With all due respect to Orthodox (with their icons) and Roman Catholics (with their images)...
When Mr. Gibson makes a celluloid icon and calls Christians to express their devotion to the Lord Jesus by venerating that icon, Mr. Gibson is doing precisely what we reformed folks have accused his communion of doing for almost five hundred years, now--he is being an orthodox Roman Catholic encouraging the veneration of images of God.
I subscribe to an email news service, ZENIT, published from the Vatican. Recently, they included an interview that's interesting because of its statement of the need to explain to Protestants the devotion to the Virgin Mary and to the (eucharistic) theology of the Roman Catholic Mass at the center of Mel Gibson's "Passion."
Although this would not, in itself, keep me from attending the movie, it should be cautionary to those who do attend. As we are not adept at recognizing idolatry, we also are limited in our ability to recognize and take protective measures against false doctrine. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
When Mr. Gibson makes a celluloid icon and calls Christians to express their devotion to the Lord Jesus by venerating that icon, Mr. Gibson is doing precisely what we reformed folks have accused his communion of doing for almost five hundred years, now--he is being an orthodox Roman Catholic encouraging the veneration of images of God.
To which another World blogger, Dean Abbott, responded:
When and where, exactly, did Mr. Gibson call Christians to express their devotion to the Lord Jesus by venerating that icon?
There is no citation because I'm not quoting Gibson on this, but only summarizing what is self-evident concerning his motivation in making The Passion of the Christ: this movie is an act of religious devotion to Jesus and the Virgin Mary and through this, his celluloid medium, Gibson is calling his viewers to the same devotion.
Several friends have passed on excerpts from fathers in the faith concerning the nature and meaning of the Second Commandment. I'm putting them up here, hoping others will be instructed by them as I have been myself. Thank you to Bob Patterson, Jim Goodloe, Richard Burnett, John McKenzie (and numerous web sites) for calling our attention to these texts. And of course, everyone would do well to start by reading the fourth chapter of J. I. Packer's modern classic, Knowing God.(To save entering lots of html code, none of these excerpts will be indented. Also, other quotes of Martin Luther would support the use of images in worship, but I've chosen to include this earlier quote only since it, at least, agrees with the thrust of the Protestant reformers here presented.)
For years, those of us who are Bible-believing, reformed Protestants have been grateful for the work of Roman Catholics fighting for the political and moral life of our nation. Whether the battle is abortion, euthanasia, the ordination of women, sodomy, or something as seemingly obscure and exotic as the principle of subsidiarity, we have found ourselves taught and led in ethics, moral theology, political philosophy, and particularly culture, by Rome.
Even locally, when we picket abortion clinics and testify before our town fathers against the Civil Rights Commission's recommendation that sodomites be given access to our children within our public schools, we find ourselves surrounded by pious Roman Catholics who have been mounting the barricades against such decadence for decades. We acknowledge the central and courageous voice of Pope John Paul II in the crumbling of the Iron Curtain; we are instructed by Richard John Neuhaus; we love Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran for their salty wisdom and courage; we give major portions of our lives over to Tolkien, memorizing more in his books and movies than we've memorized of Scripture in the past ten years; and when it comes to movies, we give it up for Mel Gibson.
But all is not well in Rome, and here's another reminder (pulled from the Roman Catholic Vatican news service, Zenit) that we must not give up our reformed-and-reforming Protestantism:
In thinking through the historical controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics over the Second Commandment and its application to pictures of Jesus, I've tried to bring the principal contributions of that controversy to bear on Mel Gibson's, The Passion of the Christ, cautioning my own congregation and readers carefully to consider that the method and purpose of this movie is not primarily to teach, but rather to lead the viewers to worship our Lord in the midst of His Passion. Thus, I argue, this is the very thing our Reformation fathers denounced as a violation of the Second Commandment: We are not to use images of any Member of the Trinity as helps in worship.
It's interesting that most Protestants have, in the present, argued in defense of Gibson's movie with almost exactly the same arguments as Roman Catholics used against Protestants at the time of the Reformation.
So what ought we to conclude from this?
Yes, the Reformers might have been wrong and it may be new light has come to Protestants today that allows us to see the errors of the Reformers' position. If so, then the following excerpt from a Roman Catholic priest, himself citing Pope John Paul II, will not be cause for alarm, but rather hope.
Here follows a summary of the historic Roman Catholic position on this matter. And if you can't read it all, at least read the second-to-last paragraph in which Cardinal Castrillon says he'd be willing to exchange a few of his sermons for scenes from The Passion of the Christ--it's a telling quote to end on, isn't it? And for the record, I remain convinced the reformers--not Roman Catholics or Orthodox--are rightly dividing the Word of God in this matter.
(Note: Although early on in the Reformation Luther was critical of the images of the Roman Catholic church, later he came to tolerate, and even embrace, those images. So although most Protestants have rejected images in worship, Lutheran practice is closer to that of Rome herself.)
If you read Roman Catholic publications of the more fervent variety, you may have run across accounts of the notorious rate of conversions suffered by my own alma mater, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. It's hard to keep track of exactly how many of my fellow graduates have made the pilgrimage to "home sweet Rome," but four of the more prominent I know personally, including Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Steve Wood, and Marcus Grodi. Stories of these conversions are found all over the web and some of the details are not quite accurate--but more on that later.
Prior to the land being purchased and turned into a Protestant seminary, Gordon-Conwell's campus had housed a Roman Catholic (Carmelite) boys school whose purpose was to facilitate vocations to the priesthood. Meeting one of Gordon-Conwell's Roman Catholic converts, Fr. Schevers (who formerly taught at the boy's school) suggested that the prayers of their Carmelite predecessors were the reason so many Gordon-Conwell graduates coverted. (For an interesting, albeit Roman Catholic, account of these conversions, see the Spring 1996 issue of Sursum Corda!, 1331 Red Cedar Circle, Ft. Collins, CO 80524.)
Despite my gratitude for much of the work undertaken by Rome to witness against the moral cesspool flooding our Western world, I had to chuckle recently when I received a letter from Marcus Grodi asking me to give money to his non-profit, The Coming Home Network, to facilitate the conversion of additional Protestant pastors. I do hope Marc isn't holding his breath.
Let me introduce you to the Coming Home Network.
We're a lay Catholic apostolate that has helped hundreds of Protestant ministers convert to the Catholic faith. And right now, we're helping 200 more who are on the journey to Rome. Each one of these pastors faces a severe personal crisis, and I'm short of funds to help them all. Please read this important letter and consider helping us help more Protestant clergy convert to the Catholic faith. You may be their only hope!
Dear Fellow Catholic,
Hello. My name is Marcus Grodi. I'm a former Protestant minister who converted to the catholic faith nine years ago.
As you probably know, a large number of Protestant ministers have converted to Catholicism in the last decade. You may have heard their stories on my weekly live television program, Journeys Home, on EWTN.
But what you might not know is that hundreds of Protestant ministers are currently "on their way home" to Rome.
Responding to my entry, Not Just Now, Thank You, dealing with the conversion to Roman Catholicism of many of my peers from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Greg Barnes writes:
I suspect that many of those who are converting to Rome are like so many who convert to Mormonism, in that they know very little about what they are getting into. It also shows a defect in the curriculum of whatever seminaries and Bible colleges those preachers attended...
And Pastor Paul McCain writes:
Tim, we've suffered a few diversions ourselves. Not too many though. Perhaps some of the more notorious conversions would include Richard John Neuhaus... and Jaroslav Pelican who headed East. ....What do you think accounts for it? I've identified it as a longing for some sense of "security" which is gladly provided in the "magisterium" of Rome... Your thoughts?
To which I respond:
Without getting too specific, whatever may be said about the rest of the Gordon-Conwell converts, no one would accuse Scott or Kimberly Hahn of being ignorant of what they were getting into. Scott and Kimberly were (and are) both bright ones, and would have known exactly what they were doing. On more than one occasion, I was very pleased to have Kimberly standing with me when I was arguing with Professor Roger Nicole in his advocacy of the ordination of women. And Kimberly's husband, Scott, was the cutting edge of theonomy's entrance into our campus who, like every other proponent of theonomy I've known, was no dullard.
Neuhaus is an interesting and, I think, instructive case. When he converted to Roman Catholicism he sent a number of us a letter explaining his action and I here quote what I found most telling, and have since resonated with:
For many years, I've been grateful to the Roman Catholic Church for her faithful witness in the area of moral theology. Nothing close to her biblically prophetic voice on moral and ethical issues exists in any Protestant communion, not to mention the evangelical non-communion.
Just typical of the sort of excellent documents Rome tosses off is the recent teaching paper issued by the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales called Cherishing Life here summarized by Zenit. I hope you'll take time to read their summary, passing it along to other believers as a model of how Christians ought to speak to our culture on these matters.
Having just posted a statement commending the Roman Catholic Church for her hard and faithful work on the moral issues of our day, it might be as good a time as any for one (rather small) part of the explanation as to why I remain a reformed Protestant.
For close to thirty years, now, I've subscribed to the Roman Catholic weekly newspaper, The Wanderer, which is almost pre-Vatican II in its doctrinal positions. In other words, it's ground zero for the defense of all things traditional in the Roman Catholic church in the U.S.
