Gregg R. Allison, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

Crossway, 2014, 493 pgs.

Summary: A summation and chapter by chapter assessment of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Dr. Gregg R. Allison, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and former Cru missionary to Italy and Notre Dame University in Indiana.

His basic analysis is founded on the fundamental difference between Roman Catholic and Protestants on the issue of nature-grace interdependence and the Christ-church interconnectedness. He draws this distinction from Leonardo De Chirico’s Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism.

The nature-grace interdependence allows grace within the Roman system to function as a spiritual substance that can be stored, traded, purchased, infused, and earned. Further, nature, including the human will, is considered receptive to grace without regeneration. The Christ-church interconnectedness allows the papal system to grant the attributes of deity to saints, clergy, and the church (Chapter 2).

These two components taken together then provide a coherence to Roman Catholic theology which may be missed by more granule assessments. Behind transubstantiation, intercessions of the saints, purgatory, papal infallibility, and so forth are these two larger conceptions.

Allison then works through the major sections of the Catechism providing a Protestant critique of the Roman system. He carefully demarcates between Baptist, Calvinist, Arminian, Covenantal, and Dispensational responses to Catholic doctrine.

Benefits/Detriments: There are two wrongheaded forms of Catholic-Protestant dialogue; the first is when both parties pretend the differences are insignificant or logomachy and the second is that there is absolutely no common ground. Allison’s book strikes the golden and biblical mean between the two sides.

It is my hope that the nature-grace interdependence and Christ-Church interconnectedness will become the starting point of all future ecumenical conversations with Rome.

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment should be read by all thoughtful Protestants interacting with Roman Catholics and is especially useful for those considering converting to Rome and counseling such.

Shane Walker is preaching pastor at First Baptist Church in Watertown, Wisconsin. This post appeared on the blog of Andover Baptist Church in Linthicum, Maryland.