08 September 2013


Several of my friends - some Catholic, some Protestant - have asked me from time to time how I dealt with this or that doctrinal difference between Catholics and Protestants.

I didn't.  Or, rather, these issues I had already dealt with before I ever found myself attracted to the Catholic Church.  I do not think I could possibly have entertained the fantasy of being approached from that church in Papakura, by a nun or a priest, had I not done so.  I will not (and probably cannot) detail my change of mind regarding each of several apparent differences - 'apparent' since I came to believe, before I ever imagined being a Catholic, that all differences but one were, indeed, only apparent.  Major ones I have already talked about in these posts:

  • Sola Scriptura - the idea that only what is in Scripture is binding on Christians.  I saw as early as 1985 that even the question what was Scripture could not itself by satisfied by Scripture - and that it was, in any case, impossible genuinely to say that Scripture was perspicuous - clear so that all men of good will must agree on everything essential; the multiplicity of clearly sincere sects showed that.
  • Sola fide - the idea that salvation is by faith alone, apart from all works.  In that Bible study in 1985 I saw, clearly, that Catholics might say - with, in fact, Scripture (see James 2:14-26) - that saving faith is faith working in love; Protestants might say that faith alone saves - but that saving faith works.  Phaenomenologically I could see then (and can see now) no difference.
There are many other issues - for some Protestants, Our Lady's status is one - but the two above are the great issues of Protestantism that, it seemed to me, were the underpinnings of Protestantism.

One difference I had not yet clearly seen yet: the nature of the Church.  Although the Reformed churches taught that the Church was visible - and had real authority - it began to be clear that most Christians did not.  Most believed in the idea of the invisible Church - a notional concept, basically the set of all those who would, in fact, be saved.

I had already been convinced by the Reformed people that the idea of the invisible Church was not Biblical.  What I had not found yet was any real criterion for locating that Church.  It still rested on the idea of my understanding of Scripture, and then my discernment of the teaching of a particular body - and that body, if right, was the true visible Church.

It was, in fact, the body that agreed with me about what Scripture taught.

In late 1991 or early 1992, having set up the Business School with e-mail, I had also begun to make use of the Internet.  This was not easy.  Initially the only way I could do it was to login to our mainframe (an IBM 4341, I think it was).  There was an application there - I cannot remember what it was - that enabled me to read, and post in, Usenet groups.  It was clumsy.  It was text-only.  I could do a little more on the Internet - using Lynx I could even download picture files - as collections of encoded text which had then to be joined together and decoded - but for the most part, I involved myself in discussion groups.

In particular, Christia, as I said yesterday.  I quickly learnt that there were Catholics in the group - and Catholics who were not content simply to act as though there were no possibility of making clear what the Church believed - or even of convincing people of the truth of those beliefs.

I found myself quite fascinated by some of these discussions - and annoyed by the ignorance of the responses of some Protestants.  Even I knew more of the Catholic faith than some of these people seemed to!  I began, occasionally, to try to correct some of the grosser misunderstandings.

And I was electrified, one day - in late August or early September, 1993 - to read what someone posted.  He made reference to some 'Reformed minister' (his words) who had become a Catholic!

Who was this??!!  I wanted very much to know more about this.

The man's name was Scott Hahn.

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