The Evangelical WORLD Magazine has an editorial posted called Church Hoppin’ to Rome, in which the author, Anthony Bradley, attempts to explain why so many young Protestants are becoming Catholic. Bradley especially credits the instability of the typical Protestant upbringing:
I was recently in a room full of young adults raised in evangelical America. To my surprise, there was not a single person who had been raised in one congregation or denomination—they’d all changed churches at least two or three times. I’m not surprised, then, that we find among this generation a longing for tradition and consistency—especially in a culture of broken families and high levels of geographic mobility. People want to call something “home.”
He also references Scot McKnight’s well-known article “From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic” which I highly recommend for an Evangelical look at the “Catholic problem” (although I find it humorous that he could only think of tiny Wheaton – home of the Evangelical Wheaton College – as the central city of Evangelicalism). McKnight’s article gives four main reasons for Evangelical-Catholic conversions: (1) a desire for certainty, (2) a desire for history, (3) a desire for unity, and (4) a desire for authority.
Bradley continues his own article by noting the lack of unity within Protestantism, the problem of using Scripture as really the only rule of faith, and the lack of an intellectual tradition in most of Protestantism.
I think there is much truth in what Bradley writes; after all, if there were no problems within Protestantism, why would any of its members look elsewhere? But what I don’t see in Bradley’s aticle is a deeper look at the reasons for Protestantism’s problems, especially its profound disunity. Why is it that since Luther put the nail in the Wittenburg door, Protestantism has been fundamentally a history of schisms and divisions? Why has it never been a united church, even on such essentials as the meaning of Baptism and the Eucharist? Bradley notes that the Catholic and Orthodox churches often have a unity that is “often cosmetic,” yet any honest observer of the various Christian traditions has to marvel at the unity of both those communions compared to the divisions of Protestantism. There must be something fundamentally different in the foundations of Protestantism and the apostolic churches which has led to such different results.
I think a major reason so many Protestants have become Catholic recently is that they have realized that after 500 years of divisions, there is really no chance for them to find “one body, one spirit, one faith” like they can in the Catholic Church. It is just not possible in a community that is founded on each person’s individual interpretation of the Bible. As more and more Evangelicals realize this, the path from Wheaton to Rome will get more and more traffic.