Rome Sweet Rome by Scott & Kimberly Hahn
Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, by David B. Currie
In recent years we have witnessed a softening perspective of the vast disagreement between the Roman Catholic Church and evangelicalism. Some leaders in both camps now proclaim that we are all brothers in Christ and any remaining differences are either minor or resolvable in time. In addition, there has been a steady trickle of evangelicals returning to Rome, including a number of celebrated cases. Two books that reportedly aid in the return to Rome are the subjects of this review. I have chosen to review these works together because of their substantial overlap. Both sets of authors were deeply ingrained in evangelicalism but ultimately chose to join the Catholic Church, and for many of the same reasons.
I will begin with Rome Sweet Rome because it is less a theological defense of Rome’s teaching than a narrative of how the Hahns believe they discovered the Catholic Church to be God’s covenant people (p. xi). It is a painful journey in that Scott adopted Roman ideas and “reconciled” to the church many years before his wife, causing much grief in their marriage. But eventually Kimberly was won over and now both are strong promoters of Romanism. The transition began when Scott became convinced while a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary that sola fide is unscriptural (p. 31). He began to believe that justification was by faith and works, or by faith working in love (pp. 32, 41). To be “born again” was something that took place at baptism—usually infant baptism (pp. 123-124). In time he also rejected sola scriptura believing that the traditions of the church fathers, as accepted by the Church of Rome, were as authoritative as Scripture (pp. 51-53, 74). Having now renounced the two major distinctive doctrines of the Reformation it became much easier to embrace Mariology including praying the Rosary (pp. 67-69, 143, 156-160, 178), the doctrine of the Pope (p. 71), praying to the saints (pp. 104, 136, 148-149) and the use of icons (pp. 152-153).
The Hahns were disturbed by the lack of knowledge and general apathy of most Catholic people (pp. 66, 119, 125, 165) but, nevertheless, were drawn to Rome because the Mass, with its literal understanding that the Eucharist was the actual consumption of the physical body and blood of Jesus (pp. 49-50, 88). And while I disagree with most of what the Hahns teach, I do agree with one statement: “The Catholic Church is not just another denomination—it is either true or diabolical” (p. 142).
While Rome Sweet Rome deals with theological issues in a superficial way, although Scott claims to have convinced some of his friends, and won debates against top-level evangelical theologians (pp. 73-74, 121, 129-130), he does not seriously defend Roman theology. David Currie, on the other hand, engages directly with the major differences between the teachings of Rome and that of evangelicals. Currie originally found two doctrines of Rome particularly objectionable: amillennialism and beliefs concerning Mary (pp. 17-18). In addition there was a whole list of other concerns:
…purgation, prayers to saints, veneration of images and relics, the Assumption, the Immaculate Conception, elevation of Mary to co-redemptrix and mediatrix, indulgences, salvation by works, the daily re-crucifixion of Christ in the Mass, regeneration by baptism, belittling of scriptural authority, infallibility of the pope, the insertion of the Apocrypha into the Bible, adoration of the Host, addressing priests as “father”, and confession of sins to men rather than to God. Catholic practices with regard to images and relics really distressed me. Whenever I saw a statue of Mary, I thought of Catholic idolatry (p. 18).
In Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, Currie addresses most of these issues attempting to show, in each case, how he now believes Rome has come down on the correct side.
In Currie’s case much like the Hahns, the Eucharist was the magnet drawing him to Rome (pp. 28-34). As such he dedicates chapter two to a biblical defense of Rome’s teaching on this doctrine. As with the Hahns, John 6 and the interpretation that Jesus was calling for a literal eating of His physical body and drinking of His physical blood as essential for salvation, is the supposed warrant for transubstantiationism.
Currie devotes chapters 3-6 to the sola scriptura/tradition/authority, chapter seven to sola fide, chapter eight to the incarnation, chapter nine to Mariology, chapter ten to premillennialism/amillennialism, and chapter eleven to moral issues. He defends Rome’s position on each of these including the need to add works to faith for salvation (pp. 113-125). What Currie does, differently from the Hahns, is to attempt to wrestle with Scripture and support his views from the Bible. I appreciate this; however Currie does at best a superficial job. For example, he dismisses the evangelical interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9 in less than a page (pp. 117-118) and Titus 3:5 with one very short paragraph. In addition his exegesis is often deplorable and inexcusable. He either claims evangelicals have no good response (totally untrue) to Rome, distorts evangelicals’ true position, or mutilates Scripture so often that I finally grew tired of marking all of his offenses. But here is a partial list of badly interpreted texts used to support his theological views. A careful examination of these passages will show that Currie misses the mark each time.
Zechariah 14:20-21 (pp. 4, 5-6)
1 Corinthians 11:24-25 (p. 48)
Matthew 23:2-3 (p. 53)
2 Thessalonians 2:15 (p. 55)
2 Timothy 3:16 (p. 55)
Matthew 16:13-20 (pp. 74-75; 190-191)
Matthew 18:20 (p. 77)
Ephesians 2:8-10 (pp. 117-118)
Titus 3:5 (p. 118)
1 Corinthians 3:15 (p. 134)
John 6:26-59 (pp. 136-137)
1 Corinthians 7:32-38 (p. 160)
Luke 18:1-8 (p. 165)
Matthew 6:7 (p. 165)
Genesis 3:1ff (pp. 169-171)
1 Timothy 2:5 (p. 176)
Daniel 8:14 (p. 185)
Daniel 9:2 (p. 185)
Acts 2:14-41 (pp. 189-190)
Genesis 38:9-10 (p. 206)
It is tempting to address, pick apart and correct every false teaching Currie attempts to defend but this is a book review not a doctrinal defense of the truth. Every position of Rome that Currie and the Hahns discuss has been dealt with from Scripture by able theologians over hundreds of years. It simply is not true that evangelicals cannot give good answers to Rome’s objections. They have and they can. Again, the Hahns are correct, “The Catholic Church is either true or diabolical” (p. 142). They have drawn the correct line in the sand and I believe the answer is obvious. Rome represents a false religious system based more on the imagination and traditions of men than on the inspired Word of God.