Saturday, June 28, 2008

Keep Away from Rome

I sometimes find myself bewildered at the naivete some Evangelicals hold in their views toward Roman Catholicism. I have even seen this attitude in some who come to Spain, both short and long-term, to do missionary work. With this in mind, I present the following article, published on Protestante Digital, a leading Evangelical web-site based out of Spain...

Keep Away from Rome

23 comments:

wesmith said...

David,

Thank for pointing to this article on the Isolationism the Catholic Church is calling for from the Protestant Churches. This has a Familiar Ring to it, in that of Churches that Try to separate from The True Body of Christ by Imposing Man Made Rules, and Dividing the Body of Christ.

Wayne Smith

Paul said...

I agree, David.

How would you counsel dealing with individual RCs that apparently are born-again/know the Lord, but won't break with the RC Church. Does one count them as brothers or do we engage in second-degree separation?

Dave Miller said...

Good Article.

David Rogers said...

Wayne,

Interesting point. Although it would appear that, as Protestants, or Evangelicals, we are the ones who have separated from Rome, it is they who initiated this separation from the One True Church, when they made loyalty and submission to a specific hierarchy, institution, and person (the Pope), the basis of fellowship.

As John says (1 John 1:3), "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." That is, the basis of our fellowship one with another is the gospel we proclaim, and our personal relationship with the Father and with Jesus.

David Rogers said...

Paul,

Good question. As I understand it, if we have reason to believe they are true disciples, they are our brothers and/or sisters in Christ, and we must recognize and treat them as such. This does not mean that we cease to admonish them concerning any area of false doctrine they may embrace, just as we would with a fellow Evangelical who happened to be off in some of his/her doctrinal views.

I make a distinction, however, between personal fellowship, and institutional fellowship. For this reason, I am very hesitant to participate in "joint ventures" that have official institutional Catholic sponsorship, especially if they are of a specifically spiritual or ministry-oriented nature.

Stuart said...

David,

This post has clarified for me a term I run across frequently in missions literature, "Base Ecclesiastical Communities." I had alwasy assumed that was something like a RCC version of "house churches".

Now I realize the RCC doesn't consider them "churches" at all.

There's probably a good follow-up up post/discussion in there as it relates to similarities/differences between the SBC and RCC responses to the house church movement, particularly in the Eastern and Southern hemispheres.

Rick Thompson said...

"...some applauded his ´Bible centrality´, but this must be understood within the Catholic tradition of placing ecclesiastical tradition at least on a par with Scripture".

Replace the word "Catholic" with the word "Baptist" and the line above sounds eerily familiar.

Paul said...

David, I just had a thought that you might find interesting. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy here at all, but I find this all an interesting coincidence.

During the charismatic renewal of the 70-80s here in the U.S., the big "gainers" in the "religious economy" were the pentecostal/charismatics, and the "losers" were the RCs, with many coming to a full born again experience with Christ.

What then happened in the 80s? Well, with the strong encouragement of RCers, we started focusing more on social issues (understandably, like abortion) than evangelism. We were further encouraged to continue this trend with "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," led by an evangelical married to a RCer, Chuck Colsen.

Since then, our evangelism results have become meager at best. We're now almost dead in the water, with very few of our RC social agenda bedfellows coming to know Christ in a personal way.

Part of me wants to think this was planned in the Vatican, but I think that's too much of a stretch, but I think it might have been planned somewhere else...

David Rogers said...

Paul,

For some time now, I have been doing my best to understand the reasoning of the good Evangelical folks associated with "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." I know many of them are more intelligent than I am. But, I have a hard time seeing how, at the bottom line, we are preaching the same gospel as the RCC.

Paul said...

Well, it does seem to me that we are tending to preach more of the same (non)gospel, namely Constantinian establishment 'Christianity' (with is more OT than NT) with a bit of watered-down universalism thrown in.

Paul said...

One other thought, David.

I'm not sure that I'm very much of a dispensationalist, but at least dispensationalism helped us keep the gospel central.

That may bring some heat.:)

David Rogers said...

Paul,

I definitely do not think post-millenial reconstructionism helps to keep the focus on the gospel.

