Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Loraine Boettner: "Roman Catholicism"

Here are some quick thoughts on Loraine Boettner's famous book, Roman Catholicism. They are just a few considerations that come to mind about the book.

First, the book is obviously a top seller. You can still buy it new (link) and versions (pirated or not, I do not know) appear for free on the Internet.

Second, this book drives Roman apologists nuts. It's one of the books they love to hate. If they had to name any dead "anti-Catholic" from after 1700, I suspect many would pick Boettner (died 1990). A quick and informal search of the "" website turns up hundreds of hits on his name (fewer than the thousands of hits for "James White" or tens of thousands for "Calvin" but far more than a lot of others).

A third consideration is the book's timing. It was first published in the 1960's. Some of the pre-Vatican II issues may not be as useful today as when they were written. For example, the Latin mass is no longer mandatory. Also, Rome has adopted more ecumenical-sounding wordings in many of its documents, which may appear to require some additional explanation (as well as providing room for further rebuttal). Additionally, concern over issues like Communism have waned significantly (though Boettner seems to address Communism rather a lot).

A fourth consideration is the book's documentation. In many cases, it would be nice to have more documentation of Boettner's claims. While I believe that much (perhaps the overwhelming majority) of the book is accurate, it is difficult to verify its accuracy without the aid of footnotes, endnotes, or similar citations. In other cases, a simple typographical error in Boettner can make tracking down his source even more difficult. For example, if he gets the wrong Roman numeral for a pope, it can make tracking down the original for an alleged statement by the pope, quite difficult, to say the least.



Randall van der Sterren said...

I used to be Roman Catholic and I knew of Boettner and his book several years before my conversion. I read the book and I don't remember it being that awful, although I don't use it as a source.

Catholics apologetics types seem to put Boettner in the same pit with Jack Chick and Maria Monk, which is pretty shallow.

BTW, there's a ex-priest named Richard Bennett, who is popular with some Reformed folks, especially Clarkians. He seems very shallow in his argumentation and not as good as Boettner.

c.t. said...

Boettner might have made Roman Catholicism public domain like he did the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (re the copyright page of the latter book).

Craig said...

I haven't read Boettner...a friend of mine said he read it in conjunction with some Romanist book, and Boettner's was weak (at best). I know, that's just someone else's opinion, who happens to now be a Romanist.

I have read Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol 1-3 and believe that is probably the best anti-Romanist apology as well as the best case for sola scriptura.

Chase said...


The copyright page for my copy of Roman Catholicism (P&R, 1962), states that the copyright is owned by P&R, and reads as follows:

"Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book in keeping with the 'fair use' provision of the copyright act. In preparing this book the author has received help from many sources, some acknowledged and many unacknowledged. He believes the material herein set forth to be a true statement of Scripture teaching, and his desire is to further, not to restrict, its use."

Ken said...

Has anyone carefully reviewed Boettner's mistakes and corrected them? (while keeping his good points and accurate claims) ?

Turretinfan said...


I'm not sure anyone has documented mistakes (beyond typos) in his work. I would be interested to see such a list, if one exists.


James Swan said...

I've done few posts on Boettner's book, following up on some criticism from Karl Keating. When Romanists complain about Boettner, many times it's simply Keating's material being spit out.

Probably what would be helpful is if Keating's comments could be taken apart, and evaluated. Perhaps a group project at some point?

Keating's comments are in his magnum opus, Catholicism and Fundamentalism. I believe Google ana Amazon have most of the book up. Keating devotes an entire chapter to Boettner.

James Swan said...

apologies for the typos.

James Swan said...

And, for example:

steve said...

Ironically, Keating's magnum opus is no masterpiece of scholarship either. He picks on easy targets while giving more formidable spokesmen for the Protestant faith a wide berth.

Turretinfan said...

And if Swan's post is representative of Keating's work, he failed to give a solid critique of Boettner (whether Boettner is low-hanging fruit or not).

James Swan said...

And if Swan's post is representative of Keating's work, he failed to give a solid critique of Boettner (whether Boettner is low-hanging fruit or not).

I've always meant to work through the entirety of Keating's evaluation of Boettner. Where Keating, nails him, let it be so. But then again, I'm lazy.

Another tidbit:

James Swan said...

And another tidbit:

Ken said...

Thanks James,
Now that you mentioned that; I remember you did post something on Boettner and Keating. I feel dumb that it was on your blog, which I also contribute to.

I have Keating's book - it was the first book I got on this issue from the RC side when my friend Rod Bennett converted to Rome in 1996.

He has written a book, called Four Witnesses, by Ignatius Press. Because of his conversion, I started studying RC and church history a lot more since that time.