The Convert’s Guide to Roman Catholicism: Your First Year in the Church
By Keith Nester
Independently published, 2019, 229 pp.
Religious proselytes are generally wildly enthusiastic about their newfound “faith.” That includes Muslim converts, Hindu converts, Mormon converts, Watchtower converts, and, yes, Catholic converts. In this book, Catholic convert and YouTuber, Keith Nester, offers words of zealous enthusiasm and encouragement to fellow nominal “Protestant” converts to Roman Catholicism. Nester was a youth minister at a United Methodist Church in Iowa and through a series of circumstances, especially through the efforts of a Catholic business associate, he developed a growing interest in Catholicism and eventually joined the RCC in 2017.
Nester doesn’t go deep into theology in this book, but he does expound upon some of the alleged advantages of Catholicism such as:
- The RCC’s claim to authority as the “one true church.”
- Sacred tradition and the magisterium trumping “Sola Scriptura.”
- Receiving the “actual” Body of Christ (aka eating the faux Jesus wafer), the pinnacle of Catholic “spirituality.”
Nester knows there are many facets of Roman Catholicism that nominal “Protestant” converts will struggle with and he attempts to head off any objections at the pass with an array of positive comments. Addressed are the problematic issues of:
- Baptismal regeneration
- Compulsory Sunday mass attendance
- Constant change of postures at mass – kneeling, standing, and sitting
- General ineptitude of priests’ homiletics skills compared to those of Protestant ministers
- Rote liturgical prayers and rituals
- The sacrifice of the mass cunningly heralded as a “re-presentation” of Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice rather than a repeat of the sacrifice
- Confession of sins to a priest
- Annulments and con-validations of marriages
- Praying the rosary
- Praying to saints
- Eucharistic adoration
- Veneration (aka worship) of Mary
Nester repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly attempts to allay misgivings about Catholicism’s anti-Biblical doctrines by exhorting converts to check their brains at the door. Here are just a few examples, there are many, many more: That’s OK. You will get over that. (p. 49). But that’s OK. (p. 52). That’s OK. (p. 71). It’s OK. (p. 80). The fact is, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be better than OK. (p. 136). That’s OK. (p.203). It’s OK…just roll with it. (p.209). It will all be fine. (p. 214).
Nester presents a commonly heard analogy of the Catholic church as a “full tool box” to be used in the work of building a life worthy of salvation, while Protestantism is presented as a deficient tool box with many tools missing. However, salvation is not a matter of being a skilled religionist with a full toolbox. According to God’s Word, salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The old mainline Protestant denominations, like Nester’s United Methodist Church, stopped teaching the genuine Gospel decades ago. Nester never was genuinely saved or he wouldn’t be exhorting souls to put on the chains of Catholic legalism.
Nester barely mentions the preeminent difference between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity: the issue of justification. Catholics believe they are justified by their church’s sacraments and by obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!) aka meritorious works. Gospel Christians believe they are justified ONLY by the imputed perfect righteous of Jesus Christ received at the moment of salvation. This is an irreconcilable difference that even the most determined evangelical ecumenical Judas cannot bridge.
Nester bids all “Protestants” considering conversion to Catholicism to joyously follow him aboard the Catholic works-righteousness salvation system. That is akin to lowering a canoe into the Niagara River immediately above the famous falls and exhorting all those on board to joyously paddle against the deadly current with all of their might. As a former Catholic for twenty-seven years, I can testify from first-hand experience that there is no joy in the impossible task of trying to merit salvation.
Reading this book was a sad undertaking. Reject works religion. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.
Nester is a Catholic neophyte and, as might be expected, he get’s several Catholic facts wrong. Here’s just a few with my comments added:
“All I needed to find was one (Catholic) doctrine that could be proven false; one time the Church changed an official decree of dogma; or one instance of a pope officially teaching heresy” (p. 59).
From this statement, one might conclude that Nester is not aware of the voluminous critical commentary from conservative Catholics directed at progressive pope Francis, which accuse him of the very things Nester mentions: changing dogma and teaching heresy. In fact, Nester specifically commends to his readers Dr. Taylor Marshall (p. 147), a passionate conservative critic of the Second Vatican Council and of pope Francis (see here). Nester’s claim that the RCC never changed an official doctrine is patently false. As just one example, the Roman church once officially taught that only Catholics could be saved (Papal Bull Unam Sanctum), but changed that doctrine at the Second Vatican Council in 1964 after Catholic leaders succumbed to theological liberalism.
“Pope St. John Paul II…went to confession weekly.” (p. 124).
JPII went to confession daily.
“Marian devotion dates back to the earliest writings of the Church Fathers.” (p. 186).
There is actually no evidence/documentation of Marian veneration/worship until the assimilation of the pagan mother goddess-worshiping Collyridians into the church in the late-4th century.
MANY books have been recently published from conservative Catholic authors, such as this one, exhorting nominal Protestants to convert to Catholicism. In contrast, there are relatively few books published in recent years from evangelical authors encouraging Roman Catholics to leave their works religion and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Evangelicals have been brainwashed by Rome-friendly accommodators (i.e., Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, etc.) into believing such efforts are distasteful and impede the cause of “Christian unity.”
Since the Roman Catholic church officially teaches that adherents of all religions and even atheists may also merit their salvation, a type of semi-Universalism, the sectarian zealousness of Nester and other conservative/traditionalist, militant-Catholics is an incongruity.