Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another review. Not so nice

Here's another review of Return to Rome. IMHO, I do not believe that this review is the consequence of reading the book very carefully. In one place, for example, the reviewer confuses Protestantism with comments I made at a Boston College conference about anti-creedal Protestantism. In another place he misses my analogy between grace-works and God-man by thinking that I was referring to Jesus' works. But I wasn't. What I was suggesting is that Christ's humanity no more diminishes his deity than do our works performed in grace diminish God's grace. In a yet another place he thinks my comments about the scope of the Protestant canon is part of a defense of the Catholic canon. It is not. It is an analysis of the problem with the reconciling of two claims in terms of the ETS press release concerning my resignations from ETS: (1) that all theological knowledge is derived exclusively from Scripture, and (2) that the scope of the canon, an item of theological knowledge, is not derived from Scripture since it is logically prior to Scripture. As I write in the book, "[B]ecause the list of canonical books is itself not found in scripture—as one can find the Ten Commandments or the names of Christ’s Apostles—any such list, whether Protestant or Catholic, would be an item of extra-biblical theological knowledge." (p. 123).

Ironically, tomorrow the online magazine Inside Catholic will be publishing an essay of mine entitled, "Evangelical and Catholic," in which that portion of the book is excerpted. I will post a link to it tomorrow. In any event, this review is loaded with many, many mistakes like these. It seems that this well-meaning fellow has let his anger get the best of him. That's a real shame, since the spirit in which I offer the book was intended to inspire dialogue not diatribe. As I write in Return to Rome:

What I hope to offer here is an account of a personal journey that focuses on my own internal conversation, or struggle, between the Protestant theology I embraced during most of my adult life and what I’ve come to think of as my Catholic constitution, which I have to believe had always been there. Much of this book is a celebration of the Christianity that has shaped my life, intellectually and spiritually, both in its Protestant and Catholic forms. I do indeed explain how and why my mind changed, but with respect and admiration for the Evangelical Protestants whom the Holy Spirit used to deepen my devotion to Christ, which I carry with gratitude into the Catholic Church. Thus, this book is a narrative intertwined with encounters, arguments, criticisms, and reflections. It is not meant to be an apologetic for Catholicism or an autobiography in the strict sense.

It is my hope that this book may effectively, with grace and charity, communicate to my fellow Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, an understanding of the reasons and internal deliberations that culminated in my departure from and eventual return to the Catholic Church. (pp. 15-16)....

...I am convinced that if not for the Holy Spirit working through the many gifted and devoted Christian scholars and teachers in Evangelical Protestantism, some of whom I have had the privilege to know, love, and study under, my present faith would be significantly diminished. Their tenacious defense and practice of Christian orthodoxy is what has sustained and nourished so many of us who have found our way back to the Church of our youth. (p. 129)

I suspect that the blogsphere will be overflowing with these sorts of reviews as well as more charitable ones and many others in between. (At least I hope so, since it will be probably result in more book sales!). Moreover, I cannot, of course, respond to every review, let alone every point in every review. For these reasons, I will not be posting any more links to reviews (unless I change my mind)

(Previously posted on What's Wrong With the World)