One weekly column The Wanderer runs is "Catholic Replies," consisting of one to ten questions each week answered by James J. Drummey. The questions range all over the place, and often I find them helpful to my own ministry.
Quite the opposite, I found the following question and answer from the week of June 3, 2004 scandalous on a number of levels, including both the evident authority of apparitions of Mary and Jesus, and the specificity of the chains of duty that bind what are called in that communion, the "good catholic."
by David and Tim Bayly on August 30, 2004 - 9:46am
In response to my post, No, Virginia, the Bible is not politically correct..., Joel Martin comments:
I'm completely unsurprised by this. The Neutered International Version has always been a vehicle for an Evangelical, zeitgeistian agenda. It's an attempt to eliminate the glaring theological problems of Evangelical Protestantism by erasing them from Scripture. The rationale is obvious: if Evangelicalism doesn't match the Bible, make the Bible match Evangelicalism. So why are we surprised to find it once again retranslated to further an unBiblical agenda?
This line (from your post, No, Virginia...) struck me: "At the time, the NIV was the Bible translation standard of the Bible-believing, English-speaking world, so it was the efforts to modernize this particular translation that were our focus."
Making the NIV the standard for the "Bible-believing, English-speaking world" is right up there with making the New World (JW) "translation" the standard. The NWT eliminates the Trinity and other un-JW-like doctrines by retranslating, and hoping the reader won't ever check the Greek. The NIV does the same with concepts from Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and other Traditional churches, to make it appear that the popular Evangelical Protestantism is really the Christianity of the Bible. It's written in order to make Catholicism, et. al. irrelevant. This way, those Christians can be dismissed as not "Bible-believing." After all, if it's in the NIV, it's in the Bible. Which is why the first line was a trigger for me. There are more Bible-believers who use the NAB (the standard English Catholic translation) than the NIV. But the NIV mentality makes it easier to draw a boundary between us and the "real" Bible-believers, because we don't believe in the "real" NIV Bible.
Okay, being a Papist, I'm more sensitive about the NIV than most. But the NIV's popularity has the effect of stifling inquiry into what the Bible means. It prevents the reader from asking troublesome questions about teachings like Sola Scriptura, the primacy of Peter, sacramental theology, and the like. Most Protestants don't agree with me on these questions; so be it. But we should all be afraid of a Bible translation surreptitiously reworded to interpret itself according to an agenda. Once that became acceptable, it was a short step to gender-inclusiveness and other false interpretations. Here we go down the slippery slope.
First, I largely concur with your estimation of the merits of the NIV itself--and not simply the NIVI and its progeny. Until I got involved in this battle I was not aware of the NIV's inaccuracies. As time went on, though, I found that I could no longer use the NIV because my eyes were opened to the exact thing you mention: namely, that the sex-neutering of the NIVI is only the logical extension of a translation philosophy (dynamic equivalence) that had already gone far down the road of corrupting any number of texts in the NIV itself.
As to whether the NIV is specifically anti-Roman Catholic, I have no doubt there are places where it is, although I question your mention of the Protestant/Roman Catholic division over sola scriptura and the primacy of Peter as examples of such.
On the other hand, I know the NIV is biased concerning the Sacraments, and not in an anti-Roman Catholic direction, either. I'm a presbyterian holding to infant baptism and some time back there was an interesting article...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 19, 2005 - 6:35am
About a year ago, my cousin John sent me a copy of Dan Brown's best-seller, The Da Vinci Code, with a note acknowledging the book is trash, but encouraging me to read it so that I know what trash a mass of Americans are currently consuming.
When I finished reading it, I thought it would be hard to write a book that more perfectly illustrates the steep slide into gnosticism and paganism that is so obvious across the Western world, and particularly these United States. May I encourage our good readers to borrow a copy and read it? You will be much wiser in calling your friends, neighbors, and family members to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ having spent the time to read this book, looking as through a periscope into the prejudices and delusions of modern man.
What living proof of Chesterton's foresight in pointing out, "When men stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything." Surely the millions who have bought and read The Da Vinci Code have not simply been looking for a pleasant diversion, but have sought in this work facts to justify their prejudices.
It would be pleasant to think that any criticism of this work coming from a liberal media outlet might indicate a decline in the work's influence, but I think not. Rather, the very anti-clericalism and hatred of authority at the book's heart...
Really, the scene of the judicial execution was pretty quiet most of the time. Only two sounds were constant.
The overwhelming sound, growing in frequency and decibel level as our time went on, was the scores--sometimes hundreds--of Roman Catholics saying the rosary. We found it oppressive and I exhorted them at one point, "Pray to Jesus! Your prayers to Mary are idolatry! They're blasphemous!"
Of course, they kindly sought to explain the blasphemy to me, telling me everything they pray to Mary is taken directly from Scripture (and so on). But I'm afraid Roman Catholics can't realize how overwhelming reformed Protestants find the relative attention the Blessed Virgin Mary gets as compared to the attention they give to our Lord. A simple count of the words makes it evident who is at the center of their devotion. But their Pope and many centuries of Mariolatry inoculate them against biblical exhortations in this matter.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Interestingly, when I exhorted them to turn their attention away from Mary and to the Lord Jesus Christ Who is seated as our advocate at the right hand of His Father, one brother in Christ who, with his wife, had been reading the Bible out loud hour after hour told me that until a few years earlier he had himself been a Roman Catholic and had prayed to Mary as all those surrounding us were doing.
I asked him what had led to his leaving the Roman Catholic church and he said he'd had some Protestant friends who had begun to ask him questions with great persistence, and then had explained Scripture to him with great patience, starting from the very beginning. (Having written the above, though, let me make it clear that I was, and am very grateful to the Lord for the godly witness of Roman Catholics against our culture of death. Were it not for their witness against abortion, there's little likelihood evangelicals would have come to consensus against it. And concerning euthanasia, the center of the biblical witness against it has never been evangelical or reformed believers. Rather, Roman Catholics have carried God's standard on this issue, too.)
The second sound was much softer, and a constant from morning to night: Terri's heartbeat being drummmed by a stick against the bottom of a five gallon plastic pail--our symbolic reminder of Terri's life. In this picture Carole Canfield, a member of our congregation here in Bloomington, takes her turn. Most of us took a turn, walking through the orange plastic pens tapping out the rhythm of Terri's failing heart.
One of the truly great men of the 20th century has passed into eternity. We need not consider theological differences at this point to mourn the passing of a man who stood courageously for God's Word in defense of the poor, the sick, the helpless. In his consistent defense of life, John Paul II is a hero to all who understand the Scriptural truth spoken by God, "All who hate me love death."
Much more could be said about the courage of John Paul II. His role in the rout of communism cannot be denied. His perseverance in the midst of physical difficulty, both after being shot and in old age, is in telling contrast to the leisured, death-embracing culture of so much of the Western world.
Negatively, his love for Mary seems to have consumed the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church.
Finally, however, Lutheran pastor Paul McCain writes of our hope, despite our opposition to the Gospel-denying teaching of Roman Catholicism, to gather before the throne of the Lamb with John Paul II in glory.
When we write that we "hope, despite our opposition to the Gospel-denying teaching of Roman Catholicism, to gather before the throne of the Lamb with John Paul II in glory," we are accused of scant respect for the deceased Pope.
This illustrates one of the great divides between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity. Roman Catholicism views baptism and attendance upon the Church's various means of grace as sufficient to assure salvation. I have been to more Roman Catholic funerals than I care to remember where godless men are promised admission to heaven by the priest on the basis of nothing more than baptism. Salvation is cheap in Roman theology. Grace is earned--and the coin it costs is tin rather than gold, a few pious acts, baptism, occasional attendance at the mass, and presto, the doors of heaven swing open.
Truly Reformed pastors, on the other hand, understanding the depravity of man and the wickedness of sin, hesitate to pronounce unqualified absolution and entrance into heaven even for the best of men at their funerals. God alone knows the heart, which is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. We speak of our hope for the deceased, at times, even, of our confidence, but we are careful not to make human deeds the measure of the man.
Thus, for Reformed pastors to speak of hoping to gather before the throne of the Lamb in glory with a pope is exceedingly high praise, yet to Roman Catholics who rely not on the Gospel of Grace, but on the Gospel of Works, it seems niggling negativism.
I'm sorry, my Roman Catholic friends, it is not a slight thing that we as strongly Reformed Protestant pastors would say that we hope to see the Pope in glory. We deny the office, but we respect the man. You want us to respect the office, and we would even do that if it stood for the Gospel. But it does not, so we can say no more in praise of John Paul II than we have said. What we have said is high praise. It is not what a Roman Catholic might want to hear, but to say more we would have to convert, a step we have no intention of taking because we believe the Gospel Rome proclaims is grace-denying.
I would again commend a post by Pastor McCain about John Paul II and Roman Catholicism for those interested in seeing why Protestants reject the teachings of Rome.
The protest venue in front of the hospice in Pinellas Park was filled with religious faithful, and among the Roman Catholic contingent was a fair sprinkling of converts to Roman Catholicism from Protestantism.
The most visible Roman Catholic family at the site had converted to Catholicism from Lutheranism. A mother frequently at the site with her children told me she had converted from Protestantism. One of the most impressive older men at the site was a convert from the mainline Presbyterianism of his youth. Tom, a faithful attender at the site, was a former Evangelical Free Church pastor now teaching religion in a Catholic school.
