5) The Early Church
Christianity is not a religion based on human discovery or insight into the universe, it’s based on divine revelation given to humanity at a particular point in history, namely, through Christ and his Apostles in the 1st century. This means the true Christian faith comes from the 1st century, not, say, the 16th century.
The story of history I had been told by Protestants was that Jesus, his Apostles, and the early Church were basically Protestant in their beliefs and practices, that things were slowly corrupted into Catholicism during the medieval period, and that the Protestant Reformers took things back to how they were in the early Church. The Catholic story of history is of course that Catholicism was the faith from the very beginning and that Protestantism is a later innovation.
In studying the early Church fathers, whose writings are available online for free, it was clear to me that the early Church was indeed Catholic and that the most important aspects of Protestantism were later innovations foreign to most of Christian history.
The last major factor I’ll mention here was morality. The Church’s social teachings are an underappreciated gift to the world, and the Church is well-known for her strong pro-life stance, but the teaching that had the biggest impact on both me and my wife is one of her most controversial: her rejection of contraception.
We got engaged our junior year with the plan to get married the summer before our senior year. While researching what kind of contraception to use, we decided to give Humanae Vitae a read just to be more informed about the issue in general, and were surprised to find its arguments very compelling.
I’ve explained the full story of our conversion on this issue elsewhere, but suffice it to say that once we were both convinced that contraception was immoral, it greatly shook our confidence in Protestantism. With the exception of individuals and small communities, virtually all Protestants abandoned the long-standing historic Christian opposition to contraception in the mid-20th century. How could Protestantism be true Christianity if it couldn’t even maintain it’s own moral teachings, but instead had accepted grave sexual perversion? Compare that to the miracle of the Catholic papacy in the 20th century maintaining the traditional stance despite overwhelming pressure from both within and without the Church to change it, and it makes a person wonder if the pope really is the successor of St. Peter, the Rock on whom Christ said he would build his Church.
Back to the Beginning
All of these factors, and others, coalesced until it was clear that I needed to join the Catholic Church. Which brings me back to the first reason I listed above, Jesus. It wasn’t that I simply thought joining the Catholic Church was a good thing for me to do, and it wasn’t just something I happened to want to do (though of course it was both of those things in part); joining the Catholic Church was what I was convinced I had to do if I wanted to follow Jesus.
And I did want to follow Jesus. So I joined the Catholic Church. And in the last four years, praise the Lord, I’ve only been further confirmed that it was the right thing to do.
Brantly Milleganis an Assistant Editor for Aleteia. He is also Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Second Nature, Co-Director of the International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity, and is working on a M.A. in Theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. He lives with his wife and children in South St. Paul, MN. His personal website is brantlymillegan.com.