Skip to comments.A Deeper Look at the Many Evangelicals Turning Catholic
Posted on 08/05/2010 12:36:10 PM PDT by NYer
Is there a growing trend of Evangelicals converting to Catholicism? Many think so, including this recent article:
[There is a large] community of young believers whose frustration with the lack of authority, structure, and intellectualism in many evangelical churches is leading them in great numbers to the Roman Catholic Church. This trend of “Crossing the Tiber” (a phrase that also served as the title of Stephen K. Ray’s 1997 book on the phenomenon), has been growing steadily for decades, but with the help of a solid foundation of literature, exemplar converts from previous generations, burgeoning traditional and new media outlets, and the coming of age of Millennial evangelicals, it is seeing its pace quicken dramatically. [source]
The article gives the example of many such notable Evangelical converts from our generation, such as Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, Thomas Howard, Francis Beckwith and others. (It also mentions Patrick Madrid, but he is actually not a convert, from what I understand.)
The common threads that seem to be drawing many of these Evangelicals into the Catholic Church are its history, the Liturgy and its tradition of intellectualism.
So is this trend significant? Or is it dwarfed by what seems to be many more Catholics who seem to lose their faith or become complacent with it?
According to a 2009 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, four people leave the Catholic Church for every one person that joins it. Keep in mind that this stat doesn’t count those born into Catholicism as “joining” it. However, it’s still a sad statistic. But we shouldn’t be misled by it.
There are also studies that show Catholicism has a higher rate of retention than all other religious groups. In other words, when people convert to Catholicism, they don’t do so because they didn’t like where they were and just wanted to try something new. Their conversion is deliberate and intentional and they generally stick with it. On the other hand, when people leave the Church, they generally drift around a bit from one denomination to another. This says a lot. The Catholic convert is actually experiencing real, lasting conversion. Those leaving the Church seem to be lost and searching souls that most likely had no idea what they were leaving in the first place.
I’ve long noticed, as have many others, a kind of trend as well. It’s not so much from “Evangelicals” converting to Catholicism necessarily. It’s that of intellectuals converting to Catholicism. And that’s not to say these intellectuals were strictly intellectual. But I mean it to say that they took their reasons for believing very seriously. We only have to look back a few generations to find Chesterton, Merton, Newman, etc. as part of the same trend.
In my own experience, I’ve seen that more people who convert to Catholicism do so on account of their reason. Whereas those that leave the Church do so based on some emotion or negative experience associated with the Church.
When I ask an evangelical why they left the Church. The answer is almost always an emotion. Something made them feel a certain way. Or they just didn’t like the way something was done in Catholicism. Or it didn’t suit their lifestyle. Or some other experience made them feel nice.
There is a long list of protestant (and other) leaders and scholars who have converted to Catholicism. The list for those going the other direction is devastatingly short.
This is why I think we are seeing, and will continue to see even more, protestant thinkers converting to Catholicism. Protestantism is running its course. All the protest is getting tired. And they are running out of places to find answers that don’t lead them deep into Church history, back to the ancient liturgy, and into the intellectual tradition that ultimately leads to one place: Rome.
Protestantism has drifted far enough away from orthodox Christianity that it can now look back at the trees and recognize the forest. And if you’re not entirely in the Catholic Church, that just might be the next best place to be…
“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 to the same place; and I tried to trace such a journey in a story I once wrote. It is, however, a relief to turn from that topic to another story that I never wrote. Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I have ever written. It is only too probable that I shall never write it, so I will use it symbolically here; for it was a symbol of the same truth. I conceived it as a romance of those vast valleys with sloping sides, like those along which the ancient White Horses of Wessex are scrawled along the flanks of the hills. It concerned some boy whose farm or cottage stood on such a slope, and who went on his travels to find something, such as the effigy and grave of some giant; and when he was far enough from home he looked back and saw that his own farm and kitchen-garden, shining flat on the hill-side like the colours and quarterings of a shield, were but parts of some such gigantic figure, on which he had always lived, but which was too large and too close to be seen. That, I think, is a true picture of the progress of any really independent intelligence today; and that is the point of this book.
The point of this book, in other words, is that the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. ” - G. K. Chesterton (Everlasting Man)
In scripture, this is addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
Those that I have talked to about their departure said it was mainly due to theological reasons.
On a recent Journey Home with Marcus Grodi program (on EWTN), a guest made the following observation (which I paraphrase):
1) The Protestants converting to Catholicism tend to be people who understand theology, Church history, etc. quite well, and who are seeking to take their Christian faith to a deeper level.
2) Catholics that leave the Catholic Church tend too be poorly catechized and never really understood well the deeper aspects (mysteries) of the Catholic faith.
I think Ephesians 4:4-6 has more to do with it.
As long as the net SPIRITUAL migration is TO Christ, not FROM Him, I couldn’t give a fig whether the surface-level manifestation is into or out of Catholicism, evangelicalism, or any other “ism.” There have been complete apostates at the deepest and highest levels of every “ism” you can think of.
