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Posted January 29, 2003
Ideal for both Evangelicals and Catholics
It takes courage (some would say audacity) to write a book that plays on the title of C. S. Lewis¿s most famous work, Mere Christianity. But Longenecker has succeeded in writing a work of Catholic apologetics that pays homage to Mere Christianity and explains Catholic doctrine with verve and joy. Longenecker is no stranger to both Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. He attended Bob Jones University, and while studying there became acquainted with the writings of C. S. Lewis. Longenecker eventually moved to England, attended Oxford, and became an Anglican priest. Years later, after much study and consideration, he entered the Catholic Church and has been writing about Catholicism and apologetics ever since. The goal of More Christianity, Longenecker states, is "to help non-Catholic Christians who are interested in historic Christianity to understand the modern Catholic Church more easily." Clearly he has written his book with the curious, well-read Evangelical in mind ¿ the sort of informed Protestant who relishes reading C. S. Lewis and has questions about the Catholic Church. "Now at the dawn of the twenty-first century," Longenecker argues, "that simple Gospel that Lewis branded `mere Christianity¿ and that Evangelicals call the `old, old story¿ is more fully and universally presented in the Catholic Church than anywhere else." Longenecker understands that Mere Christianity was not meant to be promote a minimalist Christianity, as some critics suggest. "Lewis¿s Mere Christianity is good as far as it goes, and as a first step in Christian apologetics it probably has no equal. To be fair, Lewis denied that his use of `mere¿ in the title indicated the lowest common denominator." The major flaw of the famous book is its lacking ecclessiology. The problem, Longenecker argues, "is that Lewis and other well-meaning non-Catholics believe the fundamentals can exist as objective truth outside the dynamic life of the Church. . . . The basic truths of the Christian faith cannot be separated from the wholeness of the Church. Catholics believe those basic truths can be most fully known within the bosom of the Church." After establishing these and other core premises, Longenecker works his way through the major issues separating Catholics from Evangelicals: eccelesiology, authority, the papacy, salvation, the sacraments, the Eucharist, the saints, and Mary. While not breaking any new apologetic ground, but he does a fine job of comparing Catholic doctrine with common Evangelical notions and misunderstandings. His chapter on the Real Presence is one of the best. He correctly observes, "I believe most Evangelicals deny the supernatural dimension of the Eucharist through an inherited misunderstanding of the Catholic position combined with a concession to the spirit of the age that is skeptical of anything supernatural. The way forward is to remind Evangelicals that they do actually believe in the supernatural; they do believe God is at work in the world in wonderful ways." Longenecker¿s discussions of salvation and Marian beliefs would have benefited from a greater emphasis on grace as the supernatural life of God. Catholics agree that grace is divine favor, but go much farther and deeper than do Evangelicals in holding that grace is the Trinitarian life that truly infuses the soul. And the issue of confirmation is clouded by comparing the sacrament to "personal conversion." Unfortunately, this suggests that confirmation is about an individual decision, not the conferring of further supernatural grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the person ¿ whether they are an adult, a teen, or a baby. A balanced, engaging, and charitable work, More Christianity will go far in helping Evangelicals (and Catholics) better appreciate the riches andWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.