When Nolan and I were in college, he took a class that used the book, The Holiness of God, written by R.C. Sproul. The book had a tremendous impact on Nolan and he went on to read more of Sproul’s work. Sproul is the head of Ligonier Ministries in Pennsylvania and a well-known Reformed theologian. Later on during our ministry, Nolan ordered a series of videos Sproul had done aimed at youth. I don’t recall the title of the series, but it was excellent. However, there was one comment Sproul made in that video that had a very unexpected impact on me.
He said, “I am Protestant by conviction.”
That struck me quite strongly because I had recently started to ask some friends of ours, who were Catholic, a few questions. My concern was to try to figure out whether Catholics were actually Christians or not.
John and Chris were not just Catholics, but knowledgeable ones. I also knew from a few conversations with them that they took their faith very seriously. On one occasion I mentioned to Chris the possibility of someday one of our kids and one of theirs dating. A strange look passed her face and I said, “Would ours have to be a Catholic to marry one of yours?” With a look of cautious concern (she didn’t want to offend, but had to be truthful), Chris nodded. Dating and marrying a non-Catholic was not be an option they wanted for their kids. Interesting, I thought. Nolan and I felt the same way about ours.
John and Chris had moved since that conversation, but we kept up through e-mail and I started asking them a few questions about how they viewed salvation, etc. While Nolan saw this as an evangelization opportunity, I was surprised that they not only gave reasonable and scriptural answers, but asked some questions back that, as I thought them through, didn’t have answers I considered truly solid (I’ll get back to this later.)
Now, here I was listening to RC Sproul talking about being Protestant by conviction. I turned to Nolan, “I’m not Protestant by conviction; I’m Protestant by habit. I’ve never considered anything else.” Nolan and I had our college degrees and a lifetime of studying and memorizing Scripture, but had we ever really looked at anyone else’s beliefs or just assumed our own were correct? It was a question that stuck in my head for a very long time.