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My Journey from Protestantism to the Catholic Church
By Cho Sun Hoon
From Evangelical to Full Preterist to Catholic
-=My early days=-
My mother was baptized as a Catholic but left Catholicism to marry my dad, who was a protestant. My dad wasn't too serious of a believer, nor is he right now. But my grandfather was quite zealous about going to church that I think he was reponsible for bringing the entire family. Naturally, I grew up attending a Korean evangelical church with the rest of the family.
Growing up, I soon discovered that it was hard under their theology to be saved: "If you have any doubts about your salvation, then you're not saved". "False salvation" was a term I heard many times among churchgoers.
To make matters worse, the particular church constantly talk about the end times - the rapture, 666, the antichrist, 7 year tribulation, etc. It certainly wasn't the most encouraging church to attend: I was more or less scared out of my mind that if I had doubts about my salvation (which I frequently did), then I'd be left behind and doomed. So I had no sense of peace about whether I was saved or not. After all, they were saying the world was only getting worse and that if I have be absolutely sure that I am saved (by not doubting at all). I constantly heard the gospel, yet the idea of knowing Christ as personal lord and savior didn't make sense. Then again, I don't remember hearing anything about knowing God personally. The only thing I distinctly remember (at the moment) were the Bible verses that the parents made us memorize.
But during middle school and high school, I slowly stopped going to church and eventually paid little attention to Christianity. My Christianity was simply intellectual. So I found it strange to see so many Christians attending church, yet they were the same ones who lived no different from everybody else. There was no sense of holiness among any of the people I knew. Nearly all of them sweared, were involved with drugs, alcohol, smoking, etc. Now of course smoking is not necessarily a sin, and I'm sure some would argue that the others aren't necessarily sins either, but their lifestyle was nothing like the way Christians were depicted in the Bible. I was naturally turned off by their pseudo-Christianity. I soon held the assumption that every Christian was no different from the rest of the world.
-=My 'born again' experience=-
After graduating high school, I began searching for an answer. I didn't realize it at the time, but I knew I was looking for God. Ultimately I was trying to find whatever that was satisfying. The first things that caught my attention were the friends I'd met in my first year. I had no real desire to study, and so my grades began to fall, considerably. Soon afterwards, I got caught up with New Age books, self-help related books, video/computer games, movies and pornography. I'm not too happy about sharing that last detail, but porn is a real killer. It's a poison that kills the soul. So I tried to find fulfillment in such things. After all, I was looking for something really fulfilling.
Eventually, I almost failed out of school, but withdrew before I would've received a failure mark. So I had the opportunity to come back the following year, though I'd wasted a considerable amount of my parents's money. And because I'd withdrawn, I lost housing privileged. My cousin, knowing that I had no place to live, asked me if I wanted to live with him, to which I agreed. Later, I discovered I'd moved into a household of Christians, all of whom played a major role in my Christian formation.
Once I moved in, I was initially not excited. I'd wanted to leave. Nearly everyone talked about God and Jesus like they are best friends. It really made no sense to me. One former housemate kept talking about christianity to the point where I seriously thought he was insane. Little did I know, that several weeks later I'd be just as 'insane' as him. He shared his testimony about how God literally changed him a year before. Immediately it took me by surprise: here's a guy who used to be a druggie and didn't live anything like a Christian, yet he changed completely. Not only afterwards, I went on a retreat, for the purpose of meeting girls (and nothing else). I figured it would be a good opportunity to simply meet people. I had no intention of doing any 'Christian stuff', yet towards the end of the retreat, I finally understood: God literally wants to know me in a personal manner. Ironically, nobody had to tell me, and the retreat was for Christians, so the pastors didn't share the gospel message to me. During some of the praise, I realized that God was what I was looking for, and one Bible verse I still remembered since I was kid came back to me, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
This marked the beginning of my Christian life and was baptized several months later. Immediately, I began looking for churches to attend. All of my housemates attended different local churches. I had a great time with a charismatic non-denominational church (which is more orderly compared to pentecostals). I also went to various campus prayer meetings, fellowships, and conferences. I'd also been instantly hooked in the New Testament. I think I'd read the entire NT within that first week.