The Roman Catholic church in America is clearly drawing strength from her Protestant converts--many of whom were among the most orthodox and devout Roman Catholic protestors in Pinellas Park.
Pragmatically speaking, the Roman Catholics at Woodside Hospice shared certain benefits the Protestants lacked.
It was striking how few Protestants were able to worship together without books or bulletins because of the lack of a shared hymnody and liturgy. Whatever we may think of some of the Roman Catholic prayers, the ability of the Roman Catholics to pray and worship together in an impromptu setting without hymnals or bulletins was impressive. We could not do this as Protestants.
When a Baptist pastor played his guitar at the site, the songs we knew in common with him as fellow Protestants were only the most simple--often those, like "Jesus Loves Me" and "Amazing Grace" that Roman Catholics knew as well.
Of course, the most powerful worship at the site to my mind was the little clusters of Christians quietly reading the Word of God and praying aloud, and that required no liturgy, only the one Book no Christians should be without.
Yet a shared liturgy clearly bonded Roman Catholics who did not know each other in a way that Protestant worship did not. There was a palpable sense of suspicion at times among Protestants, a feeling I never sensed among the Roman Catholics.
Along with shared liturgy, there was a recognizable leadership hierarchy in the Roman Catholic community. Monsignor Malanowski was the paramount leader, and no one competed with him for authority. Other priests assisted at mass, members of religious orders assisted the family, but there was clear leadership among the Roman Catholics and those leaders led the entire Roman Catholic contingent, not just part of it. Protestants had no such hierarchy and no such clear leadership. The first to pull out a megaphone was usually the leader in the Protestant community.
Separation of Spiritual and Political
The political leaders of the Schindler cause were, not surprisingly, largely Protestant. Randall Terry, Pat Mahoney, David Gibbs were all Protestant leaders. Thus, the Protestants were more likely to be looking to the political process for Terri's salvation than the Roman Catholics.
Now at least one Roman Catholic at the site viewed this as a strength of the Protestant community. A former monk who assisted the Schindlers throughout the week told me that he had urged the Schindlers to use Terry and Mahoney when the Franciscan brothers were advising against it. He saw Randall Terry as bringing a certain manly vigor to the cause that the Schindlers needed and wouldn't obtain from their Roman Catholic supporters and I suspect he's right. There were far more Protestant pastors at the site, in total, than Roman Catholic priests and Protestants made up the vast bulk of those arrested.
Yet in the end, when it became apparent that Terri was not going to be saved by politicians, judges or the political process, those Protestant leaders who had been urging us on in protest and political action seemed bankrupt of further authority while the Roman Catholic priests and religious who had never invested a great deal in the political process seemed to gain authority.
Here's a Roman Catholic defense of devotion to Mary by our good reader, Joel Martin, which is about as close to what a Reformed Protestant might accept as anything we've read in recent days. Does Mr. Martin stay within the pale of the Biblically defensible? Maybe, although we wonder what he would say about Mary as mediatrix and coredemptrix with Christ. (By the way, it's astounding how much Mr. Martin has written on his blog in the past couple of days.)
In a sense, we view what Mr. Martin has written on his blog as akin to Paul's exhortation to his spiritual children that they "follow me as I follow Christ." In his devotion to Mary, could Mr. Martin be said to be following Mary as she follows Christ? Still, we find ourselves uncomfortable speaking of "devotion" to Mary. We can love her, respect her, honor her, imitate her--and all generations will call her "blessed." But being devoted to her...
Good things (and people) can become stumbling blocks. Think of the bronze serpent. King Hezekiah is commended for worshipping the True God, but also for breaking in pieces the bronze serpent which had become an idol to the Sons of Israel. In the beginning, the bronze serpent was a type of Jesus Christ and Jesus used that type to point to His Own Crucifixion when speaking to Nicodemus about his soul:
(Jesus said) "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life." (John 3:14,15)
Yet it was godliness for King Hezekiah to break this same bronze serpent in pieces because it had become an idol, competing with God for preeminence in His people's hearts. Our God is a jealous God.
(King Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)
Hard as it may be for Roman Catholics devoted to Mary to hear this...
Lest conservative Protestants think they've found a permanent friend in the Roman Catholic Church because of its current stand in favor of male priesthood, read this account of the creeping advance of feminism within the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Even more distressing for conservative Protestants is this account by Nat Hentoff of a conversation with the late John Cardinal O'Connor of New York. O'Connor, a linchpin Roman Catholic conservative, felt it conceivable that Roman Catholicism could embrace the ordination of women in the lifetime of a pope other than John Paul II.
Late one afternoon in 1986, with two priests listening attentively, I told him I had received a newsletter from the Chicago-based National Coalition of American Nuns asking again why women could not be priests. "We women of the Catholic community," the newsletter read, "do not seek jurisdiction over the male-church power estate. In asking for ordination, we seek only to preach, to administer the sacraments and to teach the Gospel to the poor."
O'Connor had a bad cold, was tired, and was due to speak at Columbia University in a few hours. One of the priests suggested firmly that the interview was over. The cardinal waved him away. "How can I answer that and be quite honest?" he said hoarsely. Then he spoke of the theological tradition and of history: the twelve apostles were men; Catholics speak of "God the Father" and "God the Son"; Christ always spoke of himself as "the Son."
"The pope," O'Connor continued, "is pretty well bound by theological tradition, but is he bound in the same way as he is by infallible, divinely revealed teaching?" The two priests leaned forward. "By definition he is not," O'Connor said softly. "Could he pronounce differently about the ordination of women if he was convinced that his new position was theologically sound? I'd have to say yes."
The priests seemed frozen in space. "It has never been infallibly declared," the cardinal went on, "that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood. It is conceivable that it could happen. But, I remind you," he said with sudden vigor, "not in the lifetime of this pope."
"This pope's" lifetime is past. What will the future bring?
I fear many of us will relearn in years to come that the Reformation was waged over bedrock principle, not intellectual fripperies. And those who rely on Roman Catholicism to remain conservative Protestantism's co-belligerent in cultural battles such as abortion, euthanasia and male-female roles will perhaps learn to their dismay that a Church based on the teachings and tradition of man rather than the Word of God is a weak reed in time of trouble.
by David and Tim Bayly on April 19, 2005 - 10:01am
I'm amazed. A week ago, someone told me Cardinal Ratzinger was the likely next Pope and I expressed skepticism. I couldn't imagine the College of Cardinals allowing the quite-conservative Pope John Paul II to be succeeded by someone arguably even more conservative. More likely they'd make a slight correction back to the Vatican II ethos.
So what happened?
I haven't read a word of commentary on the election yet, so this is shooting from the hip. But it's my guess Cardinal Ratzinger's election is an indication of John Paul II's deep respect for Ratzinger--no surprise here--along with John Paul II's great moral authority exercising itself from the grave. It seems clear he controlled this election of his successor, and not simply by having appointed all but three of the 117 voting cardinals.
It seems everyone knew John Paul II's will, and did it.
So as someone who is paleolithic in his biblical, Protestant, and reformed commitments, but who subscribes to a number of periodicals that are ultramontane (papal and conservative) in their doctrine, what do I make of this election?
First, I expect Pope Benedict XVI to continue the conservative reform of the Roman Catholic church begun under John Paul II, but to accelerate its intensity and dogmatic underpinnings. Ratzinger is, by all accounts, flat out brilliant and has a killer work ethic.
And for some of this we reformed Protestants may be grateful...
by David and Tim Bayly on April 19, 2005 - 11:34am
One little-spoken-of aspect of the relationship between Roman Catholics and Protestants in America today is the tension our co-belligerent status on cultural and moral matters has created for us in other areas. Specifically, how do we handle our disagreements over the more substantive theological disagreements we've had for centuries--such as "justification by faith alone, yet not faith by itself" which is the historic Protestant position but was (and still is) anathematized by Rome?
Largely agreeing on abortion, pornography, feminism, sodomite marriage, euthanasia, and similar matters allows us to make common cause in so many forums, sharing resources and maximizing our investments. But that same sharing easily morphs from a matter of efficiency to a matter of principle.
If reformed Protestants and Roman Catholics are used to subscribing to the same newsweekly, our own beloved World, and eating at the same editorial table without a hint of discord, what happens when the subject turns from those issues we agree on to those issues we don't agree on?
For instance, when Pope John Paul II died our discussions necessarily turned to eternity, and specifically the coming Judgement, Heaven and Hell, purgatory, and the state of John Paul II's soul. How could they not?
But the same subscribers who have lived together in unity the rest of the year are not going to be happy campers when they see that World's principal staff are not Roman Catholic, but Protestant, and that to a man they reject purgatory, prayers for the dead, and the Rosary, not to mention papal infallibility and the infusion of Christ's righteousness.
A good example of this tension, particularly within the media of the Christian subculture, is this story of how Salem Communications fired their Pittsburgh talk show host, Pastor Marty Minto, for answering a listener's question concerning whether or not John Paul II was in Heaven.
Knowing personally the leadership of Salem, I can say that Pastor Minto was fired for saying exactly what Salem's founders and leaders believe. So if Christian radio stations are not the place to remind Protestant believers of the principles of the Reformation and the need for reformation in the church still today, where exactly are such subjects still appropriate?
