Informative books on Roman Catholicism

Discussion in 'Cults & World Religions' started by Stephen L Smith, Sep 6, 2019.

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  1. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I know there has been a trend in some circles for 'Protestants' to convert to Roman Catholicism. I grew up in a strong Roman Catholic region myself. I was hoping to read more on the subject.

    I was aware that "Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment"
    by Gregg Allison has been praised by Reformed pastors. However I was reading this review where they make this comment:
    "One weakness of Allison's book, however, and much exploited by Roman Catholics, is that Allison makes these critiques from a perspective that he calls "evangelical theology". While providing an excellent assessment of current Roman Catholic doctrine, his critique from the perspective of a vaguely-defined point of view plays directly into the Roman Catholic critique of Protestantism in general, that of a failure to come to an agreement on many important points of doctrine.

    This is the first point at which Collins and Walls demonstrate their methodological jiujitsu. Rather than arguing from the point of view of an ill-defined "evangelical theology" as Allison does, Collins and Walls locate their arguments firmly in in the perspective of what they call "the ancient ecumenical church" - that is, the ancient "catholic", or "universal", church of the first four centuries, prior to any of the schisms that arose out of conciliar activities."

    They imply that " Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation" by Jerry L. Walls and Kenneth J. Collins is a better book.

    Has anyone compared these two books? Any thoughts?

    I have been reflecting on Rom 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." and thankful I have not been deceived by the serious errors of Rome.
  2. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

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  3. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The place I always direct people to start is with Sproul's outstanding little book Are We Together? He avoids caricatures, and bases his entire description of Roman Catholicism on the Catholic Catechism, which is undoubtedly best in post-Vatican II RC. The next book after this that I highly recommend is Leonardo Di Chirico's book Evangelical Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. Rather expensive at the moment, but maybe you can procure it second hand or through ILL. Di Chirico's book is the most seminal book on Roman Catholic teaching written in the last century. Argues that most evangelicals have misunderstood Rome because they have dealt with RCC in a highly piece-meal fashion: let's talk about the papacy, then justification, then Mary, then purgatory, etc. Di Chirico argues that RCC needs to be understood as a system based on two fundamental pillars: the church as an extension of the incarnation of Christ, and grace perfecting nature. On these two pillars all the distinctives of RCC hang. What is good in Allison's book is based on Di Chirico, as I established when I emailed Allison about his book. I was going to write a book on RCC until those two books came out. There would still be room for someone to write a Di Chirico-based book from a presuppositional standpoint. Di Chirico is Reformed, and his book is so, so important.
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  4. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Perkins was one of the best at dealing with Tridentine RC. He, Chemnitz, and Whitaker are perhaps the three greatest. However, as they pre-date Vatican II by several centuries, they won't help as much with trying to understand what RCC is like today.
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  5. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

    I completely agree and was going to come back to add a similar qualifier. Thank you.
  6. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Samuel Edgar wrote a wonderful volume entitled The Variations of Popery.

    This treatment is of the post Vatican 1, Church of Rome. I do not know of a good treatment of the current post Vatican 2, Church of Rome.
  7. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you for these comments Lane. I found them very helpful. I have the Sproul book and have found it very helpful. Sproul is very perceptive.
    All the copies I have looked at are over NZ$200. I do have research interests where I am prepared to pay a lot of money on good books, but I am only interested in Roman Catholicism from a general point of view. [The NZ$ is quite weak against the US$ at present so it makes expensive US books very expensive!]

    Lane, the reason why I was looking at the "Roman not Catholic" book was firstly the quality reviews I had read of the book. The review I posted above said it was better than Dr Allison's book. And I can get it for only NZ$37, a big price difference!

    As a matter of interest, I found a review by Dr Leonardo De Chirico. Dr De Chirico says this of the book "Roman not Catholic":
    "The book is outstanding in its impressive scholarship and careful argumentation. I have many words of commendation with only one remaining criticism. The authors, though masterly at presenting a convincing case, don’t go far enough in coming to terms with its consequences. They still operate with the mindset that what divides Evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church is less than what unites them. Here is the way they put it: “Deep Disagreement despite Deeper Agreement” (p. 78)."
    He goes on to argue they should had said Deep agreement despite deeper disagreement.

