Boettner’s Good Points

In an earlier thread, I promised I would say a few positive words about Loraine Boettner’s book Roman Catholicism. His book is flawed in many ways, and I have no intention of down-playing those faults by praising other aspects about the book. As with any theologian, it is our place to eat the meat and spit out the bones. These items are relatively unrelated to each other, except that they are concerned with Roman Catholicism. This is not an exhaustive list of good points, either.

He makes an interesting point that Roman Catholicism tends the thrive better in Protestant countries, where it has to stand in its own two feet, rather than in Roman Catholic countries, where it is the state church (p. 36). One could argue about why that is the case, of course, but it does seem to hold when one compares Spain and Portugal, on the one hand, with the United States, on the other.

In answering Roman Catholic apologists who accuse Protestantism of being so very divided, he argues that “the various Protestant denominations agree quite fully on practically all of the essentials of the faith” (p. 37). Then follows a list of doctrines on which Protestants agree. This unity of spirit undermines the denominational differences. Furthermore, Roman Catholicism is certainly not as united as its apologists would have us believe (p. 39). These days, one only has to point out the vast differences in the interpretation of the impact of Vatican II. There is definitely a liberal wing in the Roman Catholic church that is pushing for a more inclusivistic understanding of the Council (thus a disjunctive interpretation of the Council with what happened in the past), while just as many (including the current Pope) argue for relatively complete continuity between Vatican II and previous history. My, what a difference two words can make: “separated brethren!”

In arguing against the infallibility of Tradition, he argues exegetically from John 21:21-23, a remarkable instance of intra-apostolic tradition that was false (p. 78).

In arguing against Peter being the first Pope, he notes that Peter consistently refused to accept homage from men (see Acts 10: 25-26, 1 Peter 5, cf. Boettner, p. 113). No doubt the Roman Catholic will bring up the sophistic distinction between worship and service at this point. But there is no indication in Acts that the man was doing anything other than bowing down (the meaning of “proskuneo” can mean “worship” but can also refer merely to bowing the knee), which is something the Roman Catholic acknowledges can be part of service. This is something Peter refused to accept, contrary to the Popes.

In dealing with the infallibility of the Pope, Boettner makes a very important point, which includes the very nuance that most Roman Catholic apologists believe Protestants overlook: “Infallibility is not claimed for statements addressed to particular segments or groups within the church which may relate more or less to local conditions. And the pronouncements must have to do with matters pertaining to ‘faith and morals.’ In actual practice, however, the term ‘faith and morals’ is broad enough and elastic enough to cover almost any and every phase of religious and civil life. Practically every public issue can be looked upon as having some bearing on faith or morals or both. The Vatican takes full advantage of this, and the result is that within the Roman Church almost any statement issued by the pope is assumed to be authoritative” (pp. 235-236). I would add to this that whenever the Protestant points out heretical popes or problematic positions taken by the pope, the Roman Catholic is very quick to point out this supposed limitation in infallibility: “only in faith or morals when spoken ex cathedra.” However, when the Roman Church quotes previous popes, they quote them as being part of the infallible tradition. Is there a tertium quid, where the pope is “mostly” infallible in everything he says, but with the loophole that if he says something heretical, there is a deniability factor? This is one very frustrating thing for Protestants, because the Roman Catholic always has an answer. Whether it is a consistent answer is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Which papal bulls are infallible and which aren’t? In Denzinger, for instance, many papal pronouncements are used as the sources for Catholic dogma. Are they infallible? Papal bulls present a particular problem, because some of them are obviously intended to be infallible pronouncements. However, there are many papal bulls which are not viewed as infallible, even by Roman Catholics, though, when originally given, were given as supposedly fixed decrees. So, how does one decide which bulls are infallible and which are not? “Faith and morals,” as Boettner notes, is hardly a reliable guide, since the phrase is so elastic in meaning. This is a very serious problem for Roman Catholics, because the Roman Catholic church is so vague on when exactly the pope is infallible in concrete instances, and when he is not.

