Peter Kreeft brings Christianity alive. He turns his rejection of “churchiness” into a direct, passionate invitation to a personal relationship with Christ. He doesn’t sound like an evangelical, though he clearly sees the power of their preaching — and believes that people need this kind of energetic proclamation.
Jesus-Shock argues that evangelical Protestants are right in talking to the world about the personal God and in particular about one’s relationship with Christ. However, they are wrong, Kreeft claims, in their rejection of the Real Presence.
Kreeft makes the innovative and thought-provoking claim that the Reformation and resulting split between Catholics and Protestants has not been about justification by grace. He cites the fact that this has already been healed between the Lutherans and the Vatican.
The real division brought about by the Reformation has always been about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This has led to a whole series of secondary yet extremely important and telling differences between Protestants and Catholics that last to this day.
He also claims that the lack of new artistic beauty in the Church, to the extent that the Middle Ages saw, comes from the lack of faith in the Real Presence among Catholics.
Kreeft invites evangelicals to fulfill their longing for the presence of Christ by accepting the Catholic Church and its teaching on the Real Presence. He even dreams of a powerhouse Catholic-evangelical union.
“Most of institutional Christianity is a fireplace without much of a fire; and most of Pentecostal or charismatic Christianity is a fire without much of a fireplace,” he writes. “The first is a body without a soul; the other is a soul without a body. ... When the two are perfectly united, the Church will win the world again.”
Kreeft calls for the end of sissy Christianity and a return of the Christian warrior and knight. His masculine imagery asserts that right is right and wrong is wrong — and no amount of psychologizing can lessen the evil nature of something. Evil exists, and Christians are called to respond.
While this call for a more robust Christianity is appropriate for middle-class North American Catholics, like many such books focusing on the need for more masculinity, it fails to account for Catholic energy and masculinity that is present in many African, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese Catholic communities, both in the home countries and in diaspora groups abroad.
The North American Catholic Church could become more appealing to men if it learned from these more masculine Catholic communities.
Jesus-Shock is the work of someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus and whose inner spiritual landscape revolves around the people in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. When he turns to Scripture, he does not comment on the passage.
Like many evangelical preachers, he knows these people as if they are his family. Kreeft discusses Martha and Mary, or Mary Magdalene, as if he knows them personally.
Jesus-Shock is therefore less a theological or philosophical argument — and more a personal testament and witness to the personal God.
Brian Welter writes from
Burnaby, British Columbia.