Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Decent Thing?

In the current issue of The City, Joseph Knippenberg reviews Francis Beckwith's Return to Rome. Rather than contesting Beckwith's Catholic views on justification and sanctification, Knippenberg admits he and many Reformed folk share them. But no matter. "We have a lot to learn from Rome, but we don't have to follow [Beckwith] all the way there to reap those benefits." We should "continue the conversation" and learn from each other; but, says Knippenberg, "I'll continue worshiping at my Presbyterian church."

Knippenberg's review reminded me of another review, Westminster Theological Seminary Professor Carl R. Trueman's review of Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom's Is the Reformation Over?. The review is quoted at length by Beckwith in Return to Rome because, says Beckwith, it "rocked me to the core." Trueman argues that Noll and Nystrom "do not draw the obvious conclusion from their own arguments." Trueman continues,
Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in other words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do every day. It would seem, however, that if Noll and Nystrom are correct, many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology; but those who reject the former and lack the latter have no real basis upon which to perpetuate what is, in effect, an act of schism on their part.