Thomas Merton Series

Merton and the Protestant Tradition


The book describes the evolution from Merton’s early Catholicism to his growing appreciation of Protestantism while at the same time remaining faithful to his Catholic faith and love for the Church.

  • 978-1-891785-74-0
  • Paperback
  • 211

Product Description

This volume on Thomas Merton’s thoughts on Protestantism as expressed in traditions from Episcopal to Baptist to Quaker includes quotes of Merton from his various writings and conversations, as well as reflections by friends, those whose paths intersected with Merton, and those whose lives have been influenced by Merton’s journey.

The book includes not only a study of Merton’s growing openness to other religious traditions, but also has articles by nine Protestants who have been in responsible academic and pastoral positions who describe how Merton influenced them as Protestants.


Thomas Merton’s mature monastic perspectives included his increasing openness to persons of other faith traditions that included Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. Through personal contacts and by correspondence, Merton practiced hospitality to experiences of faith by those seeking God in ways that might differ from but also complement his own Roman Catholicism. This volume explores Merton’s dialogues with Protestants, especially with Protestant seminary professors and their students from Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky, who would visit him in his hermitage that had originally been built to house these interfaith dialogues. The volume displays Merton and his Protestant interlocutors at their ecumenical best, listening to one another in a communion marked by love and hope.
Jonathan Montaldo- Editor for the Fons Vitae Series
Prior to the Second Vatican Council Merton had begun dialoguing with other Christian denominations – Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian, and gradually expanding that dialogue further to include other faiths – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. As a monk, rather than a theologian, Merton’s approach to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue was centered on the religious experience of others, rather than on the doctrinal expression of their traditions believing, as he wrote in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, that I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further … If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it.
Dr. Paul M Pearson - Director and Archivist Thomas Merton Center Bellarmine University