The Papists, the Turks, and the Jews...

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"...we affirm our fundamental unity with all the saints
within the body of Christ, including those in the Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox churches..." -Trinity Reformed Church

(Tim) It's hip today for a man to identify himself with the "ancient" Christian church and faith. The early ecumenical creeds and the writing of the early church fathers are all the rage. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I sense this movement often carries with it a dismissal of church history between the first centuries and today. It's as if all that happened in the intervening millenia and a half is brushed aside. The Reformation and Council of Trent were only bad dreams; it's time to wake up and smell the roses.

For instance, Trinity Reformed Church (where PCA pastor Peter Leithart serves) just issued a Statement on Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Reformed Catholicity which begins...

One holy, catholic and apostolic Church
Trinity
Reformed Church recognizes itself as part of the ancient Christian
Church established by the apostles, rejoicing in the “faith that was
once for all delivered to the saints” (Jud. 1:3). We are thankful for
the fellowship we share with all the faithful in the one, holy,
catholic, and apostolic Church throughout the ages. We affirm with the
apostle that there is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one
hope, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who
is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5). Therefore with the
holy fathers, we confess that one faith as it has been handed down in
the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, and
Athanasian Creed. On this basis we cheerfully recognize the Trinitarian
baptisms of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, receive
them (and all others who confess this ancient faith) to our celebration
of the Eucharist, and warmly welcome them into membership in our
congregation.

So,
if I'm getting this right, the "one faith" of the "holy fathers" is the
"basis" on which we all should "recognize the Trinitarian baptisms of
(today's) Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians."

Note carefully: Trinity Reformed is not saying the Ecumenical Creeds
alone provide that basis, but that the "one faith" which was faithfully
transmitted through the Ecumencial Creeds is still the one faith today
which provides the basis for Sacramental unity between Orthodox, Roman
Catholics, Protestants, and Reformed. Try as I might, I can't see any
way to avoid concluding that Trinity Reformed believes in a continuity
of orthodoxy from the church fathers down to Eastern Orthodoxy and
Roman Catholicism today.

Or maybe they meant a continuity of rituals and ceremonies done with
the proper words--baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, for instance?

So why didn't Calvin and Luther sue Rome for peace? The Pope
accepted the Ecumenical Creeds. And the Papists' baptisms were
Trinitarian, weren't they? Spend two minutes in his Institutes
and it's clear no one needed to push Calvin to live and breath the
church fathers. Also, following Augustine, am I right that Bernard of
Clairvaux is his most frequently-cited source?

What's wrong with the Reformers, then, that they said Papists had to
renounce Rome and her false doctrine before they could enter what the
Reformers always referred to as the "true church" of the
Reformation--in contradistinction to the "false church" of Rome.

With great consistency the Reformers lumped Papists, Turks, and Jews
together, saying they all shared the same emphasis and trust in ritual
and ceremony, the same "idolatrous" system of salvation by works and
law rather than faith in Jesus Christ. So why is this theme absent from
today's love fest of Patristics and church unity?

I think it's the bubbling up of that little word "cheerfully" that
most sticks in my craw. Biblical Christians have argued over the
efficacy of Roman Catholic baptism for centuries, but Trinity Reformed
cheerfully issues her statement and all is well. Or, almost all. Later
in the statement, warnings are issued to each group of schismatics,
including a denunciation of "liturgical idolatry." But really, I would
think it's precisely this--"liturgical idolatry" or faith in rituals
and ceremonies--that Calvin and Luther would warn against if they saw
Reformation brothers "cheerfully" welcoming Roman Catholics who refuse
to renounce the idolatry and heresy of Roman Catholicism into
membership in their churches and Lord's Table fellowship.

Not a hint of renunciation in this commitment of Trinity Reformed to "receive
them (and all others who confess this ancient faith) to our celebration
of the Eucharist, and warmly welcome them into membership in our
congregation."

Further, going beyond their commitment to accept Orthodox and Roman Catholics to membership and the Lord's Table, Trinity Reformed rebukes those who won't join her in this commitment for "disparaging the validity of the ordinations or
sacraments of other churches that worship our Triune God in the name of
the Lord Jesus Christ."

Then, this statement:

Individuals who join communions that effectively
excommunicate their Roman Catholic brothers and sisters contradict their
search for catholicity, and ironically, the goal of unity comes at the
expense of further divisions in the body of Christ. We desire to be of
one mind with all the saints, not by coercion, but by the same patient
love of our brothers and sisters shown by Christ in His patient love
for His Bride, the Church.

