Catholic readers may not have heard of Richard J. Mouw. Protestants will have though. He is president of the Fuller Seminary–yes, the home of “Church Growth”–but he is also on the Catholic and Evangelicals Together team with Fr Richard John Neuhaus.
Here is his reflection on one small way in which dialogue with Catholics has cleared away lots of rubbish so he can at least see what the real issues are. This, my friends, is the very humble goal of our dialogue with other Christians (and followers of other faiths, for that matter). First step is always to understand the other, and to allow their own self-description to replace our personal (often false) impressions of who they are and what they do.
Richard J. Mouw has come a long For the record, I believe that Mouw still has a few more steps before he really “gets it” (and he himself is aware of this):
First, he needs to understand what Catholics mean when they say “saint”–ie. a person in whom the saving work and grace of Christ has borne full fruit. Not a “plaster saint”, someone better or different from us, but an ordinary bloke (or blokette) like us in whom we can see Christ’s redemption fully accomplished.
Secondly, he needs to get over the problem of “talking to dead people”. Romans 8 is the important step here: “Nothing–not even death–can separate us from Christ”, and we certainly (as even the Lutheran “Apology to the Augsburg Confession” acknowledges) still keep praying for the saints on earth when we are dead. Mouw can ask his brother-in-law Jim to pray for him, not because he can reach him on the telephone, but because his brother-in-law (muddy boots and all) is “in Christ”, ie. the essential connection between them is spiritual (in the Holy Spirit) and not physical. Same with the departed saints. Someone who is not “in Christ”, even if they are in the same room as you are, cannot intercede for you if this spiritual connection is not there.
But this is a great article and well worth reading.