Monday, September 26, 2005

Presbyterian Church Historian Mark Noll on Differences in Converts

This confirms something I have been contending for years. Dr. Mark Noll (of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church) has been on the Wheaton College faculty since 1979 and is the co-founder and present director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. In recent years Dr. Noll has been a visiting teacher at Harvard Divinity School, University of Chicago Divinity School, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Regent College of Vancouver, B.C. His most recent book, co-authored with Carolyn Nystrom, is titled Is The Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism (Baker Academic, 2005).

The following exchange is from an interview by Carl E. Olson, on the Ignatius Insight blog: Is The Reformation Over? contains a section about former notable Evangelicals (Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, etc.) who have become Catholic in recent years. Although they offer criticisms, they have a very ecumenical attitude toward Evangelicalism. Are there counterparts, so to speak, within Evangelicalism–former Catholics who became Evangelical because of serious theological reflection and who now engage in ecumenical dialogue with Catholics, either formally or informally?

Noll: I’m sure there must be, but most of the ex-Catholics I know or know about tend to be pretty severe on their Catholic past. Most ex-Catholic evangelicals of my acquaintance were not well catechized, and often their Catholic experience was nominal, mechanical, or (in some instances) abusive; by contrast, many ex-evangelical Catholics reasoned themselves into Catholicism from articulate evangelical positions. That difference helps explain the contrast in "ex"s (if, in fact, my experience speaks to a general situation).

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