Dr. Ray Guarendi is a psychologist dealing with troubled children and families. He has ten children, several with special needs and/or learning disabilities, all adopted and all homeschooled. And he’s absolutely riotously funny.
“Yep. I’m a great homeschooling dad. I’m not bragging, but I’m a huge help. I mean, seven years ago, one of the kids knocked a book on the floor, and I looked at it and said, ‘Uh, honey? Do you want me to pick that up?’ ”
Dr. Ray’s first talk at the conference was called “Why be Catholic?” Raised Catholic, he had drifted away from his faith as a young adult, and, since his wife was Protestant, ended up very active in a Protestant denomination. This was the story of how he left and how he came back to the Catholic Church.
First he contrasted old and new atheists. The old-fashioned atheists says there is no God, therefore, I can do what I want. The logic follows, but the intial premise is wrong. The new atheist says, “There is a God, and He thinks just like me.” The new one is much more dangerous, and might be the #1 religion in America, frankly.
Anyways, after becoming very active in his wife’s denomination, Dr. Ray started to feel that he had some questions that weren’t being answered. The number one question, finally, was which system (Catholic or Protestant) is consistent within itself? If the system contradicts itself, it’s eliminated as truth.
Looking for answers, Dr. Ray asked his pastor and some of the more experienced Christians his questions. If the Bible and the Holy Spirit will lead us to all truth, as they taught, then how did we wind up with more than 30,000 Christian denominations? What happens when the “Holy Spirit” leads people to different conclusions? (Abortion, divorce/remarriage, etc.)
The answer: “Ray, you’re being unfair. We agree on the basics.”
(And this is where he sidetracked into an explanation of how being a philosophy minor can permanently mess up your brain and your life. He described sitting in class, unsure if the professor was really there and fighting the urge to go slug him to find out… Anyways, he brought up the problem of tautologies, a proposition that’s true in itself and unarguable. And, so, back to the discussion…)
Dr. Ray: “But what are the basics?”
Pastor: “The things we agree on.”
Dr. Ray: “Ok, so why do we agree on them?”
Pastor: “Because they’re the basics.”
*sigh* Ok, that didn’t help him, so, moving on… Dr. Ray pointed out that there are tons of ex-Catholics in Protestant churches bad-mouthing Catholicism. Most of them say they know all about Catholicism, but are actually, frankly, completely clueless. (I would hold up an aquaintance and a close relation as excellent examples of this.) Plus, ex-Catholics, Dr. Ray pointed out, are about as reliable a witness as ex-spouses. Would you really want a potential employer surveying your ex-spouse and the neighbor who hates you as job references? Of course not: it wouldn’t be a fair picture.
Dr. Ray started looking for a fairer picture. And some answers.
Next question to the pastor: you teach once-saved-always-saved, but when someone botches it, you say, “Well, you weren’t really saved when you prayed the prayer because you must not have meant it.” But you told me I was saved, you quoted verses to me to prove I was saved, I lived under the assumption that I really meant it… and now you inform me that I was never saved at all? Then who is saved? What kind of assurance is that?!? (I have a friend who, after three or four “praying the prayer” events up through her teens, just sort of buried the question, because nobody could answer it, and who wants to fear for your salvation all the time? Eventually, she became Catholic.)
It gets worse. Eventually, Dr. Ray pointed out, if you try to defend something logically indefensible, you sound stupid! (I could apply this to a few of the other speakers at the conference who will not make the summaries.)
The last straw was somewhere about the time Dr. Ray tried to argue Early Church Fathers with the pastor. “The Early Church Fathers learned from the apostles and said this. Ok, Peter was with Jesus himself for years. If Peter was here and you could ask him, would he say to baptize infants? What would he teach about the Lord’s Supper? Would you believe him?”
The pastor said she’d believe Peter if what he said accords with Scripture. Huh? But this was one of the guys who wrote Scripture and orally passed on the Gospels…
Dr. Ray said he finally got to the point where he was standing in his kitchen telling his wife he wasn’t sure if he could be a Christian anymore. It didn’t make any sense. He couldn’t logically hold the contradictions together anymore.
Finally, he decided that he needed to go to the best witnesses. When you hear something weird about someone, you go to the person, you go to the people who heard him. With Christianity, that means the apostles who heard Jesus and the people they directly taught.
“Have nothing to do with the heretics, because they do not confess Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and wine.” – Ignatius, made a bishop by the apostle John
The Early Church Fathers taught infant baptism, that contraception was morally wrong, the bishop of Rome was to be respected and obeyed, etc. Presenting what he was reading to his pastor and others, the response was, “So? They could be wrong.” But these are the people who gave us the idea of the Trinity, they were the witnesses to the Resurrection. If you don’t trust their testimony on contraception and infant baptism, then why believe them on anything?
It’s sort of like, Dr. Ray went on, the people who want to say, “Jesus was just a good moral teacher; that God stuff was added later by his apostles.” … but you believe that the teachings are authentic, so are the apostles reliable witnesses or not? You can’t have it both ways.
As they understood Dr. Ray was considering returning to Catholicism, people countered with the “scandal” of transsubstantiation. Dr. Ray countered with the example of an ordinary quarter. Science tells us that that quarter is 99.999% space; we perceive a solid object because of all those electrons going the speed of light around closely packed atoms. But your senses tell you that the quarter isn’t moving and it’s solid. Are you so confident that your senses see everything in the host that’s really there? (St. Thomas Aquinas talked about the “accidents” our senses perceive and the reality of what is there.)
We believe in the scandal of the Incarnation (the God of the Universe was a baby, leaking out of every available orifice… not exactly awe-inspiring, at first glance). So why not the Eucharist?
So, to finish an already long and rambling story, Dr. Ray came back to the Catholic Church and his family converted.
He closed with one final topic of conflict. Until 1930 all Christians (except for a few way-out-there fringes) condemned contraception as evil. In 1930, the Anglicans declared that contraception was morally licit, under certain restrictions that were rapidly ignored.
Did the Holy Spirit change His mind?
In 1968, the Pope called a council of twenty-three experts in various fields to advise him on the question of contraception. The council overwhelmingly (19-4) told the Pope to allow contraception, that the prohibition was outdated, people were overrunning the planet, etc.
After a break for prayer and consideration, the Pope came back in and thanked the council for their time, but that he was rejecting their advice, since we have no power to tell God He’s wrong by preventing conception where He has caused it.
The critics rolled their eyes and said, “See? That’s what you get with some old, celibate guy in charge…”
Years later, scientists discovered that oral contraceptives are frequently not contraceptive, but actually cause an abortion of an already conceived child. Other forms of contraceptives can also be abortifacient. By that time, most people were so addicted to the convenience of contraceptives, they didn’t want to hear it.
God had protected the Catholic Church, almost completely alone, from condoning the chemical Russian Roulette of contraceptives and encouraging the murders of untold millions of children.
Which is exactly what the Church teaches about itself: that God will protect the pope from teaching error in matters of faith and morals.
(Get tapes at the IHM Conference website. Dr. Ray is so much better than my summary!)