It shows how much things have changed that Wheaton College historian Mark Noll and freelance writer Carolyn Nystrom need to remind readers what Catholic/evangelical relations used to look like. Evangelical polemics lack the bite of yesteryear, as illustrated by this 1873 quote in the introduction: "The most formidable foe of living Christianity among us is not deism or atheism, or any form of infidelity, but the nominally Christian church of Rome."
But anyone who has read Luther or Calvin and cringed at their stinging rebukes of Roman "papists" recognizes that we don't live in the reformers' days. Political cooperation in America and the moral leadership of Pope John Paul II have prompted these historical Christian rivals to temper their rhetoric.
Such a bold title promises much, but Noll and Nystrom are quick to point out that there is no simple answer to their question, "is the Reformation over?" Rather than offering a grand thesis, therefore, they survey the historical territory of Catholic/evangelical relations and measure contemporary Catholicism by the criteria of classic Reformation ideals. In doing so, they have produced an excellent guide to the ecumenical strides already taken and the serious doctrinal differences that remain.
From Top to Bottom
Noll and Nystrom cover familiar historical ground in showing how Catholics and evangelicals battled—sometimes literally—during and since the Reformation. From there the authors draw together various events and movements to explain why the battles have largely calmed. The most important change took place within the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Noll and Nystrom identify four key developments ...