Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A word about "intellectual converts"

I've been asked several times (and it's been pointed out to me from the other side) that, while there is a steady stream of people out of Roman Catholicism, there's also a small but vocal group of "really smart people" who are converting to Rome. How do we account for that?

Here's a post that I've found in several places. Arturo Vasquez is what you might call a real, life-long Roman Catholic. His bio says he is a native of Hollister, California, who spent five years in religious life as a seminarian and a monk. He has no trouble criticizing these "converts":
One common thread that I find in these English Catholic converts such as Baring, Chesterton, and to a much lesser extent, Waugh, is that they have some sort of nostalgia for something that they know nothing about. Or they are at the very least nostalgic for something that they feel is missing in their post-Victorian, rationalistic, dry lives. Newman probably is the one who started that mess, with his desire to find the pristine Apostolic church, only to suffer from afar the cronyism and realpolitik of the court of Pio Nono[the infallible pope Pius IX]. The protagonist in the Barring novel “finds his humanity” in the tumultuous melting pot of 19th century Russia, with all of its politicial and cultural anachronisms slamming full speed into the modern age. Chesterton’s schtick always seems to boil down to pointing out how “medieval superstition” is so much more rational than skeptical modernity. In other words, their message always seems to be a variation of: “Want to be a better modern? Try Catholicism.”

I have a couple of major objections to such a formula. One is that I don’t think it has the slightest clue as to what Catholicism and its culture actually are in any real historic sense. Perhaps here I am thinking most of the “peasant Catholicism” that I saw in my family growing up, or even the cultural Catholicism you saw in Italy. I don’t think such cultures can carry the ideological burden that they seem to place on it. Real life is a far cry from romanticist fantasy.
This meshes nicely with a comment about Chesterton that was floating around several months ago:
"In these books [his later Catholic non-fiction works] Chesterton becomes a Pangloss of the parish; anything Roman is right. It is hard to credit that even a convinced Catholic can feel equally strongly about St. Francis's intuitive mysticism and St. Thomas's pedantic religiosity, as Chesterton seems to. His writing suffers from conversion sickness. Converts tend to see the faith they were raised in as an exasperatingly makeshift and jury-rigged system: Anglican converts to Catholicism are relieved not to have to defend Henry VIII's divorces; Jewish converts to Christianity are relieved to get out from under the weight of all those strange Levitical laws on animal hooves. The newly adopted faith, they imagine, is a shining, perfectly balanced system, an intricately worked clock where the cosmos turns to tell the time and the cuckoo comes out singing every Sunday. An outsider sees the Church as a dreamy compound of incense and impossibility, and, overglamorizing its pretensions, underrates its adaptability. A Frenchman or an Italian, even a devout one, can see the Catholic Church as a normally bureaucratic human institution, the way patriotic Americans see the post office, recognizing the frailty and even the occasional psychosis of its employees without doubting its necessity or its ability to deliver the message. Chesterton writing about the Church is like someone who has just made his first trip to the post office. Look, it delivers letters for the tiny price of a stamp! You write an address on a label, and they will send it anywhere, literally anywhere you like, across a continent and an ocean, in any weather! The fact that the post office attracts timeservers, or has produced an occasional gun massacre, is only proof of the mystical enthusiasm that the post alone provides! Glorifying the postman beyond what the postman can bear is what you do only if you're new to mail."
Emphasis supplied. Of course, I'm sure that not all of the intellectual converts can be described this way.

39 comments:

Ken said...

nostalgia - 1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

Scott and Kimberly Hahn - "Rome, Sweet Home"

Rod Bennett, author of Four Witnesses: the Early Church in Her Own Words (Ignatius Press, 2002) (who was one of my best friends for years; on of my groomsmen in my wedding; after 8 years of debate after he informed me of his decision to convert to Rome; he told me he wanted to debate no more. We debated from 1996-2004 by email and phone and face to face in many 3 to 5 hour discussions/arguments/informal debate.)

