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on 23 December 1998
A recent balanced treatment of the Roman Catholic and Evangelical-Protestant debate from an Evangelical (and "baptistic") perspective, the book _Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences_ (Baker Books, 1995) by Norm Geisler/Ralph MacKenzie should retire older (and recent) sensationalist anti-Catholic works (as noted by Catholic apologist James Akin on the back cover) but it may take a few years given the vastness of the Internet and the many misunderstandings of Catholicism in Protestant thinking (especially among the more anti-Catholic Fundamentalists/Evangelicals).
The book is divided into two major sections: (1) Agreements that Catholics and Evangelicals have with each other; and (2) the Differences that (some) Evangelical Protestants have with the Catholic Church.
I generally agree with the Agreements section and appreciate the authors fairness in the book. The use of terms can be confusing or perhaps even in error (e.g. the term "Augustinian" as a synonym for salvation by grace: Evangelicals will be shocked just how "Roman Catholic" St. Augustine really was once they study his actual writings). The topics in the Agreements section on the historic Catholic and Christian creeds, the Trinity and Christology, the Bible, salvation, and other doctrinal issues are well done. We Catholics and Evangelicals do have a lot in common.
I have differences over the Differences section but that is to be expected given I am a Catholic reader but have been a big Catholic fan of Norm Geisler's work for many years. Some of his arguments against Catholic teaching in this second section are quite complex and I can't hope to respond to them all in this short review but I can recommend recent books that address the major Evangelical objections to Catholic teaching found in the Differences section.
Generally the book is fair with its presentation of Catholic teaching but perhaps relies too heavily on one primary Catholic source: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott. The authors could have found more comprehensive books of Catholic apologetics to which to respond. Ott is very compact and does not present the strongest arguments that could be made for Catholic doctrine, although it is a classic text for showing the precise teaching of the Catholic Church and the development of dogma.
One major weakness in the book is its failure to deal with the early Fathers of the Church in any detail. It is a simple fact that the authors would disagree with those Fathers, Saints, and Doctors of Christianity for the first 1,500 years whether we are talking Baptism, Eucharist, a sacramental worldview, Church government and apostolic succession, and other quite clear Catholic teachings of the early Church.
Catholics acknowledge the development of doctrine (whether the Trinity, the canon of the Bible, the Sacraments, the Papacy) but for one to suggest the authors' interpretation of the Biblical texts represent original and true Christianity is simply begging the question. On what basis should we take the authors' doctrines as true?
I would recommend this book for any Catholic or Evangelical who wishes to investigate some of the better arguments against Catholicism and the areas of doctrinal agreement and common moral cause in this increasingly secular world.
For a complete biblical and historical response to the major issues in the Differences section, I would recommend two books edited by Robert Sungenis: Not By Scripture Alone and Not By Faith Alone (both Queenship Publishing, 1997) also available from Amazon.Com
Phil Porvaznik
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on 29 November 2005
As an Evangelical married to a Roman Catholic, I have had a long standing interest in understanding Catholic belief and practice. I have searched around for a book which would treat the subject fairly. This book meets my requirements and much more !
The book comes in three sections:
1, Agreements - the authors did a great job of focusing on the areas where both sides agree. This for me is one reason why this book brings so much to the ongoing debate - rather than be purely negative about Catholic teaching, it points out the great things we do share.
2, Disagreements - This for me was the most interesting part of the book - the authors did a great job of presenting Catholic doctrine and then attempting to argue against it. The arguements were not superficial, but deep. Ludwig Ott's book "Fundamentals of Catholic dogma" was quoted frequently as a source. The arguements were firm but fair, and also complex in some areas.
3, Areas of practical co-operation - I could not help but feel encouraged that in contrast to 30 or so years ago, two groups with minimal contact now can work together and take a stand against the increasing secularisation of our world. In my own community, the Catholic and Protestant churches often meet for ecumenical prayer. We can learn from each other.
This is the BEST treatment of Catholicism by Protestants by far. I warmly recommend it to both Catholics and Protestants alike.
I would also like to recommend "The Spirit and forms of Protestantism" by Louis Bouyer, who converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism.
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