I worked on my testimony ebook, New Age To Catholic, over the summer. And for the most part, it went well. I even began to think that I was almost done with the first draft. Then I realized something.
I’ve got more to say about my experience as a Protestant than I previously realized. I’m working on the additional chapter this created now. But I wanted to share a little bit about where I’m going with it here.
As always, feedback is very much appreciated.
Reform Protestantism and the Guidance of God
If you heard part 1 of my audio testimony you know that I left the New Age in 2017 to return to Christianity. If you heard part 2 you know that I spent over two years as Protestant before coming back Catholicism in early 2020.
In testimony 2 (linked below) I talk about the first Protestant Church I attended – a non-denominational Evangelical / Reform congregation – but I don’t go into a lot of detail about why I left. Now, however, I’m beginning to realize I need to talk about it in a bit more depth in the ebook.
I encountered a few different issues during my time as a Protestant that I think are worth talking about. One was that the church I had joined was “cessationist.”
In Protestantism, different denominations have different beliefs so it’s important to note that not all Protestant cessationists believe the same thing. Some believe miracles can still occur, for example, while others do not. But the church I belonged to back then believed that all supernatural, spiritual gifts, like God-given dreams or visions, ceased at the end of the apostolic age.
This view was a problem for me because I occasionally had dreams and visions that I took as personal guidance from the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, according to most Reform Protestant sources I referred to, these experiences were considered to be either a figment of my imagination or demonic in origin.
Having been involved in the New Age I knew that such things could and did happen – though I didn’t believe that that was what was going on with me at the time.
But that wasn’t my only issue.
The Bible as the Only Way to Learn About God or His Will for Us
I also struggled with the doctrine of sola scriptura or “Scripture alone.” This is the idea that all information about the faith can be found explicitly in (and only in) the Bible. This belief went hand in hand with the things I was hearing from various Evangelical groups about the Catholic Church – including, but not limited to, claims that the Catholic doctrine was “made up” and therefore in serious, nonbiblical error.
At the time, it seemed odd to me that the Church didn’t know the Bible. Especially given the fact that it was the Catholic monasteries that had preserved the written Word of God through the dark ages by carefully copying the books of the Bible over and over by hand. But, sadly, I accepted it – even though I had converted to Catholicism in the nineties and been a practicing Catholic for several years prior to my involvement in the New Age.
One of the reasons I was able to accept the apparent errors of the Church was that I knew almost nothing about Catholic Sacred Tradition.
While it seems incredible to me now, I didn’t understand that Sacred Tradition was one pillar of Catholic belief. Or that the other pillar was Scripture. Or that that Sacred Tradition, while not always spelled out with absolute clarity in the Bible, never actually contradicts what is written there.
But even though I understood almost none of that then, I did notice that some of things that the Evangelicals believed were contradictory to my understanding of Scripture. To me, this included some key Evangelical beliefs about the absolute primacy of the written Word, the irrevocable nature of salvation and the cessation of the spiritual / supernatural gifts.
Because many Protestant denominations believe that everyone can interpret the Bible on their own, I heard a lot of people say that this verse or that proved these beliefs but, for me, none of those verses really worked – in context.
The Approach of the Wesleyan Protestant Denominations
It was around that time that I began to read the diaries of John Wesley. And, in several different ways, his beliefs made more sense to me than those I had been seeing in the Reform leaning Evangelical community.
I liked that Wesley believed that God could work in our lives in any way He chose. I agreed with Wesley’s ideas about progressive sanctification (i.e. a person can grow in holiness through spiritual practice) and the belief that it was possible for a person to lose his salvation if they did something truly egregious. And, to me, these ideas were supported by Scripture.
Because of Wesley, I began to think that one of the Wesleyan Protestant faiths (such as Free Methodist, United Methodist or Pentecostal) might be a better fit for me. This led me to a Pentecostal Church (Assembly of God) and the Berean Bible school. And, for the most part, I enjoyed my studies and the congregation that had welcomed me into their midst.
I enjoyed these things so much in fact that I might have stayed a Pentecostal – if God hadn’t led me back to Catholic faith.
Which brings me back to the ebook I’m working on and the insight I’ve gained through Catholic Apologetics.
Catholic Apologetics and Trent Horn on YouTube
Last week, I watched a video by Catholic apologist, Trent Horn, on YouTube. In it, he rebuts a “Why Catholics Are Wrong” video made by Pastor Mike Winger.
Pastor Winger is someone I followed when I was an Evangelical and I would say that he pretty well represents the Reform leaning Evangelic doctrine I was introduced to. He seems like a nice person and is more reasonable than a lot of the “discernment YouTubers” (and is actually one of my Facebook friends), but he does say a lot of things that I disagree with.
As part of his rebuttal to Pastor Winger, Trent Horn played the entire “Why Catholics are Wrong” video, stopping to refute inaccuracies and misrepresentations as they came up. This was the first of Trent Horn’s Protestant rebuttal videos I’d listened too but I went on to listen to several others.
While I found the information Trent Horn gave insightful, listening to some of the Protestant content was difficult.
It reminded me of all the criticism I’d heard about the Catholic Church during my time as an Evangelical and how I’d had to come to terms with what felt like a ton of misinformation after I returned to the faith.
I realized that there was a lot more to my Protestant experience than I’d previously thought. And I decided that was going to have to explain some of it in the ebook.
As part of doing that, I will need to address some of the differences between Catholic and Protestant doctrine that pertain to my story. And one of the things I am going to need to include is the Catholic vs. Protestant take on personal guidance.
So I thought I’d share a bit about it here.
God’s Guidance in Catholicism
Personal supernatural guidance is not ruled out in Catholicism and neither are miracles. But we are very cautious about both. And as someone who was spiritually deceived in the New Age I know that caution is warranted.
When it comes to dreams and visions, for example, we know that we might be wrong to think that our experience is from God and that – even if it is from God – whatever we’re being told is only for us.
To me this makes sense. I never had a dream or vision that gave any kind of new information. Instead the info I received was very basic material – things that most Catholics already knew. Such guidance did NOT mean I was special. It meant that, when it came to the faith, I was remedial.
Even though I understand, however, that this information is theologically unremarkable and personal in scope – it is also part of my story. And I don’t want to pretend I made decisions all on my own when the truth is I wouldn’t have ever made it back to the Church without God’s help.
But I also want to point out that – as I learn more about the teachings of Church – I receive that kind of personal guidance less and less often.
To me, this is progress.
You can see listen to my audio testimony 2 here on this blog or on YouTube
To watch Trent Horn’s rebuttal of “Why Catholics Are Wrong” please click here.