February 17, 2008

Highly recommended...

A book I just read with great excitement, and am starting to read over again, is The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, by Louis Bouyer. Bouyer was a French Lutheran who converted to Catholicism in the 1930's, and was able to look at both sides with great clarity. It's the sort of book I read and keep slapping my forehead and saying, "Oh. NOW it makes sense, this stuff I've been involved with all my life!"

He shows in the first part of the book that the original insights of the Protestant reformers were completely Catholic, and were positive and renewing ideas that the Church needed. And then in the second half he shows what went wrong, how the philosophy that was pervasive at the time, Nominalism, led the reformer's positive views immediately into negatives, and into opposition to the teachings of the Catholic Church. For instance, Luther's appreciation of the overwhelming importance of scripture as the living Word of God, (Sola Scriptura) soon led his movement to attack tradition, and the teaching authority of bishops and councils. They could not hold the different aspects of authority in tension—to embrace one led to denying the others. (And their Catholic opponents were in the same philosophical trap, and their defense of tradition led to denigrating scripture.)

I'll just give you a little quote I liked, to pique your interest. (Also, this post, by David Schütz, is very good, and caused me to buy the book. Thanks!)

....If this assertion sounds like a paradox to a number of Catholics, as well as to Protestants, this is due entirely to a series of prejudices and misunderstandings. And if Catholics and Calvinists seem to agree in regarding Calvin as essentially anti-mystical, it is because, as a rule, Calvinists are incredibly ill informed about Catholic mysticism, viewing it wholly on the surface, while Catholics know only the externals of Calvinism.

Rather than embark on a long discussion, we propose simply to relate a most revealing conversation we once had with the minister Auguste Lecerf, certainly the person of our generation the most learned in Calvinism, as well as embodying in himself the highest type of strictly Calvinist spirituality. As he had said, quite baldly, that a mystic, in his view, was just someone who held paradise to be a place of debauchery, we read to him, without cormment, some of the salient passages of The Ascent of Mount Carmel, by St. John of the Cross. After listening with the closest attention, he answered in perfect sincerity and without hesitation: "If that is the real Catholic mysticism it is precisely the religion for which Calvin fought all his life.".....


Posted by John Weidner at February 17, 2008 7:53 AM
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