Certainly not in most seeker-sensitive churches which would not tolerate for a minute the slightest exercise of biblical discernment concerning the Roman Catholic church lest the seekers present would be offended and not "come to Christ," whatever they mean by that.
I don't envy Joel Belz and Marvin Olasky of World magazine, nor Ed Atsinger and Stuart Epperson of Salem Communications, their job of deciding which parts of biblical doctrine to bar from their media empire in the interest of protecting the spirit of cooperation that currently prevails between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Still, it appears to me that this is a key contributing factor to loss of theological and biblical precision within the church today, and that it will only grow worse as increasingly believers will look to mass media for their most significant doctrinal input week to week.
Having subscribed to, and read, the most conservative Roman Catholic publications in America today for over twenty years now, I know it's possible to appreciate the work they do well, while suffering under their constant promotion of heterodoxies and heresies, as well as their regular and egregious smear campaigns against Luther, Calvin, and other Protestant leaders; and to do so without cancelling my subscription and walking away in a huff. Can we not expect an irenic maturity and equanimity of Roman Catholic readers of World and listeners to Salem's radio stations?
(Thanks to Kim Johnson for pointing me to the Salem story.)
This just in from Joe Sobran concerning the new pope:
The election of Benedict XVI means that the College of Cardinals does indeed want change; but not the kind of change the liberals crave. It wants the return to orthodoxy and discipline (Cardinal Ratzinger) has been advocating throughout the long papacy of John Paul II...
He may also prove a sterner disciplinarian than John Paul. It was often said of the late Pope that he was more loved than heeded; Benedict certainly won't enjoy the same phenomenal popularity (who could?). But he is also a man who commands respect, because he has always preferred speaking truth to making friends.
After the honey of John Paul II, Benedict XVI may seem like a dose of vinegar. But at 78 he probably can't look forward to a long papacy, and he must make his remaining years count. He has the example of the Savior, whose most startling teaching (in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel) caused many of his disciples to desert him: "This is a hard saying; who can accept it?"
This new Pope knows that such hard sayings are the very essence of Catholic teaching. Whatever his reign may give us, it won't be a watered-down Catholicism.
Sobran's summary of the new pope seems accurate to me. Now for just a moment imagine such a man assuming, not the See in Rome, but the See in Wheaton.
(Sobran's full article will be available in a week or two at his web site.)
There seems to be a tendency among Roman Catholic commentators on this site to exaggerate the size of the Roman Catholic Church and to diminish the size of Protestantism in the aftermath of John Paul II's death.
How large is the Roman Catholic church vis a vis other branches of Christianity?
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, this is how Christianity was constituted in mid 1995:
Branch- - - - - - - -Number of Adherents
Roman Catholic- - - -968,000,000
Protestant- - - - - -395,867,000
Other Christians- - -275,583,000
Orthodox- - - - - - -217,948,000
Anglican- - - - - - -70,530,000
You will note that most small religious groups are included in the "Other Christians" category. Most of these are Protestant, though some fall under a broader definition of Roman Catholicism which includes non-Latin rite Catholic churches. "Other Christian" also includes sects and cults such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.
Inclusion of orthodox smaller factions increases the number of adherents to Protestantism and Roman Catholicism by slightly less than 100,000,000 each.
Moreover, growth rate comparisons of branches of Christendom have routinely favored Protestant churches for the last 30 years. Recent figures show Evangelical and Pentecostal worldwide growth rates in excess of quadruple Roman Catholicism's growth rate.
Admittedly, sizes and growth rates are imprecise. But all estimates I have seen show generally the same basic ratios and sizes. Church size should be beside the point to these discussions. If our Roman Catholic friends wish to argue size, they may have another century or two to do so. But watch out. If size proves anything, the shoe could be on the other foot with the next 150 years. Protestantism began with a handful of adherents and it's now better than half the size of Roman Catholicism and growing faster worldwide to boot. Include Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism now holds a plurality, not majority, of worldwide Christian adherents.
My Roman Catholic acquaintances have never failed to throw in my face the schismatic nature they claim to be intrinsic to Protestantism. "We are one Church, united under the Pope, while you Protestants are thousands and millions of churches."
Similarly, they claim the Roman Catholic church is united in her biblical interpretation whereas Protestants, having no authoritative tradition bequeathing the proper interpretation of Scripture, have as many interpretations of Scripture as there are readers of Scripture (of which all honest people admit Protestantism has an almost infinitely greater number than Roman Catholicism).
So the argument is the unity of the Roman Catholic church and her doctrine.
Knowing the guts of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical and theological scene from the inside, reading publications such as The Wanderer and Culture Wars, I laugh without malice. One church! One doctrine! One authoritative interpretation of Scripture! Surely they jest!
Endless examples from church history and our own time could be cited, but let me quote from the weekly newspaper that best represents the most conservative and faithful-to-the-pope element of the Roman Catholic community in the US, The Wanderer.
Here is their description of this purported Roman Catholic unity as it is demonstrated by the relationship between Rome's most prestigious order, the Jesuits, and the Pope of the past twenty-six years, John Paul II. (Most of The Wanderer's description comes from extensive citations of an essay titled Liberal Jesuits and the Late Pope by Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ (Society of Jesuits) run by Catholic World News.)
Any Roman Catholic or Protestant who plays with the notion that the Roman Catholic church stands on a higher moral ground because of her unity needs to read Mankowski's complete essay, but to whet your appetite, here are a few excerpts...
The visible-invisible divide between Roman Catholic and Protestant views of the Church is on full display in reactions to recent posts about the unity of the Roman Catholic church.
In the end, I am inclined to provisionally agree with Roman Catholic claims to a full unity under the pope--recognizing that such unity is entirely formal and visible in accord with Roman Catholic ecclesiology which claims that the visible and invisible Church are coterminous. By Roman Catholicism's self-definition, her unity is complete and visible. There's no sense arguing the point.
But, what must be stated with equal vigor by Protestant opponents of Roman Catholic theology is that you can't be Roman Catholic and eat your cake too... In particular, the unity of the Roman church is by its very definition exclusive of every single Protestant believer.
Protestants recognize the possibility of true faith and, thus, salvation within the confines of the Roman church. Protestant soteriology, based on the teaching of Scripture, recognizes that not all Israel is Israel for herself--and that not all Samaria is Samaria for Roman Catholicism. Instead, true Israel is Israel in faith, Israel of the heart:
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical, but a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.
Because Protestants understand salvation to be the imputation of Christ's righteousness to an utterly undeserving, unworking sinner, and the imputation of that sinner's sin to Christ, because Protestants believe that salvation is by grace alone, not by works in any way, because Protestants believe that faith is the sole means by which the Father's justifying love in Christ is apprehended and possessed and because Protestants believe that faith comes by the agency of the Holy Spirit, we can embrace the possibility of a Roman Catholic Christian, despite our opposition to Roman Catholic doctrine. A Roman Catholic can look to Christ by faith for salvation, even in the midst of a heretical church.
True Protestants understand it is not the outward marks of the Church which confer the Christian's status in Christ. Instead, the outward marks are signs and seals of spiritual reality. No combination of religious acts can amount to faith. Rather, the essence of faith is internal, of the heart, by the Holy Spirit. Thus, despite the vast conflict between Roman soteriology and Biblical Christianity, Protestants understand that it is entirely possible for true Christians to exist by faith in the midst of the Roman church's corrupt soteriology. It is not what we believe about salvation that constitutes saving faith, but what we believe about Jesus Christ.
The problem for Roman Catholics, however, is that Roman Catholic unity is: 1) visible, and; 2) by virtue of number 1, exclusive.
Formal Roman Catholic soteriology thus specifically denies salvation to unrepentant Protestants. As then-Cardinal Ratzinger frequently affirmed prior to assuming the papacy, the canons of Trent stand with undiminished authority in the Roman Catholic church.
In particular, the following statements from the Council of Trent's Sixth Session, its Justification Canons have not been altered or diminished in Roman Catholic theology:
For Protestants unsure how to view the Roman Catholic church and her adherents, here is an excellent essay by Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary written in the 1840s which summarizes the classic, though not unanimous, Reformed view of the Roman church.
Hodge is arguing that the Presbyterian church should accept Roman baptism. It's interesting to note the charity of the classic Protestant position at this point.
Because we have opposed so strongly the emphasis on works in the Roman Catholic view of justification, we must be honest in admitting Protestantism's often-greater failure in this same regard.
One of the young deacons in my church writes today in an email to his fellow deacons:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."
Can anyone honestly say that Rome teaches the gospel that Paul taught? No, they have added to it, therefore it is different. It is distorted because Christ's blood is not viewed as the sole means of reconciliation between sinners and God. It is contrary to the true gospel message which teaches that Hell awaits those who are unrepentant. I could go on but I won't....
I suggest that some stalwart Protestants reason with the Catholics on Sunday after church, perhaps greet them in their parking lot as they are ready to leave and share lovingly the gospel they lack. What do you think? Too much?
John, The Part Time Zealot (using fictitious names)
To which a fellow deacon responds:
Just wondering: do Arminians teach what Paul taught? Why not go to (a variety of tree) Creek while we're at it?
If we are honest, we must admit as Protestants that what the Reformers viewed, to a man, as the baseline defective principle of Roman Catholicism is so entrenched within Protestantism we are blind to it. Typical Protestant and Evangelical theology is little better than Roman Catholic. Theology which makes the human will sovereign in salvation is Roman, no matter where it is taught.
