Stepping Out in Faith: Former Catholics Tell Their Stories is a short book edited by Mark Gilbert and published by Mathias Media, a Christian publisher located in Australia. It is an excellent book for Roman Catholics who are questioning their faith, perhaps disillusioned and wondering whether Protestantism represent the truth about life, God and salvation. It contains 11 testimonies of people who left their Catholic upbringing and came to understand and embrace the gospel message as revealed in the Bible.
There are several features about these testimonies that were common refrains.
1) Roman Catholics are not bashed as sometimes can happen among Bible believing Christians. Most of these people had strong ties to their Catholic upbringing and it was difficult for them to leave it.
2) Most of these testimonies uniformly affirmed that their Catholic upbringing led them to believe that their salvation depended on themselves instead of the finished work of Christ on their behalf. Salvation was achieved by good deeds and adherence to religious rituals and dogmas. Many were shocked to discover that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
3) Many report that their Catholic upbringing left a strong pall of guilt over them. As Angelo Porcu noted, the Catholic Church emphasized guilt instead of forgiveness. There was an oppressive spirit about many of their experiences in the church of Rome.
4) Many had never read or studied the Bible as Catholics. Studying the Bible for the first time was an eye opening experience for them as they learned things they were never taught in the Catholic Church. This opened them up to the truth of the gospel.
5) Many found that Bible believing Protestant Churches were shockingly different. They were more vibrant, friendly and relevant to their lives. The preaching was especially different and seemed to connect truth to daily living.
6) Many of the testimonies report that the priests in the Catholic Church did not seem very concerned for them individually. Sometimes the priests could not be trusted. There was an uneasiness about the idea that a priest could forgive sins. Furthermore, many lied to the priest in confession fearing to reveal the truth about the real sin in their lives.
7) For many, it took a long time to leave the Catholic Church. Even though many of these people did not have what I would consider a strong commitment to Roman Catholicism, just mainly going through the motions, it was still extremely difficult to give up everything they had grown up with. Mark Gilbert, the editor of the book, describes himself attending mass on Sunday for 10 years while simultaneously attending a Protestant Bible study during that same time. He continued to go to mass because he felt a certain obligation, whereas he went to the Bible study because he loved it.
8) For most of these former Catholics, their introduction to the gospel came through ordinary Bible believing Protestants who had the courage to share the truth with them. No one’s conversion was instantaneous. Often they went to a Protestant Church or Bible study they were invited to by an attendee and remained for some time before becoming convinced of the truth they were hearing. It was a slow learning process often marked by key events along the way that opened their eyes a little more to the truth.
This is a great book to give to a Catholic friend who is interested in the Bible and the gospel. It is non-offensive but very frank about the struggles many people have with their Catholic upbringing. It is a very interesting, easy and enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.