Rod had this same longing for nostalgia - connection to history, old architecture, pilgrimages, grave sites; heroes of the past (martyrs, saints), wars of chivalry, knights, and rescuing princes; and he also longed for unity and perfection and ultimate authority.

He used Newman and G. K. Chesterton a lot. Interesting that the Roman Catholic author you cite says, “Newman probably is the one who started that mess . . . “

Interesting that that Roman Catholic you site looks at it as a negative thing; and he doesn’t sound too sure or positive about pope Pius IX.

But also, they seem to long for perfection here in earth – for example -

"Wouldn’t it be great if we had a living voice, someone who could walk into the room and say "thus says the Lord" someone who could tell us what the right interpretation is and solve all the disunity problems in Protestant denominationalism?" Rod Bennett (basically, from memory of many talks with him)

Tim Staples also reflects this "nostalgia" and said similar things in his debates and discussions with James White on the Bible Answer Man program and in debates - he has the same nostalgia.

Ken said...

Rod’s uncertainty about the right interpretation and disillusionment over disunity in Protestantism reminded me of what C. Micheal Patton wrote about the radical skepticism of doubting everything and obsession to know for sure, to require infallible certainty; and the illustration from the movie, “What About Bob?”, with Bill Murray. The picture of Bill Murray from the movie is worth a thousand words.

“We have a term that we use for people who require infallible certainty about everything: “mentally ill.” Remember What About Bob? He was mentally ill because he made decisions based on the improbability factor. Because it was a possibility that something bad could happen to him if he stepped outside his house, he assumed it would happen. There are degrees of probability. We act according to degrees of probability. Simply because it is a possibility that the sun will not rise tomorrow does not mean that it is a probability that it won’t.”

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/01/why-i-believe-the-canon-is-fallible-and-am-fine-with-it/#more-3727

That seems to be the root issue for the RC apologetic – this “how do you know for sure?” questions. Peter Kreeft, as I recall, asks the same thing in his books, “What if the canon was not right?” What if your interpretation is not right? How do you know for sure you have the right books or the right interpretation? It is all based on epistemology and the search for knowing for sure. Somehow, the pope and infallible church claim gives them comfort.

John Bugay said...

Hey Ken, yeah, I think he nailed it with the "nostalgia" thing. And you have summarized things very effectively.

I have this sort of "11th commandment" about Protestants, similar to Reagan's 11th commandment about not saying anything bad about Republicans. But coming from a Roman Catholic environment, I would say that there are some things that I liked about the "feel" of the religion -- the worshipfulness, the sense of awe [though none of the dogmas, to be sure].

And I understand why some people would seek this out. But I think there are other ways to seek this out.

I heard, just this morning, about the Ethiopian Church. The first bishop of that church was ordained by Athanasius, in the 300's. For several centuries, they flourished. But battered by Islam, they reached out to Europe for help. Portugal came to the rescue -- but it wasn't long before the Ethiopians were kicking out all of the Europeans and especially the Jesuits. And I think [Dr. Fortson] said they had kicked them all out in a very short period of time. Better to suffer under Islam than to accept the Jesuits.

What I'm saying is that we can work to try to understand what the early church was like (not to imitate them - I think we have a far better understanding today of the Scriptures than they ever could have had) -- but as a way of knowing and understanding our history and heritage as Christians. And we can do this and find and understand these sorts of things without swallowing all of the Roman accretions brought on by medievalism and especially papalism.

In short, we can know these things, while at the same time, honoring the Scriptures and being discerning about them.

Ken said...

As I wrote to another Roman Catholic who said I only had "fair amount of certainty" and not "infallible certainty":

The Roman Catholic apologetic method is a clever one based on epistemology and philosophy - because no human being can have infallible certainty about anything - only God can exercise a mind activity with infallibility as a quality. It is a tactic that can be used about anything and everything and has its roots in the theory of knowledge and epistemology and how do we know what we know. The RCC is "captured by this philosophy" (Colossians 2:8) rather than by Christ Himself.


