I’m very heartened by Mark Noll’s review of George Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism , linked in today’s First Links . Other than the subject of politics ( I think the significance of political issues both inside and outside the church is a much bigger challenge for Weigel’s analysis than Noll does) the review gets right to core significance of the book for Catholic-Protestant relations. The book and the review are each only one man’s opinion, of course, but in their way they point toward the kind of fruitful engagement that is becoming more and more possible in our time (partly, alas, because the threat of persecution is forcing us to confront these questions more urgently).

I think that in general, there are two older paradigms of Catholic-Protestant cooperation that are inadequate and are falling by the wayside. On the one hand, there is the “let’s stop quibbling over what words mean” school, which fails to acknowledge the legitimacy and the importance of the issues that divide us. It’s pretty clear the opposition to ECT was motivated by the perception—right or wrong—that ECT leaned in this direction and failed to give adequate weight to the anathemas of Trent and the continuing divisions over justification, etc. among our communities.

On the other hand, especially on the Evangelical Protestant side, some practice a strict dualism that compartmentalizes charitable works and social activism from the gospel. Of course we can work together with Catholics to feed the hungry and fight abortion, say Protestant Evangelicals of this school, because that stuff is not about the gospel . More and more people are realizing why this is inadequate; as Weigel and Noll (in their different ways) both remind us,  everything is about the gospel. The interaction between Weigel’s book and Noll’s review shows that a golden mean is possible—that we can talk about what we share without either trivializing our differences or giving those differences such urgency that we feel the need to compartmentalize them from daily life.

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