Objective or Objecting?
With the letters of Ignatius and the testimony of Peter Kreeft bearing down on him, Jeremy de Haan decided that he needed to be as objective as possible. But for some reason, his re-examination of the evidence proved to be futile.
I read Scripture with Catholic eyes and with Reformed eyes… the result of all this was that I was near despair by the end of the semester… If so many intelligent and amply-informed scholars could not agree on these issues, how could I make a decision either way?
According to de Haan, there are just some things that are impossible to understand. In his mind the fundamental content of Scripture is one of those things. From his perspective, Scripture was both Catholic and Reformed. The truth was simply inaccessible. But the perspicuity of Scripture was not all that de Haan struggled with. At some point in his thinking he had also bought into the myth of neutrality – believing that the human mind is at any point in time capable of true objectivity. But how could this be? As a fourth year seminary student, had this man really never studied the philosophy of Gordon Clark? Apparently not. For if he had he would not now perpetuate his claim to neutrality. He would not blame the facts for his own confusion. Instead he would admit that his confusion was really rebellion so that his inability to find truth was only his refusal to accept it.
What de Haan really needed was support. He needed help. Not to understand the truth of Scripture but to overcome it. Who could help with such an impossible task?
Overcomer or Undercover?
According to de Haan, he sought counsel from a Roman Catholic priest he calls Father Adam. And while he himself was inclined to resign from seminary his priest friend convinced him to remain. After all, why should de Haan forfeit his Masters? Simply because he no longer believed what he professed to believe? Nonsense.
I was ready to quit school by this point. I canceled my remaining preaching engagements and stopped teaching catechism… I was strongly tempted to walk away from my schooling and spend my time instead pursuing the Catholic question to the full… It was Father Adam who convinced me not to quit… I might as well take this time, he said, to complete my Masters and to do my best to understand what I was being taught… That was just the advice I needed.
In other words, that was the very thing I wanted to hear and it was from the source I wanted to believe. I could be a convinced Roman Catholic and still attend a Reformed Seminary. I don’t have to be an overcomer. I can be an undercover.
De Haan explains that he was able to relax now and embrace Reformed teaching anew. Only this time, he admits, it was “for the purpose of understanding and testing it.” In apologetic terms this is called Accepting something for the sake of argument.
In April of 2016 Jeremy de Haan graduated from Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary as a Master of Divinity. He describes his heart at that time as being restless and “yearning for its true home.” For de Haan seminary was, in the words of Psalm 63:1, “a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Once he graduated, he was finally able to follow his own heart. And his heart was in Rome.
De Haan provides us with a word of Wisdom,
If there is one verse that could sum up the whole process, it would be Proverbs 18:17: The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. All my life I’d been presented with the Reformed case. As a result, I had obviously been critical of Catholic teaching.”
In other words, de Haan is beginning to understand the Bible. Proverbs 18:17 teaches that whoever states their case first is wrong. And therefore whoever states their case second is right. How convenient. Does this also apply to those who were Catholic first?
God’s Word or Man’s Word?
Toward the end of his testimony de Haan goes for the gusto. In preparation for the sale he turns the tables on all who would tell him that he never really understood the Reformed Faith. According to the late Bishop Fulton Sheen, says de Haan,
There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.
With a trace of irony de Haan is saying – If you reject Roman Catholicism its probably because you don’t understand it. Of course de Haan does understand it, and if we want to know what he knows then we need to listen very carefully to his personal testimony. As Peter Kreeft was for him – he can be for us.
When I was presented with the case for Catholicism by Catholics, a much different picture emerged. I found a Christ-centered, God-glorifying, Scripture-based faith.
His final word is the assurance that Roman Catholicism is a Scripture based faith. Okay? But what does that even mean? And more importantly, how does he even know that? Did he himself test the teachings of Rome by the Scriptures and thereby confirm the doctrine of Sola Scriptura? Or did he simply accept the claims of Rome because they alone have the ability to rightly interpret the Bible? Either way de Haan is grabbing the blade and stabbing with the handle.
The basic message is that we’ll just have to take his word for it. He’s not going to present us with doctrinal arguments or theological insights. Instead, he only wants to give us a list of winsome terms and enviable descriptions of his religious experience.
De Haan writes,
I found that the essence of Catholic teaching lay in seeking after and being formed by the love, mercy, and generosity of a God whose very nature it is to give.
In other words, it wasn’t truth that he found at all; it was the infinity of God’s love.
What were all the arguments of man when compared to the infinity-encompassing love of the Father Almighty?
Just the fact that he formulates an either/or relationship between love and the truth explained, demonstrates how irrational de Haan’s conversion experience really was.
The Reality of it All
In the final analysis Jeremy de Haan left the light of the Reformation for the darkness of Roman Catholicism. Had he rightly understood the basic teachings of the Faith he once confessed, he might have been useful in the kingdom and ministry of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, he chose the pursuit of a confused heart over the teaching of Holy Scripture. The end result, as sad as it may be, is that he is no longer with us. But was he ever?
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (1 Jn. 2:19)