It is the nature of epistemology and "how do you know what you know?" that is the apologetic tactic. You, the RC, are just using a very clever tool in their churches' apologetic kit. It is what happened to Newman; it is Descartes methodology in RCC terminology and Cardinal's clothes, so to speak.

Notice Ephesians 3:12 - "in whom, we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him." The Bible gives us all the confidence we need:

"to write and orderly account for you . . . " . . . so that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught". Luke 1:1-4 ESV

NIV = "certainty"

NASB says "so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught."

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you have know you have eternal life." I John 5:13

2 Peter 1:12-21 and 3:1 (read and meditate on these verses) also communicate from Peter himself, who according to your church is the first Pope, yet before he dies, he does not mention anything about the bishop or elders or church leadership and he does not say "ask them for assurance" or "trust in them for the right interpretation", etc. - he leaves a letter so that the believers will have something to teach them and remind them of the truth and because he did write it down, he says, "therefore we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts . . ."

Mine is not a "fairly certain"; it is rather the highest amount of certainty that God expects from humans who will be reading His God-breathed Scriptures. there are many other passages - John 20:30-31 "these have been written that you may know".

With the clear teaching of Scripture, I don't understand the creation of another level of extra-certainty, which is superfluous of the whole infallible RC church/magisterium/pope/ etc. We have the certainty that God requires.

And in fact, because of the mistakes and the errors and the false doctrines that have been added to the Scriptures (Marian dogmas, penance, treasury of merit, indulgences, purgatory, NT priests, Apocryphal books, prayers for the dead, alms giving and good works as required for salvation; infant baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation and bowing down to the consecrated host of bread and wine; praying to statues and icons; having other mediators beyond the one mediator (contradiction to 1 Tim. 2:5) - these things actually take away confidence and assurance and certainty and create a trust in man-made traditions. So, your "certainty" is not a certainty at all for me, even though it claims "infallible certainty", it does not inspire a stronger certainty at all for me.

Ken said...

Yes, I think the lack of good teaching on church history in modern Evangelicalism and lack of appreciation for the good things in Church history has created this vaccum in thinking and sensitive modern Protestants.

The good things in Clement(Presybters and Bishops are the same office), Athanasius (Dr. White/ Webster/King all demonstrate he had a closer view of Scripture as the final authority - closer to Protestantism than the RCC view of Scripture and tradition; without claiming that he was a full blow Protestant.), Cyprian (he was right in his disagreement with Stephen, bishop of Rome), Irenaeus (the rule of faith, tradition, preaching, are all early Biblical doctrinal statements, not the RC understanding of tradition); Tertullian (understood that Mary and Joseph had a normal marriage after Jesus was born; and he cautioned against infant baptism), Augustine (grace must precede faith and decision for Christ), Jerome (his view on the Apocrypha is the right view); etc. - when modern Evangelicals don't show both -the good and the bad in history and expose the bad; and hold up Scripture as the umpire and final authority, then there is this vaccum that some want to fill it with the other nostalgic things of RC additions and corruptions. (Traditions added to the rule of faith and original deposit - Jude 3 speaks against that kind of thing.)

Ken said...

"Better to suffer under Islam than to accept the Jesuits. "

This is similar to what Greek Orthodox people and writers have said in history: "I would rather see the Muslim turban in the midst of the city than the Latin miter."

"Better the Infidel" by Mark Galli, in Christian History, "Eastern Orthodoxy", Issue 54, Volume XVI, no. 2, 1997, p. 19.

john said...

