Some Presuppositions and Rules for Protestant/Catholic Discussion on GB

It has come to the attention of the blog owner and the moderators that there are some things that need some attention. We are taking this rather seriously, and we wish for the commenters to take this seriously as well. I intend for this post to be something of a reference point for moderators (mods) in the future.

Friendly Fire: This will not be tolerated anymore for Protestant commenters. Since this is a blog owned/moderated by Protestants we will not take a position on friendly fire between non-Protestants. However, all such commenting between fellow Protestants is forbidden on this blog. What do I mean by friendly fire? I mainly intend here a critique of tone from one person to another that fails to take into account the writer’s presuppositions. I do not mean that one Protestant commenter cannot critique another Protestant’s comment. But if there is such critique, it must be limited to the substance and the argument. Questioning of motives is not allowed (who can read the heart?). When in doubt, phrase the statement in terms of the logical issue, not in terms of the person’s actions in stating something this way. No one will receive special treatment here. Comments that fail this criteria in the mods’ judgment may be deleted without explanation (you can always ask for one by email).

The Roman Catholic Church: It is the opinion of the blog owner and the moderators that the Roman Catholic Church is apostate in its teachings. By this we refer to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. We acknowledge that many nice people populate the Roman communion. We even acknowledge the theoretical possibility that a Roman Catholic person may be a Christian. We acknowledge a distinction here between the teachings of the RCC, and the people in the RCC. The reason this distinction is important is that the teaching of the RCC must be condemned in strong language, while at the same time we must never make this personal. Roman Catholic attempts on this blog to convert people to Roman Catholicism will be tolerated but also exposed (and strong language is allowed in this exposure).

Moderating: Moderating will have to be stepped up in these Protestant/Catholic debates. Expect more interaction from the moderating team. The poster is responsible for moderating the first 75 comments of his/her own post (although other mods may feel free to step in at any time). If for some reason the poster cannot do this, the poster should let the other mods know so that they can hold down the fort. Lack of comments by the poster in the first 75 comments should not be interpreted as abdication of moderating. After 75 comments, all mods are responsible for moderating.

We’re grateful for all who find this blog a valuable means of interacting with others on these subjects. Please help us make our interaction more effective by abiding by these rules. Thank you.

89 Comments

  1. TurretinFan said,

    January 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Thank you!

  2. Brian said,

    January 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Understood and appreciated. Thanks.

  3. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 11, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I have one suggestion for the Protestants to help improve dialogue – Don’t use expressions that the Catholics take as slurs such as “Romanist” and “Papist.” Why use these terms if they just irritate our Catholic friends and are no more descriptive than using “Catholic” or Roman Catholic?” Of course our Reformed forefathers used these terms but, unlike them, none of us are running for our lives from the Catholic authorities and none of us have friends being held for execution by the Inquisition. Protestant/Catholic relations have improved since the 16th century so perhaps we Protestants should utilize terminology which reflects this improved state of things.

  4. D. T. King said,

    January 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Suggestion rejected because Romanists are not “catholic” either in dogma or sentiment.

  5. D. T. King said,

    January 11, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Moreover, I cannot, for the life of me, understand what has improved. The Rome communion, since the 16th century, has only manifested further apostasy with the official dogmatic definitions of the immaculate conception of Mary (against the witness of virtually the entire ancient church), papal infallibility, and the bodily assumption of Mary, all of which are anti-catholic dogmas. I could not disagree more that conditions have improved.

  6. Ron said,

    January 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I have one suggestion for the Protestants to help improve dialogue

    Andrew,

    When a Romanist calls me “Protestant” I don’t particularly like the implication because I’m a Christian by the grace of God and it is they who have protested the teachings of King Jesus and the historic, Christian faith – not I (and I trust not you). Just the same, I don’t take exception when they use the term to describe me though I have more grounds than they to object to such labels.

    Don’t use expressions that the Catholics take as slurs such as “Romanist” and “Papist.”

    Is it ever right to mislead with our terms? Should we use a term like “Catholic” to describe a communion that is not only not catholic but anti-catholic? Moreover, should we use blatantly contradictory terms such as Roman-Catholic to describe a communion that has anathematized the gospel of the one, universal church? I’m all for removing unnecessary obstacles but please don’t ask a Christian to mislead (or lie) in the process. If anything I might ask you to refrain from using the term “Catholic” to describe a Romanist. I find that “Catholic” offends my sense of truthfulness.

    Why use these terms if they just irritate our Catholic friends and are no more descriptive than using “Catholic” or Roman Catholic?”

    Ah, but the terms Romanist and Papist are more descriptive of the members of that communion than are the terms Catholic and Roman Catholic, for former terms actually describe the allegiance of the communion’s members without ambiguity yet without implying something false.

    I’m a Christian, but it does not irritate me to be called a Calvinist since my interpretation of Scripture is Calvinistic. “Calvinist” describes my theology quite well. In the like manner, a Romanist is not “catholic” in any sense of the word because a true Romanist is sectarian in its views on the Supper and the communion of the saints. The term Romanist does just fine. Although heretic is accurate too, it’s not necessary and that would be incendiary. “Romanism” makes reference to the objective doctrine, whereas “heresy” implies what is thought about the doctrine. I’ll stick with “Romanist” and join you in the fight against terms like “heretic”.

    Of course our Reformed forefathers used these terms but, unlike them, none of us are running for our lives from the Catholic authorities and none of us have friends being held for execution by the Inquisition. Protestant/Catholic relations have improved since the 16th century so perhaps we Protestants should utilize terminology which reflects this improved state of things.

    How naïve you are, Andrew? (I trust I did not press the envelope with that one.) In what respect has the Roman communion “improved”? I’m talking about in its official capacity? If you say their doctrine has changed, then you offend your Romanist friends because they will tell you quicker than I that their doctrine is irreformable. As for running for our lives – when one flees Rome it can be because he is running for his eternal soul and not just his life! Given the stakes Andrew, let’s use terms that appropriately reflect the biblical sense of urgency (we’re playing for keeps after all) to flee the system we’re interacting with, which is not catholic in any sense of the word but purely Papal.

  7. David Gray said,

    January 11, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    >>Moreover, I cannot, for the life of me, understand what has improved.

    What would equate to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in modern times?

  8. D. T. King said,

    January 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    What would equate to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in modern times?

    Non sequitur in view of the the examples I gave. If you want to win a point to show that Romanists are no longer engaging in such acts of mass murder due to the restraint of modern day law enforcement, then it is yours. But this example does not speak to the point I made, because I never have and do not now equate the term “Romanists” with murderers.

  9. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Ron,

    We are having conversations with Roman Catholics that did not happen in much of the early confrontations in the Reformation era. Having discussions over theological differences is better than not having discussions at all. Interactions characterized by rational discussion are progress when compared with interactions characterized by suppression and torture.

    If you really believe that you can’t use the term “Roman Catholic” truthfully then I understand that you cannot use it. For me the term has a precise dictionary and encyclopedia definition even if from our perspective the term in somewhat of a misnomer. But as you point out, the same could be said for “Protestant,” but does it really bother you? Like “Roman Catholic” the term “Protestant” has a definition that you can look up in the appropriate reference work and does not carry the heavy emotional baggage of other terms.

    I think it’s unfortunate to alienate your audience right out of the chute, but again if you cannot use the terms with dictionary definitions then I won’t try to twist your arm.

  10. BobS said,

    January 12, 2011 at 1:05 am

    One thing for certain, the Roman church is not catholic in the genuine sense of the word. Whatever your conscience permits you to call them, it had better not be that. At the risk of violating the rules of engagement on friendly fire, I would be provoked to confront somebody on that.

    While I can remember in the RChurch being told that “roman catholic” was a protestant term, my preference is Romanist or Roman church, if not papist for those who consciously advocate the authority and office of the pope.

    While it is true, that nowadays we don’t face the threat of popery like the reformers did (Benedict used to be the head of The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition – you read it right: Inquisition) in some ways it’s worse. Many protestants seem to almost think the Roman church is just one more evangelical option. And I daresay the Called To Transubstantiated Communion posse therefore thought GB would be easy pickins. I am glad to see that is not happening.

    But Rome’s boast is that she never changes. And the Reformers agreed, believing that when Rome is in the minority, she plays the lamb, in equality the fox and in the majority a lion. I’d rather not find out if history is any clue.

    Even further, at the time of the Reformation, the doctrine that the pope was antiChrist was linked to JBFA and along with SS, definitive of protestantism. Not any more. Modern moderate calvinism is much too kind, gentle and nice for that.

