Saturday, October 29, 2016

The End of Protestantism by Peter J. Leithart

Leithart dreams of unity in Christianity. He wants Protestants to pursue internal reforms that would bring churches more in line with Scripture and Christian tradition. He calls this new ecclesiology Reformational Catholicism.

He has arranged his book in four parts. In the first section he lays out his vision. Next he looks at denominational Christianity in the U.S. and identifies the faults. Next he shows how God is remapping the global church. His final section includes guidelines to theologians, pastors, and lay Christians who want to work on this idea.

Here is a little of what he says the future church will look like. “Everyone will accept the whole of the tradition, East and West and beyond, past and present, as a treasure entrusted by the Spirit to the church.” (443/4456) Creeds and catechisms of the Reformation and the Catholic church will be used but with the understanding that they may be distorted. “They will leave every creed and confession open to correction by the Word of God.” (460/4456) Mary will be honored and the saints will be celebrated. “Protestant churches will have to become more catholic, and Catholic and Orthodox churches will have to become more biblical.” (615/4456)

Leithart writes that in disputed doctrinal areas, “Protestants should operate on one overriding principle: Scripture is the final source for and judge of theological controversy.” (2911/4456) Correctly framed, he says, that principle can be agreeable to Catholics. My question is who will determine what Scripture says? I think every denomination would say they now consider Scripture their final source. He also suggests a “renewed appreciation for pre-Reformation modes of reading and interpreting Scripture.” (2954/4456) He suggests reviving the medieval Quadriga method, something that led to wild speculations about the meaning of Bible passages.

This dream and the means to arrive at it seems very unworkable to me. To accept all traditions fails to realize that some traditions might just be ungodly and non-Biblical. But then, who would make that evaluation? Leithart does say there would be controversies and struggles in the future. 

I found Leithart's writing style difficult to follow. I felt he was asking Protestants to give up much more than Catholics. I also felt that the importance of salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ was somewhat ignored. Unity in Christianity is an admirable dream, but at what cost to those who need to know the truth of salvation?

There is some good information toward the end of the book, helping pastors and lay people get a vision for unity in their own community. Rather than ironing out doctrinal differences, this unity is more on the level of working together in the community.

You can read an excerpt and watch videos by Leithart at

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Peter J. Leithart is President of Theopolis Institute and an adjunct Senior Fellow of Theology at New St, Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho. He is ordained in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches.

Brazos Press, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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