The reason so many Protestants have so easily and happily made the transition to Rome in recent years is that Protestant soteriology has devolved, in many cases, to Roman soteriology. We have thrown in the towel on the bondage of the will, on depravity, on the sovereign grace of God.
I wrote several weeks ago, "The difference between Willow Creek and St. Joe's RCC isn't that great once you get past the liturgy--and liturgically St. Joe's has it all over Willow Creek."
But there is another advantage to the Roman Church: St. Joe's RCC often speaks more clearly about sin and guilt than the average Evangelical church. St. Joe's may lack the answer, but at least it diagnoses the problem with an honesty you will rarely find at the local Willow Creek clone--or many other Protestant churches for that matter.
The May 22nd issue of The New York Times Magazine had a very long cover story titled, "The Senator From a Place Called Faith: The coming of Rick Santorum." If you're able, pick up a copy. As the article starts out, it appears it will be one more slash-and-burn treatment of biblical faith, but deeper into the piece it becomes apparent the author, Michael Sokolove, is listening carefully and finding himself surprised by a growing sympathy.
Senator Santorum comes across as one of the bolder witnesses to the Christian faith I've ever seen profiled by a major media player, and it's particularly encouraging to read of his involvement, both legislatively and personally, in helping the poor. The good Senator reminds me of the Apostle Peter's exhortation:
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)
One item of interest to those who have taken part in the discussion of Roman Catholic theology and practice on this blog is this sad statement:
Santorum is not a reader of Scripture-- "I've never read the Bible cover to cover; maybe I should have" --and has no passages he clings to when seeking spiritual guidance. "I'm a Catholic, so I'm not a biblical scholar. I'm not someone who has verses he can pop out. That's not how I interact with the faith." (emphasis added)
Jesus Christ had "verses he (could) pop out," and He popped them out all the time--one for every occasion. If He was tempted, pop. If he was faced by a murderous mob of religious leaders, pop. If He was giving a sermon on a hillside, pop pop pop pop pop...
Ironically, one of the article's illustrations is a picture of a grouping of the senator's personal effects. Sitting on top of a stack of books in his office is a black Bible with "Rick Santorum, United States Senator" engraved in gold leaf on the lower right corner of the cover.
Leaving this matter to the side, though, Senator Santorum honors God and I'd be proud to be lumped in with him.
In returning to the USA from Guadalajara, I am forced to acknowledge my proud provincialism as an American Presbyterian when it comes to tackling the thorny question of Roman Catholic legitimacy as a Church of Jesus Christ.
Some months ago I commended to our readers an argument by Charles Hodge in the Princeton Review urging acceptance of Roman Catholic baptism on the basis of Roman Catholicism's status as a visible Church of Christ. Though Hodge's position on Roman Catholicism was scandalous within Presbyterianism in the 1840s, it no longer provokes opposition within most of American Presbyterianism. Willingness to accept Rome as a visible Church is clearly the majority position among teaching elders of the Presbyterian Church of America.
But encounter Rome through the eyes of one converted to Christ out of Roman Catholicism and suddenly many of Hodge's arguments sound hollow. This is especially true of those converted out of Roman Catholicism in places such as Mexico where Roman Catholicism remains the vastly majority religion without the benefit of 300-plus years of confrontation with majority-religion Protestantism to moderate its excesses.
Which leads me to wonder if Hodge would have written in defense of Roman Catholicism had he been a missionary in South America rather than a professor at Princeton Seminary?
For that matter, I also wonder if PCA pastors in North and South America should pay closer attention to the thoughts of their native colleagues before joining with Roman Catholics in prayer services. Surely a native Presbyterian pastor converted out of Roman Catholicism and working to convert Roman Catholics to true faith is at least as well equipped to judge whether Rome is a visible Church as one whose knowledge of Rome is largely theoretical.
Some further thoughts on Roman Catholicism as a visible Church:
1) Is this an area for charity or precision? I suspect, despite my concerns with how the regulative worship principle (RWP) is sometimes applied within Reformed churches, that a growing lack of concern for the RWP within a Reformed body will inevitably lead to a willingness to accept Rome as a visible Church.
Once idolatry is no longer viewed as a present danger, charity rules. But the syncretistic worship of the northern kingdom was NEVER treated charitably by God through His prophets. Is not Rome akin to Samaria? But salvation is of the Jews, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman. There is no compromise.
The call of God is to precision and warning for those granted the privilege of declaring His Word. Let God be charitable in His treatment of individuals within Roman Catholicism. Prophets must heed His Word in speaking of Mount Gerizim. We ignore such heretical Roman doctrines as those declared at the Council of Trent at our peril.
2) Is it possible to speak of a disparate, variegated worldwide body as a monolithic whole? Hodge agrees that the Church is apparent in the world in a variety of forms, from local body to universal Bride of Christ. But can we speak of a worldwide body as visible when such a declaration ignores the teaching of that body in many places throughout the world?
The churches of Revelation were in much closer proximity than the churches of Rome, yet they are individually addressed and judged rather than corporately summarized. By declaring Rome, in total, a visible Church, do we not accept the basic Roman argument of apostolic succession and unity? How can we describe Rome as a "visible" Church when Rome, as a whole, is hard-pressed to fit any of the classic New Testament aspects of Christ's Bride?
3) Hodge's sanguine view of Rome's formal theology seems to assume that theology is entirely a matter of books and documents, rather than living belief written on the heart. When such a vast disconnect exists between what Hodge views as the basically orthodox central tenets of Roman Catholicism and the expression of those tenets in the faith of individual lives around the world, perhaps it is necessary to test the doctrine by the fruit it produces.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 13, 2005 - 9:21pm
Joel, Roman Catholic author of On the Other Foot--a blog we've watched with some interest since Joel started blogging earlier this year, writes a post about Protestant apologetics from the viewpoint of a Roman Catholic.
Listed in the entry are five Protestant fallacies about Roman Catholicism Joel has come to recognize over the years. Those five, abridged from Joel's post, are these:
1) Mary--"It's simple: We don't worship Mary. Period. How hard is that to understand? I can't count the times I've gotten into the distinction between dulia and latria, typed until my fingers bled, and still been told, 'But it's still worship!'"
2) The Bible--"I've seen repeated examples where somebody will line up doctrine under the heading of 'What Rome Teaches' and proof-texts under 'What the Bible Says.' For cryin' out loud! Do you really think we don't have Bibles? ... We have a bookcase loaded with Bibles in different translations and commentaries on Scripture. Yet some yahoo is always convinced that being a Catholic, I must not know what's in the Bible, and if I would just read it, I would immediately see the error of my ways."
3) Conspiracy Theories--"Believe it or not, there's no great plot by the fabulously wealthy and powerful Vatican to subvert Christians into a Satanic cult. We're not sworn to secrecy at confirmation. Frankly if the Vatican were as powerful and sinister as some of the wilder theorists say, they would have been eliminated long ago."
4) Trent--"Trent is every Protestant's nightmare, an articulation of anathemas in which Protestant truths are blatantly denied and Biblical Christians condemned. Right? Wrong, actually. The Council of Trent was called (secondarily) to consider - not to condemn - the doctrinal issues raised by Luther and the other reformers...its first purpose was to address the abuses that drove Luther to nail his brain to the cathedral door in the first place.
5) "Christian"--"These days, 'Christian' is too often used as a synonym for 'Protestant,' as though Christianity began in 1517. 'Christian' bookstores, 'Christian' magazines, 'Christian' music... they're invariably Protestant-oriented, which only reinforces the meme. Believe it or not, we were there already. We're not 'sub-Christian,' we're certainly not 'anti-Christian,' and we're not 'non-Christian.' If we're not Christians, then you're not either, because like it or lump it, you came from us.
I would offer the following brief comments in response, taking Joel's points in order.
1) Mary. It's not enough to make a non-biblical distinction (point 2, we both go the Bible for authority, right?) between dulia and latria to win this argument. When your priests and people are bowing to a statue and praying to it, they're doing exactly what the Philistines did with their statues of Baal. If that's not worship, then I'm not a resident of Ohio because back in the 1800s, my region of Ohio declared independence and attached itself to Michigan. But the truth is, the lesser does not define the offense against the greater. Man does not define idolatrous worship. God does.
Joel is just wrong on this one. I'm concerned that Protestants aren't concerned about their image worship, and ours is less blatant than this one.
2) Scripture. Yes, Roman Catholics have the Bible. But Joel is approaching this as a relatively recent Protestant convert to Roman Catholicism. Even just thirty years ago the Roman Catholic attitude toward common people studying the Bible was markedly negative. I was asked as a Protestant seminarian to lead a Bible study in a Roman Catholic nursing home by a Renew-movement Roman Catholic in the mid-1980s explicitly because I was Protestant and would actually teach the Bible. The attitude of Roman Catholicism toward laity and the Scripture has been changing, but not entirely and only relatively recently. And, if we're honest, one of the primary reasons for this change has been the influence of Protestant converts to Roman Catholicism from Cardinal Newman on through some of today's prominent Roman Catholic apologists.
Finally, however, the great shibboleth remains: tradition is of equal authority with Scripture in Roman Catholicism. And thus, I would suggest, no Roman Catholic has Scripture the way a conservative Protestant has the Word.
