Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Nice Little Controversial Post

With all the hoopla surrounding the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to America and all the words I hear in Reformed and Evangelical circles of "being glad the Pope is Catholic again" I wonder how many of us Reformed and Evangelical folk would be willing to agree with the 25th Chapter of the WCF where it says:
VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.
Well I do. What say you?


Steven Carr said...

Amen, preach it brother!

Vic said...

I go with it. Chapter 26, paragraph 4 of the 1689 LBC follows right along with that.

J.R. Polk said...

No problem here. :)

Tim said...

Benjamin, did you know that the ARP took the "antichrist" part out of the WCF? I would have probably had to take an exception to it if they hadn't -- not because I don't believe the church of Rome and its Head Bishop stands against the gospel. He certain does (I blogged about his old school RC habits here: http://gairneybridge.reformedblogs.com/2007/07/13/rome-again-rome-again/). I always viewed John's use of antichrist differently: he is obviously speaking of proto-gnostics/docetists, which the Bishop of Rome is not; if one wants to be picky, there are "many antichrists", not "the Antichrist."

Having said all that, Bishop Ratzinger is obviously a foe of the gospel of our Lord. He denies the sufficiency of Scripture, promotes the old Latin mass, does not recognize non-Roman churches (i.e., Protestants are not part of the "true church"), and wants to reinstitute indulgences. OK, maybe I wouldn't use the specific term "Anti-Christ", but that's pretty much, well, anti-Christian.

I shall pray that the Lord open his eyes to the error of his ways. Imagine: if the Bishop of Rome actually converted to Biblical Christianity. That would be great! Just think what that would do to Rcs. I'm praying for both him and Oprah. Then revival might break out.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Yeah I noticed that Tim.

Wonder if I could scruple it back in? ;)

Anyway I understand your point. So maybe the Pope is "an Anti-Christ" then...

Tim said...

We need to work on getting rid of those chapter on the gospel and the HS that were tacked on at the end to "soften" the Calvinism. ARPs always wanted to copy the Southern Presbyterians way back when...

I could probably go with "an Anti-Christ", except that it seems to go against 2 John 7: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist." OK, John actually does say the in that verse (though he still references "many" of these buggers). Obviously, the Bishop of Rome (I am boycotting using the "P" word) is not a Docetist, so the statement would not directly apply. However, I will concede that in the boarder context, John is warning against false teachers who proclaim faith in a false christ, and that's probably a bit closer to the true matter of things.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I agree with your thoughts on those two chapters at the end. Seems like the ARP has always suffered from a bit of "little brother" syndrome.

Presbyman said...

This may get me tossed out of the Consistory (or at least given a warning), but I would scruple such language. I do not believe the recent Popes, at least, are anti-Christs or even anti-Christians. John Paul II and Benedict XVI have stood consistently for strong Christian values, such as the sanctity of life and human freedom against oppression (including the oppression of Islamic extremism), and evangelization. Despite their different conception of what the Church is, even Benedict XVI has acknowledged that salvation can certainly be received in other churches.

In a world where both Islamic extremism and rampant secularism threaten human rights and dignity, it strikes me as monumentally foolish to consider the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church to be the enemy of the Christian faith. There ARE real enemies out there, and we must not forget that fact while rehashing every disagreement of the 16th century.


John Erthein

Tim said...

One thing I'm finding more and more bothersome is the fact that so many conservative radio talk show hosts are RC and are fawning over the visit of the BoR to the US (Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingram, Bill Bennett, etc.). Are there no conservative Protestant talk show hosts out there who know a stitch about, say, Reformed Christianity? And please don't mention Hugh Hewitt. He was willing to give Mormonism a pass because he was too busy fawning over Mitt Romney. HH is/was Presbyterian (possibly an elder?), but also seems to attend RC churches on occasion as well.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

I wonder though Rev. John if the Soteriological issues and the Sola's are not worth fighting for just as much as "social issues"? I think, personally, that the false teaching of Rome concerning salvation is as much an important fight, if not more, as social issues.

J.R. Polk said...


At the risk of sounding unkind . . . Are you serious? Yours are the same the kind of liberal, ecumenical sentiments that caused me to resign as a Ruling Elder a few weeks back. Presbyterians are definately headed in the wrong direction.

You say:

Despite their different conception of what the Church is, even Benedict XVI has acknowledged that salvation can certainly be received in other churches.

He also believes that the plan of salvation includes the muslim.

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Catechism Of The Catholic Church

You say:

. . . it strikes me as monumentally foolish to consider the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church to be the enemy of the Christian faith.

Last time I checked, Rome still anathematizes justification by faith alone,(see Trent session 6), among many other doctrines Protestants hold as essential. By this one thing alone Rome effectively repudiates the Gospel and renders itself intolerable.

I think what's monumentally foolish here John, (using your own words), is for a Presbyterian TE, as you claim to be, to not only think the way you do, but to publically utter such ideas.


I apologize to you if I have gone "overboard" with my comments, but as a former officer I firmly believe that I have the right to give such an admonition.

In His Service,
J.R. Polk

Presbyman said...

Well, it's always interesting to be tarred with the "liberal" label. Doesn't happen to me that often nowadays, but anything is possible.

John Erthein
"Claims to be" a Pastor

Presbyman said...