John I wholeheartedly agree with this particular Catholic and he nails one difference between "Cradle Catholics" and Converts to Rome. I grew up in a Catholic City and in a Catholic Family. You will find no such "Romantic Nostalgia" in either of them or in any run-of-the-mill-average Catholic. Real Catholicism on the ground is nothing like what "Catholic Answers" or the "Called To Communion" crowd espouse. These are the same folks who call the everyday real Catholics "cafeteria Catholics". But they forget that if these "real world Catholics" follow the advice of the Converts; CTC, Catholic Answers, Catholic apologists etc and leave the Catholic Church then most Parishes would have to close because funds would dry up. Most Catholics I know disagree with and don't believe one or more Catholic Dogmas, few I knew believe in Papal Infallibility, many don't believe in Purgatory or Indulgences and a good many are in realty Evangelical Christians.

John Bugay said...

Ken, that's a terrible indictment on them. Do you have a link?

steelikat said...

The main thrust of this thesis is the "romance" and nostalgia of Roman Catholicism, but it also discusses something else, something that Ken has referred to and described in this combox and summed up by this quote:

"The newly adopted faith, they imagine, is a shining, perfectly balanced system, an intricately worked clock where the cosmos turns to tell the time and the cuckoo comes out singing every Sunday."

This describes to a "T" my youthful fascination with Calvinism. Calvinism is a beautiful, rational, self-consistent, logically and philosophically flawless system. I've never heard of RCism described that way, and I don't think the description fits. RCism is too intellectually "messy" to be described that way because it has to accommodate a wider range of contradictory theologies--for example Molinists (analogous to Arminians) and Thomists (analogous to Calvinists) have to fit in the same "big tent." Both RCism and Calvinism, however, from my point of view, fall into a similar error. They have this rationalistic intellectual system and when reality doesn't fit the system, reality is explained away. Other Christian traditions, such as Lutheranism and perhaps (from what I've heard) Eastern Orthodoxy, are content to leave a wider range of questions unanswered rather than trying to fit reality (and in the end effectively fit God) into an intellectual box.

John Bugay said...

These are the same folks who call the everyday real Catholics "cafeteria Catholics". But they forget that if these "real world Catholics" follow the advice of the Converts; CTC, Catholic Answers, Catholic apologists etc and leave the Catholic Church then most Parishes would have to close because funds would dry up. Most Catholics I know disagree with and don't believe one or more Catholic Dogmas, few I knew believe in Papal Infallibility, many don't believe in Purgatory or Indulgences and a good many are in realty Evangelical Christians.

I agree with you in this John (and the rest of what you say, but I wanted to comment on this part of it).

There was a time when I thought that I could be this type of Catholic. It was only when pressed, through Opus Dei, that I really decided that I needed to get out.

Because of the Roman authority structure, everything else in that religion (and anything that might be good) is just soiled and polluted, as Calvin said in Institutes 4.1.1., because you must accept *all*. There is no negotiation. They have ruined anything [possibly] good that might have existed in RCism. And they have done it with their bald-faced claims to power and authority.

Ken said...

link to which part? I think you mean the Orthodox statement.

the Christian History quote I have is from the paper version Magazine, I don't know if it is on-line, but we can check and google.

John Bugay said...

Steelikat -- are you familiar with Muller's "Post Reformation Reformed Orthodoxy"?

That's high on my list. And the reason for that is, I think the phenomenon you are describing about Calvinism may not be based on some of the fuller treatments of it, like this one.

My own path out of Roman Catholicism took me straight from Calvin, through this period of "scholastic thought" about Calvininsm, and into the Hodges at Princeton.

But I feel as if I've missed something. And that something might be also something of the "continental" thinking that you would find in a Bavinck, for example. I've got both Muller and Bavinck on my wish list, as things that can genuinely help flesh out my understanding of the Reformed faith.

The kind of "big tent" you are describing, in RCism, by the way, is precisely the kind of thing that some of these converts won't "nostalgically" accept.

If you want a "big tent," you're much better off in the Protestant world.

John Bugay said...

Ken, it's no biggie about that link if you can't find it. I was just wondering.

Ken said...

I found it! I didn't even know it was on-line.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/1997/issue54/54h019.html

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"That seems to be the root issue for the RC apologetic – this “how do you know for sure?” questions. Peter Kreeft, as I recall, asks the same thing in his books, “What if the canon was not right?” What if your interpretation is not right? How do you know for sure you have the right books or the right interpretation? It is all based on epistemology and the search for knowing for sure. Somehow, the pope and infallible church claim gives them comfort."

