Stepping Out in Faith: Former Catholics Tell Their Stories
Edited by Mark Gilbert
Matthias Media, 2012, 124 pages
This is a short, very readable collection of testimonies from eleven people who left Roman Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.
There’s not a lot of heavy-duty theology here. Most of the folks tell a similar, short tale of growing up within legalistic, cultural Catholicism, being invited to a Bible study and noticing the differences between God’s Word and their religion, and responding to the Gospel.
All of the contributors noted that Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and perfect obedience to the Ten Commandments and church law, which left them exasperated. Through God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit they came to understand the GOOD NEWS! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone and accepted Jesus as their Savior.
Gilbert and the ten other writers are Australians so there’s an interesting “down under” twist to the stories. Also, most of the writers heard the Gospel for the first time in Bible studies sponsored by the Anglican church in Australia. Gilbert is an Anglican minister. I had assumed the Anglican/Episcopal church was largely dead but evidently there are pockets where the Gospel is still given out and received. Surprise! These eleven Anglicans are more zealous in their defense of the Gospel of grace than a few Baptists I know.
Below are a couple of other books from Matthias Media dealing with Roman Catholicism:
The Road Once Travelled: Fresh Thoughts on Catholicism (2010) by Mark Gilbert
Nothing In My Hand I Bring: Understanding the differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant beliefs (2007) by Ray Gallea
In the article below, Catholic writer, Patti Maguire Armstrong, sadly ponders why a friend
and her family have left the “one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” for an Evangelical church. She bemoans that her friend chose the “feel-good” vibrancy of the Evangelical fellowship over the Catholic liturgy with it’s “Real Presence.” She concludes that her friend has chosen evangelical “cotton candy” over Catholicism’s “well-balanced meal.”
My! It’s too bad mealy-mouthed Evangelical pastors don’t stand up for the Gospel of grace the way Catholic apologists stand up for their gospel of merit.
American Catholics like Ms. Armstrong obviously struggle to comprehend why members are leaving their church in droves. Three million left in the last seven years and more than a few joined Evangelical churches. Why?
Let me tell you why I left Catholicism and it wasn’t because I was seeking a “warm-fuzzy” fellowship experience. It was ALL about Jesus and NOT about membership in a religious institution.
Like most Catholic teenagers I walked away from the church because I thought religion wasn’t “cool.” I returned after I became a father and felt obligated to raise my children in the Catholic faith. For some Godly reason I also purchased a Catholic Bible and began reading it voraciously. Catholics aren’t generally encouraged to read the Bible and I soon found out why. What I was learning from Scripture contrasted with the Catholic religion so I stopped attending mass. The Lord continued to use His Word and several Christian individuals and resources to bring me to a point where I understood His Gospel:
We are all sinners.
Sinners deserve hell.
God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins.
Jesus rose from the grave, conquering sin and death.
The Lord offers forgiveness from sins and eternal life with Him to all those who accept Jesus as their Savior.
I hesitated and hesitated but I FINALLY prayed to Jesus and asked Him to save me and be my Lord. All my sins – past, present, and future – have been paid for by my Savior. I could NEVER be “good enough” to merit salvation as the Catholic church teaches. My Savior covered me with His perfect righteousness. I have no plea of my own. My Lord isn’t a consecrated bread wafer sitting upon an altar. He indwells me. He guides me. He corrects me. He is my Shepherd. He is my Father. He is my Friend. He is my Rock. Armstrong appeals to history and tradition. I appeal to the simple Gospel of the early church as found in the New Testament.
I’m sure there are some who left Catholicism for a warm and welcoming “fellowship” as Armstrong speculates. But many of us left the legalism, ritualism, and religious formalism of Catholicism for the GOOD NEWS of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I hope that was the case for Ms. Armstrong’s friend who wasn’t able to clearly articulate the Gospel according to this account. Or maybe Armstrong’s friend was afraid to present the Gospel. Or maybe Armstrong wasn’t listening.
Ms. Armstrong continues to toil away, attempting to earn her salvation like all “good” Catholics. She feels sorry for her friend but she is the one who needs the Savior.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
It’s no surprise that so many American Catholics have given up on the Catholic church. Trying to merit your way to Heaven by obeying a mile-long list of rules and regulations, as the Catholic church teaches, just leads to exasperation. Praise the Lord that at least 14% of these former Catholics are now attending Evangelical churches and hearing the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Half Of Former Catholics Have Forsaken Religion Altogether
by Antonia Blumberg, The Huffington Post
September 13, 2015
Roughly half of Americans raised in Catholic households have left the church at some point — and most of them have stayed away for good, according to a recent report by Pew Research Center.
These “former Catholics” make up 15 percent of the U.S. population, according to another recent survey by Public Religion Research Institute. These Americans are largely abandoning religion altogether after leaving the Catholic Church, while others find new homes in Protestant denominations and non-Christians faiths…(continued).