Friday, December 5, 2008

Roman Catholicism: Initial Thoughts

For several years now I have been involved on a small level in the controversy known as the "Federal Vision." I agree with most Federal Vision men on their theology and understanding of what the reformers taught, as well as changes that need to take place in reformed theology. Because of my association with these men, my views have frequently been labeled Roman Catholic. This caricature has been thrown around often enough that I felt I needed to learn what the Roman Catholics really taught. So over the last three years I have read the Roman Catholic Catechism (hereafter RCC) twice. Lest you think this is a minor feat, since you are only acquainted with the Westminster Confession or the Three Forms of Unity, the RCC is 688 pages long. I read the English version from 1994 that was officially approved by Pope John Paul in 1992. As far as I know this is the official document containing Roman Catholic doctrine. There has been a 2nd edition published in 1997, but it is essentially the same. Thus I am not guessing at what they believe, I am quoting what they believe. I am going to write some posts on what I read commenting as I go on the problems with various doctrines.

Before beginning the posts it seemed wise to declare my perspective on the Roman Catholic Church.

1. From 1517-1845 or so the dominate position of the reformed world was that Roman Catholic baptism was valid. This means there was enough of the true Church within Rome for her baptisms to be accepted by Protestants. This changed as a baptistic worldview came to the forefront in the late 1800s and on into the 20th century. I still consider a RC baptism valid, that means I still consider the Roman Catholics a church.

2. However, there are many problems in the Roman Catholic Church and these problems are not minor side issues. Christ, the Gospel, and the Scriptures are obscured and marred by various traditions that are not in the Scriptures or worse contradict the Scriptures. I will be looking primarily at these errors in hopes of teaching those who read this and clarifying my own thoughts on some Roman Catholic doctrines. In my opinion several of the doctrines, in particular the doctrine of Mary, put the validity of Rome as a true communion on thin ice.

3. Finally, these posts are not meant to gloss over the heaps of errors currently buzzing around in Protestant Churches. We have so many planks in our eyes that it is hard for us to see clearly what is wrong with the Roman Catholic Church. I just finished reading John Calvin's The Necessity of Reforming the Church. What struck me about the book was how many of the problems in the Roman Catholic Church of the 1500s are now found in the Protestant churches in the 21st Century. They are dressed in different clothing, but take off the garb and underneath we look a lot like Rome prior to the Reformation. How different is the marketing of the Gospel in contemporary churches from what Rome was doing to fund St. Peter's Basilica? Rome obscured the true meaning of the Supper behind superstitions. We obscure it by infrequent celebration and often not even on Sunday morning. Rome had her priests and Pope. We have our celebrity pastors who sell millions of books and invite presidential candidates to debate at their churches. To quote Douglas Wilson, "Making all necessary adjustments for the changes in time and place, the modern evangelical Church, eyes fat as grease, bastion of born againism, is fully as corrupt as the Church prior to the Reformation." (A Primer on Worship and Reformation, p. 9)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Pastor Jones for being willing to share what you have learned. I would like to one day also read the Federal Vision book so that I can hopefully understand more clearly what the issues are. I would really like to learn more about the problem with the Roman Catholic Church and also the Protestant Church. This would help me to be able to disciple my children. While I don't have any question just yet, I am sure I will eventually. Thanks again, from Joshua

Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8