Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Ya Gotta Love rC's
02/28/2007 - James WhitePaul Owen just can't stay away from my blog. No matter how completely focused upon other issues I might be, ol' Paul just can't make it through a week without promoting his wishy-washy form of Anglo-Mormo-Catholicism. This time it's just funny, however. I posted a clip from my debate with Peter Stravinskas. Now, you will note, I posted two prior clips as well. Both were on exegetical and historical issues. Both were lengthy periods of interaction. Both represented very well the substance of the debate. So, after fairly representing the debate, I provided the most memorable audience question. It was not my question. I responded to it on the fly just like Stravinskas. But note how Owen takes it:
I must admit, I brought Tobit into the discussion because of some comments I saw on another website, in which someone attempted to make a Catholic priest look like an imbecile for defending Tobit’s statements about almsgiving. But Tobit’s statements, while certainly capable of being misused to promote a sort of works righteousness, can just as easily be understood in keeping with biblical piety.I even had Roman Catholics likewise complaining about the clip. Hey folks, you should be writing to Peter Stravinskas about his response to an audience question, not to me! How on earth can I be held accountable for his replies to audience questions?
Truly makes me wonder what would happen if I posted some of the video from the Martin Tanner debate. I am sure Owen would defend the Mormons at that point as well.
Note to Paul: don't you have anything better to be doing? I sure do! Spent the day while traveling working on gathering the needed resources to respond to the "tomb of Jesus" attack on the very heart of the Christian faith. Read the book, got Rich Pierce and Marie Peterson working on ordering in materials for writing a response. I was evening pulling down resources on my Blackberry while waiting for my flight on the second leg of my cross-country journey! What is it like, Paul, to live your life sniping at others all the time, rather than doing something, you know, original? Meaningful? Try it some time! I invite you to delete aomin.org from your blog reading list. Try it for a month. I know it would be the first time in like eleven years you did not define your entire life by your hatred of me, but believe me, it would be good for you! :-)
One of the Most Amazing Admissions I Have Ever Heard in a Debate
02/28/2007 - James White
DVD available here (#520).
Who is the Blessed Man? And Augustine Said What Again?
02/24/2007 - James WhiteMore from the cross-examination of Peter Stravinskas on vital issues of apologetic import.
DVD available here (#520). For details on Stravinskas' error regarding Sermon 131, see here.
Calvin Said What?
02/23/2007 - James SwanIt's been a while since Tiber Jumper's Crossed The Tiber has been in the spotlight. Every so often, this Catholic convert provides quotes from the Reformers. It amazes me how Catholic converts become so seemingly fluent in Reformation history and writings (I do wonder, though, how much of the Reformers writings actually are read prior to Catholic conversion). This time, John Calvin gets center stage as a supporter of the Roman Catholic view of baptism. Calvin's position is said to be so similar to the Catholic Catechism that he could have written this:
"The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1129).
Rome's view holds sacraments infuse grace into a person: "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1131). Now, whether or not you agree with Calvin's view of the sacraments, his view definitely was not that of the Roman Church. Tiber Jumper says, "We Sacramentalists in agreement with the writings of the Early Church and Sacred Scripture insist that a little water does indeed regenerate a person." Well, Calvin does not agree. Calvin says,
"The schools of the Sophists have taught with remarkable agreement that the sacraments of the new law (those now used in the Christian church) justify and confer grace, provided we do not set up a barrier of mortal sin. How deadly and pestilential this notion is cannot be expressed and the more so because for many centuries it has been a current claim in a good part of the world, to the great loss of the church. Of a certainty it is diabolical. For in promising a righteousness apart from faith, it hurls souls headlong to destruction. Secondly, because it draws the cause of righteousness from the sacraments, it binds mens pitiable minds (of themselves more than enough inclined to earth) in this superstition, so that they repose in the appearance of a physical thing rather than in God himself" (Institutes IV:14:14)....
"Now, it is clear how false is the teaching, long propagated by some and still persisted in by others, that through baptism we are released and made exempt from original sin, and from the corruption that descended from Adam into all his posterity; and are restored into that same righteousness and purity of nature which Adam would have obtained if he had remained upright as he was first created. For teachers of this type never understood what original sin, what original righteousness, or what the grace of baptism was" (Institutes IV: 15:10).
