From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic -- By: Scot McKnight

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:3 (Sep 2002)
Article: From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic
Author: Scot McKnight


From Wheaton to Rome:
Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic

Scot McKnight*

* Scot McKnight is Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, 3225 W. Foster Ave., Chicago, IL 60625.

I. Introduction

People convert to Roman Catholicism for a variety of reasons and, though the stories that follow will illustrate a fairly uniform paradigm, it is mistaken to think persons convert to Catholicism for one basic reason.1 Moreover, because recent technical study of conversion provides an opportunity to examine various sorts of conversions, in the following study we shall focus on why evangelicals become Catholic. My favorite story of a traditional conversion to Catholicism is by Alec Guinness, known to most of us as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the mega-hit Star Wars. While acting the role of a priest in Father Brown in Burgundy, France, he tells the story of a late-evening shoot that attracted a fair number of local folk, including children. In his autobiography he writes,2

A room had been put at my disposal in the little station hotel three kilometres away. By the time dusk fell I was bored and, dressed in my priestly black, I climbed the gritty winding road to the village. In the square children were squealing, having mock battles with sticks for swords and dustbin lids for shields; and in a café Peter Finch, Bernard Lee and Robert Hamer were sampling their first Pernod of the evening. I joined them for a modest Kir, then discovering I wouldn’t be needed for at least four hours turned back towards the station. By now it was dark. I hadn’t gone far when I heard scampering footsteps and a piping voice calling, “Mon pre!” My hand was seized by a boy of seven or eight, who clutched it tightly, swung it and kept up a non-stop prattle. He was full of excitement, hops, skips and jumps, but never let go of me. I didn’t dare speak in case my excruciating French should scare him. Although I was a total stranger he obviously took me for a priest and so to be trusted. Suddenly with a “Bonsoir, mon pre,” and a hurried sideways sort of bow, he disappeared through a hole in a hedge. He had had a happy, reassuring walk home, and I was left with an odd calm sense of elation. Continuing my walk I reflected that a Church which could inspire such confidence in a child, making its priests, even when unknown, so easily approachable could not be as scheming and creepy as so often made out. I began to shake off my long-taught, long-absorbed prejudices.

Not many can tell such a story, but such an event contributed to Guinness’s conversion. G. K. Che...

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