I am a graduate student of both Theology and Philosophy gearing up to go to the University of Oxford this fall as I enroll in the Master of Studies in Philosophical Theology program there. I have a B.A. with honours and great distinction from Concordia University in Montréal (my alma mater). I intend to use my undergraduate ‘thesis,’ on God’s Relationship to Time from the Perspective of Analytic Theology, as the foundation for a graduate (and later Ph.D.) thesis in philosophical theology. My aim is ultimately to work my way towards a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology, and hopefully pursue a second Ph.D. in Philosophy, subsequent to which I plan to teach and write in both fields. It should (but doesn’t) go without saying that my views are in no way a reflection of the views of Concordia University, Oxford University or any other University.
I am, by intellectual persuasion, a Theist, and a convert to the Catholic faith. I also have tremendous sympathy for Evangelicals, Muslims and Naturalists. I had spent most of my life as an evangelical Christian, active in my church communities, until coming into the Catholic fold. I also nearly converted to Islam, having been very impressed with the beauty of Muslim piety and the right expression of Muslim faith, but after a studied comparison between Christianity and Islam I found that Christianity had a much better purchase on the claim to be true than did the religion of Islam. For a time I began to engage with Muslims in inter-religious dialogue with a view towards evangelizing them (i.e., sharing the Gospel with them) and learning more about their faith. During this time I not only developed a deep love for many of my Muslim friends, along with a respect for pious Muslim practices, but I was also led to take a much closer look at the history of Christianity. I found myself fascinated with issues of textual criticism and eager to read the writings of the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi texts and much else besides. Eventually, however, I came to a profound crisis of faith having to do mostly with epistemology and rational justification for my beliefs. It was in struggling to renovate my most deeply entrenched beliefs that I very nearly became a Naturalist, only to have come out of it, much to my surprise, a Catholic. This conversion was one which took intellectual courage and firm resolve, but I became so thoroughly convinced that the Catholic faith was right about things like the nature of the Christian Church that I was compelled to seek full communion with her.
If I could summarize my (theological) reasons for being a Catholic, the summary would look something like this: first, it seems to me that if there is any non-artificial dividing line in Christian theology between essential Christian beliefs (such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, and so on) and non-essential ones (such as on quaint eschatological points or varying interpretations of certain passages), then one of the essential Christian beliefs is an ecclesiological one. This ecclesiological belief can be broken down into two theses; (i) that there is One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church with the authority and charism to propound orthodox Christian doctrine infallibly and publicly, and (ii) that this Church is extensionally identical to the Catholic Church. This is the common belief of all the early Christians, all the Church Fathers, all the Church councils, is the presumption of all the Church’s creeds, and it is a belief in the absence of which Christian Orthodoxy can neither be differentiated from heresy formally, nor can the Church publicly manifest her faith as an exercise of her teaching authority. The proposed ‘defeater’ of this belief extended to Catholics by Protestants is that Justification is by faith alone, but I believe that a careful analysis of this position shows it to be much more implausible than the classical Christian (and Catholic) doctrine of salvation by Grace alone through faith and works effected by Christ and, with the help of Grace, freely chosen on the part of the believer. Thus, the first thesis, the ecclesiological one, is my principle systematic commitment which accounts for my being adamantly and enthusiastically Catholic. The cost of rejecting this quintessential Christian belief for systematic theology is, in my estimation, incalculably great. My reasons for being Catholic, however, go much deeper than these abstruse points about systematic theology. In reality, in exploring the foundations of my Christian faith I have (somewhat inadvertently) fallen in love with the Catholic Church; I am in love with her because in her I see Christ, and my belief in Christianity inculcates in me an imperfect but powerful love of Christ.