Pardon my being nearly two decades late, but a loved one recently brought to my attention an article by David Hagopian, Esq., entitled Romeward Bound: Evaluating Why Protestants Convert to Catholicism. It was originally published in an OPC church's magazine Antithesis, and is available here (at 11), and here. I would like to comment on this article; as near as I can Google, no one else has.
Mr. Hagopian analyzes, and asserts the fallacy of, a plethora of conversions from Protestantism to Catholicism. His goal is to help "Protestants to come to grips with the reasons why these Neocatholics [(his term)] have set their compasses toward Rome, because only then will Protestants be able to see some of the shortcomings of their espoused faith..." (internal citations omitted).
Tradition. Hagopian cites tradition as that which Neocatholics embrace "above all else". They think Catholicism is far "richer" because of its unique claims to living tradition and the teaching authority of the Apostles' successors.
He attempts to show the fallacy of this reason for conversion by first taking up the Catholic claim that the Church was founded on Peter, the rock. While conceding that "some Protestants" handle Matthew 16 ("for thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my church") poorly, he addresses the Neocatholic's "unconvincing", question-begging interpretation of this passage. Even if Peter is the "rock" to which Christ referred, "Neocatholics simply assume that Christ thereby gave Peter papal authority" (emphasis in original). They "also assume that this passage grants a right of succession". Finally, "[u]ntil and unless Neocatholics can prove that Christ, in Matthew 16, specifically granted Peter papal authority and that Christ thereby intended to establish an unbroken chain of apostolic succession from Peter onward (both of which are read into the text), they have not met the exegetical burden that is incumbent upon them."
The last sentence speaks of an essential matter that I was surprised to see a lawyer presuppose. His argument is this: Catholics assume that Matthew 16 gave to Peter the papacy, and that this involved a right of succession, but since they cannot prove these assumptions, their position is false. His surprising presupposition is that the "burden" here is "incumbent" upon Catholics. But, I wonder, why would the onus probandi be on Catholics in their interpretation? If the Church Fathers refer to Peter as having some form of primacy over all the Bishops, and if the Church has maintained throughout the centuries that the Petrine See involved a type of succession, it seems instead that the onus is "incumbent" upon the party proferring an alternative understanding of Christ's designation of Peter as "rock" (if one insists on having burdens of proof at all). Perhaps Mr. Hagopian disagrees with this view of history, but in that case he would do well to address the matter, instead of presupposing that Neocatholics bear any burden in interpreting Matthew 16. Also, his argument presupposes that Catholics, or at least Neocatholics, look to prove their positions from Scripture alone.
He does address history enough to dispute Catholicism's claims to be the Church dating back to "antiquity". In a few sentences he seeks to debunk this claim. He tells us that, "along with dispensationalism, Catholicism simply assumes that the church sprang up in the first century A.D.", but that the proper "truly covenantal view" sees that the Church did not begin on Easter, but when God declared a covenant people for Himself (i.e., the Jews). "Thus", to be connected with antiquity, one should be Reformed Protestant.
I believe this is a non sequitur: if one believes that one should be affiliated with the church where it has ties to antiquity, since antiquity began with the Jews of the Old Covenant, one should be Reformed Protestant. How is Reformed Protestantism more affiliated with covenantal Jewish antiquity than, say, Orthodox Judaism? I believe Mr. Hagopian's position is that since the Reformed recognize the spiritual nature of the church as the new covenantal People of God, they therefore share in that nature. And since they share in it, they are the proper tie to "antiquity". But I believe Catholics also recognize that God has maintained a Covenant People from the Old Covenant onward (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1093). Therefore, they would seem to have a claim to "antiquity" either under the Neocatholics' purported view (back to the first Easter) or Mr. Hagopian's view (back to the Covenant with Abraham).
Also, Mr. Hagopian did not discuss how a 3rd or 10th or 14th century Christian would feel about this proposition on antiquity. I believe Christians of those eras would have held as today's Neocatholic does, namely, that their ties to the Christ-commissioned (new) Church validates their orthodoxy. As Christ is the culmination of the Old Covenant, a proper line of affiliation with Him is a line of affiliation to all of redemptive history.
To be continued (next up: Sola scriptura)...