Book Review: Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Gregg R. Allison)

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I took my time reading through this book.

It’s easy to get into a brand new book, fly through it, tweet the good quotes you find along the way, shelf it, and move on. But when I was provided this book for review via Crossway, I knew this especially was more than something to be scanned, but rather, deeply searched.

I don’t think it is going too far to say that this book brings something to evangelicalism that it has been lacking for decades: an honest and unbiased look at Catholic theology.

It is sadly too common and too easy these days for evangelicals to enter into discussion about Catholicism with a lot of wrong ideas about what the Catholic faith holds and why it believes what it believes. If you ask evangelicals today their thoughts on Catholic theology, they may mention Mary as an important figure, they will likely mention the Pope, maybe confession booths, but nonetheless our views on Catholicism remain shallow, and often misguided. The worst is making assumptions about what Catholics believe, and in turn determining where their salvation lies. Ironically, many of the same people that do this assuming also have little clarity in defining why exactly, according to Scripture, that elements of Catholic theology are wrong.

That’s why I was so excited to pick up this book, to read it with a careful eye, and let it resonate with me for a bit. Allison has spent nearly his entire ministry working on formulating a volume like this; the least I could do as a reader is allow it to marinate with me. Before reading this book, I knew I disagreed with Catholics on doctrines like the Pope, the Virgin Mary, purgatory, etc., but I wanted to be equipped with a Biblical defense for my beliefs against such doctrine, which would allow me to rightly affirm and critique where appropriate.

One of the highlights of the book for me has been reading about Catholic theology’s emphasis on the interdependence of nature and grace. This was a concept I wasn’t really familiar with in terms of a thought pattern. I knew Catholics embraced nature, but to see Allison present this philosophy so clearly really helped me gain a grasp for the whole of Catholicism. I now feel like I can read men like Augustine, Chesterton, and Aquinas with the correct lens.

Gregg Allison has made this book so easy to read, that there’s really no excuse for not reading it. After all, most of us have or know someone who has some background with the Catholic church. The format and outline this books follows flows so smoothly. Allison presents a detailed summary and review of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, point by point, and follows each with the evangelical response to said point. It’s greatly designed for quick reference in Catholic doctrinal points, but also laid out well when studying along with the Catechism. Right before I got this book, I checked out the Catechism of the Catholic Church at my library, and read Allison’s book along with it, which I found really helped me see clearly what the Catholic Church holds against the evangelical arguments and agreements.

This book is — dare I say — a necessary read for those in ministry or going into ministry. As church leaders, we must know how to have these kinds of conversations, because Catholicism is not a lost art. Catholic theology is growing in Latin America. Its emphasis on tradition lends itself to never “dying out.” And honestly, the Catholic Church has done a lot of good for Christianity as a whole. Though there are many areas it goes grey, and many more areas it steers way off course, it is still a thing we should analyze, to make out faith stronger, to become more knowledgeable and clear in thinking through such issues, and most of all, pursuing a right relationship with Christ. Thanks to Gregg for a clear, well-presented, honest, and massive fresh look at Catholic theology, and what we should do with it.

Stars: 4.5/5.0

I was provided a copy of this book by Crossway in exchange for my review.

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