R.C. Sproul’s Roman Catholicism Series

As of this post, there is an audio series by R.C. Sproul on Roman Catholicism and it is being given away.

http://www.ligonier.org/store/roman-catholicism-download-and-stream/?mobile=off

It’s a very good starting point for any Protestant who doesn’t know much about the RCC, or who doesn’t understand what the fuss between us is all about.

Let me point out that the series is NOT about how the RCC is wrong, but simply about key RCC doctrines and their developments over the centuries. Sproul takes pains to be not only fair, but accurate. He often quotes papal encyclicals, sometimes tamps out Protestant reactionary fires, and generally draws the map. I know there are several (or perhaps many) Roman Catholic readers of my blog. I’d be interested to know their thoughts.

My endorsement is worth every penny you paid for it; which is convenient because it matches the series’ price.

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54 thoughts on “R.C. Sproul’s Roman Catholicism Series

  1. I’m Catholic and have downloaded the series and hope to listen this weekend, but it may be a while. Many responses to the issues on our side are at http://www.catholic.com/ and I don’t plan to try to argue our differences here, only to evaluate if Sproul is being fair and accurate, and I’ve heard him before and expect it from him.

    I’m about halfway through the 5 lectures, and so far I only have one topic – about the consecration. First, Sproul says the host becomes omnipresent, but that is an error first since the host isn’t everywhere, only many discrete places. The exact analogy is the multiplication of the loaves and fishes where 5 loaves filled 12 baskets after feeding 5000 – but that bread did not become omnipresent, merely multiplied. Second, although the language is sloppy (not everyone can read the whole Summa Theoligiae) we are not re-sacrificing Christ – we are re-presenting the once for all time sacrifice, the host becomes that body of Christ sacrificed on the cross.

    One side note – Sproul probably has not seen the other side, but it is one thing to have very serious and important differences, and another to be insulting and engage in name calling – Sproul does NOT do that. Unfortunately, many protestants often call the Catholic Church (with little knowledge of the actual theology and practice) “The Whore of Babylon”, and such things were taught in US “public schools” of that day which is one of the main reasons Catholics built their own schools even though they were forced to pay for Protestant indoctrination (not just natural law morality and biblical history and wisdom) with very little charity.

    We are hopefully past that today – “Diabolo” a term for the devil means divider. If you love God, you obey his commandments and produce good fruit. The problem is that in the presence of someone who appears even more obedient than you and is producing better fruit, the original definition of the cardinal sin of Sloth appears – sadness over someone else’s spiritual good (Instead of the desire to improve yourself). How much love – as in love your enemies from Matt 5 – and sacrifice – just as our Lord sacrificed himself. It feels better to win an argument than to gain a soul.

  2. I haven’t listened to the podcast, so hopefully this isn’t too far off topic. One common criticism of Catholicism I see from Protestants is an accusation that Catholics see their leadership as infallible. Leaving aside extremely rare cases of a pope speaking ex cathedra, the Catholic belief is instead that the RCC has authority despite the imperfection of the leadership.

    Zippy expressed this quite elegantly on a thread at Bonalds a while back:

    Re: SSPX/Gibson/sedevacantism/etc, if I was going to go all protestant (as opposed to Athanasian) I hope I wouldn’t do it in such a half-assed mealy-mouthed twisted-knickers self-important way.

    Real tests of loyalty don’t happen under good leadership: they happen when leadership is treasonous, heretical, inbred, weak, and incompetent. Any cheese-eating effeminate fag can be a loyal son of monarchist France under Louis IX.

  3. For context, Zippy’s comment came in reply to the following exchange:

    Bonald: The Church will approve adultery by the end of the year. I give it two years after that before the Pope starts performing gay weddings in Saint Peters’.

    Bruce: What will you do then?

    Bonald: Gripe about it on the internet, of course.

    Bruce: You don’t consider SSPX or Mel Gibson Catholicism an option?

  4. There is the Orthodox church which is basically eastern rite catholicism minus the papacy (with valid sacraments, apostolic succession (Sproul has not covered in what I’ve listened yet), etc. One can wish there was less gray, but that doesn’t mean it should be considered as black.

  5. @tz

    Thanks for listening to it.

    First, Sproul says the host becomes omnipresent, but that is an error first since the host isn’t everywhere, only many discrete places.

    I’ve listened to each section twice now, and while he does say that the host becomes omnipresent, he does so as a rhetorical device; as someone else challenging the doctrine. That is immediately followed by (his understanding of) the RCC’s response and teaching against the idea of omnipresence.

    One side note – Sproul probably has not seen the other side, but it is one thing to have very serious and important differences, and another to be insulting and engage in name calling – Sproul does NOT do that. Unfortunately, many protestants often call the Catholic Church (with little knowledge of the actual theology and practice) “The Whore of Babylon”, and such things were taught in US “public schools” of that day which is one of the main reasons Catholics built their own schools even though they were forced to pay for Protestant indoctrination (not just natural law morality and biblical history and wisdom) with very little charity.

    Yes, and he refers to some instances of bad treatment by both sides; referring to both sides as “suspicious” and how that suspicion crystallized into harassment in communities where one side dominated the other.

