Book Notice: Journeys of Faith

Book Notice: Journeys of Faith May 10, 2012

Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism
Edited by Robert L. Plummer. Foreword by Scot McKnight
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.
Available at Amazon.com.

I like Robert Plummer, not just because he’s one of the few elite biblical scholars in the world who is shorter than me, but because he’s edited a lovely book on a riveting subject. Why do some Christian leaders change their denominations, often radically? The book was naturally of interest to me given my own pilgrimage over the past several years. But I really enjoyed reading the stories and testimonies in the book and seeing why people ended up where they did. And then seeing them defend their “conversion” in light of criticism.

The book has a good format with testimony, a respondent, then counter-response. I was initially intrigued and irritated by the inclusion of Anglicans in this book since  they are technically Protestant and not in the same class as Catholics and the Orthodox, well, in my opinion any way. I think that for some folks (esp. for some baptists and presbyterians) converting to Anglicanism is the equivalent of converting to a Liberal Catholicism. Really, men in purple robes with hats that don’t advertize beer, what would Mark Driscoll say? Well, my concerns were assuaged when the Anglican story was treated as a Protestant insider journey, rather than someone joining the dark side.

Essays include:

Eastern Orthodoxy: Wilbur Ellsworth, respondent: Craig Blaising

Catholicism: Francis J. Beckwith, respondent: Gregg Allison

Evangelicalism: Chris Cataldo, respondent: Brad S. Gregory

Anglicanism: Lyle W. Dorsett, respondent: Robert A. Peterson

The highlight of the book was the story of Wilbur Ellsworth and his journey into Eastern Orthodoxy. The move from being a pastor in the Evangelical Mecca of Wheaton to being a priest in the Orthodox Church is one funky shift. His change was the most radical and his biographical story was the hardest to put down. Francis Beckwith’s piece was okay; Francis being the (in)famous evangelical who jumped ship to Catholicism while he was the designated President of the Evangelical Theological society. His story was interesting too, but  turned out to be largely a theological apologia for Catholic doctrine. Some bits like his defence of Catholic takes on justification and penance were about as convincing as vows of fidelity in a French wedding ceremony – though other things he had to say on the real presence in the eucharist and apostolic succession were  more compelling. Gregg Allison, while appreciative of what Beckwith had to say, took a bit of a baseball bat to Beckwith and Allison believes that an Evangelical Protestant faith was the way to go (I was also grateful that he didn’t make baptists the purest part of it).

A good read overall, strongly recommended. Congrats to Bob Plummer and the zonderz team for put it together.


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