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Why Cross Examination is Vital
02/22/2007 - James WhiteHe taught at two well respected universities. Two earned doctorates. Numerous books authored. Editor of "The Catholic Answer." Ordained priest. The debate was on purgatory. Only a few biblical texts are relevant to the topic. 1 Corinthians 3 is the main one. Watch and listen.
DVD available here (#520).
Another Bodily Assumption Thought from the 1996 Debate
02/20/2007 - James WhiteAbout a week ago I commented on Owen's discussion of the Bodily Assumption of Mary, and noted how serious Rome was when she defined this as a dogma of the faith, something to be accepted de fide. It is truly a testimony to the internal collapse of the Roman system in our day that so few who profess Roman Catholicism actually believe its teachings. Having seen the secular character of Italian culture first-hand, I can tell you Rome has some very serious problems.
In any case, I was thinking about the topic and took the time to record a short clip (3 minutes) from the cross-examination of my debate with Gerry Matatics on the Marian dogmas back in 1996. Listen carefully to what Matatics says. He asserts we have the exact same basis to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we have to believe in the Bodily Assumption of Mary. Don't believe me, listen carefully to what he says, and then ponder how anyone could ever come to such a conclusion. Ironically, that kind of dogged "Rome's teachings are true, change history to fit them if need be" viewpoint comes through clearly in his finally leaving the Roman communion and concluding that modern Rome has abandoned its heritage, etc. Of course, if the current pope could be in error, then why...well, never mind, let's not get into that circular mess. I'll leave Gerry and his critics to figure that one out.
Roman Catholic Apologetics Goes Presuppositional
02/19/2007 - James SwanNever underestimate the writing output of a Catholic apologist. You can be easily buried with facts on several different topics spanning numerous pages. Most of their arguments are exercises in reasoning from the facts back to the Roman Catholic Church. One fact supports another in arguing back to the church Jesus is said to have established. The Catholic apologist will run the spectrum in facts and evidence. Once one fire is put out, multiple others will be started. Get set to read numerous pages of quotes and miscellaneous tidbits of theological information. All the proof one could ever ask for will be put forth. Every argument has a reason. That is of course, until one gets down to the presuppositional level. This is the place I've found few want to go. How is the authority of the Roman Catholic Church proved? What facts prove this?
I've wondered when Catholic apologists would take an honest look at their initial faith claims and try out presuppositional arguments. Now some of them simply don't understand this approach, as Robert Sungenis demonstrated last month (see question #7). While attending Westminster Seminary, Sungenis claims to have read many works by Cornelius Van Til (see, Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (San Diego: Basilica Press, 1994), p.111). Yet he still caricatured the presuppositional approach by saying, "Unfortunately, Van Til denied any recourse to Evidentialism, and he chided the Roman Catholic Church (and any Protestant, e.g., Francis Schaeffer, Josh McDowell) for depending on evidences to preach and convince one of the claims of Jesus Christ. Essentially, Van Til's approach was one sided, and that is usually the case for Calvinistic approaches to philosophy and Scripture."
Sungenis either misread Van Til or, has not really read his books. Contrary to Sungenis, the presuppositional approach does not deny the use of reason, argument, and evidence. These only make sense and find meaning in the context of a theistic worldview. Since this is God's world, every fact can be used as evidence to point to Him as creator. Van Til's presuppositional approach can start anywhere with any fact. Presuppositional apologetics actually gives the freedom to use every single piece of evidence existing.
On the other hand, for the last two months Art Sippo has been busy defining and defending Catholic Presuppositionalism. Normally vicious towards "Prots" (see for instance, Sippo's kind words of appreciation for my Luther research), Sippo uncharacteristically refers to Van Til's method as brilliant.