Here is one article concerning areas of agreement and disagreement between Evangelicals and Catholics. It is a far more thoughtful and comprehensive look at some of these questions than is possible in blog postings:


Reformed Catholic said...

Presbyman said...

Well, it's always interesting to be tarred with the "liberal" label. Doesn't happen to me that often nowadays, but anything is possible.

John Erthein
"Claims to be" a Pastor

Yeah, that one had me scratching my head too ... guess he hasn't read your blog !

J.R. Polk said...


It's amazing that after I point out two very crucial areas of profound disagreement between Protestants and Rome, such as sola fide and the impossibility of salvation outside of Christ, your main point of contention is being labeled a "liberal." Unbelievable.

The point is clear. If you get the Gospel wrong, as Rome most certainly does, rendering herself a synagogue of Satan (WCF 25:5, nothing else matters. Rome rips the heart out of God's grace and you wish to gloss over it.

You say:

Here is one article concerning areas of agreement and disagreement between Evangelicals and Catholics.

Again, get justification by faith alone wrong and nothing else matters. It just so happens that Dr. James White just posted a video that speaks ato your mind-set.


Presbyman said...


It seems that anything I say (no matter how softly) is going to cause you offense, making you respond angrily. I am sorry that is the case. You might want to actually look at some of the ECT documents as they explain why some committed Protestants and Catholics can find areas of common ground while holding to important theological distinctives.

Anonymous said...

Here's my thoughts. Bring me up on charges if you want... ;)

There is no doubt that the Roman Catholic church and the Popes are deeply flawed in some of the most critical doctrines of the Christian faith. But they DO affirm the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds and therefore, they are nominally Christian.

Are they corrupt in many ways? Yes. Do they blurr the clarity of the Gospel by praying to Mary, Saints and bowing down to statues and the like? Absolutely! Do they also twist the clear meaning of God's Word by calling their leaders, "Father" and holding the Pope to an almost-divine status? Sure. Are they a true church of Jesus Christ? I don't think so.

But we must not forget that even within Roman walls, there are many Christians DESPITE what they have heard from the cathedra.

But there are some issues on which we need to work together. We need to stand alongside them for life issues and cultural warfare against the evils of our day.

Frankly, the RC church is probably more Christian than many mainline churches these days... :(

J.R. Polk said...

It seems that anything I say (no matter how softly) is going to cause you offense, making you respond angrily. I am sorry that is the case.

I have searched in vain for "anger" in my posts. It's simply not there. I have been respectfully assertive, but not angry. It would seem that you feel the need to employ this red herring to detract from your continued gloss of the central issue. I am sorry that is the case.

You might want to actually look at some of the ECT documents as they explain why some committed Protestants and Catholics can find areas of common ground while holding to important theological distinctives.

I have read those documents. Common theological distinctives are beside the point -- which I have made many times now. I also gather from your first post that you confuse high moral standards with Gospel integrity. This is sadly uncritical of a formally trained Presbyterian TE.

You say committed Protestants and Catholics can find areas of common ground. I would point out once again that sola fide would appear to be the elephant in the room. Rome is not going to give in on this one. As a Presbyterian officer, this should be your first "commitment." Any group that eviscerates grace and faith, i.e. the Gospel, as Rome does, should be seen for what our confessional standards say they are. This is truly a sad day.

Gary said...

>I have searched in vain for "anger" in my posts.

Perhaps you're not looking hard enough. I read your posts and it looks like your ready to get the bonfire going to put presbyman on it.

You won't even read his point. You just look for things to argue about. He never said the Catholics were 100% Orthodox Christians.

I believe his point is: Militant Islam will kill you unless you deny the faith. Will the Pope? Secularists will ridicule you until they have you or they have won over your children and caused them to deny the faith. Will the Pope?

The Pope is wrong on many many things. Until he switches gears and uses the sword to force people to follow him, he is not the Anti-Christ.

>I also gather from your first post that you confuse high moral standards with Gospel integrity. This is sadly uncritical of a formally trained Presbyterian TE.

And this is a blog. Where people comment without thinking through every little detail of their post to the ninth degree. You should look at the sum of his posts instead of taking one and passing judgment.

Steven Carr said...

A couple of thoughts for Mr. Polk, Presbyman, and Gary.

1. Mr. Polk, both Gary and Presbyman have pointed out correctly that the blog is not the place to admonish. The blog is a place for debate, but not for admonition. I think the Bible is clear that admonition should be done in the context of the Church.

2. Presbyman, I make no assumption of your knowledge of Church History and Reformed Theology; however, I must point out that the Refomers' issue with the Romish Church was NEVER over practice or their ability to work together in combating social issues. The Reformers took issue with Roman doctrine, which, by the way, the Romish Church has still not repudiated. Their doctrines are still essentially the same as what was put forth by the Council of Trent. You miss the forrest for the trees when you claim that the real battle is against Islam and humanism. (This was, by the way, a diversion tactic used by the Federal Visionists in my denomination (PCA).) This is a Satanical lie. Yes, there is a battle against Islam and humanism, but the battle Christians fight is against ALL error and untruth. Because errors, wherever they may come from, are destructive, but they are most deadly when they come from inside the Church. Working with Catholics against social ills is all well and good, and I am ready to work with them against abortion, ESCR, Islam, etc., but the Reformation debate must continue because without the true gospel, the battle against social issues will be fought in vain. Romish doctrine is as much a Satanical error as Islam and humanism. If you can't get that into your head, you have no business being a Protestant Pastor.

