Thursday, August 6, 2009

Catholics & Fundamentalists: Understanding and Response

Martin Pable, $9.95, 91 pages, Acta Publications.

Pable calls for the middle road between fundamentalism and apathy, between liberals and conservatives. Though short, his book succinctly defines Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim fundamentalism, and also discusses the more moderate versions of these religious communities.

He criticizes American Protestant fundamentalism's lack of “historical perspective,” “unalloyed Christian individualism,” and inconsistency. He traces Protestant fundamentalism to a reaction against the modern, secular world and against liberal Christians' frequent disrespect for the Bible.

Many of these fundamentalist Christians come full circle on certain issues. Instead of following the Protestant ideal and interpreting the Bible themselves, they almost totally depend on their local pastor. Yet they accuse Catholics of robotically accepting Church authority. Pable believes that Protestant churches are more rigid than Catholicism, notwithstanding the Protestant emphasis on freedom and individualism.

Catholics & Fundamentalists comes down hard on Protestant fundamentalists, accusing them of mixing justification with salvation. Protestants erroneously believe that they are going to heaven because of their action at one point in their lives.

Pable criticizes fundamentalist Catholics for being too harsh and judgmental, and for the practice of informing the bishop of priests who stray from perfection at Mass through altered prayer or a relaxed attitude towards some things.

He also criticizes Catholics in general, fundamentalists or not, for lacking the evangelical zeal of Protestants: “Too many Catholics have been catechized and sacramentalized, but not evangelized,” he quotes one bishop as writing. Catholics often fail to reach out to newcomers, need to brush up on their scripture knowledge, and must put Christ at the centre of their lives.

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