Yesterday I posted my review on Journeys of Faith edited by Robert Plummer. Today Robert has given me some of his time to answer a few questions about the book.

Robert Plummer is a Greek and NT teacher at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written Paul’s Understanding of the Churches Mission and 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. Robert blogs at www.robplummer.com/blog.

Me:  As you hinted at in your conclusion to the book, this was not an easy idea to act on given your commitments as an Evangelical. What spurred the idea of the book and what did you have to overcome personally in order to go ahead with the idea?

Robert: I knew of several seminary students and former church members who had become Catholic or Greek Orthodox.  I felt that ignoring the issue was not helpful.  Furthermore, I received encouragement from the fellow pastors at my church to put together a book that allowed for constructive engagement and dialogue.  I see the book as a first step in an ongoing conversation – one that will continue in a session of the ETS annual meeting this year.

Me: You state in the introduction, “These traditions (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox & Anglican) are distinct from one another, but they also share a common commitment to a more liturgical expression of the Christian faith.” (p. 15) Are these traditions being more consistent than Evangelicals in their liturgy?

Robert: Someone from the outside looking at Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism would immediately see commonalities – hierarchy, formality, more-structured worship.

Me: To follow the last question, Wilbur Ellsworth noted how he was put off by the sort of ‘free-for-all’ nature of the worship in the Baptist church he first pastored. What can Evangelicals learn from these more liturgical traditions that should help us to be more aware of the rich theological basis for these liturgies?

Robert: Superficiality and the seeming randomness of some evangelical worship services is one reason that evangelical Christians are attracted to liturgical churches.  Of course, there are some evangelical churches that have reverent, thoughtful, and God-honoring worship services.  But, from my experience, those churches are in the minority.

Me: As Francis Beckwith pointed out, he didn’t just wake up one day and decide to be a Catholic. Through each of the contributor’s “conversion” stories we see a genuine struggle as they moved from one tradition to another. How can Evangelicals, who are persuaded about their position, respectfully engage these other traditions who are as convinced of their beliefs as we are about ours?

Robert: A few quick thoughts – (1) Listen, (2) Learn.  Don’t simply listen for the purpose of attacking.  (3) Ask questions, (4) Lovingly disagree, (5) Remain engaged as colleagues or friends.

Me: Speaking of “conversion” stories, why did you choose for each contributor to share their perspective through the stories of the faith changes as opposed to the typical style of counterpoint books?

Robert: Evangelicals are accustomed to gaining converts, not losing them.  When an evangelical Christian hears of another evangelical becoming Catholic or Greek Orthodoxy, they are befuddled. “Why would they do that?” is a common question.  The best way to answer that question is to let converts answer that question in their own words.

Me: As an Evangelical, what did you learn from this project and what do you hope other Evangelicals will take away from these faith tradition changes?

Robert: I feel like I have a better understanding of the diverse views, motivations, and experiences that lead some evangelicals to join ranks with a liturgical church tradition.  Also, I believe the evangelical authors in the book offer some significant critiques of the differing traditions – ones that should give potential converts pause.

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