    (FTM psalmody and catechism were hallmarks of the reformed, if not protestants in general and the power of man’s sinful free will to choose Christ was repudiated across the board, not only by Luther, but also by Calvin, Knox and the English reformers. Those days too, are no longer with us in P&R churches.)

    Which is to say, all in all, I am glad to see the discussion taking place and agree with the rules.

    After all, it is has become farrrr more interesting to tune in to GB after work instead of the lamestream media for the latest on how the Geo. W. Obama Personality Cult responded to the latest twitter from the reality show starring the Georgette W. Palin Personality Cult, who will be running against the Georgina W. Clinton Personality Cult in the 2012 Eleckshuns. (But hey, may the best looking personality cult win in the two party/one evil kingdom of more big govt. that prevails.)

    cheers

  11. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Andrew

    1. That a term has a precise dictionary definition doesn’t mean it’s not misleading, inappropriate and even harmful to the one you might wish to win to your side. I can find in various places a definition for “affair” that softens the seriousness of the seventh commandment, but I’m not about to begin using the term for adultery for it would do nobody any good. I believe terms like “affair” and “alternative life style” mislead and desensitize and have no place in the Christian’s vocabulary. I’d go so far as to say they are equivocal and consequently a violation of the intention of the ninth commandment. (WLC 145) I’d sooner use terms like Mystery Babylon and Mother of All Harlots than Catholic to describe an idolater with papal allegiance, but I guess you knew that. :)

    2.As for alienating audiences, I believe your pragmatism has overruled your sense of truthfulness, but let’s test that theory. Is the Roman communion catholic? No. Do you know that to be the case? Yes. Yet you would insist we use the term in order to win some. Brother, the term communicates that Rome is not only the universal church but that we, at best, are separated brethren. Both implications are false. If these implications are false, then it is because God, the standard of truth, finds them false. The main difference between us is that you find liberty where I find none. But even on pragmatic grounds, allowing for a moment the liberty to use equivocal language to win some, I think you undermine your own noble cause, which is a cause I share with you – to lead people out of Rome. The pure gospel that has been entrusted to the church is being diluted by such foolish ecumenicism that is not after Christ.

    3.I do appreciate that we should never speak the truth unseasonably, and that is a truth we can’t underscore too much in discussions such as these. But Andrew, that principle must be walled in by another, which is that we may not use equivocal expressions. Both errors are violations of the ninth commandment. So, what’s the solution? That’s the question, is it not? “Roman Catholic” is an undoubtedly an equivocal expression and, therefore, it is my conviction that it is never under good regulation to use the term. However, when witnessing to my neighbor who has been deceived by the craftiness of Romanism, I will not refer to his communion by any other name than “your communion”. To use the term Romanism would be, in my estimation, to speak the truth unseasonably. I get it. Notwithstanding, and this is what I think you might be missing here – it’s not available to us to play along with the delusion of any Romanist who thinks he’s a member of the one, true church (and that our churches have separated themselves from the apostolic tradition). Indeed, we don’t need to call each Romanist a Romanist. On that point we can agree, but we have biblical precept for drawing a distinction between proselytizers and those being bewitched by them, a distinction I don’t think you have demonstrated a mature grasp of yet. What we’re dealing with on GreenBaggins are hardened criminals (not my neighbor) who have committed the most serious treason in God’s universe by calling good evil and evil good, and if that wasn’t enough, are crusading to make converts. They have brought their convictions and case to the arena, not my back porch.

    Ron

  12. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Rom,

    There is a whole world of difference between between “catholic” and “Roman Catholic” as any appropriate reference work will demonstrate. But I cannot imagine any Roman Catholic misunderstanding me if I use the term “Roman Catholic”. It’s seems your argument is that we should try to completely etymologically separate “Roman Catholic” from catholic. I think if we tried to do this with all of what we perceived to be the misnomers and oxymorons of common speech we would go quite mad. Should we be removing all such words and terms from our daily speech because the etymology of said terms might convey something that is not completely faithful to the concept we are trying to convey?

    If I use the term “Roman Catholic” I’m confident that any intelligent conservative Roman Catholic will know that I as a Reformed Protestant am not ascribing anything to him/her that cannot be rigorously defined in Ott, Denzinger, etc. And they clearly know that I believe much of what is in such dogmatic reference works to be heretical. And they think that I am materially and formally heretical for rejecting such doctrines. On these matters we agree, my use of terms to describe those in the Roman communion notwithstanding.

    If I use a term like “papist” I mean the same thing as “Catholic” or “Roman Catholic” but with the added slap in the face that the connotation of the term necessarily brings. Now if you believe that you must apply this slap in the face when addressing Roman Catholics in order to be completely etymologically and conceptually faithful then I can’t say anything more. But it seems to me to be a strange approach to take to the English language in general and an unfortunate handicap in trying to communicate with Roman Catholics.

  13. D. T. King said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Now if you believe that you must apply this slap in the face…

    I thought that the new rules included this-> “What do I mean by friendly fire? I mainly intend here a critique of tone from one person to another that fails to take into account the writer’s presuppositions.”

  14. paigebritton said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:56 am

    If I may, I note that Lane has used both the expression “Roman Catholic” and just plain “Catholic” in the post above. While we may sometimes need to remind ourselves, our conversational partners, and the lurkers that there is a difference between “Catholic”/”RC” and “catholic,” since the host of the blog has set this as a norm, it is not wrong in this setting to use these commonly understood expressions.

    My brothers Ron, Bob, & DTK, please feel free to clarify vocabulary in a thread if no one has yet done so. But unless Lane himself decides one ought not to use “Catholic” or “Roman Catholic” to describe the Roman communion and those within it, these expressions are acceptable here.

    (I do not know how Lane feels regarding “papist” and “Romanist,” as I do not remember him using these expressions himself.)

    your servant in Christ,
    Paige B.

  15. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:56 am

    If I use the term “Roman Catholic” I’m confident that any intelligent conservative Roman Catholic will know that I as a Reformed Protestant am not ascribing anything to him/her that cannot be rigorously defined in Ott, Denzinger, etc. And they clearly know that I believe much of what is in such dogmatic reference works to be heretical.

    Andrew,

    Statements like that indicate you are not going to interact with one bit of what I wrote. Repeating one’s own assertions and defending those assertions are separate matters and, sadly, too often confused.

    Best regards,

    Ron

  16. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:02 am

    But unless Lane himself decides one ought not to use “Catholic” or “Roman Catholic” to describe the Roman communion and those within it, these expressions are acceptable here…

    Paige,

    I have had no doubt they are acceptable here. My comments about those terms were an elaboration of my beliefs on the matter, but I don’t expect Andrew, Lane or anyone else for that matter to subscribe to those standards. I would have appreciated from Andrew a little more understanding of the mindset of some of the rest of us but that’s O.K. too.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  17. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:28 am

    All:

    • “Catholic” is the most unclear.
    • “Roman Catholic,” while containing the misnomer weaknesses identified, does have a sufficient historical referent that the many lurkers, not as familiar with the details of the broader debates bet RC and Prot, will understand and not confuse.
    • “Romanist,” has a technical equivalency, similar to “Calvinist.”
    • “Papist” has a more narrow technical usage, but one that is both less common and a bit pejorative.

    I would recommend not using the first as it is most easily open to giving confusion and misunderstanding, although we’re not going to moderate it’s usage.

    The latter two are proper to use, but possibly are best used when highlighting the proselytizing character of a Roman friend’s post. (I note that D.T. King seems to use the term only when seeking to make this kind of point.)

    In most discussions however, I recommend using second term, “Roman Catholic.” In spite of its weaknesses (inaccuracies), it nevertheless has a cultural meaning that is readily understood to be referring to the (apostate) Church associated with the Roman See. Most lurkers will not be tripped up by the weaknesses of the term, whereas they ordinarily don’t have the background to appreciate the usage of “Romanist” or “Papist”. If there is no particular need in the point you’re making, for the lurkers’ sakes I’d urge you to stick with “Roman Catholic” or “RC,” and leave “Romanist” and “Papist” for when the context calls for it.

    Still, using any of these terms will not result in automatic moderation. Ron has made a good point that we should all keep in mind. The label “Protestant” is still taught in the RCC as a term intended to be understood derogatorily. I may use it simply as a historical reference. Yet our RCC friends posting here use of it is akin to our use of “Romanist” or “Papist”. I take no offense when they call me a Protestant. Nor do I miss the point of their usage. I respect their sticking up for their convictions about our (supposed) wickedness of schism. They likewise will respect our sticking up for our convictions of their (in our opinion) apostasy.