I hear that some Liberal Emergers swim the Tiber because of this.

---

Good post John!!

John Bugay said...

Thanks TUAD!

Viisaus said...

"That seems to be the root issue for the RC apologetic – this “how do you know for sure?” questions."

... which James White in his debate with Mark Shea compared to the original "Yea, hath God said?"-inquiry. Some good bits:

http://vintage.aomin.org/ByWhatAuthority.html


""(Psa 119:18) Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law."

The Psalmist does not pray, "Oh place the lens of Sacred Tradition in my eye that I might be able to make out truth from the blurry, fuzzy mess that is Sacred Scripture." Thet "Wonderful things" are right there in God's law: it's spiritual insight that is needed, not Roman authority.

...

Oh, you *should* understand, Mark, but you've invested your life and reputation in a different viewpoint, so you *won't* understand. I can just see someone standing in the audience when Jesus uttered those words you've ignored in Matthew 22 (indeed, you've ignored all the Scripture passages I've cited as far as I can see) and saying, "Hey, well, that's your opinion, Rabbi. You need some external infallible authority, say, off in Rome somewhere, to tell you that God really spoke those words back in Genesis." I guess Jesus' word wouldn't be good enough for you: you need to put a mediator inbetween that is what, more trustworthy or something?

"Yeah, hath God said?" is an old saw, Mark. I wouldn't want to be caught using it with such regularity."

...

> A) The Jesus Seminar says, "Thank you, James. We agree with you
> that there is no *reason* for calling this Scripture. You just
> do. We just don't.

No, the Jesus Seminar reads Mark Shea's book and says, "Oh, I see: this is Scripture because a bunch of prelates got together in a small town called Trent, took orders from headquarters in Rome, and wrote down a canon. We see. Sorry, we don't buy that. And at least today, we can do so without getting burned alive for our refusal to do so."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Bugay said...

Ya know what's funny?

It's clearer than ever that these folks are out of touch with the bosses, with their own scholars, with the traditional Roman Catholics [whom Carl Trueman suggest themselves are really just "culturally" Roman Catholic].

The situation reminds me of Norman Mailer's 1948 novel "The Naked and the Dead". I don't want to give away any spoilers, but at the end of the novel, when the enemy seemed so fierce, there was no "there" there. There was nothing there, actually.

steelikat said...

John,

"That's high on my list. And the reason for that is, I think the phenomenon you are describing about Calvinism may not be based on some of the fuller treatments of it, like this one."

I haven't but I want to assure you that I have no doubt what you are saying is true. What I was describing is my own experience which is similar to the experience of many converts to Calvinism. Some people are attracted to Calvinism as a rationalist system and use a hyper-rationalist Calvinism in a fetishistic way similar to what you've described in RC converts.

Of course I have no doubt that most Calvinist have a more well-balanced Christ-centered rather than human-reason-centered faith.

steve said...

One of the basic problems with nostalgia for the "holiness of beauty" is that rival religious traditions or even rival religions can all produce great historic art. I remember seeing Hagia Sophia, then walking across the street to see the Blue Mosque. (I'm sure Ken has seen both as well.)

Although the Blue Mosque is a rip-off of Hagia Sophia, it is, in some ways more impressive because Muslims take better care of their own shrines than Christian shrines.

So should one become a Muslim just because Islam has its own magnificent artistic tradition?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bruce said...

JohnB,
I just want to thank you for a great post. LOL. A couple of insightful quotes.

Jennie said...

Really good post, and I'm enjoying the comments too.

