Friday, September 9, 2011

Review: 'If Protestantism Is True: Reformation Meets Rome' by Devin Rose

If Protestantism Is True begins with author Devin Rose's own gripping testimony of his journey from atheism, evangelicalism, and finally the Catholic Church. Growing up in a nominal Christian family, Rose found himself proudly self-identifying as an atheist from an early age. Ironically, however, it was when he was in college that, after being led to despair, emptiness, and even considerations of suicide by his atheism, he began to pray and seek after God. His roommate happened to be an evangelical Christian, so Devin began attending church with him, where he met and gave his life to Christ. With the zeal of a new Christian, Rose began an intense study of the faith, and since he had not grown up with it, he was able to see and evaluate the evangelical beliefs he was being taught with fresh eyes. After lengthy period of study, prayer, and debate with his evangelical friends, Rose eventually concluded that the Catholic Church is the fullest manifestation of Christ's Church.

For the rest of the book, Rose goes topic by topic, including issues such as the biblical canon, the sacraments, and Mary, explaining relevant biblical material and Church history. At the end of each section he asks his reader to consider, given what he has just explained, what the logical consequences of the claims of Protestantism must be.

For example, on the chapter on the biblical canon, Rose gives a quote from Protestant Reformer John Calvin in which Calvin disregards the role of the Church in settling the biblical canon and argues that a individual Christian who is truly indwelt with the Holy Spirit can know which books should and should not be included in the Bible - as easily as one can "distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter" - simply by reading the books themselves. John Calvin, of course, endorsed the new 66 book Protestant canon - a canon which, according to historical record, no Christian had ever thought was the canon in the 1500 years prior to the Reformation. Rose explains the logical conclusion of Calvin's claims:

"If Protestantism is true, then the canon is obvious to any true Christian bright enough to discern black from white. Therefore many (supposedly) holy men and women who gave their lives for Christ in the early centuries of the Church did not actually have the Holy Spirit, for they were not able to apprehend the true canon of Scripture. If the canon is known easily by the Spirit testifying to the Christian's heart, it must be concluded that not until Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other Protestant Reformers in the sixteenth century did true Christian leaders exist who listed to the Holy Spirit on this topic." (pg. 77)

The book particularly takes off with the second apologetic chapter, "Reformation: Schism or Branches?", and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest. In example after example, Rose hits the nail on the head, forcing the reader to truly consider the logic or reasonableness of many Protestant claims in a very clear, engaging, and interesting manner. And the breadth of Rose's research is wide, taking into account the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Reformers, and modern historical analysis of the Reformation. Two subjects that were particularly interesting were Rose's defense of the Sacraments and his look into the lives and teachings of the Reformers themselves (e.g. Martin Luther taught that polygamy was morally permissible [pg. 55] and rejected the inspiration of several New Testament books [pg. 69]). Certain sections of the book were so informative and/or lucid that I found myself having to read aloud much of the book to my patient wife.

Devin Rose, the author
So it was unfortunate that I found Rose's first apologetic chapter, "The Catholic Church In History", somewhat slow and at times confusing. Part of its problem was that the line from the title, "If Protestantism is true..." was used too frequently. The line had the most power in those chapters in which is was used more sparingly (such as ch 8, "The Sacraments"). Another issue, albeit minor but one that may stand out to evangelical readers who will already be on the defensive when reading, is that Rose's language occasionally veers from his otherwise formal tone.

However, despite the clear polemical intent of the book, Rose does not personally attack Protestants nor suggest in some sort of sweeping way that all things Protestant are bad. Instead, when it is relevant, Rose gives Protestants credit where credit is due (e.g. "Protestants are seen today as great missionaries, and rightfully so, as thousands of Protestant Christians live as full-time missionaries..." pg 156).

Taken as a whole, Rose very clearly and succinctly presents a great number of very good arguments against Protestantism and for Catholicism. At a not-so-scary 150 pages long, If Protestantism Is True is a great book for Catholics wanting to be able to better understand and defend the Catholic faith in reference to Protestantism. Because of its polemical nature, the book would probably be most helpful for evangelicals who are already in the midst of investigations of the Catholic Church.

You can get a copy of If Protestantism Is True by Devin Rose at Amazon for a cheap $9.35, or $2.99 for the Kindle edition. Devin Rose also maintains the blog entitled 'St. Joseph's Vanguard'.