    Enough of this particular debate please. Let all further discussion on it be private.

    Reed DePace
    (sub) moderator

  18. D. T. King said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:39 am

    My brothers Ron, Bob, & DTK, please feel free to clarify vocabulary in a thread if no one has yet done so. But unless Lane himself decides one ought not to use “Catholic” or “Roman Catholic” to describe the Roman communion and those within it, these expressions are acceptable here.

    Paige,

    I am not suggesting that Lane has indicated anything of that nature. Moreover, I am not taking anyone else to task for the descriptive terms they have chosen to employ. I am simply defending my use of the descriptions that I think are most applicable. I think it is a misrepresentation of our conviction to suggest that we (who do so) are employing the terms because we “believe that we *must slap* someone in the face.” I disagree with my brother Andrew on this issue, and I think his characterization of our position had now shifted to a critique of our tone, which is what I thought the new rules prohibited.

  19. D. T. King said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Reed,

    My apologies, I was in the process of posting when you were – I will cease and desist.

  20. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Ron,

    It’s entirely unhelpful to tell me that I’m not interacting with you without telling me what you think I have not addressed. My #12 is hardly just a repeat of my #9. Perhaps you read #12 too quickly – try ti again.

    So now you have a recommendation from Reed. Do you think he is recommending something that is forcing you to be misleading?

  21. paigebritton said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:13 am

    DTK & Ron,
    Understood. Just an attempt at clarity, there.
    pax,
    pb

    Thanks for the guidelines, Reed!

  22. greenbaggins said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I agree with Reed’s post. And, just to make sure, I would NOT recommend “RC” here, because R.C. Sproul, Jr. comes on to this blog fairly often, and that might be more than a bit confusing. If using abbreviations, please use RCC.

  23. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Andrew,

    My points to you still stand. To invoke Reed’s comments cannot possibly vindicate your own, or lack thereof, but that’s O.K.

    Ron

  24. Cris D. said,

    January 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

    First, let me express appreciation for the clearly worded doctrinal declaration:
    It is the opinion of the blog owner and the moderators that the Roman Catholic Church is apostate in its teachings. By this we refer to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
    I also appreciate the distinction between the theologies and the person holding to them in this clarifying of rules. To the Reformed here, let us be reminded C VanTil was always very careful to distinguish between the theology and the theologian; he consistently gave Karl Barth (et al) the benefit of the doubt, while never yielding an inch to their defective, erroneous teachings.

    Now as to the one possibly perjorative term, papist. Imagine my surprise as an M.Div student at WTS-PA when conversing with a Roman Catholic physical therapist (at Episcopalian All Saints Hospital), she referred to herself as a “pape”. Me: What did you call yourself? PT: A pape, a papist …

    All Saints has since merged into Chestnut Hill Hospital

    -=Cris=-

  25. Sean Patrick said,

    January 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

    If possible, I would ask clarity from David T King or Ron or any other person who claims that the Catholic Church (the one with the Pope in Rome) is not ‘catholic.’

    1) What does it take to actually and truly be ‘catholic?’

    2) Can you provide a list of ‘catholic’ churches’ in my zip code (77096)?

    3) Is it just the Catholic Church that is being singled out for not being ‘catholic?’ What about the Orthodox Churches or the Methodists or the Baptists? Are Arminan churches ‘catholic’ so long as they have an open communion?

    4) Are PCA churches which fence the Lord’s Supper to a greater degree than others not ‘catholic?’

    5) In your mind, what would it take for the Catholic Church to be regarded as ‘catholic?’

    Ron said: a true Romanist is sectarian in its views on the Supper and the communion of the saints.

    Does have open communion keep one ‘catholic?’ Is that what it takes to be ‘catholic?’ How does the Catholic definition and understanding of the ‘communion of the saints’ keep her from being truly ‘catholic.’

  26. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Sean (#25):

    The visible church, which is catholic under the gospel, consists of all those churches that profess the true faith. Churches are more or less visible, according as to how they preach the Gospel truly, administer the sacraments truly, and administer discipline truly.

    I think that ought to answer all five questions at once.

  27. Sean Patrick said,

    January 12, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Jeff –

    OK.

    Churches are more or less visible, according as to how they preach the Gospel truly, administer the sacraments truly, and administer discipline truly.

    Jeff, ok. I get that according to the opinion of many here including the moderators/owners that the Catholic Church (the one with the Pope in Rome) does not preach the Gospel truly.

    What about the Southern Baptist Convention and other churches which preach the Gospel quite differently (Arminian) that Pastor David T King? Are they not ‘catholic’ either?

  28. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Sean: let me ask you to make a point, rather than ask a question you know what our answer will be.

    The distinction is simple. We believe you are untied to an apostate church, a synagogue of Satan to use Scriptural language. The RCC used to be a true Church. It ceased being when it affirmed gospel denying language. This is nothing new to you.

    We know the contours of the counter argument as well. Please, don’t waste time trying to make a point over 5 or more comments that could simply be made with one.

  29. Sean Patrick said,

    January 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Reed.

    rather than ask a question you know what our answer will be.

    I honestly do not know what your answer will be to the question: Are Southern Baptist Convention churches ‘catholic’?

    I know that some of you apparently think that the Catholic Church is not ‘catholic.’ Got that.

  30. dozie said,

    January 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    “If possible, I would ask clarity from David T King or Ron or any other person who claims that the Catholic Church (the one with the Pope in Rome) is not ‘catholic.”

    Not every post requires a Catholic response; this is one such post. It is far more interesting to watch Protestants attempt some kind of agreement.

  31. John Bugay said,

    January 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Yes, churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, being filled with elect individuals, are a part of the universal Catholic church.

  32. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Hi John,

    Re: 31 – I would not say that “being filled with elect individuals” is a sufficient condition to make an organization part of the “universal Catholic church”. It’s not even necessary.The Kingdom Hall down the street might be filled with such that are not yet converted and a true church could be comprised of mostly hypocrites who will never come to saving faith. Doctrine is the key and not election lest we couldn’t know whether we were attending a true church.

    Ron

  33. Ron Henzel said,

    January 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    dozie wrote:

    It is far more interesting to watch Protestants attempt some kind of agreement.

    You mean the kind of agreement we find between, say Hans Küng and the National Catholic Reporter on the one hand and the Vatican on the other?

  34. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    If possible, I would ask clarity from David T King or Ron or any other person who claims that the Catholic Church (the one with the Pope in Rome) is not ‘catholic”… What does it take to actually and truly be ‘catholic?’

    Sean,

    Given what I said, the question you should be asking is not what qualifies a church to be catholic but rather what prohibits Rome from being catholic. The Roman communion disqualifies herself as “catholic” in many ways, such as her views that one must come through her mediation in order to feast on the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and that nobody can be saved without being in communion with the pope. It would be equally absurd for the PCA to say that only they have the Supper of the Lord or that to be saved one has to be in fellowhip with the office of Roy Taylor. Now of course, if Rome is the one true church and if she is the only one with the Supper, then of course she is intrinsically catholic all by herself. But since there are true churches that are not Romanist in doctrine, she is at best sectarian and at worst no church at all because of her monstrous claims.

    As for what does it take to be catholic, we might begin with what does it take to be a true church? The gospel might be a good start.

  35. John Bugay said,

    January 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Ron #32, I understand that, but the question was about churches of the Southern Baptist Convention being part of “the catholic church” and I was thinking Matt 18:20 and WCF 25, not necessarily the organizational aspect.

  36. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    JB, well then how do you know the SBC is filled with elect people? And if GBaggins is filled with elect people, is this community part of the catholic church? It must not be my day for tracking the brethren. :-) No biggy either way. Forget I mentioned it.

    Cheers,

    Ron

  37. John Bugay said,

    January 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Ron, I love what you’re doing here. I could probably be more clear sometimes too.

  38. AJ said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    “The distinction is simple. We believe you are untied to an apostate church, a synagogue of Satan to use Scriptural language”

    Synagogue of Satan? Very repulsive language indeed!