Not all sources Boettner quotes are bad, either. The sermon from Dr. C.D. Cole, quoted on pp. 257-258 is very eloquent: “The basic and fatal error of Romanism is the denial of the sufficiency of Christ as Saviour. It denies the efficacy of His sacrifice on the cross. Romanism has a Christ, but He is not sufficient as a Saviour. What he did on Calvary must be repeated (in the mass) and supplemented (through works of penance), and this makes priestcraft and sacramentarianism necessary. Romanism is a complicated system of salvation by works. It has salvation to sell, but not on Isaiah’s terms-without money and without price (Is. 55:1). It offers salvation on the installment plan, and then sees to it that the poor sinner is always behind in his payments, so that when he dies there is a large balance unpaid, and he must continue payments by sufferings in purgatory, or until the debt is paid by prayers, alms and sufferings of his living relatives and friends. The whole system and plan calls for merit and money, from the cradle to the grave, and even beyond. Surely the wisdom that drew such a plan of salvation is not from above, but is earthly and sensual.” Certainly pulling no punches, but gets to the point. I especially like the rhetoric about the “installment plan.”

On page 258, Boettner makes a great point about saints: “And it is to be observed further that the distinguishing mark of a saint is not, as in the Roman Church, what one has done for God, but what God has done for him.”

On whether Roman Catholics worship images, he argues: “Roman Catholics tell us that they do not pray to the image, or idol, but to the spirit that is represented by it. But that is the answer given by idol worshippers the world over when they are asked why they pray to their idols” (p. 280). I might add to this the further point that the Israelites believed that they were worshiping God through the golden calf, not some false god (see in particular Exodus 32:4). They believed that this was the form of the God who brought them out of Egypt.

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17 Comments

  1. infanttheology said,

    November 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Nice review –

    “Which papal bulls are infallible and which aren’t? In Denzinger, for instance, many papal pronouncements are used as the sources for Catholic dogma. Are they infallible? Papal bulls present a particular problem, because some of them are obviously intended to be infallible pronouncements. However, there are many papal bulls which are not viewed as infallible, even by Roman Catholics, though, when originally given, were given as supposedly fixed decrees. So, how does one decide which bulls are infallible and which are not?”

    Exactly – here’s what I concluded in a post a while back:

    “I think intellectual honesty requires us to admit that some Popes of the 15th and early 16th century who put forth authoritative documents would surely take exception to the idea that their pronouncements were not solemn, ex cathedra exercises. When this doctrine was formally defined in the late 19th century, it was not a new doctrine, but was one (namely, the Pope’s voice is more or less God’s when he says it is) that had had some currency for a while.”

    http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/reformation-history-what-would-you-have-done/

    The conversation that followed was quite interesting (though not for the faint of heart!).

    +Nathan

  2. olivianus said,

    November 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    “He makes an interesting point that Roman Catholicism tends the thrive better in Protestant countries, where it has to stand in its own two feet”

    >>>I challenge the premise. The Roman Catholic Church has controlled our schools for a long time. Here in Louisville the president of U of L is a man who used to teach at Loyola in Chicago. : http://louisville.edu/president/biography/ The superintendent of all public schools in Jefferson County, Donna Hargens was trained by Jesuits at Marquette and then received cookies from Romanist Hive Seton Hall. http://www.jtownchamber.com/files/Hargens-Brief%20Bio.pdf

    These people have completely mastered the art of twisting our public school history books to make the original white Protestant Colonialists look like monsters, while hiding all the major blood baths of the Roman Catholic Church, and they have succeeded in secularizing the Protestant population: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/08/nones-protestant-religion-pew/1618445/?csp=usattumblr