Sippo says, "As to the foundation of the Chritian [sic] religion, the ultimate presupposition is Jesus Christ himself. All authority in Christendom comes from him and ultimately our faith in God is faith in the God and Father of Jesus Christ as revealed to us by his Son." And then comes the thrust of Sippos argument: "How do we know that Catholicism is necessarily true? First of all, Catholicism derives its authority directly from Christ in unbroken succession. Jesus is the self-authenticating true human being that all men can recognize as the true head of the race. He did not write a Bible. He established an institution with ministers in a succession of authority and then he promised it the Holy Spirit as its guarantor of all truth (John 14). The entire patrimony of the Church included Scripture, Tradition, liturgy, etc. All of these communicate Christ to us in a complimentary fashion."
I actually have to thank Sippo for stating this argument. It has been my experience that Roman Catholics never admit upfront faith in Rome's authority as an unproven beginning presupposition. In dialoging with Roman Catholics I try to press this point: what evidence do you have establishing Rome's infallible authority? When asked how the Roman Catholic Church can establish her authority, they cannot be allowed to answer it is proved by the testimony of the Scriptures. An appeal to Matthew 16:18 should not serve as a basis for proof of a Roman Catholic worldview. If they do, they are not being consistent. They would be proving the authority of the Scriptures by the Church, and the authority of the Church by the Scriptures. Sippo falls into this with his appeal to John 14.
How then does one respond to Sippo's presuppositions? Van Til's arguments are very useful in dialoging with those who deny the Biblical worldview. Sippo though claims belief in Jesus Christ, and he has at least some sort of Christian worldview. Van Til originally used the phrase, transcendental reasoning in describing his apologetic approach. It is reasoning from the impossibility of the opposite. In other words, any position opposed to Christianity is impossible. This means all the facts of reality will point to the truth of the Christian worldview. It is the only worldview thatwill give coherence to the facts. The facts will all point to the necessity and reality of Christianity as a beginning presupposition. Any other worldview will not be able to make sense of the facts.
Once a person subjectively places faith in the Roman Church, simply ask them to apply their chosen authority as a template for reality. If it works, all the facts of reality will support the initial faith claims. If you read this blog regularly, you know they do not. This means you will still be involved with evaluating the evidence. But keep in mind Roman Catholics cannot prove the authority of the Roman Church. It is your task to show their choice to be Roman Catholic is a faith choice, not a decision based on evidence and reasoning. It is your task to show the impossibility of this authority giving coherence to all the facts.
Sippo's use of presuppositional apologetics proves the point that I've been making for years. The choice to become Roman Catholic is the placing of one's faith in the authority of the Church. It is a subjective fallible choice. It is a decision of the heart. For a Catholic convert, it is the giving up of Biblical and scriptural presuppositions, which do give coherence to the facts. It is the taking on of a sola ecclesia presupposition, which sinks the facts. For a closer look at a presuppositional evaluation of Roman Catholicism, see this article by Greg Bahnsen, Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction? A Biblical Defense of Sola Scriptura.
"Reformed Catholics" and the Bodily Assumption
02/13/2007 - James WhitePaul Owen has opined on the Bodily Assumption of Mary, perhaps as a result of my posting the clip of the debate portion between myself and Gerry Matatics. He writes,
I struggle as a Protestant who longs for catholicity over the dogma of Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven.I do not struggle as a biblicist who longs for unity based upon divine truth with the dogma of Mary's bodily assumption into heaven anymore than I would struggle with the dogma that Barnabas could shoot fire from his fingertips. Both would be utterly irrelevant falsehoods that not only offend the God who has spoken so clearly, but are offensive to His majesty and truth, and are to be rejected because they bind upon the faithful de fide beliefs that are plainly human in origin and were never a part of the Apostolic proclamation of the gospel.
We know that Mary went to heaven, and the date of August 15 for the Assumption of Mary continued to be recognized in the Lutheran and Swiss Reformed churches of the Reformation.Two mightily disconnected statements. We know Paul went to heaven, too, but what that has to do with traditions deeply embedded in the medieval psyche and hence slow to be washed away by the waters of truth is hard to say.
But there is not a complete agreement as to the details. Did she pass through death, and then ascend bodily into heaven? Or did she ascend into heaven without tasting death? Or should we just say that her Blessed soul passed into heaven and was received by Christ, the Saints and the Angels there?Remember, folks, this is from a man who can't allow the Scriptures to have sufficient clarity to define the sovereignty of God in salvation or whether worshipping a Jesus who is the offspring of an exalted man from another planet is sufficient to be deemed worshipping a false Jesus--but oh, when it comes to a tradition unknown in the Scriptures or even in the first five hundred years of church history, let's put that on the table! Behold the power of traditionalism.
