The Psychology of Catholic Converts Examined

The same application of this video and my arguments can be made to Evangelicals who are tempted to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy or Oriental Orthodoxy or the Assyrian Church of the East.

This is an excellent analysis of how Roman Catholics use extreme skepticism and issues of unity and church history to work on sensitive Evangelical Protestants who are not grounded in the Word, the Scriptures, church history, and historical theology.

This guy who put this together ( “A Goy for Jesus”) is to be commended for sharp analysis.

What he describes in his video is what I was trying to get at years ago by what I write below. “A Goy for Jesus” analyzed it better, but below I repeat my musings from an earlier article I wrote at “Beggar’s All” years ago.

The video describes my friend Rod Bennett and his methods of trying to work his “Jedi Mind trick” on me for 8 years; and his book Four Witnesses and his struggles with doubt about church history, the canon, which interpretation, which church is right, etc.  He went through the same kinds of doubts and hyper-skepticism that John Henry Cardinal Newman, Scott Hahn, Chesterton, Peter Kreeft, the Called to Communion folks led by Bryan Cross who puts philosophy and overwhelms people with intellectual formal logic and Latin and obfuscation. and pretty much all former Protestants who have crossed the Tiber and become Roman Catholic have gone through.  In a way, this could be “Review of Rod Bennett’s book, Four Witnesses, Part 3”.

“1.  What about the Canon?  What about Bob?”

2.  “Feelings of Nostalgia” in “A word about intellectual converts” by John Bugay (see below)

3.  Michael Horton has an excellent summary of the problems with Papal Infallibility.   (“Who’s in Charge Here?  The Illusion of Papal Infallibility”)

In the “What about the Canon?” article, this was also a good summary of the issues. (Part 7 of a series about Sola Scriptura)

Though I don’t agree with some of what he writes at his blog, on this issue of Sola Scriptura and the canon and uncertainty, C. Michael Patton wrote an excellent article on Sola Scriptura and the Canon here a while back, with a classic picture of Bill Murray from the movie, “What about Bob?”

#what about bob from I didn't say anything.

By the way, it turns out, in the movie, Bob had a better ethical and moral character and loveable personality than the character played by Richard Dreyfuss. (an arrogant narcissist) That is not the point about what C. Michael Patton makes. (see below)

This part of C. Michael Patton’s article was especially good in shooting down the typical Roman Catholic method of trying to sow doubt and confusion into the mind of sensitive Protestants who also enjoy church history, who take seriously the Biblical doctrine of the church and unity; and who take historical theology seriously.

“We have a term that we use for people who require infallible certainty about everything: “mentally ill.” Remember What About Bob? He was mentally ill because he made decisions based on the improbability factor. Because it was a possibility that something bad could happen to him if he stepped outside his house, he assumed it would happen. There are degrees of probability. We act according to degrees of probability. Simply because it is a possibility that the sun will not rise tomorrow does not mean that it is a probability that it won’t.  C. Michael Patton

I am not saying that all Roman Catholics are mentally ill; but I am just agreeing that that kind of skepticism leads to such instability that it leads people astray from the truth, and it could possibly lead to mental illness. I hope sensitive people learn to cope with this world better and please don’t commit suicide!! If anyone sensitive and melancholy is reading this, realize the Bob character is better than the Dreyfuss character and get help and please don’t harm yourself!

The same argument can be made about uncertainty about the canon and interpretation of Scripture.

Just because there is a possibility that we are wrong (being fallible), does not mean that it is a probability. Therefore, we look to the evidence for the degree of probability concerning Scripture.  The smoke screen of epistemological certainty that seems to be provided by having a living infallible authority (Magisterium) disappears when we realize that we all start with fallibility. No one would claim personal infallibility. Therefore it is possible for all of us to be wrong. We all have to start with personal fallible engagement in any issue. Therefore, any belief in an infallible living authority could be wrong. As Geisler and MacKenzie put it, “The supposed need for an infallible magisterium is an epistemically insufficient basis for rising above the level of probable knowledge. Catholic scholars admit, as they must, that they do not have infallible evidence that there is an infallible teaching magisterium. They have merely what even they believe to be only probable arguments. But if this is the case, then epistemically or apologetically there is no more than a probable basis for Catholics to believe that a supposedly infallible pronouncement [either about the canon or interpretation of the canon] of their church is true” (Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, p. 216).”  C. Michael Patton

2.  A word about Intellectual converts. by John Bugay

Concerning the search for “feelings of Nostagia”, I wrote these comments, with some updated editing.

nostalgia – 1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

Scott and Kimberly Hahn – “Rome, Sweet Home” – you can feel the emotional appeal and longing for nostalgia here.

Rod Bennett, author of Four Witnesses: the Early Church in Her Own Words (Ignatius Press, 2002) (who was one of my best friends for years; one of my groomsmen in my wedding; after 8 years of debate, after he informed me of his decision to convert to Rome; he told me he wanted to debate no more. We debated from 1996-2004 by email and phone and face to face in many 3 to 5 hour discussions/arguments/informal debate.)

