Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Evangelical is Not Enough

Three or four years ago, I read Evangelical is Not Enough by Thomas Howard, a Catholic convert from evangelical Protestantism. A small book, but a powerful read. A few selections follow:

The worship of God, surely, should be the place where men, angels, and devils may see human flesh once more set free into all that it was created to be. To restrict that worship to sitting in pews and listening to words spoken is to narrow things down in a manner strange to the gospel. We are creatures who are made to bow, not just spiritually . . . but with kneebones and neck muscles... (page 37)

To anyone who was swept away by the great cathedrals I would have pointed out crisply that Jesus built no such edifices. In so doing, I would have ignored the overwhelming fact that, while He built no such edifices, He spoke words of such power and glory that they burned into the hearts of men and kindled all the skill and creativeness that was in them. His words did not spread a frost over human potential. They roused and vivified us and set us free to do all of our work for the glory of God, whether that work meant cups of cold water, prayers, building, baking or typing. The Word became flesh. The word always becomes flesh. What is true in a man's heart will take on the mantle of good works, or of stone, or of gilded illuminating around the border of a manuscript, or of well-baked bread.
(page 64)

One's coming to God has nothing to do with how one feels . . . . you do it because that is what the people of God do. Moreover, in so doing, you discover that, far from being mere drab duty, it orders your life and undergirds it and gives it a rhythm . . . if he has learned to look on prayer as a plain habit, he will find that it is not so much of a struggle. (page 70)

The Bible is not a handbook for everything. It opens up the vision of God for us mortals, and this vision comes upon our mortal life and redeems it and transfigures it and glorifies it, so that all that we are springs into new vigor. Far from quelling our human potentialities and yearnings and capacities, it redeems them and sets them free . . . . To prohibit ceremony, or even to distrust it, and to reduce the worship of God Himself to the meager resources available to verbalism, is surely to have dealt Christendom a dolorous blow.
(page 100)


Mimi said...

Even though I'm Orthodox, I've thought of picking up that and "Rome, Sweet Rome" to read. I'm fascinated with the Protestant migration to Orthodoxy or Catholicism - being as I just went from the RCC to Orthodoxy with a wee stop in the Anglican tradition, and a long stop in the "nothing particuarly" tradition ;)

John said...

It's been a while since I read the book, but I don't recall it as being much of a promo for the RCC. Rather, Howard takes a good, hard look at the American evanglicalism and its fruits. I think Orthodox inquirers can benefit from the work as much as those leaning RCC. I'm curious--what caused you to leave the RCC, and what attracted you to Orthodoxy?

s-p said...

Yep, Evangelical Is Not Enough is merely a good hard look at the evangelical tradition as opposed to the Biblical tradition. It is not an apologetic for the RC even though Howard ended up there. I think it is a "must read" for every evangelical regardless of whether or not they are dissatisfied with their evangelical experience.

Mimi said...

I had more of a Catholic background rather than being Catholic. I always loved the Liturgy, the ritual and the saints.

In Russian class, my professor (and ultimately my Godmother) was doing a class on Orthodoxy to help illustrate the cultural milleu of the novels and history we were reading, and every place she said "This is where the Orthodox and the Catholic church disagree" I realized I agreed with the Orthodox position.

I thank you for your thoughts on those books, because I agree that so much of the Protestant fruits make no sense to me, and I suspect to a lot of people in our society.