There is an article from Christianity Today about “Evangelical conversions to Catholicism.” Mark Galli, who is the senior managing editor of Christianity Today, writes an insightful article that covers issues of conversion, parts of the ecclesiology of the church, the leading of the Holy Spirit, among other items of interest. The article begins with a question that was posed by the author.
On a recent trip to Durham, North Carolina, I was asked, “What do you make of all the evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism?” What immediately came to mind was two recent and well-known conversions of evangelical scholars: Christian Smith, sociologist at Notre Dame, and Francis Beckwith, who at one time was president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Other well-known conversions to Catholicism in my generation—by men whose writings have been important in my intellectual growth—include the late Richard John Neuhaus and Robert Wilken (not from evangelicalism as such, but from Lutheranism).
This is an issue that has been occuring for awhile now, as I understand it. Also, it does seem odd with all the scandals that have been going on within the Roman Catholic church. Then you have the disturbing history. Yet, there does seem to be a move going on. And not just from the people in the pews, but some scholars as well.
Mark states one issue for the conversions as being,
…longing for authority. One of the most frustrating things about being Protestant, and especially evangelical, is that there is really no place to turn when you are ready to end a conversation on a controversial point. There is no authority figure or institution that can silence heterodoxy.
Then he makes a very insightful statement in the next paragraph. Basically that the evangelical world has become tired and lazy.
So, we understand the pull of the Catholic magisterium. We’d love to be able to say, “The church believes X,” and then back it up with a papal encyclical. We want “evangelical” to have clear and firm boundaries, so that when someone says they believe something outside of those boundaries, we can tell them definitively and assuredly that they are no longer evangelicals. We’re tired of arguing, of having to prove our point through the careful examination of Scripture and patient deliberation. Frankly, we’ve given up depending on prayer to change hearts and minds. We want to be able to say, “The church teaches …” or “The Holy Father says …” or “All biblical scholars believe …” in a way that separates the sheep from the goats.
We then are taken on a quick journey through church history and the issues that were faced and how conclusions were drawn.
Paul and Peter and John used their authority as apostles to try to settle disputes, though they mostly argued from Scripture or the teachings of Jesus. But even after they spoke or wrote, the church had to go through a period of discernment to determine what the Holy Spirit was, in fact, teaching the church.
Mark brings to mind that we need to listen to one another and discuss the issues, looking to the historic and scholarly sources, and most importantly, mining the Scriptures to see what the Holy Spirit has revealed.
He then closes beautifully.
We don’t need a magisterium. We already have a Lord, who told us that not even the gates of Hades (whose landlord loves to sows confusion in the church!) will prevail against the church.
In short, we don’t need premature closure as much as we need persevering confidence that the Spirit will lead us into all the truth we need, when we need it.
Now, I would personally tweak the last statement he made to read, “In short, we don’t need premature closure as much as we need persevering confidence that the Spirit has led us into all the truth we need.”
I believe we will do another post on some other thoughts I have gathered while reading this article. I hope you have some insights also.