  1. The right and the duty of private judgment have always been among our Protestant distinctives. But Devin Rose, the author of If Protestantism Is True, pities us in our exercise of private judgment. (By the way, the title of his book is disingenuous, since, from his point of view, there is not the remotest possibility of Protestantism being true.) So he says:

    Most practically, if Protestantism is true, then Protestants have some mighty decisions to make — all on their own, as there is no other true authority than their own interpretation of the Bible. They must decide which Protestant (Luther or Calvin) was right about baptism, which Protestant (Luther or Zwingli) was right about the Eucharist, which Protestants (the liberals or the conservatives) are right about marriage, which of their many and varied teachings on confession and forgiveness are valid, etc. I don’t envy the Protestants this task.

    Save your sympathy, Mr Rose. We love searching the Scriptures whether such things are true. We revel in the freedom to do so. We are free men, not children or slaves. And we love searching into much meatier and weightier matters than sacraments, which are not vital to salvation in any event. We delight in the fact that our Lord Christ has purchased us at a great price to set us free, and that he trusts us with his precious Scriptures, together with the aid of his blessed Spirit, to judge of truth. 'Prove all things', he says to us through Paul, 'hold fast that which is good' (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

    1. We all believe the bible was written by man, but inspired by God. We also believe that there is no past or future with God. God is all present. Therefore, when God wrote the part of the bible about the Eucharist He knew that there was going to be a number of different interpretations.

      So why didn't God make it absolutely clear that when the priest offers the Eucharist it is the actual body of Christ, or just a symbol, or something else. God knew there was going to be different interpretations. In fact much of the bible is subject to different interpretations. So Jesus said "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church", so the Pope could decide which interpretation is true. However, this is also subject to interpretation.

      God knew all of this and yet he did nothing to make the bible absolutely clear. The result was that now there are many Christian Religion.

      So it appears that God doesn't care, in fact may be pleased that there are a number of ways to be Christian. You can worship God with the Christian Church that helps you “Love God above all things, and Love your neighbor as yourself”.

      Please reply

    2. He did make it plain and absolute, when Peter from Prague (My home town) doubted the body and blood of Our Lord in the Eucharist it turned into human heart tissue, with moving red blood cells, white blood cells, moving peptides and the tissue beat. The blood was AB the same as on the shroud. This was over 10 lifetimes ago and the tissue still is if it is inside a living body. There are many many Eucharist miracles. Christ is the lord over all creation. These miracles have been sent to over 21 separate labs in blind studies and the results was the same. We either worship Christ in the eucharist or we are idolators of the worse kind as protestants say. It is not not a symbol, it is Christ.

    3. Hello Anon,

      Thanks for your comment. First off, I do think it's clear. Second, Jesus didn't just give us a book, he gave us the living Magisteirum to guard and interpret his Word correctly in each generation.

      God bless!

  2. If Protestantism wasn't true ... there would have been no Evangelical roommate whom God led to share the gospel with the author.

    If Protestantism wasn't true ... why would God not have used a Catholic, rather than an Evangelical ?

    1. Hey Anon,
      Great question. First off, Protestantism can be false and there still be an evangelical roommate to share (part of) the Gospel. The fact that roommate existed doesn't mean their beliefs were correct. Also, God uses anything and everything to accomplish his purposes. Someone could first learn to believe in God via Islam, e.g., and then later become a Christian, but the fact that God used Islam to move the person in the right direction doesn't mean that Islam is true religion.

  3. I have not read Mr Rose's book yet, but I would like to make a general comment on the bible.

    My thoughts are based on a few premises. There is no past, present or future with God, everything is present. The bible was written by man, but inspired by God. We believe the bible is the true word of God. The old testament is about the Jews and their preparation for the Savior. The new testament is about this Savior, Jesus Christ, and his Church, Christianity, and about a group of people which began to be called Christians.

    Among these early Christians were some very smart men who began to develop a set of dogma based on their interpretation of the bible. Included in this new set of dogma was a provision that the Pope was the infallible judge (set up by Jesus ‘...Peter and upon this rock...’) of what was the true interpretation, if there was a conflict. The resulting Roman Catholic Church, which by the way encourages its followers not to try to interpret the bible them self, believes this dogma and lots of guide lines and rules is the only way to obtain eternal life.

    Then along came Martin Luther. Then another and another until there were many ways to be Christian. The Roman Catholic Church of Jesus Christ condemned these men and they became known as Protestants. They are often linked together as if all "protestants" believed the same.

    So what is going on. Are only Roman Catholics going to obtain eternal life? Are all Christians able to obtain eternal life?

    Going back to the bible, Jesus was ask, “How can I obtain eternal life”. Jesus replied “Love God above all things, and Love your neighbor as yourself”.

    That seems to me to trump everything else. So “God doesn't care” what Religion you belong to as long as you “Love God above all things, and Love your neighbor as yourself”.

    I think God looks down and is pleased that there are a number of ways to be Christian. You can worship God with the Christian Religion that help you “Love God above all things, and Love your neighbor as yourself”.

    Thomas F Wulfers