3. Gary, it does not matter if the Pope is trying to kill protestants with the sword. That does not make him the Anti-Christ. What makes him anti-christian is the doctrine that he preaches. No, he is not trying to kill protestants with the sword, but he is committing soul-murder with his poisonous doctrines. He may not be lopping off protestants' heads, but many protestants are being deceived by his doctrines, and they are flocking to Rome in droves.

Gary said...

I was just talking about this at dinner on Wednesday night at seminary as the Pope was on the television. It was annoying me to no end that Protestants/media go and swoon all over him.

Perhaps its symantics but I think of the Anti-Christ as worst then just being anti-Christian. I suppose that's incorrect.

J.R. Polk said...

1. Mr. Polk, both Gary and Presbyman have pointed out correctly that the blog is not the place to admonish. The blog is a place for debate, but not for admonition. I think the Bible is clear that admonition should be done in the context of the Church.

I'm afraid that I must disagree with your very own admonition Steven . . . or should I consider this a point of debate?

J.R. Polk said...

Well Benjamin, I think your post title fits what's going on here better than you could have imagined. :)

Steven Carr said...

Mr. Polk,

Admonition carries with it the connotation of discipline. I'll grant to you that Christians can admonish one another on to good works, etc. But if it carries the connotation of discipline then it should not be done on a blog.

Steven Carr said...


What do you see as the difference between Anti-Christ and Anti-christian? Also, from your perspective, what do you see as the protestant attraction to the pope? I have been trying to figure this out for a long time; I don't buy the unity of the Church approach, there has to be something deeper.

Gary said...

I view the opponents of orthodox Christianity as

1. Anti-Christ
2. Heretics
3. Anti-Christians

Anti-Christians are people that argue against Christianity. Ie. Dawkins.

Heretics believe they are Christians but they are wrong in their beliefs. Damnable wrong hence anathema. So they are in the same boat as the Anti-Christian in regards to eventual destination.

Anti-Christ is a major figure that comes and wins over many and physically kills his/her opponents. May be similar to a heretic in proclaiming false doctrine but I don't believe s/he will think s/he's a Christian. S/He might fool others into believing S/he is. (And I think its a she simply because women are nuts. Yes joke. Well maybe...)

I flipflop on which is the 2nd and 3rd threat: Heretics or Anti-Christians. Because I can't decide if its worse to attack it from within or from outside.

But end of times is not one of my interests and neither is the New Testament. I'm an Old Testament Studies student. So my views on apokalypse or the end of times term that escapes me are probably very naive.

As for the Protestant adoration of the Pope... I think its simply foolish ignorance of the history or they really aren't believers in the orthodox faith.

Presbyman said...

My final word on this controversy (not my own words, actually, but I think this declaration far outstrips typical blog postings, including mine).


"Claims to be" Rev. John Erthein

First Things
Evangelicals & Catholics Together:
The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium


Copyright (c) 1994 First Things 43 (May 1994): 15-22.

The following statement is the product of consultation, beginning in September 1992, between Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians. Appended to the text is a list of participants in the consultation and of others who have given their support to this declaration.
We are Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who have been led through prayer, study, and discussion to common convictions about Christian faith and mission. This statement cannot speak officially for our communities. It does intend to speak responsibly from our communities and to our communities. In this statement we address what we have discovered both about our unity and about our differences. We are aware that our experience reflects the distinctive circumstances and opportunities of Evangelicals and Catholics living together in North America. At the same time, we believe that what we have discovered and resolved is pertinent to the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics in other parts of the world. We therefore commend this statement to their prayerful consideration.
As the Second Millennium draws to a close, the Christian mission in world history faces a moment of daunting opportunity and responsibility. If in the merciful and mysterious ways of God the Second Coming is delayed, we enter upon a Third Millennium that could be, in the words of John Paul II, "a springtime of world missions." (Redemptoris Missio) As Christ is one, so the Christian mission is one. That one mission can be and should be advanced in diverse ways. Legitimate diversity, however, should not be confused with existing divisions between Christians that obscure the one Christ and hinder the one mission. There is a necessary connection between the visible unity of Christians and the mission of the one Christ. We together pray for the fulfillment of the prayer of Our Lord: "May they all be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so also may they be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17) We together, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess our sins against the unity that Christ intends for all his disciples. The one Christ and one mission includes many other Christians, notably the Eastern Orthodox and those Protestants not commonly identified as Evangelical. All Christians are encompassed in the prayer, "May they all be one." Our present statement attends to the specific problems and opportunities in the relationship between Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants. As we near the Third Millennium, there are approximately 1.7 billion Christians in the world. About a billion of these are Catholics and more than 300 million are Evangelical Protestants. The century now drawing to a close has been the greatest century of missionary expansion in Christian history. We pray and we believe that this expansion has prepared the way for yet greater missionary endeavor in the first century of the Third Millennium. The two communities in world Christianity that are most evangelistically assertive and most rapidly growing are Evangelicals and Catholics. In many parts of the world, the relationship between these communities is marked more by conflict than by cooperation, more by animosity than by love, more by suspicion than by trust, more by propaganda and ignorance than by respect for the truth. This is alarmingly the case in Latin America, increasingly the case in Eastern Europe, and too often the case in our own country. Without ignoring conflicts between and within other Christian communities, we address ourselves to the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics, who constitute the growing edge of missionary expansion at present and, most likely, in the century ahead. In doing so, we hope that what we have discovered and resolved may be of help in other situations of conflict, such as that among Orthodox, Evangelicals, and Catholics in Eastern Europe. While we are gratefully aware of ongoing efforts to address tensions among these communities, the shameful reality is that, in many places around the world, the scandal of conflict between Christians obscures the scandal of the cross, thus crippling the one mission of the one Christ. As in times past, so also today and in the future, the Christian mission, which is directed to the entire human community, must be advanced against formidable opposition. In some cultures, that mission encounters resurgent spiritualities and religions that are explicitly hostile to the claims of the Christ. Islam, which in many instances denies the freedom to witness to the Gospel, must be of increasing concern to those who care about religious freedom and the Christian mission. Mutually respectful conversation between Muslims and Christians should be encouraged in the hope that more of the world will, in the oft-repeated words of John Paul II, "open the door to Christ." At the same time, in our so-called developed societies, a widespread secularization increasingly descends into a moral, intellectual, and spiritual nihilism that denies not only the One who is the Truth but the very idea of truth itself. We enter the twenty-first century without illusions. With Paul and the Christians of the first century, we know that "we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6) As Evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not by needless and loveless conflict between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ. The love of Christ compels us and we are therefore resolved to avoid such conflict between our communities and, where such conflict exists, to do what we can to reduce and eliminate it. Beyond that, we are called and we are therefore resolved to explore patterns of working and witnessing together in order to advance the one mission of Christ. Our common resolve is not based merely on a desire for harmony. We reject any appearance of harmony that is purchased at the price of truth. Our common resolve is made imperative by obedience to the truth of God revealed in the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, and by trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit's guidance until Our Lord returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The mission that we embrace together is the necessary consequence of the faith that we affirm together.

