Evangelicals and Catholics (Mostly) Together

Here, in a recent number of First Things, itself a place of conversation between evangelicals and Catholics, is a special recent initiative of evangelical-Catholic dialogue, namely, a response to the pope’s important recent writing, Caritas in Veritate.

The response is offered on behalf of “evangelicals,” but it has arisen largely on the initiative  of some Christian Reformed individuals and groups (a tradition which, let’s gratefully acknowledge, has done a lot of the serious thinking on behalf of evangelicals at large). Your servant is one of the signatories, as are a number of friends and my Regent colleague Prof. Paul Williams.

The response will appear also in the September edition of Books and Culture (one of the few magazines published by and for smart evangelicals, and interested others).

As I reflect briefly to this exchange, I look forward to an evangelical writing a piece on the relationship of truth and love so good and so important that it prompts high-level Catholic response. But who among evangelicals would write that quality of piece and get that sort of attention? N. T. Wright? Nicholas Wolterstorff? Miroslav Volf? Richard Mouw?

I don’t mean that I hanker for an evangelical pope. I really don’t. I long instead for evangelical theology that can speak with the several qualities of the best encyclicals of the current and previous popes: grounded in scholarship and piety, accessible to a wide range of readers, in dialogue with both theory and praxis, and both weighty and incisive enough to warrant and attract significant attention.

Who is writing such work? What is it? Is there something about evangelicalism or particularly the social location of evangelical theologians and theologically-minded leaders that militates against such writing?

0 Responses to “Evangelicals and Catholics (Mostly) Together”

  1. Peter Gerber

    Hi Prof. Stackhouse, I have a friend who is convinced that the Rom. Cath. church is the true body of Christ…the thing is he comes from evangelical protestant backround. I am not educated and well enough informed to provide the proof that this is not true…do you have writings that I could send him?

    Thank you and God bless,

    Peter gerber

  2. Ian

    In response to your last question, I have one word: celibacy. 😉


  3. poserorprophet

    I reckon one factor is the assistance that the popes receive when writing the encyclicals. Not many (or any?) independent scholars receive that degree of support.

    However, if you want, I could whip something together this weekend and send it off to Rome…

  4. poserorprophet

    Oh wait, I just remembered, I’m not an evangelical.

  5. John Stackhouse

    Brother Gerber,

    I don’t believe the Roman Catholic Church is the One True Church, but I believe it is Truly One Church among lots of others that make up the One True Church Universal.

    You and your friend, like the rest of us, have to decide what you think the Bible says–and, which is not quite the same thing, what Jesus wants us to believe and practice now, since we don’t live in Bible times–regarding a wide range of matters on which Christians disagree and divide into denominations: liturgy, sacraments, doctrine, polity, authority, clergy, and more.

    I’m sorry that what I’ve written is more of a gesture toward what needs to be said than an actual answer. But you raise a Very Big Question about deciding which church traditions we will trust the most. I generally have not found the Roman Catholic tradition–where it disagrees with mainstream Protestantism–to offer better answers and practices . . . so I remain a Protestant. But I can’t think of a particular book that would set out all that, so I can’t answer your question any better than this in a short space.

    (I have not yet been strongly inclined to consider Orthodoxy, so I testify in terms of these two major Western traditions.)

    I wonder why your friend feels as he does about the Roman Catholic Church…

  6. Kent

    To say that the Catholic church is the true body of Christ is just crazy…in the same way, it is not even part of the body. The Roman Catholic religion has continually added onto the gospel for hundreds of years. When will it stop.

    And for a better argument.. see http://www.reachingcatholics.org/truechurch.html

  7. John Stackhouse

    Um, Kent, I’m thinking that speaking as you do is probably not the best way to be “reachingcatholics.”

    I’d also say that, while I also disagree with much of what the Roman Catholic church teaches, I admire their love for Jesus, their celebration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, their endorsement of the great creeds of the Church, their heritage of Bible study, their missionary work all over the world, and much more. Don’t you?

  8. Angelita Guevara

    Thank you, Prof. Stackhouse, for your respect (not tolerance) of the Roman Catholic faith. But more importantly, for your love of Jesus – for I don’t know how else you can accept my Catholic faith if you didn’t consider that we all form one body, that is, the one true body of Christ – devoting ourselves and the first of our time and strength to God…and using all means to His praise (sans apologetics), as we have them all by His gift. I don’t think I would need to convert as an Anglican, Reformist, Baptist or any other denomination that I deeply respect. Personally, I don’t think there’s any need for that. After all, it’s all about Jesus!

    Coincidentally (God-incidentally?), a very good friend of mine (not Catholic) has just invited me to attend one of your speaking engagements this coming Wednesday, Sptember 23, 7 pm in Ottawa, ON. After reading your blog, etc., I would not want to miss this. Here’s looking forward to meeting you in person, God-willing. Thank you and God bless, Professor.


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