    However; I have to say that Roman Catholics being taxed for public schools with faulty teachers doesn’t rise to the level of overt discrimination; at least in my mind. I say this as a homeschooler who pays taxes for schools which teach that the idea of God is–at best–a tertiary exercise in imagination and therefore an interference to “real learning”.

    @Dalrock

    I think you would benefit from the lectures. He frequently pushes back on Protestant misunderstandings of both Roman Catholicism and their own Protestant faith!

    There are several instances, but in particular he notes the ignorance of Protestants who bristle at the idea a priest my absolve sins, while they yet attend Protestant churches in which they confess their sins publicly, formally, and liturgically. Then the pastor publicly and formally absolves them of those sins.

    The anti-authoritarian perversions within Protestant congregations are not intrinsic to Reformation. To the reformers, the question wasn’t “How much authority should the Pope have?” It was “How much authority does Scripture have?”

    Another interesting aspect is that the lectures aren’t new. I suspect they are from the 70s or 80s. Neither Pope JPII nor his encyclicals are mentioned, but Vatican II is frequently discussed so I guess these talks were given between those times. I was left with the impression of monstrous acceleration of the growth of (what Sproul calls liberalism) to bring us to today’s RCC. He delineates who the liberals and conservatives were based upon their platforms. From that you can hear some excellent examples of how movements and peoples are snookered into traveling with forces that are actually enemies.

    So, no, you weren’t off-topic.

  6. @Cane – it may have been a rhetorical device, but I heard it differently, and such devices are a source of misunderstanding in general. There isn’t enough time for nuance in the one-hour.

    The scripture and tradition lecture was excellent and stated thimgs accurately, though note Sproul doesn’t fully define Tradition (capital-T) so it might not be as clear.

    I’m partway through Mary, but he misses a key point – it was Duns Scotus who resolved it – Mary needed her son to save her – she was not rendered sinless by any merit of hers, but by the same redemption on the cross, only through a miracle of God reaching backward through time from the event (compare Isaiah – a man of unclean lips) just as we are saved now – and anyone who died before the cross is also saved by the same going backwards..

    A smaller detail, “pray for us sinners” – it is no more co-redeemption than if you ask everyone here to pray for you or someone else. All is Jesus. Yet we usually want holier people to pray rather than marginal. The difference thus is not redemption or merit, but if the dead (Mary and the rest of the saints in heaven) can advocate or intercede for us if we ask (pray to) them – a different difference. I would ask all here to pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death.

    I’ll post more if it is warranted.

    This Sunday’s gospel at Mass is Mark 9:38:

    Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us’.

    “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

  7. @tz

    Please do keep up the comments.

    I’m partway through Mary, but he misses a key point – it was Duns Scotus who resolved it – Mary needed her son to save her – she was not rendered sinless by any merit of hers, but by the same redemption on the cross, only through a miracle of God reaching backward through time from the event (compare Isaiah – a man of unclean lips) just as we are saved now – and anyone who died before the cross is also saved by the same going backwards.

    I understand the backwards-through-time argument, but surely Mary is a special case. It is not the RCC’s official position that Christ’s redemption made Isaiah to be immaculately conceived, is it? It is one thing to say that things done are now undone (in this case, the effects of Original Sin), but it is another to say they never transpired at all; to say that Jesus’ redemptive power reached back in time and found in Mary nothing from which to be redeemed.

    I don’t mean to argue for the Protestant view, here. In fact, it reads to me as if you are.

    This Sunday’s gospel at Mass is Mark 9:38:

    Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us’.

    “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

    Amen!

  8. No, Isaiah wasn’t immaculately conceived, but he had his sins forgiven before the cross. Something like Elijah (and Enoch) were taken up into heaven parallels the assumption (and there are no “relics” of Mary whereas there are two competing candidates for John the Baptist’s head).

    1 Kings 2:19 is one of the keys to understanding how Catholics see Mary:

    When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand.

    The King honored his mother and had a throne brought to her. We see something similar in what Jesus does for Mary.

    One thing that brought me back to the Catholic side of the fence is the verse where the bones (relics of the saintly) Elisha healed a marauder in 2 Kings 13:21. I’m not asking anyone to accept and believe except to the extent that Catholics have a rational basis for their beliefs.

    Mary was a very special case. Sui generous – a singleton. But there is a deep exploration of the “feminine” in Mary, much applicable to the anti-feminism. Totally obedient. Submissive. Humble. Mary gave Jesus life while he was between his conception and birth. She provided milk. She changed his diapers. She raised him. His precious blood was inside her and may have crossed the placenta.

    Jesus’ first miracle was at the Wedding of Cana. Mary saw the difficulty there, asked, and although rebuffed, called the servants and said to them “Do whatever he says”. I think that single sentence encapsulates Mary.

    I’ve finished the series, and I really wish more Catholics would listen to it. Sproul is more Catholic than the churches in the blue area of Seattle (which I often call “the freak show”).

    I do really wish Jesus, instead of instructing the 12, just wrote a book – he had two decades – and answered every question. It would be much more convenient. Instead we see scripture – like God and heaven, “through a glass, darkly”. So we all need to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. But only humility gives wisdom. God delights in the humble, and leads and cares for them. The Pharisees were right on most matters, but God detested and condemned them for their pride. I’d rather God love me even though I’m wrong but humble, rather than hate me because I’m right but arrogant.

