24 Aug Roman Catholics the Heirs of the Reformation?
No, I don’t really think what the title says, but I am tempted when I read articles like this one from my friends at Christianity Today. Truthfully, I usually find reading that magazine to be like going to the dentist (though even at the dentist I always find something better to read), but because this article was sent to me, and because the subject of it involves two of my very favorite people on the planet, I felt compelled to read it. And once I read it, I felt compelled to write.
The brilliant Dinesh D’Souza is the new President of King’s College in New York. Dinesh is a good friend, a superb scholar, an accomplished apologist, and in my opinion, a wonderful pick for this fantastic college to help provide vision and guidance as they advance into the next phase of their institutional development. Dinesh also is a Roman Catholic, though he is married to an evangelical, attends an evangelical church, and has been widely accepted in evangelical circles for several years as a respected thought leader. Dinesh is better known as a socio-political commentator than he is a theologian, but of course most people do not regard the primary qualification in the job of “college president” to be “theologian”.
The hiring of Dinesh D’Souza is an exciting thing for me as one who is very fond of the work King’s College is doing, and very fond of Dinesh in particular. I also consider the provost at King’s College, Dr. Marvin Olasky, to be one of the premier intellects in American society. I have often said that his The Tragedy of American Compassion is an utter masterpiece, and I believe his work at both World magazine and King’s College to be inspiring examples of Kingdom-building. Marvin is both a mentor to me and dear friend. I am deeply grateful to know him.
The aforementioned CT article expresses grave concern about the fact that Dinesh is a Roman Catholic, and wonders if this will somehow compromise the evangelical distinctives of the school. I suppose, prima facie, it is a legitimate question, and if it were not for the contributions to the article of one Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary, I really would not have thought much of the alleged controversy. (If you have not heard of Westminster Theological Seminary it is because you did not attend there or have a dad who attended there; if you have heard of it, well, you did). This Professor has decided that the hire represents a decision by the university to prioritize its “conservative political and social vision” over the gravely important issues of soteriology and sacrament. Ay yi yi. Once again, the Reformers get out-Reformed by the ones the Reformers were supposed to be reforming.
King’s College is an academic institution, which for one thing means that it has some people who work for it who did not go there (Westminster Theological Seminary may want to look into what happens when a school flees from institutional incest in its hiring and actually demonstrates an iota of academic credibility). But it also is not a seminary; it is tasked with providing a specific education and broad-based worldview to people who will one day have real jobs in society. There was this guy once who some professors at WTS have heard of named John Calvin who understood the concept of Christian influence in society. His was an ideology of world and life view. Despite the fact that I am a tad friendlier to Roman Catholics than Carl Trueman’s ilk would approve of, I do recognize legitimate and even serious theological differences that need to be addressed. However, the implicit lesson in this response to Dinesh’s hiring is that Reformational theology is exclusively about soteriology and sacramentology. This is patently absurd. There is a valuable and vital element to catholic social thought which is undeniably important in worldview training. The contributions of a Dinesh D’ Souza in the contemporary scene go far beyond those things that Trueman considers so trivial (you know, unimportant disciplines like economics and political science). True, Dinesh may not line up with a lot of Protestant thought on the really, really important things like predestination and church discipline (though perhaps he does, or perhaps he will), but maybe a little more genuinely Reformed thought is needed here? For those of us who see our evangelical Reformed theology as a comprehensive world and life view, maybe, just maybe, Dinesh is far more qualified than the Carl Truemans of the world could possibly understand.
The aforementioned article contains abundant feedback from D’Souza and Olasky themselves about this hire and the various concerns surrounding it. I don’t have anything else to say about the particulars therewith. As one who works in a business (investment management) that’s heart and soul is just blocks away from the Empire State Building where King’s College is located, I am hopeful that Dinesh’s new role will play some successful role in the common objective we all have: a better engagement from those who claim Christ as their own with the world around them. This is the most evangelical thing I have ever heard of. And one day, with more Catholics and Protestants together engaging the cause, Wall Street will never be the same. Or academia.