My Search for Truth
by Robert W. Mangan
The article below presents a summary form of Rob Mangan’s faith journey. The longer article, entitled My Journey of Faith: How Jesus Brought Me Home, may be downloaded as an 18-page PDF, with an introduction by Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP.
By 2005 I had been coasting on my Christian worldview but hadn’t really made any progress. I was still sticking to my faith in Christ, but I knew it was just a little different then the mainstream Christians that I had grown up with. What was the difference I felt? I still kept that thought in the back of my head that somehow there had to be a more grounded way to interpret scripture accurately. It couldn’t just be a free for all among Christians.
Of course, I assumed the Holy Spirit would guide true Christians to the truth of Scripture, but now it seemed that good Christian people had very different interpretations. I had been taught to test Scripture with Scripture, and that the truth could be found when you honestly look at the whole picture and context of the passages in question. This was the logical and intellectual approach to understanding the Bible. You couldn’t, for example, take a text like “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” literally without understanding the context or purpose of the passage. What about the many people who do not have Bibles, or the ability to study the Scriptures who could easily come to faulty conclusions? The solution was to teach them to interpret scripture correctly. To give them knowledge that would direct them into the truth. So it seemed fairly clear that the Holy Spirit alone was not giving people a miraculous understanding of scripture. In addition, people needed to obtain some knowledge as well.
Even though I had questions about the truths of certain aspects of my faith, I still believed that Jesus saved me, and that people needed to know Jesus as their Savior to enter heaven. In fact, I met a girl whom I asked a very simple question to in order to find out if she knew Jesus the way I did. I asked, “If you were standing at the gates of Heaven and God said to you ‘Why should I let you in?’ what would you say?” I was hoping to hear “Because Jesus died for my sins and I’ve accepted Him into my heart.” Instead got, “I’ve been a pretty good person,” As a result, I ended the courtship after a short effort of trying to explain to her the importance of inviting Christ into your life. She was a professing Catholic, even though I had no knowledge of her level of involvement or understanding of her faith, this alone was enough to convince me that Catholics, in general, believe that they will be saved by doing more good than bad. It seemed clear to me that Catholics were not being taught correctly from the Bible. Most of the one’s I knew didn’t seem to know much about the Bible, and I believed that it was a result of their religiosity. How else could they have missed such a clear teaching?
In June of 2006, my Aunt’s son passed away suddenly at a young age, and I came back to Illinois, after a short stint in Texas, to help with the grieving process. I saw the pain that she, a Catholic, was facing and I thought it would be a great opportunity to explain to her how having a personal relationship with Jesus could help her deal with that pain. I felt it was an opportunity to bring her away from the ritualistic Catholic lifestyle that she knew and present her with a true faith in Jesus that wasn’t based on works. I saw it as an act of love. I truly wanted to help her fill what I perceived as a void in her life.
As time went on in our relationship, we began to share a little more about our faith with each other. She wasn’t looking to leave her Catholic faith, and in fact she began to challenge some of my impressions of Catholic doctrine. Like any good and conscientious Christian who is challenged about faith, I felt an obligation to find out what the Catholic Church taught. I didn’t think it would be fair, for example, to say that they worship Mary or pray for the dead if it weren’t true. And if anything I considered strange might be true, I wanted to discover the catholic basis for that belief. I had already brushed up on Catholic theology by reading some books and pamphlets on Catholicism, but I realized that everything I had learned about them came from authors who were not Catholic. So I figured it was time to see what people who call themselves Catholic had to say about those beliefs.
So I began a journey, searching, reading, and praying. I began a journey that led me to an even deeper faith—one that I had not yet experienced and, therefore, did not even know I was missing.
I figured I’d start with trying to find an author who was a non-Catholic and had converted. The first book I found on the subject was David Currie’s Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. I was shocked at how similar our paths were, and how he had spent many years in Christian ministry and yet somehow found his way to the Catholic Church. I thought I’d be able to see some bogus reason for the change. Maybe he had a bad experience, or he somehow was misguided by his emotions.
Instead, I found a very intellectual reason for his conversion. It made sense in a way that I could relate to. He praised his non-Catholic background. I was drawn by his compassion and love for the Christian past he had. Yet, somehow he found even more through the Catholic Church, and that surprised me. It wasn’t as if something seemed to be missing before he found it. It was more like finding something you never knew existed—so you never really had anything to miss. I compared it to my father. To this day I have never met my biological father. People would ask me if I missed not having a father growing up. I would simply say that there was nothing to miss. I had no reference point. I didn’t know what it felt like to have a father and then not have one. Many of the families I grew up around came from broken homes. I really never felt out of place or different—until well into my teen years when people would start asking more questions about my home life.
Even though at this point things were going pretty well spiritually I felt like I had a pretty good handle on my faith in Christ and was striving to follow Him —I didn’t expect to find something more in the Catholic Church. But I did. I began to see some of the things that were missing, even though, at the time, I didn’t know they were missing.
I began a process of studying many different aspects of the Catholic faith. I needed to see if there was any teaching that contradicted scripture. I needed to study the history of the Church, and I had to tackle the questions of theology. The more I dived into my studies, the more I was convinced. I was able to use the same skills I developed in college, and in years of Bible studies and personal readings, to gauge the validity of the Catholic claims. In the end, I couldn’t believe how sensible and logical it was to believe that the Catholic Church was the Christian Church from the beginning.
Robert Mangan and his wife, Elena, and their two sons, live in the suburbs of Chicago. Rob has spent much of his life working in the computer industry and being involved in sports, among other things. He has coached volleyball and basketball, and also worked as an athletic director for homeschool sports programs. After becoming an evangelical Christian at the age of 17, Rob attended Moody Bible Institute where his knowledge of the Bible would serve as a foundation for his faith for years to come. In October of 2010, at the age of 40, Rob joined the Catholic Church, and continues to learn and grow in his Christian faith.