Some General Thoughts on Jason Reed’s Conversion to Rome

Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, North CarolinaThe evangelical defection to Rome appears to be continuing unabated, as Jason Reed, formerly of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC, has joined the Roman communion. Indeed, it’s because he was formerly a professor at SES that his conversion has caused a ruckus in certain parts of evangelicalism. (You can hear Jason tell the story of his conversion here.)

To be honest, I’m unsurprised to hear that yet another “evangelical” has swum the Tiber and made tracks for Rome.

Allow me, if you please to explain why I’m unsurprised. If you watch the video I’ve linked to above, between the 33 and 35 minute mark, Mr. Reed effectively states that leading up to his conversion to Rome, he couldn’t define evangelicalism. I can tell you why he couldn’t define evangelicalism—it’s because right now, evangelicalism is an amorphous blog with no real doctrinal center. As I believe I’ve said before here at Southern Reformation, the vast majority of evangelicals aren’t really Protestants to start with—they’re just not Catholic. There is a whole world of difference between the two.

Furthermore, given the fact that Mr. Reed was educated at SES, and was Dr. Norm Geisler’s research assistant when he was writing his Systematic Theology, his conversion is even less surprising. Dr. Geisler is well-known as a Thomist philosopher who is a rabid anti-Calvinist and consistently puts philosophy before theology. If you’ve read Dr. Geisler’s screed against Calvinism in Chosen But Free, one of the things that is conspicuous by its absence is any exegesis of the disputed texts. Since Dr. Geisler has demonstrated his complete inability to exegete John 6, is it any surprise that Mr. Reed was swayed by the Roman exegesis of the passage?

I know of at least two students from SES who have long since left evangelicalism (whatever it is), one to become a member of an Antiochian Orthodox congregation, and the other to become an Armenian Orthodox priest. Given their education at SES, I wasn’t surprised.

You see…theology matters.

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14 thoughts on “Some General Thoughts on Jason Reed’s Conversion to Rome

  1. And yet, for some reason these people are unconvinced by Protestant and especially Calvinist theology — which is the elephant that is barreling its way through especially Baptist circles these days.

    • Given my own firsthand experiences with SES when Dr. Geisler was still there, I don’t think “unconvinced” conveys the correct idea. Poisoned against Protestant and especially Calvinist theology is much, much closer to the truth.

      They’re similar to the fundamentalist who launches screeds against Catholicism with having read any Catholic authors, or who have been trained to read them, not with an open Bible, but as heretics deserving of the stake. After all, the Early Church Fathers were Independent Fundamental King James Only Dispensational Premilleniarian Holy Rolling Pew Jumping Baptists.

      Preacher Billy Ray Collins said so.

      • I was never poisoned against Calvinism. Or Catholicism. Or anything else. I was probably as close to a theological blank slate as one can get and still be a thinking Christian. I grew up praising the Reformers as great heroes of the faith — not to the same degree that a Reformed person would have, but firmly as a Protestant. Even the medievalist historian who turned me on to the history of the Church was the grandson of a well-known Lutheran pastor and theologian for whom Luther’s stand at the Diet of Worms was one of the highlights of all history.

        Calvinists, I find, seem to take the attitude that anything less than Calvinist is not fully Protestant or even fully Christian — even assuming the title “Reformed” for themselves. I see it mostly in the Calvinist opposition to Catholicism — for which the whole idea of painting the Catholic Church as “apostate” is absurd and incomprehensible. But at the other end of the spectrum there’s the tendency to reject even well-minded and respected evangelicals, as you do above, who might not be the sharpest theological tools in the shed, but nonetheless are sincere Christians. There’s nothing wrong with theological rigor or with thinking everybody else is wrong — certainly anybody who is serious about their position will hold that they are correct and others aren’t. But the idea of children of the Reformation, whose positions were essentially invented in the sixteenth century with no historical foundation, declaring that everyone else are “apostates” and “heretics” is especially absurd. I would laugh if it weren’t so hurtful.

        And you know, by the way, that I’m not trying to pick a fight, right? I just think we’ve become friendly enough that I see no reason to hold back my opinions. And I know you don’t, either.

        Anyway — this comment has gotten off track from where I intended it to go. My point was, I had no predilection for or prejudice against any particular theology — if any at all, I had a slight one against Catholicism, growing up thinking the Reformers were right and the Catholic Church had fallen and needed to be reformed. But nonetheless I found Reformed theology unpleasant and depressing once I got to studying it. I was curious about your opinion — which is why I tagged you, not to pick a fight. Do you think I misunderstood Reformed theology? Was there some misconception in my understanding that turned me against it? It still really bugs me that so many people seem to find so much hope and glory in it while I found nothing but despair. I know my Calvinist panic attack in the other post was rather melodramatic, but how do you answer the charges that Reformed propositions result in such conclusions? Again, I’m not trying to pick a fight — you’re just the Calvinist I appreciate most right now and I am curious.

        • Forgive my brief response, especially since you’ve clearly put a lot of thought and effort in to the comment above, but I’m about to rush out the door to a congregational meeting.

          First, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not calling all Roman Catholics “apostate” or “heretics.” I was in fact mocking those who do so. I have no doubt that there are those within the Roman communion that are God’s elect. I’m not sure that “painting the Catholic Church as ‘apostate’ is absurd and incomprehensible,” depending on how you are defining the “Catholic Church” in that sentence. Depending on how you define your terms, it may be perfectly reasonable. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have either the time or the energy to open that can of worms tonight! Nevertheless, I would also say that some of the comments from the Reformers (especially the radical Reformers) went way too far on that point, and that others didn’t go quite far enough.

