Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Evangelical Responds to Surprised by Truth

Criticisms of the Catholic Church come in a variety of forms and modes of expression. One purpose of this blog is to provide responses to criticisms made by non-Catholics so that other Catholics may be better enabled to share their faith. (See this blog's Introduction.)

I recently loaned to a dear friend an extra copy of Surprised by Truth, edited by Patrick Madrid. She was kind enough to write a short review of the book, which I am giving below (with her permission). I'll refer to her by her online blogname: mozartmovement. (She is an excellent writer, whose musing are found at

Mozartmovement's comments are brief, but as someone who loves discussing religion as much as anything else in life (it really is the most important thing, isn't it?), I'm afraid mine are not. The brevity of MM's comments, however, should not mask the importance of the ideas and influences that give birth to them. I hope that my extended response will help bring some of these issues to light, so that my readers will have a better sense of 1) what issues are at stake when Protestants make seemingly benign statements (some may be bigger than one might think), and 2) how to open dialogue by asking questions about the other person's thoughts. If Christian's are to achieve the unity Christ prayed for in John 17, one step must be open and frank dialogue about issues both sides care about deeply. While I hope that my response is not offensive in any way, I do hope it puts a bug in the mind of those who claim the non-denominational mindset that my friend espouses so that we can find the motivation to keep this important conversation alive.

The remainder of this post consists of the book report written by Mozartmovement. I will issue my response in a series of postings to follow.

Book report _Surprised by Truth_ Patrick Madrid
I respect the Catholic Church. Many non-Roman Christians value its history and its early teachings, as well as its current bioethics. But the contributors to this work start from strikingly anti-Catholic biographies. And with ironic uniformity, each of these writers had a classic “born again” experience, thanks to outspoken Evangelical “Fundamentalists.” These were not incidental detours, but indispensable bridges on each author’s spiritual path. Do they dispose of this? Or credit it? How do they excise their former Protestantism yet retain their re-birth? The church they reject is not entirely mine, and the one they embrace shares much with mine. Many Protestants agree with what Al Kresta calls “doctrinal minimalism.”(p.260). Being very sure of very few doctrinal essentials is the hallmark of the non-denominationalism that Kresta experienced, and that I agree with. True, much chaos exists in Protestantism, but the unity of Roman Catholicism is hardly as self-evident as these writers imply. They fail to mention both ancient schisms and modern diversity. Understandably, they value authority. The lack of indisputable leadership may be a shortcoming among Protestants, but it may also be seen as a safeguard. There are able leaders, whose ministries can be scrutinized, even if there is no Pope. I have had a long-standing warm regard for the Catholic Church. While this volume does not kindle that warmth into flame, it doesn’t chill it, either.

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