    The Roman Catholic Religion also does not have to stand on its own politically. They have bribed and threatened their way to the top of our government and military. In the Chicago Daily Tribune May 5, 1903, Chicago Archbishop Quigley bragged, “Within twenty years this country is going to rule the world. Kings and Emperors will soon pass away and the democracy of the United States will take their place…When the United States rules the world the Catholic Church will rule the world…I’d like to see the politician who would try to rule against the Church in Chicago. His reign would be short indeed.” I have a copy of the original document before me right now and if you want a copy of it I can fax it to you or I can get you the digital copy later tonight. Email me at drake.shelton@gmail.com

    The involvement of the Roman Catholic Knights of Malta in our Military: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/21/seymour-hersh-military-crusaders_n_812363.html; http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/22/transcript_the_obamabush_foreign_policies_why_cant_america_change

    our Supreme Court’s open connection to the Roman Red Mass http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/30/record-number-of-justices-attends-red-mass/%5D

    and not to mention the Al Smith Dinner are just a few examples. So the reason why it thrives here is not because it has to stand on its own two feet but because it has assassinated, bribed and bullied its way to the top of our power structure.

    “In answering Roman Catholic apologists who accuse Protestantism of being so very divided”

    >>>Which they know very well is a product of their Jesuit order who has vowed to infiltrate Protestant groups and start doctrinal divisions. This is also not a Protestant Conspiracy theory. They did this with the Eastern Orthodox as well (Confession of Dositheos).

  3. Jason Loh said,

    November 3, 2012 at 1:33 am

    I second Drake’s contention. We could well say that the pope in consonance with his role as THE Antichrist is the ruler of this world on *behalf* of Satan/ Lucifer. The Roman Church is a world power — indeed the very power behind the world’s powers (indirectly or ultimately).

    This is why all attempts to politicise Christianity such as Christian Reconstruction – and by extension, *Christianise* the LAW – is doing the work of the devil in the sense of his goals. The difference is the Lord uses sin to keep sin at bay. Two-kingdom all over again.

    FAITH, not sight, sees Jesus as the Sovereign One in this world of the old creation in all the complexities, vagueness and uncertainties. The GOSPEL is precise, clear-cut, everlasting. The Law (in its *political* use, 1st use) can change, evolve and adapt according to the historical situation of society. There is thus a tension between the 1st and 2nd uses of the Law – which like the Law-Gospel distinction – is absolute and cannot and should not be resolved on this side of the eternity.

    This is because Sabbath was made for the *person* and not the Sabbath for the person.

  4. Kathrin said,

    November 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    These are his good points? Really?
    So, with respect to the saints: Ever read the “Story of a Soul” by St. Therese of Lisieux or heard of Jacques Fesch?
    Here seems Boettner times pelting again the old straw man with rotten eggs, the Protestants themselves have tinkered. That he had no idea about the “merit” of the Most Holy has, and their stories do not obviously know, it makes me doubt that he ever seriously engaged with Catholicism. So much superficiality makes him a buffoon.
    Purgatory: It’s strange that there are more Protestants who fear for their salvation and very quick to deny it to others. Perhaps it is because purgatory is not an option.
    Participation in salvation, our own and that of others is, in fact, a basic feature of Catholicism and participation is key to understanding the Mass, the saints and confession.
    One, I think, very uplifting concept, especially in comparison with the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. ‘ve Never met a happy Puritan.

    But ever heard a requiem?

    Recordare, Jesus pie,
    Quod Sum causa tuae viae:
    Ne me perdas the ilia.
    Quaerens me sedisti lassus,:
    Redemisti Crucem passus:
    Tantus labor non sit cassus.

    Not really justification by works, right?

    The magisterium, whether Boettner it likes or not is found not only in the papacy or in the theologians and bishops, It is much more complicated than he imagines. How else could people like Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, Ephrem the Syrian, or John Bonaventura be among the teachers of the church? Far as I know this honor was given to only one Pope. That says more about the self-understanding of the Magisterium of the Popes

    What annoys me Boettner is that he made ​​the effort to really deal with Catholic Church. He repeated the old clichés and black legends. That in the age of Internet Boettner passes as a credible critic of the Church, is beyond me. For me as a catholic it is quite clear, that he never bothered to look into the documents and teaching he criticed.
    Okay, he died in 1990 and there was not much online at this time. But today?
    http://www.vatican.va and you can read Vatican I and II, the Catechism and what the last nine popes have written. A Library of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church is available online, at least in my own language. Why are you Boettner or James White, if you want to know what the Catholic Church teaches? Why do not you click through the pages of the Vatican?

