CC and EO,” but like you I haven’t been able to find sufficient evidence to accept the claims of one over the other with any certitude. My journey toward Catholicism actually began with reading some EO sources. (I think that I was more open to them at the time because they were not Catholic.)

  143. Russ,

    Thanks so much for your prayers and offering up of your anxiety, brother! I wish that I had seen your comment earlier, before I left for the group, but I am praying “retroactively” for you that your presentation went well tonight! I know the anxiety, believe me!

    My talk seems to have gone well. There was much discussion afterwards– many good questions from the men, most of whom are cradle Catholics. I am so glad that the leader of this men’s group decided to do a series on the question of “Why I am Catholic?” in which cradle Catholic “reverts” and Catholic “converts” (from many different backgrounds, not only other Christian denominations/traditions) give their testimonies. I plan to attend every meeting in this series, if at all possible.

    Giving this talk tonight only made me more excited to tell people about Christ and the Church that He founded! In so many parts of America, it seems that the assumed “default mode” for Christianity is one or another form of Protestantism. I love my Protestant brothers and sisters, but with all respect to both them and their genuine love for Christ, the default mode for Christianity, from the evidence of Scripture and the early Church Fathers, is *not* Protestantism.

    In a country with such deep Protestant influences though, it can be hard for people to even begin to reconsider their deeply held beliefs and presuppositions about the Catholic Church supposedly holding to “unBiblical teachings and practices.” Catholics can definitely be led away from the Church by these ideas, as both of us were. I’m so thankful that you are out there, explaining and defending the faith. I aspire to do the same. Pax Christi, brother.

  144. Dan (re:#136),

    We seem to have a good bit in common! When I began to experience the conviction to re-examine my distinctively Protestant beliefs, that conviction was *very* unexpected. Honestly, I was terrified by it.

    With the words of my Protestant elders (and my Protestant interpretations of Scripture!) ringing in my ears, I was so afraid that I was being “led into heresy.” However, the Holy Spirit would not let me rest in my anti-Catholicism. I already deeply loved and trusted in Christ, but God wanted me to have the fullness of the Christian faith (that I had left behind in youthful ignorance). Much of it was already there, in Reformed Protestantism, but too much was also missing. In time, I realized that. My study of Scripture, the early Church Fathers, both Catholic *and* Reformed Protestant exegesis and apologetics, and the Catechism, finally led me back to *the* Church that I had so long Protested against as being “heretical” and “non-Christian”– the Catholic Church.

    Conceivably, I could have lied to myself about what the Lord had shown me through my many, many hours of study and prayer. I could have tried to convince myself that the Protestant beliefs and practices that I had held for so long actually *were* the beliefs and practices of the earliest Christians– including the men who were taught by Jesus, and their successors (and *their* successors, and so on). However, I would have *known* that I was lying to myself– and thus, I would have been disobeying God to remain a Protestant *in name*, when I was no longer a Protestant *in belief*.

    Bluntly, I had to return to the Catholic Church in order to still be able to call myself a Christian with any integrity and honesty. As I said to the men’s group tonight, if I had refused to obey my conviction (reached through much study and prayer) that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ Himself founded, then I would have had to ask myself, at that point, “How can I claim to follow Christ *at all*, when I won’t follow Him *here*?”

    Brother, I know that the process of reading and study takes time. Keep reading and keep praying. I know that you are genuinely loving and serving Christ where you currently are, just as I was when I was a Protestant. If you do reach the same conviction about the Catholic Church that I did though, I encourage you to go to confession and return to the Church. It is worth any cost that you might have to pay. I have paid very dearly in more than one way, but I’ve gained so much more. I cannot imagine leaving all that I have (re)discovered in Christ and His Church. To be seriously, consciously Catholic (truly believing and living out the faith) is to have the deepest personal relationship with Christ. The Saints of the Church are living testimonies to this fact.

    God bless you, brother. I will pray for your discernment along this path. Pax Christi.

  145. Aaron,

    I wonder if you could elaborate on the reasons that you believe the Catholic Church to have a more plausible claim to truth that the Eastern Orthodox. I agree with you that “the only two serious options are the CC and EO,” but like you I haven’t been able to find sufficient evidence to accept the claims of one over the other with any certitude. My journey toward Catholicism actually began with reading some EO sources. (I think that I was more open to them at the time because they were not Catholic.)

