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Book Review: Talking with Catholics about the Gospel by Chris Castaldo

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“There are still many who do not know the data, the gospel. Most of my Catholic students at Boston College have never heard of it. They do not even know how to get to heaven. When I ask them what they would say to God if they died tonight and God asked them why he should take them into heaven, nine out of ten do not even mention Jesus Christ. Most of them say they have been good or kind or sincere or did their best. I seriously doubt God will undo the Reformation until he sees to it that Luther’s reminder of Paul’s gospel has been heard throughout the church. – Dr. Peter Kreeft; Catholic Philosopher”

If you have ever had a conversation with Roman Catholics (or Christians of another denomination) wishing you came away with something more than a sore head and being full of hot air, then Castaldo brings a brilliant work which presents a measured delivery through his personal experience, and giving more insight into what Catholicism is, in his book; Talking with Catholics about the Gospel – A guide for Evangelicals.

About the Author and Writing Style

Dr. Chris Castaldo is a former Roman Catholic, and currently an author and Lead Pastor of New Covenant Church; Naperville, Illinois, U.S.A. His personal experience as a Catholic, and time in professional work for the Catholic Church, lends the reader a unique view that other publications fall short. There is a refreshing variation in the writing style of Castaldo as he utilises differing tones for appropriate topics; clarity and theological substance is carefully balanced in delivery.

Sum of Contents

This book is less than 200 pages, yet it is packed with value for the $19.99 AUD; available at Koorong Christian bookstore.
Six chapters covering a synthesized selection of relevant topics; three chapters on the background of Catholicism, and three chapters on Protestant responses, and questions & answers.

Substance of the Book


In a departure from highly polemic academia and publications, this book outlines Protestant approaches to Catholics, and shows that often Protestants make the mistake of thinking that it is best practice to behave as the Reformers did simply because a Catholic is in the vicinity, and vice versa. Castaldo rightly mentions that the days of the wars and violence of the Reformation and the Thirty Years War are long gone; if that behaviour in the past was still applied today, then even Calvinists would be using violence to resolve their differences with their Arminian counterparts.

Instead, it is suggested by the author that John 1:14, best reflects the attitude that we should have when dialoguing with Catholics – ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ This simple line from the introduction sets the tone for the entire book.

Consequently, Castaldo takes us on a journey beginning with his own experience, then through an abridged version of the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and finally ending with the modern context, and a snippet from his touching final encounter with his late grandfather, of whom the book is dedicated too. This sets the reader up to understand the Catholic psyche and the context of their beliefs.

The reader will also be challenged and encouraged by the frameworks and arguments presented which encourages an examination of self in regards to our attitudes and approaches towards Catholics; whilst not compromising on the doctrinal distinctives that separate Catholics and Protestants.

Highlights

Quotes from the Reformers:
Martin Luther – “The Roman church is holy, because it has God’s name, the gospel, baptism….”
John Calvin (in a letter to Cardinal Sadoleto) – “[it doesn’t mean] that Roman Catholics are not also Christians. We indeed, Sadoleto, do not deny that those over which you preside are Churches of Christ.”

Philip Ryken – “Sometimes we forget that Luther, Calvin, and the rest of the Reformers were born and bred within the Roman church. When Catholics were catholic, they were Catholic too, and it was within the Roman church that they came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. To be sure, the pope would not tolerate their plain teaching of the gospel, so eventually they were thrown out of the church. But God can and does carry out his saving work to this day, even where his gospel is not preached in all its clarity.”

Dr. Chris Castaldo; speaking at his grandfather’s funeral as a Protestant pastor – “Because my grandfather and I were extremely close, I preached with a measure of pathos…also sought to be warm hearted and sensitive… which culminated in an invitation to trust in Christ for salvation. …And then there was silence. No one moved. Everyone simply stared at me… Father Tom [my childhood priest] exclaimed, ‘Christopher, what a fine message. This is precisely the good news we need…’ …What was going on here?”

Rating: 7/10

Revives the spirit of the ecumenical councils of old and does away with misconceptions. Grace and truth breathes new life to the debate between two camps that don’t realise they have more in common at the centre of their faith than the ones who are on the fringes of Christianity.

 

This post was written by Jack Liang, a Commerce & Arts student at Macquarie University. 

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