Ken Hensley: An American Baptist Minister Who Became A Catholic

For more information about this series of posts and this TV series, see this page.

The twenty-third episode of The Journey Home is titled “Ken Hensley: An American Baptist Minister Who Became A Catholic” and aired March 27, 1998. It can be viewed online here.

For the first time, this episode has a guest who describes himself as a skeptic. When his friend converted to Christianity, he said that he asked for proof. This is exciting! Then, the inevitable letdown: he converted because he read the New Testament and was convinced god called him to believe in it.

Seriously?

Do I need to bring up again that Jesus cursed a fig tree to die for not bearing a fig out of season (Mark 11:12-14 , Matthew 21:19)?

Now, perhaps I should re-read the New Testament for myself. I don’t think I’ve done that since I lost faith, though my upbringing left me fairly familiar with it. Perhaps there is something I’ve missed, and the other skeptics who have read the Bible have missed. I think it more likely, however, that Ken Hensley either was not as skeptical as he claims, or failed to apply his skepticism on this issue. Nonetheless, I have every intention of re-reading the entire Bible, possibly multiple times.

Ken also says that he thinks he was “schizophrenic” because he thought the Catholic Church had no truth, and yet would pray with Catholic monks and value certain ideas of Catholicism. This is… not what schizophrenia is. He’s thinking of multiple personality disorder. Also, that’s not multiple personalities; it’s just being human. Every one of us has a split brain.

Later in the episode, Ken goes into more detail about his conversion. Essentially, he had been reading a lot of books from a Christian perspective, and it was reading Paul’s conversion story and letters specifically, with everything from the other books in mind, that led him to think “this is all true”. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this is not a proper skeptical method, unless he’s leaving out important details. A proper use of skepticism would involve, I think, also exploring arguments against Christianity, although perhaps those were less widely available twenty or thirty years ago. Ken Daniels, who wrote Why I Believed, explains how his deconversion process involved reading a great deal of books both for and against Christianity. Other deconversion stories I have read have a similar pattern. For myself, I only started really reading books against Christianity after I was already convinced it isn’t true.

I do not mean to say that Ken Hensley wasn’t a “true skeptic”. I don’t know for sure, and I’m not qualified to make that judgement from here. What I am saying is that he does not appear, from his own descriptions here, to have applied skepticism properly to Christianity. As I mentioned previously, he might be leaving out important details that would change my mind about that. It could be worth it to find and read his book.

In any case, because I do have that opinion, and because he was a serious Christian before he converted to Catholicism, I am going to count him as a serious Christian.

I might be gaming the system a little bit with this count list. I’ll have to revisit how I’m gathering these statistics and most likely expand them.

So far, our breakdown of the guests’ religious state before conversion to Catholicism looks like this.

  • Serious Christian: 16
  • Always Catholic: 4
  • Lax Christian: 1
  • Non-Christian, but religious: 2
  • Non-believer, but not very skeptical: 0
  • Skeptic: 0

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