Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism

The following thesis was submitted by Leonardo De Chirico in completion of his Doctor of Philosophy:

Abstract: The Second Vatican Council and subsequent ecumenical developments within the Church of Rome have forced Evangelical theology to rethink its own perception and analysis of Roman Catholicism. Against this background, many Evangelical theologians of varying tendencies and with different degrees of depth and insight have attempted to grapple with the new Roman Catholic outlook and the ecumenical challenges it brings. After describing the theological contours of Evangelicalism, the present thesis critically surveys the works on Roman Catholicism by Gerrit Berkouwer, Cornelius Van Til, David Wells, Donald Bloesch, Herbert Carson, and John Stott.

Two other chapters present and assess the outcome of two on-going dialogues. The first has seen the involvement of the World Evangelical Fellowship and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity whereas the second, i. e. the Evangelicals and Catholics Together process, is more closely related to the NorthAmerican situation and has a more informal profile.

It will be argued that the Evangelical appraisal of Roman Catholicism has in general suffered from a lack of systemic awareness in dealing with it. The prevailing approach has been marked by an interpretative atomism instead of the pursuit of a hermeneutics of Roman Catholicism capable of accounting for it as a theological system. The last two chapters propose the formulation of an Evangelical systemic analysis in two ways. First, by supporting the feasibility of the category of system as applied to Roman Catholicism, thus developing the basic theological hermeneutics proposed by Abraham Kuyper. Second, by indicating in the Roman Catholic articulations of the relationship between nature and grace and in the ecclesiological self-understanding of the Roman Church the two main theologicalfoci of the system. The critical works on Roman Catholicism by the Evangelical theologians and the conclusions of the dialogues examined in the course of the research are critically evaluated according to the systemic approach outlined.

Download Leonardo’s full dissertation via King’s College London