    If you care to look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church well it’s ALLL about Jesus Christ. if you look at the lives of catholic Saints through the ages it’s ALL about self-sacrifice, giving love, food, water, shelter, educational system, health care (second to none) etc to the poor, orhanage and destitute in accordance to the Love and commandments of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    If you are refering to the christian doctrines of the Catholic church as the Synagogue of satan and the Reformed (protestants in general) as the True gospel, then you are greatly mistaken, my friend but I wouldn’t say that reformed theology is the Synagogue of satan however I would say in my study too of the bible (catholics do read the bible too, amazing ,isn’t it) I really don’t find ANY either explicitly or implicitly the principles of “Faith Alone” and “Bible Alone”, so sorry. I do find though the doctrines of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ as REAL PRESENCE, the Primacy of Peter amongst the Apostles, the authority of the Church to settle disputes, Baptismal Regeneration and these stuffs were confirmed by my own readings of the Early Church Fathers.

    At the end of the day, the question is, HOW do you know you are right (interpretive) and we are wrong or any christian who disagree with you about the “essentials”? WHO determines the “essentials”? Is the criteria determining the “essentials” found in the Scripture?

    By the way, the name “romanists” or “papists” is NOT the same as calling people who are members of the Lutheran church as Lutherans or as Calvinists. The former are classified as slurs, just call us RC if it’s not too much to ask (even if you hated the doctrines of our Church).

    Peace to all.

  39. AJ said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Reed said, “The distinction is simple. We believe you are untied to an apostate church, a synagogue of Satan to use Scriptural language”

    Synagogue of Satan? Very repulsive language indeed!

    If you care to look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church well it’s ALLL about Jesus Christ at the beginning and Jesus Christ at the end.. if you look at the lives of Catholic Saints through the ages it’s ALL about self-sacrifice, giving love, food, water, shelter, educational system, Health care, Hospitals, charities (Second to None) etc to the poor, orhanage and destitute in accordance to the Love and commandments of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    It just doesn’t tie up, unless Satan converted to christianity.

    If you are refering to the christian doctrines of the Catholic church as the Synagogue of satan and the Reformed (protestants in general) as the True gospel, then you are greatly mistaken, my friend but I wouldn’t say that reformed theology is the Synagogue of satan.

    Grace to you.

  40. TurretinFan said,

    January 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Dear AJ:

    You may recall that Jesus’ usage of the term was this way:

    Revelation 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

    Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

    -TurretinFan

  41. Ron said,

    January 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    if you look at the lives of catholic Saints through the ages it’s ALL about self-sacrifice, giving love, food, water, shelter, educational system, health care (second to none) etc to the poor, orhanage and destitute in accordance to the Love and commandments of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    And just imagine all the more good that could have been done had the U.S. dioceses not needed to shell out 2.6 billion dollars in abuse-related costs since 1950.

  42. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    AJ: my reference is to the usage of the phrase in the reformed confessions. More or less we believe their reasons for calling the RCC apostate still apply. “Synagogue of Satan” is a term they used to describe the RCC, a church once part of the true Church, but which has fallen away.

    My usage was not intended to be pejorative, but descriptive.

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Sean (#27):

    It’s not binary. Churches are more or less pure, and some have degenerated so as to be no churches at all. Think “circle”, with no church in the center and some closer and some further from that center.

  44. pilgrim said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    “We acknowledge a distinction here between the teachings of the RCC, and the people in the RCC. ”

    As a former RC, and now a member in good standing of a PCA church, this approach is very important both ways-for one it avoids demonizing the other person–which helps us & helps them see each other as part of God’s creation and that we are all created in God’s image. This can allow for more discussion of the issues we have between us.

    It also helps, because not all RC’s believe all the teachings of the RCC, and not all members of the PCA hold to every word of the Westminster confession.

    I agree the teachings are what we oppose, not the people-except as they teach error.

    Good post.

  45. Reed Here said,

    January 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Sean: I took it that your background includes substantial familiarity with the reformed confessions (e.g., the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity).In fact, I thought this was the norm form the CtC guys.

    Is this assumption incorrect? If so, then I do apologize for assuming knowledge you are not familiar with.

  46. BobS said,

    January 13, 2011 at 12:17 am

    If you care to look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church well it’s ALLL about Jesus Christ at the beginning and Jesus Christ at the end.. if you look at the lives of Catholic Saints through the ages it’s ALL about self-sacrifice, giving love, food, water, shelter, educational system, Health care, Hospitals, charities (Second to None) etc to the poor, orhanage and destitute in accordance to the Love and commandments of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    39, Yes AJ, the RCC gospel is all about works. The self righteous works of the most holy saints. I can most certainly agree with that.

    Of Christ’s once and for all perfect work on the cross Heb.10:10 though, we hear nothing, but that it needs to be repeated in the sacrifice of the mass in order to wash away the sins that baptism didn’t absolve. Because again, Christ’s perfect work on Calvary was really not good enough in the first place.

    (Even further, he, who, the Apostles’ Creed tells us, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father is actually bodily worshiped (idolized) in the bread and wine of the mass.)

    This is love for Christ and to highly value what he has done once for all for sinners in their place on the cross? Pray tell, where does one get such a low and warped view of Calvary and an exalted view of the pomp, power and works of even so called religious men to essentially ignore it, even as they scurry about repeating or adding to it?

    It is not for nothing the Heidelberg Catechism from the Reformation concludes Q&A 80 on the difference between the Lord’s Supper and the Mass by calling it “an accursed idolatry”. It is a deceitful denial of the the sufferings and sacrifice of Jesus Christ under the cloak of religious traditions and specious imaginations of mere men.

    Can you think of anything more blasphemous to insist upon in contradiction to the gospel of God’s free mercy and sovereign grace in Christ alone which salvation he bought for his church on Golgotha?

    I can’t. But be forewarned. You’d be better off ignoring that question, if all you can do is prattle off the Roman answer. It will only add to your condemnation on that day.

  47. curate said,

    January 13, 2011 at 1:52 am

    I canot think of a single Roman of my acquaintance here in England who believes the Catechism of the RCC. They are generally deeply liberal in their views, support abortion, practice fornication, and by no means acknowledge the doctrine of their church.

    What they have in common is an affection for the Pope, but that is where it ends.

    I suspect that Vatican II was about not being left behind by their congregants. If they had remained the church they were, they would not have any followers int the West.

    Allegedly Roman Ireland is deeply liberal, and the clergy take pains not to push their people on dogma, lest they lose the lot.

  48. curate said,

    January 13, 2011 at 1:55 am

    I now one deeply devout Roman. She is Polish, and when she spoke of her faith, she immediately mentioned Mary as the object of her heart-felt devotion. That is the practical religion of these people when they are serious.

  49. Sean said,

    January 13, 2011 at 7:00 am

    # 45 – I am. I just want to see if all here are applying the standards consistently. It seems that some of you are very willing to say that the Catholic Church is not ‘catholic’ but a little more hesitant when it comes to other churches.

    # 47 & # 48 – At least the Catholic Church has not done what the Anglicans have done to appease the masses. Odd that you should boast when it is the Anglicans whose doctrines have run so far from the orthodox faith on account of public opinion.

  50. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 13, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I canot think of a single Roman of my acquaintance here in England who believes the Catechism of the RCC. They are generally deeply liberal in their views, support abortion, practice fornication, and by no means acknowledge the doctrine of their church.

    Curate,

    There was an interesting post a few months ago on here on Greenbaggins: https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/the-roman-communion-a-birds-eye-view/

    It’s a conversion story of one Ray Galea, a Catholic turned Protestant. who makes the interesting comment that Catholicism is often referred to as the “Buddhism of the West” because it can absorb such a great many things. To me this really nails one of the central problems of the RCC. Their concept of unity is in effect purely formal, and there is often little attempt to get local practices to conform to the orthodoxy of Rome. The brand of Catholicism that you experience in the UK is just one of innumerable types of Catholicism throughout the world. There are all sorts of synergistic blends of Catholicism and local religions/philosophies throughout the world.

    I think it’s important to talk about this very chameleon like nature of Catholicism with our Catholic friends. They look at all the splits of Protestantism, and particularly Reformed Protestantism, and to them it’s demonstration that there can be no true unity given the assumptions of the Reformation concerning the Church. But I see no evidence that Catholicism is any less divided than Protestantism. In Protestantism there is a division and the two parties formally separate. In Catholicism there is a division and the two parties don’t separate and both parties call themselves “Catholic.’ I’ve pointed out to our Roman Catholic friends that the second case is worse than the first. In Roman Catholicism there is a “unity” between those who formally affirm the central doctrines and practices of the Christian faith and those who formally deny them.

    The wonderful thing about the Reformed faith is that there is a true unity of belief and practice for those congregations that are consistent about their adherence to the Reformed confessions. Reformed Christianity (that is, the historic Christian faith derived from the Scriptures) is transformational as Catholicism never can be.