    Well, like I said, I am not convinced that the biblical or historical evidence can prove, one over the other. That said, though, it does seem to me that without a visible head or tie-breaking vote, the ability to (1) determine orthodoxy, (2) maintain unity, or (3) call a council, become seriously undermined.

    A little thought experiment may help: Let’s say that, soon after the ascension, the apostles split 6 against 6 over some issue. Which side would you choose? Would it be Peter’s side, just to play it safe? OK, what if the split were 9-3, with Peter in the minority? Would you still choose his side (since Jesus did place him above the rest, in some sense)? If so, then it would seem you’re a Catholic in theory.

    In addition to this, it also seems to me that if Jesus did indeed found a visible church, it should act with the guts and audacity that the CC exhibits. I would expect that church to define dogmas, to tease out developments in already-held doctrines, and to call ecumenical councils whenever it sees fit to do so.

    While I have great respect for EO, it does seem suspended in a state of adolescence that it cannot, even by its own rules, escape.

  146. Amazing story of your conversion, so inspiring and with your permission would love to share it with other fellow Catholics.

  147. This story should be shared with non-Catholics as well. There must be many Christians out there asking questions, like Jason & myself. If they know someone else travelled this journey it may encourage them.
    God bless!

  148. Christopher,

    Thank you for your encouragement and your prayers.

    Dan

  149. Jason, welcome home! I’m also a recent convert to Catholicism from Protestantism (April 2012), and as such I deeply respect anyone who makes the treacherous journey to the Catholic Church, especially when it entails significant vocational and personal loss. May God continue to grant you his grace and peace as you continue to seek him and his truth.

  150. Jason,
    I am filled with great joy at hearing the news that you have come home to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I am a cradle Catholic revert and your story blew me away because you basically summed up (in a way that I never could) so many of the things that I went through and exactly the reasons I came back into the Catholic Church (after being away for over 30 years.) You have an incredible gift for writing Jason and I cannot put into words how profoundly your story has blessed me (and I am sure will continue to Bless so many others) Thank you for your incredible story, thank you for being truthful and honest. We are truly blessed to have you home Jason. I hope and pray that over the coming years we can be as much of blessing to you and your family as you are to us. Welcome Home, Peace in Christ.
    “They abstain from Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” – Ignatius of Antioch – A.D. 110

  151. Jason,
    May God continue to bless you abundantly for your faithfulness to HIM and your humility on the journey to everlasting life. What an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing yourself with us. Welcome to a big, loving, imperfect, challenging, joy-filled family.

  152. Chuck,

    Thanks so much for all of your encouragement. I would actually like to expand this into a full-on book, and it’s nice to know I’d make at least one sale!

  153. Jason (re:#152),

    Make that two sales, if you expand your story into a book– and I strongly suspect that Chuck and I would be two of a good many readers/buyers, to the glory of Christ and His Church!

  154. Jason,
    Thanks for sharing your heart wrenching struggle. As someone who had the same fight over the last few year, your words could sound like my own. You might check out the book by Robert Hugh Benson, “Confessions of a Convert,” I felt like I was reading my our word there too. He was the son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican. Little bit of a struggle for him too. I and my family came into full communion with the Church last Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Blessings and peace to you in your continued journey with Christ.
    Thanks again,
    MichaelTX

  155. Jason, your story floored me. I returned to the Catholic Church in September 2009 after being a “cradle Catholic,” getting “saved”, and then 25 years between Calvary Chapel, Baptist, Evangelical Free, Assemblies of God, &c. and earning my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from an Assemblies of God university not far from Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (where I used to go). I think what did it for me (besides the fact that my soon-to-be-wife-in-two-weeks is also Catholic was the fact that with all the spiritual disciplines and church fathers I was being made to read while in Bible college, I may as well have been “Catholic” without the Catholic doctrine or practice. So I jumped back in all the way.

  156. Bem vindo a Casa! Parabéns pelo testemunho! Que Deus abençoe a ti e a sua família!

  157. Jason,
    Could you write sometime about how your family (wife/kids) took the news and are adjusting?
    Thanks.

  158. I read Jason’s story from being an Arminian to a Calvinist, from Calvary Chapel to PCA (just google it – Calvary Chapel Wiki). That conversion story portrays the same (perhaps greater) emotional force/struggle as this story when he recounts another shift in belief from being Reformed to being Roman Catholic.