    .

  5. olivianus said,

    November 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Jason Loh,

    “We could well say that the pope in consonance with his role as THE Antichrist is the ruler of this world on *behalf* of Satan/ Lucifer. The Roman Church is a world power — indeed the very power behind the world’s powers (indirectly or ultimately).”

    >>>Amen brother! What is this, an actual Protestant still alive and breathing? Wow!

    “This is why all attempts to politicise Christianity such as Christian Reconstruction – and by extension, *Christianise* the LAW – is doing the work of the devil in the sense of his goals.”

    >>>What!? The opposite is the truth. It is because we do not protect ourselves with Protestant political activity from Rome that we find ourselves in its grasp. In my ancestors’ original colony of Virginia we allowed no Romanist to step foot here (I live in Kentucky; we used to be a commonwealth of Virginia) without being threatened by the Civil Magistrate. Have you read any of the Scottish Puritan (Rutherford, Gillespie, Shields) works on the Church and State? If not you need to do so.

    “The difference is the Lord uses sin to keep sin at bay. Two-kingdom all over again.”

    >>Are you suggesting that a magistrate’s attempts to suppress heresy are sin?

    “FAITH, not sight, sees Jesus as the Sovereign One in this world of the old creation in all the complexities, vagueness and uncertainties.”

    >>>It is strange that you recognize a Kingly sovereignty that men have no obligation to establish in their societies. Secondly, I see no contradiction between Christ’s sovereignty and the magistrate’s punishments of heretics.

    “The GOSPEL is precise, clear-cut, everlasting. The Law (in its *political* use, 1st use) can change, evolve and adapt according to the historical situation of society.”

    >>>The first use of the law is not political, it is moral. The judicial laws are manifestations of the moral ones. Ironically, your claim that the law’s use is first political is exactly what the Theonomists believe. You my friend are the victim of the Hegelian Dialectic.

    “There is thus a tension between the 1st and 2nd uses of the Law – which like the Law-Gospel distinction – is absolute and cannot and should not be resolved on this side of the eternity.”

    >>>What is your definition of the second use?

    “This is because Sabbath was made for the *person* and not the Sabbath for the person.”

    >>>You just said the same thing twice.

  6. TurretinFan said,

    November 3, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    “I might add to this the further point that the Israelites believed that they were worshiping God through the golden calf, not some false god (see in particular Exodus 32:4). They believed that this was the form of the God who brought them out of Egypt.”

    Yes. The same thing is a large part of the problem of the sin of Jeroboam who caused Israel to sin. He set up unauthorized worship of YHWH (as distinct from Ahab who brought in competing Baal worship).

    -TurretinFan

  7. greenbaggins said,

    November 3, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Kathrin, in your haste to pan Boettner, you have made rather a number of errors of your own. For instance, you did not read the last paragraph of the post I wrote on recent books I had read, where I said I was reading the Catechism, Ludwig Ott, and Thomas Aquinas. So, unless those are not good representatives of Catholic teaching, your comment on what I’m reading is not even in the ballpark. The truth of the matter is that I am reading both Roman Catholic and Protestant works on Roman Catholicism. Secondly, I have read Therese of Lisieux’s book, and I have read Barron’s book, which talks about it. Boettner’s point still stands. As for the rest, I get the distinct impression that they are not strong arguments in your mind because you are a Roman Catholic. But you hardly answered him. Instead, you pan him as being “superficial.” That’s not an answer to an argument.