    So one of the things we need to consistently press with our Catholic friends is the nature of true Christian unity as we find it primarily in the Scriptures but then secondarily in the life of the Church in the early centuries of Christianity. So many of the Protestant turned Catholic folks leave for Rome in quest of the unity of the historic Christian faith, but I imagine that at least some of these converts experience some version of buyers remorse once they have settled into their new Roman home.

  51. BobS said,

    January 13, 2011 at 8:14 am

    49 I just want to see if all here are applying the standards consistently. It seems that some of you are very willing to say that the Catholic Church is not ‘catholic’ but a little more hesitant when it comes to other churches.

    So you admit your question might be other than forthright. Meanwhile you beg the question regarding black and white and outright formal and material apostasy from catholicism by Rome and the various shades of grey between those who would confess the catholic doctrine of the gospel of JBFA in Christ alone as per SS, but with varying degrees of faithfulness. But that’s not duplicitious?

    A rhetorical question for you, Mr. Patrick.
    That means you don’t have to answer it.
    Am I confused or did I nail it on the head?
    Is there anything new, we can expect from Rome?

    Thank you.

  52. Cris D. said,

    January 13, 2011 at 9:40 am

    #38 “the Primacy of Peter amongst the Apostles,”

    Where is that found? I was just thinking along similar lines. The NT narratives are Gospels and Acts. Cephas/Simon Peter is a prominent disciple in the Gospels and a prominent apostle in Acts; up through the Council in Acts 15 (Acts 15:14 is the last mention of Simon(Simeon) Peter in the narratives of the NT. Paul, by reason of birth, timing, circumstance and the call of God, does not appear in the Gospels, but shows up in Acts 9:1. Paul becomes the central figure of Acts from 9:1 to the end with the exception of Acts ch 10 and 11. Peter/Cephas is mentioned as a prominent Christian leader in 1 Cor (as in “I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas”, etc.). Peter’s only other appearance is when he is rebuked by Paul at Antioch for toadying to the Judaizers (Gal ch 2).

    Peter does contribute 2 epistles to the NT canon, but God used Paul to give us 13 epistles. The critics always noted the size of Paul’s place in the NT by positing Paul as the 2nd founder of Christianity, or describing the early days as “Jesus-movement” being absorbed into Paul’s “Christ religion.” Or remember W. G. Kummel’s book, “The Theology of the NT: Acc to its major witnesses- Jesus, Paul, John.

    I was just reflecting on the shadow cast by Paul across the NT because we are going through Ephesians in out Wednesday night groups. “I, Paul, the prisoner…” (3.1), had me reflect on Paul, his imprisonment, his prison letters, and the bearing of these on/in epistle to Ephesians. Taking Acts 18:23 as point where Ephesus becomes prominent in Acts, and it was from Ephesus that Paul sailed to Jerusalem and was arrested; I observe that roughly one-third of Acts is taken up with the Paul/Ephesus/Prison theme. Acts 1:1-18:22 = 656 verses (NASB); Acts 18:23-28:31 = 351 verses.

  53. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Sean, no. 49:

    You said: “# 45 – I am. I just want to see if all here are applying the standards consistently. It seems that some of you are very willing to say that the Catholic Church is not ‘catholic’ but a little more hesitant when it comes to other churches.”

    Then my original challenge still applies. You asked a question to which you knew the answer, but to which the potential for confusion on our part in response was strong. This would not have not necessarily been because of inconsistent application, but inconsistent understanding. That is not the kind of question to ask if one of your goals is to promote understanding with one’s opponent.

    Friendly advice intended here (for others as well): next time don’t ask a “loaded” question, one to which you can respond with a “gotcha” answer. I’ve made that mistake in the past, and know others here have as well. (I’m not singling you out per se).

    We strongly disagree over eternal matters. In such a context, worthwhile conversation must not be marred by even the appearance of disingenuosity that lends itself to distrust of one’s opponent. Respectful, even friendly conversation between individuals with such strongly opposed convictions over matters of eternity, is not encouraged by loaded-gotcha Q&A.

    Again, my suggestion is that next time ask the question under your question. Tell us what you’re probing (e.g., consistency in application) and let us respond directly. It will help eliminate some misunderstanding and allow our true differences to shine in the presence of the One who convinces/convicts hearts of the truth. We may still disagree with one another, but we will not be speaking in a manner that lends itself to distrust.

  54. Sean Patrick said,

    January 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Reed.

    I challenge the notion that I was not being ‘forthright.’ What needs to be aknowledged is that judging the Catholic Church as ‘non-catholic’ by the standards outlined here carries broader implications about one’s eccliesiology. If you are truly going to be consistant than you need to be prepared to accept that the ‘catholic’ church is really quite small – at least the visible church. Maybe you are ok with that. At any rate, I am quite certain that if I asked my Southern Baptist friends if they were catholic they would say, “No.”

    I am willing to drop it because when it comes down to the brass tax, the opinions of some about my church does not really concern me. As you know there is a variety of opinion in the PCA even about wheter the Catholic (in the papal sense) Church is a true church.

  55. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Sean: you asked a minimalist question that could have been answered in many different ways. This was not most conducive to yielding understanding. You could simply have prefaced your question with the kinds of qualifications you’ve made afterwards.

    As it is, your initial question gave the impression that you were asking for information you did not have. When I called you on that you pushed back challenging my assumption about your ownership of this knowledge. I offered an apology if I wrongly assumed your ownership of this knowledge. Then you responded to it by saying that, yes, you actually did have that knowledge all along.

    That is a pattern marked by disingenuity. I thought the best of you in assuming you were not aware of that pattern in my last comment. Your comment here is merely argumentative, trying to make the point that is already recognized.

    So now your evading as well. Maybe you don’t see this either.

    I’m not trying any gotcha here Sean. I’m willing to agree in principle with the point(s) you’re trying to make. My original and continued criticism is with how you asked it. You generate a lot of disagreement on this blog – and my opinion is that much of it is because of how you ask loaded questions.

    I’m seeking for peace where we can actually have it. You interested?

  56. Sean Patrick said,

    January 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Reed.

    If my question confused you, I am sorry.

    As it is, your initial question gave the impression that you were asking for information you did not have.

    I still do not have the information. What I asked is what I do not know. I do not know if you or anybody believe that the S. Baptist Convention is a ‘catholic’ church.

    When I called you on that you pushed back challenging my assumption about your ownership of this knowledge.

    You questioned my knowledge of Reformed Theology and the WCOF. This is a separate question as to how you judge the SBC.

    I offered an apology if I wrongly assumed your ownership of this knowledge. Then you responded to it by saying that, yes, you actually did have that knowledge all along.

    To my knowledge, the WCOF does not give a list of ‘catholic’ churches. I do know the marks of the church provided as previously outlined by Cagle but this leaves room for interpretation. To what degree must one teach the ‘true gospel’ to be a ‘true church’ e.g. ‘catholic.’

    Most of you I would think agree that the SBC is off on several points of the gospel am I wrong?

    So it goes like this…

    The Catholic Church is judged to be ‘non-catholic’ because her doctrines are not the true gospel.

    The SBC is judged to be catholic even though her doctrines are not quite the true gospel?

    Does that make any sense?

  57. TurretinFan said,

    January 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Sean Patrick:

    Did whatever “Reformed” church you were in really teach that the SBC denies part of the gospel? If so, which part?

    -TurretinFan

  58. Reed Here said,

    January 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Sean: you were playing games with your question. You are fully aware of the marks of the true church argument, as specified in the Belgic Confession, as per your own admission. Jeff Cagle did not tell you anything new when he specifically answered your question with that information.

    If you particularly wanted to know how we judge the SBC with reference to the marks of the true church argument – you could have asked that. Why didn’t you? Did you think we were ignorant of the argument? Why weren’t you straight forward? What did you hope to achieve by asking it the way you did?

    Seriously dude, your behavior here does not encourage me that you are seeking to be a straight shooter. I given most every benefit of the doubt I can (at least all I can think of; I’m open to any I missed). Now you’re just spinning.

    Disingenuous, whether you want to own it or not.

  59. Ron said,

    January 13, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I still do not have the information. What I asked is what I do not know. I do not know if you or anybody believe that the S. Baptist Convention is a ‘catholic’ church.

    No, the SBC is not a “catholic” church. It’s not even a church. It’s a denomination. If you want to discuss particular congregations within the convention, then I don’t think you’re likely to get qualified people on this site to comment because the chances are we would not be familiar with what the congregation affirms. It’s time to move on from your silly question.

