- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Baker Academic (October 17, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801098939
- ISBN-13: 978-0801098932
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
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- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation Paperback – October 17, 2017
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From the Back Cover
A Critique of Roman Catholicism in Defense of the Catholic Faith
"Collins and Walls make a vigorous case for why Rome should not insist on being the exclusive center of the catholic church. Roman centricity deconstructs true catholicity by suggesting that Orthodox and Protestant churches are deficient; it similarly undermines canonicity (i.e., biblical authority) insofar as sola scriptura is virtually displaced by sola Roma. Collins and Walls remind us that what continues to divide Christians 500 years after the Reformation are not simply disagreements over doctrine or the authority and interpretation of Scripture, but differences over the nature of the church and the meaning of catholicity."
--Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"For decades, there has been a spirited polemic against Protestantism that sought intellectual solace and resolution in converting to Rome. It was only a matter of time before somebody, somewhere, would challenge this whole operation. Collins and Walls have done so in a way that lowers the temperature but does not shirk the full range of issues at stake. The claims of the Roman church are subject to searching examination in an irenic yet candid assessment. No doubt the debate will continue; we can only hope that the tone and content will be better as a result of their efforts."
--William J. Abraham, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
"The thesis of Roman but Not Catholic is that 'the Church of Rome is not sufficiently catholic,' and Collins and Walls support that admittedly ironic claim irenically but stringently. This is a book every Protestant who feels some pull toward Rome must read before converting. It should also be read by every Protestant who knows a fellow Protestant moving toward Rome."
--Roger E. Olson, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University
"The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has spawned a number of attempts to explain why it happened and why it still matters. Collins and Walls paint a picture of Catholicism that is broader and more authentically traditional than the one professed by the Roman church. They do so with both clarity and charity and demonstrate that evangelical Protestantism has a strong claim to be the truest expression today of the faith once delivered to the saints."
--Gerald Bray, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
About the Author
Kenneth J. Collins (PhD, Drew University) is professor of historical theology and Wesley studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Jerry L. Walls (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is professor of philosophy and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas.
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A reviewer ought to reveal potential conflicts of interest so that the reader can adjust their assessment of the reviewed book by the bias potentially revealed by the conflict of interest. Therefore, I must acknowledge that I have interacted with Jerry Walls on Facebook and I like him and I know Al Howsapien, who was thanked for his help on a chapter. I am also Catholic.
With that out of the way, a reader trying to decide whether to invest time and money in this book should know that this is a book of Protestant apologetics. Although written by two college professors, it is not principally a work of scholarship; rather, it is explicitly polemical. The authors state that their purpose is to dissuade Protestants who might be thinking to “swim the Tiber.” (p. 10.) Actually, their purpose is more emphatic than that: they are aiming at people who are being “pressured” to convert. (p. 10.) Catholics in this book are constantly depicted as being the aggressors in dealings with Protestants. Thus, Catholics use an “all or nothing tactic” to “unsettle evangelicals and other Protestants and to pressure them to convert to Rome” (p. 47) and we are informed that “many convert under the pressure of thinking they need to do so in order to preserve their faith” (p. 62) and finally, we are told that “[t]hose who press such arguments on vulnerable believers in order to pressure them to “convert” to their church or theological position are setting them up not only for intellectual implosion but for spiritual shipwreck as well.” (p. 63.) Add to that the recurrent image of Catholics being “docile” followers of unscrupulous priests and power-hungry popes and it appears that the authors are contesting against a well-organized, ruthless power dedicated to suppressing Protestant liberties. (See e.g., p. 45 (“…Rome has taken great efforts to inculcate docility among the laity at almost every turn…”(the claim that Catholics are trained to be “docile” to their priests is mentioned 8 times, but, strangely, in the last chapter, Catholics turn into “super-Protestants” who aren’t “docile” in the slightest.; see also p. 152 (“The Lord’s Supper is the sacrament in which such great change is to be observed from the meanings of the original ritual to the accretions that bit by bit have been added over time by a priestly class that was determined, with all manner of supposed justifications, to transform the Supper in accordance with its own self-ascribed role.”); p. 224 (“[I]in 1077 at Canossa, where Gregory VII left Emperor Henry IV, along with his family, out in the snow for three days humbly seeking a papal audience and reconciliation, as we have noted in chapter 10. Such a humiliating action, ironically enough, led to the weakening of the papacy much later as the temporal powers of Europe, kings and queens among them, were eventually able to free themselves from the yoke of such power-grasping claims.”).)
