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Carl Trueman offers some reflections on George Weigel’s new book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church.

He writes, “Some may wonder what the point of reflecting on Rome is for a Protestant.” He offers three points by way of response:

First, Protestants benefit from a conservative papacy: on public square issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom, the RCC has a higher profile and more power—financial, legal, institutional—than any Protestant group. We all benefit from the cultural and legal power of the RCC in these areas.

Second, your neighbours probably do not distinguish between Christian groups. A sleazy, morally corrupt RCC is like a sleazy, morally corrupt televangelist ministry: we are all marked with the same brush in the public eye and our task of evangelism becomes that much harder.

Third, RC authors often offer more penetrating insights into secular culture than their evangelical equivalents. Comparing George Weigel to Rob Bell in such circumstances is akin to comparing Michelangelo to Thomas Kinkade.

Therefore, while I have very serious theological disagreements with Catholic authors, I would suggest that they by and large offer well-argued, well-written and insightful commentaries on the state of the world in a way that is rare in evangelical circles. One can learn a lot from watching a great mind wrestle with a problem, even when one deems the conclusion erroneous; there seems little to be gained from watching a mediocre mind playing ping-pong with the same.

Here’s one more excerpt from later in the piece:

Of course, I am in fundamental disagreement with Weigel’s positive proposals on a large number of fronts. Yet he is addressing the same basic problem we face as Protestants: the abolition of human nature and the self-creation of the person, with all of the moral anarchy that implies. Weigel’s answer, simply summarized, is that the RC Church needs to be the RC Church, to have its agenda set not by the culture around but by the gospel as she understands it. I disagree with Weigel on what the gospel is; and I find his uncritical adulation of the previous two pontiffs to verge on naïve sentimentalism; but I also find his hearty disregard for the cool and the trendy and the superficially relevant, from the intellectual to the aesthetic, to be something with which I sympathise. Would that more Protestants were less concerned with the young and the cool and more willing to have, in the words of David Wells, the courage to be Protestant.

You can read the whole thing here.

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12 thoughts on “Why Protestants Should Be Interested in Rome”

  1. Just read the whole thing. I agree with his three points. They are, by and large, some of the major reasons I am interested in the RCC. On many social, cultural (and even some theological) points conservative Catholics are allies. And there are many great minds to be found.

    By the way, is Trueman going to review Rob Bell’s book? Has he Bell on the brain? I couldn’t help noticing he mentioned him twice…

    1. CG says:

      He has also mentioned the BeeGees a number of times….

  2. Wesley says:

    It is a rare thing when i walk away from a piece by the Carl-bomb unsatisfied or un-challenged, and this was no exception.
    One particular point of interest was his comment re: the Jansenist-Jesuit controversy and how it might relate to modern day evangelicalism’s solidifying camps. Could it be – like the Jansenists – that one day evangelical Protestants will no longer tolerate Reformed, Complementarian, Inerrantists? Food for thought.

    1. CG says:

      Much more likely they abandon the evangelical protestant label first, before they try to evict the reformed.

  3. Bruce Russell says:

    What if one is interested in neither?

  4. Brad Bridges says:

    I appreciate the tone of this article and your posture of learning from the Catholic Church this week while maintaining your convictions about your differences in beliefs. I wrote a piece yesterday that is similar Andean contribute to the discussion:

    “What Evangelicals Can Learn from the Pope’s Succession

  5. Ricard, from Spain says:

    Hi, Justin,
    I see that in America it is common for RCs to be closer to Evangelicals, since they are more influenced by the Gospel, and tend to be more Christ-centered. Nevertheless, as a Spaniard I have grown up in a society that, albeit more secularized nowadays, still holds its catholic tenets (especially in the south). Sometimes it feels like a different “religion”, as they can focus too much on Mary.

    There is something that seems too much like an understatement to me, when Carl says that he can have “very serious theological disagreements”. It makes it sound to me like it is merely the theory. To have a “theological disagreement”, though, can become more practical when you are trying to witness (with love) to a RC about the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a town where it is common to have processions only for the Virgin, the Queen of Heaven. Some “theological disagreements” can become heresies to both “parties”: a heresy for a Bible believer that Mary should be worshiped, and a heresy for a RC in this town not to consider the Holy Virgin the Queen of Heaven (which the Pope also believes, by the way).

    It seems like this new Pope has shown himself closer to Evangelicals. He seems to have had 1 hour weekly prayer times with his Evangelical gardener back in Argentina. Nevertheless, even though he may seem more Christ-centered than other popes, and closer to the people (it’s a good start), nevertheless I consider him to be far away from the truth, as one of the first things he did after he was a newly elected pope after the convlave was to go and pray to the virgin.

    My point is that, although there may be values we share, and there may be the possibility of learning from each other, we should set our priority straight. What do we believe? If we believe that the only salvation is through Jesus Christ, by his atoning work on the cross, then our priority with RC should be (as with other faiths) to direct them to the right Person.

    I think that Carl has offered some reasons based on a somewhat limited scope: Roman Catholicism in America. It would have been interesting for him to hear my father and grandfather’s story of their ministry in Spain, one of the hot spots of Roman Catholicism, and how “theological disagreements” were fleshed out.

    To sum it up: I encourage all believers in Christ to pray about their priorities. How would the Lord Jesus want your relationship with RC be? Are you hoping for their salvation, or are you merely looking for “sharing values” or “enriching” one another theologically? May the Lord set our priorities straight. And God bless you.

  6. Don says:

    Christian churches are not uniformly conservative, and do not all agree with the religious right on issues like abortion and gay marriage. Furthermore, Christians do not have a monopoly on supporting religious freedom. In the case of the religious right, they are not supporting religious freedom, but are lobbying for their own interests at the expense of other believers (or non-believers). For those reasons, I fail to see why the Papacy should matter to liberal Protestants, or Protestants who are apolitical.

  7. Maria Watson says:

    Some of these comments are not very “brotherly” towards RCC brothers and sisters.
    Let us remember John 8:12
    “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

    1. Ricard says:

      Sorry Maria, I meant the comment below to be a reply to your post, but I made the comment general without wanting to.

      God bless!

  8. Ricard says:

    Hi Maria,

    I do not know exactly what comments you are referring to. But I do have to say that saying that certain beliefs are not according to Scripture does not mean that I am against the people who have those tenets.

    It is awesome how the Lord did not pass justice, but showed mercy; he who was “without sin”. But he did not condone adultery either. Many people who quote this verse (which can become quite a clichée sometimes) do not quote “go and sin no more”.

    The fact that I condemn false doctrine does not mean that I believe that all RC are not saved. After all, anyone who follows Christ will walk in light (thanks for the verse in John!). And this includes any RC who, despite the tenets of his religion, will follow Christ wholeheartedly. Meaning, that his or her trust is in Christ alone for salvation; not Mary, the Pope or priests, as RC doctrine states.

    Have a great week!

    1. Mike N. says:

      Please cite the Catholic doctrine which states Mary, the Pope, or priests are necessary for salvation, properly understood…

      “Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead there can be no salvation.” -Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day Madrid

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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