Monday, April 24

Baylor and Notre Dame, Catholics and Baptists

This article asks what Baylor might learn from Notre Dame, if it seeks to become an intellectually-prestigous confessional school. In light of recent conflicts, I wish that the praise of Notre Dame's religious identity from Baylor's college president rang a bit more indisputable. Nonetheless, an interesting analysis.

The article includes the abstacts of papers which three thoroughly-Baptist professors who were invited to give at the Vatican. One abstract reads,

“Free-church Protestants stand at grave risk of bondage to the spirit of the modern age. Christians of the sort described herein, and Baptists such as I am, seem to face a limited range of options. Amidst the changing cultural conditions precipitated by modernity and now postmodernity, we may:
(a) allow our practice of faith -- untethered to a rich tradition and without the resources of a functional magisterium -- to die the death of continued accommodation to culture;
(b) convert to Roman Catholicism; or
(c) begin a journey toward Rome that, without giving rise to full communion, nonetheless involves a critical engagement with Roman Catholicism as a touchstone of vital tradition and teaching authority about Christian faith and practice.”

Some choices.

Criticized for promoting this "middle way" (option C), one of the professors responded, “The unexamined Baptist life is not worth living; the unexamined Catholic life is not worth living.” That is a quote I rather like. Anyone who has met the enthusiasm or the Christocentricism of converts from evangelism knows that the Catholic Church continues to benefit from cross-fertilization with evangelicalism--if not in the realm of ideas, at least in devotion to Christian living.

What might conservative protestants glean from the Catholic tradition as a whole? Another of the three professors in question hopes that Baptists might reclaim "ancient Christian traditions, such as Advent and Lent, and an emphasis on interpreting Scripture in the context of community." (Though, I wonder, what remains of sola fide and sola scriptura after penance and communal scriptural hermeneutics are introduced?)

The abstract reflects Mark Shea's oft-stated thesis that evangelicalism cannot sustain itself as it now exists for more than a few decades. (Hat tip for finding this article to Mark, himself a convert from protestant evangelicalism.)

Don't take this article as an indication that Chick-tract Baptists are a thing of the past. Baylor's thoughts of emulating Notre Dame have caused a lot of consternation. Some of their students attended a conference at Notre Dame in the Fall. This occasioned some strife. Apparently some peopel made some threats and slashed some tires. One visitor to ND reported that "Notre Dame isn't really Christian--I saw those seminarians carrying six-packs." It was pointed out, however, that this can't be true: the seminary has beer on tap.

Update: I do want to be clear that the exact connection of the individuals behind these incidents with Baylor is unclear, if any such official connection did in fact even exist.

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