    Ask God, don’t argue. Don’t try to push your denomination but “be still and know that I am Lord”. We are at a critical time. Near judgment. We have no time to dispute heavenly things we cannot know or confirm while ignoring the flashing red lights and buzzers saying we are about to crash unless we reform ourselves according to the undisputed, clear, plain text in red of the Gospels.

    If someone is a different denomination, even one you consider heretical, but they are more charitable, honest, caring, helpful, sacrificing, obedient, moral than you are, they are closer to Jesus. Your task is then to improve yourself to be beyond them – thus proving you are closer. And when we are so close and our country is saved, we can with complete charity pray and discuss the minutiae of the spiritual world and heaven.

  9. Quick “revise and extend my remarks” – I’m in the Bighorn Basin area of Wyoming, where I find it hard to tell which church people belong to because everyone is stuck in an era before the freakshow. I found it unpleasant to be a faithful Catholic in Seattle, but the other denominations were not much better.

    Google “American Redoubt”. This is the area I’m in (note Divine Providence led me here – and I keep getting shocked at the miracles of circumstance which occur weekly). Christian, and the biblical Constitution. God is acting, though I fear it is now to the point of God calling Lot out of Sodom, or reducing Israel from 12 to 2 tribes. The Mormons, Protestants, and Catholics differ less here than any one of them when in a liberal, decadent, “blue” area.

    God always has his remnant. We had the homecoming parade. The public school has the pledge of allegiance “including ‘under God'”. Wyoming is the only state without a state ACLU. (Now to prayerfully target the few abortion clinics – the nearest is in MT, in WY it is hours away but I’m praying if I need to do something).

    In nearby Cody, last week they had David Barton of Wall Builders (dot-org, often on Glenn Beck’s program). This week Catholics United for Life had Abby Johnson of Unplanned (Ex- Planned Parenthood convert). Wow. [I could write a dozen paragraphs here just about my situation but you probably wouldn’t believe half]
    .
    Trust God. He is in control. You don’t need to understand everything. Obey what you see as clear. Pray about the gray areas. Then follow his inspiration. Miracles are happening and will accelerate. He will forgive the denominational disputes if you are obedient to the clear teaching, or even if you strive hard. Too often pushing teachings are a substitute for doing the hard things.

    Sorry to go on for long, but I’ve felt inspired that some need to hear these words of exhortation, hope, and recognition that God is sovereign, eternal, omnipotent, and all loving.

  10. I unfortunately do not have time but:

    “which is basically eastern rite catholicism ”

    **cough**cough**

    No.

    Its a good deal more complicated than that even though I am an Orthodox that is pro-reunion. The pope isn’t the only stumbling block he is one of many.

  11. OK, Orthodoxy has larger differences, but to map it along a continuum, it is closer to Catholocism – valid sacraments, all 7 – than to any Protestant (sola fide sola scriptura) denomination. The next closest would be conservative Anglicanism – Benedict 16 created an ordinariate so whole churches could be reconciled (as the rest of Anglicanism seems to be going feminist, leftist , LGBT, etc and too many feel closer to Rome than Westminster).

    And another perspective is Peter Kreeft http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/03_ecumenism.htm (audio and transcript)

  12. That was a bold reply by zippy but you endanger your children’s souls by integrating your family into the novus ordo culture. SSPX provides a lifeboat for some who have no other alternative.
    RE: the sedevacantists, I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion which is why I asked bonald, et. al. Besides the accusations of manifest heresy, the sedevacantist argument seems to focus on the ordinary and universal magisterium, which, when exercised by a valid pope, is infallible. The sedevacantists seem to emphasize the “ordinary” part. The anti-sedevacantists, the “universal” part including temporal, not just geographic universality. What it really means is as clear as mud to me.

  13. (some inside baseball for catholics, but I need to respond)
    Disobedience has many forms. And we are all sinners. SSPX doesn’t save you, Jesus does. SSPX isn’t known for doing works of mercy, chatitable correction. My impression of them is not so much trying to be holy, but rather holier than thou. How many converts from other denominations has SSPX gained? The FSSP is an alternative as are eastern rites.
    No one doing the traditional rite will mess with it. The novus ordo was the subject of much innovation making it less sacred and even tepid. That does not make it invalid. SSPX has a nasty video https://youtu.be/ZiuXKo0CwoM (and part 2) that says you should commit mortal sin rather than attend a novus ordo (missing mass Sunday is grave matter, this priest says do it with full knowledge and consent of the will). If it is heretical or invalid (e.g. eucharistic media) walk out. Avoiding artificial contraception is also inconvenient and unpleasant, but it is heresy when priests say that.
    It was the Pharisees that worshipped the Law instead of God Jesus called a brood of vipers and sons of the devil, but they were perfect with regards to the law. They criticized Jesus and John the baptist.
    I moved spedifically to be close to a good church, and it isn’t SSPX, but has a weekly Latin mass (high sung mass). But the ordinary things and the daily mass (which I attend) are also clean and what a church should be. No bad priests or deacons. I get Christ and scripture almost every day of the week. And we’re building a perpetual adoration chapel (I’m just down the street and am already a substitute for the weekly adoration).
    I hope SSPX is getting you closer to Jesus, and can avoid their heresies from their pulpits.

