Roman Catholicism is a medieval heresy...
Under the post, Repenting of parachurch, Baptist childhoods..., one comment elicited this response from your scribe. I posted it as a comment, there, but also put it here for the benefit of those who don't keep track of comments. (TB)
Brothers, allow me a few responses, although they must be hopelessly brief considering the weight of these matters.
>>Be careful when you sling around words like apostasy, idolatry (Per Calvin we're all "fabricum idolarum") and heresy.
We are careful. That is, careful--very careful--to keep them alive. The proper word to use concerning Roman Catholicism is 'heresy'. Read Joe Brown's Heresies. Reformed pastors and elders use this word following our Reforming fathers's example because Roman Catholicism is a system of doctrine that leads souls to Hell. Systematically.
The center of Rome's system is the merchandising of salvation through...the church's "treasury of merit," and it's all fueled by the engine of denial of justification by faith, alone, that keeps the souls under Rome's oppression busy earning what they may only freely receive from the Holy Spirit.
People always focus on tangential issues like Mariolatry and papal infallibility. I'll never forget listening to my seminary friend, Scott Hahn (Scott Hahn, David Bayly, Tim Keller, Marcus Grodi, and Tim Bayly are all GCTS grads within a few years of each other), say on an evangelistic tape he did for the Roman heresy that the biggest problem Evangelical Protestants have with Roman Catholicism is the infallibility of the Pope.
No. Our largest problem is the Roman Catholic church's formal damning ("let them be anathema") of those souls who believe Scripture's doctrine of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
God's Word is so very clear on this, as is also man's propensity to turn aside from the straight and narrow path to rituals, his own works and self-righteousness, and ceremonies. There are many, many other parts of Rome's dogma that directly attack Scripture, but every time I have another Godly friend who yearns for the bells and smells of fellow pro-fecundity, pro-natal, pro-children, pro-life, anti-abortion Rosary mantra fellow abortuary picketers, I remind them that Rome's Council of Trent anathematized God's Word, and now they're in a bind. They can hold all the meetings they want with self-appointed Protestant grandees J. I. Packer and Bill Bright and Os Guiness and Dick Mouw and John Woodbridge and Max Lucado and Chuck Colson and Herb Schlossberg and Mark Noll in Richard John Neuhaus' Big Apple offices issuing breathy statements of imminent Christian unity they've discovered after almost five centuries of failure by much better men than themselves, but it don't matter. At all. Rome is not going to repudiate one of her much-vaunted "Ecumenical councils."
(By the way, did anyone else notice the abbreviation for Neuhaus's group Evangelicals and Catholics Together, "ECT," is also the abbreviation for something serendipitously called, "Electroconvulsive Therapy." Which is a fair description of the inspiration ECT provided Jim Kennedy and RC to start Knox Seminary.)
Sure, many worship at Roman Catholic masses and are publicly identified as "Roman Catholic" without holding, personally, to the central Roman Catholic dogmas. Some are pro-abortion and others are pro-salvation by grace alone, through faith alone--not by works lest any man should boast.
Also, there are undoubtedly many, many Protestants, Reformed Protestants, Evangelical and Reformed Protestants, PCA and OPC Evangelical Reformed Protestants whose fruitlessness and lack of fear of God demonstrate that they have not been saved by grace alone, through faith alone. Men today feel no need to believe or live in a way that is consistent with their publicly affirmed doctrinal commitments, so who's surprised?
But to conclude that doctrinal commitments don't matter is to give in to that demonic Spirit of our age endlessly attacking every distinction and rendering them meaningless. "What does it matter that one soul subscribers to the Tridentine (Roman Catholic) infusion heresy and another the Westminsterian imputation doctrine of Scripture? We all love Jesus!"
Really? So Luther and Calvin and Knox and Edwards and Lloyd-Jones and Machen and the Apostle Paul were wrong? Really? Can we truly be this foolish and proud? Can we really despise the souls God has given us to guard and protect so very much? Can we really love the lost so little? Can we really be so very heartless toward our wives and sons and daughters? Can we really hate God and love ourselves so very much that we are willing to enter the Day of Judgment clinging to our menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6) rather than Jesus' blood and righteousness?
Now, at this point there will be many Protestants--not Roman Catholics--who will think, "Tim's gone off the reservation on this one." But in fact, those of you having that thought are yourselves the ones who have gone off the reservation. You stand absolutely alone across all salvation history because you believe that good intentions matter more than the Word and words of God.
Man does not live on good intentions and sincerity and authenticity and passion, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
>>The Roman Catholic Church maintains a good memory of the many 4th Century Christological and Trinitarian heresies.
Of course they do. Why shouldn't they? They received those creeds from the true Christian church and it would be extremely unwise for Rome to allow their Tridentine apostasy to grow to the further repudiation of Biblical doctrines she inherited intact from the true Christian Early church. If Rome started to add an attack upon the Trinity to her attack upon the sufficient and perfect righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, even dense and somnolent souls might wake up and smell the fire and flee for their souls.
