This morning I read a quick review by Ben Myers, over at "Faith and Theology," of Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom's book, Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism. Noll and Nystrom examine the teaching of the Catholic Church.
The book’s theological analysis centres on Chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 reports on the various evangelical-Catholic dialogues that have taken place since the 1960s—dialogues which have fostered not only theological understanding, but also attitudes of personal respect and affection, thus helping to displace the polemical attitudes that have been so deeply ingrained in North American Protestantism (although, alas, “in the world of ordinary, unlearned evangelicals, atavistic anti-Catholicism remains as colourful ... as ever” [p. 187]).
In Chapter 5 the authors analyse the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. They praise its devoutness, clarity and theological content, and they highlight remaining areas of contention between evangelical theology and the teaching of the Catechism. On the basis of the Catechism, they rightly conclude that “ecclesiology represents the crucial difference between evangelicals and Catholics”—and they point out that evangelicals will never understand Catholic teaching without first grasping the Catholic doctrine of the church (pp. 146-47).
Obviously I need to pick up a copy of this book and read it through. I've been interested since its publication. As a convert to Catholicism from evangelicalism, and from what I understand of the book and their conclusions within it, I think their judgment is exactly right. The glaring difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is ecclesial. (Of course, this is no little thing either: All of Catholicism's theology is informed by her ecclesiology.)
But as I began to read the comments, an ornery Catholic made a comment about Protestantism and the bickering began. And it made me sad and ornery myself. And I need a quiet place to pray.
There is more at work here dividing us than just ourselves.
To quote a great contemporary theologian: "A little less talk if you please / A lot more loving is what I need / Let's get on down to the main attraction / With a little less talk and a lot more action." That's applicable here, isn't it?