    Moves like this always costs emotional and financial problems. During the first move, Jason was asked to renounce his Calvinism (but he didn’t) and was stripped off of his missionary salary. He wrote, “my wife and I had no choice but to give all our things away, pack, and leave a week or so later (on our own dime).” But all these struggles was worth it since, “if our relationship (i.e. Calvary Chapel) had not been severed I would never have found my way to Westminster Seminary (where I received my M.Div.) or to the Presbyterian Church in America.”

    This conversion story is similar in many respects to the first. There’s a theological shift, a feeling of being persecuted because of the shift and a feeling that such shift is justified even if the worst was experienced because of the conversion.

    But, for me, I realized that conversion stories are really appealing. This is because shared experiences are powerful tools that gives affirmations to common decisions made. The ones who went out from an Arminian perspective (Calvarian) to a Calvinistic perspective can easily relate to Jason’s first conversation story and, in fact, made him a personal hero who stood up against a giant institution and its leaders even if it is detrimental to his family and career. When Jason converted to Romanism, those who have the same experience can relate so much that a minister (highly educated) chose to reject the sufficiency of Scripture and other solas then embrace the Pope as the vicar of Christ. But it is not only the Roman Catholics who can relate but also the Calvarians for they experienced a sense of vindication that the one they disfellowshiped a long time ago has gone to a religion that they thought to be an apostate! However, it also shows that conversion stories can not tell us what is true or false. It can satisfy some void for a moment but after the honeymoon period is over, conversion stories are just not enough.

  159. The Clash reference reminds us of other titles, too. See comments at @ Turretinfan’s blog, re: Mr Stellman.

    Steven Buehler @ 155: Very sad to read you. I was in Pope Chuck’s “church” for a season as a new convert. (Not the Costa Mesa Vatican, but another of the so. Cal franchise.) With the CCC (Calvary Chapel churches), the E-Free, and the Assemblies (goodness! you really went farther and farther away from the objective & textual into the subjective & experiential!), I do agree with you that the difference(s) between these and Rome are differences of degrees, not of kind.

    Sadly, Canterbury can serve in a like way, as well.

    MichaelTX @154: Thank you for the Benson info. Having been Anglican for a season, I can resonate with his wiki page which says: “His own piety began to tend toward the High Church variety…” Like your ex-Anglican hero Newman, he and many others move away from the Bible to the smells, the bells, and the other appealing traditions of men.

  160. Mr Stellman,

    Two sets of your statements are confusingly contradictory: (1) Catholicism never held any allure for me, nor do I find it particularly alluring now. Then, Now to be honest there has always been an attraction of a “Wouldn’t-it-be-nice” or “stained-glass-windows-are-rad” variety, but when it came to an actual positive drawing to Rome or a negative driving away from Geneva, there has never been any such thing.

    And, (2) Your final paragraph. See below.

    You still have yet to explain, then, Mr Stellman, why you crossed the Tiber. If the RCC is Christ’s true church, wherein resides the beauty of God’s holiness, why didn’t it draw, entice, or lure you? Are you being sincere? It never appealed to you, nor does so today?

    You claim it was merely “so obviously ridiculous” -“[not] even worth bothering to oppose”- with such “audacious claims,” that you “couldn’t help opposing them,” yet you poped.

    Honestly, it truly “never was attractive, and in many ways it still isn’t”?

    Your story is hard to believe. First, you contradict yourself, telling us there was no “allure” or “positive drawing,” but then saying there was an attraction.

    Then, you tell us how you became convinced of Rome’s views on the Bible and church authority as well as on justification. According to your piece, however, these were not at all appealing or attractive or positive to you.

    Are we to believe that Rome’s doctrines are merely audacious, unappealing, and ridiculous, and that is why you poped?

  161. @hugh
    You remind me of the parable:
    “To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others, 17 ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 Yet the Human One[c] came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”

    If A Catholic convert says they were drawn to the antiquity tradition, ancientness, esthetics etc you accuse them of “poping” for emotional, non-substantive reasons. If they admit they weren’t particulary drawn to the esthetics, but found the paradigm of the solas false and lacking, you accuse them of being contradictory. Let’s face it, there is no understanding for the one who stands with his ears plugged with his hands screaming like a three year old. Let him that has ears to hear……

  162. Joel @ 158 ~ Thank you so much for the link info on the Calvary Chapel dish.
    No surprises, but confirmatory to say the least.

