The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America

The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America

The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America

The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America

Synopsis

One of the most intriguing questions in contemporary American Christianity is whether the recent warming of relations between Catholics and conservative evangelicals promises a thaw in the ice age that has lasted since the sixteenth century. American evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics have hated and suspected one another since colonial times. In the twentieth century, however, each community has experienced radical change, and this has led to a change in the relationship between the two. In this book William Shea examines the history of this troubled relationship and the signs of potential reconciliation. His springboard is the recent publicity given to the 1993 document Evangelicals and Catholics Together, in which several well-known figures from each camp, acting as individuals, signed a statement affirming much more common theological and social ground than any other American Catholic-evangelical group had ever done. Looking back, Shea surveys the long and very bitter history of published recriminations that have flown back and forth between Catholics and many kinds of Protestants since the 16th century. He makes the case that Catholics and conservative Protestants reacted along parallel lines to western "modernity" - especially naturalistic evolution and higher criticism of the Bible). That deeper history leads him to the more recent history that has partially overcome the severe Catholic-evangelical antagonisms. Here he focuses on the rise of "neo-evangelicals" associated with Billy Graham and the National Association of Evangelicals and on the changes with the Catholic church since Vatican II. He goes on to offer systematic interpretations of recent evangelical literature on Catholics and Catholic literature on evangelicals. The book ends with some historical, but also theological, social and personal conclusions. This accessible, groundbreaking, and timely study will be indispensable reading for all interested in the religious landscape of America today.

Excerpt

To begin at the end of my story, one of the more intriguing questions in contemporary American Christianity is whether the current warming of relations between Catholics and conservative evangelicals promises a thaw in the ice age in place since the sixteenth century. Following their northern Irish cousins in the peace accord of Good Friday, 1988, evangelicals and Catholics in America may have the like of a Good Friday treaty staring them in the face. Like their Irish cousins, they may reach an agreement that will catch hold, slowly and perhaps painfully. Like the treaty of their Irish cousins, the prospective truce is controversial, provoking both suspicion and opposition, and the outcome is uncertain. The notion of American conservative Presbyterians conversing with American Catholics is no more unlikely than that of northern Irish Presbyterians conversing with Irish Catholics, for the historic bitterness between the communities, although less bloody, has been as corrosive and pervasive here as there. The current occasions and justifications for a contemplated rapproachment offered in both cases are political and cultural, to be sure, but in neither case, across the Atlantic or here, can they remain solely political and cultural if the relationship is to improve. These are religions, after all, and for them religious meanings are decisive. And, finally, I think it safe to say that if improvements catch hold, in both nations the societal results will be formidable.

American evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics have hated one another since the colonial period. In the mid-twentieth century, an event took place in each community, namely, the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE; 1942) and the . . .

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