I would tentatively suggest the following:I would firmly suggest that given his flight into "Anglo-Catholicism" Owen has no basis for anything but tentative suggestions any longer. Well, except about Baptists. He can be ever so conclusive on that subject.
1. We do not know for a certainty the details of Mary’s entrance into heaven. We do know the fact of it, and it is surely a cause for celebration.
As the entrance of any saint of God would be (using the term "saint" in its biblical, not traditional, sense). The fact is, we do not know anything about the subject, nor does anyone else for that matter. One of the most bothersome aspects of the attitudes of these men is that they do not even take seriously the concept of "dogma" as historically used by Rome. Surely, they are joined by many on the Roman side who likewise take lightly the authority claims of their own leaders, but the fact remains that Rome does not suggest dogma. Consider these words from Munificentissimus Deus, the dogmatic definition of the Bodily Assumption from 1950: ...
[Click Here to Continue Reading]
Who Has The Fullness of Truth?
02/12/2007 - James SwanRoman Catholic conversions are not descriptions of God's sovereign grace- that is, as something God does perfectly and completely. Rather, they describe a progressive development in one's understanding and spiritual life.This development may culminate in eventual salvation, or it may not. In the Surprised By Truth series, many of those crossing the Tiber claim to have experienced some sort of conversion while a Protestant. In these stories, the spiritual journey ends plugged into the Roman Catholic Church, given a set of standards and sacraments to help one work the works of achieving possible salvation.
Once in the arms of the Roman Catholic Church, the convert now has the fullness of the truth (which implies Protestantism is less true, or not completely true). Marcus Grodi, host of The Journey Home asserts, "One can be truly converted only when one recognizes or painfully discovers that to be fully a follower of Jesus Christ - and thereby have the full potential of growing in union with him - one must also be in union with the Church he established in and through his apostles" [Coming home Network, a Catholic Apostolate for Converts]. Imagine telling this to a persecuted Christian in an Islamic controlled country- that the faith he claims and daily risks his life for is not that of a full follower of Jesus Christ because he has not made the ideological journey to Roman Catholicism.
Here we see a fundamental difference in the understanding of just what conversion is for Protestants and Catholics. In the Scriptures we read how God uses His people to proclaim the Gospel to those the Lord calls (Acts 8:35). The Lord opens hearts to respond (Acts 16:14). This gospel message declares to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Rom. 4:5). This is a Gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15), a peace that comes through the blood of the cross (Col. 1:20). This isn't a hypothetical peace; this is a real and lasting peace. Given is not a possible salvation, but an actual salvation. Given is a full and guaranteed salvation, not a salvation including chances of disqualification.
Rather than moving towards the fullness of truth, one needs to stop and ask the Catholic convert why they have moved away from the fullness of truth. They have gone from Christ's completed work on the cross that saved His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) to an uncertainty of their state of grace, "...[W]ithout a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions that are necessary for achieving justification" (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Rockford Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974), p.262).
Think for a moment on the concept of fullness of truth Roman Catholics claim to possess. When one considers fullness one thinks of something complete, and indeed, this is the sense in which Roman Catholics use the phrase. Protestants are lacking, because they do not have the complete body of truth Rome claims. But consider also Rome's notion of development. The truth they have is in the process of developing. If truth is in the process of developing, it cannot be said to be complete. In other words, the whole notion of fullness of truth is misleading. Truth cannot be full and at the same time still in process. This can best be seen in Catholic Marian issues. What Mary is to finally become has yet to be determined (for instance in the co-redemptrix movement). To further complicate the situation for a Catholic convert, the fullness of truth comes with various interpretations of official decrees. Similarly, only a small handful of Biblical texts have been infallibly defined, leaving the alleged fullness of truth a theological façade.