The book starts with an obligatory chapter on “what we have in common,” but this only creates more confusion since it is unclear who “we” are. The authors are all over the map at who they define as “we,” sometimes referring to “Reformation Christians” (p. 4) and to the “the living body of Christ represented by the magisterial Reformation that bears its witness from age to age” (p. 11.) The “radical Reformation” – i.e, Anabaptists, Mennonites and others – are distinguished from “Tradition I” Christianity, which is the “magisterial” Reformation. (p. 27.) Elsewhere, the non-creedal Christians are taken to task for misunderstanding sola scriptura. (p. 79.) In one strange chapter, the authors attack the Catholic practice of “infant baptism” as the “preferred way of entering the body of Christ” because it fosters “nominal Christianity.” (p. 149-150.) This might lead Baptist readers to think that the authors are including them in their “we,” except that the authors are Methodists, which is a church that practices infant baptism.
What, then, is the purpose of this hit on Catholicism? Is it to suggest that Catholics do the “permitted” thing for the wrong reasons? Is it that infant baptism is bad when Catholics do it? Or is it just that everything Catholic must be attacked? Again, strange.
Another strange and confusing piece of the book is its schizophrenic take on participation in the Eucharist. On the one hand, the authors clearly share their extended criticism of Catholic (and Orthodox) eucharistic theology, which is totally fair for Protestants to do, although the language gets a bit intemperate in a kind of fundamentalist anti-Catholic way. Thus, the authors emphasize how “great care must also be taken so that the clergy inculcates the proper attitudes of reverence and docility in the laity,” who, we assume, otherwise would have a solid Protestant understanding that the Eucharist is only a metaphor. (p. 164, 165, 166.) The authors share some speculation about the purportedly difficult theological conundrum of what happens when the Body of Christ is excreted. (p. 164-165; but see Aquinas’ response to a similarly inane question in Summa Theologica I.97, a 4, reply 4; Also, see Peter Schafer’s “Jesus in the Talmud,” where the Babylonian Talmud makes a similar argument against Christians.) Then there is this:
“After the Mass the consecrated hosts can be placed in a tabernacle, often embedded atop the altar structure itself. The name “tabernacle” is reminiscent of the OT edifice, though the Roman Catholic structure is considerably smaller. Christ, so it is assumed, is placed in a small, dark, and at times cool or even cold box, depending on the temperature of the church. Given the logic of transubstantiation, it must surely be asked: “How is such an enclosure appropriate for the Savior, the Lord of Hosts, the King of kings and Lord of lords?” Bishops and popes have retired to better quarters.”
This is a strange and out of place bit of mockery.
The authors forthrightly acknowledge that many Protestants view the Catholic mass as “consummate idolatry.” (p. 167.) Given the many arguments leveled by the authors against the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, one would be surprised to find that they were not counted among the “many.”
But, then, the authors turn around and condemn Catholics for not letting them participate in full participation of Catholicism’s erroneous and idolatrous eucharistic celebration. (p. 168-169.) For the author’s this is the greatest tear at Christian unity, which is weird because one would think idolatry would be the greatest tear at Christian unity. The vehemence of the attack on Catholic (and Orthodox and, for that matter, Lutheran) “closed tables” would seem to have a psychological rather than a theological motivation. One gets the feeling that the authors are insulted at not being allowed to join a club they would disdain belonging to. Again, strange.
Also, it is probably not out of place to mention at this point, that the authors' extended attack on Catholicism for denying the Eucharist to anyone who has been baptized is undoubtedly a red-herring. The Methodist authors don't mention that in their church, anyone - even the unbaptized - can participate in the "Lord's supper." While I don't object to Methodists' perfect right to practice their religion as they choose, I wish they had mentioned this in the interests of transparency and had explained whether their next demand for Christian unity would require Catholics to open the Eucharist up to anyone who felt themselves to be in a right relationship to Jesus?
