Interview: Talking with Chris Castaldo about the Gospel
Dr. Chris Castaldo (Ph.D., London School of Theology) is the Senior Pastor at New Covenant Church, Naperville, IL. Dr. Castaldo has authored and contributed to several books on the Reformation including The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants After 500 Years (Zondervan, 2016), Talking with Catholics about the Gospel: A Guide for Evangelicals (Zondervan, 2015), Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism (Zondervan, 2012), and Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic (Zondervan, 2009). He has written articles for publications such as Christianity Today, Touchstone Journal, Credo Magazine, Themelios, and First Things. Dr. Castaldo’s research interests focus upon movements of gospel renewal in early sixteenth-century Italy, particularly the life and times of Peter Martyr Vermigli, and the study of John Henry Newman. He writes at www.chriscastaldo.com.
Chris, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. To begin, can you tell us about your background as a Catholic, and the reasons for your transition to Protestant evangelicalism?
It is my pleasure to join you Trevor.
Like most Italians from Long Island, New York, I was raised Catholic. My sister and I loved our priest, Father Tom, who occasionally visited our home. His black clerical shirt with unfastened collarino (collar in which the white plastic insert fits) expressed the nature of his relationship to our family.
It is commonly held that the main difference between Protestant and Catholic conceptions of justification is between “external” forgiveness and “internal” renewal. Put another way, for Protestants justification occurs by faith alone whereas Catholics insist on cooperating with grace for justification. How do you think your work on Aquinas and Calvin on justification could change these common understandings of the Protestant/Catholic disagreement about the nature of forgiveness and salvation?
First of all, I would take issue with the way this question sets up the difference, at least when viewed from the lens of Aquinas and Calvin. Justification for Aquinas is not the result of “cooperation” with grace, first and foremost; it is rather the work of “operative” grace. And since for Aquinas no preceding “merit” has any bearing on God’s decision to justify a person, Aquinas and Calvin are in agreement on what Calvin would consider a main point in his dispute over justification, namely, the unmerited act of God justifying a person in Christ by faith. Both believe, moreover, that the justice by which we are justified is first and foremost “alien,” in the sense that it does not arise from within us but begins exterior to us, namely in Christ …
Charles Raith II is Director of the Paradosis Center for Theology and Scripture and Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at John Brown University. He received his PhD from Ave Maria University. He is author of the book Aquinas and Calvin on Romans: God’s Justification and Our Participation (Oxford University Press), and the forthcoming After Merit: John Calvin’s Theology of Works and Reward (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht). His articles and reviews have appeared in Pro Ecclesia, Nova et Vetera, Logos, Renaissance and Reformation Review, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal for Theological Interpretation, and The Thomist. He is currently working on a book manuscript for Continuum Press entitled Ecumenism: A Guide for the Perplexed as well as a co-editing the Oxford Handbook on the Reception of Aquinas (Oxford University Press).
Chad, thanks for talking to us. To begin, could you explain how you became interested in ecumenical theology?
I can think of two primary influences that gave rise to my interest in ecumenism. One is personal. I came to Christ when I was 21 without much background in Christianity. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church for no other reason than it’s where my younger sister went. When I went to seminary a few years later—an interdenominational seminary—I met Christians from many other denominations, and that started a personal journey of seeking to understand the underlying reasons for denominations, and how it’s possible with a common source of authority, i.e., Scripture, that we have denominations (and have so many!). I always sensed that our denominations are not merely a reflection of diversity in Christ’s body; they also reflect at times division. And this seemed (and still seems) contrary to the Gospel. But that journey was mostly intra-Protestant. The Catholic component was somewhat accidental …
Darrin W. Snyder Belousek graduated with a doctorate in philosophy from the History and Philosophy of Science program at the University of Notre Dame in 1998, after which he has spent several years studying at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana. He currently teaches philosophy and religion at Ohio Northern University, and is executive director of Bridgefolk, a Mennonite-Catholic ecumenical organization based at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN. His book Atonement, Justice, and Peace: The Message of the Cross and the Mission of the Church was published by Eerdmans in 2012. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to a critical analysis of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as articulated by Reformed evangelicals such as J.I. Packer, John Stott, Mark Dever, and Jeffrey, Ovey, and Sach in Pierced for Our Transgressions (Crossway, 2008).
Darrin, thank you for taking the time to talk. Can you give us a summary of your book’s primary thesis/theses?
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview. I hope what I have to offer here, and through the book, will be of benefit to readers.
The book, in general overview, does two main things. First, it presents a comprehensive, critical examination of penal substitution and offers a biblically grounded, theologically orthodox alternative account of substitutionary atonement. In developing my understanding of Jesus as God “for us and for our salvation,” I draw from the gospel narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the apostolic witness of Jesus’ death “for us” and “for our sins,” and the early Christian writings and Eastern Orthodox tradition that think of Jesus’ death in terms of divine-human interchange and representative-redemptive solidarity …