So I had questions about why certain churches have certain practices, i.e. why does this church talk about spiritual gifts? Then there were questions about free will, predestination, baptism, and etc, of course - the end times! I'd been questioning everything: After all, why was it that some churches believed in certain things, while others didn't? Naturally, my first reaction was to find some legitimate answer. My roommates of course said, "Check the Bible" (thus implying scripture alone). Yet even then there were various interpretations on virtually everything based on however one read the Bible. At the time though I didn't think of it as deeply though.
Because I'd grown up thinking that the rapture was coming ridiculously soon, I began worrying out about being left behind. Fortunately, my roommates told me that it's nothing I should ever fear. Yet at the same time, I was really curious about it all: What's the whole deal with the end times? So I did a search and stumbled upon a message board, where I'd met a friend, who believe in preterism. He literally believed that all end-times related prophesies ended in 70AD. So immediately I questioned him and after I came across all the Biblical evidence for his belief, I was shocked: Much of it actually did make sense. But it took many months to fully comprehend. Understanding it required a major paradigm shift - one that I'm grateful for, because then I realized the entire popular end times theology was completely false from the outset.
Then as I adopted the full preterist viewpoint, I began doing more research, and even attended a live debate between a futurist and a preterist. The more I learned about preterism, the more I was looking for applications of preterism for the present day: Namely, where is the parousia (presence of God) if it came to an end? Some of the full preterist arguments were so convincing, yet there was something missing: Where is the parousia (presence) of our Lord? Not many protestants seemed to really teach about it. They seemed to teach about how in the new heavens and new earth, leaves would bring healing (Rev 22:2), implying the existence of pain and that evildoers would exist (Rev 22:15), or that people would still die (Isaiah 65:20), build houses and plant vineyards (Isaiah 65:21), and even get married (Isaiah 65:23). So if the age to come is actually now, then I wanted to know where the parousia (coming/presence) of Christ is. The word parousia in greek means presence, but it also refers to Christ's 2nd coming. But it's original use is presence. I was eager to find it.
-=Then I suppose I'd made a mistake=-
I learned about a Catholic scholar named Scott Hahn. He taught virtually the same thing that these preterists were teaching, yet taught that there is a future coming of Christ at the end of history. As I did a search for his books on Amazon, I came across his book titled, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey into Catholicism. This really made me think, "Why would someone who understands the biblical basis for preterism become Catholic!?" It really made no sense to me at all. Then I heard Catholics claiming that sola scriptura and sola fide were unbiblical!
So I began asking my preterist friend many questions: It turns out that my friend had already been thinking about becoming Catholic for quite some time. He already knew the protestant objections, and adequately explained how unbiblical sola scriptura really was - The issue isn't really the scriptures, but interpreter of the scriptures. Once someone attempts to interpret it infallibly (whether it be the Catholic Church or pastor so-and-so), then the scripture no longer is the final authority. And the fruit of sola scriptura is literally myriads of pastors who claim to be biblically correct yet disagree on various interpretations of scripture.
Anyway, I figured if Scott Hahn understands preterism, it meant to me that he really knew what he was getting himself into by turning Catholic. After all, adopting even the partial-preterist view (which is orthodox in nature) required a lot of theological understanding of the covenant. Then I realized the covenant was his specialty.
Because I didn't want to consider anything too distinctly Catholic (i.e. anything that says or even shows a picture of Mary or the saints on the cover), I decided to buy his book, A Father Who Keeps his Promises, which is all about the covenant. The book had so many great insights that explains exactly how the Catholic Church is the fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom. Then I read his book, The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth, which had the answer to my question about the Parousia:
The parousia (presence) that I was seeking was in the Eucharist, because the Catholic Church called it, the Real Presence! The Church teaches that at Mass, believers literally step into heaven, and it culminates with the wedding supper of the lamb (Rev 19:9), which Catholics claim is the Eucharistic banquet! This sort of 'heaven on earth' lingo is actually far more real in the Divine Liturgy which I absolutely love. So Both Catholics and Orthodox are pragmatic preterists: Both liturgies focus on the already aspect of the already/not yet construct.