I also wonder how this new tradition of letting the unbaptized take communion interacts with the authors' claim that they are the true catholics who are in communion with the authentic original teachings of Christianity?
I also had some concern about the supporting scholarship of the book. For example, the authors attempt to unlink the canon of scripture from the authority of the Catholic church. Their explanation this time involves the “self-authenticating nature of scripture,” which in turns involves recognizing that “reveal” is an “accomplishment verb” such that we know something is a revelation when it is accepted as a revelation. (p. 64 – 66.) This would seem to involve some question begging. For example, accepted by who? The Mormons? Rotary International?
If the test is acceptance by the historic Christian church, then the deuterocanonicals pass the test. For example, Erasmus challenged Luther for disregarding Ecclesiasticus 15:14 - 18:
"I do not suppose that anyone will plead here against the authority of this work that it was not originally admitted to the Hebrew canon (as Jerome points out), seeing that the church of Christ has unanimously received it into its canon, and I see no reason why the Hebrews should have thought this book ought to be excluded from the canon, given that they accepted the Proverbs of Solomon and the Amatory Song."
Likewise, the authors cite J.N.D. Kelly, “Early Christian Doctrine” for a “veritable litany” of church fathers who purportedly did not accept the canonicity of the deuterocanonical books. (p. 36.) However, they don’t mention that this “litany” was found generally confined to the Alexandrian branch of Eastern Church. Likewise, they also don’t mention that in the paragraph before the one they cite, Kelly writes:
“In the first two centuries at any rate the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture.” (J.N.D. Kelly, p. 54.)
So, how does this work? Is it that the test of acceptance means "accepted by Protestants in 1525"? If that is not the test, then shouldn’t Protestants be reading those extra books, which contain all kinds of Catholic doctrines?
The authors make a similar dubious move in describing the Catholic doctrine that there is a “substantial change” in the eucharistic elements as a “late innovation” that dates to the 13th century, 1215 in the Fourth Lateran Council, to be precise. ( p. 163.) However, the teaching that there was a complete transubstantiation – change, conversion – from the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ was a feature of Christian teaching from the earliest era. (It is also found in all the Orthodox churches.) The pre-Nicene patristic fathers regularly identified the Eucharist as being the flesh of Christ. (See e.g., Clement, Cypian, Ireneaus.) (The Eucharist of the Early Christians by Willy Rordorf (Author), Raymond Johanny (editor).)
Nonetheless, the authors insist on falsely accusing St. Paschasius Radbertus of giving a “twist” on Christian doctrine by affirming the change in the substance of the bread to the historical body of Christ. Again, they point to a minority and rejected position as if it was somehow representative of the broader Catholic position. (p. 162.)
This is a substantial mischaracterization of the facts. Jaroslav Pelikan, a Lutheran when he wrote his multi-volume “The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine” in 1978, points out that St. Paschasius and Ratramnus were treated “in two quite different ways”; Ratramnus “largely passed into oblivion,” whereas St. Paschasius’s work was incorporated into many treatises. (Pelikan, p. 184-186.) When Berengar revived Ratramnuns’ claim that the sacrament of the Eucharist did not contain the flesh from the body born of the Virgin. Berengar’s heresy caused the condemnation of Ratramnus at a Synod in Vercelli. (Pelikan, p. 186.) Berengar was forced to recant in Rome in 1059 by affirming that the “bread and wine which are placed on the altar, after the consecration, not only a sacrament by the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Pelikan, p. 187.) In short, it is the authors' position that was a spurious late development.
The authors fundamentally misrepresent Catholic eucharistic theology by claiming that Catholics maintain a “two-body teaching” with respect to the Eucharist, i.e., that Christ has one body and the Eucharist is another body. (p. 164.) There is no such teaching. The authors are simply reviving one of Berengar’s arguments in support of his spiritualist position and ignoring the response that was given to Berengar that the resurrected body of Christ is not subject to the limitations of space but may be present where it pleases. (Pelikan, p. 194.)
