Converting to the Catholic Faith & Discerning Truth

Edith Stein QuoteBecause it is the 500th year of the Protestant revolt, I have been reflecting upon my own conversion into the one, true Catholic Church. In doing so, I have been frequenting Protestant Facebook pages, especially of the reformed Calvinist position because that is where I made my last stand as a Protestant. In addition to looking at what these Calvinists pages are saying about Catholicism, I have been re-reading arguments attempting to refute the Catholic faith and listening to debates between Catholic apologists and Protestant polemicists.

During this period of reflection and examination I have been asking myself a simple question – how was it that I was able to see the truth of the Catholic faith and escape the errors of the Protestant revolutionaries?

First, and most importantly, it is by the grace of God. It is only because of the abundant mercy of God that I have dedicated my life to truth. God moved me to follow truth no matter where it leads, and like St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross says, “My longing for truth was a single prayer.”

Second, because the journey in pursuit of truth takes a lot of time and heartache, I diligently studied and worked for several years pursuing this lofty end. I began as a practical atheist living only to fulfill my carnal desires. From there I moved toward following Christ throughout various Protestant sects, and finally found the ‘pillar and bulwark of truth’ in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

Third, I noticed something important along the way. There is a distinctive pattern truth travels in the sea of error. Truth speaks accurately of error while error misrepresents and distorts truth.

What do I mean by this?

When you encounter a view that is true, it exposes and refutes the opposition clearly and honestly. The opposing view can be found properly and accurately articulated within the context of the refutation because the truth has nothing to hide while refuting the error. The truth, however, cannot be accurately articulated within the expression of the erroneous position otherwise error would expose itself.

This situation directly applied to my conversion into the Catholic faith. When I began to read Catholic theological and philosophical literature, especially arguments refuting Protestant positions, I could see that my Calvinist views were being accurately represented. Saint Francis de Sales’s work, The Catholic Controversy, thoroughly and systematically refutes the strongest case for Calvinistic theology, which is why he was able to bring Calvinist Geneva back to the Catholic faith. This, by the way, is a little historical note that Calvinists like to sweep under the rug in order to boast of John Calvin’s anti-Catholic demagoguery.

The same situation, however, did not take place when I would read Protestant literature attempting to refute Catholic teaching. When I read James White’s work, The Roman Catholic Controversy, I could not find the Catholic faith in this polemic. What I did find were straw men, misguided polemics, question-begging assertions, and repetitious platitudes. White’s book is for people interested in sophistry rather than truth.

If the Catholic faith is as heretical and evil as Protestants claim it to be, why can’t her teaching be defeated without fundamentally misrepresenting the tenets of Catholicism? Why does history need to be distorted in order to justify the spirit of rebellion that brought forth the downfall of Christendom? Why do Protestants sound like the new atheists when they pontificate about Church history?

Five years after my conversion I am yet to read a credible refutation of a single position officially taught by the Catholic Church. I have read many platitudes, slogans, clichés, and lies, but nothing credible, honorable, or charitable. I am reminded of this every time I browse through the memes of these Calvinist Facebook pages or listen to debates.

Truth cannot be defeated and her enemies can only lie in order to remain puffed up in their sinful autonomous pride. While Protestants celebrate their 500th year of rebellion against the true Church, Catholics should look to those great Counter-reformers that combatted the heresies of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Beza etc. The writing of Saints Robert Bellarmine and Francis de Sales, fully informed by the zeal for truth, are a great place to start. There isn’t an argument offered by the pretended ministers of their day or ours that has not been methodically defeated. It is our duty as Catholics to carry on this legacy to combat the pretended ministers of our era; men such as Paul Washer, James White, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham, Sye Ten Bruggencate, K. Scott Oliphant and many others must be exposed because their heresy encourages people to reject the Body and Blood of our Lord so necessary for salvation.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

11 thoughts on “Converting to the Catholic Faith & Discerning Truth

  1. If you are really interested in the dialogue between Calvinism and Catholicism, you might readily focus on Aquinas’ concept of free will. I have long felt that the rationalist Aquinas which has long been taught as Catholic philosophy leaves no real place in the world either for intrinsic evil, or for sin. If each healthy human being strives toward the greatest good perceivable to them, how can sin be other than a mistake? The Catholic/Calvinist debate over predestination focuses these and related difficultiesThe Calvinist William Lane Craig, in his historical treatment, “The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge and Future Contingents from Aristotle to Suarez”, seeks throughout Western philosophical history for an adequate reconciliation of the Divine Will of an all-knowing, all-powerful God with a truly free human will. He finally resolves the dispute down to a controversy between Scotism, which he takes to be the best Catholic answer to this tension; and Molinism, which he takes to be the best Calvinist treatment (Matters here become more difficult than I can summarize in a few sentences, because Molinism per se is compatible with Catholic doctrine.)

    I am profoundly interested in this controversy, and in the philosophy of free will and ethical responsibility in this “post-modern” era. I would be delighted to discuss these issues-

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  2. Humility.

