Sed Contra: Together Again

Many people are surprised that Catholics and evangelicals are starting to get along so well— the media is surprised and disappointed, liberals are surprised and scared. I’m not surprised, I was a Baptist who became a Catholic at the age of 33. At the Christian Coalition meeting in Washington D. C., I remarked that one of my favorite hymns as a Baptist was “We are One In the Spirit.” After admitting how half-heartedly most Catholics sing, I was told by several members of the audience that Baptists had gotten the hymn from the Catholics.

So I came to two conclusions—Baptists have good taste in hymns and this newly-discovered cooperation had been in the works for some time, unawares.

Some people think that the political alliance of Catholics and evangelicals was caused by the pro-life and school choice movement—as well as the overall concern for defending the traditional family. It goes deeper than that, to the very foundations of our self-understanding, and reveals why cooperation with the mainline, liberal Protestant churches, as opposed to evangelicals, is nil.

Catholics and evangelical Protestants believe that we are creatures of God, made to love Him, to love Him according to His will, that the Word of God instructs us in how to love Him, and that this Word is not a human construct, but the authoritative measure of the Church.

Having these convictions in common made it possible for me to teach Thomism at a Baptist college in Atlanta for nine years. There were mild protests, to be sure, but overall my evangelical students quickly learned to appreciate the benefits of Christian philosophy, as it is taught in the Catholic tradition. We believe that God has spoken and given a real knowledge upon which we can base our lives, yet, Catholics have more confidence than evangelicals in God’s way of speaking through nature. But evangelicals, as Ralph Reed comments in this issue, are realizing the benefits of arguing from the perspective of reason and natural law.

Evangelicals are apparently overcoming their standard objection against the philosophical dimension of the Catholic tradition. They are realizing that both orthodox Catholics and evangelicals look to the Gospel first and to the human sciences second, rather than bend the latter to the former in a vain attempt to appear up to date. This is because we each put a personal encounter with Jesus Christ before all else, whether by walking the aisle to accept Him as Lord or by meeting Him in the Eucharist. Perhaps there is something in the repeated gesture of walking the aisle toward the church altar that has been preparing for this meeting of minds all these years.

Some evangelicals have greeted this propitious moment in our cultural history by trying to reopen the wounds of the Reformation. It is a mistake to spend time fighting over who are the real Christians when we should rather confront this culture of death together, exactly as the signers of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together declaration of March 1995 urged.

It is a pity that some powerful evangelical leaders are shunning cooperation with Catholics. Evidently they don’t think it is a priority to take the culture back from the secularizers. They want to fight over church doctrine at a time when we have an unprecedented opportunity to win the political battles necessary, once again, to have influence in our social institutions.

They worry that evangelical cooperation means capitulation to Catholic views on justification and the priesthood. It is surely a leap in logic to say that just because some Baptists invite Catholics to work for school choice they also accept the doctrine of papal infallibility; likewise, Catholics working alongside Baptists need not accept their view of infant baptism.

Doctrinal differences will arise, but the obligation of Christian charity calls each of us not just to share the message of eternal salvation but to seek actively the redemption of the society in which we live. Loving the whole person includes his life on earth. It is a symptom of our own barbarity that we must begin with the protection of life itself.

We can revisit the controversies of the Reformation in the classroom, around the dinner table, and over the phone, but in the public arena we should thank God that Catholics and evangelicals have found one another. If some people find that scary, it’s because they realize that the tide is turning.


  • Deal W. Hudson

    Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ He is the former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.

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