About a year ago I was helping a customer at the register and she mentioned that she was going to hear Peter Kreeft speak. I told her that I enjoyed many of his writings and she told me she did too. But then she added, “I want to ask him why he became a Catholic. I’ve never understood why he would do that.” She asked me if I knew and I said I didn’t. Sometime later I happened to be reading his book Ecumenical Jihad and I discovered the answer to this lady’s question. It all started with his study of the early church in general but it was his study of the Eucharist in particular that captured his attention. He writes:
“I was totally bowled over by the discovery that every description of early Christian worship centered on the Eucharist and that the Real Presence was universally assumed long before it was defined. A Protestant taking a time machine back to any time at all before the Reformation would not feel at home. I knew that, because I was that Protestant, and history is a time machine, and I did not feel at home. He would feel that he had stumbled into a Catholic church. The center of worship was the Eucharist, not the Bible; the altar, not the pulpit; the consecration of the bread and wine, not the preaching of the sermon.” (148)
“So the Eucharist, above all else, brought me in by this historical route. I needed a rational route too. Rationally, the argument was this: it was an either/or argument, parallel to the famous old argument for Christ’s divinity that goes aut dues aut homo malus, ‘either God or a bad man”. That argument proves that the man who claimed to be God could not possibly be simply a good man. He must be either God or a bad man: a liar or a lunatic. Similarly, the Eucharist was either to be worshipped or to be detested as gross idolatry. If the Church was wrong here, she was horribly, blasphemously wrong, bowing to bread and worshipping wine. (But then, how could she have produced such saints?) But if she was right, she was divinely right.” (149)
I mention this little anecdote because this week we will be receiving a new book by Christian Smith called How to Go from Being A Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps from Cascade Books. I’ve not seen it yet but it has some strong endorsements Francis Beckwith, Mark Noll and Thomas Howard. Christian Smith is very much on my radar right now because I’m reading another of his books that is forthcoming from Brazos Press called The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. Kevin Vanhoozer describes it as “slap across the conservative evangelical face.” I have to second that assessment. I’ll tell you more after I’ve finished the book. Next week I’ll be on vacation so I’m making a list of books to bring along and Smith is at the top of the list.