  163. Mr McCann,
    WIth all due respect The reality is the man has just lost his job, I am sure some of his friends, and made many people he loves and respects very upset. He converted for Truth and nothing else. He also wrote the above article before his First Communion which I am sure changes things. He does answer much of this but you clearly do not want to hear the answer.

    When discussing these things the nasty comments like “Poped” are not rational.

    Truth is sometimes hard to her and I am glad this man accepted Christ’s call. There is always room for one more at the altar.

    Annie

  164. Joey Henry #158,

    conversion stories can not tell us what is true or false. It can satisfy some void for a moment but after the honeymoon period is over, conversion stories are just not enough.

    Where has anyone said conversion stories can tell us true from false? Where has anyone said they are enough? ? After all, it is a conversion story, not a conversion argument.

    And this site is absolutely loaded with non-conversion story, hard hitting theological arguments for the Catholic Church… with a few conversion stories here and there for a personal touch. If you expect to look at this article of Jason’s and point to it as an example of a failed argument for Catholicism, then you have set up a straw man. The articles on this site that led to his conversion (and mine) are what you should tackle. I suggest if you havent already, you read the article Jason linked to in his conversion story.
    /2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/
    If you have read Mathisons book, and you read this article, then you will have a much better idea of why we all find so much commiseration together regarding Protestantism, and joy for each other at our discovery of Christ’s Church.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  165. @Joey,
    I am not sure what point you were trying to make regarding “conversion stories are not enough.”
    As David has already stated above, the conversion story doesn’t become a catechism. It is a starting line. They are like a “door prize”, and are the tool that will get many readers re-invigorated about their waning faith. It also breaks the implausibility paradigm that so strongly prevents cross-communion conversion.
    I was a staunch anti-Catholic 9 years ago, having left the faith as a 14 year old and heard hundreds of conversion stories in the ensuing 31 years, hearing testimonies on a regular basis of how God drew people from darkness to light etc. They were very encouraging. Now, fast-forward 30 years. When I heard stories that Protestant evangelical pastors were converting, I doubted it was true. (My implausibility paradigm kicked in) But then I watched the actual stories on the Journey Home (EWTN), read “Crossing the Tiber” by Steve Ray and others. I eventually came home into the arms of the Lord and His Church receiving His body and blood, real meat indeed, real drink.
    Did my journey end there? No, but it was the conversion stories that pried open a chink in my powerfully anti-Catholic suit of armor, which then allowed His Holy Spirit to do His work in my life.
    When we have a “conversion fest” over another Catholic convert, it is not to be triumphalistic, nor should we ever be that way, but it accomplishes two things. 1) It encourages the new convert and lets him know that despite his tremendous personal, financial and emotional losses, he has just crossed the threshold to new joys and a new perspective on eternal things, the stuff that matters in life. 2) It encourages all the rest of us who are at different places in our journey to heaven.
    When Saul of Tarsus, became a Christian, the early Church must have been overjoyed, (once they got over their initial suspicions) and it made them realize this Jesus of Nazareth is even more powerful after his death and resurrection, to work such wonders in peoples lives. That’s what a conversion story does, it allows us to marvel at the goodness of God and rejoice at his wondrous and mysterious power to change our hearts.

    Let us let Jason have his Way to Emmaus moment here (his eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread) without questioning his motives and attempting to devalue his experience.

  166. Immensely interesting, Jason. I am a former PCA ruling elder, recently gravitated to a conservative Episcopalian parish. Grew up Pentecostal, then later embraced Reformed theology in large measure, continuing to be in agreement with much of its content, certainly the high view of Scripture, covenant understanding, and Christocentric perspective. However, I agree that a soteriology focused too heavily on justification per se is anemic. While justification by faith is a critical and non-negotiable tenet in my view, we must remember that it is essentially answers only the forensic aspect of our acceptance before God via Christ’s substitutionary atonement. There is much more to the gospel as you point out, most notably the regenerative and transformational power of a new life in the Holy Spirit, the communion of the saints, and yes, the Church, the pillar and ground of truth. I must also remind myself that what Christ has brought to light through the gospel is “life and immortality”, not mere forgiveness.

