by C Michael PattonJuly 6th, 2007 78 Comments
Well Dan, you have certainlyÂ caused a stir. I think this conversation concerning the relationship of modern Catholicism and Protestantism is needed.
I just have one initial point to make. Having spent much time with Catholics, I think that it is important that we don’t lose this: While Catholics are monolithic in confession, they are not monolithic in their interpretation of their confession. In recent years Rome (no, not Rhome – he has not authority in this area) hasÂ given much allowance for discovery and diversity. This has encouraged those both in the Protestant and Catholic church. The implications seem to be far reaching.
While we, as Protestants, may interpret Trent and other official statements prima facie, we have to be careful not to require all Catholics to interpret their documents the way we do. For example, while I read the “partim, partim” from Trent (revelation is partly in Scripture and partly in tradition) as evidence of dual source authority, many Catholics, such as Scott Hahn, would interpret it differently allowing for a prima Scriptura view (that Scripture is the final authority, but not the only infallible authority). This is much closer to the historic Protestant view of sola Scriptura and is even better,Â might I say,Â than most Protestants’ aberrations of sola Scriptura who replace it with solo or nuda Scriptura (that Scripture is the ONLY authority) which is not what the Reformers meant by sola Scriptura. See hereÂ for more on this.
My point is that if Catholicism is changing (or, in their view, progressing), then why should we stand as guards at the gate and say “You cannot do this! You must interpret yourselves the way we interpret you and remain under your confessions the way we see them.” Isn’t change/progression what we want? Doesn’t this propose a hope that Protestants should desire? Or has the definition of Protestantism solidified as “Those who are against Catholics?”
Sigh . . . It would seem that for some Protestants to stay in business as Protestants, they have to define themselves by what they are against. And if what they are against changes, even for the better, they will do all they can to divert attention away from the change, saying “You can’t change. If you do, then I will have no purpose.”
I am not saying that all of Catholicism is changing (or progressing), but there are many who are. In fact, when I read and listened to Peter Kreeft, a Catholic apologist, I find it hard to distinguish someÂ of myÂ viewsÂ from his. I think to myself if this is what Catholics believe, then Protestants really don’t have a handle on what is going on in Catholicism. The same may be said about Francis Beckwith as I have seen some of his comments on these issues to be encouraging.
As well, we should not fail to see that many in the Protestant church are changing. We are beginning to see the value of authorities outside of Scripture as we drown in the sea of our self-created free-church mentality. Any and all who desire can start a new “Church” or “Christianity” with no accountability. Many of these present teachings find no place in historic Christianity. Protestants are beginning to realize the important of the body of Christ, both living and dead,Â -Â the historic body of Christ – (might we term this “the communion of saints?”). TheseÂ raise their hand in objection to many of the strange interpretations of the Christian faith and life saying “Why don’t you listen to us anymore? Didn’t we have the same Spirit as you? Why don’t we have any respect? Are you not standing on our shoulders?”
I am not saying that the Reformation was not worth it (for I would still take ofÂ its fruit and eat), but we must recognize the serious weakness that it introduced. So serious is this free-church weakness, I sympathize, to some degree,Â with those who convert to Catholicism. What is the solution? To find accountability in the rich traditions of the historic Christian faith and to quit mimicking the vigilanteÂ attitudes ofÂ the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
All that I ask for consideration (and I am not even sure where I am at on this – and I don’t speak for Dan, Ed, or Rhome) is this: Could it be that the battle that was fought in the 16th century was legitimate, but the battle grounds have changed and, therefore, to continue to fight the same battle is building straw men? Could it be that we must allow for diversity in the Catholic church and not require them to abide by the interpretation that we enforce? Could there be hope as we learn from each other?
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part Eight – What about all the divisions?
- Can Catholics Affirm Sola Scriptura?
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part Seven – What About the Canon?
- The Great Reformation in a Nutshell
- In Defense of Sola Scriptura – Part One – Authority Across the Spectrum