We Affirm Together
Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final affirmation that Christians make about all of reality. He is the One sent by God to be Lord and Savior of all: "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4) Christians are people ahead of time, those who proclaim now what will one day be acknowledged by all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2) We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the love of Christ, for we together say with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2) All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ. We have not chosen one another, just as we have not chosen Christ. He has chosen us, and he has chosen us to be his together. (John 15) However imperfect our communion with one another, however deep our disagreements with one another, we recognize that there is but one church of Christ. There is one church because there is one Christ and the church is his body. However difficult the way, we recognize that we are called by God to a fuller realization of our unity in the body of Christ. The only unity to which we would give expression is unity in the truth, and the truth is this: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4) We affirm together that Christians are to teach and live in obedience to the divinely inspired Scriptures, which are the infallible Word of God. We further affirm together that Christ has promised to his church the gift of the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth in discerning and declaring the teaching of Scripture. (John 16) We recognize together that the Holy Spirit has so guided his church in the past. In, for instance, the formation of the canon of the Scriptures, and in the orthodox response to the great Christological and Trinitarian controversies of the early centuries, we confidently acknowledge the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In faithful response to the Spirit's leading, the church formulated the Apostles Creed, which we can and hereby do affirm together as an accurate statement of scriptural truth:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
We Hope Together
We hope together that all people will come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This hope makes necessary the church's missionary zeal. "But how are they to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10) The church is by nature, in all places and at all times, in mission. Our missionary hope is inspired by the revealed desire of God that "all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2) The church lives by and for the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Matthew 28) Unity and love among Christians is an integral part of our missionary witness to the Lord whom we serve. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13) If we do not love one another, we disobey his command and contradict the Gospel we declare. As Evangelicals and Catholics, we pray that our unity in the love of Christ will become ever more evident as a sign to the world of God's reconciling power. Our communal and ecclesial separations are deep and long standing. We acknowledge that we do not know the schedule nor do we know the way to the greater visible unity for which we hope. We do know that existing patterns of distrustful polemic and conflict are not the way. We do know that God who has brought us into communion with himself through Christ intends that we also be in communion with one another. We do know that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14) and as we are drawn closer to him-walking in that way, obeying that truth, living that life-we are drawn closer to one another. Whatever may be the future form of the relationship between our communities, we can, we must, and we will begin now the work required to remedy what we know to be wrong in that relationship. Such work requires trust and understanding, and trust and understanding require an assiduous attention to truth. We do not deny but clearly assert that there are disagreements between us. Misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and caricatures of one another, however, are not disagreements. These distortions must be cleared away if we are to search through our honest differences in a manner consistent with what we affirm and hope together on the basis of God's Word.
We Search Together
Together we search for a fuller and clearer understanding of God's revelation in Christ and his will for his disciples. Because of the limitations of human reason and language, which limitations are compounded by sin, we cannot understand completely the transcendent reality of God and his ways. Only in the End Time will we see face to face and know as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13) We now search together in confident reliance upon God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, the sure testimony of Holy Scripture, and the promise of the Spirit to his church. In this search to understand the truth more fully and clearly, we need one another. We are both informed and limited by the histories of our communities and by our own experiences. Across the divides of communities and experiences, we need to challenge one another, always speaking the truth in love building up the Body. (Ephesians 4) We do not presume to suggest that we can resolve the deep and long- standing differences between Evangelicals and Catholics. Indeed these differences may never be resolved short of the Kingdom Come. Nonetheless, we are not permitted simply to resign ourselves to differences that divide us from one another. Not all differences are authentic disagreements, nor need all disagreements divide. Differences and disagreements must be tested in disciplined and sustained conversation. In this connection we warmly commend and encourage the formal theological dialogues of recent years between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. We note some of the differences and disagreements that must be addressed more fully and candidly in order to strengthen between us a relationship of trust in obedience to truth. Among points of difference in doctrine, worship, practice, and piety that are frequently thought to divide us are these:
The church as an integral part of the Gospel or the church as a communal consequence of the Gospel.
The church as visible communion or invisible fellowship of true believers.
The sole authority of Scripture (sola scriptura) or Scripture as authoritatively interpreted in the church.
The "soul freedom" of the individual Christian or the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the community.
The church as local congregation or universal communion.
Ministry ordered in apostolic succession or the priesthood of all believers.
Sacraments and ordinances as symbols of grace or means of grace.
The Lord's Supper as eucharistic sacrifice or memorial meal.
Remembrance of Mary and the saints or devotion to Mary and the saints.