3) Conspiracy. Right, it's no human conspiracy though the devil is this world's prince and where the devil works there is a diabolical scheme and systematic. But this is quibbling; the devil is equally at work in vast swathes of Protestantism.
4) Trent. Well, yes and no. Yes Trent dealt with other issues than justification. But no, the entire context of Trent is the Reformation and we must look at its anathemas in that light. It's a counter-Reformation document from start to finish, both in its positive teaching and its anathemas. It anathematize those who hold to classic Protestant theology in more areas than just Canon 9, but at Canon 9 it's a flung gauntlet.
Honestly, at the point of Trent, I'd rather not try to bridge the gap. Bridging the gap hurts Roman Catholic theology as much as Protestant. Attempts to reconcile the two positions (such as the joint Roman Catholic-Lutheran declaration on justification of several years ago) have been repudiated as strongly by the magisterium of Rome as by staunch Protestants. Let's hold our positions as they're clearly stated in our foundational documents.
5) "Christian". I'll grant you "Christian" if you'll grant me "Catholic." Is it a deal?
by David and Tim Bayly on September 20, 2005 - 5:46pm
In a comment made under my brother, David's, post, "Doing Our Dirty Work," the question is asked:
...The issue of authority is the biggest question that I have as a Protestant. I feel when I read the Westminster Larger Catechism and it says, "The Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice..." that the Catechism can no longer go on. What gives it the authority to propound the Bible's doctrine (or a pastor) over my reading? What keeps the Bible from being my own possession rather than the Church's?
Good reader, you misunderstand the Catechism at this point and your definition of sola scriptura is not the historic Reformed doctrine, least of all that of the Westminster Standards. Rather, it is the straw man Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox set up to the end of making a great show of knocking it down with ease. Here, for instance, is Roman Catholic apologist Scott Hahn setting up this straw man:
I believe that the doctrine of sola scriptura, that the Bible alone is our only authority, is itself unscriptural. I can't find anywhere in scripture God telling his people that the Bible alone is their sole authority.
Yes, I admit that this straw man represents the mainstream evangelical understanding of sola scriptura quite well, but it's only natural that an emotive and experiential community which self-consciously rejects doctrine, and particularly the doctrine of the Church and her officers, would hold to a Bible-and-me-alone view of spiritual authority. But what a perversion this is of the historic Protestant and reformed doctrine of Scripture and ecclesiastical authority. (For an excellent essay on this, see Keith Matheson's piece, "A Critique of the Evanangelical Doctrine of Solo Scriptura.")
Show me one place where the reformers teach that the believer is to submit to no one and nothing but Scripture--no pastor, no elder, no session, no deacon, no presbytery, no general assembly, no master, no king, no father, no husband, and so on. For Roman Catholic apologist Scott Hahn to characterize the historic Protestant and reformed view in this way is duplicitous. (I know Scott and he knows better.)...
by David and Tim Bayly on September 22, 2005 - 9:25am
In the comments under "Scriptura--solo or sola..." Jack writes: "Instead of getting hung up on the word 'tradition,' I have thought of it as the collective understanding of Christ's church throughout history. For example, one of the reasons I have always rejected dispensationalism (both its views on the church and its end-times speculations) is that it is a novel doctrine that just found its way into the church in the 19th century. Why was it never clear to anyone before then, including in the early church fathers? ...Would be interested in your comments."
Jack, I agree. I've thought the same thoughts about dispensationalism and many other aberrant doctrines--where were they for two thousand years? But this is the conceit of the Roman Catholics, that Protestants were nowhere for two thousand years. It's only a conceit. Read Calvin, for instance, and it's clear the reformers see a very long line of continuity between themselves and prior centuries, right back to the Apostles. Indicative of this are the frequent citations of other church leaders through the ages including Augustine, Bernard, and many early church fathers. The reformers use church fathers as well as Scripture in opposing Roman Catholic heterodoxies and heresies.
Reformed Protestants don't buy the Roman Catholic argument about tradition for more than one reason: yes, because we see it undercutting the final authority of Scripture by placing tradition on a level with God Himself; but also, because we don't really see Roman Catholic tradition as holding to historic Christianity as much as it does, so often, simply protect the syncretism of the masses and the perquisites of the pope and his cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and priests. The cult of Mary is one obvious example where syncretism has been blessed by church tradition with a legitimacy it never had in the Early Church and should never have been given later.
Personally, I believe that reformed men who have left Christianity behind and entered the Roman Catholic church defend the cult of Mary with such vehemence precisely because of their bad conscience on this matter. But of course that's just speculation and I could never prove it.
Think of it: millions across the world and time worship the mother of our Lord but it can't be condemned. Why?...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 5, 2005 - 7:43pm
A young man (variously named Kevin or Gus) who is finishing up his studies at Multnomah Biblical Seminary is blogging here about his imminent entry into the Roman Catholic Church--what he calls his "Romecoming." The rather inauspicious beginning to his announcement goes like this:
Hello. My name is Kevin. I am a student at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I was raised in the United Methodist Church, have served and worshiped with a number of protestant denominations, and have considered myself a protestant pastor for many years. And I have a secret to share with you.
Kevin writes that he's not looking forward to giving up serving as a pastor (he's been married so he's not able to become a Roman Catholic priest). But not everyone thinks it's necessary for him to give up serving as a Protestant pastor after he converts:
In some ways, it might be easier for me to join the Catholic Church if I did not feel called to the pastorate. If I was a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, I could continue in my same line of work, most likely for the same employer, following initiation into the Church. While one nameless SBC pastor/friend might like to see otherwise, I don't think I can continue working as a protestant pastor after becoming Catholic. Ecumenism only goes so far.
To which Timothy R. Butler responds in the comments section:
Sounds exciting. I'm sure it will all come together.
Of course, why not a Protestant minister whose Catholic? :) God seems to love paradoxes. It wouldn't be that much more of a stretch than our head of communion serving who is an active Catholic (attends mass before attending our service with his family each Sunday). [Mr. Butler, a member of St. Paul's Evangelical Church in St. Louis, blogs here.]
by David and Tim Bayly on November 9, 2005 - 6:08am
For our good readers whose only experience of Roman Catholicism is of the kinder gentler northern hemisphere sort, here's a rude awakening:
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - It's a tradition people outside Bolivia might find creepy: families perch human skulls on altars, revering them and asking them for protection and good luck. On Tuesday, the skulls were gussied up and taken to cemeteries, where the families crowned them with flowers and filled their jaws with lit cigarettes.
The chapel in La Paz's main cemetery was filled with hundreds of people jockeying to get their skull, or "natita," in a good position for a special annual Mass. Thousands more people gathered outside...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 18, 2005 - 8:42am
Remembering all the times Roman Catholics have pointed out the unity of their denomination as proof positive of her standing alone as the ark of the Covenant, I'm fond of noting other times when their unity is rather embarrassing--frightening, even. For this we needn't turn to such flagrant examples as the homosexual pederasts and bishops who provided their hideouts, nor to well-known liberal dissidents Hans Kung and Father Richard McBrien, nor even to the sedevacantist dissident Mel Gibson, or the late Archbishop Lefebvre .
Arriving on the scene with a big bang is the director of the Vatican Observatory, Father George Coyne S.J.
Coyne is attending a conference in Florence, today, and is quoted on Breithart.com as saying:
Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be... If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.
Moving from today in Florence to a couple months ago when Coyne published an article in the British Roman Catholic magazine The Tablet we find the following statements which, I might add, sound very much as if there is some serious cross-pollination between the Vatican Observatory and the Pinnock/Boyd/Sanders/Bilezekian/ hospitality suite at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society:
Now, the religious believer asks, where does God the creator feature in this scientific scenario?
...It is unfortunate that creationism has come to mean some fundamentalistic, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis. (If) we take the results of modern science seriously... it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 2, 2005 - 7:35am
Reminding all of us why we are catholic, but not Roman Catholic, this item from the Vatican based news service, Zenit.org.
Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith, says Benedict XVI.
On a rainy morning in Rome, the Holy Father ...addressed ...more than 23,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, (saying):
(A)mong the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire.... They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption.... (A)mong the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live.... With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ.... God will not allow them to perish with Babylon, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, on the condition, however, that, living in Babylon, they do not seek pride, outdated pomp and arrogance.
I was pleased the College of Cardinals chose Cardinal Ratzinger rather than any number of other contenders for the Papacy, but let's keep in mind that the Papacy and all it stands for remain a very large liability to biblical faith.
Taking for granted the statement above is contrary to the Word of God, what possibility is there that this purported successor to Simon Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, will have anyone stand up to him and rebuke him as the Apostle Paul rebuked the Apostle Peter when he attacked the Gospel...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 4, 2005 - 6:56pm
The above headline, taken directly from the Zenit Roman Catholic news service, says something either entirely unremarkable for its orthodoxy or entirely remarkable in its heterodoxy.
Evidently, several of our readers have no idea of the necessity of rigorous accuracy both within the journalistic profession--and, more importantly, in the teaching of the Word by shepherds of Christ's flock. These good readers' defense of the pope's November 30 speech claiming the possibility of salvation for men of good will outside faith in Christ leaves too much to blind faith. Either the Zenit account of the pope's address was woeful journalism, or the pope's speech was woeful theology.