I was also puzzled by the author’s attack on Cardinal Newman for characterizing “private judgment” as the core of Protestantism. (p. 56.) The authors ignore Alister McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” which extolls private judgment as the core idea of Protestantism such that "all interpretations of the Bible must be regarded as provisional, not final." (McGrath, p. 377.)
So, who is the true exponent of Protestantism? The authors or McGrath?
I found the author’s principle trope that Catholics should be called “Romans” a very imprudent return to a darker era of Protestant invective. This review has documented how often the authors engage in various kinds of anti-Catholic tropes to promote their arguments. By calling Catholics “Roman,” the authors are reinforcing their message that Catholicism is foreign, cultic and idolatrous with a laity that has been rendered “docile” by their priests except when they are “pressuring” Protestants to convert. That is precisely the kind of attitude modern Christians need to avoid.
So, this is a deeply flawed, polemical book. Why, then, do I give it three stars? The answer is that the authors solved a conundrum for me about how every time I try to get a Protestant to talk about sanctification, they always immediately turn the subject back to justification. The authors explain that where justification is an “indispensable criterion that constantly serves to orient all the teaching and practice of our churches to Christ” for Lutherans, justification is just one of several criteria that Catholics “consider themselves bound by.” (p. 344-345.)(Cf. N.T. Wright, "Justification", which criticizes Protestant theology for defining all Christian doctrines in terms of their relationship to the doctrine of justification.)
So, this difference seems to underlie all the other disputes. For example, if justification is the central doctrine, then it doesn't matter if a person is baptized before communicating since they might well be in a right relationship with God - justified - by faith alone. Likewise, the doctrine that the Eucharist is the body born of the Virgin, and therefore has a special role in communicating grace (See John 6) is a non-starter because the only way that grace is communicated is by "faith alone." Similarly, the Catholic view that the Church is the "pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Tim 3:15) is problematic insofar as it might get in the way of identifying the single "pillar and foundation of truth" as justification.
This is a singular insight for the purpose of understanding the differences between Catholics and Protestants. On the other hand, it highlights why Protestants should not be identified with the historic catholic church, which taught the singular importance of the visible Church and an incarnational understanding of the Eucharist and the necessity of baptism into the body of Christ - the Church - in order to receive the Body of Christ.
That has always been difficult, given the Roman Catholic posture in the dispute, which was noticed as early as the 17th century by the Swiss-Italian theologian Francis Turretin. By claiming the title of “The Church”, he said, “they think they can, as with one blow, beat down and settle the controversy waged against them …” by simply “hiding themselves under the specious title of the antiquity and infallibility of the Catholic church” (Turretin, “Institutes”, Vol 3. pgs 2-3).
The authors recognize that same Roman Catholic “method”: “This work is preeminently about Roman Catholicism; it is not about Protestantism, at least not directly. Accordingly, we can save some of the Roman Catholic apologists, authors, and bloggers much wasted effort in pointing out that we are humbly, honestly, and forthrightly aware of many of the faults and missteps of Protestant theological traditions. However, that is not our topic. Therefore, to point out repeatedly the weaknesses of Protestantism in the face of serious reflection on Roman Catholicism, as some apologists are wont to do, is in our judgment just another way of changing the conversation, even shutting it down, so that the very real problems of the Roman Catholic tradition are never actually faced.”
Turretin (and Protestants historically) have recommended more direct approach to learning the truth of the various Christian doctrines: that of viewing individual doctrines first of all Biblically, arguing for and maintaining their correctness individually, and then incorporating them into a broader body of what is understood to be correct doctrine. This is, in a nutshell, what Collins and Walls attempt to do in this book.
Officially, post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism has not changed its posture. They claim that “The one Church of Christ” is defined as that “which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth’. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him” (from the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium”).
In other words, in the post-reformation era, the Roman Catholic Church has sought to win doctrinal arguments by defining itself as the one and only authority with the appropriate jurisdiction to define and settle individual doctrinal questions. The net effect from Turretin’s time through today is that the Roman church government and the Roman church hierarchy are both the center, and the center of gravity of the historical church (in the view of Roman Catholic doctrine). And in fact, “The Catholic Church” then takes opportunities to fail to discuss the doctrines themselves, except in the shadow of “the authority of The Church”.
