Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Stained Glass Curtain: Crossing the Evangelical-Catholic Divide to Find Our Common Heritage

That's the title of a new book by Fr. Dimitri Sala, OFM. I highly recommend it. Here is my endorsement, published in the first few pages of the book:
“One of the great impediments to Christian unity is our failure to realize how our vocabularies shape and misshape our understandings of each other. So, when the Protestant tells the Catholic, `Faith alone,’ the Catholic hears, `Believe and do as you please,’ and when the the Catholic says to the Protestant, `grace allows us to cooperate with God in our justification,’ the Protestant hears, `works righteousness.’ In both cases, each hears but does not listen. Fr. Sala’s book is an invitation to really listen, to understand that each tradition, properly understood, may not be as far apart as we think. This is a wonderful work that should be in the hands of every Catholic and Protestant pastor.”
--Francis J. Beckwith
Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University
Author, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic

5 comments:

Christopher Lake said...

I'm wary of saying, about almost any book, "This is the one that we've all been waiting for," but this one certainly does look very helpful. I plan to read it and hopefully recommend it to as many of my Catholic and Protestant friends as possible.

The Catholic and Protestant positions on justification are so similar, in many ways, when one *fairly assesses* them, that it is very sad that they still cause such division. In the Protestant world, the Wesleyan view, and, ironically, the historic Reformed, Calvinist view, both put a strong emphasis on the importance of grace-enabled works in the Christian life.

Speaking as a former Protestant and Catholic "revert," (like Frank himself!) the point that Protestants want to make about works supposedly playing no role in justification springs largely from a desire to not have a self-righteous attitude before God-- i.e. "See how wonderfully worthy I am of your love, God, because of my works!" Well, of course, Catholics would also disdain such a self-righteous attitude. The Catholic (Biblical) idea of meritorious works has nothing to do with self-righteousness. It has everything do with Christ's work in us. However, *due* to His work in us, our good works are truly pleasing to God, and thus, in that sense, they are meritorious. Unfortunately, many Protestants see such an idea as "lessening" the Biblical teaching on the sufficiency of Christ's work on the cross for our salvation.

As with so many other issues, it seems that Catholics and Protestants often use different language, and/or they use similar language with different meanings, and so confuse each other. However, they (we) are still brothers and sisters in Christ, although separated at present.

I try to communicate these concepts to my Protestant friends but have met with limited success. I hope and pray that this book will help and greatly look forward to reading it.

Dr. Evangelicus said...

Don't despair of your limited success. I'm a Presbyterian evangelical who grew up in bigoted Northern Ireland (and attended arch anti-Catholic Rev. Ian Paisley's tent meetings!,)and I'm entirely open to this process. Indeed, I'm very eager to see it happen, both in my own life and across "the great divide" generally.

elgregcor said...

Hello,

Loved your book, could not put it down. I have also read Fr. Dimitri's ... and also loved it. I was so encouraged by the growing tolerance and hope for future unity. You seem to be more conservative than Fr. D! You go back to Baptism, it seems, as the First and Second Conversion, whereas, Fr. D plainly states that we all must at some point, where ever that may be, step up to the Second Conversion and receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Even Fr. Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, has defended the need for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Where do you stand on this, or did I miss it...I was up pretty late reading your book so may have blew right past it.

elgregcor said...

Hello,

Loved your book, could not put it down. I have also read Fr. Dimitri's ... and also loved it. I was so encouraged by the growing tolerance and hope for future unity. You seem to be more conservative than Fr. D! You go back to Baptism, it seems, as the First and Second Conversion, whereas, Fr. D plainly states that we all must at some point, where ever that may be, step up to the Second Conversion and receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Even Fr. Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, has defended the need for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Where do you stand on this, or did I miss it...I was up pretty late reading your book so may have blew right past it.

elgregcor said...

I blew it, sorry. Fr. Dimitri calls the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Primary Conversion p. 86. I got confused with the scripture that sticks in my head...Mk 1:8, "I have baptized you with water (my first conversion, so to speak), but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (which for me came when I was about 24).