What Good Can a Protestant Convert Do?

by Steve Ray on August 2, 2007

Someone wrote to me last week;

Thanks for replying to my comment.  A question for you.  You said to us, and I've heard you say it to others, that the Catholic church "needs" people like us.  By that I assume the people "like us" would be committed Protestant converts, much like your family was. 

My question is, Why?  I feel like we have been floundering and flailing for years now, trying to "get it right" and—at least for us—the "sola scriptura" experiment has failed.  If anything I would say that the people like us need the Catholic Church, rather than the other way around.  What can Protestants who have 1500 years to catch up on have to offer the Church?  I look forward to your thoughts, and I think other people would be interested, too. 

I responded:

What I meant by "the Church needing people like you" is this. People like you (and me) have been out in the Protestant world and have learned a lot. We have experiences and knowledge that is very valuable for Catholics. Many Catholics are second, third, forth . . . generation Catholics. Like Americans that have lived here through multiple generations they get "used to" the wonders and riches in the Church. An immigrant coming to America is full of wonder, experiences and gifts to help us Americans who have lost the appreciation.

Like these new immigrants who often make better Americans that us old-timers, converts to the Cathalic Church often make the best Catholics. You are full of enthusiasm. You love the Bible and the Spirit. You know the need for the Spirit but have now learned the need for legitimate authority.

You have experiences and wisdom and knowledge that brings fresh life and joy to the Church. There are now thousands upon thousands of Protestants converting to the Catholic Church — many of them ministers and pastors of from Protestantism. The Church is going through a marvelous reformation and revival, a purification and sanctification.

Brothers and sisters like you (and my family) bring great gifts and confirmation to the Catholics who have been here all along but who may not have known how blessed they are. Cradle Catholics are coming alive and the Church is like a sleeping giant awakening — in part by the influence of people like you who join us. There is MUCH for you to do — much work to be done!

We need you! We want you to join us and help get more and more people to find the fullness of the faith! Plus, for you it will be your greatest joy to discover or re-discover this great pearl. When converts discover this pearl they never look back.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard O'Connor August 3, 2007 at 10:22 PM

I accidentally found your quote from St. Basil the Great the other day and wonder how many other early fathers expressed the same idea — that Scripture and Tradition are two equally valid fonts of revelation. Do you know?
Someone sends me attacks on the Church by the editor of the Christian News (a Lutheran paper out of New Haven MO) and I refute them regularly but the guy is so full of hatred and ignorance of the Church is seems to be useless. Sola Scriptura is his big stick. I’m going to send him St Basil’s statement but would like to add more if you can help.
Thanks.
Richard
PS- Your point is well made: we life-long Catholics can and often do lose our excitement and enthusiasm for our wonderful gift of Faith and converts often put us to shame.

MarkAA August 4, 2007 at 1:17 PM

Steve,
I couldn’t agree with you more. (I visited you at your home a few months ago and you showed me the software … Mark) My trip back (I’m a revert who has been worshipping as a conservative Lutheran, where I’ve been learning the Bible and History I never learned as a young Catholic, sad to say) is slowed by family concerns right now, but I yearn to be back with the Holy Mother Church.

There’s no question Protestantism is bound by its own internal flaws and weaknesses, and the Catholic and Orthodox Churches truly have their roots back in the Apostolic times. The Catholic spirituality is enormously useful to believers, the Catholic interpretation of scripture overall fits much better than protestant ones, and the Catholic Church’s understanding of the value of suffering and pain in spiritual growth/sanctification is far, far beyond what protestants see in it.

The church IS the antedote to slavery to modernity; she was founded by our Lord and has grown through the Spirit and the efforts of her faithful throughout many long centuries, whose evil and chaos weren’t far from modern times, truth be known.

I do see in my family and other lifelong Catholics I know a general lack of appreciation for their own church, a kind of benign neglect, which is sad for me, as I find amazing, wonderful aspects of it every time I investigate another of her facets.

I could go on and on. I have been blessed by the works of both cradle Catholics and by the efforts of you, Steve, and other converts like Scott Hahn.

This IS a great time to be a Catholic, and I look forward to being one again very soon.

