MOD: Thanks for the comments, we’re moving on now.

There’s been some blog chatter about my having endorsed Scott Hahn’s Covenant and Commu nion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI.  Since one blogger I read mistook my endorsement of a study of Benedict’s theology for an endorsement of his theology, I thought it would be worthwhile to draw that distinction in black and white.

Here’s my endorsement:

Even when one disagrees with some of his conclusions, Benedict’s insights, as well as his engagement with critical scholarship, offer a wealth of reflection.  In this remarkable book, Hahn has drawn out the central themes of Benedict’s teaching in a highly readable summary.  An eminently useful guide for introducing the thought of an important theologian of our time.

I’m not sure what part of this aroused this blogger’s ire.  I disavowed agreement with some of the pope’s conclusions (I agree with him on the Trinity and other important doctrines, but disagree strongly with other important doctrines).  I admired “his engagement with critical scholarship” (he often offers trenchant arguments against higher criticism).  I endorsed Hahn’s book because it is “a highly readable summary” and “an eminently useful guide for introducing the thought of an important theologian of our time.”  Despite my strong disagreements with his views on a variety of issues, he is certainly “an important theologian of our time.”

In case anyone cares, I am just as committed to Reformed convictions as I was when I was critical of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” in 1995, endorsed James White’s fine book The Roman Catholic Controversy in 1996, wrote “What Still Keeps Us Apart” (1998), and repeated my objections in a very recent blog post on the latest ECT statement.   In two recent books—Covenant & Salvation: Union with Christ and People & Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology, I interact at length with Benedict, defending at every point traditional Reformed teaching.

This pope is a remarkably good conversation partner because he still defends traditional Roman Catholicism (which one expects of the pope) while recognizing the strength of Protestant views (which one hardly ever expects of a pope). He is deeply conversant in biblical studies and theology.  Recognizing the strength of a thoughtful and engaging opponent is, I think, a valuable exercise for developing good arguments against real positions rather than extending caricatures.  I’ve even used some Benedict quotes in debates with Roman Catholics, though I’m sure that he would not agree with my conclusions.