MARY: A CATHOLIC-EVANGELICAL DEBATE
Dwight Longenecker & David Gustafson
(Gracewing, 2003, 223pp, $32.00. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Ask anyone who has converted to Catholicism what the biggest difficulties or stumbling-blocks were and he or she is likely to tell you that it was Catholic teachings about the Virgin Mary. This work examines frankly the various beliefs about Mary that separate Catholics from Protestants, particularly Mary as the Mother of God, the perpetual Virginity of Mary, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption.
As the title suggests, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate is written in the form of a debate between Dwight Longenecker, a convert to Catholicism, and David Gustafson, an evangelical who worships in a conservative Episcopal Church.
The two authors first met at Bob Jones University. Longenecker was eventually to become an Anglican priest before being received with his family into the Catholic Church in 1995. The book was the culmination of a re-acquaintance initiated by Gustafson's attempt to contact former university classmates.
This work covers the standard debates between Catholics and Protestants on the Virgin Mary and raises few new arguments. However, what made this work hard to put down was that the debates were presented in a format appealing to contemporary readers.
Although this reviewer was reading the work from the perspective of a convert to Catholicism, the Catholic arguments put forward by Longenecker seemed more persuasive than Gustafson's replies. Longenecker's position is well supported by Scripture and the Church fathers.
Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate is well written, easy to read and an ideal work for those seeking to understand not only the Catholic Church's teachings regarding the Virgin Mary, but also why so many Protestants find difficulty in accepting them.
Michael E. Daniel is a secondary school teacher in Melbourne.