I have not yet been able to read carefully what Tim Keller has written recently about there being different versions, kinds, aspects, or something like that, of the gospel. I generally like what Keller has to say. But, I am a bit leery whenever I hear language like that.

Deborah said...

David:

Thanks for sharing that. I've found with most RCC that it is sometimes really hard to determine whether or not they are believers in the sense that we understand. I always find that if I can get down to the "authority" issue, then I can more easily see where they really are in relation to Christ.
Sometimes we use the same "language" but the meanings are different. But if their authority comes from the "church" then that's generally where they're salvation lies as well.

We've seen that usually they do eventually have to leave the RCC. So much of what is taught here has to do with Mary that it usually becomes very apparent that they cannot stay & be a true believer.

You are right on with I John 1:3...our fellowship is with God through His Son....and not an institution. The RCC have to have fellowship with the institution for their salvation....and somehow I just don't get that from "I am the way, the truth and the life."

Keep away from Rome is a good word.
Blessings,

David Rogers said...

Deborah,

Thanks for your comments. I noticed from the link to your blog that you are working in Poland. So, you undoubtedly have a good perspective from which to base your observations.

A "make or break" question for me, in my experience of talking to supposedly born-again Catholics has been: if they were to quit partaking of the Catholic Eucharist, do they think they would still be saved? This shows to me whether they are truly trusting in Christ alone, or trusting in the Church (and the sacraments of the Church) as a vehicle to bring them to Christ.

Steve Sensenig said...

I hope I can say this in a way that communicates a non-combative tone, because I definitely do not say this to be combative, but merely to point out a different perspective.

The RCC is an "easy target" when it comes to adding to the gospel. By that I mean that many of our protestant churches are functionally of the same opinion of their own "sacraments", even if they won't come right out and admit it.

I base this on my own experience in leaving the institutional expression of church. I have had some really ugly, horrible things said to me by leaders of said institution. While much more subtle than what the RCC might say (although the RCC does refer to Protestants as "separated brethren", do they not?), the upshot was still a question of my salvation.

And even when salvation is not being questioned outright, the accusations of being "in rebellion", leading others astray, etc. basically has the same implication.

So while it's easy to sit here and throw jabs at the RCC (so to speak), I think it's a bit naive to not realize that the same perspective exists in many sections of evangelicalism. We just don't normally say it as bluntly as the RCC might.

David Rogers said...

Steve,

I would say that the way you have been treated is really not consistent with a true "evangelical" position. While Roman Catholics, when they exclude us, are really being consistent with their true doctrinal basis.

That is not to say that there are not exceptional Roman Catholics, who in their beliefs and practice are more "evangelical" than "Roman Catholic." Nor that there are not "Evangelicals" who are not truly "evangelical" in their beliefs and practice.

Also, as I understand it, the whole terminology of "separated brethren" applies more to "sacramental" Protestants (Anglicans, Lutherans, etc.) than to what we would call "Evangelicals" or "Pentecostal-Charismatics." The pope, for instance, often refers to the "problem" of the Evangelical and Pentecostal "sects" in Latin America.

As I said in a previous comment to Paul, none of this, however, should preclude our fellowship with those individual "Roman Catholics" who, in spite of the official teaching of their church, appear to have an authentic saving relationship with Jesus.

However, as we think about Christian unity, we must, at the same time, think seriously about where we draw the line. Here, I think we must think seriously as well about what Paul says in Galatians concerning "a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all."

I am open to being shown how I may not be seeing this correctly, though. Especially, if someone can demonstrate to me how official Roman Catholic soteriology is not fundamentally different from biblical-evangelical soteriology.

Steve Sensenig said...

I think you might have missed the general point of my comment. I wasn't arguing that our soteriology is consistent with that behavior. What I was trying to point out is that the same type of behavior exists despite what we say we believe about our soteriology.

You've been in blogland long enough to see how this operates in that sphere. My point is that it exists in the functioning evangelical practice at large, too.

Personally, I find it hard to believe my experiences are all that unique or uncommon, as I hear many stories from others.

Granted, this is all anecdotal evidence, but I think evangelicalism has traded the official "sacraments" of the RCC with unofficial "sacraments" such as church membership, participation in a particular organization, etc.

