Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism, edited by Robert Plummer (Zondervan, 2012)
Evangelicals are returning to more liturgical traditions. Perhaps not in droves, but it is a notable and a growing trend. Journeys of Faith aims to help Evangelicals understand why these born-again Christians feel the need to convert. Rather than inviting Evangelicals to speculate on the causes, it lets the converts speak for themselves: a Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican each describe their journey and give an apology for their respective faith. An Evangelical then offers a response to the criticisms raised.
Thankfully, there is a spirit of graciousness, with all parties quick to affirm common ground and each of the converts speaking warmly of their evangelical past, even while critiquing it. The particular value of the approach is that, given their background, the converts all know the language of evangelicals and, to some degree, use it in defending their conversion.
The section on Eastern Orthodoxy, written by an ex-Baptist pastor, is a lesson in the pitfalls of churches that aim to be ‘seeker sensitive’. Making their services palatable, the churches have neglected reverent worship. However, the evangelical response ably demonstrates that significant theological problems with Eastern Orthodoxy.
The chapter defending Catholicism is more robust and, with the response, does a solid job of showing the major points of dispute and the case for each. A testament to quality of the argument is the curious uneasiness the editors seem to feel in giving it a platform. Their ultimate aim for the book is to defend evangelicalism, so they seem to hope the book might find its way into the hands of Orthodox/Catholic Christians. But they also show a real worry that Evangelicals might read the book and choose to convert to Catholicism themselves. For this reason they include a section by a Catholic who converted to Evangelicalism, which is probably an unnecessary addition to the chapter critiquing Catholicism. The one benefit is that the second section gives more emphasis to the Catholicism that is practised in the churches rather than just that which is handed down by the Vatican.
The chapter on Anglicanism was rather odd, not least of all because the convert is no less evangelical than he had been when attending Baptist and nondenominational ‘Bible’ churches. For this reason, the respondent spends most of his section talking about what he admires about Anglicanism, ironically, doing a better job of describing and even defending it than the Anglican himself. The result is that both agree that no denomination is perfect but the central aspects of the gospel are clear. In the end this is also the enduring impression from the book as a whole; while denominations may differ considerably they are, in the words of Malcolm Muggeridge, ‘different regiments of the same army’ (quoted p. 187).