John Henry Newman famously said, in his Apologia, that 'growth is the only evidence of life.'
Whether the religious changes in my life from my first conversion at the end of 1969 through to my entry into the Catholic Church at the end of 1995 constitute growth or corruption will be decided variously by adherents to various Christian persuasions.
My own understanding of things religious was definitely not acquired in the usual way. Susan had been brought up an Anglican. She understood the basics of the Christian faith, and something of the pattern of denominations. She knew the Bible tolerably well. I had had none of these things.
So when I became a Christian, I started from scratch. It is the firm teaching of Protestantism that, given the Bible, two unbiased persons will come to agree on all the essential matters. With all due respect to my Protestant brethren, I fear that I do not think this is so. Indeed, the question of just what matters are essential is, itself, one of the things that agreement may fail to be reached regarding. The multitude of Protestant sects seems to me to testify to the failure of this project - to the lack of what is called the perspicuity of Scripture.
I did, indeed, begin strictly with the Bible - with the Bible and with a certain amount of cultural Christian knowledge - people who are Christians believe in Jesus, go to church, have an idea of sin - little more.
I began reading. I read voraciously. By the time we had lived in Auckland for a year, I had been reading for four years. As I explained in an earlier post, we had been helped by Campus Crusade for Christ - and Campus Crusade was de facto Baptist or evangelical Presbyterian in orientation, although it has no official denominational outlook. It was for this reason - the support of persons who loved us and cared for us - that we were now members of Hillsborough Baptist Church.
But by now I had read a lot of Baptist writers, from the Calvinist 'right' to the evangelical 'left' (if such terms are at all applicable). I had begun reading Church history - including Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church. I had been especially devoted to C. S. Lewis's writings. I was increasingly of the opinion that Baptist Christianity, excellent start though it had given me, was not enough.
Precisely how we became aware of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, I don't know, but we did. Sometime during 1974, whilst continuing to be members of Hillsborough Baptist, Susan and I began exploring - and began to attend services at the Reformed Church of Bucklands Beach. Initially I think this was just to find out what the church was like. It was not long before we were no longer attending Baptist services. We had not yet become members of any other church, but we were clearly on our way to becoming Reformed.
Sometime during that winter we acquired a boarder. Liz Moltzen had moved up to Auckland from her home in Tauranga and was working at World Vision. She was living with an old woman who was a friend of her family's - and finding it ... perhaps 'oppressive' is too strong a word; nevertheless, she wanted to live with younger persons. Liz came and lived in our second bedroom in Mt Eden.
Neither Sue nor I can remember exactly when in 1974 Liz came there, but sometime in the middle of October a change came, although it was some weeks before we knew about it. Susan was pregnant.