The journey of Marion and David Ahmed from Pentecostalism to Catholicism
Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 13, 2008
I was ‘born-again’ into a (black) Pentecostal/Charismatic church (1987) in Aldershot Hampshire UK. My wife (Marion) was in the same church from birth, also having a ‘born-again’ experience at the age of 13. I quickly became active in the church with a preaching and teaching ministry and my wife with praise and worship. In the late 80’s we started working alongside a dynamic prophet/evangelist Renny McLean helping to set up a church in Brixton, London (now http://www.globalglory.org based in Texas). As is common in Protestant circles differences of opinion and small dissatisfactions (over the years) resulted in two more churches and by 1998 we found ourselves back at our original Pentecostal/Charismatic church. At that time we very much felt that we were being sent back with more experience to help take the church to, what is commonly termed… ‘the next level’.
About a year later somebody joined our church that was Reformed i.e. ‘once saved always saved’ in their theology. Whilst I was attempting to convert him to fundamentalist Arminian (one saved not always saved) theology, I read historic documents and articles and came to realise my theological position was far from the same as original Protestant Reformation theology. After much wrestling with our consciences my wife and I decided it was our duty to move towards truth and thus moved to a Reformed theological position (2001) with the result of not a little castigation and breakdown of church relationships.
Eventually we found a church that was both Reformed and Charismatic… the best of both as we thought then! More theological and historical study (2002) led us to see that the genre of reformation theology we had adopted was quite weak in its structure and consequently far to open to theological error and questionable worship practice. After more study we came to appreciate the Calvinist/Presbyterian position as evidently more grounded in theological history and with a well-worn systematic theology and a background of great theologians that had bolstered its ranks. In addition we began to see the necessity of protecting the historic traditions, practices and liturgy of the church that were clearly absent in the Reformed/ Charismatic tradition we had chosen.
This created a problem for us, as in the UK there are few if any Presbyterian churches. We opted for an Anglican church that had a high view of liturgy and communion along with some openness to the gifts of the Spirit. At the same time we began attending the Anglican Church we stumbled across Lutheranism via the US programme http://www.issuesetc.org. Lutheran apologetics came out on top seeming to be the most historically consistent, having the most scrupulous interpretation of scripture, the highest regard for doctrine, a high view of the sacraments and maintaining historical liturgical practice. Consequently by 2003 we became fully committed to Lutheranism and then better understanding the sacrament of baptism had our three children baptised in Resurrection Lutheran church in Cambridge UK. The Lutheran community is extremely small in the UK and we were unable to find a church close enough to worship at. On top of this when we did travel to churches they seemed theologically loose compared to what we had received from http://www.issuesetc.org which was a conservative brand of Lutheranism that holds fast to traditional Lutheranism.
The question evidently came to us that if Luther was the Father of the Reformation as lead ‘infallibly’ by the Holy Spirit, then why weren’t all Protestants Lutherans? From our learning it did indeed seem that Luther only envisaged a type of ‘new’ reformed Catholic Church not a multitude of denominations and theological positions. It was about this time I entered into discussions with a Pastor/Teacher friend of mine concerning the ‘uses of the (God’s) Law. Protestant historical Reformation teaching had taught me there was a standard answer to this question that was ‘it is a tutor to lead us to Christ’. My friend said he did not agree with this and suggested we had no use of the Law any longer as we are under grace. This led me to reading a book in which four major theologians gave their perspective and rebuttal of other perspective on this issue. After reading this book my theological world was shaken as it became clear to me that these ‘giants’ of Protestant theology could not agree on what position was the truth… therefore how could I, a layman, possibly know the truth apart from choosing a preference… which might not be the truth. Extreme frustration set in whilst attempting to unravel this conundrum in a search for the truth.
During this journey over many years a close friend (Steve) had taken a similar journey although he was more ‘loose’ with his theology and had not settled for Calvinism or Lutheranism. Steve had a brother who was a Catholic priest and I often sent apologetic arguments via Steve to ‘show him the way’. In late 2004 I saw very little of Steve and shortly after April 2005 Steve advised he had been confirmed in the Catholic Church saying only that through his discussions with his brother and after study and thought it just seemed right. I was aghast and made it my sole aim to show Steve that this was not just a step backwards but a turning around and walking in the wrong direction! So my studies began to centre on Catholicism, requiring some study of Catholic apologetics. The first inkling of truth came through Peter Kreeft a Catholic apologist after I heard an online audio of how he came to be a Catholic at a Calvinist Seminary. I also heard him suggest the idea that without a ‘single infallible voice’ i.e. the Pope, it is impossible to know absolutely we are being led in theological truth. Whilst the logic of this made sense my anti-Catholic bias negated the force of the argument Shortly after this I stumbled across ‘The Journey Home’ that showed that there was more than a few Protestants who had found their way to Rome. Eventually I found my way on to apologetic sites including Steve Ray’s, and also Catholic Answers Live that provided audio debates around all the difficult issues that Protestants have. I had told my friend Steve that hell would have to freeze over before I became a Catholic and as I continued to study the arguments it seemed that it was time to consider buying a pair of skates.
Marion has always been true to her own conscience regarding theological matters and often came a little more slowly to a new more truthful and biblical theological position. She later confided in my that when she heard Peter Kreeft’s argument concerning the Pope and the Magesterium she knew I was going to follow this argument right into the Catholic Church. She had her own struggles with Marian doctrines and Purgatory however there was (and is) sufficient material to bring such arguments to a peaceful close.
There were difficulties, however I was able to get help through a contact through the ‘Coming Home Network’ (a network that provides information and help for interested Protestants). In September 2005 we started an RCIA programme in Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Frimley (UK) and will be receive our confirmation at the Easter Vigil in April 2005.
It has been a joyous journey although not without its disappointments. As Scott Hann writes in his book Rome Sweet Home, we feel we have come home but we do not feel at home. We do miss the overt and close fellowship of Protestantism that exists both within the church and outside of the church service (Mass). In particular we miss being able to pick up the phone or jump in the car and meet with somebody who you know has an equal commitment and understanding of the Christian walk. In addition we miss the house prayer meetings/bible studies of Protestantism as well as the commitment of all to sharing the gospel as a standard part of Christian life. However we do see changes in the Catholic Church, and one must always consider that it is Christ’s church and he will bear the burden of bringing it to fruition.
Ultimately nothing but nothing can replace what we now know to be the privilege of the Mass and receiving the Eucharist… body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.