By Aaron Anderson
April 2, 2016
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. My seminary training was under Dean Timothy George, and this was my first introduction to the Evangelical-Catholic dialogue. He was also Southern Baptist but not of the mold I was used to. He helped me understand that the problematic divisions of the Church stretched beyond the boundaries of Protestantism. After seminary I then sat under Dr. Hans Boersma for my Th.M., which only fueled the ecumenical fire, and lastly under Dr. Matthew Levering for my Ph.D., which sealed my fate as an ecumenist. As you may know, Hans and Matthew are both quite engaged in ecumenical work. But even more, they embody in their lives the combination of deep theological commitment with ecumenical sensibilities—an embodiment that I attempt to follow in my own life. So as you can see, ecumenism is just in my blood. It’s God’s handwriting on the wall for me! Read the rest at Catholics & Calvinists.
Charles Raith is also a graduate of Beeson Divinity School.