Catholics and Protestants: What We Can Learn From Each Other
By Peter Kreeft
Ignatius Press, 2017, 204 pages
Peter Kreeft is one of Roman Catholicism’s most prolific apologists. When the new, young pastor of the Southern Baptist church we used to attend cited Kreeft as one of his favorite philosophers from the pulpit a couple of years ago, I knew it was time for us to leave.
In this new book, Kreeft makes an appeal in simple, everyday language to non-academic evangelicals to unite with Rome. In Catholic parlance, “unity” always means returning to the authority of the Vatican and to the Catholic sacraments and liturgical worship.
Right off the bat, Kreeft contends that the Reformation’s main debate over the issue of justification was resolved with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between Rome and Lutherans in 1999 so therefore evangelicals have no good reason for remaining outside of Catholicism. Not so fast, Professor! Mainline liberal Lutherans and Methodists may have signed this vague accord, but Catholicism still teaches the same false gospel of sacramental grace and merit that it taught in 1517. Nothing has changed. Catholicism teaches good works/sanctification merit justification/salvation. In contrast, Bible Christianity teaches good works/sanctification are the fruit of genuine justification/salvation through faith in Christ alone. The two approaches are diametrically opposed. For an excellent evangelical response to the Joint Declaration, see here.
After quickly dismissing the rhubarb over justification as yesterday’s news, Kreeft then looks at a few other Protestant objections to Catholicism including the “real presence” of Jesus in the eucharist and Mary’s role in salvation. Regarding the former, he simply advises Protestants to visit the nearest Catholic church and pray to the Jesus wafer in the tabernacle and ask if it’s really Him or not. For the latter, he uses the typical Catholic sophistry that all that veneration/worship of Mary is, at the bottom line, actually devotion to Jesus.
Kreeft strongly compliments evangelicals for their passion for Christ and roundly criticizes cultural Catholics for their apathy and begs evangelicals to return to Rome because the only proper place for the “flame” is the “authentic fireplace.” Kreeft drops the names of ecumenist C.S. Lewis and Mother Teresa throughout the text because he’s certainly aware these two religious celebrities are highly recognizable to doctrine-lite evangelicals and are possible bridges to interest in Rome.
Kreeft gently chides Protestants for basing their identity on a negative, i.e., “protesting” Catholicism, rather than joining Catholics and positively proclaiming the (g)ospel. He also defends Rome’s unscriptural interfaith approach to non-Christian religions, repeating the Vatican line that goodness and truth can be found in all faiths and can be Christ-sanctioned roads to redemption.
There’s no logical flow to this book; each short chapter encompasses an individual thought about Catholic-Protestant reunion so you can put it down and pick it up two days later without missing a lie…er…I mean, a beat. This book would appeal to Protestants who have scanty knowledge of Catholic theology and church history and are eager to embrace every person as a fellow Christian who says they “love Jesus, too” (a la Rick Warren). Please note that prominent evangelicals, Timothy George (always a Judas cheerleader for Catholicism) and Eric Metaxas, contribute glowing recommendations on the back cover. There’s already plenty of accommodation, cooperation, compromise, and betrayal within evangelicalism. With this book Kreeft is hoping many will take the next “logical” step.
Postscript: To read how Bible Christians came to be called “Protestants,” see here.
Postscript II: Imagine Spurgeon’s or Lloyd-Jones’s response if someone asked them what they could learn from Catholicism?