Marcus Grodi states also, "In fact, we are called all the more to shower our now confused or indignant friends and family with the all-forgiving, all-accepting love of Christ. However, we must not let the emotional trajectories of our loving glances turn our attention away from the fullness of truth before us, found only in union with the Catholic Church." Paul states though in Colossians that believers have been given fullness in Christ, are complete in Him (2:10), and that He forgave all sins, nailing them to the cross (2:14). It is not some higher knowledge attained by placing faith in an ecclesiastical body. The development of a believers salvation was started and completed in Christ. In dialoging with your Roman Catholic friends or relatives, keep in mind that it is not they who are full by conversion to the Roman church, it is you who are full because of Christ and His work.
One of the Most Memorable Moments in My Sixty-One Debates
02/12/2007 - James WhiteIt was The Great Debate I. The first big debate on Long Island. An intense evening of debate between myself and Gerry Matatics. Unfortunately, we have not gotten this debate off of VHS onto DVD as yet (it's on the list). You can find it in the mp3 list, of course. In any case, this was the third cross-ex period (we did four topics that night), and I finally got exasperated with Gerry's many circular and unfounded arguments, and especially his saying we have as much basis for believing in the Bodily Assumption of Mary as we have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So the following ten minutes or so are intense, ending in one of the most memorable moments in my debate career.
CD available here (#472); mp3 available here.
Roman Catholic Conversion Stories: A Response
02/07/2007 - James SwanA response to my entry on Roman Catholic conversion stories completely missed the point. The writer states, “I guess Saint Paul was a loon for giving his personal testimony of how he was changed by Jesus Christ in the Sacred Scriptures as well.” A careful reader though would have noted I differentiated between Biblical conversion stories (like that of Paul in Galatians 1; cf. Acts 9) and conversions to an alleged infallible church magisterium (like those given in Madrid’s book Surprised By Truth). The former are God glorifying examples of undeserved mercy on an enslaved sinner, the later are examples of what Luther called a “theology of glory”. They do not point to Christ---they point to a triumphal entry into a magnificent human institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Their conversion stories are about what they did. They are about what wisdom and glory they achieved.
The writer continued, “We should all give an account of our conversion stories, this is how we help pass on the Gospel, just as Saint Paul did.” This helps prove my point: Paul did not give an accounting of an initial biblical conversion and then proceed to give an accounting of his conversion to the “true church” located in Rome. He did not give testimony to the realization of an infallible Papacy as the ending location of his spiritual journey. Rather, Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
Lastly, I made no personal attack on Catholic apologist Scott Hahn. As a point of interest, In Surprised by Truth, Hahn states, “The practice of telling the story of one’s conversion has been around as long as Christianity has. Since Paul’s testimony in Galatians 2 (cf. Acts 9:1-9) of his experience with Christ on the Road to Damascus, to Augustine’s Confessions, to our own day, thousands have recounted their journey to Christ and his Church” [[Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), p.9]. First, note that Paul’s conversion story was told in Galatians chapter 1, not chapter 2. Second, note that Paul doesn’t speak of a conversion to the Roman church. Third, In Galatians 2, Paul doesn’t have a notion of an infallible Council to place his trust in- even opposing Peter at Antioch for “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14). It was probably a mistake that Hahn points his readers to Galatians 2, and not chapter 1. There is irony though- for the paradigm of an infallible church for Paul to place his trust is clearly not found in Galatians 2.
Roman Catholic Conversion Stories: An Introduction
02/05/2007 - James SwanHave you read the book, Surprised by Sovereignty: 11 Converts Give the Biblical and Historical Reasons for Becoming a Calvinist? No, I don’t think you’ve read that book. Within Reformed circles, there is not a tendency to write about how one became a Calvinist. Sure, we talk about it sometimes. But it is not a primary tool of evangelism, nor are our testimonies a key method of directing people toward the “fullness of truth”. Rather, when one explains the basics of Reformed theology, Bibles are open and pages are flipping. What happened to me really doesn’t matter. Rather, It’s about “what are you going to do with the clear teachings of Scripture?” “Do you see that you bring nothing to Christ and that salvation is the result of His mercy on an undeserving sinner?”
