I recall in my early days as a Christian I remember reading a book called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by a Monk called Brother Lawrence in France. It always baffles me a bit that this book exists at that time and that reformed theologians and evangelicals will recommend it to others.

Some think Protestants admire Mother Teresa, but I would have to say I have rarely seen a book by Mother Teresa in an Evangelical Christian bookstore but have commonly found this little book by Brother Lawrence?

What I am wondering is according to evangelical or reformed thought why would this book above possibly all other Catholic books in the last 1000 years be so appealing? Why would it seem so non-Catholic and acceptable to those who strongly oppose Catholicism?

  • Good point. As for me, I never read anything except the Bible. We get all we need form the teachings of Jesus. Many people are looking past the Gospel. – phil Oct 7 '12 at 17:08
  • Is it possible to answer this in a non-subjective way? I wonder if the question could be phrased in a way that makes it answerable less subjectively... It's not a bad question, I just think it could use a tweak. – David Stratton Oct 7 '12 at 21:20
  • @DavidStratton - After raising the question I have been thinking about it more and it is becoming obvious to me. I actually think an Atheist could read it and notice why even Martin Luther may have liked it...if one thinks about it a bit. By the way I also think it is an excellent little book (only 60 small pages) and the only Catholic book I know (other than early church fathers) that I would recommend to my Evangelical friends. To me this situation is remarkable and has an answer. – Mike Oct 7 '12 at 23:10
  • @DavidStratton - But to your point. I may edit the question or just leave in this comment a tip. If a person listed a few things reformers hated, and a couple they loved. Then read the book checking the list, and objective answer would pop out by the checkmarks. Cheers. – Mike Oct 7 '12 at 23:13
  • Do non-Catholics read Thomas a'kempis imitation of Christ too? For some reason I thought I saw that lauded by more than just Catholics. – Peter Turner Oct 8 '12 at 1:52

The Practice of the Presence of God is one of a variety of different Christian "classics" which really cross denominational boundaries (Imitation of Christ might be another). Since the truths it discusses are universal to Christianity and because there is very little in the document which must be Catholic, its benefits are generally considered to far outweigh the detriments.

But, here is a counter question: if it is acceptable to read documents by other Protestant traditions/denominations, why is it unacceptable to read Catholic material as well? From the perspective of a devout Calvinist, Bonhoeffer got some things dead wrong, but he was recommended reading in my Presbyterian Church. C. S. Lewis is an Anglican, but you'll often see Baptists reading Mere Christianity. Chesterton is a Catholic, but Orthodoxy is one of the better apologetics texts in the English language. If all of these alternate theologians are acceptable, why is it unacceptable to read the writings of a humble monk on how to live one's life?

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    I think your answer nails the reason down simply. Also your question is good as part of the answer. I guess the simple answer is that it is acceptable to read Catholic books as a reformer. The dilema is that although the book itself says nothing against Evangelical faith, but actually encourages it, we generally are suspicious as we wonder, well why is this person not a protestant. My feeling is that if it is so good that I enjoy reading it, then I should just park my reservations and forget the 'why' question. Personally reading this book became fundamental to my view of personal holiness. – Mike Oct 8 '12 at 4:58

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