>>That's why they formulated the Nicene Creed…
What? WHAT? "They," sir, had nothing--absolutely nothing--to do with formulating the Nicene Creed. And if you changed your statement to "The Holy Spirit used them to put down in writing what He had already revealed in Holy Scripture," I'd still be filled with indignation at your blatant falsehood.
The Roman Catholic heretics had nothing to do with the Council of Nicea. Rather, the Council of Nicea was a council of the Christian Church, that glorious Mother of us all in which we have the unity of the Spirit in the bond of love. To cede the first fourteen centuries to those who lie and cheat and steal in the Name of Jesus Christ is to connive at lies that boggle the mind. The Vatican has nothing to do with Bernard of Clairvaux, let alone Jon Hus or Peter Waldo or Augustine or Irenaeus or Cyprian or Perpetua or Polycarp or Stephen or the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Or our Glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.
>>Although, the 16th Century Reformers would have wished that "imputation" were in the Creed, curiously their heirs, after almost 500 years, never added it.
No one of us has ever wished any such thing. Imputation is all through the Bible and all through our summaries of the Bible known as "catechisms" and "confessions." For instance, here is Chapter XI of the (1646) Westminster Confession of Faith:
I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.
III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction of his Father's justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify the elect; and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins and rise again for their justification; nevertheless they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
V. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God's Fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.
VI. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respect, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.
Impututation and the denial of the Roman Catholic church's Tridentine counterfeit, infusion, are all through every Biblical catechism and confession ever written. And yes, I mean "Biblical" in the sense of denying the Roman Catholic church's Tridentine counterfeit, infusion. It's circular with the Lord Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness Alone at the center. No man or woman nearby, but Christ Alone. Praise Him!
>>Without Protestant leaders regularly teaching from and reciting this Gospel litmus test, how would their followers avoid these heresies by merely reading the Bible?
A better question would be how would the Church ever have been able to declare the Nature of the Trinity and avoid all the heresies that deny It unless they had read and studied, and then summarized the Bible's Trinitarian doctrine?
>>With an ignorance of the Nicene Creed, why wouldn't a Protestant assume he knows who Jesus is and that, according to his leaders, Jesus is "in love" with him?
A very valid question today when many, many Protestants, including conservative Evangelical and Reformed Protestants, have not the slightest commitment to the Word of God or the summaries of Scripture we have inherited from twenty centuries of faithful fathers. Like Roman Catholicism, Reformed and Evangelical Protestantism today is awash in cheap grace and false emotion and the absence of compunction of conscience. This is due to the refusal of pastors to preach the Word in dependence upon the Holy Spirit rather than our own hip factor, famous associations, cultural acumen, and antinomianism. Thus our sheep are headed for Hell being bound with chains in an error that Martin Luther, having just been rescued by God from the error of Roman Catholicism, called "the error worse than all those hitherto prevailing."
When we preach forgiveness without repentance, the Gospel without the Law, he said, we will create a people "without compunction of conscience," and this is "an error worse than all those hitherto (prior to the Reformation) prevailing."
>>If a denomination never recites the Nicene Creed, aren't they breeding vast armies of heretics making the 16th Century sale of indulgences seem rather parochial?
Like many, many Biblical churches, we recite the Nicene Creed regularly.
>>Is there any wonder that even average Catholics emerge as those best able to defend the Christian faith in an antinomian age when heresy runs wild?
You're absolutely right, and thus many discouraged souls turn to the Roman heresy. Discouragement over the silence of Biblically reformed pastors preaching and shepherding through both God's Law and His Gospel--or better, through the grace of the law and the law of grace--could cause any of us to turn to Satanic despair and throw in the towel, repudiating our Lord Jesus Christ by embracing the Pope.
Luther came close to this in his death throes back in July of 1527 (he ended up living on more than twenty years, to everyone's surprise). He wrote of his death-bed temptations to despair:
For more than a week I have been thrown back and forth in death and Hell; my whole body feels beaten, my limbs are still trembling. I almost lost Christ completely, driven about on the waves and storms of despair and blasphemy against God. But because of the intercessions of the faithful, God began to take mercy on me and tore my soul from the depths of Hell.
And when the Black Death swept through Wittenberg a short time later, Luther wrote:
Satan himself is raging against me with all his might….He affects me with indescribable spiritual weakness….My hope is that the fight will benefit many, although there is nothing in this misery that my sins have not deserved….But I know that I have taught the Word of Christ purely and truly for the salvation of many. That is what the Devil is angry at, that is why he wants to crush me together with the Word.
And this also from Apostle Luther (that's what Calvin called him):
World and reason have no idea how difficult it is to grasp that Christ is our justification, so deeply embedded in us--like a second nature--is the trust in works.
So, dear brothers and sisters, it has always been difficult for depraved man to turn to Christ Alone. Luther had difficulty himself, as has every other true follower of Jesus Christ. Our pride is insatiable, but praise God, we have a jealous God Who will brook with no competitors! Thanks be to God!
Right now Christians do it, but One Day soon, every man will come to an end of Himself and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God The Father.