Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What Evangelicals Owe Catholics

Over at Evangelical Outpost, I read an exceptional posting entitled “What Evangelicals Owe Catholics: An Appreciation.”

Why do I characterize this posting as exceptional?

Simply because I rarely hear a convinced evangelical—and a Baptist at that—speak in such a genuine and unprejudiced manner when referring to the Catholic Church.

Indeed, I’m often amazed when I consider how my thinking is shaped by Catholic social thought, the Just War tradition, and Natural Law theory. Although I do not always find myself in complete agreement, the Catholic perspective often causes me to rethink my views on such matters as contraception, IVF, just wages, and the death penalty.

As attached as I am to my own theological traditions (Reformed, Baptist, evangelical) there are many issues where they have historically come up short. In fact, I would argue that there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of areas in which we evangelicals should acknowledge a debt owed to our Catholic brothers and sisters.

The writer later goes on to examine Catholic Church leadership in the area of the sanctity of life. He first points out the initial failure of his own denomination to properly address the grave evil of abortion:

In a 1971 resolution on abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that “society has a responsibility to affirm through the laws of the state a high view of the sanctity of human life, including fetal life.” The largest Protestant denomination in America had a peculiar definition of “sanctity of human life”, however, for the very next sentence called upon Southern Baptists to “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion” under such conditions as “fetal deformity” and damage to the “emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Three years later—and two years after Roe codified this position—the SBC reaffirmed the resolution. It wasn’t until 1980 that the SBC finally condemned abortion as a grave evil, a position that has always been maintained by the Catholic Church.

For nearly thirty years, evangelicals have been working to catch up to our Catholic brothers and sisters on issues of the sanctity of life. Even today, the Catholic Church is more consistent in its application. Sadly, many evangelicals are willing to turn a blind eye to embryo destruction when it occurs for purposes of in vitro fertilization or for biomedical research. We still have much to learn from the Catholics about how to respect the life that God has created.

Unfortunately, the comments section of the posting are all too reminiscent of the bickering, slander and misinformation that has haunted Protestant-Catholic dialogue for centuries and which directly contributes to our failure to stand united on evils such as abortion.

Again, until we forge a way to work together, unborn children pay with their lives for our small mindedness, prejudice and sin.


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