December 1, 2009

Intellectual Conversion

This has been a hard year for us, financially, physically, and emotionally. It's hit me on more than one occasion how important intellectual conversion is. If my conversion had been purely emotional or spiritual, I think I'd be in a very bad place right now.

Faith and emotional conversion are both important. But if that's all we have, what happens when those are tested? It's easy to be a faithful Catholic when you're filled with love of God, but what about the times when you feel lost and forgotten?

My husband works with a man who attends a Pentecostal church that believes in speaking in tongues, where much emphasis is placed on "being filled with the Spirit." As he tells it, jumping around and speaking in tongues proves that you're living a righteous life. That seems like a lot of pressure to me, especially since they expect public displays.

Like a lot of people, I was converted to Christ emotionally first. I had a personal experience that led me to God. But my conversion to Catholicism specifically was much more intellectual. I've read of people having profound moments before the Eucharist that made them convert, or such things, but it wasn't like that for me. Actually, I was pretty resistant. But in reading early church history and Catholic apologetics, Catholicism seemed the only logical choice to me. I wanted to worship God in His way, not mine. Initially it wasn't what I wanted, but of course I grew to love Christ's Church and went through an emotional conversion later.

I think that "intellectual conversion" can sound cold, but it actually brings me a lot of comfort. When I'm suffering and feel emotionally that God is distant or not there at all, I know intellectually that He is, and that my feelings of abandonment will pass. If my belief rested solely on feeling my heart aflame with passion for Christ, I don't know that I could have made it through things like losing Dominic with my faith intact, because I certainly was not thinking about how swell God was while I was miscarrying.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this later!


Theresa said...

I understand, Katie. For me it seems also that the intellectual aspects of belief can fuel the emotional aspects of belief. It's not as cold as the word "intellectual" may sound.

Sarah said...

This is a beautiful post, Katie! And SO very true. The beauty of the Cathoic faith is that the deeper you dig, the more you study, the stronger your faith will become. It is clearly the Truth, because, like you said, historically and intellectually, it is the olny faith that adds up.
I don't think "intellectual faith / conversion" sounds cold at all. I think it shows that your conversion was genuine and lasting. It is the best kind of conversion one can have!

Shelley said...

Really excellent, Katie, and I can totally identify, especially since I came from one of those Pentecostal churches. I attended that church from age 14 to age 37 and eventually, it just exhausted me.

Intellectually, I felt like I'd reached the end of what that denomination had to offer - it's not that I'm so smart, it's that the church was just not that deep. Emotionally and spiritually, I was wrung out. I was tired of relating to Jesus as if he were my big buddy who'd be out in the foyer passing out bulletins after the service.

When I first began my conversion to Catholicism, I had no idea that's where I was going. I thought I was just searching for a less superficial spirituality - I would have had a cow if someone had told me then that Catholicism is where I'd find the answers to what I was looking for. After that intellectual conversion, the spiritual/emotional weren't too long in following. I feel like I was captivated by Jesus, mind-spirit-heart in the depth and breadth of the Catholic Church.

saintos said...

I'm a former pentecostal protestant minister, who converted in January of 06 along with my family of five* and I thank God pretty much daily for His grace and for the beauty of an intellectual conversion which is very much a part of a conversion of the heart, is very much "Spirit" filled (or it is nothing at all) and is every bit the lead in to a faith with is not in conflict with Reason. God, I love our Church!

We've experienced real financial hardship, throughout "ministry" but especially as a result of becoming Catholic (heck, I lost my job) so when I will do what I can to remember to pray for you and your family in that regard.

I found your blog via a comment (and a dandy one) on CMR today. So glad I did.


*I read your bio and so appreciate how you describe your family. I speak of our children in just the same way; father of three and one in heaven. Joel would be 22 this year.

Michelle said...

Katie, I was raised Catholic but as I got older I started to question why I believed what I did. I am a very intellectual person and the more I dug into my faith and the history of the Church I knew that not only was I in the right place but I could understand why I believed what I do. It was such a beautiful thing and still brings me comfort to.

To know that I can experience both the emotional parts of our faith as well as tie it into facts, logic and Truth... well, it just brings my faith to life for me.