    Ron

  60. AJ said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:03 am

    Ron said, “And just imagine all the more good that could have been done had the U.S. dioceses not needed to shell out 2.6 billion dollars in abuse-related costs since 1950.”

    I agree with you but let us not lose sight of the 95% of Catholic priests and members who sacrificed their time and even life in some forsaken land to spread the Love of Christ: as I mentioned before the charities the RCC gives to the less fortunate brothers and sisters (including non-catholics, non-christians) are second to none.

    CLEARGY ABUSE, AN OBJECTIVE LOOK:

    Jenkins, a NON-Catholic professor at Penn State has researched the topic of clergy sex abuse thoroughly. He wrote a book about the issue:

    http://www.amazon.com/Pedophiles-Priests-Anatomy-Contemporary-Crisis/dp/0195145976

    Let me give you some figures that Catholics should know and remember. For example, 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact in a study by the United Methodist Church , 41.8% of clergy women reported unwanted sexual behavior; 17% of laywomen have been sexually harrassed. Meanwhile, 1.7% of the Catholic clergy (found quilty of pedophilia) 5% pending cases subject to a trial while 10% of the Protestant Ministers have been found quilty and the BIGGEST OF ALL, GUESS WHO? U.S. school system were found to be in “staggering numbers” by the Fact Finding Commission – about 3 abuses per school day alone!

    The main stream media just hates the cathoolic Church and christians in general for our stand against the secular tide of abortion, gay-marriage and other life issues.

    Peace.

  61. AJ said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Bob said, ” Yes AJ, the RCC gospel is all about works. The self righteous works of the most holy saints. I can most certainly agree with that.”

    I don’t want to get off track/topic but who is claiming “self-righteousness” here? the Saints didn’t, the clergy didn’t, I dont….and the last time i checked the doctrine of the RCC about justification is that it is a free give from God , unmerited gift. (Catechism of the Catholic Church1992, 1996, 1997), However the distinction is that we as humans with free will NEED to “open” (cooperate) this gift otherwise it’s useless, like a gift that one throws away.

    In a nutshell, God gave you a blank check, it’s up for you to cash it.

    Good reading about justification by faith working through love (Galatians 5:6, Romans 16:17-27):

    http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/a126.htm

    1 Corinthian 13:2, “ and though I have ALL FAITH, so that I could remove mountains, but have no LOVE, I am nothing.”

    NOTHING MEANS NOTHING: worse than a sinner.

    Lk. 13:24 , “STRIVE (make every effort) to enter by the arrow gate for many I say will try and not be able!” (JESUS Himself is telling you to MAKE EVERY EFFORT to enter into eternal life, for many will try and not make it! The pastors are telling you just the opposite…make NO effort! Who are you going to believe?

    Hebrews 12:14, “Make EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with all men AND TO BE holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord”.

    The Scripture is replete with verses that without good works (love) there is no salvation. NO LOVE NO SALVATION.

  62. curate said,

    January 14, 2011 at 2:55 am

    “In a nutshell, God gave you a blank check, it’s up for you to cash it.”

    This is the heretical doctrine of works in a nutshell. Freewill is nothing else than works, making man the pivot in his salvation, and thus robbing God and Christ of the glory that is their due.

    Justification is a gift that is effectually applied to every believer as an act of unilateral grace. This has to be the case because man is not a free agent, but full of sin, and a slave of the Lord of the Air. Grace is given to a man without reference to his freewill, because freewill is a myth, a legend, an empty word.

    By grace a man is changed from a slave of sin and the devil to being a slave of God and Christ. No freedom there, just mercy. When God gives a man the new heart and mind he does it sovereignly, consulting only his own will and good pleasure.

  63. paigebritton said,

    January 14, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Hey, Sean,
    I wonder if you are trying to ask whether Arminianism (as opposed to Calvinism) counts as “the gospel,” and you hit (unfortunately) on the SBC as an example of this system of theology? If so, I’d judge that a valid question.

    Remember Jeff’s “catholic” circle: no church is in the center (having it all perfectly correct), but some churches are closer to the center than others. Not to be snobbish, but because we are convinced that Calvinism/Reformed theology (as articulated in the WCF) is the best expression of the biblical witness, we would say that those who follow an Arminian-leaning theology (whether consciously or by default, as in most American evangelicalism) have part of their soteriology awry — the part that explains about the human condition prior to conversion (which has implications for life after conversion). In their view, there’s just enough remnant of “okayness” in a person that motivates revivalism, moralistic preaching, and self-help books (whereas we would emphasize spiritual deadness, gospel preaching, and the help of the Holy Spirit).

    But this difference is not enough to set these brothers and sisters outside the circle; we’d hope very much that they’d come closer to center, but as long as they preach the gospel of salvation by grace through faith, they count as “catholic.” (There’s a spectrum of thought amongst Arminian-leaning churches, though, so probably some of these churches have “self-helped” themselves beyond the circumference.)

    (My brothers here can feel free to tweak this answer if it falls short. :)
    pax,
    Paige B.

  64. Cris D. said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Jeff Cagle (#43) said,

    Sean (#27): It’s not binary. Churches are more or less pure, and some have degenerated so as to be no churches at all. Think “circle”, with no church in the center and some closer and some further from that center.

    Jeff C. (and all)

    I would say it is both binary and not binary. When the focus is “more or less pure”, we are recognizing a spectrum – the church in a fallen world is in a messy situation. That phrase “more or less pure” is from WCF 25.4 and is in reference to the visibility of the Church, and “marks” of the Church.

    But, acknowledging this messy situation, WCF 25.5 goes on to note “The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.”

    So, once a given group has degenerated to as to be no church at all, then the line has been crossed, and there is indeed a binary situation. Even the circle illustration still has a boundary line, inside the circle vs. outside the circle.

    The Belgic Confession does indeed focus exclusively on the binary factor: Churches are either true or false. BC 29 ends with the simple statement: “These two churches are easily recognized and distinguished from each other.” From http://www.canrc.org / the Canadian & American Reformed Churches

    The simplicity of the statement then has to be addressed in our messy contexts in a pastoral and theological way (no contradiction or difference in those 2 really). There is no silver-bullet, no document or checklist can replace the hard work of person to person communicating the truth to God’s glory and the good of our neighbor.

    I think that was the purpose of refining and clarifying guidleines for discussion in the parent post to all these comments!

    -=Cris=-

  65. Sean Patrick said,

    January 14, 2011 at 9:29 am

    # 63 – thank you Paige for realizing my intent and engaging with my question. I appreciate your fair mindedness.

    # 64 – this is also what I was trying to engage. Apparently I didn’t do a good job of it, however.

    Reed – After reading your previous I have decided not to contribute to the discussion here any further.

  66. Reed Here said,

    January 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Sean: sorry for your response. Again, your welcome to participate in discussions. My advice was not by way of moderating requirements. I reiterate my good intentions in my exchange here with you.

  67. January 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this question of what constitutes a catholic church, and of which churches get to lay claim to that title. The issue is a tricky one, I think.

    For example, if we say that the reason the RCC is not catholic is because it teaches novel doctrines that were unknown to the early church fathers, then we may end up proving too much, since lots of Reformed scholars admit that the ECFs believed in baptismal regeneration, which we reject (Fesko being the most recent). So does the fact that we Reformed stand in isolation from RCs, EOs, Anglicans, and Lutherans mean that we are not catholic?

    If we take Rome’s aberrant soteriology as proof that the’re not catholic, then what about evangelical Protestant churches that have an almost identical view concerning the relationship of faith to works? Why not exclude them, too?

    Or, if we say that the RCC is not catholic because by its very nature it narrows the field in a sectarian kind of way, saying that only those in agreement with them are going to be saved, then what does that say about some of us? Not too long ago someone here pretty cavalierly went on record as saying that neither Augustine nor any of the early fathers would be in heaven if they did not believe in the imputation of alien righteousness.

    My point is that in order to insist that the RCC is not catholic, we need to first come up with rules that do not exclude us, or at least take the rules we have and apply them consistently (this is where our pal Zrim is very challenging, asking us to be as dismissive of evangelicals as we are of “Romanists”).

    Maybe the real question is whether we think that determining the rules of catholicity makes the church bigger, or smaller.

  68. Reed Here said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Jason: I’ve no problem applying the marks of the true church doctrine – and limiting the discussion to that alone.