    Perhaps my early Pentecostal exposure made me more keenly aware of the lack of divinely-given vitality sometimes found in Reformed and evangelical churches. In fairness, I would not fault Calvin for that deficit, since he laid great stress on the work of the holy spirit and its operations in the Church and in the living stones whom God has fashioned into the new temple, his habitation through the Spirit. That said, there are issues and imperfections in all churches. God grant that the Church would be triumphant and in essential unity with its Head, as distinct from the current state of health of churches and denominations. I have relatives who are Catholic. In recent years, I have found it easier to communicate with them around essential things, even while acknowledging differences that we continue to have. All the best to you in you journey.

  167. Michael (#161), If A Catholic convert says they were drawn to the antiquity tradition, ancientness, esthetics etc you accuse them of “poping” for emotional, non-substantive reasons. If they admit they weren’t particulary drawn to the esthetics, but found the paradigm of the solas false and lacking, you accuse them of being contradictory. Let’s face it, there is no understanding for the one who stands with his ears plugged with his hands screaming like a three year old. Let him that has ears to hear……

    As to your first accusation, that may be true in some cases, were there little or no substantive (read: doctrinal) reason for one’s crossing the Tiber. Secondly, if you reread my post to Jason, I am not charging him with contradiction because he found the solas lacking and then converted; I am accusing him of contradiction because he said two contradictory things: (a) That “Catholicism never held any allure for me, nor do I find it particularly alluring now.” But also, (b) Now to be honest there has always been an attraction of a “Wouldn’t-it-be-nice” or “stained-glass-windows-are-rad” variety”…

    Also, his piece generally is demeaning of the Roman Church, yet he found its arguments persuasive (i.e. alluring, attractive, enticing). Personally I find it very hard to believe that Stellman didn’t find your church’s theology alluring, attractive & enticing. Wistfulness & aesthetics don’t seem strong enough to sway him.

    P.S. Nice moniker!

  168. David,

    Where has anyone said conversion stories can tell us true from false? Where has anyone said they are enough?

    The author did not say that. I have not read all the comments and I would guess no one has said that. I did not said that too. Did I?

    After all, it is a conversion story, not a conversion argument.

    I know. :)

    The articles on this site that led to his conversion (and mine) are what you should tackle. I suggest if you havent already, you read the article Jason linked to in his conversion story.

    I have read several articles on this site including the one you linked. As you can see, I am not convinced.

    If you have read Mathisons book, and you read this article, then you will have a much better idea of why we all find so much commiseration together regarding Protestantism, and joy for each other at our discovery of Christ’s Church.

    I assure you Christ’s Church is not equivalent to Roman Catholicism. And I am also confident that there are purer churches of Christ than the one you embrace.

    Regards,
    Joey

  169. Annie, Bruce, David, Joey*, Russ, et. al.,

    Jason converted to Roman Catholicism. I note too his earlier decisions to join Calvary Chapel, and later become get ordained a Presbyterian.

    These are decisions of one’s free will (we have no reason to believe that coercion was involved – quite the opposite!): To join a religious society, seek office therein, etc.

    Jason converted to Roman Catholicism after being in the PCA and CCC; decisions of his free will.

    He was not converted to Christ, a decision not of man, but of God alone (there’s that word again!) ~ John 1:12f.

    * Sorry I misnamed you earlier.

  170. Russ,

    I was a staunch anti-Catholic 9 years ago, having left the faith as a 14 year old and heard hundreds of conversion stories in the ensuing 31 years, hearing testimonies on a regular basis of how God drew people from darkness to light etc. They were very encouraging.

    Anti-catholic huh? 9 years! That’s amazing… So how were you an anti-catholic?

    Now, fast-forward 30 years. When I heard stories that Protestant evangelical pastors were converting, I doubted it was true. (My implausibility paradigm kicked in)

    That’s the initial reaction of most layman who are unprepared: “Protestant evangelical pastors can’t cross over to Roman Catholicism!” I’m glad that you’ve discovered the myth most protestant layman does not know!

    But then I watched the actual stories on the Journey Home (EWTN), read “Crossing the Tiber” by Steve Ray and others.