But actually, that's not what they wrote. Rather, they didn't refer to "Roman Catholic," but "Protestant brothers and sisters:"

Individuals who join communions that effectively
excommunicate their Protestant brothers and sisters contradict their
search for catholicity, and ironically, the goal of unity comes at the
expense of further divisions in the body of Christ. We desire to be of
one mind with all the saints, not by coercion, but by the same patient
love of our brothers and sisters shown by Christ in His patient love
for His Bride, the Church.

By way of contrast, imagine Trinity Reformed adding any of the
following quotes as an appendix to her statement, or using them as
supporting text within the statement itself:

Thus in all ages it has been everywhere a prevailing opinion,
that although all men are infected with sin, they are at the same
time adorned with merits which are calculated to procure for them
the favor of God, and that although they provoke his wrath by
their crimes, they have expiations and satisfactions in readiness
to obtain their absolution. This delusion of Satan is equally
common among Papists, Turks, Jews, and other nations. (Calvin on Psalm 32:1,2)

And so we see that when we once know the benefits
brought to us by Christ, and which he daily offers us by his gospel, we
must also be joined to him by faith. For the Jews, Turks and Papists,
and all such like, are cut off and estranged from Christ and rot away
in their own corruption, because they presume to work wonders of
themselves. For it is a common principle among the Papists, Jews, Turks
and all the heathen that ever were, that they must appease God’s wrath.
And how? By a great variety of means of their own devising, and of
every man’s imagining in his own brain. Such men, therefore, have no
part in Christ. Wherefore, if faith is the key that opens the door to
enjoy the treasure of which St. Paul has just spoken, then that is how
we shall be made as rich as is necessary for our salvation, so that we
shall not lack anything if we are joined to Christ by faith. (Calvin on
Ephesians 1:7-10)

For the gospel teaches that the Christian religion is by
far something other and more sublime than showy ceremonies, tonsures,
hoods, pale countenances, fasts, feasts, canonical hours, and that
entire show of the Roman church throughout the world. Indeed, in all
these things the Turks are by far superior. Nevertheless, they continue
to deny and ardently persecute Christ, no less than our papists deny
and persecute him. May they finally then grasp this truth, namely, that
the Christian religion is by far something other than good customs or
good works. For this book shows that the Turks are far superior to our
Christians in these things as well.

So now be off with you, you
tyrants and pontiffs, and for the sake of faith in Christ—i.e., for the
sake of your ceremonies—kill, burn, suffocate, proscribe, and rage in
full force, since here you see that the splendor of your ceremonies is
no splendor at all alongside the excellent splendor of the Turks and
that your customs are clearly an abomination when compared to theirs.
Accordingly, it is likewise as a kind of apology for our gospel that we
are publishing this book.

For now I understand the reason why
the Turkish religion is so concealed by the papists, why only base
things are told of them. It is because they sense what in fact is true,
that, if it should come to the point of arguing about religion, the
whole papistry with all its trappings would fall. Nor would they be
able to defend their own faith and at the same time refute the faith of
Muhammad, since then they would have to refute those things that they
themselves most approve and for which they most strive, and defend
those things that the followers of Muhammad most approve and for which
they most strive. (Luther's 1530 Preface to his Libellus de ritu et
moribus Turcorum, "Tract on the Religion and Customs of the Turks.")

I'm sorry to say this, but it's exceedingly difficult for me not to
see this statement of Trinity Reformed as one more manifestation of the
truth of Allen Bloom's observation that the only so-called "value" left
in America today is the duty we all have to get along with one another.
It's inconceivable to me that signatories to such a document would
write of the similarities between the pomp and circumstance of Papists
and Saracens.

Rather than talk of Trinitarian baptism, reformed pastors might
consider this exhortation from our Westminster fathers. Just prior to
the sermon each Lord's Day,

...the Minister who is to
preach is ...to pray for the propagation of the Gospel and Kingdom of
Christ to all nations; for the conversion of the Jews; the fullness of
the Gentiles; the fall of Antichrist; and...for the deliverance of the
distressed churches abroad from the tyranny of the antichristian
faction, and from the cruel oppressions and blasphemies of the Turk...
(The Westminster Assembly’s Directory for the Public Worship of God)