    Following that line, if an evangelical church is in line with Rome’s soteriology, should any of us hesitate to declare it not a true church? How about Machen’s Liberalism and Christianity? In my sad acknowledgement of Rome’s apostasy I’ve not placed them in a sacrosanct, exclusive category.

    We make lack some of the fortitude of our fathers. But that does not muddy the waters here the way some are wont to do.

  69. January 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Reed,

    Then Sean’s question is fair: What about Baptists? Many of them are Arminian, and none of them administers the sacraments as Christ instituted them.

    Or to change the example, why are FV churches not true churches but Lutheran ones are? Lutherans teach baptismal regeneration and deny the perseverence of the saints.

    My point is that we may have a tendency toward being overly cavalier here.

  70. Zrim said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    But not only the soteriology and baptismal sacramentology of broad evangelicals but also eucharistic. If Heidelberg 80 rightly condemns the popish mass to the extent that it contradicts the Lord’s Supper, what about saying just as forthrightly that the altar call “…at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry”?

    Some talk about writing new confessions in light of the FV errors. Fine and very good, but, unless I missed it, I do wonder why the errors of revivalism didn’t prompt such suggestions.

  71. David Gray said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    >But not only the soteriology and baptismal sacramentology of broad evangelicals but also eucharistic.

    Spot on.

  72. Reed Here said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Jason: my criticism was leveled at Sean’s first questions, found in no. 25 above, particulalry these two questions:

    “1) What does it take to actually and truly be ‘catholic?’
    2) Can you provide a list of ‘catholic’ churches’ in my zip code (77096)?”

    I never said his specificity of the SBC was out of order. On the contrary, I said he should have asked that question first. I was challenging Sean that if he had asked the more focused question it would have been more helpful for the conversation. In these discussions between our RCC friends and us there is enough opportunity for tension without needing to add opportunity for it with such questions.

    So, respectfully, your criticism doesn’t apply.

    As to FV churches not being true churches, who said that in this thread?

  73. Reed Here said,

    January 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    And Jason, I don’t see anyone being overly cavalier. If Sean was interested in determining whether or not we apply our criticism of the RCC as apostate consistently, fair question.

    That is not what his first questions asked.

  74. curate said,

    January 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    The test of catholicity is twofold: the right preaching of the gospel and the right administration of the sacraments. Freewill churches are in error on the first point, which includes both Rome and most evangelicals, and non-sacramental churches and their friends are in error on at least the second. That too includes most evangelicals.

  75. Ron said,

    January 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Guys and Gal,

    I think some might be collapsing catholic into church and church into catholic. Let’s visit some first principles. An organization must be a church in order for it to be a catholic church. That’s axiomatic. Assuming that an organization is a church, then we may want to determine whether it is a “catholic” church in its practice. In my posts regarding Rome, I chose to table the question of whether Roman communions are true churches in order to point out that their sectarian view of the Supper, for instance, is not catholic in any sense of the word (since their claim does not allow any communion to have the Supper). Accordingly, even if one wants to claim that any given Roman communion is a true church, it is undeniable that their practice is not catholic.

    Other observations:

    For a Romanist to consider any Protestant congregation a church, he must assert that a church need not be able to practice the Supper, a monstrosity indeed. If the Romanist maintains that only Roman communions are true churches, then of course they underscore the point that they’re not catholic.

  76. Phil Derksen said,

    January 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I’m a bit confused here (nothing new, I know). Are we using “catholic” here in the same sense of how the terms “true church” (vs. a “false church”) is normally used in Reformed parlance?

  77. Ron said,

    January 14, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I’m not, Phil, but I believe others seem to be doing just that, which is why I posted 75.

  78. BobS said,

    January 14, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    While I am a jus divinum presbyterian with no love for prelacy, if the truth be told, the theological curator of independent anglicanism in 62 answered AJ in 61 on free will quite well.

    I would only add that Romans 9:15,16 is quite clear:

    For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

    Note bene that Paul says salvation is due to the mercy of God, not willing or running. IOW most protestants understand that running off on pilgrimages or to mass or even running around doing good works commanded in the Scripture is not enough to save anybody.

    But neither do most arminian evangelicals understand in principle, that believing one is saved on the basis of the “work” of my sinful free will in choosing Christ, is still to believe in a works righteousness, albeit a more subtle and cunning version.

    IOW contra Billy Graham, the American apostle of arminianism, or Jimmy Carter, salvation is not all about “How to Be Born Again”, i.e. that first you choose Christ and then you are regenerated. Rather the light has come into the world and all men forsook it. Unless God chooses and regenerates a sinner, dead in his trespasses, like Lazarus in the grave, they will not come to Christ.

    Neither do most protestants realize that at the Reformation, free will was reprobated across the board by Luther, Calvin, Knox and the English Reformers, as well as in the Canons of Dordt or WCF 9:3,4. So it comes as no real surprise that AJ as a romanist, believes in and affirms free will. Because it is biblical no less.

    What might come as a surprise, is that just as neoconservative repuglicanism is pretty much as socialist as dimocrat progressivism, so too, modern evangelicalism is pretty much as enthusiastic about free as the Roman church. While it might make for odd spiritual bedfellows, as long as the bedbugs don’t bite and ignorance remains bliss, the religious slumber party continues to prosper and wax fat.

    For the slaughter.
    In the spiritual slaughter house of Rome.
    Let the P&R beware.

  79. Cris D. said,

    January 14, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Another angle on the catholicity question: Is that a “mark” of a true church? Not sure it is in the sense of the “big three” (right preaching/Gospel, right admin of sacraments, rightly administering discipline).

    WCF 25.1 defines catholicity in terms of time/eternity/decree: all the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered to Christ the Head of the Church.

    WCF 25.2 defines catholicity geographically/ethnically: it is all those professing the true religion (along with their children!). So in terms of time/eternity, this universal, visible church is focused on the present – the precise interest we have in saying, which/where is the true church now?

    Can an body not be catholic in either of those two senses, and yet be true?

    Let’s see, if my flock decides that Gentiles can’t be part of the Church, or people of this or that ethnic or geo-political stripe can’t be part of the church, that their profession of faith is not accepted or recognized, because of where they live or who their ancestors were, etc., have I just broken with keeping the 3 marks of the church? I’m not sure I have. I may not want to accept that Hobbits can be christians, etc. But by simplely refusing to have fraternal church relations with the Presbyterian Church O’ the Shire, because it’s the Shire and not because they’ve replaced Scripture with the Red Book of Westmarch, has my communion lost marks of the Church?

    Not sure I’ve expressed myself clearly, but this is trying to get at 75/76/77 also.

    -=Cris=-

  80. paigebritton said,

    January 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Hi, Phil,
    you wrote: Are we using “catholic” here in the same sense of how the terms “true church” (vs. a “false church”) is normally used in Reformed parlance?

    Jeff (in #26 & 43) gave us the visual metaphor of a circle, based on WCF’s 25.4, to acknowledge the reality that “catholic” churches in this dispensation are going to be “more or less pure.” So I think Cris D. & I picked up this idea in our comments. But no, “catholic” (by WCF usage) just means “universal,” or (25.2) “not confined to one nation, as before under the law.” It is hard to talk about catholicity, though, without talking about true/false, pure/impure, I think.

    pax,
    pb

  81. paigebritton said,

    January 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    All,
    Re. arminianism and evangelicalism, I deeply agree: the theological carelessness and ignorance in the American scene is heartbreakingly real. A lot of us have come out of that scene with great relief. It’s a legitimate and perceptive question of Sean’s, whether such churches should even be counted among the particular expressions of God’s “catholic” (i.e., “universal,” “not confined to one nation,” WCF 25.2) church. Which raises the issue of true/false churches, and how we identify one or the other.

    My explanation to Sean in #63 is more hopeful than what a lot of you guys would say, I know! But I’m operating with BCO 58-4 in the back of my mind, in which the minister invites to the Supper “all those who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the ordinance.”

    pax,
    Paige B.

  82. paigebritton said,

    January 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Cris,
    I was just reading the same passages and I think you have the definition of “catholic” mixed up with the definition of “visible”…

    25.2 the part about “catholic” (which is defined as “universal” and “not confined to one nation, etc.”) modifies “visible” church, but is not defined by the next phrase (which goes on to define the “visible” church some more).

    Read it again in the WCF; am I right?

    pb

  83. curate said,

    January 15, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Luther said that Rome and the Anabaptists of his day were “joined at the tail” , despite their verbal attacks upon each other, because they were in essence the same beast – a works religion in their exaltation of freewill above the cross and the grace of God.

