In 2005, Baker Book House published Is The Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism, authored by the eminent historian Mark A. Noll and journalist Carolyn Nystrom. It was one of the many works that I read on my journey back to the Catholic Church. As I write in chapter 5 of Return to Rome:
Although this led me to read other sources including the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, I also read several reviews of the Noll/Nystrom book, one of which was written by Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. I single out this review because of its concluding paragraph, which rocked me to the core:When I finished reading the book, I have to confess that I agreed with the authors, in that it does indeed seem that the Reformation is over for large tracts of evangelicalism; yet the authors themselves do not draw the obvious conclusion from their own arguments. Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day. It would seem, however, that if Noll and Nystrom are correct, many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology; but those who reject the former and lack the latter have no real basis upon which to perpetuate what is, in effect, an act of schism on their part. For such, the Reformation is over; for me, the fat lady has yet to sing; in fact, I am not sure at this time that she has even left her dressing room. (emphasis added)
Professor Trueman’s reasoning would serve as a catalyst for reorienting my sense of whether the Catholic Church or I had the burden in justifying the schism in which I had remained for over thirty years.