Blessings,
MarkAA

Wade Marsh August 4, 2007 at 11:13 PM

Blessings to you Steve and for all the Lord is doing through you, Thank you for this open dialog to comment on what good a protestant convert can do in the Church. I agree with your example of the cradle Catholics being much like us 3rd and 4th generation Americans taking much of the freedoms and blessings for granted. I too am a new convert totally excited with my relationship in Christ Jesus now lived out in the one true Catholic and Apostolic Church. Earlier today, I was blessed to be in a Catholic men’s fellowship group where we pray together and review the readings for Sunday Mass. During our time together the group leader Dan who is cradle catholic expressed how he was praying with a friend that has a view that his life won’t change till he gets heaven. Dan discussed with his friend that he believed that he could experience heaven now. I then spoke up and shared with the group that Dan’s perspective comes directly from his Catholic upbringing and my Protestant upbringing had that heaven after we die mentality for real change to take place. So I believe this blessing goes both ways leaving the Protestant ways of thinking and embracing the sacramental culture traditionally kept in the Catholic Church but taken for granted needs to be encouraged in our brothers and sisters life of faith in Christ when we see it manifest. So when I see my Catholic brother or sister who may seem to have no clue as to what they are here for during Mass, it gives me the opportunity to pray that they may receive the fullness of the grace that their baptism as offered them in Christ Jesus. Steve I agree that the time is now and “Cradle Catholics are coming alive and the Church is like a sleeping giant awakening”. God Bless your efforts by His grace!

Wade Marsh

Don August 5, 2007 at 6:27 AM

Steve,

I agree that protestant converts can bring a sense of wonder and admiration for the treasures of the Church and re-ignite an enthusiasm for the Church. I was just reading a review of a book by Cardinal Dulles where the reviewer notes that Dulles has that sense of wonder as convert that the reviewer did not.

However, protestants also have bad habits that need to be broken and “knowledge” that needs to be unlearned. The worst are those that had the most training in protestant theology. They have the most to unlearn, and it is often this very training that is/was the greatest obstacle to their conversion. But besides just interpretation and doctrine are the cultural aspects and approaches. It results in what I call an “evangelical hangover” (in former evangelicals). Let me give a pertinent example of what I mean.

Last December on Relevant Radio you (Steve) were trying to defend your view that the Virgin Birth was natural not miraculous. The very first thing you did was to quote from the cryptic book of Revelations (12:1-2) and intepret it as Mary wailing in pain at the birth of Jesus. That’s your evangelical hangover showing itself. The Catholic approach is to ask first what the Magisterium (extraordinary and ordinary) teaches, then the Fathers, Doctors, and saints. What do they have to say on the matter and what do they use to support it? Instead you interpreted Scripture on your own authority in direct contradiction to the explicit teaching of the Church in her Roman Catechism (and I think they knew about Rev 12:1-2). I think you did some violence (however unintentional) to the faith of the listeners given the influence of your reputation. That’s the danger of an evangelical background and the culture and habits formed there. It needs to be unlearned. I would suggest that your difficulty in wrapping your head around the miraculous birth is also a result of your evangelical hangover.

I’m glad you’re in the Church and no doubt you’ve done a lot of good. But continue to work on soaking up the culture of (authentic) Catholicism into your very bones until it affects every action and attitude.

I’ve intended to send you a detailed rebuttal against a natural virgin birth, but have been distracted by issues in my diocese. You’ll get it eventually.

Bert August 9, 2007 at 11:18 AM

Steve,

The experience of American Protestants who crossed the Tiber can be compared to the experience of Filipino Roman Catholics here who left Rome and have embraced Evangelical Protestantism. Just an observation.

Steve Ray August 9, 2007 at 4:10 PM

There is a huge difference. I work as an evangelist and an apologist in the Philippines (on my Topic bar I have the Philippines as a topic so you can see all my blog entries on our trips to the Philippines).

When an American Protestant leaves Evangelicalism to join the Catholic Church they are leaving a schism to join the fullness of the faith.

When a Filipino leaves the Catholic Church to go to Protestantism, they are leaving the fullness of the faith to join a sect which in in protest against Rome and thdy have abandoned the Apostolic Succession and the Eucharist — they have given up the luxury ship to float on a raft.

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