What have evangelicals to learn from Catholics?


vaticanI’ve been working my way through a very thorough book by an evangelical scholar on Roman Catholic doctrine and practice in order to write a review of the book for a journal.

This post isn’t primarily about that book, but it did raise a question. The structure of the book was a point by point assessment of official Catholic doctrine. It was fairly done. The author brought out commonalities as well as differences. There were substantial numbers of both.

Overall, the approach was to analyse and assess RC doctrine from a particular (Reformed) evangelical perspective. The thrust of the book was to conclude that despite many areas of agreement, there are multiple substantial areas of disagreement that should preclude any notion that the Reformation is over or that evangelicals and Catholics should cooperate in mission and witness.

Again, that conclusion is not what this post is about. It is more about a lingering question I was left with. It wasn’t asked in the book because it tended to be assumed that evangelical doctrine and practice is the yardstick by which to evaluate other systems. The critique was all flowing one way.

What has evangelical faith and practice got to learn from Roman Catholic faith and practice?

This is a self-critical question. It assumes that ‘we’ haven’t got it all right. It is open to learn from others. It implies a certain humility as we look at ourselves, our level of Christ-likeness, our churches, and our often disunited factions.

Despite that last sentence, this is not asking for a long list of the failures or weakness of evangelical faith and practice, nor is it asking for a similiar list of Catholic weaknesses. It’s framed postively …  So another way of asking this is

What for you are the ‘best’ aspects of Catholicism from which evangelicals can learn and be reformed by?

Comments, as ever, welcome.


5 thoughts on “What have evangelicals to learn from Catholics?

  1. I must first say that I am novice when it comes to understanding RC doctrine and theology. And I am a novice at understanding Anglican doctrine and theology. With that said, at first glance it seems as if Anglicanism has tried to retain some of the best practices from Roman Catholicism and retain them for Protestantism. Once you add the evangelical Anglican bit, though, I don’t know how much carry-over remains. That was my first thought. My second thought was to take it a different and further(?) direction: what can evangelicalism learn from the Eastern Orthodox?

  2. Greetings Peter. You are right of course that Anglicanism and Catholicism are historically and theologically closely related. Many of the finest evangelical theologians and biblical scholars have been and are Anglicans. Quite a few evangelicals whom I know not brought up Anglican have made that Church their home. I can see why – the richness of the Book of Common Prayer, stability in leadership and doctrine, historic connections to the Creeds and Confessions of the Church, theological orthodoxy, and so on. On Eastern Orthodoxy I am no expert at all. In many ways it can claim with some justification to the Church that really does not ‘reform’ and change. It claims unbroken continuity with the NT church in its structure, worship and liturgy. For many evangelicals I met in Romania years ago, while there were strands within the EO that they considered spiritually alive, the stress on liturgy, forms of worship and the authority of the Church as an institution masked the need for personal faith, assurance of new life, forgiveness and future hope. For them Tradition had too high a place – equal or even above Scripture.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s