Back in 2007/2008 I was moving towards a return to the church..
I was also still attending a small midweek bible study in a friends house.
My Catholic leanings were preturbing a couple of the ladies there who tried to help me to see the grave mistake they felt I was making.
For a while, every week I got a new challenge or a tract offered to me to read.
I always agreed cheerfully to read the tracts and listen to the objections. I still have one which is called "The Error of Rome".
I went away and read it and looked up all the references and claims and searched for the Catholic rebuttals to see if they could hold water.
The following week I would return the tract with little pencil markings and notes in the margins and explain what I had learned about the catholic position as a result of researching the claims made in the tract.
Over the weeks the warmth and friendship of these two women, and the keen interest they had shown in me started to cool to a quiet froideur.
They became disinterested in me to the point of rudeness.
When I cracked a joke, they no longer even smiled ( such iron self control! )
I was hurt by their coldness towards me and felt, and still do, that their earlier interest in me had been because they saw me as another scalp for their collection of people they had managed to get "saved".
They were, I think, angry with me for not responding to their challenges in the way they had hoped and expected I would.
In fact, to their frustration, each challenge seemed to be driving me further into the bosom of Rome, or, more correctly (in their view) to the Whore of Babylon.
I'm pretty sure that I'm right in guessing that their friendship was conditional on me accepting their message, and when they saw that I wasn't compliant, they washed their hands of me.
Both of them were baptised Catholics themselves and had considerable personal issues and anger with the Catholic church.
But many of their objections were just not intellectually credible. Often the pieces they gave me to read were badly written and flaky. When we had a discussion they quickly got heated up and emotional and so I have few memories of any really rational or interesting exchanges.
I wasn't angry or hurt by their attempts to save me from Popery. I felt that they probably sincerely felt my soul was in peril and were trying to help me. I was more hurt by their stubborn refusal to have a proper discussion about it and their subsequent cold shouldering of me.
It seemed to me that they just wanted me to be persuaded by the strength of their second hand arguments without putting any effort in themselves.
They wanted to tell me that the Popes hat was fashioned after the pagan fish god "Dagon" ( or dagon the pagon to his mates) and for me to simply accept that and ask no further questions.
I'm not an intellectual snob, I'm not even an intellectual, but it was all so unintelligent.
Some of it was unintelligent to the point of being cretinously stupid.
Nothing is wasted though, and it was a very useful time.
I learned a bit about some key anti catholic influences.
typically the same sources would crop up: The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, A Woman Rides The Beast by Dave Hunt and Roman Catholicism by Loraine Boettner.
After those weeks of back and forth in the bible study home group, I had covered most of the key objections to Catholicism and I can honestly say I gave the objections a fair crack of the whip.
The more I read, the more impressed I was by the coherence and scriptural solidity of Catholic doctrine.
It was very helpful to me in helping me to explore some difficult questions and to see if they held up under scrutiny. They did.
At around the time of the Popes visit last year, I saw this video on the Catholic Voices website.
I have been meaning to post it here ever since, but it just stayed at the bottom of the "to do" pile.
I finally found it and watched it again tonight with the husband and one of the boys.
It is a debate between Duncan Boyd of the Protestant Truth Society and Peter Williams, a "Catholic Voice".
The motion under debate is "We believe the Popes visit will be good for this country". Which was a little strange to me as it was pretty obvious that that was not a sentiment shared by the Revelation TV studio audience .
I was hugely impressed by the way Peter handled himself in this discussion. The audience was overwhelmingly on the side of his pugnacious opponent, who only needed to shift in his seat, or cross his legs to get a round of applause.
There were only three catholics in the audience. I know that because one of them was a friend of ours ( he makes a point about the deuterocanonical books at about 00.53)
Many hoary old anti catholic chestnuts were tossed around and Peter Williams deals with each one with the efficiency and poise of a champion batsman.
I got the impression that most of the audience weren't really listening and had turned up expecting to see their man hitting some easy and straightforward home runs and giving the catholic a scripture lesson he wouldn't forget.
I'm pretty sure they weren't expecting to see the rather haughty Mr Boyd of the Protestant Truth Society being put so firmly on the back foot.
And to see it done with such good grace and finesse, well, for me it was just a pleasure.
Even a particularly aggressive question from the audience at 01.22 fails to throw him and he responds with the same patient good grace.
It's well worth watching, and learning from. I hope we see more of Peter Williams.
Catholic Voices: Peter Williams debates in Revelation TV from Jack Valero on Vimeo.