The authors of this work challenge this Roman Catholic view directly. With great charity – following in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and his notion of “Mere Christianity”, and in an effort to be “broadly ecumenical and generous”, they begin by rejecting (correctly, in my view) “the extreme polemics of some Protestant apologists” who claim that “Roman Catholics are not Christians, and the pope is the antichrist”, while affirming “what we agree on”. They situate the Roman Catholic Church not as “the center” of Christianity, but as a “distinct Christian theological communion”. The take-off point for the work then, is the notion that “some of the traditions and practices [that Roman Catholicism uniquely] has developed over the centuries may at times detract from both the power and the clarity of the gospel”.
The bulk of the work, then, is a sustained analysis of many of those areas where differences occur, in what they call “essays (largely historical and philosophical) along key themes that highlight the distinct claims of the Roman Catholic Church, especially those that set it apart from other theological traditions”.
As an alternative to the Roman Catholic approach to authority, they identify what they call “the ancient ecumenical church” – the church which shared “a commitment to the classic creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian”. They note that “The core doctrines summarized in these classic creeds provide the fundamental framework” even today “for the Christian faith as professed by Eastern Orthodox churches, Roman Catholic churches, and the churches of the Protestant Reformation” (pg. 1, Location 373). This is the key posture that they take throughout.
This is a book written largely for Protestants, not for Roman Catholics. To these individuals they say, “if you have an interest in the issues that divide evangelicals and other orthodox Protestants from Rome, and particularly if you are struggling with whether you need to cross the Tiber to practice your faith with full integrity (or if you have already done so but are rethinking the matter), we have written this book to explain why you need not do so. The chapters that follow are straightforwardly critical, sometimes pointedly so.”
That is definitely the case, and it’s the primary reason why I love this book and highly recommend it to all Protestants. The late Fulton Sheen made the statement that “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” (Foreword to Radio Replies Vol. 1, (1938) page ix”). While contesting Sheen’s numbers, I think it has to be admitted that very many Protestants don’t know what Roman Catholicism claims, nor what it is all about.
This book will go a long, long way toward correcting those misperceptions. Just to be fair, it seems that, in the era of “Pope Francis”, many Roman Catholics, too, show evidence of not knowing what “the Catholic Church” really is all about.
Following an initial chapter entitled “What We Have in Common”, the remaining 19 chapters (or essays) and a conclusion revolve around some of the most central and contentious issues surrounding the Protestant break with Rome. These “points of dispute represent instances where the Church of Rome has overreached and made claims that have greatly harmed the cause of Christian unity” (pg. 2, Location 410).
The first grouping of chapters surrounds the relationship of “tradition” and “Tradition” to Scripture. Moving through history from an oral tradition in the church at the time of Christ and the apostles, to a kind of “ecclesiastical” tradition that developed separately from Christ and the apostles, to a still later kind of “Tradition” that placed the authority of the church above both Scripture and tradition, Collins suggests that “the question of Scripture and tradition for Rome may in the end turn out to be not a question of revelation per se but a question of ecclesiology: What is the proper place and authority of ‘Holy Mother Church’?” (pg 45, Location 1399).
The next section begins to take on this very question, first addressing the claims of John Henry Newman in his famous “Essay” on the “Development of Doctrine”, and a claim that Newman himself identified, “that many of Rome’s essential doctrinal claims have scant support at best in the explicit teaching of Scripture as well as the early patristic sources”, and in later chapters, discussing how Biblical Authority and “the Church” relate in Roman Catholicism, and then in the broader church. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (following the Vatican II document, “Dei Verbum”), Walls points to the fact that “The Magisterium <i>alone</i> has the task of ‘giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God”. The important claim to be examined is, is there “some sort of necessary connection or linkage between Scripture, tradition, and the Roman magisterium”?
