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The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America
William M. Shea
Oxford University Press, 2004
416 pp., 69.00
J. I. Packer
Evangelicals & Catholics
In one respect, at least, The Lion and the Lamb is a landmark. It is the first book by a Roman Catholic scholar to find long-term significance in the project called Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), a pie in which I am privileged to have a finger. ECT is the venture of an unofficial conservative group working to build a platform of unequivocal theological consensus, uncompromised and uncompromising, with a view to proper mutual appreciation leading to joint mission tasks. There has never before been anything like it in North America, though Le Groupe des Dombes in France is in some ways similar. Shea sees ECT's togetherness as starting something irreversible and epoch-making, as when cracking ice signals the reality of global warming. Whereas up to now conservative evangelicals and Catholics have on principle (as both communities would say) kept their distance, from now on there must be mutual respect, forward-looking dialogue, and an acknowledgment of common cause as they labor to beat back the secular modernity that seeks to outflank both of them. That American Catholicism will benefit hereby, Shea is sure. He has an agenda of his own, and his cautious cheering for ECT is clearly meant to further it, but before we get to that let it be said that any cheers for ECT are welcome after the clobbering some of us receive for being part of it.
Shea, a laicized priest of Irish descent who now heads the Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross, and who in true Irish fashion becomes whimsical as his way of being serious, makes no secret of being a cross-bench liberal Catholic who believes that Catholics and evangelicals need each other. Catholics need evangelical help to get them beyond clerical autocracy, and evangelicals need Catholic help to get them beyond their sub-ecclesial and sub-sacramentalist individualism. The point of his title is not that one community is lion and the other lamb, but that this is the time for the two supposed ...