Monday, 18 February 2008

Answering Roman Catholicism

Up at Men's Katoomba Christian Convention (MKC) we had a very fine session from Baptist speaker Anthony Petterson, who lectures at Morling College (the local Baptist theological college here in Sydney). It was on answering Roman Catholicism, and pointed out how within Roman Catholicism, the basic vocabulary of salvation is distorted. Grace means not so much God's generosity, for example, as a sort of metaphysical infusion of a substance that allows you to choose to do good works. (Anthony used the parallel of a blood transfusion enabling you to get up and get on with life, and it made a lot of sense as an explanation of the Roman Catholic perspective).

As such, even though the claim within Roman Catholicism is that we are saved by grace, in reality this means something quite different from the Bible's teaching that we are rescued by God without any input from ourselves.

For the average Roman Catholic believer, this means that assurance of salvation is impossible and indeed, forbidden by the teaching of the church. Assurance, for Roman Catholics, is the sin of 'presumption'. For how could one be assured of being right with God if good works are necessary to our right-standing with God, as Catholicism teaches? But on the Roman Catholic view, not only is assurance ruled out, but the very idea of salvation is placed under threat, for our good works can never be good enough to gain our entry into heaven.

Roman Catholic doctrine thus undercuts Christ's work on the cross, as his work in dying for sin is no guarantee whatsoever that God will declare us 'not guilty' on the final terrible day of judgement.

Along the way Anthony pointed out that the Roman Catholic church does not believe that non-Roman Catholic churches can lay claim to the title of being genuine Christian churches, and used the current Pope's words to demonstrate that this traditional view hasn't changed at all in recent times:

Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century... do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense."

Find the quote in context here.

Anthony Petterson thought that the current Pope was doing something useful for all Christians by clarifying the difference between Protestant and Catholic beliefs. He certainly is! We mustn't pretend that in essence, all the so-called Christian churches are on about the same thing.

Anthony also gave a good plug for Ray Galea's latest book on the subject, Nothing in my hand I bring. Well worth a read, and before World Catholic Youth Day hits town.


adam said...

I thought the video from Ireland on salvation/assurance was striking and confronting

Craig Bennett said...

I agree with you Gordon on this. It is rather unfortunate though that there are some RC church goers who do believe the Gospel and are trapped in the Church...I even know of some RC priests who hold to the evangelical message and stay in the church to preach the gospel to those who listen...

On another note, my wife who was baptised in the RC church as an infant is being baptised at church next week, wanting to make a believers profession of faith...I think it is a great step forward because it has been a long and hard slog for her to get rid of the RC baggage...

Anonymous said...

But equally there are many (I presume including evangelicals:)) to whom Jesus will one day say "I never knew you" and that, coupled with ", if it is not accompanied by action, is dead", indicating to me that however correct the doctrine is, its basically pretty easy to say "yes, I agree" but a different matter when it comes to faithful obedience. This is in evidence in abundance in our evangelical churches where grace seems to be cheap and cheapened.


Craig Bennett said...

Yet Cathy,

The truth behind Jesus saying I never knew you is because the person who came to him saying I cast demons out in your name, prophesied in your name, I did this and that in your name...never said, Jesus you did it all for me.

They did it in his name only, not from having personal relationship with him. I would also add that the works James refers to is the work / fruit of the Holy, joy, peace, ...