Via its many media outlets, Roman Catholicism likes to boast about alleged “evangelicals” who converted to the Catholic religion.* On the EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) cable channel, one particular show, “The Journey Home,” is devoted exclusively to showcasing converts and returning reverts (aka “lapsed” Catholics). The stated purpose of the EWTN radio show, “Called to Communion,” is to convince Protestants to convert to Catholicism. This all might seem a little unsettling until you check the numbers. A 2015 Pew Research study (see here) found that 10 percent of people raised as Catholics become evangelicals while just 2 percent of people raised in evangelical church culture wound up as Catholics.
I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for 27 years (1956-1983) and was educated at a Catholic grammar school and high school. In 1983, after having read the Bible for several years, I renounced Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. I no longer believed that salvation was dependent on receiving the sacraments and “cooperating with grace” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in an effort to merit Heaven. Instead, I believed as God’s Word taught, that I was a totally depraved sinner destined for eternal damnation and I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone.
But we do hear about people from evangelical churches who “convert” to Catholicism. How does that happen? Could a person who is genuinely trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone choose to join Catholicism, which teaches a person must receive sacramental grace and obey the Ten Commandments in order to merit their salvation? How do we explain those who leave evangelicalism for Catholicism?
I don’t believe a person who genuinely understands the Gospel of grace and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone would voluntarily join Catholicism or any other works religion. Yes, there are people who were brought up in evangelical church culture or who attended an evangelical church for a period of time and left without ever having actually trusted in Christ. They somehow got a taste of Catholicism and began making worldly-minded comparisons like the six below:
|“Drawbacks” to evangelicalism||“Advantages” of Catholicism|
|1||No elaborate ritualism and ceremonialism – just some singing and a sermon||1||Plenty of ritualism and ceremony to impress the eyes and stimulate the senses|
|2||The genuine Gospel seems far too easy – the natural man is inclined to attempt to merit salvation via a long legalistic laundry list||2||A massive collection of 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism that all testify to Catholicism’s world-pleasing complexity.|
|3||Little history. Nondenominational mega-churches are getting farther and farther away from mentioning the Reformation and the Five Solas||3||Oodles and oodles of history, although vast portions of it are unflattering at best|
|4||No “impressive” visible authority, just the Bible, Pastor Smith, and the small elder board||4||An organizational hierarchy and structure that would put to shame any Fortune 500 company. Topping it all off is an allegedly infallible leader!|
|5||Plain, drab church architecture||5||Grandiose church architecture and ornate decorative artistry|
|6||“Just” the Bible to study||6||Volumes and volumes and volumes of rich church traditions to “supplement” (aka supplant) the Bible|
Yes, there are some people who were part of evangelical church culture but never genuinely accepted Christ, who surveyed all of Catholicism’s “smells and bells”** and decided they would rather ride in the Catholic “Cadillac” than evangelicalism’s “Hyundai.”
“For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:15
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24
Yes, some choose the elaborate “smells and bells” over (simple but GLORIOUS) salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Don’t make that mistake. Salvation is not through grandiose, worldly ceremonialism, but through a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Are Roman Catholics Christian?
*Catholicism likes to sound the trumpets when a quasi-evangelical joins its ranks, but, most ironically, many evangelicals think it’s ungracious, divisive, and very bad form to acknowledge those folks who accepted Christ and left Roman Catholicism because it does not preach the genuine Gospel and who testify about their experience.
**Even the Catholic church readily acknowledges that today’s elaborate mass liturgy bears little resemblance to the simple worship gatherings of the early church. Some may think I am being offensive by using the term, “smells and bells,” to describe Catholic practices, but this is a term often used by Catholics themselves.