Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Analyzing My Reasons for Conversion

Despite my strong convictions that I made the right decision in converting to the Catholic Church based on the evidence available, I have to at least entertain the possibility that I was deceived.

Considering that the evidence seems so overwhelmingly pro-Catholic to me, I know of only two conceivable worlds in which I am wrong. World 1. A world in which I'm not smart enough to properly calculate all the evidence and World 2. A world in which I am smart enough but concupiscence has grossly skewed my ability to reason.

I might not be the smartest guy in the world...but I think I'm at least bright enough to reject world 1 without much discussion and I'll leave the reader to agree or disagree.

World 2 deserves some more serious thought however. To speak of this world in simpler terms, I would be guilty here of rationalization. So I should entertain the possibility that I've rationalized my way into the Catholic Church. This might be true, and if it were, I think it would be hard for me to detect it. But what I know about rationalization seems to render this world unlikely.

I think most of us would agree that it is possible to self-detect rationalization (probably from first hand experience). I think rationalization necessarily accompanies short term benefit at the expense of long term good. It feeds the lust at the expense of natural reason. It aims at temporal means and ignores the eternal.

None of these things seem to be true of my initial conversion. I didn't stand to gain anything temporally or short term - in fact, I had to go through a year of RCIA & early Sunday mass. So this doesn't seem like the type of thing I'd rationalize my way into.

But how about now? Maybe I converted for the right reasons but have rationalized myself into staying Catholic having been exposed to more contrary evidence. I suppose I would stand to gain some temporal benefits from remaining Catholic - I'd save a lot of face. It would be humiliating to revert to Protestantism or to change to another religion altogether. (In this way, I can appreciate the difficulty Protestant clergy have when facing the evidence of the Catholic Church which is a hundred fold what I'd have to endure if I wanted to de-convert). It also becomes more difficult (for prideful reasons) to convert to anything else for any reason as you get older. For an old Protestant to convert to Catholicism (or vice versa) it entails admitting that you've been wrong about the most important things for a long time. I'd also keep access to a far superior liturgy (although depending on my personal brand of Protestantism, I'd be able to continue attending at will as long as I didn't receive).

But let's look at the other side of the option - not just what I'd temporarily gain from remaining Catholic but what I'd temporarily gain from reverting to Protestantism. I would gain some personal "freedom" and certainly some intellectual "freedom". I'd get to go back to much better music on Sunday morning. I'd have a much larger friends network who were of the same religious persuasion (I mean in my local area). Pastoral ministry would be an option and a teaching ministry would be much easier.

I think there are more temporal reasons to revert than to remain Catholic. So it doesn't seem to me like I've rationalized my way in or that I'm rationalizing myself to stay inspite of good reasons to leave. But who knows....this post could be part of that rationalization. Just thinking out loud here.


George Weis said...

Interesting Tim!

I am really at a loss this point at what to think or do. Sometimes intelligent pining can cause more confusion rather than clearing up an issue. This is why many people seek truth through knowledge, but never arrive at a final answer. At this point in my study and questioning of the Catholic claims I have found the following to be true:

1) If History (the Early Fathers) is the guide to discovering the closest thing to the Apostolic tradition, then I am left with 2 choices, and one that is superior.

2) If something DID go askew early on (which is possible) such as the Early Christians focusing on form and maybe leaning to heavily on some interpretations... then I am at ease.

3) Historical evidence points to the Catholic Church as at least holding a long lasting tradition and at most THE appropriate and Orthodox Christianity.

4) If the larger statement in point 3 is true, there are still apparent embellishments that have been made. All are agreed upon that..."Acorn to Tree".

All these things leave me in a fuddle of thoughts. To me, making any quick decisions on this would be mad! My heart has left all prejudice aside, but has a tough time embracing this as the "IT".

Sorry for all the drivel :)

Love you long time!


Rene'e said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kenny said...

A third possibility should be considered, not because it is especially likely to be true in this case, but just because one should always consider this possibility in evaluating such things: biased sampling. In other words, perhaps the evidence which was available to you (or the subset of the available evidence which you have actually examined) is misleading.

For instance, I am perfectly willing to admit that, in my own case, I have not seen most of the evidence which would be used to support the Miaphysite churches (e.g. the Coptic Church), so if, hypothetically, it was the case that there were a bunch of Scriptural and traditional arguments for the correctness of that alternative tradition, I wouldn't know about it. (For that matter, I also haven't seriously examined the arguments for Buddhism either.)

Tim A. Troutman said...

Kenny, you're absolutely right. In statistics, the question is often asked, "how many samples do I need?" and a good statistician will usually answer - "your sampling method is what you need to focus on". 20 fairly sampled observances are better than 1,000 samples from a biased source.

I also concur that I have very little knowledge of various arguments re: Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism and a host of other religions. I write them off with some macro level reasoning which could end up being a mistake. We only have so much time as you know and I'm sure we both engage in some similar processes of weeding out religions which truly deserve our attention.

Anyhow, thanks for bringing that up. It's a valid point.

Andrew Preslar said...

I suppose that most convinced believers, of whatever tradition, Christian or otherwise, think that their faith is, in some way, a gift. According to the Catholic Church, these folks are, on some level, correct. Now, one who has received a gift is normally not as inclined towards self-critique, in that respect, as we are with regards to other kinds of actions.

Even when we choose to analyze our faith, for whatever reasons (and there are good reasons to do so), there a remains, so long as we have faith, a sense of having already gone beyond what we can directly think about, since the faith itself is from beyond ourselves, in some important sense, as is any gift.

Leonard said...

I am a seeker of truth and while investigating the RCC teachings, I came across this post but was discouraged and confused by this kind of analysis. The areas of teaching can be avaluated but the decision ultimately is not dependent on this rational criterion, like a mathematical calculation. I may be wrong and probably may have misunderstood your point but it seemed to me that these posts, leave the impression that you are reflecting the deversion, or returning to the previous faith. I know that it is not as simple as that, and one has to be slow and not rush into this kind of decision, but once you are convinced that it is the one and only Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ, the rest must follow more easily, like I have seen with the posts in Mysterium Fidei (David Hodge's blog).

Tim A. Troutman said...

Hi Leonard,

Thanks for posting that, it had crossed my mind that this post could come across the wrong way.

Let me make one thing clear: I have no inkling of reversion whatsoever and never have. I have been utterly unconvinced by any Protestant arguments. In fact, before converting, I read mostly Protestant apologetics to see their reasons for not being Catholic. I found all of them to be based on bad philosophy bad logic and or straw men arguments.

And I didn't learn my way into the Catholic Church either - I sincerely believe that reason pointed me in the right direction, but faith got me here. So, I hope this makes sense.

This post was really me writing down a conversation I had with a fellow convert over a beer a few months ago. The only reason these sorts of things ever crossed my mind was because of the general Protestant complete inability to reason on a lot of these issues which in my mind point so clearly to the Catholic Church I just can't imagine anyone who's smart enough to say "this evidence doesn't point towards Catholicism" thinking that statement to be true. I can only assume it is due to rationalization and thus, I just pondered, in the interest of fairness, the possibility that I too might be rationalizing and here are my reasons why I think I'm not.

So in a nutshell, I am fully convinced that the Catholic Church is uniquely the Bride of Christ - His very Body sojourning on this earth and that she alone is the fullness of the Biblical Church.

If you have questions for me or want to talk further, feel free to email me ( timatroutman{at}gmail{dot}com ) or post it here.

Leonard said...

Thanks. It is clear enough. I may write to your email. Thanks again