In March 2006 one of my graduate assistants, a Baylor doctoral student, visited my office to discuss with me his personal journey in the direction of Catholicism. An alumnus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained Baptist minister, this student, I’ll call him Joseph, told me that he and his wife were on the brink of choosing to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. He wanted to know from me, President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, if I could give them any reasons why they should not make the move. Much to Joseph’s surprise, I said “no.”
Although I was a year away from my own Catholic moment, I had reached a point in my Christian journey where I began to see more peril than promise in intra-Christian apologetics. This is not to say that I did not believe, or do not continue to believe, that when one is asked about one’s faith that one should not offer reasons for why one is Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox. I do not doubt that one has a responsibility, in the words of St. Peter, “to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15a). Thus, if Joseph had asked me to explain why I was a Protestant, I would have done so. But he did not ask me that. He asked me to give him reasons why he should not become Catholic.
There is a question here that many Catholics eager to evangelize other Christian brothers and sisters may not appreciate. As someone who now has been on both sides of the Tiber, I need to explain precisely what I mean. I could not in good conscience provide what Joseph requested. For I did not know whether, at that time in his journey, Catholicism was becoming to him the only Christian tradition that he thought plausible to believe. Because he was a follower of Jesus and cared deeply about his walk with Christ, I had to treat Joseph’s inquiry with a certain delicacy, making sure that I did not place in his path a stumbling block. Months after meeting with me, he and has wife were received into the Catholic Church, and I soon followed.Continue Reading > > >