Norman Geisler's "Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences"


#1

To the Catholics who have read
"Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences
by Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie"

I would like to ask,

  1. What were your opinions of this book?
  2. Would you recommend it to Catholics?
  3. Would you recommend it to Protestants?
  4. Would you recommend it to Orthodox Christians?

#2

I saw your post on this in the other discussion. I’ll respond, I got this book shortly after it came out. Read the whole thing numerous times.

<< I would like to ask 1) What were your opinions of this book? >>

My review from Amazon from 1998:

A recent balanced treatment of the Roman Catholic and Evangelical-Protestant debate from an Evangelical (and “baptistic”) perspective, the book Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Baker Books, 1995) by Norm Geisler/Ralph MacKenzie should retire older (and recent) sensationalist anti-Catholic works (as noted by Catholic apologist James Akin on the back cover) but it may take a few years given the vastness of the Internet and the many misunderstandings of Catholicism in Protestant thinking (especially among the more anti-Catholic Fundamentalists/Evangelicals).

The book is divided into two major sections: (1) Agreements that Catholics and Evangelicals have with each other; and (2) the Differences that (some) Evangelical Protestants have with the Catholic Church.

I generally agree with the Agreements section and appreciate the authors fairness in the book. The use of terms can be confusing or perhaps even in error (e.g. the term “Augustinian” as a synonym for salvation by grace: Evangelicals will be shocked just how “Roman Catholic” St. Augustine really was once they study his actual writings). The topics in the Agreements section on the historic Catholic and Christian creeds, the Trinity and Christology, the Bible, salvation, and other doctrinal issues are well done. We Catholics and Evangelicals do have a lot in common.

I have differences over the Differences section but that is to be expected given I am a Catholic reader but have been a big Catholic fan of Norm Geisler’s work for many years. Some of his arguments against Catholic teaching in this second section are quite complex and I can’t hope to respond to them all in this short review but I can recommend recent books that address the major Evangelical objections to Catholic teaching found in the Differences section.

Generally the book is fair with its presentation of Catholic teaching but perhaps relies too heavily on one primary Catholic source: Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott. The authors could have found more comprehensive books of Catholic apologetics to which to respond. Ott is very compact and does not present the strongest arguments that could be made for Catholic doctrine, although it is a classic text for showing the precise teaching of the Catholic Church and the development of dogma.

One major weakness in the book is its failure to deal with the early Fathers of the Church in any detail. It is a simple fact that the authors would disagree with those Fathers, Saints, and Doctors of Christianity for the first 1,500 years whether we are talking Baptism, Eucharist, a sacramental worldview, Church government and apostolic succession, and other quite clear Catholic teachings of the early Church.

Catholics acknowledge the development of doctrine (whether the Trinity, the canon of the Bible, the Sacraments, the Papacy) but for one to suggest the authors’ interpretation of the Biblical texts represent original and true Christianity is simply begging the question. On what basis should we take the authors’ doctrines as true?

I would recommend this book for any Catholic or Evangelical who wishes to investigate some of the better arguments against Catholicism and the areas of doctrinal agreement and common moral cause in this increasingly secular world.

For a complete biblical and historical response to the major issues in the Differences section, I would recommend two books edited by Robert Sungenis: Not By Scripture Alone and Not By Faith Alone (both Queenship Publishing, 1997) also available from Amazon.Com

<< 2) Would you recommend it to Catholics? >>

Yes, for those knowledgeable in the faith, even the critique section will be challenging for how informed evangelicals think. The book relies on James White’s old book Answers to Catholic Claims though, for its critique of the Papacy. :rolleyes:

<< 3) Would you recommend it to Protestants? >>

Somewhat, I’d rather give Protestants books that are pro-Catholic all the way through, like Alan Schreck Catholic And Christian, or Dave Armstrong’s Biblical Defense of Catholicism. But the first section of Geisler/MacKenzie book is fair to Catholic teaching, shows where Catholics and evangelicals agree. In fact its probably the best book on that subject.

<< 4) Would you recommend it to Orthodox Christians? >>

Sure, if an Orthodox wants to know what is the big debate between informed Catholics and informed evangelicals, its probably the best book laying out the agreements and differences. Otherwise an Orthodox can get the book The Quest for Unity: Orthodox and Catholics in Dialogue by John Borelli and John Erickson (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996).

Phil P


#3

And some problems and rebuttals of the Geisler/MacKenzie book, or who at least mention the book

Evangelical Critics of the Eucharist by PhilVaz

B.C. Butler reply to George Salmon

Problems with Sola Scriptura from Not By Scripture Alone by Philip Blosser

And the original articles by Kenneth Samples, Geisler/MacKenzie that appeared in (CRI) Christian Research Journal (1993 or 94) about a year before the book came out. Parts 3 and 4 largely appear verbatim in the Geisler/MacKenzie book.

What Think Ye of Rome PDF Part 3 and Part 4

Phil P


#4

Thank you very much for the replies PhilVaz. ALso, thank you very much for linking to the those Catholic articles, they look very good!

Here’s a few more questions which i hope you will answer.