Baptism as sacrament of regeneration or testimony to regeneration.
This account of differences is by no means complete. Nor is the disparity between positions always so sharp as to warrant the "or" in the above formulations. Moreover, among those recognized as Evangelical Protestants there are significant differences between, for example, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Calvinists on these questions. But the differences mentioned above reflect disputes that are deep and long standing. In at least some instances, they reflect authentic disagreements that have been in the past and are at present barriers to full communion between Christians. On these questions, and other questions implied by them, Evangelicals hold that the Catholic Church has gone beyond Scripture, adding teachings and practices that detract from or compromise the Gospel of God's saving grace in Christ. Catholics, in turn, hold that such teachings and practices are grounded in Scripture and belong to the fullness of God's revelation. Their rejection, Catholics say, results in a truncated and reduced understanding of the Christian reality. Again, we cannot resolve these disputes here. We can and do affirm together that the entirety of Christian faith, life, and mission finds its source, center, and end in the crucified and risen Lord. We can and do pledge that we will continue to search together-through study, discussion, and prayer-for a better understanding of one another's convictions and a more adequate comprehension of the truth of God in Christ. We can testify now that in our searching together we have discovered what we can affirm together and what we can hope together and, therefore, how we can contend together.
We Contend Together
As we are bound together by Christ and his cause, so we are bound together in contending against all that opposes Christ and his cause. We are emboldened not by illusions of easy triumph but by faith in his certain triumph. Our Lord wept over Jerusalem, and he now weeps over a world that does not know the time of its visitation. The raging of the principalities and powers may increase as the End Time nears, but the outcome of the contest is assured. The cause of Christ is the cause and mission of the church, which is, first of all, to proclaim the Good News that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5) To proclaim this Gospel and to sustain the community of faith, worship, and discipleship that is gathered by this Gospel is the first and chief responsibility of the church. All other tasks and responsibilities of the church are derived from and directed toward the mission of the Gospel. Christians individually and the church corporately also have a responsibility for the right ordering of civil society. We embrace this task soberly; knowing the consequences of human sinfulness, we resist the utopian conceit that it is within our powers to build the Kingdom of God on earth. We embrace this task hopefully; knowing that God has called us to love our neighbor, we seek to secure for all a greater measure of civil righteousness and justice, confident that he will crown our efforts when he rightly orders all things in the coming of his Kingdom. In the exercise of these public responsibilities there has been in recent years a growing convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We thank God for the discovery of one another in contending for a common cause. Much more important, we thank God for the discovery of one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our cooperation as citizens is animated by our convergence as Christians. We promise one another that we will work to deepen, build upon, and expand this pattern of convergence and cooperation. Together we contend for the truth that politics, law, and culture must be secured by moral truth. With the Founders of the American experiment, we declare, "We hold these truths." With them, we hold that this constitutional order is composed not just of rules and procedures but is most essentially a moral experiment. With them, we hold that only a virtuous people can be free and just, and that virtue is secured by religion. To propose that securing civil virtue is the purpose of religion is blasphemous. To deny that securing civil virtue is a benefit of religion is blindness. Americans are drifting away from, are often explicitly defying, the constituting truths of this experiment in ordered liberty. Influential sectors of the culture are laid waste by relativism, anti- intellectualism, and nihilism that deny the very idea of truth. Against such influences in both the elite and popular culture, we appeal to reason and religion in contending for the foundational truths of our constitutional order. More specifically, we contend together for religious freedom. We do so for the sake of religion, but also because religious freedom is the first freedom, the source and shield of all human freedoms. In their relationship to God, persons have a dignity and responsibility that transcends, and thereby limits, the authority of the state and of every other merely human institution. Religious freedom is itself grounded in and is a product of religious faith, as is evident in the history of Baptists and others in this country. Today we rejoice together that the Roman Catholic Church-as affirmed by the Second Vatican Council and boldly exemplified in the ministry of John Paul II-is strongly committed to religious freedom and, consequently, to the defense of all human rights. Where Evangelicals and Catholics are in severe and sometimes violent conflict, such as parts of Latin America, we urge Christians to embrace and act upon the imperative of religious freedom. Religious freedom will not be respected by the state if it is not respected by Christians or, even worse, if Christians attempt to recruit the state in repressing religious freedom. In this country, too, freedom of religion cannot be taken for granted but requires constant attention. We strongly affirm the separation of church and state, and just as strongly protest the distortion of that principle to mean the separation of religion from public life. We are deeply concerned by the courts' narrowing of the protections provided by the "free exercise" provision of the First Amendment and by an obsession with "no establishment" that stifles the necessary role of religion in American life. As a consequence of such distortions, it is increasingly the case that wherever government goes religion must retreat, and government increasingly goes almost everywhere. Religion, which was privileged and foundational in our legal order, has in recent years been penalized and made marginal. We contend together for a renewal of the constituting vision of the place of religion in the American experiment. Religion and religiously grounded moral conviction is not an alien or threatening force in our public life. For the great majority of Americans, morality is