Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Recommended Books on Serious Catholic-Protestant Dialogue (+ the Dumb Anti-Catholic Ones to Avoid)

[all book titles are linked to amazon, whether they are blue or black color]

What books critical of Catholicism or ones that defend Protestant distinctives can be recommended to Catholics or non-Catholics inquiring about Catholicism, in good conscience?

The best single book critical of Catholicism: intelligent, stimulating, and fair (though ultimately, I think -- as one would expect of an apologist! -- able to be fairly easily refuted) is eminent Protestant apologist Norman L. Geisler's book:

Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (co-author Ralph E. MacKenzie, 1995)

Geisler is an ecumenical Protestant rather than an anti-Catholic, which makes a huge difference in both tone and content, and enables him to fairly present the Catholic positions without distortion, so that real positions are critiqued, and not caricatures. Another book that looks similar to this one is by Protestant historian Mark Noll (a solid and fair scholar):

Is the Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism by Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom (2008)

Catholic convert Fr. Dwight Longenecker has co-authored several "friendly dialogue" books with Protestants, that are very helpful in this regard:

Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson (2003)

Why Do You Believe That?: A Protestant-Catholic Conversation by John Schwarz and Dwight Longenecker (2005)

Challenging Catholics: A Catholic Evangelical Dialogue by Dwight Longenecker and John Martin (2002)

Here are a few more fair-minded and intelligent treatments of Catholicism from Protestants:

A tale of two churches: Can Protestants & Catholics get together? by George Carey (1985)

Protestants and Catholics: A Guide to Understanding the Difference Among Christians by Peter Toon (1984)

Another way to read about constructive Catholic-Protestant dialogue is to check out the many volumes of high-level ecumenical talks (notably the Lutheran-Catholic dialogues). These books, while primarily ecumenical, also give readers a sense of the real differences and how charitable men and women of good will on both sides work through the issues. These have the advantage of readers being able to examine both sides and to enjoy fruitful dialogue, for the purpose of better mutual understanding:

Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue I-III by Paul & T. Austin Murphy (ed.) Empie (1970)

Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue 2: One Baptism for the Remission of Sins by Murphy, T. Austin Empie Paul C. (1967)

Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue III: The Eucharist as Sacrifice, 1967.

Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IV: Eucharist and Ministry, 1970.

Papal Primacy and the Universal Church (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue ; V) by Paul Empie (1974)

Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 1985.

J. Francis Stafford, Harold C. Skillrud, and Daniel F. Martensen, Scripture and Tradition: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue IX (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue), 1995.

The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: It's Structures and Ministries (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue, X) (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue) by Randall Lee and Jeffry Gros (2005)

Promoting Unity: Themes in Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue by H. George Anderson and James R. Crumley (1990)

[See the amazon listings page for many of these titles available from many different booksellers]

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, [Lutheran World Federation and Catholic Church], Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus (1995)

Your Word Is Truth: A Project of Evangelicals and Catholics Together by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus (2002)

A House United - Evangelicals and Catholics Together (Building Alliances Among Christians of All Confessions and Traditions) by Keith A. Fournier and William D. Watkins (1994)

Other books along these lines that I don't know much about, but that look helpful:

Rereading Paul Together: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on Justification by David E. Aune (2006)

Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future?
Catholics and Evangelicals: Do They Share a Common Future? by Thomas P. Rausch (2000)

Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influence of the Early Church (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future) by D. H. Williams (2005)

Tradition, Scripture, and Interpretation: A Sourcebook of the Ancient Church (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future)
by D. H. Williams (2006)

A High View of Scripture? The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future) (2007) by Craig D. Allert

I would never recommend that a person exclusively read anti-Catholic materials because in my experience they always (without exception) distort the Catholic positions they are trying to shoot down. In other words, they are (overall, or as a general rule) "refuting" a straw man and not the actual Catholic positions. The following are the leading anti-Catholics today and in recent times who have authored books about Catholicism:


James White (books: one / two / three / four / five / six / see Patrick Madrid's classic 1993 critique of White ["The White Man's Burden"] in This Rock)

Eric Svendsen (books: one / two / three / see Catholic apologist Phil Porvaznik's reply to Svendsen's ridiculous "$100,000 challenge")

William Webster (I've refuted Webster's uninformed historical arguments twice: one / two)

James G. McCarthy (see a reply to his book by Phil Porvaznik)

David T. King (see my refutation of his atrociously misinformed attack on Cardinal Newman)

Lorraine Boettner (deceased; see a scathing review of his book by Protestant Chris Johnson)

John Ankerberg (see my lengthy reply to his book)

Bart Brewer (deceased; see Karl Keating's article on him)

Ron Rhodes (see a critique of his book by Catholic apologist "Matt1618")

Dave Hunt (see a critique of Hunt's methods, by Catholic W. Robert Aufill)

Robbie Zins (see an in-depth critique of his outlook by Protestant Douglas Gwinn)

The Shape of Sola Scriptura (2001) by Keith Mathison is a thoughtful treatment of that crucial subject from a Protestant, but marred by Mathison's subtle version of anti-Catholicism. I've responded to several of his arguments:

How Different (In Nature and Ultimate Effect) Are SolO Scriptura and SolA Scriptura? (+ Part II) (vs. Keith Mathison)

For many arguments against sola Scriptura, see my web page on that topic.

I've interacted with almost all of these men in some fashion. If someone is determined to read the anti-Catholic position for study purposes, I would strongly recommend to at least do so by reading a debate with a Catholic apologist or theologian or a corresponding book by a Catholic on the same topic. That way, you can clearly see how weak their arguments are, and how they twist and distort Catholic positions, and you'll be able to instantly see how Catholics can answer. I have lots of debates on my Anti-Catholicism web page.

Be forewarned that I use a lot of humor and sometimes sarcasm in response to the massive personal attacks they have thrown my way (and also the lousy, abominable reasoning used), rather than losing my cool and exploding. Some people don't care for the humor and (at times) satire. That's fine. I've done the best I could in the circumstances, I think. Unfortunately, it's part of apologetics (ad hominem and attacks on one's "scholarly integrity") that can't be avoided. For this reason, and because I have always thought the anti-Catholic position is viciously self-defeating and internally incoherent (see a notorious example from James White), I no longer engage in serious debates with anti-Catholics, having done more than enough of my share already. 

I would strongly recommend that inquirers stay away from these anti-Catholic materials. The legitimate scholarly books I recommend above amply cover all these same theological bases without the nonsense and distortions and relentless polemical anti-Catholic agenda.


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