I call my decision to become Catholic “death by a thousand cuts.” For a year I put up argument after argument against Catholicism, only to have each one struck down. Former evangelical Christian Smith’s How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps, which I highly recommend, chronicles this experience for many evangelicals. He uses Thomas Kunz’s language of “paradigm shift.” Everyone operates under a series of assumptions about life. When an anomaly pops up, something that doesn’t fit that person’s paradigm, they are usually able to explain it away. The problem occurs when there are too many anomalies. A paradigm crisis occurs, and only then are they willing to consider another paradigm.
So here’s how it works. My paradigm of Protestantism, which included the assumptions that 1) Catholics don’t adhere to the Bible, 2) the Bible is sufficient, 3) the Bible is clear, 4) everyone needs to be “born again” through a mystical experience that does not involve baptism, was steadfast 14 months ago. Here’s a few anomalies that popped up along the way. None are sufficient for someone to become Catholic, but they helped lead to a paradigm crisis.
Why don’t we take communion very often? Has it always been this way? How did the early Church make decisions? Did they only use the Bible? Was that even possible for the first 400 years? Who gets to decide the “open handed” issues? Are baptism and communion open handed issues now but were close handed in the early church? Why have there been so many splits since the Reformation? Aren’t those splits necessitated by Sola Scriptura? Why do so many of our church services seem superficial? Why do I long for deeper meaning in worship, and seem to think it might be found in the Mass? Why does everything about our faith seem based on having the right doctrine and taking in more doctrine through sermons? Why don’t we say the Lord’s Prayer in church? Why do we evangelize in Catholic countries but pray for persecuted Catholics in the Middle East? Are Catholics saved or not? Why do so many verses in the Bible seem to indicate baptism is necessary for salvation? Why doesn’t the Bible say it’s sufficient? Why doesn’t the Bible say we are saved by faith alone? etc.
And then one day, the dam broke. Several days later I left seminary. My paradigm crisis had occurred and the shift began.