Bad enough for such confusion to be the result of poor reporting. But having looked at a verbatim translation of the papal address, I'm inclined to believe the fault lies with the pope who skates dangerously at the very edge of proclaiming the possibility of salvation outside faith in Christ throughout his address.
It's one thing to proclaim God's power to draw men to Himself by instilling faith and knowledge of Christ in unbelievers before they depart this life. This is what Augustine does when the pope quotes him as saying,
God will not allow them to perish with Babylon, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, on the condition, however, that, living in Babylon, they do not seek pride, outdated pomp and arrogance.... He sees their service and will show them the other city, toward which they must really long and orient all their effort.
It's another thing altogether to suggest that men of good will receive knowledge of Christ not in this life, but in the life to come. The pope has departed Augustine and is speaking for himself when he says:
...among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire. They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption.
And he says that among the persecutors, among the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ.
Pope Benedict suggests he is thinking with Augustine at this point, but he's not. He's taken Augustine's theme in an entirely different direction. Augustine makes clear that God grants a vision of the true Jerusalem to those He predestines and sets them on their way there through authentic faith in this life.
But the pope speaks of an inauthentic faith "in an unknown reality" which places those who possess it on the path to the "authentic Jerusalem" where Christ resides. Rather than God choosing to give men of good will authentic faith, the pope suggests that God gives men of good will heaven where they come to know the truth that they had previously known only inauthentically. Thus the pope argues that human goodness in this life leads to knowledge of Christ in the life to come. And this is every bit as bad as Tim suggested--a heresy no amount of quibbling over Augustine's words can cover up.
Note as well the pope's ending excursus on Jewish sufferers in the Nazi holocaust of the 20th century, another indication that he is tying goodness in this life to authentic faith in the life to come.
What is muddled and unclear in the Zenit account becomes explicit heresy in the verbatim translation, a blasphemous denial of Christ. Evidently there are problems in the Zenit report. But the problems of Zenit's reporting pale in comparison to the problems contained within the pope's actual speech.
Here, for those who did not bother to read the article before commenting on this site, is the original Zenit article:
by David and Tim Bayly on December 5, 2005 - 8:52am
As my brother, David, notes below, in the comments section of this blog some have faulted me with being unfair and "sick" in my summaries of the Vatican's teaching on salvation outside of Christ. Specifically, they say I ought to have included Benedict XVI's citations of Augustine in his latest address supporting the error of inclusivism, and that Benedict XVI is not really teaching what the news service in the Vatican, Zenit, said he was teaching, that "Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved." Here are three responses to these charges:
First, contrary to what Ken wrote in our comments section, Benedict XVI was not giving "a meditation on Augustine's work." Both the title and Benedict's own first sentence tell us the opposite--Catholic Online titles his audience address "Commentary on Psalm 136(137)" and Benedict began the address with these words, "On this first Wednesday of Advent ...we meditate on Psalm 136(137)...." These meditations are routinely carried on the front page of the Roman Catholic weekly, The Wanderer, to which I subscribe and I have often been encouraged by the commitment of the Roman Catholic popes, to teach the Word of God rather than the words of men--even very pious men such as Augustine.
Second, it may have been unfair to Benedict not to include his extensive citation of Augustine but I thought about it and decided to leave it out because I have high respect for Augustine and don't want him yanked in to support this very well-established and broad movement in the Vatican toward inclusiveness. Because someone else thinks citations of an ancient father of the Church can be made to support his winking at the spirit of the age doesn't mean that the ancient father would be pleased to be used that way, and I'm inclined to give Augustine the benefit of the doubt--that he'd not look kindly on Benedict and the Vatican using him in this way.
by David and Tim Bayly on December 6, 2005 - 8:15am
Note from Tim Bayly: In a prior post, a number of us pointed out that, in a recent statement concerning the hope of salvation of those who have never believed in Jesus Christ, we saw again the inevitable return of the papacy and Roman Catholicism to good works as grounds for a man's salvation. To which one of our good readers named John responded by pouring text from the Council of Trent into the comment section of the blog, all of which seemed to deny that the Roman Catholic Church taught that a man was justified, in part, by his own good works. Here, then, is my response to his denial of the central place good works have within Roman Catholicism in the justification of sinners.
John, since my hope is that you seek truth, and not simply sectarianism, let us both acknowledge that across history Rome and Protestantism have not been fighting over nothing. If your selective citation of Rome was to be believed, sincere souls might well wonder what all the ruckus was about?
Roman Catholicism clearly opposed the Reformers through the very Council of Trent that you cite. The whole world knew it then, and still does. And when all the clouds of qualification are blown away, Rome denied that man is justified by faith alone. Here are two of her canons that have never been repealed, and therefore continue to have absolute authority within all Roman Catholicism:
Council of Trent; Canon 9: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.
The "nothing else" refers to good works, so the word "obtain" is key, indicating that good works are required to obtain justification. Had Rome instead written, for instance, that good works were required not to obtain, but to prove justification, she would only have been saying what our Lord said, that "by their fruit ye shall know them."
But that's precisely what Rome chose not to say, and from this statement and many others comes the Reformation in which biblical men and women clinging solely to the merit of Christ overthrew all Rome's greedy hunger for good works that, inevitably, accrued financial treasures for the papacy's use, including particularly the good work of purchasing indulgences for loved ones hanging in the torment of purgatory until they bore the punishment for their sins and were made good enough for Heaven. Get it?
Again, assuming you are a seeker of truth and not one who desires to work in the shadows of half-truths and ambiguity, admit that the division of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism has not been much ado over nothing, and that what Rome and Wittenberg thought they were fighting over--the place of faith and good works in the justification of sinners--was what they were fighting over, and what we all fight over to this very day...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 6, 2005 - 4:26pm
This announcement from the Vatican. Martin Luther would be pleased to know that these indulgences, at least, are not being sold.
Pope Benedict XVI has declared a plenary indulgence for Catholics who honor the Virgin Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8
In a November 29 announcement, the Vatican said that Pope Benedict has declared the indulgence to mark the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. The announcement indicates that the Pope "when he renders public homage of praise to Mary Immaculate, has the heartfelt desire that the entire Church should join with him, so that all the faithful, united in the name of the common Mother, become ever stronger in the faith, adhere with greater devotion to Christ, and love their brothers with more fervent charity."
by David and Tim Bayly on December 16, 2005 - 7:32am
Although brother David and I have a slightly different take on the Second Commandment, it's been fascinating to see the almost-complete absence of any personal interaction of our good readers with the real personal danger of idolatry, specifically related to the riot of images at the center of the culture we live within. Much discussion of idolatry, conceptually; and much defense of pictures and movies and statues and art; but in all the thousands of words written, no idolatrous image found.
So convenient. So telling.
Well, I've never quoted the liberal Roman Catholic gadfly priest, Andrew Greely, before, and I trust I'll never have to again. But here I must. On the occasion of the release of Disney's Narnia flick, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," Fr. Greely published a piece in the Chicago Sun Times titled, "Relax, It's Only a Fairy Tale." (Thanks, Bill Mouser.)
Coming off the first half of his article detailing the tremendous marketing hype Disney has employed to sell this movie to the evangelical subculture, Greely concludes his piece remarking upon how open Protestant evangelicals are to what he claims is a quite-Roman Catholic movie by an almost-Roman Catholic author, C. S. .Lewis.
Leaving to the side the matter of Lewis' theological commitments, I do think Father Greely has a point--indeed, an excellent point--about the apparent abandonment of the Second Commandment by Protestants today...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 19, 2005 - 8:17am
Called to my attention by my reformed baptist brother and leader of my small group, David Talcott, check out this sermon by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher. This is the first in his Advent Series of sermons (actually, he calls it a "meditation") to the Pope and his household, given on December 2nd of this year. Father Cantalamessa's theme chosen for this Advent series is "Faith in Christ."
Read these excerpts from Father Cantalamessa's first sermon to the Pope and ask yourself whether it doesn't seem sometimes as if the first shall be last and the last first--whether some in Rome may not be recovering the heart of the Gospel while some within the reformed community are recovering sacramentalism--a doctrine that could not be more destructive to the soul of man.
Note the warnings here given by the Pope's personal preacher concerning the loss of personal evangelism when most baptisms are of infants, not adult converts--infants, as the good father puts it, "who do not have the capacity to make (faith in Jesus Christ) their own choice."
Note also his lament over the loss of evangelistic preaching within Roman Catholicism, and his recognition that many souls have had to go outside the Roman Catholic church to hear the Gospel proclaimed in a way that calls for a personal decision for faith in Jesus Christ...
The irony of this account is that it seems certain the day is coming when Roman Catholic professors will be accepted at Wheaton. President Duane Litfin comes across as a man dutifully toeing the historic line which has long been understood to forbid Roman Catholic professors, but he seems a forlorn figure, standing for a Wheaton of alumni memory rather than the Wheaton of the present.
The Journal is strongly sympathetic to the fired professor; it suggests that such narrow sectarianism is the reason some states have begun to reject student aid funding for Evangelical schools.
When Christ warns about the "leaven of the Pharisees" He speaks of a contagion that proliferates. Ironically, the contagion of Notre Dame's bloodless, anemic Catholicism is now hitting Evangelical schools which aspire to similar intellectual heights. When we send our children to be educated at Catholic schools which fail to hold to staunchly Roman Catholic views, we end up with similarly ambiguous doctrinal commitments spreading in the Protestant schools that receive them as professors.