  14. Not everyone lives near an FSSP parish – there are very few of them nationwide. A person can easily be hundreds of miles from the nearest “canonically regular” traditional parish.

  15. Bruce:

    FWIW, I agree that while it is easy to tolerate shenanigans on one’s own behalf, it is far more difficult to tolerate them when they risk corrupting your children.

    But that is kind of the same sort of situation as a husband married to a wife who really is a bad influence on their children, etc. As usual it is easier to avoid those problems by making the right kinds of decisions (e.g. where to live and work, who to marry) earlier in the game rather than later. It is a lot more work to properly raise children in a place where there are no good traditional parishes, true. So choosing to live where there actually are traditional parishes should be on the top of the priority list, well above things like career, etc.

    Easier said than done, of course, and I am not claiming to have followed the advice I give in hindsight myself. The road to Hell was wide already, and modernity has made it much wider.

    But for an RC considering excommunicating himself by committing schism (that is, SSPX/sedevacantism/etc or even going Orthodox), I’d consider fundamental life changes like moving to a different geography a more sane approach, given that we take the faith seriously, than heresy/schism/apostasy.

  16. It’s easier for you because you’re a confident Catholic. For someone like me, a seeker without confidience, trying to build confidence, seeing scandalous things destroys confidence.

  17. ZC, I understand your point about sedevacantists and the orthodox, but my understanding is that it is not clear at all that the SSPX is in schism. Jeff Culbreath writes positively about them and I think sometimes attends their masses (in fact I borrowed some of his words in my comment). Jeff does not appear to be a schismatic spirit.
    The Remnant spends a great deal of time writing about them and how they are not in schism. The Remnant does not appear to have a schismatic spirit. In fact, they quickly squashed the sedevacantists latest claim about the “mafia” of Cardinals described by Bp. Daneels invalidating the election.
    As an aside, if the sedevacantists are wrong I still don’t think they’re analogous to Protestants or even to the EO. They are at least trying to be faithful to the Church, the magisterium and even the papacy in their own way even if they have made an incorrect judgement and are in schism.

  18. @Bruce

    You might benefit from the Sproul lectures in the OP; particularly if you are/were Protestant.

    my understanding is that it is not clear at all that the SSPX is in schism. […] does not appear to have a schismatic spirit.

    That strikes me as a fundamentally Protestant way of looking at sedevacantism.

  19. CC,
    “particularly if you are/were Protestant”

    Call me Mr. In-between. I’m Anglican. My cathedral/bishop joined the RC Anglican ordinariate. My parish didn’t so I’m marooned.

    “That strikes me as a fundamentally Protestant way of looking at sedevacantism.”

    SSPX is definitely not sedevacantist. They are very intentionally not giving the impression that they are a territorial diocese or that the local bishop doesn’t have jurisdiction.

  20. Bruce:

    It’s easier for you because you’re a confident Catholic. For someone like me, a seeker without confidence, trying to build confidence, seeing scandalous things destroys confidence.

    I have no argument with you there. There is a scylla/charybdis character to how we human beings approach authority. If those in authority were perfect, or even half competent most of the time, it would be much easier to accept their authority. On the other hand a drunken fool of a father is still a father, and still sits in the chair of a father.

    Re: infallibility, this is an interesting case where many protestants, in counter-criticizing Catholicism, manage to get closer to the truth than many Catholics. Even when looking at ex cathedra pronouncements from a Pope (very rare), let alone the ordinary magisterium, we still face the problem of interpretation. Ultra trads pretend that there is one and only way to interpret certain doctrines: their way. In effect they apply the positivism behind sola scriptura to the magisterium, and protestant counter-criticisms on this point are perfectly valid.

    The main thing that the doctrine of infallibility implies is that almost nothing the Pope says or does is infallible, especially when you think of “what the Pope says or does” in terms of “Bob’s interpretation of what the Pope says or does” — because the latter is actually never infallible.

  21. @Bruce

    I’m Anglican

    Me too. I sometimes describe myself as a Southern Baptist seeking asylum in an Anglican church.

    When I came to the Anglican Church, I did so under the notion that if they went too far astray we would leave. Later I decided that they would have to throw me out. If my Anglo-Catholic-leaning parish went to Rome, I’m not sure what I would do. Probably keep voicing my Reformed views and make them choose what to do with me.

    Reformers like Luther, Cranmer, etc. faced a very different set of potential penalties (prison, torture and death) than we do (less friends, smug looks, and disdain).

    @Zippy

    The main thing that the doctrine of infallibility implies is that almost nothing the Pope says or does is infallible

    So you say… 😀

  22. Some great comments. Some have argued that Anglicism is actually not the next nearest, but Lutheranism of the classical sort. Gregory Dix who wrote several pieces about this (he was Anglican) and some of it can be found in his “Shape of the Liturgy”. The Anglicans actually started out closer to Calvin. Overtime they moved to a more “Lutheran” like position (and therefore Catholic) but that is a fairly modern change that came with the Oxford Movement.