Rod had this same longing for nostalgia – connection to history, old architecture, pilgrimages, grave sites; heroes of the past (martyrs, saints), wars of chivalry, knights, and rescuing princesses; and he also longed for unity and perfection and ultimate authority.  (some of that is not bad, as long as we are balanced and come back to reality to today and let the Scriptures be our stabilizing comfort by the power of the Holy Spirit.)

He used John Henry Cardinal Newman and G. K. Chesterton types of arguments a lot. Interesting that the Roman Catholic author that John Bugay cited above in “A word about intellectual converts”,  says, “Newman probably is the one who started that mess . . . “

Interesting that that cradle Roman Catholic that John Bugay cited looks at all the nostalgia and Newman methods  as a negative thing; and he doesn’t sound too sure or positive about pope Pius IX.

But also, they seem to long for perfection here on earth – for example –  the dissillusionment with pastors and churches and disunity in history and denominations comes from this root of longing for perfection here on earth, which is delusional.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we had a living voice, someone who could walk into the room and say “thus says the Lord” someone who could tell us what the right interpretation is and solve all the disunity problems in Protestant denominationalism?” Rod Bennett (this is basically what he would say to me, from memory of many talks with him over those 8 years.)

Tim Staples also reflects this “nostalgia” and said similar things about a living voice that can walk into the room and solve disunity problems, in his debates and discussions with James White on the Bible Answer Man program and in debates – he has the same nostalgia.Rod Bennett’s uncertainty about the right interpretation and disillusionment over disunity in Protestantism reminded me of what C. Micheal Patton wrote about the radical skepticism of doubting everything and obsession to know for sure, to require infallible certainty; and the illustration from the movie, “What About Bob?”, with Bill Murray. The picture of Bill Murray from the movie is worth a thousand words.

“We have a term that we use for people who require infallible certainty about everything: “mentally ill.” Remember What About Bob? He was mentally ill because he made decisions based on the improbability factor. Because it was a possibility that something bad could happen to him if he stepped outside his house, he assumed it would happen. There are degrees of probability. We act according to degrees of probability. Simply because it is a possibility that the sun will not rise tomorrow does not mean that it is a probability that it won’t.”

C. Michael Patton (see link above)

That seems to be the root issue for the RC apologetic – this “how do you know for sure?” questions. Peter Kreeft, as I recall, used the same kind of argument, when another friend of mine contacted him about doubts about church history, the canon, assurance, how to know the right interpretation, etc. with statements like,  “What if the canon was not right?” “What if your interpretation is not right?”” How do you know for sure you have the right books or the right interpretation?””How do you know for sure you are in the right church?” It is all based on epistemology and the search for knowing for sure. Somehow, the pope and infallible church claim gives them comfort.It is a false assurance.

It is the nature of epistemology and “how do you know what you know?” that is the Roman Catholic apologetic tactic.   The Roman Catholics, especially the former Protestant like the Called to Communion folks, are just using a very clever tool in their churches’ apologetic kit.   It is what happened to Newman; it is Descartes methodology in RCC terminology and dressed up in Cardinal’s clothes, so to speak.

Notice Ephesians 3:12 – “in whom, we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” The Bible gives us all the confidence we need:

“to write and orderly account for you . . . ” . . . so that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”. Luke 1:1-4 ESV

NIV = “certainty”

NASB says “so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you have know you have eternal life.” I John 5:13

2 Peter 1:12-21 and 3:1 (read and meditate on these verses) also communicate from Peter himself, who according to the RC church is the first Pope, yet before he dies, he does not mention anything about the bishop or elders or church leadership and he does not say “ask them for assurance” or “trust in them for the right interpretation”, etc. – he leaves a letter so that the believers will have something to teach them and remind them of the truth and because he did write it down, he says, “therefore we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts . . .” (2 Peter 1:19)

Roman Catholics will say “you only have a “fair amount of certainty”.

I disagree.  It is rather the highest amount of certainty that God expects from humans who will be reading His God-breathed Scriptures. There are many other passages – John 20:30-31“these have been written that you may know”.  God never expects us humans to have “infallible certainty” in our feelings or souls, etc.  That category of “infallibility” is not even within our subjective feelings and knowledge.  Rather, we have reasonable and sufficient certainty by reading the Scriptures and by the power of the Holy Spirit communicating that assurance to us.

With the clear teaching of Scripture, I don’t understand the creation of another level of extra-certainty, which is superfluous of the whole infallible RC church/magisterium/pope/ etc.  We have all the certainty that God requires.

And in fact, because of the mistakes and the errors and the false doctrines that have been added to the Scriptures (Marian dogmas, penance, treasury of merit, indulgences, purgatory, NT priests, Apocryphal books, prayers for the dead, alms giving and good works as required conditions for salvation; infant baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation and bowing down to the consecrated host of bread and wine; praying to statues and icons; having other mediators beyond the one mediator (contradiction to 1 Tim. 2:5) – these things actually take away confidence and assurance and certainty and create a trust in man-made traditions. So, the Roman Catholic “certainty” is not a certainty at all for me, even though it claims “infallible certainty”, it does not inspire a stronger certainty at all for me.  

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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