Chris Castaldo’s Holy Ground

There are loads of Roman Catholics here in Louisville. Our neighbors on both sides of us are Roman Catholic, so I’m thrilled to see the publication of Chris Castaldo’s Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Roman Catholic. I would commend this book to anyone interested in seeing the gospel believed by Roman Catholics.

Chris was kind enough to stop by here for a blog tour for the new book, and I trust you’ll benefit from our exchange:

Jim, it has been a pleasure getting to know you over these past several weeks. Thanks for the privilege of this blog tour “visit.”

1.) Do you think Holy Ground would be a good book to hand to a Roman Catholic neighbor still active in the Catholic Church?

Yes, I wrote Holy Ground with Catholics in mind, with a commitment to representing them accurately and fairly. Catholic scholars and laypeople, including some author friends, read the manuscript throughout its composition and offered feedback to ensure that this was the case.

2.) Why did you write Holy Ground?

It’s mostly an outgrowth of my ministry at College Church. Several years ago I noticed some folks from our church were approaching Catholic friends in one of two ways: either attacking them like foaming-at-the-mouth pit bulls or with such open-mindedness that their brains seemed to have fallen out of their heads. Therefore, I taught a class entitled “Perspective on Catholicism” intended to bring more biblically informed balance. With the Lord Jesus as our model, the class sought to maintain the virtues of “grace and truth” in relation to Catholic friends and loved ones (John 1:14). The material eventually became a manuscript and, thanks to Zondervan, Holy Ground was born.

3.) Do you think evangelicals should actively seek to evangelize Catholics?

Yes indeed. And I also think that evangelicals must regularly evangelize evangelicals, and, for that matter, I must constantly evangelize myself. In other words, we need to reflect upon the gospel beyond the point of our personal conversion; every day I must remind myself of Jesus’ death and resurrection and who I am in light of that. Since man looks only on the outward appearance and the Lord looks at the human heart, I don’t presume to know the nature of my Catholic friend’s faith. Yet, precisely because I’m an evangelical—a person whose life is dedicated to embodying and proclaiming Jesus, the Evangel—I’m committed to evangelism, even among Catholic friends and family.

4.) What are the distinct features of Holy Ground that separate it from other such books?

Among evangelical books that address Catholicism, Holy Ground has a couple of features that make it unique. First, many such books convey an unkind attitude. The doctrinal emphasis of these works is commendable, but the irritable tone rings hollow and fails to exhibit the loving character of Jesus. It’s the tone that my seminary professor warned against when he said, “Don’t preach and write as though you have just swallowed embalming fluid. As Christ imparts redemptive life, so should his followers.” This life is communicated in the content of God’s message and also in its manner of presentation. Therefore, I seek to express genuine courtesy toward Catholics, even in disagreement.

Second, most books on Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism emphasize doctrinal tenets without exploring the practical dimensions of personal faith. Important as it is to understand doctrine, the reality is there’s often a vast difference between the content of catechisms and the beliefs of folks who fill our pews. Holy Groundis concerned with understanding the common ideas and experiences of real-life people.

Hopefully, as a result of reading Holy Ground, people will have a deeper grasp of the gospel’s wondrous grace and more ardent commitment to the enterprise of embodying it as a vibrant witness among Catholic loved ones and friends.

Thanks again Jim for the privilege of this exchange. Blessings to you and yours!

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  1. Did Chris answer question 3, about evangelizing Roman Catholics the way you were hoping? It seemed like a good opportunity for him to say that evangelicals need to call people out of the Church of Rome—or not if he doesn’t believe that.

    I suspect that when you asked about “evangelizing” in that question, that you meant it in the traditional sense: that of winning souls to Christ, not of speaking the Gospel to believers’ souls.

    Thanks for putting this up, anyway.

  2. Great question Peter. You’re right, I could have been clearer on that point. Here’s what I’d say:

    When a Catholic confesses the gospel and lives for Jesus, I’m applying the love about which 1 Cor. 13 speaks, love which “bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things,” a love that extends the benefit of the doubt, puts its arm around this Catholic friend and calls him brother. I’m also going to proclaim the gospel and extend discipleship so that I and my Catholic friend together realize a greater level of sanctification. Would I like to see this friend eventually leave the Catholic Church? Yes, of course. I’m a Protestant Pastor who believes that on such issues of Christian authority and soteriology, Protestants are fundamentally right. To say otherwise would be disingenuous. And yet, I’m not going to insist that such a departure happen in my time frame. The Lord is my friend’s shepherd as much as he is mine. Indeed, I must apply my Calvinism at this precise point by faithfully and winsomely trusting in God’s sovereignly timed oversight. Thus, in the final analysis, we must approach this enterprise as Peter says in his first epistle, “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

  3. Dr. Hamilton,
    I am studying millennial positions. I found your argument against the progressive parallelism of amillennialism to be quite convincing (namely, the flattening of images in Rev. 12-14 vs. Rev. 20).

    Is there somewhere that this is in print, or is it a commonly given argument, or both? I have enjoyed your sermons, blog posts, and the DG panel discussion, but would like some non-Internet sources. Or is this your next book?

    Stephen Farrior

    1. Thanks for your note, Stephen,

      Lord willing, my book on the Center of Biblical Theology will be submitted to Crossway on Jan 1, 2010. Then, Lord willing, my Preaching the Word commentary on Revelation will be submitted to them on Jan 1, 2011.

      So hopefully it will be in print soon!

      Thanks for your interest,


  4. Merry Christmas Dr. H.! I hope the holidays are wonderful for you and yours. My Grandfather and I have been watching the eschatology debate you had a few weeks ago and discussing the issues. He is fascinated by the debate.

    I wanted to thank you for all the hard work and effort you put into preparing for your classes while I was in seminary. I was greatly blessed.

    I hope all is well for you. Email me sometime.

    In Christ,
    Bobby P.

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