Of Converts and Keyholes

The other evening I met with a couple of Evangelical Christians who have questions about the Catholic faith. Very sincere and honest seekers they were, but having been out of the apologetics ring for some time, I had forgotten how non-Catholic Christians view the faith.

Time and again in our conversation I had the frustrating feeling that I believed most everything they believed, but that there was simply more to it. They, on the other hand, instinctively doubted what I proposed and rejected the fuller Catholic understanding of the faith.

My wife observed afterward that it was like they were looking at the whole, vast, intricate, beautiful and coherent Catholic garden through a keyhole. What they saw was not incorrect, it was just not enough.

One of my mottoes comes from F.D.Maurice, “A man is most often right in what he affirms and wrong in what he denies.” If we try to affirm what is good and true in something new we are on an upward spiral into life. “Further up and further in!” If we instinctively deny what is alien, uncomfortble, strange, or new, simply to preserve our comfort zone, we are in a downward and negative spiral.

Any serious Protestant seeker who ponders this quip will come dangerously close to the Catholic faith. They will do so, because the Catholic faith, without being syncretistic, is positively affirmative. If it is true we will have it. We’re not afraid of taking risks and fighting through the levels of half truth, lies and abuses to claim the truth wherever it lies. We want the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.

My book More Christianity picks up this theme. Written for Evangelicals, it explains the Catholic faith in a friendly way, inviting them to enter into the ‘something more’ that is the Catholic faith. We want to have ‘More Christianity” not just “Mere Christianity” Like Therese of Lisieux, that astounding teenage doctor of the Church, Catholics say, “I will have all.”

The heretic, however, looks through his keyhole, sees a narrow little vision of truth, and latches on to that at the expense of everything else. Furthermore, if he is not careful, he promotes that truth to the exclusion of everything else. Not knowing that he is looking through a keyhole he imagines that what he sees is the whole universe of Truth, and rejects anyone who tries to tell him otherwise. Furthermore, he is so set on defending his keyhold vision that he may even mistake his view of reality for the reality itself. He would deny not only that he is looking through a keyhole, but that there is even a garden or a door into that garden, and should anyone bring the key that would actually open the door into the garden he would be rejected as a lunatic.

The convert to the Catholic faith is one who, by God’s grace, has been able to realize that he is looking through the keyhole, longs to know what lies beyond the door, and goes looking for the Keeper of the Keys.

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  • Dwight, this is well written. I like your wife’s analogy. Thanks for sharing. The quote you quoted is new to me but one that I will try to remember.

  • thanks Esther! I enjoy checking your blog every day.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Brother Dwight Longenecker, Obl.O.S.B.,So when is your priestly ordination so that I can “concelebrate” from afar?

  • dear fr Stephanos, I’m not sure the best way to email you given the fences you have up, but will also respond on your site: I am ordained deacon on 29 november and priest on 14 December. I will be clothed in the Benedictine scapular to mark my oblation in clerical dress after my diaconal ordination.

  • Great anaology!Our diocese will be very blessed to have you serve us as a priest.Yours in Jesus, Mary and Joseph,Dev from Columbia, SC

  • Thanks Dev. Did I meet you when I spoke at the Newman Soc at Columbia earlier this year?