Catholics and Protestants: What Can We Learn From Each Other? by Peter Kreeft, Ignatius Press, £13

Peter Kreeft is a well-known Catholic convert, apologist and professor of philosophy at Boston College. His books are provocative, lively and challenging, and I always look forward to reading them. This one is no exception. If we Catholics are inclined to think that we have nothing to learn from Protestantism, this book provides a humble and thoughtful exercise in the examination of one’s faith.

Early on, Kreeft defines what he means by the word “Protestant”: “I speak only of Evangelical (in the broad sense) Protestantism, ie the Protestantism of the Reformers, not of liberal or modernist Protestantism, which is simply shrinkage and hopeless heresy.”

I think we would all recognise the distinction. Indeed, he adds that the differences between Evangelical Protestants and “liberal” Protestants are “far greater than the differences between orthodox Protestants and orthodox Catholics”.

There are chapters on the Eucharist, Our Lady and the real meaning of ecumenism, which is not a polite talking shop but where “Catholics discover a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour” and “Protestants discover Christ’s living Body both as a living institution with teaching authority and as a real, personal, literal presence in the Eucharist.” Why, he asks, are there so many ex-Catholics? “They never discovered Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church.” As the author comments, it is never enough to know about Jesus – one also has to know Him. As to the relationship between Christ and the Church, Kreeft quotes the wonderful remark of St Joan of Arc during her trial: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” Quite so.

On unity he is succinct: “The Church succeeds in converting the world to the exact extent that she sees and loves and lives her identity with Christ.” As always with Kreeft, his chapter headings provide a taste of his style and his method: “What Happens in Individuals who ‘Ecumenise’?” and “What Will Make Good Protestants Come Home?” are some examples. Anyone serious about evangelisation should read it this book.

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