    My point is Lane, if Dr De Chirico can praise the book in this way, and its fault is corrected by Sproul's excellent work, I am getting a very good book at a low cost!

    What are your thoughts of his review?
    Get your word processor out :) I'll put in the first order for the book :p

    As a matter of interest I have greatly enjoyed two discussions/lectures by Dr De Chirico:
    1. Evangelicals and Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism discussion on the Reformed Forum
    2. How Evangelical is the Pope? The Theology of Francis Martyn Lloyd-Jones memorial lecture

    There is also an interesting discussion on the Reformed Forum by Dr Allison on his book.
  8. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I admit one of my struggles has been why would ANYONE convert to Catholicism. I was watching some Youtube videos of a former United Methodist church minister who converted. He seems so sincere and talked about his hardships in converting which said he was taking up his cross and following Christ, and how Rome had greatly strengthened his Christian faith including his walk with Christ.

    I struggle with how can anyone say these 'Christian sounding' things yet clearly be lost in error.
  9. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Considering this thread and the other thread about the conversion of J.H. Newman, I think I'll recommend this short talk by Leonardo De Chirico.
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  10. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Stephen, anything that De Chirico writes about Rome is going to be top quality. I read the review, and definitely found it to be thought-provoking. I regard Dr Chirico to be the best expert on Catholicism from an evangelical/Reformed perspective alive today, and the best to come along since the Reformation and post-Reformation periods.
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  11. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Just been doing some reading on this topic myself recently. Anything by the puritans would be very helpful. But in terms of specific recommendations:

    1) Just finished reading James White's The Roman Catholic Controversy which is an excellent analysis of the key Gospel issue between Christianity and Romanism: justification. This would be an excellent book to start with if you want an overview of the issues at stake. He starts by looking at authority, which is of course essential to understand as it determines from where/whom we derive our doctrine; then he looks at justification itself; then he looks at various other doctrines which flow from this: purgatory, Mary, indulgencies &c. His argument is that Rome has not fundamentally changed her doctrine since Trent. She may have put on a more conciliatory face (in Western countries) but it's the same teaching. Whatever random Romanists in Western countries might say Rome teaches, or believe themselves, is not nearly as relevant as what is offical doctrine.

    2) Then I would recommend The Two Babylons: Romanism and Its Origins by Alexander Hislop, which is basically the popular work on the pagan origins of the Roman system. It's quite an involved read as he goes into a lot of detail in demonstrating how Romanism was built on the ancient Babylonian mystery religion. He also demonstrates how Babylon is the origins of much of paganism throughout the world. This would not be a book to give to someone who wanted an introduction to the issue: it's a dense read. However it is very illuminating and really an essential read. And however much certain people might dismiss it the evidence he accumulates is staggering. There may be a tenuous link made here or there but he proves his thesis in abundance. The stuff in this book was once well known amongst Protestants but loss of faith in the Protestant cause, ecumenism, declension and the wiles of Rome have veiled much of it.

    3) Banner publishes two books by Richard Bennett, a former papist: Far from Rome Near to God: Testimonies of Fifty Converted Catholic Priests and Catholicism: East of Eden. I haven't personally read these books but Bennett's work in this area is well regarded.

    4) I'd also recommend any and all of the debates James White has done with Romanists over the years. I've watched a lot of them recently and they have been very helpful. You'll find them on youtube.

    The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to Rome is this: she never changes. She is the same harlot "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" she has always been. She may have put on a more acceptable face in the West in order to beguile the Protestant world but go to any third world country and you will see the paganism of Rome on full display. Don't let anyone tell you she has improved. If anything she is worse than at the time of the Reformation (for example, the Marian dogmas were not dogmas then. Look into what Rome teaches about Mary and that alone will show you what she truly is).
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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  12. Susan777

    Susan777 Puritan Board Freshman

    Stephen, I have a copy of Roman but not Catholic I would be glad to pass on to you. I have some reservations about the book, primarily the assumption that the Roman religion, while greatly flawed, is nevertheless “a distinct Christian theological communion”. They label anyone believing that the Pope is an antichrist as an extremist, which would probably be about everyone on the PB. They seem to be conservative main liners with evangelical sentiments. For example, they (actually, one or the other since each contributed different chapters) bemoan the lack of female ordination in the RC but attribute it to the RCC explanation of historically male Disciples rather than the teaching of Paul. However it is definitely worth reading for an understanding of some of the doctrinal development in the RC. As far as understanding the post V 2 church anything by DeChirco is awesome. He has a deep understanding of both pre and post V2 Catholicism which would benefit some confessionally Reformed people who are sometimes misled into thinking there is a greater commonality than there is.
  13. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you for your kind offer. I live on the opposite side of the world so postage would be expensive. I can get an inexpensive copy from Abe books.
    As I mentioned above I was aware of these weaknesses from the reviews I read of the book, but assume Sproul's excellent work would correct these.
  14. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Lane.

