Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Conversion Story

On November 18th, 2006 I received the seal of the Holy Spirit and join the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church which we profess in the Nicaean creed and which Christ Himself founded on the Apostle Peter.

I have come to believe that this Church is precisely the Church that Christ was talking about when He told Peter that he was the rock on which He would build His church and that the gates of hell
would not prevail against it.

I was raised in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America); a conservative, reformed Presbyterian Church. Growing up I was well taught in the Scriptures and the doctrines of the reformation. I never questioned them. However, through a series of events, I came to a more ‘real’ level of commitment to God when I was 15 and decided that I needed to spend as much effort as I could in order to study the Scriptures and become closer to God. I spent hours and hours each day and read through the entire bible over the course of about 6 or 7 months. Some of the books I read several times.

During this time I also found an ordained minister (not in active preaching) who agreed to tutor me in Koine Greek. I studied for about 3 or 4 months. One of the first moments that made me scratch my head and really start wondering about what I’ve been believing my whole life was when I noticed that the last line of the Lord’s prayer “For thine is the power and the glory forever and ever amen.” was not actually in the original Greek yet was routinely included in the bibles. On one hand they are pretending that the Bible is so sacred that you dare not change even the slightest jot or title, and on the other they are deliberately inserting lines that they know aren’t there. Even with a rudimentary knowledge of the Greek I also came to notice differences in the English and Greek which seemed to me to be doctrinally (instead of semantically) based.

I also started noticing as I read through the Scriptures, that many things that are taught as dogma were not found in the Scriptures. (The irony of the whole Sola Scriptura heresy is that several Protestant doctrines are also not found in Scripture). This was the beginning of about 10 years of frustration. I gave up studying the Greek and I stopped pouring so many hours into studying the Scriptures as I felt very disillusioned at this point.

Then I came across early Chuch Father writings. The first epistle I read was Saint Polycarp to the Philippians. I was amazed at his wisdom and began to wonder why his book wasn’t in the bible since it was written in the early second century. At that point I began to do a little research on the canon which up until this point I had taken for granted. Much to my surprise it didn’t just fall out of the sky but was the result of several different Church councils.

I found the Protestant community woefully unable to answer the questions I had about it (the inspiration of the Scriptures). I even wrote letters to prominent Protestant apologists. I specifically sought out dialogue and apologetics on the subject but found all of them to be weak (to the point where it just boggled my mind how these apologists could seem so capable until it came to this issue). At this point, Sola Scriptura was so ingrained in my thought process that it didn’t even occur to me that apostolic succession is a teaching that would completely validate the decisions of the great Church councils such as the one at Nicaea in 325 AD.

Of course, who cares about a (now) 16 year old with questions? No one… so they didn’t get answered. I became resentful towards the ‘church’ (as I saw it…little did I know that I wasn’t dealing with the Church but an imitation of the Church started by a heretic). I stopped attending church for several years altogether. I didn’t feel like I was outside of God’s grace but that I was pursuing my ‘relationship’ with Him on my own personal terms since the church seemed to be so delusional.

Eventually, I began to get over this arrogant attitude and returned to church attendance. Originally, I church-hopped for about a year trying to find one that suited my preferences. Having no luck I eventually just settled down at the worst church (except all the rest of them). I felt that even though I disagreed with much of what was taught, it was better to be at least attending somewhere. (Remember, at this point, Roman Catholicism wasn’t even an option for me because of my misperceptions of what they taught). I attended the original PCA Church (where I grew up) for about 10 months or so.

So originally, when I decided to give the Catholic Church a try after years of frustration with Protestant doctrines and such a casual approach to worship, I was still very Protestant minded. I (like all Protestants) believed that my personal interpretation of Scripture was the ultimate authority. I believed if I didn’t like a church or didn’t agree with their teachings, I would just go to another one. Which is what I finally did.

Luckily, I stumbled into Christ’s true Church. It was of course by no accident. I attended my first mass which was a funeral for a co-worker’s husband. Immediately I noticed a huge difference. I saw something I wanted to be a part of.

Now at first, I just thought I was choosing the Church because it matched my personal preferences for worship (liturgy, reverence & interaction) but the more I learned and studied, the more I came to realize how orthodox the Catholic Church was. Thanks to several friends I met in the RCIA process, I was urged to study more and we ‘egged each other on’ in our readings of the early church fathers.

My friend Joe gave me a print out of a collection of the early church father quotes on the Eucharist & real presence around Christmas 2005. Up until that point I kind of scoffed at the idea secretly because of how I was taught. (Remember I was here at RCIA because of my frustrations with Sola Scriptura originally). I soon came to learn and come to grips with the fact that Sola Fide was also a blatant heresy and in obvious contradiction to Scripture as well as Church tradition. But seeing this many of the early Church fathers not only affirm the real presence but condemn the heresy of denying it made me realize that the early Christians believed the same way as the Catholic Church teaches today! (I would later come to find that nearly all Catholic doctrines have this in common).

The concept of apostolic succession (which was before of marginal importance at best and in my Protestant days simply ridiculous) now started making a lot of sense to me. I really developed a hunger to learn more. I finally began to (by the prompting of the Holy Spirit) deflate my pride. I thought I knew so much about Scripture & theology before but now, I realized I knew nothing in comparison to the great fathers of the Church which had previously been all but completely concealed from me. Over the next several months I continued reading such fathers as St. John Chrysostom, St. Irenaeus & St. Clement. I learned a tremendous amount about the true history of Christianity in that time and of course still have a long way to go.