On the theory that, as a whole, a forthright enemy is preferable to a slippery friend, it would be better if Wheaton's Roman Catholic professors were educated in Rome itself rather than at weak-kneed Roman Catholic institutions of ambiguous doctrinal commitment like Notre Dame.
Interesting also that it's a philosophy professor who claims he can affirm Wheaton's commitment to the Bible as Christianity's "supreme and final authority" while maintaining loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church. From the Journal:
Wheaton's 12-point statement doesn't explicitly exclude Catholics. But its emphasis on Scripture as the "supreme and final authority" and its aligning of Wheaton with "evangelical Christianity" were unmistakably Protestant, Mr. Litfin wrote to Mr. Hochschild in late 2003. Because Catholics regard the Bible and the pope as equally authoritative, a Catholic "cannot faithfully affirm" the Wheaton statement, he continued.
Mr. Hochschild disagreed. The Bible, he wrote, is indeed the supreme authority for Catholics, who turn to the Church hierarchy only as Protestants consult their ministers. While acknowledging the college's right to exclude Catholics -- and knowing his position was endangered -- he replied that as a matter of principle, "I see no reason why I should be dismissed from the College upon joining the Roman Catholic Church."
There's a reason such specious forms of argument have historically been known as "sophistry."
The Journal goes on to tell how the study of philosophy at Notre Dame University led Hochschild to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Yet a question nagged Mr. Hochschild: Why am I not a Catholic? As he saw it, evangelical Protestantism was vaguely defined and had a weak scholarly tradition, which sharpened his admiration for Catholicism's self-assurance and intellectual history. "I even had students who asked me why I wasn't Catholic," he says. "I didn't have a decent answer."
His wife, Paige, said her husband's distaste for the "evangelical suspicion of philosophy" at the school might have contributed to his ultimate conversion. The Hochschilds say some evangelicals worry that learning about philosophy undermines students' religious convictions.
"Evangelical suspicion of philosophy" seems singularly appropriate in light of Paige and Joshua's story. Unfortunately, there is less and less such suspicion in the bounder intellectual world of modern Evangelicalism.
With my two brothers, David and Nathan, I took my Masters of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, an institution bound historically with its sister institution about four miles away, Gordon College. Both schools are on Boston's North Shore. And although no formal ties remain, the two schools have always had plenty of Gospel ties coming out of their mutual Protestant and evangelical commitments, and their common heritage and close proximity.
In 1985, two years after I graduated from Gordon-Conwell, one of the more visible members of Gordon College's academic community, Tom Howard, converted to Roman Catholicism and resigned as a faculty member.
Howard is the younger brother of two prominent evangelicals, Dave Howard and Elisabeth Elliot Gren, but he also was an author with broad name recognition himself. Years earlier, he'd written his angry-young-man book, Christ the Tiger, which was widely read. He'd also done a number of other books, one an extended meditation on the Christian home called Splendor in the Ordinary which I commend to our readers. (Howard continues to write and publishes with the orthodox Roman Catholic publisher, Ignatius Press, one of the most noteworthy Christian publishers today.)
When Howard converted, it hit the evangelical world like a sledgehammer and his departure from Gordon College was not to be taken for granted. A rather typical evangelical institution--big-hearted, broad-minded, but atheological--many of us would not have been surprised for Gordon College to keep Howard on despite his conversion. But they didn't.
Shortly afterward, a document authored by Gordon College's Faculty Senate was released as a partial explanation of the college's decision. The document titled, Explanatory Statement to the Senate's Motions To Affirm the Existing Policy with Respect to the Hiring of Non-Protestants as Faculty Members at Gordon College, circulated broadly. As I've read the discussion surrounding Joshua Hochschild's departure from the faculty of Wheaton College because of his own conversion to Roman Catholicism, I've thought it would be good for those involved in the discussion to have access to this document from Gordon College's past history...
Back in 1979-80, Mary Lee and I spent a year in Boulder, Colorado, where I had been hired to serve a one-year pastoral internship at First Presbyterian Church prior to entering Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the Fall of 1980. During that year, Dad put us in touch with John and Molly Archibold, old friends from Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship days, and the Archibolds graciously invited us to their Denver home for dinner one evening.
We had never met the Archibolds, but that evening meal and the conversation that followed late into the night remains one of the most memorable and influential contacts in Mary Lee's and my life. At the time, the Archibolds were members of their local Episcopal parish. Later, they left the Episcopalians for the Anglican Catholics--a way-station on the way to Rome, I thought at the time. Then, sure enough, they converted to what I call Roman Catholicism and they call Catholicism. They love Rome and all she stands for, and I think they're wrong. Woefully so, given the stark difference between the Roman Catholic doctrine and practice of justification, particularly the distinction between the infusion and imputation of Christ's righteousness.
But I'm not writing this to fight that battle, at the moment. Rather, to pay tribute to John and Molly for all they've meant in my life and that of my family, and also to demonstrate that there is a Roman Catholic who loves me and is convinced that I, like many other reformed pastors before me, will soon enter Rome. What can I say?
Well, loving John as I do, I'd suggest he not hold his breath. Here's his loving letter...
by David and Tim Bayly on August 25, 2006 - 2:31pm
This just arrived in my E-mail inbox from my friend, Kevin Offner:
I'm still a bit stunned as I write this. Georgetown University has just kicked off InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (and four other evangelical para-church groups) from its campus. No reason has been given other than what you see in this letter. Please pray for us as we seek to respond, that we would have wisdom and respond out of love, not fear.
Warmly in Christ,
Kevin Offner, InterVarsity Grad Staff at Washington, DC Universities
Looking into the matter, I found that Georgetown's campus newspaper, The Hoya, ran an article today (August 25, 2006), announcing the decision. The article titled "Campus Ministry Removes Affiliates exposed the tight-lipped, damage-control mindset characterizing Georgetown's administrators who implemented the decision:
"The manner in which they pursued this was that they weren't going to allow any other voices other than their own," (Chi Aplha Christian Fellowship co-leader) Jay Lim said. "It's not just what they did, it's the manner in which they pursued [it]."
The new policy barring ministry affiliates was announced during a brief meeting that administrators held with the groups last Thursday. According to several affiliate members who attended the meeting, administrators announced the exclusion of the groups without permitting any discussion or feedback.
Hannah Coyne (COL '07), another Chi Alpha co-leader, called the move "incredibly unprofessional and incredibly disrespectful to the students at Georgetown."
...Officials in the offices of Fr. Philip Boroughs, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, and Fr. Timothy Godfrey, S.J., director of campus ministry, referred questions to the Office of Communications. Phone calls yesterday afternoon to Rev. Wheeler, who wrote the letter informing the groups of the new policies, were not returned.
Here is a PDF copy of the letter announcing the decision. Printed on Georgetown letterhead and signed by Rev. Constance C. Wheeler, Director of Campus Ministry, it reads...
While acknowledging the terrible denial of the Gospel at the heart of Roman Catholic dogma, true believers will rejoice to hear her prophetic voice continue to address the evils and hypocrisies of western culture.
These are strange days, when the professor of ethics at the Presbyterian Church in America's Covenant Seminary seeks to overturn laws banning sodomy, while the Vatican decries "parliaments
of so-called civilized nations where laws contrary to the
nature of the human being are being promulgated, such as the
approval of marriage between people of the same sex ..."; when the Washington D.C. representative of the National Association of Evangelicals calls the world to a new moral awakening opposing carbon emissions, while the Pope calls for a new moral order in which abortion clinics are finally recognized as "slaughterhouses of human beings, …terrorism with a human face."
Twelve hours ago, the current president of the Evangelical Theological Society, philosopher Francis J. Beckwith, posted a short piece announcing he and his wife have made the decision to convert to Roman Catholicism. Beckwith claims there's no conflict between Rome and the doctrinal standards of the Evangelical Theological Society and who am I to disagree? (No cheating--ya gotta read it all the way to the bottom.)
Here's my comment under Beckwith's announcement:
This past week, I taught Luther’s Bondage of the Will to my son’s home school co-op class, prompting my observation as a longtime ETS member that it seems apparent ETS today would roll out the red carpet for Erasmus, but would give old man Luther the boot. Those tempted to cast a longing glance after Beckwith would do well to read Bondage of the Will, themselves. It’s a perfectly Scriptural cure for Tiberculosis.
Under Francis Beckwith's post announcing his conversion to Roman Catholicism, one Roman Catholic commented:
Welcome back (to Rome)! I am a clergy convert myself.
To which I commented that Dr. Beckwith is not “clergy.” He has no congregation he has been set
apart by the Holy Spirit to shepherd. For my own understanding of his
error, this is key. Go back to the Erasmus/Luther debate, and the same
distinction is pivotal. Erasmus is a scholar, Luther a shepherd.
(By Tim)This strikes me as pretty ho-hum. After all, for centuries now Roman Catholics and Protestants have been agreed that both sides of the Tiber cannot possibly be true churches. Yes, we've gone through a couple decades when everyone was trying to deny the substance of our division, and that the substance centered on the nature of saving faith. But you have to respect Benedict XVI for blowing away those mists and vapors. If only Protestant men would be as honest.