Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Personality Profiles

In a comment on a topic at Welborn's Charlotte Was Both blog, Heath White makes a clear observation:

I am an evangelical and also an academic. I have several friends who have become Catholic from evangelicalism, and I know a lot of people who were raised Catholic and became evangelical. The profiles of the two types are extremely consistent.

Very consistently, evangelicals who become Catholic are very intelligent and historically informed. They reason their way into Catholicism, often with not much input from Catholics. They do this by observing the weaknesses of the evangelicalism they know—the thin ecclesiology, the problem of authority, the lack of roots in tradition and history—and figuring out that Catholicism is the antidote. Such conversions are not, in any case I know of, products of outreach on the part of Catholics.

Very consistently, Catholics who become evangelicals will tell you that they spent thirty years in the Catholic church and never heard the gospel. They were given a set of rules to follow, and told either (a) that their eternal destiny depended on how they followed the rules, or (b) that because they were Catholics they were good to go. (A generational difference.) Then they met an evangelical, who intentionally made friends with them, told them that Jesus could turn their life around, invited them to a church and a small group Bible study. They learned how to look for answers to their problems in life in the Bible. They got help with raising their children, or their marriage, or their problems at work. They learned how to pray without a text in front of them or memorized. And they learned how to repeat the process with their friends and neighbors.

The reason there is an 8:1 ratio is that the number of highly intelligent, historically informed evangelicals is rather small, and the number of unevangelized cradle Catholics is rather large. For example: at the Presbyterian church I now attend, the entire deacon board was baptized Catholic.

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