    I also think that Catholics are largely oblivious to some of the differences with Orthodoxy. For example, we don’t have seven Sacrements…we’re fuzzy on the count. And unlike the West there isn’t a formal cannon.

    Zippy’s Zinger is well taken. But I’m only a _formal_ heretic in his book having never been Catholic.

  23. @ Cane Caldo, I’ve never been anything but Anglican. It seems like a dead end. We’re fuzzy on lots of things so as to not drive the few remaining butts in the pews out. It’s all old people- a few of them bring their one or two grandchildren. I can’t imagine my children will have a chance to marry another Anglican. Even if they do, we’re fuzzy on divorce so I guess their spouse could put them away and be in good standing. What happened to biblical principles like shunning, kicking people out of the church, etc?

    @ zippy, It’s not just authority of rotten clergy. The Novus Ordo lay culture, at least where I live, is awful. Yes, people shouldn’t convert or not convert for the culture (culture is why people become Mormons) but again for someone not confident, I start to build confidence in Catholic truths only to see that confidence crushed by what I see. The church culture your children are raised in matters. You can teach what you want at home but when everyone in church seems the opposite, does the opposite, says the opposite, it matters. Bonald is taking a position in his Church just so he can spy on what they’re teaching his daughters. Is his parish unusual? I bet not.
    If the ordinary magisterium is just that, ordinary, then they seem to be using it to teach grave error. If you save it by emphasizing its universal nature well then I don’t understand it. What good is the ordinary magisterium if the limits placed on it by its universal nature are so broad & deep (and thus minimal in practical reach) that it’s basically useless?

    @ GK Chesteron, I have heard the same argument. Anglicanism has always been broad, I think, with a more reformed and a more catholic wing. The 39 articles are clearly protestant. 13 I believe are direct copies of Augsburg articles. The catholic wing often seems to minimize them by emphasizing their historic context. I think Lutheranism is maybe more literal about the body and blood. Anglicans kept bishops, priests and deacons. Right or wrong, they are both a big departure from Roman Catholicism.

  24. Bruce:
    I’m not really objecting to any of what you said, and in fact I am in pretty close to perfect agreement; but I’ll answer this:

    What good is the ordinary magisterium if the limits placed on it by its universal nature are so broad & deep (and thus minimal in practical reach) that it’s basically useless?

    The primary good of the Catholic priesthood is that it brings us valid sacraments, most importantly Christ Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. Next to that, literally nothing else matters.

    And it may well be that that is the most basic lesson of this age.

  25. ZC, I mentioned it because I don’t really understand the O.M. The sedevacantists seem to emphasize the ordinary i.e. it’s what the Church teaches I guess because it supports their argument. The anti-sedevacantists (e.g. the Remnant) seem to emphasize the universal, including, in some arguments, not just geographic universality but temporal as well. I guess that’s the genesis of my comment – that if the concept is broadened and deepened too much I don’t see how it has any use. The O.M. attaches to the papacy too, right. It’s not “what your priest teaches.” If it’s what every bishop everywhere through time and space teaches with the pope that must be a really minimal set of beliefs.

    Obviously the sacrament, as the center of Catholic life is huge, but the EO have technically valid sacraments – Catholicism is much more than the blessed Sacrament.

  26. @Bruce

    @ Cane Caldo, I’ve never been anything but Anglican. It seems like a dead end. We’re fuzzy on lots of things so as to not drive the few remaining butts in the pews out. It’s all old people- a few of them bring their one or two grandchildren. I can’t imagine my children will have a chance to marry another Anglican.

    My choice to join an (My Protestant ecclesiology show here. I’m not terribly concerned about denominational bureaucracies in comparison to what is taught and done at the local church level.) Anglican church (then Episcopal) was based on a few things. C.S. Lewis was Anglican, and I figured that if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. By then I had come to the conclusion that I’m more of a Texan-Brit than an American. That my cultural worldview is descended from the English combined with an obvious influence from my homeland and that it was ok for those things to be consciously reflected in my church. (As opposed to the common view of Protestants that churches should be sanitized of culture and history for reasons of “inclusion”.

    Related to that is liturgy and the idea of the Common Book of Prayer. I don’t believe in the necessity of liturgy or the CBP, but I believe that it’s good for me in the same way I believe houses are good for me as opposed to lean-to shelters.

    Particularly, I knew the diocese I was standing against ordaining homosexual clergy, and their (now my) bishop had stopped the ordination of women clergy. That signaled to me that they were not just fighting a cultural war, but were fighting to uphold the authority of Scripture.

    Yeah, they’re kind of mealy-mouthed, and Anglican men don’t inspire a lot of confidence, and Anglican women were short-haired and mouthy, and a lot of both are old. Yet they were standing their ground against TECUS; who have devoted their treasury to persecuting and suing every diocese who didn’t toe the line.

    If I hadn’t found solace in the Anglican church, the next stop would have been Lutherans. Although, since I’m being all biographical, I probably made a mistake in not taking up with an Independent Baptist church just before we began searching among the Anglicans. Perhaps I wrote about that before.

    Suppose you decide on a church. What is your responsibility as a member of that church?

