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AConvert’s Case for the Catholic Church

Born Fundamentalist, Born-Again Catholic, by David Currie (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996, 211 pp., $11.95)

BY MARK BRUMLEY

September 1, 1996 Issue | Posted 9/1/96 at 1:00 PM

 

DAVID CURRIE has done both Evangelicals and Catholics a great service. His Born Fundamentalist, Born-Again Catholic explains Catholicism in terms readily accessible, if not entirely acceptable, to the typical Evangelical. Meanwhile, he offers a glimpse into the Evangelical mind, helping Catholics to understand why so many of their Protestant brothers and sisters have trouble with Catholic teachings and practices.

Born Fundamentalist, Born-Again Catholic is, as the title suggests, autobiographical. It is an outstanding specimen of a growing number of conversion stories to the Catholic Faith from Evangelicalism. (A decade ago, most converts were going in the other direction—from Catholicism to Evangelicalism. Today, not a few Evangelical ministers are becoming Catholics.)

He offers a glimpse into the Evangelical mind, helping Catholics to understand why so many of their Protestant brothers and sisters have trouble with Catholic teachings and practices.

Currie's is a thought-provoking and spiritually searching account of how he, a P.K. (preacher's kid), reared in a conservative Protestant home, made the unthinkable move of becoming a Roman Catholic.

Yet the book is more than a spiritual autobiography; it is an extended essay on the Catholicism which Evangelical Christians frequently encounter. It might well have been subtitled, “How I Changed My Mind and Heart, and Learned to Pray the Mass.”

Currie begins with his childhood, recounting his grief over JFK's assassination— deep sorrow over the President's death, yes, but more dismay because “in my heart of hearts I knew that he was in hell. He was a Catholic, and I was a Christian fundamentalist.”

The brand of Fundamentalism Currie imbibed was full-blooded. Its immediate enemy was liberal Protestantism and its penchant for watering down the “fundamentals of the Faith.” Yet, if it “was bad to be a liberal,” Currie writes, “it was much worse to be a Roman Catholic.” His anti- Catholicism was as sincere and deep as it was wrong.

Currie eventually shed the narrow trappings of Fundamentalism for a mainstream Evangelicalism more intellectually spacious if no less anti-Roman in its tenets. But his relentless intellect and searching heart wouldn't stop there.

What made him become a Catholic? Nor a warm community experience—he had plenty of that as an Evangelical. Not some deep-seated emotional need. He became a Catholic for one simple reason: He became convinced Catholicism is true.

What convinced him? You might say the Bible made him do it. Through an intense study of Scripture, Currie came to believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. Eventually his deeply disconcerted Evangelical wife, Colleen, also came to agree.

Yet there were many doctrinal hurdles to jump before Currie and his wife arrived at the church door. Born takes us over these hurdles.

The Eucharist was a major obstacle. Evangelicals differ among themselves on what the Eucharist is—some see it as a spiritual presence of Christ, others a mere symbol of that presence. On this point, though, they all agree: It isn't the Body and Blood of Christ.

Currie examines the biblical evidence for the Eucharist as Catholics understand it and finds it ample. He shows how the usual Evangelical interpretations of passages such as John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11, 23-24 are implausible and inadequate, and how these same texts fit well with Catholic doctrine.

Regarding the Bible, Currie refutes the Evangelical position of sola scriptura—the idea that Christians should follow the Bible alone without any tradition or teaching authority to interpret it. The argument Currie uses is by now familiar: The Bible nowhere teaches sola scriptura, so people who believe it do so on extra-biblical grounds. But that contradicts the idea that we should follow the Bible alone, therefore sola scriptura is self-contradictory. Currie also examines at length the biblical texts on tradition and shows that, far from condemning tradition, the Bible upholds the authority of apostolic tradition.

Other topics treated include the Catholic canon of the Old Testament, apostolic succession and papal authority, salvation, purgatory, the Incarnation, Mary and the End Times. Currie takes each issue from an Evangelical perspective, emphasizing why Evangelicals feel compelled to differ with Catholics, and then goes on to show the biblical and theological cogency of the Catholic view.

There are other books which cover these same subjects well, Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism being among the best. But most were written by cradle Catholics. As a convert, Currie has the advantage of saying to Evangelicals: “I've been there. I understand your problems with Catholicism and your arguments. Here's what I've found in the Scripture.”

In that respect, Born is a testimony to what God has done in the lives of David Currie and his family. For Evangelicals, the book is an open invitation to examine the biblical case for Catholic Christianity, presented by a man of deep Christian faith. His love for Evangelicals and passion for full Christian unity are manifest on every page. It is also a valuable tool to help Catholics better understand their own faith as they are given a clear vision of Catholicism through the eyes of a convert.

Mark Brumley is managing editor of The Catholic Faith magazine in San Francisco.