"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Thursday, January 08, 2009

RIP: Richard John Neuhaus

Richard John Neuhaus died today after a relapse of cancer. Neuhaus was editor of First Things Magazine and a Roman Catholic priest, a convert from Lutheranism. He was, along with Peter Kreeft, among the ranks of my favorite Catholics. I always liked the Protestant converts, perhaps because I keep seeing their old Protestantism bubble up.

Ironically, my two favorite books by him were on death: As I Lay Dying and Death on a Friday Afternoon. I will have to thumb back through As I Lay Dying today, a reflection on his first battle with cancer.


Andrew said...

Father Neuhaus was a hero of mine as well. I will have to read more of his work. He was quite a clergyman, a high profile convert, author and a semi-chaplain of the White House, giving Bush some spiritual advice I once read in Time. I will pray for him. Thanks for posting as always.

Matthew Bradley said...

Can't say I understand or appreciate all the protestant clamoring on this. I mean no disrespect to Neuhaus as a person, but as a theologian he was not a friend to Protestantism. What's the attraction for protestants? I think R Scott Clark is on to something: http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/what-richardjohn-neuhaus-means-to-me/

Jared Nelson said...

My attraction is not very theological. I've subscribed to "First Things" for a while and was instructed in his musings in "The Public Square" how to approach politics in a thoughtful way to be a conservative Christian and not a part of a reactionary "The Christian Right." I actually think that is part of the attraction. He is helpful in approaching politics without becoming obsessed and keeping priorities...ala First Things First.

Neuhaus did contribute to "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" which I have mixed feelings about. It was a compromise for many of the Protestants who participated, perhaps showing how the generic-ness of evangelicalism left some evangelicals without a clear idea why they were not Catholics, but I think it also showed an interesting array of Catholics who were interested in engaging Protestants. Much like the "Reading Paul Together" book, it both displayed the loss of Confessional identity among many mainline Protestants, at the same time some Catholics are becoming ambivalent about the Reformation, and wondering if Luther and Calvin were worth listening to.

Neuhaus like Pelikan seemed to represent a type of Protestant that may have left Protestantism more because Protestantism lost its self-identity rather than necessarily what Catholicism was offering.

Andrew said...

Neuhaus said that he had "long believed that the Roman Catholic Church was the fullest expression of Christianity" and Pelikan wouldn't have left the LCMS for a lack of confessionalism - they know their confessions very well. It might just be possible that intelligent theologians wanted to be Orthodox or Catholic. But I see what Matt is saying, if you're a member of the Reformed Bloggers you shouldn't really care about the death of another 'apostate papist'.

But I also understand what Jared is saying about his general contribution to a Christian understanding of Politics - which kind of goes across denominational lines.

I think Neuhaus was also a bit like Henry Nouwen (who most people don't even know was a Catholic Priest).

I also have to agree with Jared that Evangelicals and Catholics together showed how little Sola Fide means to modern Evangelicals. Which is sad that they would ignore the 'doctrine on which the church stands or falls' - in their understanding. Dark days indeed.

Aaron said...
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Aaron said...
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Aaron said...

A couple thoughts that hit me on RJN: One I really liked his section on Death on a Friday Afternoon on the atonement. It has been years since I read it but he seemed, no matter how messy if felt to us he was not going to let people get around that Christ paid for our sins and appeased the wrath of God. Almost reminds be of John Piper. Sure Christ did other things on the cross, 49 other things according to Piper, but it was primarily about atonement. So perhaps RJN’s move to Rome was indeed an improvement if it cemented that fact for him. Couple that with his statement (although it was couched in typical Catholic double talk) that when he reaches the judgment seat he will plead nothing but the blood of Jesus shed on his behalf, and I have great “hope” to be greeted by RJN in the here after.