The Unfinished Reformation – A qualified recommendation

The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestantscast After 500 Years
By Gregg Allison and Chris Castaldo
Zondervan, 2016, 171 pages

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, a bevy of books are being published to commemorate the event. Many evangelicals have little knowledge of what drove the Protestant Reformers to break from Rome in the 16th century. In this era of growing ecumenism, are the issues that fueled the Reformation still relevant for today?

In this short book, theologian, Gregg Allision, and pastor, Chris Castaldo, examine the commonalities and differences between Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity. We share such doctrines as the Trinity, the nature of God, Scripture as divine revelation, the Person and saving work of Jesus Christ, and man’s fallen nature. As for differences, the authors mention disagreement over tradition, the apocrypha, the role of Mary, authority, the sacraments with emphasis on baptism and the Lord’s Supper, purgatory, and justification.

The main disagreement which caused the Reformers to break with Rome was over how a person appropriates the gift of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Rome says salvation comes by the infusion of grace imparted by the church’s sacraments, which enable the participant to live an increasingly sanctified life so that they are able to merit Heaven. The Reformers pointed to God’s Word, which says salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. We have no righteousness in ourselves, but when we repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, His perfect righteousness is imputed to us.

As in their previous books, the authors go to great lengths to be cordial and charitable regarding Catholicism, perhaps to a fault. A Catholic could read this book and focus on the commonalities and cordialities and perhaps casually dismiss the differences as a matter of interpretation and semantics. It is my view that Catholics are best served by a direct approach to their church’s false doctrines rather than by being discreet and circumspect. When people are on a sinking ship or in a burning building, “dialogue” may not be the most helpful rescue method. Readers interested in a more direct approach to Catholicism should consult books by James G. McCarthy, James R. White, and William Webster. See my Books tab here for over 300 books that compare Roman Catholicism to Scripture.

Another deficiency of this book is that an invitation to accept Christ comes only at the end and in a very indirect manner. Forgive the poor analogy but this book is like an automobile dealership that is happy to display its inventory but never leads the customer towards making a purchase decision.

With all of that being said, in our current era of ecumenical compromise, I do welcome this book from a major (c)hristian publisher, which affirms the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith and accurately critiques Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. “The Unfinished Reformation” is available from Amazon or from your local (c)hristian book store.

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