Books Read: January 2004 Archives

Yancy, Yet Again


While I was gone I garnered 2 comments to the posts I did on Phillip Yancy back in November. I believe my reply, especially to one of them may be a bit extended, thus another post rather than simply commenting in response.

To both commenters, I would like to restate two points that I had hoped to make clear in my earlier posts on Yancy. First, there is in his writing what I termed a sort of bitterness against things that apparently occurred to him while growing up in the South during the 1950's and '60's. I admit that "bitterness" may be too strong a term, perhaps unforgiveness is a better term, but whatever it is, I believe it detracts from the work of a Christian writer. Which brings me to my second point, my criticism of Yancy is not that he is Protestant, but that this element in his writing would detract from the work of any Christian writer, not just that of a Protestant. I would also like to emphasize that my comments on Yancy's book express more a sense of disappointment rather than outright criticism. I was prepared to like him but was put off by this negative tone in his work.

Now to a couple of points that Joy makes. First, I hope that I do not express a sense of personal superiority over any other believer, Catholic or Protestant. I agree that too often Catholics tend to become too wrapped up in dogma, to the extent that, as I have pointed out before, the religion takes the place of God. On the other hand, as a former Presbyterian and, I hope, faithful Catholic, I must point out that the reason I came home to Rome is the fact that it was only there that I could find any semblance of doctrinal purity still being professed.

The fallacy I found in Protestantism is precisely the point that Joy criticizes the Church and Catholics for in her comment, the impossibility of the Protestant claim that the Bible is the sole authority on matters of faith and morals. When both Presbyterians and Jehovah's Witnesses claim that their teachings are true and based solely on the teaching of the Bible, then it must be self-evident that something is wrong. The Bible, being the revealed Word of God, cannot possibly teach things that are so completely contradictory. There is a need for an authority, a divine arbiter if you will, to make clear what it is that the Bible teaches. Even Protestants themselves do not really live by the doctrine of sola scriptura, for example, by own former denomination, the Presbyterians, were forced early on to come up with the Westminster Catechism to clarify what they believed to be true. Jehovah's Witnesses do not, each one on their own, sit down in a locked room with nothing but a Bible, and independently come up with the things the Witnesses teach, they are taught these things. As a side note, I might point out that one has only to look at the chaos occurring in both the ECUSA and the Presbyterian Church USA to see the failure of sola scriptura.

I do think that it is a shame that there are many Catholics who may or may not attend Mass on a regular basis who know little or nothing about Scripture or the teachings of the Church. I believe this fact to be one source of the problems that both the Church and society are facing today. I think it is one of the greatest failures of the Church in the last 30 years. However, I must say, that the same thing can also be said of many Protestants. Catholics should be reminded that not all Protestants have their Bibles memorized, and are walking the earth as experts on questions of the faith. Yet, to the extent that it is true that any Christian is ignorant of the faith, we are all the weaker for it.

I have stated before, and I continue to believe, that as Christians Protestants and Catholics share much more than separates them. I also believe that it is crucial to society that there be a greater understanding between Protestants and Catholics and that we all work to find what unity we can. I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin's saying at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: if we don't all hang together we shall surely all hang separately. I believe that there is a fatal flaw in Protestantism, that is that there each man is his own pope, that there is no authority to make clear what is of the Christian faith and what is not. I will not, as Joy seems to suggest, ever say that Catholics cannot learn a few things from our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, as they can also learn a few things from us.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Books Read category from January 2004.

Books Read: December 2003 is the previous archive.

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