The ACT 3 Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dialog, Part 6

John ArmstrongRoman Catholicism

One thing is for sure when it comes to dialog between Catholics and evangelicals. There are Catholics and evangelicals who both think there should be no dialog. Dialog is compromise and compromise is bad, end of subject. You will see this time and time again by responses to my own posts on this subject. Everything is very clear to such people. They know the truth, completely and fully. Catholics are lost, heretical and need to come to faith in Christ and leave the Roman Catholic Church or they will be damned. These anti-Catholics have their Web sites, pamphlets, booklets and full length polemical books. This is a rather large cottage industry in America and some ex-Catholics are the leading proponents of it since they see nothing good in the Catholic Church that they left. But these Protestants are not alone. There are Catholics on the right, some of whom left Protestantism, who think any conversation that involves dialog without condemnation of all Protestant errors as intractable heresy or compromise. These Catholics will appeal, quite logically at times, to certain aspects of Catholic tradition and thought while they conveniently ignore what the Catholic Church has taught in the 20th century and what is now being practiced by the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

One thing is for sure. On both sides there are disagreements between people who profess to agree by being in the same communion sacramentally. The Catholic Church may be one in union with the Pope and the magisterium but that doesn’t mean Catholics, or even Catholic theologians and priests, are all of the same mind. The "oneness" of Rome is impressive on one level but we should be honest about the facts here. There are many different positions held by many different Catholic teachers on many different subjects. Rome has its liberals and its conservatives. Rome has divisions and struggles within it large and worldwide communion. The difference is that most of these differences do not break the ecclesial union the communicants have with the Pope and the magisterium, at least not officially.

This is why our dialog was only one among many. You could get two different Catholic theologians and two different evangelicals and the outcome would be very different in both tone and emphasis. The two Catholics that I invited to the ACT 3 Forum were chosen for several reasons: 1. They are serious Christians who can and do understand Catholic doctrine and its nunances very well. 2. They are honorable men who have demonstrated to me as a brother their lvoe for Christ and for me as a brother. 3. They are articulate and non-combative while not willing to give up one iota of official Catholic teaching. They made it clear they would love to see the two of us, who were there as evangelicals, become Catholics. We argued that we were less interested in making them Protestants though we do want to hear the gospel preached with much greater clarity in the Roman Catholic Church. We see some progress on this front but we long for a full-blown reformation of the preaching of Christ alone and grace alone among Catholics. 4. They take ecumenism seriously and believe that the ecumenism of the future will be far more informal, like what we did on September 16th. From these informal friendships will arise a new love for one another that God might be pleased to use for greater good in the whole Christian communion. We are not deeply interested in joining organizations but in pursuing common ways to listen and love because of our faith in Christ as Lord. Following John 17 we all four believed that the first level of unity we have is relational, not simply joining the same communion. You can be in the same communion and not have this type of spiritual unity and yet you can be in two different communions and have deep and growing unity according to John 17. At the same time we must pursue this precisely because we are commanded by our Lord to do so. This we all four agreed upon.

While I am at it let me encourage you to check out Father Robert Barron’s outstanding Web site. Bob is a marvelous preacher, a great communicator, and an astute critic of culture and art. His You Tube videos on film are priceless. His sermons on the gospels are magnificent. I regularly profit from his site. I encourage you to check him out.