    Oh I remember Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics, Patrick Madrid and Steve Ray who were famous in the ’90s. Read their conversion stories too… Watched them too at EWTN! So you were actually shocked? I was not and I listened to their arguments attacking sola scriptura and sola fide foremost.

    I eventually came home into the arms of the Lord and His Church receiving His body and blood, real meat indeed, real drink.

    I don’t mean to offend you. But becoming a Roman Catholici is not equivalent to coming to the Lord and His Church. And that Eucharist (that your church gives you) which they claim to be the body and blood of Christ via transubstantiation through the mediation of priests being the unbloody sacrifice of Christ worshipped and adored as God which effect is easily reversed at the presence of mortal sins and perfects no one even if you eat again and again and again –> is NOT the real meat and drink that Christ offers.

    Regards,
    Joey

  171. Folks,

    Merely trading assertions (or what we call ‘table-pounding’) in no way advances ecumenical dialogue, and is not something we permit here. That’s something you can find in the comboxes of unmoderated sites. This is not that kind of site, by design. Assertions are easy, but they establish nothing, except that the speaker believes x. They are ecumenically unfruitful, and, if used as though they ‘settle’ a matter, are ecumenically unhelpful and even destructive. So, if you want to participate in the dialogue here, please refrain from merely exchanging contrary assertions. Comments that merely engage in table-pounding will be deleted, because that is not the dialectic we are seeking to establish and maintain here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  172. Bruce @ 166,

    Having taught at an Anglican seminary and been in (then) ECUSA, I’d urge you to please study the early days & theology of Anglicanism. The 39 Articles point us to better (read: more biblical) theology than TEC has to offer, and the battles of Cranmer & Co. are not trivial. Issues such as justification, church authority, and the sacraments were no less vital to the English as they were to the continental Reformers. Sadly, the high church movement (training wheels Romeward) hijacked the English church.

    J.C. Ryle & Charles P. McIlvaine are also good guides.

    Yours,
    Hugh

  173. Mr Stellman: With no malice intended to my denominational friends, I suspect that your journey to Rome can be traced to your devotion to denominationalism, as evidenced in your leading role as a prosecutor (or is it persecutor) of a fellow believer, whose crime was to develop ideas contrary to the denominational bosses. Indeed, the RC Church is the ultimate denomination, holding all of non-RC communing Christendom in judgment as rebels. I think you will feel quite at home in Rome until you wake up one day and discover that “The Church” has been wrong all along. And then what will you do? (btw I do not consider Roman Catholics to be non-Christians, and I do not sympathize with Liethart’s ideas, and I do understand that the PCA had no choice but to try Liethart due to their need to maintain denominational integrity).

  174. Mr. Stellman,

    Welcome to the Church and thank you for sharing your story, it is remarkable. I hope that you do write a book, I would love to read more about what you read/studeied and how you dealt with the issues you encountered, in particular — the Eucharist, Baptism, Confession, and how your Calvinistic views on double predestination changed through this process.

    Best,

    Rodolfo

  175. Hi Hugh,

    You still have yet to explain, then, Mr Stellman, why you crossed the Tiber. If the RCC is Christ’s true church, wherein resides the beauty of God’s holiness, why didn’t it draw, entice, or lure you? Are you being sincere? It never appealed to you, nor does so today?

    Please call me Jason.

    The point I was trying to make was that the only attractive thing about Catholicism has become the fact that it is true. Before I discovered this, there was nothing about it that appealed to me. The reason I wanted to make this point was that it is very common for Reformed people to dismiss a move like the one I made by saying something like, “Well, you just longed for subjective certitude, so of course you went to Rome.” But in my case anyway, that diagnosis is demonstrably false.

    Honestly, it truly “never was attractive, and in many ways it still isn’t”?
    Your story is hard to believe. First, you contradict yourself, telling us there was no “allure” or “positive drawing,” but then saying there was an attraction.

    Then, you tell us how you became convinced of Rome’s views on the Bible and church authority as well as on justification. According to your piece, however, these were not at all appealing or attractive or positive to you.

    Are we to believe that Rome’s doctrines are merely audacious, unappealing, and ridiculous, and that is why you poped?

    There’s no reason to think I contradicted myself. I m