Sarah Pulliam Bailey (a regular reader of this blog) has written a good article for Christianity Today on Dinesh D’Souza, a Catholic, assuming the presidency of the King’s College, an evangelical school. (She quotes me in the article.) Her interviews shed light on the issue that we discussed yesterday:
“I’m quite happy to acknowledge my Catholic background; at the same time, I’m very comfortable with Reformation theology,” D’Souza told Christianity Today. “I’m comfortable with the evangelical world. In a sense, I’m part of it.”
D’Souza’s wife, Dixie, is an evangelical, and the family has attended Calvary Chapel, a nondenominational evangelical church in San Diego, for the past 10 years. He has been invited to speak in several churches and colleges, including Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.
“I do not describe myself as Catholic today. But I don’t want to renounce it either because it’s an important part of my background. I’m an American citizen, but I wouldn’t reject the Indian label because it’s part of my heritage,” D’Souza said. “I say I have a Catholic origin or background. I say I’m a nondenominational Christian, and I’m comfortable with born-again.”
Lots of Christians go to “nondenominational” churches. But these are independent evangelical institutions that, even though they don’t belong to a larger denominational organization, do have an implicit theology, usually of the Baptist variety. But Mr. D’Souza is taking non-denominationalism to a new level. This version embraces Catholicism as well as Protestantism in all of its varieties. To what extent is this possible?
Presumably, a nondenominational Christian would hold whatever theological position he pleases, and his nondenominational congregation will not insist on theological unity. An outgrowth of the parachurch mindset, nondenominationalism separates being a “Christian” from involvement in any particular church. I think it is intrinsically Protestant, since, for Catholics, being a part of a particular institutional church body is crucial. But still, I can see many Christians approaching their faith in this sense, adhering to C. S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” and considering that enough. Maybe it’s enough for a college.
Those of you in nondenominational churches, would you have room in your fellowship for the denomination known as Roman Catholic Church? If not, wouldn’t the basis for that exclusion be that you hold to a particular theology and that you constitute a denomination after all?
At any rate, Mr. D’Souza sounds more like a former Catholic and an evangelical, after all, even if he hasn’t changed his church membership.