Newman argues that “later Roman doctrinal developments were simply making explicit and filling in the details of what was there all along (“implicitly”) in Christian revelation. But is that really the case? Walls then proceeds to analyze the various “notes” as to precisely what constitutes legitimate “development” and comes to the conclusion that “the number and range of complex issues that Newman pontificates on is nothing short of stunning”. Newman “not infrequently gets carried away with his own rhetoric and makes claims that far outstrip his evidence and arguments. In the end, Newman “strings together claims that are more or less probable”, and makes such a leap that, in Newman’s view, “Probability has miraculously been transformed into logical necessity, though to all appearances his actual argument rests entirely on various probability judgments and connections between different doctrines, many of which are highly contestable”. “If one accepts the incarnation, one must accept the whole Roman panoply of dogmas and practices, and it is impossible” to “intelligibly separate” the “incarnation from that larger body of claims”. In the end, “this claim that we cannot have Jesus without Rome is a classic case of rhetorical overreach as well as deeply confused thinking, and Newman’s argument does not even come close to demonstrating it”.
The next chapter is again contra-Newman, this time on a positive note: “Revelation, Biblical Authority, and Creed: how to affirm catholic faith without affirming the claims of Rome”.
Two more chapters analyze the nature of “The Church” – beginning with the “ancient ecumenical church” – that church which was the subject of the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” and then analyzing where Rome’s exclusive ecclesial claims come from, and how an absence of a counter-balance from the Eastern Church in 1054 enabled Rome and the papacy to make greater and greater claims. Citing Orthodox, Lutheran, and even Roman Catholic scholars, Collins concludes that the notion of an “unbroken succession, going back to the beginning” of the church “is clearly without grounding”. “It is a claim that has been repeated by many throughout the centuries; however, its veracity can neither be helped in the least by such a repetition nor by any length of time.”
After analyzing some common objections made by Roman Catholic apologists, the narrative becomes a thorough and scholarly analysis of some of those “uniquely Roman” claims, regarding the sacraments (especially the Roman Catholic notion that it alone has a “valid eucharist”). The reader will then find a keen overview of how elders (“presbyters”) became “priests”, and how the concept of “sacrifice” was imported into the Lord’s supper. There is a three-chapter history on the “development” of the non-existent early papacy – largely provided by Roman Catholic historians and theologians. Discussions of Mary (yes, she was important – no, she is not everything that Roman Catholicism says she was); two chapters on justification, pointing out “the ongoing confusion of justification with the ontological work of heart renewal in the process of sanctification”; plus an assessment of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic “Joint Declaration”; an overview of regeneration, assurance, and conversion; and a final chapter summarizing the current status of the Roman Catholic Church and the internal confusion that can be seen among various factions within “The Church”.
In the end, there is a “fluidity” not only to Roman Catholic theology on these topics, but also the doctrines that are engendered. Those doctrines at the very heart of Roman Catholicism, such as “transubstantiation” and “numerous Christologies operative in particular times and places”, and even doubts about “propositional revelation”. These notions are not “fringe” positions in the Roman Catholic Church, but rather are rather mainstream positions among not even theologians but by members of the hierarchy.
Walls concludes his section: “the point is clear. Protestant converts to Rome who imagine they are joining a church that is free of the divisions and disagreements that plague Protestantism are quite mistaken. Indeed, far from escaping those problems of Protestantism they disdain, they are in fact joining a church that is functionally a radically pluralist Protestant denomination.” Citing Gerald Bray, he says, “Intellectual Protestant converts [to Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy] either ignore these unpleasant facts or make excuses for them in a way that they would never do for the Protestant denominations they have left”. Walls concludes, “the hard truth is that the permanence and unity that Roman apologists and converts like to project over against Protestantism is at best an idealistic illusion”.
So “what gives”? There is a “come to Jesus” moment. “How are the divisions among Christians in this life overcome in a glorious unity in the next?” In the end, the authors’ response is, “Protestants are sitting at the great wedding feast, then, not because they have been purged of deficiencies in the eyes of the Roman magisterium but because the Holy Spirit reigns in their hearts. All those artificial impediments that caused division on earth, even at the table of the Lord, have no weight in heaven. The wedding garment is not a particular ecclesiology or view of the sacraments but holiness!”
I realize this review has been a bit long. But after 500 years of separation (and 2000 years of history), there is a lot to discuss, and this work only begins to scratch the surface. But it scratches where it itches, and it promises relief, especially for those Protestants who seemed disillusioned with their own traditions, that they may not look to a “Church” for salvation, but to Christ alone.