Would That Protestants Were Less Concerned With The Young And The Cool

Of course, I am in fundamental disagreement with Weigel’s positive proposals on a large number of fronts. Yet he is addressing the same basic problem we face as Protestants: the abolition of human nature and the self-creation of the person, with all of the moral anarchy that implies. Weigel’s answer, simply summarized, is that the RC Church needs to be the RC Church, to have its agenda set not by the culture around but by the gospel as she understands it. I disagree with Weigel on what the gospel is; and I find his uncritical adulation of the previous two pontiffs to verge on naïve sentimentalism; but I also find his hearty disregard for the cool and the trendy and the superficially relevant, from the intellectual to the aesthetic, to be something with which I sympathise. Would that more Protestants were less concerned with the young and the cool and more willing to have, in the words of David Wells, the courage to be Protestant.

Carl Trueman, “A Tale of Two Popes


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  1. Scott, I disagree with Carl. He is not seeing Protestants convert to Rome. The issue isn’t the dignity of the human person, the issue is the sinfulness of human nature. I don’t see Rome teaching its own earlier doctrines of sin and grace. I see theological universalism. And I don’t see that convincing anyone to give up gay marriage or pro-choice.

    • Darryl,

      It’s probably my fault but I’m having trouble following you. Socially, the dignity of the human person is a huge issue, isn’t it? Theologically, yes, Rome’s doctrine of sin is weak and corrupted helping to produce a false church but culturally/socially, modernity is at war with the very idea of “human nature” or any other sort of nature.

      As to Rome’s theology, I think more and more it is dialectical. It depends where one looks. If one looks at Vatican I, it’s one thing, Vatican II, another, and then again at post-Vatican II documents, including the catechism, it’s more like Vatican or even Trent in certain respects. The more I look at Rome, the more I think I should say “this Roman document” or “that Roman document.” It seems, at this moment, since John Paul II, abandoning the more universalizing aspects of Vatican II, don’t you think? I’m thinking of the approach promulgated by JPII (2007) re the way Protestant churches aren’t really churches because they aren’t Roman.

      It also depends on whether one is looking at particular Roman catholics (e.g., Wills) and Rome itself. What Fitzmyer, Wills, or CTC might say is interesting and it’s important for understanding what’s happening on the ground among some American Romanists but it doesn’t have any ecclesiastical standing or authority.

      Don’t confessionalists want to agree with Carl’s point re being what we confess?

  2. Scott, for all the nuttiness of the Sam Harrises and Andrew Sullivans, I don’t see the dignity of the human person at stake. It strikes me that a more difficult topic is simply trying to live with people with whom we disagree (in a society where the institutions — govt., business, universities, etc. — are too big to fail. True, the scale of these institutions is inhuman. But if we’re talking about scale, say hello to the UNIVERSAL!!!! church run out of one spot in Rome.

    Plus, I tend to think that Christ and the apostles faced a society where human dignity was not in large supply. And what did they do?

    Bottom line, I am increasingly annoyed by the human dignity language. If Rome talked more about sin and its wages, they’d be reminding people about human dignity in a much more profound way.

    • Darryl,

      I’m not all that worried by the neo-atheists, who mainly strike me as intellectual lightweights—but perhaps we differ in our perception of the effect of modernity on the way people conceive of the nature of existence generally. I think the very idea that there is a nature of things is being lost. I put this in the category of preaching the law. I don’t have any illusions about becoming good or better via but it’s better for civil society to understand that everything is not plastic, that there are limits inherent to human existence. I guess we don’t really disagree here.

      In the 1st century, there was a reasonably widespread notion of nature and inherent limits, more so than seems to exist in late modernity.

      I quite agree re Rome preaching sin and its wages! That was Lewis’ point inThe Abolition of Man

  3. Scott, well, when the students I know get a sense of “the nature of things” they become Roman Catholic. Of course, confessional Protestants also affirm a nature of things. But that is not central to what we proclaim. Should it be? I’m not sure. I’m fairly convinced that when it comes to the poor or to Jerry Sandusky, lots of folks believe in a “nature of things.”

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