Being an evangelical, simply means that one is an evangelical; it says nothing definitive as to whether or not one is truly in Christ. Likewise for every subset of Christianity on Earth.
The name on the sign out front, is no guarantee as to the name on the heart within.
As a conservative, I hope that they do not start voting like Catholics.
“The Catholic convert is actually experiencing real, lasting conversion. Those leaving the Church seem to be lost and searching souls that most likely had no idea what they were leaving in the first place.”
No bias here!
I’ve met many Catholics who experience real lasting conversion after leaving the Catholic Church. And I’ve met many confused people who turn to the Catholic Church for a dose of smells and bells.
That sounds right to me, at least from what I have observed here.
Well, I started out as a Baptist and ended up a Catholic. I prefer the statue “idols” to the preachers, Christian rock singers, and bible interpretations I saw treated as idols among Evangelicals. I still love them all dearly, but I think the theology is “pure b.s.”
You're right! Your comment reminded me of an article written by Kristine Franklin.
"How I Solved the Catholic Problem"
by Kristine L. Franklin
Guatemala is at a turning point. Historically it's been a 100% Catholic country - but that's changing - rapidly. Demographers predict that early in the next century Guatemala will become the first mostly-Protestant Latin American country.
The jet made a careful descent between the three volcanoes that ring the sprawl of Guatemala City. It was April 19th, 1992. My husband, Marty, and I had reached the end of eight years of preparation to be Evangelical Protestant missionaries.
We were finally here, excited and eager to settle in Guatemala. We knew our faith would be challenged and stretched, but we were more than ready for it because above all else, we desired to serve God with everything we could offer. Our new life as missionaries had just begun.
I didn't feel even a twinge of regret over what we'd left behind in the States: family, friends, a familiar language and culture, and amenities like clean water and good roads we Americans so often take for granted. In spite of the unknowns ahead, I knew we were being obedient, regardless of the cost. We were living smack in the middle of God's will, and it gave us a great feeling of security. We had given ourselves fully to bringing Christ's light to the darkness of this impoverished, Catholic country.
As the jet touched down onto the bumpy runway, tears welled in my eyes. "Thank you, Jesus," I whispered as I reached over to squeeze my husband's hand. Marty and I had come to the end of a long journey, but we were also beginning a new one. "Some day, Lord," I prayed silently, "I hope this foreign place will feel like home."
I was elated as we walked down the exit ramp from the plane and began the long-awaited adventure of being Protestant missionaries - missionaries sent to "rescue" Catholics from the darkness of their religion's superstition and man-made traditions and bring them into the light of Protestantism.
There's no way I could have known that three years later, almost to the day, my husband and my two children and I would stand holding hands again, elated again, waiting to be received into the Catholic Church. Let me explain what happened that led me, a staunch Evangelical, to become Catholic.
Yeah, so you respond to something you found insulting/offensive by insulting people as "confused"?
"Mrs. Gingrich #2 was dumped after her husband had carried on an extramarital affair with a fetching, blond congressional staffer named Callista Bisek, who went on to become the present Mrs. Gingrich #3. This Family Values paradigm was complicated by the fact that whilst Mr. Gingrich was filibustering Ms. Bisek over the Speakers desk, he was simultaneously leading the impeachment charge against a naughty president of the United States....The much-married Newt Gingrich converts to Catholicism this weekendand Id pay a years salary to have been a bug on the wall during his religious instruction."Related threads:
-- Christopher Buckley, from the thread The Audacity of Poping
It is sad but true that the Church has fallen short in her obligation to the faithful to catechize and protect them from error.
Twice in the past week at my job I have encountered “Latin Americans” who were completely ignorant of the Church and her history, doctrines and commission by Christ.
One man, upon seeing the bracelet I was wearing with depictions of different holy people and Christ, asked if I was Mexican. When I said no, I am Catholic he expressed extreme surprise and remarked, “I thought only Mexicans were Catholic and all white people are Christian.” He actually had no idea that the Catholic church in Mexico is the same Church in America, Italy, Ireland, Poland and throughout the world, or that Catholics are Christians.
Another family I met also commented on the bracelet and we spoke of which church we attend. They told me they go to a “Christian” church now. They really like all the music and stuff according to them, so they have quit going to Mass.
These are just two glaring examples of a real failure that needs to be addressed by the clergy and hierarchy of the Church.
I am not just an Evangelical but a Born Again Christian. I pray to GOD, not some idol. I am not welcome in the Catholic church, I’m divorced. They would have rather I stay with an abusive man. I love my boys to much to stay with a man who wanted to beat them. Spent 10 years as a single mom until GOD put a good man in our path, who raised them like his own. I couldn’t even be buried in ‘hallowed’ ground according to the Catholic church.
Nobody who votes liberal can be any more than nominally "Catholic."