  1. Looking at the Contents page of the book (via amazon.com) I can see that “Appendix E” is titled “Baptismal Regneration”. I am assuming this is where Geisler/MacKenzie try to refute the Catholic/Orthodox belief of Baptismal Regneration.
    Any of the Robert Sungenis books you mentioned refute Appendix E? If so which book?
    Also, would you recommend any other article/book that would refute Appendix E?

  2. Does the book state that a Catholic must become a Evangelical/Protestant to be saved? If so, on which page?

  3. If not, do you think it implies that a Catholic must become a Evangelical/Protestant to be saved? If so, on which page? Or do you think it’s the general conclusion you get after reading the whole book?


#5

anon << 1) Looking at the Contents page of the book (via amazon.com) I can see that “Appendix E” is titled “Baptismal Regneration”. I am assuming this is where Geisler/MacKenzie try to refute the Catholic/Orthodox belief of Baptismal Regneration. Any of the Robert Sungenis books you mentioned refute Appendix E? If so which book? >>

Um No, Sungenis deals with sola scriptura, tradition, authority, justification/salvation, and Eucharist/Mass teachings in his 3 Not By books. They are still great books, despite how loony I think his young earth/geocentrism science is. :cool:

The book you want to answer Geisler/MacKenzie appendix on baptismal regeneration is the Appedix to Steve Ray’s conversion story Crossing the Tiber. His appendices on Eucharist and Baptism are probably the best out there from the Fathers and Bible on the Catholic teaching. Steve Ray online writings here. As a former baptist, he used to reject baptismal regeneration, so he knows this stuff.

anon << 2) Does the book state that a Catholic must become a Evangelical/Protestant to be saved? If so, on which page? >>

No, of course not. :smiley: Geisler is too smart and too “ecumenical” for that. He does say explicitly Catholics are Christians (unlike White, Svendsen, McCarthy, Hunt, or other anti-Catholic evangelicals/fundamentalists), but that they “compromise” justification by faith alone. I would have to re-read his chapter on justification, I forget.

anon << 3) If not, do you think it implies that a Catholic must become a Evangelical/Protestant to be saved? If so, on which page? Or do you think it’s the general conclusion you get after reading the whole book? >>

No, once you read Geisler/MacKenzie first section you will see they admit we have too much in common, including our salvation by grace inherited from the theology of St. Augustine, and all the doctrines of the early Creeds. He says we are both “Augustinian” since we both affirm salvation by grace.

Only the hardline Reformed, or “anti-Catholic” evangelicals suggest Catholics cannot be saved. Geisler/MacKenzie are not those kind of nutballs. :whacky: I have many books by Geisler, he is great for basic Christian apologetics. He even has a book positively evaluating Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal (1991, 2003). And Catholic Answers sells his excellent Answering Islam. Geisler is one of the good evangelical guys, like Billy Graham, like Chuck Colson. :thumbsup: And MacKenzie too, here is his review of the first Surprised by Truth book.

Phil P


#6

Thanx again PhilVaz.
Yea, i’m a fan of Norman Geisler, i’ve read his book Answering Islam which i thought was very good. I’ve also read bits of other books by him, and numerous articles by him (usually excerpted from his books) from ankerberg.com, i thought they were very good too.


#7

Here is an article from (This Rock: November 2003) by Ralph MacKenzie titled “What Evangelical Protestants Can Learn from Catholics”. I thought it was VERY good!


#8

PhilVaz, you said "And the original articles by Kenneth Samples, Geisler/MacKenzie that appeared in (CRI) Christian Research Journal (1993 or 94) about a year before the book came out. Parts 3 and 4 largely appear verbatim in the Geisler/MacKenzie book.

What Think Ye of Rome PDF Part 3 and Part 4"

What about Part 5, does it largely appear verbatim in the Geisler/MacKenzie book?


#9

<< What about Part 5, does it largely appear verbatim in the Geisler/MacKenzie book? >>

Looks like it. I remembered parts 1 to 4 when I was still getting Christian Research Journal. I think I let my subscription lapse, or forgot about a part 5. However, I did receive This Rock since 1992 or so and didn’t let that one lapse. :smiley: Especially enjoyed the rebuttals by Fr. Mateo to articles in the CRI Journal, which soon became a booklet Refuting the Attack on Mary.

Yeah Part 5 appears to be the section from Roman Catholics and Evangelicals on justification. Same with Part 3 (on biblical authority) and Part 4 (on papacy and infallibility). There were minor changes when the full book came out a year or so later, however those articles appear to be substantially the same as the book.

Phil P


#10

I though the book was quite balanced and good. (I’m evangelical so take that into consideration). It’s kind of long but well worth the time to get through it. I found the agreements section to be very helpful.

Geisler and MacKenzie do believe that a person can be saved while still being Catholic (i.e. holding to Catholic soteriology, etc…) I’ve heard Geisler say that for a person to be saved he/she must believe in the necessity of faith, the necessity of grace, and the all sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross. All of which Catholics hold.


#11

Thanx for that Uranage, also, thanx again PhilVaz. Both of you were very helpful


#12

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