-=By this point=-
I'd attended various Christian denominations: Baptist, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Methodist, Anglican, etc
Within these groups were many groups which splintered off of each other. Nearly all of them also taught differently regarding everything. My view on the end times was obviously contrary to theirs. Yet there was no real consistency that I saw. But when I came across the Catholic Church's claim of infalliblity, it began to make sense: it explains why the entire Catholic Church is unified on their dogmas from the beginning. So the lack of doctrinal unity within protestantism made me really think: Could the Catholic Church really be.... right? <gasp!>
-=Investigating the Church's teachings=-
So I began investigating the Church's beliefs, and sure enough, everything the Church claimed made a lot of sense to me. It took me over a year to fully understand everything, but it suddenly came together. The Eucharist, Confession, Mary, Communion of the Saints, the Papacy, Apostolic Succesion, Sacred Tradition, Purgatory, Justification, etc all began to make a lot of Biblical sense.
At this point, the thought of turning Catholic terrified me because it was so real. It was exciting to see how the Catholic Church really made sense, yet I didn't want to become Catholic. I was considering Anglicanism, but by this time, 'Vicky' Gene Robinson was being ordained as a gay bishop. Becoming Anglican wasn't too easy, since they have a history of compromising on various truths. So I disregarded that option.
Simply out of curiosity, I asked about why Catholics are against contraception. The more I found out why, I was almost sure Mary was saying to me, "Jason, come home" as if was the disobedient child kicking and screaming as she's pulling me in. But I realized that the Church's teachings on contraception is a testimony of God's faithfulness to His Church: The Catholic Church is the only major Christian body that teaches how artificial birth control is sin. Yet roughly 75 years ago, every single Christian tradition taught how it was sin, until the Anglicans decided to change their teachings. The Church Fathers spoke out against it, and even the Reformers all spoke against it. Yet now, it's turned into the socially intolerable 'Catholic view', which is oftened mocked by many (even within the Church) who don't even see it as evil. In my mind though, this further testified to the promise that the gates of hades would not prevail against His Church (Matt 16:18).
And the more I learned about the reasons against contraception, I naturally found my way into biblical matrimony, as it must be understood first to deal with contraception. And John Paul II's Theology of the Body made it all come together.
-=The Church gave me the hope to be pure=-
All throughout this time, there was no real consistent bondage breaker. It really didn't matter how much I prayed or even went to church or whatever. The sins I'd committed prior to knowing God had kept me addicted. It was so bad that these thoughts would come across my mind whenever I went to church. Several times I'd attended a conference, or a spirit-filled prayer meeting which helped me temporarily stay away from these sins, but it wasn't permanent. I'd been told that I should be kept accountable, which helped to a degree, yet didn't really help in the long run.
And few days before entering the Church, I experienced Confession for the first time: and it was truly liberating. Actually I felt horrible because of all the sins I realize I hadn't confessed. But it literally broke the bondage of sin. Afterwards, I noticed how much easier it was to 'squash the sin' as Katolik Shinja once put it. Several hours before entering the Church, I wrote:
And so I experienced the Real Presence, literally entering my body, which gave me the grace to stay clean, and because of this, I no longer feel helpless in battling pornography or it's closely related habitual sin.
I've always hoped for a holy marriage, yet I knew this one area kept tearing me apart and would always hinder me. I knew that with John Paul's teaching on the 'gospel of the body', it would set a proper foundation which would change my worldly understanding of marriage, and the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist really do grant the grace to stay pure. I'm certainly not perfect, but it's been a long time since I've looked at pornography and it's related sin is not habitual any longer. There's much to hope for in the future because I don't think I've ever been so consistently pure in my entire Christian life! Again, I'm far from perfect, yet I'm quite different from what I used to be. And this is by far one of my best reasons to become Catholic: I can actually stay pure and my vision for a holy marriage is very real!
What do YOU think ?
Date: 25 Nov 2012
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