PROTESTANT SCHOLARS ON THE CATHOLIC CLAIM THAT THE CHURCH IS THE ONLY ONE THAT HAS THE RIGHT TO SPEAK FOR GOD

We are looking at the book, Roman but Not Catholic: What Remains at Stake 500 Years after the Reformation by Jerry L. Walls and Kenneth J. Collins

It challenges the Catholic claim to be the only Church that can credibly be linked with Jesus Christ and also the one Church that God set up.

Quote showing how Catholic scholars think that Jesus as God becoming man and peacemaking between God and us gives rise to the whole Catholic system:

The Incarnation is the antecedent of the doctrine of Mediation, and the archetype both of the Sacramental principle and the merits of the Saints. From the doctrine of Mediation follow the Atonement, the Mass, the merits of Martyrs and Saints, their invocation and cultus. From the Sacramental principle come the Sacraments properly so called; the unity of the Church, and the Holy See as its type and centre; the authority of Councils; the sanctity of rites; the veneration of holy places, shrines, images, vessels, furniture and vestments. Of the Sacraments, Baptism is developed into Confirmation on the one hand; into Penance, Purgatory and Indulgences on the other; and the Eucharist into the Real Presence, adoration of the Host, Resurrection of the body and the virtue of the relics. Again, the doctrine of the Sacraments leads to the doctrine of Justification; Justification to that of Original Sin; Original Sin to the merit of Celibacy.15 This is an extraordinary passage, and any moderately attentive reader can hardly help but notice how extravagant the claims are that it advances. Although Newman does not even begin to explain, let alone demonstrate, how all these doctrines “follow” or “come” from the doctrines they allegedly follow or come from, he proclaims that they do with a sense bordering on infallible authority.
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So I conclude this section with key questions: Can a person who accepts the Roman claims of authority question the immaculate conception of Mary without raising corresponding doubts about the doctrines affirmed in the classic creeds? Are these doctrines so connected that the incarnation cannot stand without the immaculate conception? If one doubted transubstantiation, would doubts about the Trinity inevitably follow? If one looked into the historical foundations of the papacy and found them wanting, would that person’s faith in Christ crumble as well? It is important to emphasize that more is at stake here than an intellectual debate about logical consistency. This is a pastoral issue as well as a philosophical and theological one. Believers who think their right to believe in the resurrection of Jesus depends on their believing that the earth is only several thousand years old, or who think their right to believe in the incarnation and atonement of Jesus requires them to believe in the immaculate conception—such Christians are caught up in a position that is not only intellectually dubious but also spiritually precarious as well. The “right” to believe the saving truths of the gospel should never be held hostage by other beliefs that are peripheral at best.

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Robert Bellarmine, in his attempt to refute Protestant divines, argued that the church is a “specific type of community (coetus hominum)” that is marked by three leading traits: “The one and true Church is the community of men brought together by the profession of the same Christian faith and conjoined in the communion of the same sacraments, under the government of the legitimate pastors and especially the one vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman pontiff.”

 The emphasis on this same troika of faith, sacraments, and hierarchical governance can be found more recently in the encyclical Ut Unum Sint, proclaimed in May 1995 by John Paul II.

MY COMMENTS: The reasons for core Catholic teachings are not obvious.  Jesus said his truth would be a rock but does that sound like a rock?

Now the book says on baptism that it is hard to fit with what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit being spontaneous.  Catholic doctrine is that baptism definitely gives the Holy Spirit.  If baptism does give it, it may be that it does not do it for everybody.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

Protestant scholar Alister McGrath contends that “Paul treats baptism as a spiritual counterpart to circumcision (Col. 2:11–12), suggesting that the parallel may extend to its application to infants.”  However, upon further examination this association of circumcision and infant baptism quickly falls apart, especially when the larger Pauline corpus is taken into account. It is, therefore, not descriptive of apostolic intent and judgment. Consider this: circumcision as practiced by the Jews (the heirs of the covenantal promises of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) flowed along familial, racial lines indicative of a chosen people. Not only was circumcision a “sign of the covenant,” as Genesis 17:11 puts it, but it was also the mark that literally and physically distinguished this chosen people from the gentiles. To be a member of a particular family in effect made one an heir of the covenant. One was born into a favored, privileged relationship with the Most High. This is not, however, how Christian believers, both Jews and gentiles today, are related to Christ.

COMMENT: Extremely important for scholars continually make wrong connections between baptism and circumcision.

The book then covers the Catholic Mass.

In the Mass, then, the Roman priest offers up Christ to the Father. But if the Father has already given the gift of the Son, which is abundantly evident at Golgotha (“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness,” Rom. 3:25a, emphasis added) and celebrated in the Supper with thanksgiving, then why is the gift returned?

