Thursday, December 11, 2008

Roman Catholicism: What They Get Right

I was tempted to save this until the end of the series, but I thought it best to be as gracious as possible at the beginning. There are several areas where the Roman Catholic Church is better or has at least thought about things on a deeper level than the Protestants. I thought I would briefly mention these things. Protestants need to do a better job of learning from other traditions while still rejecting their errors. This is not an easy thing to do, but wisdom requires sifting the wheat from the chaff. In some places this is easier than others, but with Roman Catholicism we are dealing with a group that once held the Gospel in all its purity. So here are some things they do well.

1. They have thought more in depth about various ethical issues on a corporate level. In the RCC (Roman Catholic Catechism), there is an extensive exposition of the last six commandments, which are commonly called the second table of the Law. In this section, the RCC deals with things like suicide, abortion, homosexuality, incest, sale of arms by countries, scientific research, divorce, use of common goods among people in a nation, social justice, and use of media for communication. The point is not that Protestants haven't thought about these things, though it must be confessed that much of it has not been well thought out by Protestansts, but rather that Protestant denominations rarely speak with a unified voice on these matters. At least the Catholics have attempted to address these things publicly and corporately.

2. Adding to the previous point, the Catholics have taken a very strong stand against abortion and divorce. Compare this to many Protestants churches where divorce is tolerated and rarely preached against and where abortion is silently opposed, which is to say not opposed at all. In fact, numerous Protestants voted for the most bloodthirsty president in history. Now, I think some Catholics did as well, but they would have been going against their leaders, whereas many Protestants would have been following their leaders.

3. They have thought more about beauty in the Christian life. Protestants of the last 200 years or so have been terrible in the area of aesthetics. We write bad books (Left Behind), we paint bad paintings (Kincade), we make semi-good movies, and build churches that look like basketball coliseums. This is a place where Protestants need to repent and learn from others. We shame the Gospel by leading ugly lives and worshipping in ugly buildings. We need to get back to a mindset that builds beautiful things to God's glory. The Catholics can help us here.

4. Finally, they undestand that liturgy matters. They make numerous mistakes here, but at least it matters to them how their worship services are constructed. For many Protestants the shape of worship does not matter. Content does, which is, of course, very important. But Protestants have freqently ignored the way Scripture commands us to come to God in worship. In some ways it is easier to debate a Catholic on liturgy than a Protestant. At least a Catholic believes there is a right way to structure the service. Most Protestants are perfectly post-modern on this point. There is no right way, what really matters is the heart.

So here are a few areas we can learn from the Catholics. There are more than these and I may mention some of them as we move through this series

1 comment:

Jennie and Julie said...

Kincade's paintings are bad?? Would you really go as far as that? I'm talking about the originals of course...and not about the fact that everybody mindlessly followed along... But I love the point about beauty, and totally agree. Thanks for teaching this series of blogs.

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