Jonathan Fitzgerald chronicles an increasing trend among evangelicals: frequent conversions to Catholicism. He writes:
Croslow’s interest in Catholicism began over six years ago when he was a sophomore in high school. At the time, Croslow’s Midwestern evangelical church experienced a crisis that is all too common among evangelical churches: what he describes as “a crisis of spiritual authority.” As a result of experiencing disappointment in his pastor, Croslow began to question everything he had learned from him. This questioning led him to study the historical origins of scripture and then of the Christian church itself. Eventually he concluded that Catholicism in its current form is the closest iteration of the early church fathers’ intentions. He asks, “If Saint Augustine showed up today, could we seriously think that he’d attend a Southern Baptist church in Houston?” The answer, to Croslow, is a resounding “No.”
Croslow’s belief that the Catholic Church most accurately reflects the intentions of the early church fathers is echoed throughout the movement as other evangelicals seek a church whose roots run deeper than the Reformation. Further, due to the number of non-denominational churches that have proliferated since the Jesus Movement, many evangelicals’ knowledge of their history runs only as far back as the 1970s. These are the young believers who are attracted to a Church that sees itself as the direct descendent of the religion founded by Saint Peter and the apostles.
I sympathize with many of the concerns of these newly minted Catholics about the state of non-denominational evangelicalism; however, I wonder whether they have considered another option: becoming more Protestant (that is, Protestant like the first Protestants) instead of more Catholic.
Protestants do see Scripture as the criteria against which all theological opinions should be judged–whether opinions of mine, Calvin’s, or Augustine’s. Protestants do not, however, believe that Augustine’s are to be read with skepticism and defensiveness just because he was born after Paul, but before the Reformation.
In fact, Protestants love reading Augustine, along with the rest of the Church Fathers. Why? Because the theology of the Church Fathers is Christian Theology, and it belongs just as much to Protestants as it does to Catholics. Protestant theology finds solid continuity with the Church Fathers–and the best Protestant theology seeks to show better continuity with the Church Fathers on certain points than Catholic dogma.
Moreover, Protestants do not distrust liturgy, especially ancient liturgy developed by some of the first Christians. I had a Wesleyan-Anglican professor in seminary who would often ask, “Which part of liturgy don’t you like–the Scripture or the prayer?” I loved that guy, incidentally.
It seems to me that the converts cited in this article are finding evangelicalism weighed in the balances and found wanting not so much because evangelicalism is too Protestant, but because it is not sufficiently Protestant.
HT: Justin Taylor