Though brought up a “cradle Catholic,” I cannot say I was well catechized, despite being confirmed. I had a very clear understanding that Jesus was Savior and Lord from a young age, but couldn’t explain the details. As I learned more about Catholic theology, I realized I had never learned most of it growing up. My understanding was simple: Christ died to save sinners who believed on him, and I was a sinner. Strangely, though growing up in a Hispanic family, I was never comfortable with what I now view as some of the major Catholic errors–I couldn’t bring myself to pray the Rosary, and felt offended at the entire concept of praying to Saints in general. It seemed to me very obvious that what I observed with regards to adoration of Saints and images was plainly idolatry, and I knew the commandments enough to name it as such. I couldn’t understand why Catholics did these things.
I married a Catholic woman who seemed to have this exact same level of Christianity–the most base level of understanding Jesus as Savior–who also did not know her Bible well at all, who also did not partake of some of the major Catholic errors. I didn’t believe in transubstantiation, though when a friend pointed me to John 6, I accepted his interpretation with very little effort put forth and made myself believe it for a time. But I still had doubts the more I thought about it.
In my mid-20s, I came to the place where I decided I could no longer be double-minded. I knew a little about what some “Protestants” believed–basically, they seemed like stripped-down Catholics. They focused on Jesus in ways that made complete sense to me. I seemed to have more in common with what little I knew of them, and liked that they read their Bibles (I was starting to read, and it was confusing me as to, again, why Catholics were following certain practices/beliefs). I decided that I either needed to commit to my Catholic faith or leave and go elsewhere. I would be a rosary-praying, frequent mass-attending, scapular wearing, literal meat-of-Christ eating Catholic, or I’d leave.
The same friend from above gave me a Scott Hahn book as an encouragement. I was completely unimpressed, and I found a subsequent Hahn book to be nearly insulting to my intelligence. I bought “Not By Scripture Alone,” and there my work began on a more serious level. On the Protestant side, AOMin was a major resource. It was an exhilarating time–I had no idea people were still debating these issues, had no idea about the depth of church history that was known and available, and did a ton of reading. I listened to every debate James White did, multiple times. I asked questions, including on Julie Staples’ now-defunct message board.
It did not take very long before I started seeing the shell games Catholic apologists played with many of their arguments. But I didn’t make my move quickly–I think I was waiting for some Catholic magic-bullet to undo the bad argumentation I’d been hearing on their part. I stayed in my Catholic church through the next 12 months or so (longer than Beckwith, and it sounds like I did more reading). I dug deep–reading church fathers in their original contexts when quotes were suspect on either side. I didn’t read any of White’s books (but did read the blog) for not wanting to be a “minion.” But the entire Holy Scripture series by King/Webster, works by Svendsen, and other heavies like George Salmon (which I tracked down in hardcover) finally obliterated any doubts I had, among other works. But those debates were the root for finding areas to further research. The blog articles as well contained tons of helpful and truly meaty information.
Finally, I made my decision, with a clear understanding of the Gospel. I had been explaining the issues to my wife, who–with far less hand-wringing–accepted the teachings as if they were the most natural thing ever. After leaving, I began talking to my younger brother–within a short time he was transformed in a way I never imagined he could be as he finally delved into the Bible. He didn’t need debates and long arguments–the truth was clear from Scripture alone, and he also left. Soon, a friend of ours followed, as he asked questions of me. He was seeing me as knowledgeable and knew I was patient. He, as well, has left the Catholic church. 4 people (so far) affected, 3 of whom haven’t really ever been exposed to AOMin. Your strong opposition to Rome when so many others want to pad their disagreements with them, is necessary in a confused age when people are not willing to stand for truth. Though you are moving in other directions, and I pray God’s blessings on them, please don’t forget the Catholics. There are so, so many Catholics who are stuck in an ignorant but simple faith, who are waiting for someone to reach them with the truth and aren’t defensive of the church. Keep reaching out to them patiently, though you’ve covered the issues a million times before, perhaps. Souls are at stake.
It has been an honor to support your ministry over the years, and I hope to continue so doing.
Alpha and Omega Ministries is a Christian apologetics organization based in Phoenix, Arizona. James White, director, is a professor, having taught Greek, Systematic Theology, and various topics in the field of apologetics for numerous schools.