Converts tend to see the faith they were raised in as an exasperatingly makeshift and jury-rigged system

I've gotten that impression too, and I'm seeing it in Thomas Merton's 'Seven Storey Mountain' which I'm still in the middle of. He seemed to develop a very romanticized view of Catholicism as he was moving towards conversion, and he came from a nominal protestantism which caused him to be critical of 'protestants' though he had apparently never known any that were worthy of the name. He also identified himself as a protestant in his early life, but by his own admission he had no faith.

Viisaus said...

"One of the basic problems with nostalgia for the "holiness of beauty" is that rival religious traditions or even rival religions can all produce great historic art."

In the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras (and even afterwards), many classically educated people became unbelievers essentially because they considered Greco-Roman paganism to be aesthetically superior to Christianity. As classically educated clergyman Vicesimus Knox put it:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1017&chapter=141728&layout=html&Itemid=27

"It is too evident to require demonstration, that a great number of scholars are prevented from forming an idea of Christianity, by an early and irrational prepossession against it. They have been used, in the pursuit of polite learning, to the perusal of authors who have adorned their errors with the graces of an artificial style, and a glossy expression. They have felt the beauties of a Cicero, and a Xenophon; of a Plato, a Homer, and a Virgil. When they take up the New Testament, they find not those flowers, to the selection of which they had hitherto devoted their time and attention. Their classical taste is disgusted. They close the volume, or if they proceed with this prejudice against it, discover nothing in it but deformity. Inclined to doubt the authenticity of a book, which recommends not itself by those charms which they have usually admired, they eagerly peruse such authors as have exerted their ingenuity in exploding the revelation of Jesus Christ. In these they commonly discover those external graces which they, love, but which are too often misapplied both in life and in learning."


If RCs or EOs think they can despise Protestants for their "modernist ugliness", then people like Nietzsche will despise all Christianity as something unworthy for "beautiful people" to subscribe to.

The moral - in this fallen world, devil can always outdo saints in mere outward razzle-dazzle. So many people love gorgeous idolatry in spite of knowing that it's based on lies. Not in vain is the spirit of idolatry symbolically compared to a harlot in the Scriptures - the good-looking prostitute is forgiven her inner rottenness because of her looks.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

In the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras (and even afterwards), many classically educated people became unbelievers essentially because they considered Greco-Roman paganism to be aesthetically superior to Christianity.

Fascinating counter-example!

Ken said...

Yes, I have been to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque of Sultan Ahmet many times; - I can say that Islamic art is very impressive and in many ways beautiful and the domes and tiles and colors are amazing.

The Hagia Sophia was built around 537-555 AD by Emperor Justinian.

Sultan Ahmad Mosque was built in 1616 AD, many centuries later;


(part of the reality of what Steve says about being better taken care of, is the fact that Hagia Sophia is just a lot older; and the fact that very few Christians are even left to care for these places, and in fact, the Hagia Sophia is run by Muslims today; it was converted into a Mosque from 1453-1934. Now it is a museum, and they have uncovered the icons that were plastered over for centuries.)

and for years, they attempted to duplicate the large dome of the Hagia Sophia, but they never could; without much more structure underneath to hold it up. No one has ever been able to duplicate the size of the Hagia Sophia dome without as much pillars underneath.

Anyway, the beauty of Islamic art is in its simplicity, symmetry, geometric shapes, floral designs, and lack of gaudy iconography. (they focus on fancy calligraphy of Qur'anic verses rather than faces/figures of humans (forbidden in Islam). Some of the RC and Orthodox stuff is just gaudy and crowded and ugly, because the burning of candles and incense leaves lots of soot around the icon areas; and because of the focus on human faces; and they also seem to lack symmetry and order. Some is good and tasteful and personally, I think it is good to have some of the evidence of famous Christians (as long as the paintings are not anachronistic - like Augustine being clothed in 12 - 14th century bishops' clothes and mitre hat); but in a worship context it became dangerous and looks like idolatry.

The good and beautiful aspects of Islamic art should give us something positive to talk to Muslims about; as we realize they are humans and created in the image of God and need the gospel. Appreciating that is part of the "with gentleness and respect" aspect of I Peter 3:15 and being wise and having our conservation seasoned with salt in Colossians 4:3-6.