  8. Jason Loh said,

    November 4, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Drake, re#6

    Brother, you wrote:

    “What!? The opposite is the truth. It is because we do not protect ourselves with Protestant political activity from Rome that we find ourselves in its grasp. In my ancestors’ original colony of Virginia we allowed no Romanist to step foot here (I live in Kentucky; we used to be a commonwealth of Virginia) without being threatened by the Civil Magistrate. Have you read any of the Scottish Puritan (Rutherford, Gillespie, Shields) works on the Church and State? If not you need to do so.”

    We live in different times. Things do evolve and change. Today is different from yesteryears.

    I don’t buy into everything Eric John Phelps says or do. His racist espousal of separating Caucasians from Africans bring the GOSPEL into disrepute. Talk about jesuit co-adjutors. We must be discerning – comparing everything in light of the distinction between Law and Gospel … rightly dividing the Word of God.

    The problem with conspiracy theorists is not that they are necessarily wrong. The problem is that they think they have a bird’s eye of view of EVERYTHING. Thus, they seek to *reconcile* this with that and FIT everything into a *system.* But once we do that, we get boxed in. We become rigid in our thinking. Law (in its 1st use) and Gospel becomes confused. IOW, we become extremists/ fanatics. And so we think we are upholding and extending the Kingdom of God when we are precisely doing the opposite.

    We don’t have the full picture. This is why we WALK by faith. Faith overlaps with both the kingdom to come and the kingdom here and now. The kingdom of heaven (new creation/ new age) comes by way of proclamation of the Gospel in Word and Sacraments alone. The kingdom of earth (old creation/ old age) is preserved by the Law.

    The downward extension of the kingdom of God coincides with the development of sin in the world system. The Reformation of Christendom has given way to the Counter-Reformation of the world order. What was the practice then cannot be applied now. How does the Protestant resist Romanism in Kentucky when Romanists and Jesuits are in charge of every area of life in the US? Isn’t this what conspiracy theorists have highlighted?

    The tension is not this. It is between living IN the system but not OF the system. In the world; not of the world. The Protestant does not seek to protect Protestantism *per se* now but the separation between church and state. IOW, it is the Law its its proper use all over again. Not religiously political or politically religious but by being Christian AND secular one at the same time paralleling the simul iustus et peccator. The world we find ourselves in is secular, plural, increasingly non-religious (just look at the latest stats on religious affiliation in the US).

    The Law in its 1st use is appropriate only to the historical and existential situation of the human. Thus, we adapt the use of the Law for the good, welfare and interest of our fellow human beings — serving neighbour in love.

    So we use sin to fight sin. We use the Law which can only preserve in the general sense, can be misused/ misapplied, can be broken, etc. and which is used EQUALLY by Christians and non-Christians to fight injustice, evil, corruption, abuse of power, etc. IOW, by using the Law not for our sectarian interests but of humanity, we thereby resist to an extent the dominion of Romanism. We even cooperate with Romanists against extending abortion time limit and homosexuality taught in schools — so as to resist the very Romanism behind the government and public policy of the day.

  9. Jason Loh said,

    November 4, 2012 at 12:44 am

    “Are you suggesting that a magistrate’s attempts to suppress heresy are sin?”

    It depends. On the situation. It is, therefore, not for every magistrate to suppress heresy.

  10. Jason Loh said,

    November 4, 2012 at 12:47 am

    “It is strange that you recognize a Kingly sovereignty that men have no obligation to establish in their societies. Secondly, I see no contradiction between Christ’s sovereignty and the magistrate’s punishments of heretics.”

    Christ is sovereign when we SEE or not. Christ is sovereign in North Korea just as He is sovereign Saudi Arabia. What we see as His absence is God’s way of hiding Himself. What we saw as a man hanging on the Cross as a pariah (not a martyr), we HEAR the Roman centurion exclaiming as the Son of God.

