.- The relationship between Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics has improved dramatically in the United States in recent decades, and increasingly these two groups have ever more in common both politically and spiritually. A number of Evangelical and Catholic researchers and scholars have observed this phenomenon and written about it.
Richard Ostling of the Associated Press recently reported on these improved relations. Ostling presents a recent book by Wheaton College historian Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, called “Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism.”
While there are “quite serious differences” between these two groups, Noll told Ostling in an interview, these differences are not “life and death as they were regarded for at least four centuries.”
Noll reportedly said relations have improved due to the outcome of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the 1973 pro-abortion ruling in Roe v Wade, and the papacy of John Paul II (1978-2005).
William Shea of the College of the Holy Cross told Ostling that the Evangelicals’ admiration for John Paul was “astounding” give their historical hatred for the papacy.
However, Shea, who authored “The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America”, thinks most ongoing disagreements between the two groups stem from their radically different views of the church.
Whereas Evangelicals emphasize Scripture as the source of religious authority, Catholicism includes both Scripture and tradition as interpreted through the Church.
Ostling also cited Evangelical Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California who said: “The perceived cultural collapse of the West has become such an overwhelming preoccupation of conservative Catholics and Protestants that just about anything and everything else is on the back burner.”
He also cited religious right activist Gary Bauer, who said last year: “When John F. Kennedy made his famous speech that the Vatican would not tell him what to do, evangelicals and Southern Baptists breathed a sign of relief. But today evangelicals and Southern Baptists are hoping that the Vatican will tell Catholic politicians what to do.”
This comment, argues Ostling, shows how far relations between these two groups—which combined make up more than half of all churchgoers in the U.S.—have come.