  27. CC, I’m an Anglophile too so that didn’t hurt. My thinking became firmly catholic (let’s say little “c”) about 9 years ago. But I could not accept the post-vatican II church, too many doubts, so I became continuing Anglican (we happened to move within a mile of a continuing Anglican parish so that didn’t hurt). We are TAC which means we have no connection really with local Episcopals (“whiskey-palians” my dad calls them) or the Anglican communion.
    We spend some time attending a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church. I could not accept their confession. My soteriology is Catholic.
    I’ve been to an Independent Baptist church. It took them about five minutes to figure out my children aren’t saved because the children weren’t familiar with the current version of the sinner’s prayer. My guess is that a confessional reformed Baptist Church would have been a better fit for you.
    One has an obligation to follow the teachings of his denomination I think. Or at least, not to undermine it if you can’t fully consent to every detail.

  28. @Bruce

    I’ve been to an Independent Baptist church. It took them about five minutes to figure out my children aren’t saved because the children weren’t familiar with the current version of the sinner’s prayer.

    There are a lot of ignorant Protestants out there.

    My guess is that a confessional reformed Baptist Church would have been a better fit for you.

    Ha. I would have tried to nudge them more catholic.

    One has an obligation to follow the teachings of his denomination I think. Or at least, not to undermine it if you can’t fully consent to every detail.

    As far as the teachings follow the truth.

    I always go back to David and Saul. David was the anointed king, and he recognized and honored that Saul had been anointed king before him. That didn’t make Saul’s actions right; it just made it wrong for David to usurp him. David went on about the business of fighting the Philistines.

  29. I guess I mean you shouldn’t undermine a pastor’s authority. You shouldn’t subvert a church from the inside. For example, I shouldn’t try to undermine the teachings of a Lutheran pastor in his church. If I don’t agree I should keep my mouth shut or go somewhere else.

  30. @Bruce

    I guess I mean you shouldn’t undermine a pastor’s authority. You shouldn’t subvert a church from the inside. For example, I shouldn’t try to undermine the teachings of a Lutheran pastor in his church.

    I agree, if by undermine you mean betray; particularly in secret when church leaders aren’t around. But I can ask questions during the time where we are allowed to ask questions. Those times when I am asked what I think, I may say what I think without betraying anyone.

    As an example that’s not on many people’s radar: Whatever the real and full teaching of the Anglican Communion is, in our diocese the Diaconate is a rung on the ladder to priesthood, and they don’t do much actual serving of those in need except spiritually, and within the walls of the church. Is that what deacons are meant to do? Does our understanding and practice regarding deacons reveal anything about the state of our church; especially in comparison to the Early Church? Are there any holes in our practices concerning serving those in physical need? If so, what do those holes say about us and our practices concerning deacons? I ask questions like that.

    If I don’t agree I should keep my mouth shut or go somewhere else.

    Why? Why do you have to leave if you don’t agree? Why can’t you respectfully and submissively question or disagree when allowed?

  31. Bruce:

    I guess that’s the genesis of my comment – that if the concept is broadened and deepened too much I don’t see how it has any use. The O.M. attaches to the papacy too, right. It’s not “what your priest teaches.” If it’s what every bishop everywhere through time and space teaches with the pope that must be a really minimal set of beliefs.

    Part of the problem is that we are always looking for a way to banish all uncertainty, even if only on some particular point or other, through some mechanical procedure or body of experts that we can always count on. But even if we had that we’d still have to deal with the obvious (and less obvious) limitations in ourselves. It is almost as if “hey, trust Me” was written into the nature of reality.

  32. @Asher

    I always want comments. Please feel free to add pertinent comments in the future. My judgment on what is pertinent is very wide as long as you’re not a female; which I don’t believe you are. Chicks are prohibited.

  33. Cane Caldo, what I mean is disagreements about basic denominational beliefs. If I start attending a confessional Lutheran church, I know what they believe and shouldn’t argue with their basic beliefs. When I did, I discussed things with the pastor but I didn’t try to talk people into seven sacraments. Same for a reformed Baptist. I know what they believe. If I attend their church, I’m there to learn not teach, not change.

  34. The 39 are very…not catholic. Small “c” is intentional here.

    What’s worse is the original liturgy. As is made clear in “The Shape of the Liturgy” in Dix’s final chapter which he aims at his fellow Anglicans. Its a good, but difficult, read.

  35. @Zippy – we have both will and intellect. The will fails even when we are perfectly certain something is good or bad. We have to trust, but that takes will. We need to exercise the will to make it strong to always choose the good that we know. Seeking certainty is a substitute, we don’t want choice, a will to seek and do good, we want robotic programming to do the good thing, but in doing so the will disappears since it is no longer choice. We can even choose correctly, but be mistaken, so then we must make restitution and ask for forgiveness. That takes the virtue of Humility. A wise man is humble – regardless of intellect. To gain understanding one must let many things into the mind, and then sort out those which belong in the heart.

    General response:

    Different churches have different disciplines, and you should follow the discipline of the general denomination. Although you should never undermine the authority of a Pastor, he (as well as a priest) is human and is capable of error. One example is when the priest or pastor is obese, sermons on self-control aren’t exactly going to be well received. Doctrinal matters might be appropriate but maybe better for a bible study. A lot of nuance is often lost – even these Sproul lectures are for theology students, not the laity.