  11. Jason Loh said,

    November 4, 2012 at 12:52 am

    “The first use of the law is not political, it is moral. The judicial laws are manifestations of the moral ones. Ironically, your claim that the law’s use is first political is exactly what the Theonomists believe. You my friend are the victim of the Hegelian Dialectic.”

    The 1st use of the Law is political or civil because it operates in the political/civil sphere.

  12. Jason Loh said,

    November 4, 2012 at 12:54 am

    “What is your definition of the second use?”

    The theological use of the Law is that it always accuses, judges. It claims all of our being. This is different from the 1st use of the Law.

    The 2nd use of the Law never changes, but can be silenced forever.

    The 1st use of the Law can and do change — as a matter of fact and will disappear forever when history ends.

  13. Sean Patrick said,

    November 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Lane.

    Thanks for posting these. Its been a while since I’ve read Boettner and don’t have my copy anymore and apparently it’s not available on Amazon for my kindle. So, going somewhat from memory but if you allow, I’ll weigh in my thoughts on these problems:

    1) As respect to the Catholic Church being ‘divided.’ It is not even our claim that all Catholics equally and perfectly align their personal beliefs with Church dogma on this side of heaven. There has always been varying levels of genuine and allowable disagreement on things but there has also always been illegitimate dissension from Catholics here and there.

    I don’t remember Boettner’s list on ‘agreed essentials of the faith’ but it can’t include the sacraments. I mean, Reformed Baptists and the PCA have a lot of ‘essentials’ in common but they would not let a Presbyterian baptized as an infant join their church. Or are the Calvinists here going to accept that predestination and the sovereignty of God is not an ‘essential article of the faith’ so that they can lump themselves with Armenians and claim Protestant unity? I don’t think so. Drake, who is participating in this thread is a Protestant who has rejected membership in every church in Kentucky because he can’t find one that teaches the ‘essentials’ as he sees them. So, he is starting his own church.
    So, on that score, it really all depends on what Boettner considers ‘essential.’ I could draw up a list of ‘essential’ Catholic doctrines which excludes a lot of actual essential doctrines and then claim that Catholics are also unified.

    2) On John 21:21-23. I don’t remember his argument but from an exegetical standpoint, the Catholic reading is quite plausible and substantiated from Church history.

    3) Bowing is simply a form of reverence and respect.

    4) Having been Catholic for 5+ years I can say that I have never seen a bunch of Catholics standing around arguing about which papal bulls or papal statements were given under the chrism of infallibility. Catholic doctrine really is quite tangible. If Boettner highlights issues where we’re supposedly all in disagreement about whether or not a pronouncement was issued under the doctrine of papal infallibility, please share those.

    5) Obviously, we reject that Catholicism rejects the ‘sufficiency of Christ.’ I could just as easily argue that Presbyterianism rejects the ‘sufficiency of Christ’ because Presbyterian requires that the believer have faith. I mean, Universalists don’t even teach that faith is required so they can turn around and accuse Presbyterians of rejecting the ‘sufficiency of Christ.’ This charge also ignores what Catholics believe about grace.

    6) I don’t understand Boettner’s point about saints.

    7) Catholics do not believe images are ‘the form of God’ like the Israelites.

    8) Drake – not everything is a Jesuit conspiracy! The superintendent of schools where I live went to a Methodist university. The one on the other side of town went to Indiana. Watch out for those Hoosers!

  14. olivianus said,

    November 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Sean,

    “Drake – not everything is a Jesuit conspiracy!”

    >>>So are you admitting that some things are Jesuit conspiracies?

  15. Jason Loh said,

    November 6, 2012 at 2:14 am

    :-D

  16. Sean said,

    November 6, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Drake.

    >>>So are you admitting that some things are Jesuit conspiracies?

    Only the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo’s nanny was educated at a Jesuit high school. So, that one is hard to deny.

  17. sean said,

    November 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    So, that’s what’s going on with Romo. Hot dang, does Tilton still have his Word of Faith Family Church up in Dallas? Gotta get that Jesuit hex off ‘em.


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