With the contemporary rise of Catholic apologetics, there has been a consistent trend to highlight the, “conversion story”. That is, Joe or Suzy was previously some sort of Protestant, but now they’ve “converted” to Roman Catholicism. Books, television broadcasts, radio programs, and internet web pages, all tell a similar glorious tale of journeying to Rome, and so should you. These are not conversion stories of the broken sinner bowing his knee to the merciful God, given by the Father to Christ and irresistibly drawn (like Paul’s recounting in Galatians 1; cf. Acts 9); rather, these are accounts of people accepting the alleged Roman Catholic “fullness of truth”, and a rejection of Protestant essentials like sola fide and sola scriptura. In other words, the emphasis is not on spiritual rebirth, but rather the acceptance and realization of a “higher knowledge”. The conversion is not to Christ, but to an infallible church.
This apologetic use of the “conversion story” is directly borrowed from Protestantism. Being raised in an independent non-denominational church, I heard countless inspiring stories of the wayward sinner finding and choosing the love and grace of Christ. As a youth, I was always interested to hear how possibly my favorite rock star accepted Christ. These tales could be used as a “witnessing tool” to my non-Christian friends. “You see, person x converted, so should you.” With the current trend in Catholic apologetics, Joe Protestant became Catholic, so should you. As Evangelicals swam the Tiber, they brought their Evangelical methods with them to the shores of Rome. They brought their vocabulary and their communication skills: Catholic apologetics had been rejuvenated by disenchanted Protestants!
Listen to the description of the glorious journeys of finding Rome as told by Scott Hahn:
We converts have been made so rich. We have been given wealth beyond our wildest dreams! What words can express the sense of the child who, after passing through a series of orphanages and foster homes, finds himself standing in the doorway of an unfamiliar mansion staring into the loving faces of long-forgotten family members? He is reintroduced to his Father, Almighty God, and to Mary, his mother and queen, who is standing, arms outstretched in welcome, next to his elder brother, King Jesus- in the midst of that glorious company of angelic and saintly siblings who stretch forth from heaven to earth and under the earth. Can you imagine a more royal reunion? Few joys surpass the ones related here by these former theological step-children who have finally come home. [Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), p.10)]These glorious tales of “former theological step-children” are nothing more than aspects of what Martin Luther called the “theology of glory”. The late medieval Roman church Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. Luther rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury. Conversion stories repeatedly put forth by Catholics are just that: examples of achievement and glory. They point to the abilities of a person and the supposed wisdom gained by crossing the Tiber. They do not point to Christ---they point to a triumphal entry into a magnificent human institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Their conversion stories are about what they did. They are about what wisdom and glory they achieved.
Rather, Paul informs us that the message of the cross is foolishness, and God chooses those who are weak, lowly, and despised to be his children. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” Becoming a member of the church is to be given a life of trial and tribulation (1 Thes. 3:1-5). The Scriptures do not speak of joining a powerful visible institution, as judged by the world’s standards. Rather, the strength and splendor of the church is Christ and his Spirit that indwells His people everywhere. His people comprise a church that the world despises and seeks to destroy. To join this body is to join with those the world sees as fools.
Hahn goes on to speak of the “anguish endured” by those who made the journey to Rome. The Bible though tells of how we should consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, for whose sake we have lost all things. We should consider them rubbish that we may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own. Our conversions should be to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Phil. 3:7-11). When someone converts to Christ, they are receiving His Lordship and ultimate rule of His word over their lives.
I have not denied the Roman Catholic usage of the word “conversion” in their journey to Rome. For in this voyage, they have indeed made a decision from the heart, a conversion. They have received the Lordship of an alleged infallible church magisterium as the ultimate rule over their lives. It is not sola scriptura, but rather sola ecclesia. I submit the Scriptures do not speak of being transformed into the image of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather being transformed into the image of Christ. The Scriptures do not speak of the power of such a testimonial conversion to a “fullness of truth” in joining a particular church body. Rather, they speak of spiritually dead sinners being raised to spiritual life. By this resurrection they become members of Christ’s bride, His church. If you are to boast about your conversion, boast only that once you were blind and now can see. Boast only that you were once enslaved to your sins, but have now been freed by the perfect Savior.