If evangelicals had a good grounding in good art principles, then maybe there would not be the vacuum so much for the nostalgia of medieval art and castles.

Some of the Anglican and Presbyterian stone churches are indeed beautiful, but it takes lots of money to build those kinds of structures.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

o "I heard, just this morning, about the Ethiopian Church. The first bishop of that church was ordained by Athanasius, in the 300's. For several centuries, they flourished. But battered by Islam, they reached out to Europe for help. Portugal came to the rescue -- but it wasn't long before the Ethiopians were kicking out all of the Europeans and especially the Jesuits. And I think [Dr. Fortson] said they had kicked them all out in a very short period of time. Better to suffer under Islam than to accept the Jesuits."

o "This is similar to what Greek Orthodox people and writers have said in history: "I would rather see the Muslim turban in the midst of the city than the Latin miter.""

Not me. I'd much rather see the Latin miter than the Muslims.

But my gosh, just think about what these statements are saying about Catholicism! What an insult!

Ikonophile said...

Truth,

what's the difference in bearing with one false view of God over another? Indeed, I would rather have the former over the latter as well. I think the Greeks said so because at that time the Muslims didn't necessarily force the Orthodox to convert though I'm sure like today they would have been limited in what they could do publicly , whereas the Latins would have taken every opportunity to subvert the Orthodox Faith by instituting their own bishops, altering the Liturgy, adding their own doctrines, etc. like they did in Britain after the Norman(?) conquest.

John

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Ikonophile,

I'd rather live under Catholic rule because I have a better chance of living and carrying out the Great Commission than I would under Islamic rule and Sharia Law.

Ikonophile said...

Truth,

You can live out the Great Commission under Muslim rule. You need only to look at the history of Christianity under the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. Or you could look at Christianity under the oppression of any group, religious or otherwise. Christians are made through persecution, or so I would argue. Being free in this country and Christian is harder. Too much of an opportunity to be lazy.

John

Matt said...

Pedantic religiosity. Wow.

Andrew said...

I think people who convert from one thing to another, whatever the transition is, tend to have the "convert syndrome". It's probably not totally avoidable. It could be compared, I suppose, to the excitement a naturalized citizen would feel.

John said...

I am curious. Is Mr. Vasquez still a Catholic?

John Bugay said...

John asked: I am curious. Is Mr. Vasquez still a Catholic?

I am certain that he is. However, I'm not privvy to his private life. This is from his "about" page; you might email him and ask him:

About the author: Arturo Vasquez is a native of Hollister, California, who spent five years in religious life as a seminarian and a monk. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies. He currently resides in New Orleans. He can be reached at vasqart3@yahoo.com .

John said...

Thanks. Yes, it was hard to tell from his site. His theory is interesting and I think it has some validity. It would be nice if Waugh, Chesterton, or Newman were still around so that we could ask them if they ever considered their conversions a romantic process and if so how did they resolve that possible question.

Brennan said...

As a convert to Catholicism myself, I tend to think there is one overriding reason people such as Chesterton or Newman converted and that is because it is true (if I remember correctly Chesterton said as much himself).

As far as nostalgia goes, if there's a potential convert who is naive enough to believe that they are going to be surrounded by wafts of Gregorian chant, a liturgy that goes back hundreds of years, and nothing but living saints then they are going to be in for quite a culture shock when they enter the typical modern parish (and I don't think any of the English converts mentioned were so naive--although they did have access to a better liturgy back in their day).

As one English writer and Catholic (though not a convert), Hilaire Belloc put it, the Catholic Church is an "institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight."

That's a good quote.

John said...

Brennan,

As one English writer and Catholic (though not a convert), Hilaire Belloc put it, the Catholic Church is an "institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight."
I am not sure that Belloc's qoute proves the Catholic faith, you are right it is a great quote.

John said...

Yikes,
quote not qoute. Writing faster than spelling.