          At any rate, I don’t think that Calvinism, on the whole, is above critique. In fact, one of the best, most insightful criticisms of the system that I’ve ever heard came from Dr. Rod Rosenbladt of Concordia Seminary. At one time the lecture was available in mp3 format on the web (alas, it isn’t any longer), and I use to refer the guys I knew who were students at SES to it, with the approbation that Dr. Rosebladt was a phenomenal example of how to do polemics well, especially vis a vis Calvinism.

          My own issue (especially in the post above) is with Southern Evangelical and Dr. Geisler. In them you have both a man and an institution that haven’t just misunderstood Calvinism, but have gone out of their way to do so.

          Arrgh! I hate to stop here but if I don’t leave now, I’m going to be late.

          Perhaps I’ll be able to comment further tonight or tomorrow afternoon.

          • No problem, Ben. Take your time and give a fuller reply whenever you get a chance. And no, I wasn’t referring specifically (or at all) to you with the comment about referring to “apostates” and “heretics” — as I said, you’re the Calvinist I respect most, and that’s for a reason. I’m sorry my comment got off track and pointed a finger at you — I think even your criticism of Geisler is fair and not on the same level as those who would condemn others as “apostates” or “heretics.” I was just noticing a trend. I do see those terms cast around a lot in the blogosphere and even by prominent leaders and apologists.

            What I was really interested in, anyway, before my comment took an unfortunate side path, was your opinion of whether you think I’m understanding, or understood in the past, some crucial element of Reformed theology. Actually, even since I’ve been Catholic, I’ve been impressed by some things Reformed people had to say. Michael Horton made a very good and palatable case for it in For Calvinism (my review). But the more I read from others and even from him, the more I realize to what a degree he moderated and toned down the aggressive theology that many Calvinists are moving with today.

            I have to run to Mass tonight, too. Talk to you later.

  2. Pingback: The Sovereignty of God, or, My Brush with Calvinism, Part 2: A Crisis of Faith | The Lonely Pilgrim

    • In my opinion, no. I’m not so sure that Jason is entirely cognizant of what he is leaving, since he was never really a “Protestant” in any meaningful sense of the word.

      On the other hand, I’m not one to squash a politely phrased dissenting opinion!

      • Well I did say it somewhat tongue in cheek really, and I do not know much about Jason himself, it was just one of those irresistible moments on my part. Seriously though, I think it is an interesting phenomenon, and one that I have been personally a part of as you know, having been Protestant for more years of my life than Catholic even still. But coming back to me has meant different things than to some, I think. In any case I believe it is where I belong, and does pose a very real challenge to Protestants of all stripes in that I think there is a hunger, and a reasonable one at that, for pre-Reformation Christianity. And one, in my opinion that is worth exploring. God bless you brother.

  3. This is what I found, not Rome but the Orthodox Church. They don’t take much of the bible seriously even though their ancestors in Byzantium did. One of them theorized that the early Jews believed in several gods with one chief god, usually the Orthodox or Rome excepts liberal protestant views of the old Testament. However, the Jews in Jesus’s time believed the old testament and so did most Catholics and Orthodox in the middle ages I read a commented by an Eastern Orthodox that the bible is myth in the early chapters and two days later I came across Against the Gods and the author mention about this idea of the Jews believing in one main God and lesser Gods in the Genesis is not true. For this reason I will not go to the Roman Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox even if their Church services were similar to church services in the 5th Century.

    • I can’t really speak from personal experience for the East, though I have an Orthodox friend (“I know somebody”) who takes the Old Testament as seriously as any ancient Christian — and he an academic historian, no less.

      But I can speak from personal experience, as a convert and catechist and apologist, for the Catholic Church. There is no such notion in the Catholic Church that the Old Testament is purely “myth” or not to be taken seriously. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

      121. “The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.”

      122. “Indeed, ‘the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men.’ ‘Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional,’ the books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God’s saving love: these writings ‘are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way.’

      123. “Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism).”

      So these pernicious stereotypes about Catholics and Orthodox will get you nowhere. If you are going to reject the apostolic Churches, you should do so with a full and proper understanding.

  4. I was just sent this link to a very insightful article on this topic…I think that this is a tremendous article and can express my more in-depth thoughts on it much better than I could ever do. I would reiterate that not everyone comes to the Catholic Church from Protestantism due to a lofty intellectual study though. I personally returned through the “cafeteria door” and then ended up staying, albeit with some ups and downs, due to further and more in-depth study in part, but more so due to the Sacraments themselves. In other words, I came back not due to anything particularly provable on a theological level, but in time realized I could not leave again due to the truth of the Church on an objective level. I am saying, and perhaps I can express it better or more clearly this time, is that some of us come through theological mid-Christian life crises and some of us, just come. Either way the Lord receives us, helps us along, and eventually we realize why we are here–because Catholic Christianity is what we believe to be the fullness of the Truth of the Christian Faith. But we should not discount those who are not at that point yet of course–no Catholic “snobbery” from this guy (meaning me). Many of them love the Lord Jesus Christ far better than I do, and are better studied than most of us as well. That is one of the many reasons I am blessed and humbled to call you my brother in Christ, Benjamin. Anyway here is the link:

    http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/10/peter-leitharts-the-tragedy-of-conversion-to-catholicism-or-orthodoxy/

"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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