    My most recent example (Man-blaming) http://www.intothebreach.net/into-the-breach/ – something from the Diocese of Phoenix. Two things just set me off:

    “In our time, we hear of such high rates of sexual assaults in our society, especially on college campuses”. – which is a lie, at least if you don’t count regret rape like Mattress Girl and Rolling Stone’s article. But the Bishop has to kiss the feminist ring.

    But even worse:

    “Today’s attack on fatherhood, and by extension, motherhood, is multi-pronged and breathtakingly damaging. 41% of children are born into unmarried homes in our day, an increase of 700% from 1950, when the out-of-wedlock birthrate was a mere 6%. These children are not fatherless because of some sweeping physical conflict, like World War II, which caused many wounds of fatherlessness, but rather because, far worse, fathers’ own willed absence is happening on a massive scale. It is not hard to see how men’s fears of fatherhood find a legion of support in today’s culture of self, encouraging men to flee from this beautiful gift in pursuit of their own desires. The child is forced to ask the question: “Where is my Daddy?””

    He hasn’t heard of “man-fault” divorce, and in most cases the Woman doesn’t want a father (loses child support) , or the woman always gets custody but never gives visitation. The Bishop could do more by pushing the laity and politicians to always grant joint custody, and joint child support. Men who want to be fathers are being denied.

    In Arizona there are worse things too:

    http://medicalkidnap.com/tag/arizona/

    He does mention artificial contraception in passing, but doesn’t really get into it – Married couples are two persons, and it requires both persons to cooperate. As well as divorce and annulments – has his chancery ever denied one?

    I found this condescending and insulting. Instead of exhorting men to holiness, he blames them for being the bad guy, not wanting to step up, etc. I’m probably living out what his letter wants, but the reason I’ve not got married is that (until my recent move) there were no women I would trust not to go batshit crazy and divorce me, take and alienate the children, and try to bankrupt me. I know several cases where exactly that happened to saintly Christian men. Dalrock notes the cultural change from Fatherhood to Child-support, a greater disaster than the Gay marriage decision, but has any prominent Catholic or church leader spoken out? Yes, the “fathers are important”, but I’m looking for “We need to get rid of government and child support to make it as hard as it used to be to destroy a family”.

    (I did write him and the source which is supposedly a Catholic Man supporting place).

  36. I’m also a Continuing Anglican Christian and remember the Archbishop writing in his book that the main difference is the issue of papal supremacy.

    Best regards,

    A.J.P.

  37. Perhaps “main” was not the best word to choose, and so “prominent” could be a better one.

    Yes, it’s Abp. Haverland.

    A.J.P.

  38. As always, though, what gets left unanswered in Sproul’s dialogues is the basic question of why the Protestant Church isn’t anything like the Church that existed from the time of the Apostle’s martyrdom to the 1500’s — that the Christian Church from, say, 80 AD to 1500 AD clearly taught things like the Authority of the Church, the hierarchy, and the Real Presence of the Eucharist much as the modern RCC does, and those teachings were never really disputed, except by fringe heresies (and even then, not much).

    The only answer I have ever heard modern protestant / evangelical leaders give is that there was that the entire Church fell into heresy shortly after Christ ascended into Heaven, and that there was some “remnant” that remained faithful until the Reformation. Of course, that begs the questions, where was this remnant? Who were they? Where is there any evidence of them? Where are their writings? And also, did Christ really let his Church fall into heresy for 1500 years, RIGHT AFTER his ascension? Seems like a shaky foundation on which to build ALL of the other protestant theology…

  39. @Roger

    Welcome.

    As always, though, what gets left unanswered in Sproul’s dialogues is the basic question of why the Protestant Church isn’t anything like the Church that existed from the time of the Apostle’s martyrdom to the 1500’s

    Did you listen to the series? It is a high-level explanation of Roman Catholicism and its practices; not a refutation. You’re criticizing a lack of an answer for a question that wasn’t asked.

    But what do you mean by “as always”? Are you saying that Sproul never addresses the shape of Reformed churches, and never addresses why they took that shape? Or do you mean that no Reformers, ever, have addressed how the Church persisted under Roman heresy? Or do you mean that you have never heard an answer that you liked; either because you found it unsatisfying generally, or because you reject the idea of Roman heresy altogether?

  40. Cane,

    What i am saying is that, I have never heard an answer to the question that was both (a) consistent and (b) made sense in light of historical fact and common sense. And as someone who was raised Catholic, became an evangelical Christian, and then re-discovered, at great personal pain, the Catholic Church, I *have* searched. I’ve read the books, listened to the tapes, and sat, in person, in the lectures. And I still haven’t been able to find a reasonable explanation as to how the reformed churches can be a consistent “remnant” of the early church. The reason I remarked on it here, on your post about Sproul, is because Sproul, for all of his even handedness in explaining the Roman Catholic Church, still sees the RCC as heretical.

  41. @Roger

    And I still haven’t been able to find a reasonable explanation as to how the reformed churches can be a consistent “remnant” of the early church.

    I’m not a historian or a theologian, but from my amateur perspective: Anyone who claims to be a part of a remnant that had been reformed all along is just wrong.