I understand your point about "another gospel", and I obviously would never want to endorse "another gospel", or even tolerate it. But I think that often times the "another gospel" argument is used too quickly to easily label something with which we disagree.

In my opinion, almost every denomination has added to the gospel in some way (see the above paragraphs). Most just choose ways that are more subtle than the RCC, so it's easy to say, "Oh, those awful Catholics. They preach another gospel."

Case in point: We are more interested in whether or not someone endorses a post-NT wording of the doctrine of the Trinity, rather than whether or not that person is putting their trust in Jesus Christ solely and completely for their salvation.

Regardless of how one views the doctrine of the Trinity, one would have to come to grips with the fact that the apostles did not make anything of it in the presentations of the gospel recorded in the scripture.

So, aren't we adding to the gospel when we emphasize such doctrines as "necessary for salvation"?

DISCLAIMER: (More for your readers who don't know me, David, than for you!) My comment is not to be construed as denying the doctrine of the Trinity, nor embracing/affirming/endorsing the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.

David Rogers said...

Steve,

I've been mulling over what you say here. It seems to me that it would be best to treat the issues that you mention here relating to Evangelical "adding to the gospel" separately. If we say that we can't deal with Roman Catholic subversions of the gospel until we first deal with any potential one of a broad array of "Evangelical" subversions, that will eventually leave us at an impasse.

I hope it doesn't come across as if I am "bashing" Roman Catholics. A good percent of what I say here at Love Each Stone has to do with my own wrestling with the inherent tensions between the implications of biblical teaching on Christian unity and a concurrent faithfulness to other Christian doctrines. One conclusion I have reached is that one important basis of our unity is agreement on the essentials of the gospel. The viewpoint of the RCC on the essentials of the gospel is thus, for me, a very relevant question.

Also, as a missionary to Spain, I have seen how the tendency of Roman Catholic teaching is, in many aspects, that of leading people away from saving faith in Christ, rather than towards it. And that concerns me.

I also believe in dealing with "stumbling blocks" wherever they may occur, in Evangelical churches or otherwise, appropriately. But, each one in its own time and place.

Does that make sense?

Steve Sensenig said...

David, thanks for mulling it over! :) I was confident, based on our friendship, that if I had overstepped any bounds that you would let me know graciously. I was also equally confident that you wouldn't just ignore my comment without acknowledging it in some way, so thank you :)

I do see your point about a potential impasse. I don't think that I mean to imply that we can't address the RCC issues before dealing with all the possible permutations of the gospel in our own camps, but I see your point, and am willing to concede that in this setting.

Again, my only point is that I don't see much difference, given my position slightly outside both the RCC and the evangelical camps as I seem to be right now! ;) (While I thank our Father for gracious friends like yourself, I don't kid myself to think that I'm very welcome in too many evangelical camps right now unless I'm simply playing the piano and keeping my thoughts to myself! And I do say that mostly tongue-in-cheek.)

Carry on, my dear brother, and may our Father continue to guide your work in Spain (when you return) and your thinking toward the gospel. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you!

David Rogers said...

Steve,

Thanks for your reply, your friendship, and your fellowship in the gospel.

I think sometimes, perhaps, the term "evangelical" and assumptions that go along with it, tend to cloud our communication. I like the term, and choose to continue using it, because of its etymology, and what it literally communicates. That is, I think the basis of our identity and of our fellowship one with another should be the "evangel" pure and simple. But it should be the true "evangel" and not a counterfeit version. Unfortunately, though, a lot of times, people associate a lot of other things with the term "evangelical."

David Rogers said...

Just adding a comment here to say that, after making reference in a previous comment to potential concerns related to Tim Keller's view on different aspects of the gospel, I have now read his article on this subject, and find myself convinced and supportive of his point of view.

It is well worth the read:

Here it is.

GordonCloud said...

I'm chiming in a little late here, but I did want to say that I really appreciate this article as well as the spirit in which it was presented.

Aussie John said...

David,
Thank you for a timely and carefull article.

I also share Steves concerns where stated evangelical beliefs are added to by evangelical leaders,in an ex cathedra manner,very similar to Rome.