Why Protestants Should Be Interested in Rome
Carl Trueman offers some reflections on George Weigel’s new book, Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church.
He writes, “Some may wonder what the point of reflecting on Rome is for a Protestant.” He offers three points by way of response:
First, Protestants benefit from a conservative papacy: on public square issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom, the RCC has a higher profile and more power—financial, legal, institutional—than any Protestant group. We all benefit from the cultural and legal power of the RCC in these areas.
Second, your neighbours probably do not distinguish between Christian groups. A sleazy, morally corrupt RCC is like a sleazy, morally corrupt televangelist ministry: we are all marked with the same brush in the public eye and our task of evangelism becomes that much harder.
Third, RC authors often offer more penetrating insights into secular culture than their evangelical equivalents. Comparing George Weigel to Rob Bell in such circumstances is akin to comparing Michelangelo to Thomas Kinkade.
Therefore, while I have very serious theological disagreements with Catholic authors, I would suggest that they by and large offer well-argued, well-written and insightful commentaries on the state of the world in a way that is rare in evangelical circles. One can learn a lot from watching a great mind wrestle with a problem, even when one deems the conclusion erroneous; there seems little to be gained from watching a mediocre mind playing ping-pong with the same.
Here’s one more excerpt from later in the piece:
Of course, I am in fundamental disagreement with Weigel’s positive proposals on a large number of fronts. Yet he is addressing the same basic problem we face as Protestants: the abolition of human nature and the self-creation of the person, with all of the moral anarchy that implies. Weigel’s answer, simply summarized, is that the RC Church needs to be the RC Church, to have its agenda set not by the culture around but by the gospel as she understands it. I disagree with Weigel on what the gospel is; and I find his uncritical adulation of the previous two pontiffs to verge on naïve sentimentalism; but I also find his hearty disregard for the cool and the trendy and the superficially relevant, from the intellectual to the aesthetic, to be something with which I sympathise. Would that more Protestants were less concerned with the young and the cool and more willing to have, in the words of David Wells, the courage to be Protestant.