  84. Cris D. said,

    January 15, 2011 at 5:33 am

    PB, when I wrote (#79) So in terms of time/eternity, this universal, visible church is focused on the present – the precise interest we have in saying, which/where is the true church now? I was unclear. At minimum I slipped in “true church” where I wanted “catholic church.” What I would edit that line to say is:

    So, for us saints, for the church living in the time between Pentecost and the consummation, the universal church has a visible aspect. And it is precisely the universal church as visible that we are interested in: which/where is the catholic church, who are the “particular Churches, which are members thereof”?

    Look at this little concatenation of the first lines of first four paragraphs of WCF 25:
    25.1 The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect…
    25.2 The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law)…
    25.3 Unto this catholic visible Church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life to the end of the world…
    25.4 This catholic Church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular Churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the Gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

    I am struck by the visibility of the catholic Church in WCF! My Canadian Reformed friends like to focus on the particularness of churches, the church always has an address. They see the Presbyterians as too quick to always jump to the invisible church as some silver bullet to get us past whatever difficult juncture we face. But I am realizing that WCF has a very definite focus on the visible church, even in its catholicity.

    -=Cris=-

  85. paigebritton said,

    January 15, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Nice, Cris. I appreciate those thoughts!
    pb

  86. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 15, 2011 at 7:21 am

    They see the Presbyterians as too quick to always jump to the invisible church as some silver bullet to get us past whatever difficult juncture we face. But I am realizing that WCF has a very definite focus on the visible church, even in its catholicity.

    Chris – I’m in the middle of teaching a 13 week class on Ecclesiology and this question of the dissatisfaction with the visible church has been one of the important topics of discussion. I think you are absolutely correct about Presbyterians hiding from the visible although I would say it is a problem endemic in Evangelicalism as a whole and part of the reason why so many Evangelicals check out of the visible church altogether. The message I have had for my class is that this is a very dangerous place to be and as Calvin said (riding the coat tails of Cyprian) we cannot ordinarily hope for salvation if we reject the nurturing work of the Church that God has ordained. And yes, this was a visible Church that he spoke of.

    The messiness of the visible church is just something that we must accept and there is no way for us to tighten things up that I can see. Roman Catholicism tries to solve matters by proclaiming everyone baptized in Rome’s visible church to be part of the visible church but this reduces the visible church to a collection of individuals with nothing but a formality to unite them. The FV folks have tried sort of a Catholic lite version of the visible church by proclaiming that all baptized persons are Christians but then disciplining those who later stray. Certainly that’s a better situation than what’s in the RCC, but it’s saying far more about the efficacy of baptism than what the confessions and Scripture say and the FV cannot decide amongst themselves exactly what baptism does. In “some sense” the baptized person is saved they say, but when we ask them exactly what sense we get all manner of different answers.

    But the FV baptized-person-equals-Christian solution is meant to solve some of this messiness of the visible church, but is there really a problem to begin with? As me move further out in Jeff Cagle’s circle we find Evangelicals becoming more and more ignorant of the lessons from the history of the Church and more and more comfortable with Pelagian bastardizations of the gospel. But is this a problem for us? Some folks from communions self consciously outside of the circle tell us we Protestants have a problem but it’s not anything that keeps me up at night.

    On the SBC and other such denominations, there are countless Christians who have come to trust Christ, and by their confessions have come to rely on Him alone for their salvation. But after being drawn to Christ they may have some mistaken notion that God to some degree used their will in the process. But this mistaken idea that coming to Christ involves an interaction of God’s will with ours is an error to be sure, but not necessarily one that places someone outside of God’s grace. And it is certainly an error of a different magnitude than the one where the individual believes that it is partly his working and partly his faith in the sacrifice of Christ that works together to save. As I see it there are some grades of Arminianism that are serious errors but do not necessarily place the adherent of those errors outside of the Kingdom. So how far from the center of the circle do we travel before we leave the Kingdom? Well, that’s the aforementioned messiness that we can never resolve. God’s secret purposes are just that, secret. So much of the attempt to more completely define the visible church is an attempt to know what God has not revealed to us.

  87. Cris D. said,

    January 15, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Andrew:

    Sounds like you are making good points with your class. I was OPC for many years (thru college, WTS and beyond, approx 15 yrs), was Canadian Reformed for approx 18 yrs (I am old!). I greatly appreciate the nuances and differences between Presbyterian and Reformed polity and practice and both types can learn from the other.
    Confessional Presbyterians (American Presbyterians) definitely need to relearn the visible, particularity of the church/churches. I think it possible to go too far in terms of control over fencing the Lord’s Supper, just as it’s easy to go way too broad or open with access to the Lord’s Supper (LS). And access to LS is a part of church fraternal relations, this question of catholicity, etc.
    So American Presbyterianism has taught evangelicalism the wrong emphasis,or an imbalance concerning visible/invisible. Funny that evangelicalism can glom onto the invisible church without also as broadly or firmly grab the decretal/election basis of that in WCF 25.1!

    But to repeat a theme of mine and give credit, it’s messy out there because it’s people out there. Nothing can short cut the difficult fact that we must be involved in one anothers lives. It’s pastoral and theological, neither works well without the other. Dr. Gaffin at WTS taught us that the pastoral task is also a theological task (and applies even to ruling elders). I learned it’s always a “people problem” via my programming/consulting career from Gerald Weinberg, The Secrets of Consulting.

    The First Law of Consulting:
    In spite of what your client may tell you, there’s always a problem.
    The Second Law of Consulting:
    No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.

    There’s a 3rd law (and the book is full of gems as laws, rules, secrets and effects). But I am just now struck by the thought I should re-read the books as a “pastoral theology” text, as a handbook for ministry. In fact, if I were on faculty at a seminary I would assign it as such (even if I was teaching biblical languages!).

    -=Cris=-

  88. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

    For thought and in response to Jason (#67):

    Still, as in ancient times, there remained among the Jews certain special privileges of a Church, so in the present day we deny not to the Papists those vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them amid the dissipation. When the Lord had once made his covenant with the Jews, it was preserved not so much by them as by its own strength, supported by which it withstood their impiety. Such, then, is the certainty and constancy of the divine goodness, that the covenant of the Lord continued there, and his faith could not be obliterated by their perfidy; nor could circumcision be so profaned by their impure hands as not still to be a true sign and sacrament of his covenant. Hence the children who were born to them the Lord called his own, (Ezek. 16: 20) though, unless by special blessing, they in no respect belonged to him. So having deposited his covenant in Gaul, Italy, Germany, Spain, and England, when these countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, He, in order that his covenant might remain inviolable, first preserved baptism there as an evidence of the covenant; – baptism, which, consecrated by his lips, retains its power in spite of human depravity; secondly, He provided by his providence that there should be other remains also to prevent the Church from utterly perishing. But as in pulling down buildings the foundations and ruins are often permitted to remain, so he did not suffer Antichrist either to subvert his Church from its foundation, or to level it with the ground, (though, to punish the ingratitude of men who had despised his word, he allowed a fearful shaking and dismembering to take place,) but was pleased that amid the devastation the edifice should remain, though half in ruins.

    Therefore while we are unwilling simply to concede the name of Church to the Papists we do not deny that there are churches among them. The question we raise only relates to the true and legitimate constitution of the Church, implying communion in sacred rites, which are the signs of profession, and especially in doctrine. Daniel and Paul foretold that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God, (Dan. 9: 27; 2 Thess. 2: 4;) we regard the Roman Pontiff as the leader and standard-bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. By placing his seat in the temple of God, it is intimated that his kingdom would not be such as to destroy the name either of Christ or of his Church. Hence, then, it is obvious, that we do not at all deny that churches remain under his tyranny; churches, however, which by sacrilegious impiety he has profaned, by cruel domination has oppressed, by evil and deadly doctrines like poisoned potions has corrupted and almost slain; churches where Christ lies half-buried, the gospel is suppressed, piety is put to flight, and the worship of God almost abolished; where, in short, all things are in such disorder as to present the appearance of Babylon rather than the holy city of God. In one word, I call them churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of his people, though miserably torn and scattered, and inasmuch as some symbols of the Church still remain – symbols especially whose efficacy neither the craft of the devil nor human depravity can destroy. But as, on the other hand, those marks to which we ought especially to have respect in this discussion are effaced, I say that the whole body, as well as every single assembly, want the form of a legitimate Church. — Calv Inst 4.2.11-12.

  89. paigebritton said,

    January 15, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Gosh, Cris, lookin’ very suave and debonair for your age there…
    :)


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