The Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue: Reflections on Ecumenism for the 21st Century (Video)

The resource that we provide today is “old” but still quite useful. This dialogue took place some years ago at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. There is much here to glean but this is very long. It runs ten minutes short of two hours so only those who really enjoy this kind of dialogue will watch it in full. This was available in DVD for some years but we stopped selling it and now provide it without charge to be viewed through our ACT3 Network online resources.

The moderator is the ABC television news anchor in Chicago. The four speakers are identified at the beginning of the program.

If I look like a different person to you in this program it is because this event took place before I lost a considerable amount of unnecessary weight. Some who do not see me very often ask me, “Are you sick?” So far as I can tell I feel much better now than I did when this video was made. Enough said.

8 Comments on “The Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialogue: Reflections on Ecumenism for the 21st Century (Video)”

  1. John,

    I just listened to the whole thing through. At the risk of coming across as a bit cantankerous, if I am to share my honest response, I don’t think I can avoid the following observation. I was taken back by the amount of times you felt obliged to acknowledge that your particular take on a certain issue was not necessarily typical of other Evangelicals, whether it was on the efficacy of the sacraments, sola Scriptura, the relationship of justification and sanctification, the role of Mary, or other issues. But it is precisely these points in which your understanding does not square with mine—and by your own admission, with that of many, if not most, evangelicals—that keeps me from conceding the same points in dialogue with Roman Catholics that you do. Would it not be more honest to say that this discussion represents dialogue between a certain type of Roman Catholics and a certain type of Evangelicals, and not really between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals at large, per se? I found myself asking as I listened to this, “Well then, how do we determine who is the real Evangelical, and who legitimately speaks for and represents the Evangelical perspective?”

    1. You are not being cantankerous David but you are revealing your own view of Evangelicalism, a view which is notoriously difficult to define except by employing a kind of check-list. I follow the major historians of the movement, Mark Noll and David Bebbington, in my understanding of the word evangelical and evangelical movement(s). Thus Lutherans, Anglicans, Mennonites, charismatics, Methodists (Wesleyans), etc. are ALL evangelicals, or can be evangelicals in the proper sense of the word. My view does not square with the popular or populist view but it does square with this historically nuanced view. Having said this my view might not square with your view but it surely does with the views of these various groups, or many of them, in regards to what I say in this video. In answer to your final question the answer should not be, in my view, what either you or I think it should be but rather what those who have studied the word and the movements commonly agree upon. If this is true then I am fairly confident I have represented Evangelicalism in the true sense of the word. I use the word of myself but I also recognize the meaning is not understood by any two people in the same way in the pew. Evangelical does not equal conservative or Baptist or Reformed/Arminian but is a modifier of Protestant Christianity which was altered by the gospel renewals (“revivals”) of the 17th and 18th centuries in particular.

      1. John, I think I understand what you are saying. But I am really going to risk getting cantankerous here. 🙂

        It seems to me that, even if your perspective is compatible with a number of groups that may be certain valid definitions be considered “evangelical,” it still does not represent evangelicalism as whole, but rather one segment of evangelicalism, which (if I am understanding you correctly) does not include the vast majority of Southern Baptists, nor the majority of those who would normally be classified as “conservative evangelicals,” which, if my hunch is right, embrace more than 50% of those who generally label themselves, or are labeled by others, as evangelicals in the U.S. Throw in all the conservative Charismatic/Pentecostal groups, and I think it is clearly over 50%–on a global level as well, in this case.

        So, for me (and for many, many more who consider themselves evangelicals), the line of argumentation or dialogue you present in this video does not square with our “evangelical” perspective. Listening to the four of you go back and forth on a number of issues is similar, for us, to listening to a Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogue, interesting at some level from an academic perspective, but not really personally relevant, as neither side in the discussion is representative of our perspective. I get the idea that in order to engage in the type of dialogue you are promoting, I would first have to give up a number of my specifically Baptist doctrinal distinctives, and then also a number of other evangelical distinctives I share with many folks in Assembly of God, Church of God, PCA, Plymouth Brethren, Nazarene, independent Bible church, Calvary Chapel, independent charismatic church, etc., etc. backgrounds. Instead of working toward greater unity, it seems to me it would mean effectively distancing myself from one group in order to embrace another.

        1. At the risk of sounding “snarky” David “your evangelicalism is too small.” Every working definition I know, as I wrote earlier, includes a much, much wider group of Christian Protestants than Baptists and related groups. I have before me, as I write, The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology (2010). I am cited in this volume as a paleo-orthodox theologian alongside of names like Thomas Oden, J. I. Packer, etc. I am honored to even be mentioned in a list that includes such esteemed men but one is Methodist and the other Anglican and both are leading evangelicals by all accounts. Debating the definition is not extremely useful if we are trying to say “who is” and “who is not” an evangelical. I think we both agree that the greater danger is an evangelical Protestantism that is not faithful to the historic and creedal faith of the holy, catholic and apostolic church. We are seeing the rise of a generation of leaders who call themselves “evangelical” for whom this is a stretch to say the least. I am not among their tribe. 🙂

          1. Let me try to be a little more clear. I am not saying you have no right to call yourself an “evangelical.” I am saying your brand of evangelicalism, specifically on the points you bring out in this video, is different from my brand of evangelicalism and that of many more self-professed evangelicals, very likely the majority of self-professed evangelicals around the world. So the dialogue is not really between evangelicals and Catholics, but between one segment of evangelicals (a segment that may well legitimately bear the label “evangelical”) and a segment of Catholics. That is, unless you mean to imply that my brand of “evangelicalism” is not true evangelicalism.

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