    As a matter of interest, you mentioned Dr De Chirico on an earlier post on Nature and Grace, I have just started listening to a fascinating lecture series on this by him:

  15. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I’ve read both of these books and they are both helpful in their own way. Allison’s book provides an excellent assessment of Roman Catholic theology based on the RCC catechism. As far as coming from a vague evangelical standpoint, in my assessment, he is merely making a general Protestant critique that could be agreed upon by various branches of the church rather than making a specifically Baptist critique. Personally I think this is a strength of the book.

    As far as Walls book, it is also good, but does suffer a bit by being a little too friendly to Roman theology (Walls got his Ph.D from Notre Dame after all) as well as just being a bit too influenced by Walls somewhat wacky brand of theology (Protestant purgatory and rabid anti-Calvinism just to name a couple of examples).

    Overall, both are helpful, but for my money, Allison’s book is better.
  16. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    I noted this comment above from the Reformation 21 review:
  17. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

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  18. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Loraine Boettner's book is no longer as useful now, and for the same reason. His book was published in 1962, just as Vatican II was getting underway.
  19. JKL1647

    JKL1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'd just read pre Vatican 2 writings and and post Vatican 2 writings. It is very contradictory and has divided many RC. At this point they are very much as divided as Protestants, and recent poll showed 78% of American RC do not even believe in the literal presence of Christ in the Eucharist. There are many different sects that have completely different views on tradition and the 2nd Vatican council. "Traditional" RC are in many ways no different then Protestants in the sense of literally protesting against the current post Vatican 2 church claiming they are in error and sin in doctrine and practice.
  20. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    One way, in which the old pre Vatican 2 Tridentine Roman Catholics are like conservative protestants, is that the old line Roman Catholics believed in original sin, and substitutionary blood atonement. Post Vatican 2 Roman Catholicism, seems to be very much like liberal Protestantism of the 1970s. She seems in many ways to stand in the tradition of Karl Rahner. She does not expressly deny original sin, and substitutionary blood atonement; but is more concerned with reconciliation, and God's universal salvific revelation.

    Thus I see Post Vatican 2 as just another example of unbelieving liberal Protestantism. Dr. C. Matthew McMahon provides some context for understanding liberal theologians.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  21. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    Pre- and Post-Vatican II theologies are inconsistent, logically irreconcilable. I challenged a Roman Catholic friend to tell me whether I, as a Protestant, was (in the language of Trent) anathema, or (in the language of Papists following Vatican II) a "lost brother". I never did get a straight answer.

    But, "Doctrine never changes," they say "It only develops."
  22. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    All this can be true, but one must always address official Roman dogma, because all official teaching does not originate in the pew; it proceeds from the magisterium. No Roman apologist has any serious regard for the consensus of the pew.
  23. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I've read Boettner's book. It wasn't all that helpful even before Vatican II, because he chose bad sources. Instead of looking at Ludwig Ott, for instance (a standard RCC pre-Vatican II Thomistic systematic theology, which I've also read), Boettner would use the most outlandish mystical writings as his source material. Hardly mainstream Catholicism. He got some facts wrong, too.
  24. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Lane, what did you think of Ott's Fundamentals of Dogmatic Theology, if you remember? His work seems to be the standard pre-Vatican II systematic theology. How good a job does he do in an area where Protestants and Catholics are pretty much agreed theologically, like the Trinity, for example?
  25. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Richard, I thought Ott's work was exceptionally careful, scholarly work. I actually enjoyed reading it. He is not exceptionally polemical, from what I recall. He is highly scholastic in tone, so some would probably call him dry. He was fairer than most Catholics when describing Protestant theology.
  26. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Sounds like it's worth a look.
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