So from my not so humble, even somewhat cynical beginnings, I have now come to fully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and consider myself a Catholic. I am honored to be a member of the same Church as Saint Polycarp the successor to Saint John the beloved apostle. Reading Saint Polycarp’s epistle to the Philippians almost 10 years ago was one of the initial triggers which started me off on a journey to find true Christianity and so I have chosen him as my patron saint. (Expect a blog post on this in the near future)

I would recommend to anyone who is frustrated with ‘Christianity’ to give the original apostolic and Catholic Church a try. Regardless of what you believe about apostolic succession, Jesus DID in fact tell St. Peter that he was the rock on which He would build His Church. St. Peter WAS in fact the original bishop of the church at Rome; the succession of which is still the largest association of Christians (by far) on the planet. The doctrines are very arguably Scriptural. They are unequivocally orthodox to this day. Don’t you think its worth at least a second look? Just in case...

Read this post in Japanese. Also see – the defense of my conversion.

15 comments:

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Amen. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ! Now the true journey begins, the narrow path, where the rubber meets the road, where we know that simply believing is not enough. Pray for the grace to run the good race and persevere to the end. Christianity requires that we show our love to the Lord with more than just words and more than just "belief". We have been given the grace to recognize that we are now accountable for all of our thoughts, words, and deeds. This life is short and difficult. We must carry our cross to the end. There is no "easy" way to Heaven. We do not ask Christ to come into our hearts with any sincerity and believe that we can continue living a sinful life. I hope that we do not tire and turn our backs on God's grace. Now that we are in communion with His Church we should recognize our new responsibility. No more are the simple notions that by reading a prayer on the back of a pamphlet we have received a free ticket to Heaven. By the loving grace and mercy of God we have been freed from that false teaching. I hope that by His grace we can separate ourselves from mammon and worldy things that we hold dear and follow the Lord. I know I'm far from it, but I now believe that all of tools necessary are made available to me. If I fail, it will be because of my shortcomings and lack of faith. Thanks be to God for this freedom to love Him that He has given us.

Tiber Jumper said...

God bless you and welcome home. two and a half years ago, I reverted to my childhood faith after 30 years of evangelcalism.
Recently I have been tangling with some reformed baptists via my blog and have been struck with their lack of charity and strong belief that no body but they are saved!! James White posted my blog on his site and I got 745 hits in one day, but not really very nice either!
Thank you for blogging about your conversion. I might link to you if you don't mind.
I play mandolin, banjo, dobro, guitar etc and a little fiddle.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Thanks for the link and the encouraging comments! I added a link to your blog also.

Mike Terrell said...

Sorry I'm late. Welcome home brother.

Amber said...

It's a wonderful journey, isn't it? Loved your story! :)

jk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jk said...

http://unavocenorthernalabama.blogspot.com/

I am happy for you. May God bless your journey.

jk

George Weis said...

Nice to hear the story. Be areful with the (ALL PROTESTANTS) comment, I believe that may might feel that way, but not all. I don't even slightly throw myself in there. Some things must be questioned.

Love ya dude!

-george-

Tim A. Troutman said...

Please also note that this was written a couple years ago. Ive grown considerably since then.

George Weis said...

Gotcha! That's cool. I just wanted to let you know that I am one such "protestant" that doesn't feel that way. Plenty of questions for protestants in my mind too.

Love ya Tim!

-george-

Krystina said...

Hey...I just discovered this blog by "accident" today...I've been thinking about your conversion story all day. I love your posts.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Krystina - thanks for stopping by and glad it could be of some use to you.

Are you a convert also?

MHL said...

Way late to this post, but just wanted to let you know that I just came across your blog and I enjoy it. I'm coming at the Catholic Church from the more liberal PCUSA, but I enjoy your perspective. The fascinating thing is that while I've always considered myself a liberal, the more I study about Catholicism the more I think labels like conservative and liberal (at least as used in US politics these days) don't really apply to the Catholic Church.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

Tim A. Troutman said...

MHL, thanks for stopping by. I am probably on the opposite end of the spectrum - I have always considered myself a "conservative" but I think you're right to some extent, these traditional labels don't neatly apply in the world of Catholicism.

The respective terms can be used in wildly different ways. So when you say "liberal" it might mean personal liberty etc.. but when someone else says it it might mean moral relativism.

Still in the Catholic Church while "conservative" doesn't translate well, there are few terms which more aptly describe those who stray from Church teaching than "liberal". The "liberal" Catholics are consistently the ones who reject various Church doctrines like contraception, women's ordination, abortion etc... While there are self labeled "conservative" Catholics who also reject them like Sean Hannity (at least on the issue of contraception).

I spoke a little bit about this confusion of terms here for what it's worth. Anyway, thanks again for stopping by. Are you a convert or thinking about converting or just curious?

MHL said...

Tim:

Thanks for responding. The short answer is that I am a lifelong liberal Protestant who finds himself, somewhat inexplicably, attracted to Catholicism. For the longer story, if you're really starved for entertainment, I'd direct you to my blog. palmettostatethoughts.blogspot.com The main reason I started it was to talk through my attraction to Catholicism and what I should do next. I've sinced veered off somewhat into other stuff, but I put the stuff about me and Catholicism together under the heading "My religion story."

As to liberal/conservative, I guess my point is that the Catholic Church (at least as this current outsider sees it) ought to challenge the comfort of both liberals and conservatives in the US. I know all issues certainly aren't equal, but I find it compelling that the Church opposes abortion and (in most circumstances) the death penalty. Obviously, we have to vote for one of them, but I'd love not to have to choose between a party that favors embryonic stem cell reasearch and abortion on demand and a party advocating a war that the last two Popes were against and winking and nodding on torture.

Anyway, I do like your blog, and thanks for responding to me.