Dr Darryl Hart shows in this book that the biblical truths discovered during the Reformation still matter today. He also applies his broad knowledge of theology, church history, American history and politics to explaining why American Protestants are turning to Roman Catholicism.
His arguments suggest that Americans from a Protestant background who previously held a political aversion to Roman Catholicism are now being attracted to that church because of its apparent authority, unity, historic faith, traditions and beautiful buildings.
American evangelicalism, sometimes reported as being a ‘mile wide but skin deep’, includes some believers who see no essential difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. This confusion is enhanced as both traditions contain those who generally uphold conservative attitudes towards sexuality and relationships.
The author points out that Roman Catholic claims of standing in an unbroken, unique historical line of authority from the Apostle Peter are frayed. The medieval high point of Roman Catholic spirituality, having evolved over the previous centuries, is incapable of being challenged because of the authority structure based upon one man. However, since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, the apparent flexibility of the church suggests that there are no serious differences between Protestants and Catholics. This has contributed to the drawing power of the Roman Church.
Hart powerfully underlines that the vital basic differences highlighted during the sixteenth century remain. A saint, according to the Bible, is a believer who has been justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Such a humble believer does not need any store of merit held by the church because the imputed righteousness of Christ is sufficient. Such a person need not fear the pains of ‘Purgatory’.
Hart’s book is likely to be of particular help to American Protestants weighing up whether to embrace a church that seems to offer so much more than ordinary Christianity as they see it. British readers may feel puzzled by the names of American academics referred to in the book.
However, its application to British Christians is highly relevant. Believers who persevere to the end of the book and follow its reasoning will not be attracted to Roman Catholicism. At the same time, they will find the American scene portrayed by the author to be of interest. Above all, born again readers will be stirred to give thanks to the God of grace who has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ.