...occurred when the doctrine of sola scriptura got wobbly.
Truth be told, until sometime in the fall of 2000, I had never even heard of the Latin name for "scripture alone." I had simply grown up, la-di-da, in my evangelical, Bible-based church and later my (conservative) college fellowship group, believing that the only way to understand or approach the Bible was to believe that it was inerrant, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and God's revelation to the world. It was the ultimate--and only--authority on how to live our lives and be Christ-like, and everything in it could be trusted to be (literally) true. It was Truth.
For over 20 years the entirety of what I believed about God, the world, me, and my life's purpose, was based on that premise. It never occured to me to suspect, question, wonder, ponder, or consider sola scriptura to be potentially flawed - or (God forbid) unBiblical.
Closely tied to sola scriptura, by the way, was the idea that there is Absolute Truth out there...and it can be known. Ravi Zacarias gave eloquent talks at Harvard University's Veritas Forum when I was in college, trouncing with his impeccable logic the idea that relativism had any merit.
So for decades I lived my life, comfortable and secure in the knowledge that I knew the Truth (Jesus), was living the Truth (the commands of the Bible), that the interpretations and applications of the Bible passed down to me through my evangelical church (and pastor) were the Truth.
Like many of my life lessons and epiphanies, my "a-ha" moment around sola scriptura occurred thanks to a boy (why so many of my life lessons and epiphanies revolve around boys is a subject for another post). During my relationship with the first man I truly loved, I began looking into Catholic theology because he was a diehard, dyed-in-the-wool Italian Catholic, and firmly stated early in our dating life that if we were to ever marry, I would have to convert.
As a good Protestant I believed Catholics largely to be going to hell in a handbasket. But Bill was such a Christ-like, enthusiastic, charismatic, Bible-studying Christian that I agreed to start reading Catholic theology to see what their deal was. It seemed like the Whore of Babylon couldn't possibly have produced a real Christian like Bill...so the devilish nature of Catholicism was suddenly up for grabs. Maybe it wasn't 100% bad, after all. During that phase - which lasted well over a year - I came upon the testimonies of a number of evangelical Christians who had "crossed the Tiber" - become Catholic. Many of these converts' stories revolved around the realization that the splintering of the church via Protestantism, first at the Reformation, but later as the number of Protestant denominations proliferated, raised a very serious question about who really does "own" the Truth. Which denomination is right?
To my great horror, I began to see that my founded-in-1884-by-Swedes-in-Minneapolis denomination's insistence that they understood the Scriptures correctly, better than Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and definitely better than Catholics was a patently ridiculous idea. Why on earth could or would God let everybody else calling on His name understand his Word incorrectly, but He would preserve His truth and real teachings through a 120-year old denomination started in the Great Plains of the United States?