    You’re sort of asking why you can’t find the lineage of the “true” Gnostics, and you are coming up with the right answer that there are no true Gnostics, and no true hidden knowledge. You’re searching for gnosticism where there is none. But the Reformers actually aren’t Gnostics, and they didn’t hold that they’ve known all along because someone had passed the secrets onto them while it was withheld from the rest of the Church. That’s why they are called Reformers.

    I should put in a caveat here that not all of the Reformers were the same, and some of them do seem to trespass into Gnosticism, but not Luther, or Cromwell, or Cranmer, or many others.

    On an individual level we all still need to be reformed and transformed, but if we are Christians then we are in the Body. Just so I don’t trip you up if you don’t agree that we Protestants are in the Body: RCC teaching doesn’t hold that Roman Catholics individually are perfect, but that they need to be perfected. So it’s never plagued me that God could sustain His Church just as He sustains us individually; even through vast heresy. He does so all through the Old Testament.

  42. It’s a reasonable question to ask whether or not it should have been addressed by this Sproul’s series.
    I am a very casual reader of Church history and theology. My (maybe limited) understanding is that the Church looks catholic (at a minimum little “c” catholic – the way some Anglicans understand it) from very early on. Protestants frequently cite an early church father here or there to show that one of the “sola” beliefs was present but an examination of that same church father usually shows they are solidly Catholic (examples: St. Augustine on predestination, St. Cyril on scripture, etc.). I have also read that archeological evidence of the primitive church shows evidence of churches set up for mass with altar tables suggesting propitiatory sacrifice.
    If this is true, (if – I can’t say it is) then the Protestant assumption looks like a lot like the Mormon assumption of total apostacy. I am not aware of any records of the sola fide, sola scriptura…etc. remnant contesting the “heretical” catholic Christianity.

    Note: I am using little c catholic to include what we now call Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, oriental orthodox, etc.

  43. @Bruce

    My (maybe limited) understanding is that the Church looks catholic (at a minimum little “c” catholic – the way some Anglicans understand it) from very early on.

    That’s my take on it, as a fellow amateur.

    Protestants frequently cite an early church father here or there to show that one of the “sola” beliefs was present but an examination of that same church father usually shows they are solidly Catholic (examples: St. Augustine on predestination, St. Cyril on scripture, etc.).

    Ok, but what matters is: Are the sola beliefs true?

    If this is true, (if – I can’t say it is) then the Protestant assumption looks like a lot like the Mormon assumption of total apostacy.

    What assumption?

    I am not aware of any records of the sola fide, sola scriptura…etc. remnant contesting the “heretical” catholic Christianity.

    No, I don’t believe there is “remnant” either. That was not the contention of the Reformers either, that I understand.

  44. Cane,

    “Ok, but what matters is: Are the sola beliefs true?”

    I don’t want to start a Catholic-Protestant debate but, no, I do not think the solas are true.

    “What assumption?”

    The Mormons assume that the church went into total apostacy when the last Apostle died. If history shows that the church looks catholic/orthodox from very early on, then the Protestant assumption starts to look a lot like the Mormon assumption. Total or near-total apostacy or at least total heresy.

  45. @Bruce

    I don’t want to start a Catholic-Protestant debate but, no, I do not think the solas are true.

    It was a rhetorical question to express the idea that what needs to be decided is whether or not the solar are true. While it may be helpful in our determining, ultimately it’s not necessary to prove whether those Christians who came before us had everything right. So, those current Protestants trying to prove that Early Church fathers held the solas are off-target.

    And thank you for the explanation of the Mormon theology of apostasy. I had not heard of it, and now I understand the reference.

    If history shows that the church looks catholic/orthodox from very early on, then the Protestant assumption starts to look a lot like the Mormon assumption. Total or near-total apostacy or at least total heresy.

    Does that seem impossible to you?

  46. The very early apostacy or near-apostacy assumption? It does not seem impossible. But it seems very unlikely. God gave us Christianity and it very quickly went off the rails?

  47. @Bruce

    God gave us Christianity and it very quickly went off the rails?

    That’s not really what is suggested. It would be better said that God gave us the Church, and yet we quickly still went off the rails.

    We can get into the weeds if we focus too much on the word quickly, and how long a time quickly is to you or to me. It’s enough to say that God does something, and for no good reason we abandon it. And I also want to make clear that I’m not endorsing an Early Church apostasy in the sense that They went immediately off the rails…

    but such a thing sounds like par for the human course, to me. Obviously, the Israelites (God’s People, aka the Church) go so far off the rails that they get Romans to kill Christ.

    Have you ever read 2 Kings 22-23? Idols in the Temple? Prostitutes in the Temple…and not just prostitutes, but male prostitutes? While the Israelites were a sovereign kingdom and people? It seems impossible to me, but there it is.

  48. I think heresy would be a better word to use – apostasy means becoming a non-believer.

    I think it would be a matter of the church going into total theological heresy on basic things. I don’t think the Israelites falling into grave sin is analogous.

  49. wanted to add that the argument about the early Church looking catholic is not, in and of itself, decisive for me.

  50. Pingback: Suppose We Change the Subject to… | Things that We have Heard and Known

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