derived, however variously and confusedly, from religion. The argument, increasingly voiced in sectors of our political culture, that religion should be excluded from the public square must be recognized as an assault upon the most elementary principles of democratic governance. That argument needs to be exposed and countered by leaders, religious and other, who care about the integrity of our constitutional order. The pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics is, in large part, a result of common effort to protect human life, especially the lives of the most vulnerable among us. With the Founders, we hold that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The statement that the unborn child is a human life that-barring natural misfortune or lethal intervention-will become what everyone recognizes as a human baby is not a religious assertion. It is a statement of simple biological fact. That the unborn child has a right to protection, including the protection of law, is a moral statement supported by moral reason and biblical truth. We, therefore, will persist in contending-we will not be discouraged but will multiply every effort-in order to secure the legal protection of the unborn. Our goals are: to secure due process of law for the unborn, to enact the most protective laws and public policies that are politically possible, and to reduce dramatically the incidence of abortion. We warmly commend those who have established thousands of crisis pregnancy and postnatal care centers across the country, and urge that such efforts be multiplied. As the unborn must be protected, so also must women be protected from their current rampant exploitation by the abortion industry and by fathers who refuse to accept responsibility for mothers and children. Abortion on demand, which is the current rule in America, must be recognized as a massive attack on the dignity, rights, and needs of women. Abortion is the leading edge of an encroaching culture of death. The helpless old, the radically handicapped, and others who cannot effectively assert their rights are increasingly treated as though they have no rights. These are the powerless who are exposed to the will and whim of those who have power over them. We will do all in our power to resist proposals for euthanasia, eugenics, and population control that exploit the vulnerable, corrupt the integrity of medicine, deprave our culture, and betray the moral truths of our constitutional order. In public education, we contend together for schools that transmit to coming generations our cultural heritage, which is inseparable from the formative influence of religion, especially Judaism and Christianity. Education for responsible citizenship and social behavior is inescapably moral education. Every effort must be made to cultivate the morality of honesty, law observance, work, caring, chastity, mutual respect between the sexes, and readiness for marriage, parenthood, and family. We reject the claim that, in any or all of these areas, "tolerance" requires the promotion of moral equivalence between the normative and the deviant. In a democratic society that recognizes that parents have the primary responsibility for the formation of their children, schools are to assist and support, not oppose and undermine, parents in the exercise of their responsibility. We contend together for a comprehensive policy of parental choice in education. This is a moral question of simple justice. Parents are the primary educators of their children; the state and other institutions should be supportive of their exercise of that responsibility. We affirm policies that enable parents to effectively exercise their right and responsibility to choose the schooling that they consider best for their children. We contend together against the widespread pornography in our society, along with the celebration of violence, sexual depravity, and antireligious bigotry in the entertainment media. In resisting such cultural and moral debasement, we recognize the legitimacy of boycotts and other consumer actions, and urge the enforcement of existing laws against obscenity. We reject the self-serving claim of the peddlers of depravity that this constitutes illegitimate censorship. We reject the assertion of the unimaginative that artistic creativity is to be measured by the capacity to shock or outrage. A people incapable of defending decency invites the rule of viciousness, both public and personal. We contend for a renewed spirit of acceptance, understanding, and cooperation across lines of religion, race, ethnicity, sex, and class. We are all created in the image of God and are accountable to him. That truth is the basis of individual responsibility and equality before the law. The abandonment of that truth has resulted in a society at war with itself, pitting citizens against one another in bitter conflicts of group grievances and claims to entitlement. Justice and social amity require a redirection of public attitudes and policies so that rights are joined to duties and people are rewarded according to their character and competence. We contend for a free society, including a vibrant market economy. A free society requires a careful balancing between economics, politics, and culture. Christianity is not an ideology and therefore does not prescribe precisely how that balance is to be achieved in every circumstance. We affirm the importance of a free economy not only because it is more efficient but because it accords with a Christian understanding of human freedom. Economic freedom, while subject to grave abuse, makes possible the patterns of creativity, cooperation, and accountability that contribute to the common good. We contend together for a renewed appreciation of Western culture. In its history and missionary reach, Christianity engages all cultures while being captive to none. We are keenly aware of, and grateful for, the role of Christianity in shaping and sustaining the Western culture of which we are part. As with all of history, that culture is marred by human sinfulness. Alone among world cultures, however, the West has cultivated an attitude of self-criticism and of eagerness to learn from other cultures. What is called multiculturalism can mean respectful attention to human differences. More commonly today, however, multiculturalism means affirming all cultures but our own. Welcoming the contributions of other cultures and being ever alert to the limitations of our own, we receive Western culture as our legacy and embrace it as our task in order to transmit it as a gift to future generations. We contend for public policies that demonstrate renewed respect for the irreplaceable role of mediating structures in society-notably the family, churches, and myriad voluntary associations. The state is not the society, and many of the most important functions of society are best addressed in independence from the state. The role of churches in responding to a wide variety of human needs, especially among the poor and marginal, needs to be protected and strengthened. Moreover, society is not the aggregate of isolated individuals bearing rights but is composed of communities that inculcate responsibility, sustain shared memory, provide mutual aid, and nurture the habits that contribute to both personal well-being and the common good. Most basic among such communities is the community of the family. Laws and social policies should be designed with particular care for the stability and flourishing of families. While the crisis of the family in America is by no means limited to the poor or to the underclass, heightened attention must be paid those who have become, as a result of well-intended but misguided statist policies, virtual wards of the government. Finally, we contend for a realistic and responsible understanding of America's part in world affairs. Realism and responsibility require that we avoid both the illusions of unlimited power and righteousness, on the one hand, and the timidity and selfishness of isolationism, on the other. U.S. foreign policy should reflect a concern for the defense of democracy and, wherever prudent and possible, the protection and advancement of human rights, including religious freedom. The above is a partial list of public responsibilities on which we believe there is a pattern of convergence and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics. We reject the notion that this constitutes a partisan "religious agenda" in American politics. Rather, this is a set of directions oriented to the common good and discussable on the basis of public reason. While our sense of civic responsibility is informed and motivated by Christian faith, our intention is to elevate the level of political and moral discourse in a manner that excludes no one and invites the participation of all people of good will. To that end, Evangelicals and Catholics have made an inestimable contribution in the past and, it is our hope, will contribute even more effectively in the future. We are profoundly aware that the American experiment has been, all in all, a blessing to the world and a blessing to us as Evangelical and Catholic Christians. We are determined to assume our full share of responsibility for this "one nation under God," believing it to be a nation under the judgment, mercy, and providential care of the Lord of the nations to whom alone we render unqualified allegiance.
We Witness Together
The question of Christian witness unavoidably returns us to points of serious tension between Evangelicals and Catholics. Bearing witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ and his will for our lives is an integral part of Christian discipleship. The achievement of good will and cooperation between Evangelicals and Catholics must not be at the price of the urgency and clarity of Christian witness to the Gospel. At the same time, and as noted earlier, Our Lord has made clear that the evidence of love among his disciples is an integral part of that Christian witness. Today, in this country and elsewhere, Evangelicals and Catholics attempt to win "converts" from one another's folds. In some ways, this is perfectly understandable and perhaps inevitable. In many instances, however, such efforts at recruitment undermine the Christian mission by which we are bound by God's Word and to which we have recommitted ourselves in this statement. It should be clearly understood between Catholics and Evangelicals that Christian witness is of necessity aimed at conversion. Authentic conversion is-in its beginning, in its end, and all along the way-conversion to God in Christ by the power of the Spirit. In this connection, we embrace as our own the explanation of the Baptist-Roman Catholic International Conversation (1988):
Conversion is turning away from all that is opposed to God, contrary to Christ's teaching, and turning to God, to Christ, the Son, through the work of the Holy Spirit. It entails a turning from the self-centeredness of sin to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Conversion is a passing from one way of life to another new one, marked with the newness of Christ. It is a continuing process so that the whole life of a Christian should be a passage from death to life, from error to truth, from sin to grace. Our life in Christ demands continual growth in God's grace. Conversion is personal but not private. Individuals respond in faith to God's call but faith comes from hearing the proclamation of the word of God and is to be expressed in the life together in Christ that is the Church.
By preaching, teaching, and life example, Christians witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. We seek and pray for the conversion of others, even as we recognize our own continuing need to be fully converted. As we strive to make Christian faith and life-our own and that of others-ever more intentional rather than nominal, ever more committed rather than apathetic, we also recognize the different forms that authentic discipleship can take. As is evident in the two thousand year history of the church, and in our contemporary experience, there are different ways of being Christian, and some of these ways are distinctively marked by communal patterns of worship, piety, and catechesis. That we are all to be one does not mean that we are all to be identical in our way of following the one Christ. Such distinctive patterns of discipleship, it should be noted, are amply evident within the communion of the Catholic Church as well as within the many worlds of Evangelical Protestantism. It is understandable that Christians who bear witness to the Gospel try to persuade others that their communities and traditions are more fully in accord with the Gospel. There is a necessary distinction between evangelizing and what is today commonly called proselytizing or "sheep stealing." We condemn the practice of recruiting people from another community for purposes of denominational or institutional aggrandizement. At the same time, our commitment to full religious freedom compels us to defend the legal freedom to proselytize even as we call upon Christians to refrain from such activity. Three observations are in order in connection with proselytizing. First, as much as we might believe one community is more fully in accord with the Gospel than another, we as Evangelicals and Catholics affirm that opportunity and means for growth in Christian discipleship are available in our several communities. Second, the decision of the committed Christian with respect to his communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected. Third, in view of the large number of non- Christians in the world and the enormous challenge of our common evangelistic task, it is neither theologically legitimate nor a prudent use of resources for one Christian community to proselytize among active adherents of another Christian community. Christian witness must always be made in a spirit of love and humility. It must not deny but must readily accord to everyone the full freedom to discern and decide what is God's will for his life. Witness that is in service to the truth is in service to such freedom. Any form of coercion-physical, psychological, legal, economic-corrupts Christian witness and is to be unqualifiedly rejected. Similarly, bearing false witness against other persons and communities, or casting unjust and uncharitable suspicions upon them, is incompatible with the Gospel. Also to be rejected is the practice of comparing the strengths and ideals of one community with the weaknesses and failures of another. In describing the teaching and practices of other Christians, we must strive to do so in a way that they would recognize as fair and accurate. In considering the many corruptions of Christian witness, we, Evangelicals and Catholics, confess that we have sinned against one another and against God. We most earnestly ask the forgiveness of God and one another, and pray for the grace to amend our own lives and that of our communities. Repentance and amendment of life do not dissolve remaining differences between us. In the context of evangelization and "reevangelization," we encounter a major difference in our understanding of the relationship between baptism and the new birth in Christ. For Catholics, all who are validly baptized are born again and are truly, however imperfectly, in communion with Christ. That baptismal grace is to be continuingly reawakened and revivified through conversion. For most Evangelicals, but not all, the experience of conversion is to be followed by baptism as a sign of new birth. For Catholics, all the baptized are already members of the church, however dormant their faith and life; for many Evangelicals, the new birth requires baptismal initiation into the community of the born again. These differing beliefs about the relationship between baptism, new birth, and membership in the church should be honestly presented to the Christian who has undergone conversion. But again, his decision regarding communal allegiance and participation must be assiduously respected. There are, then, differences between us that cannot be resolved here. But on this we are resolved: All authentic witness must be aimed at conversion to God in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Those converted- whether understood as having received the new birth for the first time or as having experienced the reawakening of the new birth originally bestowed in the sacrament of baptism-must be given full freedom and respect as they discern and decide the community in which they will live their new life in Christ. In such discernment and decision, they are ultimately responsible to God, and we dare not interfere with the exercise of that responsibility. Also in our differences and disagreements, we Evangelicals and Catholics commend one another to God "who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think." (Ephesians 3) In this discussion of witnessing together we have touched on difficult and long-standing problems. The difficulties must not be permitted to overshadow the truths on which we are, by the grace of God, in firm agreement. As we grow in mutual understanding and trust, it is our hope that our efforts to evangelize will not jeopardize but will reinforce our devotion to the common tasks to which we have pledged ourselves in this statement.
Nearly two thousand years after it began, and nearly five hundred years after the divisions of the Reformation era, the Christian mission to the world is vibrantly alive and assertive. We do not know, we cannot know, what the Lord of history has in store for the Third Millennium. It may be the springtime of world missions and great Christian expansion. It may be the way of the cross marked by persecution and apparent marginalization. In different places and times, it will likely be both. Or it may be that Our Lord will return tomorrow. We do know that his promise is sure, that we are enlisted for the duration, and that we are in this together. We do know that we must affirm and hope and search and contend and witness together, for we belong not to ourselves but to him who has purchased us by the blood of the cross. We do know that this is a time of opportunity-and, if of opportunity, then of responsibility-for Evangelicals and Catholics to be Christians together in a way that helps prepare the world for the coming of him to whom belongs the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
PARTICIPANTS: Mr. Charles Colson Prison Fellowship Fr. Juan Diaz-Vilar, S.J. Catholic Hispanic Ministries Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J. Fordham University Bishop Francis George, OMI Diocese of Yakima (Washington) Dr. Kent Hill Eastern Nazarene College Dr. Richard Land Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention Dr. Larry Lewis Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention Dr. Jesse Miranda Assemblies of God Msgr. William Murphy Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Boston Fr. Richard John Neuhaus Institute on Religion and Public Life Mr. Brian O'Connell World Evangelical Fellowship Mr. Herbert Schlossberg Fieldstead Foundation Archbishop Francis Stafford Archdiocese of Denver Mr. George Weigel Ethics and Public Policy Center Dr. John White Geneva College and the National Association of Evangelicals
ENDORSED BY: Dr. William Abraham Perkins School of Theology Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier Union Theological Seminary (Virginia) Mr. William Bentley Ball Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Dr. Bill Bright Campus Crusade for Christ Professor Robert Destro Catholic University of America Fr. Augustine DiNoia, O.P. Dominican House of Studies Fr. Joseph P. Fitzpatrick, S.J. Fordham University Mr. Keith Fournier American Center for Law and Justice Bishop William Frey Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry Professor Mary Ann Glendon Harvard Law School Dr. Os Guinness Trinity Forum Dr. Nathan Hatch University of Notre Dame Dr. James Hitchcock St. Louis University Professor Peter Kreeft Boston College Fr. Matthew Lamb Boston College Mr. Ralph Martin Renewal Ministries Dr. Richard Mouw Fuller Theological Seminary Dr. Mark Noll Wheaton College Mr. Michael Novak American Enterprise Institute John Cardinal O'Connor Archdiocese of New York Dr. Thomas Oden Drew University Dr. James J. I. Packer Regent College (British Columbia) The Rev. Pat Robertson Regent University Dr. John Rodgers Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla, S.J. Archiocese of San Francisco

Steven Carr said...

Presbyman, if you believe what that declaration states, then I suggest you change your man, for Presbyman does not suit you. How about Papalyesman?

Presbyman said...

Steven, are you in grade school? Your comments comes from that level.

Cameron Mott said...

Rev. John,

You don't deserve this, brother.