    The longer you rely on your own intellect, the longer it will take you to find the Catholic faith; the sooner you humble your intellect to be willing to accept the authority of the successors to the apostles, the sooner you will find the Catholic faith. It’s not a matter of the Church having the best or most comprehensive or most irrefutable theology, but that it is the only place with apostolic authority.

    It takes people a long time because they say, “I will join the church which appeals most to my reason and tastes”, rather than, “I will submit to the teaching of the church founded by God.”

    Intellectual Calvinists are among the most proud and stubborn Protestants; therefore, the most likely to never find the Church and to be lost.
    Intellectual curiosity & pride is the vice of heretics. Protestantism is first of all a protest of proud theologians unwilling to submit their intellect to apostolic teaching authority.

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    1. It is interesting that your comment uses a vocabulary of submitting the intellect to apostolic authority. When I finally came into the Church I stated that I was submitting to the Church Christ founded, and not looking for a denomination that suits my needs most.

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  3. Jack,
    Thanks for your message. The great Scholastic metaphysicians were, devout Catholics who used metaphysical meditation as a form of worship. When a choir singer sings hymns, they are giving glory to God. When a Catholic philosopher gives a lecture about Christian theism, they are giving glory to God. Erich Przywara S.J. is especially important here, because of his detailed controversy with Karl Barth
    over the question of whether his (EP’s) Analogy of Being was part of natural theology, which Barth denied. Many Christians believe in the separation of faith and reason. Thus, they deny the possibility of natural theology. The Catholic tradition is manifestly not like this. The heavens proclaim the glory of God. This Creation itself is a limited form of Revelation. Aquinas, toward the end of his life, declared that, compared to the grandeur of God, all that he had written was like “so much straw”. This reality did not preclude Aquinas vast philosophical accomplishment.

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  4. If the Catholic faith is as heretical and evil as Protestants claim it to be, why can’t her teaching be defeated without fundamentally misrepresenting the tenets of Catholicism?

    A lot of Protestants default to “It’s not Biblical, therefore it’s man-made.” I’ve heard that argument many times to support why the Church is heretical and extra-Biblical.

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  5. It would be a great mistake to imagine either that there is no detailed scholarship produced by the Reformed Calvinists; or that the Reformed scholars all mis-represent the tenets of the Catholic faith. For example, the theologian Karl Barth was a major scholar with whom major Catholic theologians debated in detail. See for example, the book:
    https://www.amazon.com/Analogy-Being-Invention-Antichrist-Wisdom/dp/080286533X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1508806410&sr=1-3

    for a detailed account of the controversy between Catholic scholar Erich Przywara
    and Karl Barth.

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    1. I never argued that there isn’t detailed scholarship produced by Reformed Calvinists, but I am yet to read a single Calvinist thinker that has not either fundamentally misrepresented the Catholic faith or completely missed the mark in their criticism. Barth is actually a perfect example of both errors given the consideration of his claim that the analogia entis is the invention of the anti-Christ. Not only is this completely incorrect, but it is also a ridiculous misrepresentation of the Catholic teaching.

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  6. What is always at stake between Barth and Catholic theologians is the extent to which we can know and love God without the direct grace and/or intervention of our Lord. OK – the heavens do proclaim the majesty of our Lord, but how much, of a metaphysical nature, can we know about the Nature of God without divine intervention, i.e., by the use of unaided human reason? I do not read Aquinas as providing a rationalist reconstruction of the Catholic faith but rather as providing a method of engaging human reason in the process of faith. Aquinas harmonizes the faith of Christians with the Western tradition in its Greek roots. He illuminates a pre-existing faith. Let us allow that we can know, by unaided reason, come to know that God as ultimate Creative principle is responsible for the existence of the Universe. Can we really know, in the same way, that God is infinite complete Goodness even in the face of human suffering? I think this statement arises as an ascent by assent (or affirmation) of the believer to the Goodness of God. God I Love what I understand of You; help me to Love what I do not understand. But this is a self-generated act of will; not anything that follows purely from the dictates of logic. I maintain I am a devout Catholic in belief and faith and love. But like Barth, I believe that rationalistic excess clouded Catholic theology and philosophy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and that we yet to recover. Neither the rationalists nor the mystics grasp the full power of Catholic thought.
    Careful debate with the most intelligent Reformed theologians is important to the Catholic tradition of thought.

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  7. I had a similar conversion experience. I converted nearly 2 years ago while in prison. I was and had been a Protestant for most of my life, in spurts anyway. While incarcerated I had an issue with the chaplain that caused me to question some things. I found a copy of Keaton’s work https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0037BVKEE/. And I noticed that all my beliefs were perfectly and fairly treated by the author. Then he unveiled Catholicism to me, in part, and it just dawned on me that I have a Catholic soul lol. I just knew the truth when I heard it. I’m currently a free man on a lot of levels and in RCIA moving towards confirmation. Thanks for everything in the above post

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