Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review - Devin Rose's "The Protestant's Dilemma"

Finally, a "Dilemma" that you will want to have!  Fresh off the presses from Catholic Answers, Devin Rose's The Protestant's Dilemma is a worthy successor to his best-selling If Protestantism is True.  This new book retains all of the penetrating insights of the original but with an even tighter apologetic focus and a newly revised format that makes referencing specific content a snap.

In my 27 years of studying the Faith, Devin Rose's method of explaining his intellectual journey from Protestantism to Catholicism stands out as truly unique: For each element of Christian Faith under consideration, he asks the reader to assume that Protestantism is true and then to follow that belief to its logical conclusion.  (Sounds simple, right?  But when employed by someone with the knowledge base and logical, conversational writing style of Rose; its effects are akin to an earthquake's.) Time and time again, for 34 separate issues, Rose demonstrates how the position of the Protestant Reformers ends in a denial of Scripture, history, and/or reason. I'll give a brief example:

Rose asks readers to consider what it means if the Reformers were correct in their removal of seven books (Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Judith,  1 & 2 Maccabees, Tobit,) from the Old Testament. First Rose calls attention to the historical fact that the seven books in question were part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT used by the apostles and quoted throughout the New Testament.  He goes on to discuss how the Jewish canon (list of books recognized as inspired), appealed to as authoritative by the Reformers, was not settled upon until the end of the first century, if not later. The Christian Church, however, had always used a Bible containing the works rejected by the Reformers, reading them at the Sunday liturgy and quoting from them in her teaching.  Rose then asks readers to come to grips with what the Reformers' rejection of these books means:
"If Protestantism is true, then for 1500 years all of Christianity used an Old Testament that contained seven fully disposable, possibly deceptive books that God did not inspire.  He did, however, allow the early Church to designate these books as Sacred Scripture and derive false teachings such as purgatory from their contents.  Eventually, God's chosen Reformer, Martin Luther, was able to straighten out this tragic error, even though his similar abridgement of the New Testament [his attempt to remove James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation] was a mistake." (p.74)
Put in those terms, one can understand the title of this book. Unbeknownst to them, sincere Christians, born into communities stemming from the Reformers, have either (a) been wrongly deprived of seven books of Holy Scripture; or (b) the Holy Spirit allowed the apostles and the entire Church to use a defective Bible and be deceived. It was Rose's realization that (b) was unthinkable for an orthodox Christian, and (a) matched the details of history, that moved him to the Catholic acceptance of these seven books.  And that acceptance enriched his experience of Christ!

In the course of just over 200 pages Rose repeats this thought exercise for 33 other points of contention between the Protestant Reformers and the Catholic Church - the papacy, ecumenical councils, the Scripture and Tradition, infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, marriage as a sacrament, the Eucharist, etc., etc.  He continually and successfully shows readers the way out of the dilemma - the Catholic Faith, a seamless garment of Scripture and reason, consonant with the facts of history.  And while doing this he maintains a sincere charity toward the Protestant Christian of today; his tone is never one of condescension or triumphalism. Rather, his purpose is to unite brothers and sisters in the visible unity for which Jesus prayed at the Last Supper. My hat is off to Mr. Rose!


5 comments:

  1. I AM A PROTESTANT THAT Lately HAS EMBRACED CATHOLIC SPIRITUALITY AND ALSO HAVE COME TO UNDERSTAND SOME OF THE PRACTICES OF THE CHURCH. MY FRIEND THRU HER LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP HAS EVANGELIZE ME ON SUCH A POSITIVE WAY. THE BO OK WRITTEN BY MR ROSE THOUGH MEANT TO BE HELPFUL HAS DONE MORE HARM. HIS TONE THROUGHOUT THIS BOOK IS BOTH HARSH AND COMBATIVE. I HAVE THICK SKIN SO I HANDLE HIS CRITIQUES. I RECOMMEND BOOKS BY SCOTT HAHN AND THE PROGRAM CATHOLIC ANSWERS IF ONE WANTS TO PROTESTANTS TO MAKE THE JOURNEY HOME. THAT COMMENTS FOR YOU MR. GRODI.

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  2. Mark, thank you for stopping by. Glad to hear that you enjoy reading Dr. Hahn - he may have influenced me more than any other living theologian (although Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is right there at the top too). I obviously didn't take Devin as having a harsh tone, but this book does very much "cut to the chase." Catholic Answers is a marvelous program, and the same one that published "The Protestant's Dilemma." I imagine Devin will be making an appearance on the program to discuss the book sometime soon; perhaps hearing him viva voce will leave you with a different impression. Thank you for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts; it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

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  3. By the way St Louis is my favourite city. I stayed at the Huckleberry Inn Hostel in Soulard District

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  4. Very cool - where do you call home, Mark? Next time you're in the Lou, I'd be happy to grab lunch and hear more about your journey!

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