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)

About The Author

I am the guy who knows in part, and sees through a glass darkly.

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16 Responses

  1. Hugh McCann

    Good warning, Paul.

    Isaiah 8:20, front and center.

    After Jason Stellman’s demise, I began investigating Bryan Cross and the Reformed targeted by Called to Communion.

    The claims of venerability, stability, supremacy, and exclusivity weigh heavily on the starry-eyed (doe-eyed) youth, ungrounded in Scripture or the gospel. The un-born-again are easily manipulated into such cultic thinking as “Fathers” and councils, popes, and Scripture-twisters are proudly paraded and dutifully given WAY too much shrift when then should be corrected, exposed, and denounced in no uncertain terms.

    Blessings to all you Reformers contending for the solas, TULIP, et. al., grounded in Scripture alone as our ultimate authority.

  2. matt

    I was thinking 1 John 2:19 all the way thru the reading of this and then at the end, voila!

    • Paul Liberati

      You got it Matt. Which is why there is no need for us to be unsettled at these so called “conversions.” Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that he is the only Redeeming Shepherd – who not only laid down his life for his sheep, but as the Risen Shepherd he continues to call, gather, protect, and preserve his sheep to the end – Psalm 23! Our Savior has given us this infallible assurance by an unshakable promise; therefore we are safe with him from whose hand none can snatch us away. John 10!

  3. Tony

    “…left the light of the Reformation for the darkness of Roman Catholicism”? Funny yet sad, how the Reformed world reacts with such bewilderment and horror when anyone from their ranks actually discovers the fullness of the Christian faith in communion with Christ’s duly authorized Vicar in Rome.

    Dig deeper. The question isn’t about a “bible-based church” but rather a “Church-based Bible.” And how many Churches did Jesus establish on earth? The answers are there, for those willing to discern.

    • Paul Liberati

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately the whole idea of your pope being a “duly authorized vicar” for Jesus Christ has no basis in the Word of God. The Reformed Church believes that the Holy Spirit is the only authorized Vicar for Christ, and by virtue of what it means to be a Christian, His anointing is common to all true believers. I know you will not agree, and that’s fine. But to answer your question, I would say that fundamentally, there is only one Church. However, I would also point out that this one church is not an institution which has its origins in the NT era.

      • Tony

        So there’s One Church, but it’s NOT a visible entity that goes back to the time of Christ?! Three questions then: a) How do we even know it exists? b) How do we know that Christ actually founded it? And c) If it didn’t originate at the Hand of Christ Himself, then how do we have any confidence that this “invisible church” is preaching anything worthwhile at all?

        Anyway, the Petrine primacy among the Apostles (hence the papacy) is indeed in Scripture–although not readily seen with just a casual, surface-level understanding. Christ gave Peter *keys*–why? Why not a new boat or fishing gear? What do keys symbolize? Isaiah 22:21-22. If the king leaving to go somewhere, he deputized a trusted viceroy (vicar) to rule in his absence, who’ll carry out his will & laws until the king returns. And before the King of Kings headed home to Heaven for awhile until His return, He vested Peter with His authority to govern the earthly Kingdom, the Church. Peter alone was thrice given Jesus’ command “Feed my sheep,” and to Peter alone Jesus gives the charge to, after his restoration to grace, “strengthen your brothers”–i.e. minister to the other Apostles. In the opening chapters of Acts, we already see Peter exercising his leadership as spokesman for the Twelve.

        In fact, Peter’s very first act in Acts was to call a consistory–naming a new Apostle to take the place of Judas. This demonstrates that the role of Apostles (bishops, including the top bishop, i.e. pope) was meant to be passed on to successors. So Francis today and Peter back then = same office. Shalom!

      • josefrancisva

        At the last count more 45000 independent “Bible based” Churches exist.
        How do I know which is the right one? Some even claim to be based on
        “Apostolic Activity”. What about Early Fathers who consulted persons who
        had met and listened to apostles? Should we discard their interpretations
        and embrace (whom amon 45,000) the rabbles babble? The Eastern
        Orthodox Churches too have a definite opinion about Early Fathers.
        Read them up and their history is my advice as an traditional Christian
        from Cochin, India. My people were Christians before Europeans became
        Christians. Read history of both Catholic and Orthodox Churches.It will change your perspective.

  4. Paul Liberati

    Hi Tony, I have responded to your comment below:

    //So there’s One Church, but it’s NOT a visible entity that goes back to the time of Christ?!//

    Actually, I never said that. The Scriptures teach that the Church is indeed a visible entity. My point, however, was that the Church actually pre-dates the advent of Jesus Christ, which is why Stephen called the OT saints under Moses, “the Church (ekklesia) in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38).

    //Anyway, the Petrine primacy among the Apostles (hence the papacy) is indeed in Scripture–although not readily seen with just a casual, surface-level understanding.//

    Well, that depends on what you mean by Petrine primacy. Sure he was the leading spokesman, but Scripture doesn’t teach that he held the highest “rank” among the apostles. Galatians 2:9 gives us three apostles who were considered to be “pillars.” Peter was in no way singled out.

    //Christ gave Peter *keys*–why?//

    I would say, For the same reason he gave All the apostles keys, only two chapters later.

    //What do keys symbolize?//

    What did Jesus say the keys signified? Authority to bind and loose. Again, all the apostles were given this authority – see Matthew 18:15-20.

    //He vested Peter with His authority to govern the earthly Kingdom, the Church.//

    Where did you get this idea from? I would like to know.

    //Peter’s very first act in Acts was to call a consistory–naming a new Apostle to take the place of Judas.//

    No. You are seeing what you want to see there. First, Peter “called” no meeting. In those days the disciples regularly gathered together. Second, Peter “named” no apostle. Two men were chosen by the disciples, and then they cast lots to see which God had chosen. Third, Peter was not initiating this election by his own authority. He simply appealed to Scripture, which explicitly commanded that a new apostle be installed. “Let another man take his office” was not a papal pronouncement, it was a direct quotation from Psalm 109:8.

    Again Tony, thank you for your participation.

  5. Paul Liberati

    Hi Jose, thank you for your comment.

    // My people were Christians before Europeans became Christians.//

    I understand that your heritage is important to you. Unfortunately, historical primacy cannot be the determining factor for what is true and what is false. This is especially evident in the history of the Church. Wouldn’t you agree that the understanding of the Church, and the formulation of her doctrine was progressive, and in large measure, necessitated by circumstance?

    It would seem backwards then, to say that those who “came first” were more accurate in their interpretations of Scripture. Concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, we might wish to ask who was more accurate: Origen or Augustine? If you are Eastern in your view, then just replace Augustine with John of Damascus and answer the question. That should shed some light on the matter.

    • Tony

      True, longevity isn’t the ultimate measure of what’s true; there are lies that have stuck around for ages. But in some cases, there’s a non-causal correlation. Protestantism, for example, is not only a latecomer in terms of Christianity–it also happens to be a departure from from revealed Truth!

      • Paul Liberati

        Hi Tony,

        Did you have a particular teaching in mind? It’s only fair that you specify your accusation, and give us an opportunity to respond. Thanks!

  6. Sue McKeown

    While everyone here wants to discuss which church (or denomination) is the “true” church, why not apply a simple formula: Can you affirm everything in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanathasian Creeds? If yes, your church is a true church; if no, it is not. The rest is all details. Does Jesus really care as long as people know Him as their Savior and Lord, partake of the sacrements (whether defined as two, seven, or two required or five optional), grow in their faith, and love and serve Him to the best of their ability?

    • Paul Liberati

      Hi Sue,

      I’m afraid you’ll have to help me here. Are you suggesting that Jesus is Okay with people inventing sacraments? How would you feel about eleven sacraments?


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