Whereas the death of Christ caused the temple curtain to be torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying that the way is now open between God and humanity (Matt. 27:51), the very architecture of Roman Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) churches (with its rails, gates, altars, sanctuary, and tabernacles), put in place by a misunderstanding of the Supper (most notably in the doctrine of transubstantiation, though Eastern Orthodoxy itself does not affirm this exact doctrine-

Paul’s warnings about “discerning the body” (see 1 Cor. 11:29) do not have to do with the theology of the Supper but with factionalism in the church. Those who exclude other believers because of different beliefs about the Supper fail to discern the body.

Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians points out that the old covenant, along with its many sacrifices, was a “ministry that brought death,” a “ministry that brought condemnation” and as such was “transitory” (3:7–11).

COMMENT: Paul did not say the bread and wine were Jesus but he did say that the Church was the body of Jesus and the members bound in one body as strongly as physical parts.  Paul writes that there will be judgement awaiting for those who eat the bread and drink without discerning the body.  They sin against the body and blood of Christ.  Augustine who gave communion telling people, "Receive what you are the body of Christ."  The body and blood of Jesus is the believer and the bread and cup being shared are about that principle.  This would mean that Eucharists and masses are sins unless the people of God are united in one body.  Taking communion brings condemnation.  The attempt to continue with sacrifices to God is condemned by Paul as dangerous to the soul.  So the Catholic doctrine that the Mass is a sacrifice is banned.

Next the book treats the allegation that Jesus gave priests the power to forgive sin.

Or consider the postresurrection account found in John 20:19–23, a passage that in many respects parallels the language of Matthew 16:19: “And with that he [Jesus] breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (vv. 22–23). Notice that in this context the referent for “you,” as in “you forgive,” is the Spirit-anointed assembly. Accordingly one interpretation that must be excluded for its lack of plausibility here in John and therefore elsewhere in its parallel in Matthew is that Jesus has an individual in mind when he speaks these words. The grammatical form of the verb in this verse is not the second-person singular but the second-person plural. So then it is a charismatic office that is being explored in this setting, one that is corporately held. Thus the people of God, animated by the Holy Spirit, hold the power of the keys. The divine presence and activity in the entire community must ever be in view.

COMMENT: Fits the view that the power depended on one having the gift from God to see the sins in another.  This would exclude Catholic priests as having the power to forgive.  They depend on people confessing their sins.

Now to the sacrament of the sick or what used to be called extreme unction.  It mentions the letter of James where he says pastors should anoint the sick and the prayer will save the sick from their sins.

Notice the general nature of this grace: “Is anyone among you sick?” If this is the case, then one should call for the elders. Mark’s passage is even more instructive along these lines: “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them” (6:12–13). In this second setting, with its strong evangelistic note, it appears that the disciples, whom Jesus sent out two by two, were anointing not the sick of the church but a much more general population: those who had responded to the preaching of the disciples and who were therefore now in a state of repentance.

COMMENT: So James was only singling out the sick for the anointing probably because some pastors didn't want to go near them.  It was meant for all and is about the repentant not just the sick.

Now to how the sacraments of the Church are supposed to treat grace like a power or substance that is channeled to people through church rituals:

This language of “infused” has led Darrell Bock and Mikel Del Rosario to observe, “And so in the Medieval as well as the Post-Reformation Catholic Church, grace is treated almost as if it’s a substance, something that can be dispensed through various avenues of change and means through the magisterium.”

Now to the veneration of saints,

John Calvin had recognized in his own age: “It is a common opinion among them, that we need intercessors, because in ourselves we are unworthy of appearing in the presence of God. By speaking in this manner, they deprive Christ of his honour.”

COMMENT: The Bible says you can boldly go to God's throne for Jesus speaks for you.  Looking for saints to put in a word for you is unnecessary and casts doubt on him.

Next is the doctrine that faith alone saves and good works do nothing to put you right with God so that you can be with him forever,

Origen in the third century, - in his commentary on Romans 3:28 states: “It remains for us who are trying to affirm everything the apostle says, and to do so in the proper order, to inquire who is justified by faith alone, apart from works.”

COMMENT: The Protestant doctrine of faith alone being needed was not original.  The book quotes Catholic opposition to it,

Canon 32, for instance, opines: “If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified, . . . [that person] does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life; . . . let him be anathema.”

FINALLY

To refute the sacraments means refuting the Church as the true Church.  The Church invented the sacraments as a tactic for setting up a religious construct.  Not a single major doctrine has credibility.