We Are Catholic Protestants

Monday, September 18th, 2017

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, it is important that we remember our heritage in reclaiming historic faith from a church which had gone astray. The Reformers were, of course, denounced for “dividing the church.” Luther was famously referred to by Pope Leo X as “a wild boar loose in the Lord’s vineyard.”

Looking back, we recognize that Luther was not dividing the church, but calling it back to its deeper gospel unity—our deeper catholicity. The reformers were sparking a reformation which called the church back to its roots and the great biblical faith of Apostles and martyrs. The central theme of the Reformation; namely, that we are saved by grace through faith, was not a new doctrinal insertion, but a re-articulation of the plain teaching of Ephesians 2:8: “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Recently, dozens of Christian leaders from across every part of the Protestant spectrum dreamed of a statement which might demonstrate our underlying unity as Protestants. In other words, is there a catholic faith which, despite our diversity, we all affirm? The result has been the Reforming Catholic Confession. It is not intended to be a maximal statement stating everything any one group believes. That is a different project. Indeed, it is a beautiful thing when a church explores at the deepest level and with great clarity what they believe. However, this Confession is designed to discover our shared theological heritage with all Protestant churches.

Where are those places where we all agree? It is meant to be a statement of unity in the midst of our diversity. It took over a year to craft the statement and reach the kind of wide approval we sought. I lost count on how many drafts we went through, as each line was carefully scrutinized. The Confession has now been drafted in its final form. The website has been launched and the Confession has already secured nearly 1,000 signatures from around the world (It is also available on the site in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Korean, with several other translations to follow). It can be found at http://reformingcatholicconfession.com.

I encourage you to log on and read the confession and join us in this great statement of Protestant catholicity. In this day when there is so much division, it is refreshing to be reminded of that great historic faith which binds us all together in Jesus Christ.

Comments

  • While the statement seems nice, I don’t think it goes far enough. There are three main points that prevent me from signing it. First is the question of sola scriptura. The statement is correct in saying Scripture is “the only infallible and sufficiently clear rule and authority for Christian faith, thought, and life,” however, Roman Catholicism also believes any ex cathedra pronouncements the Pope may speak are infallible and equal in authority to Scripture, and Protestants can never accept that.

    The second is the question of sola fide. While the statement is correct in saying salvation is wholly by grace (sola gratia), that is not the end. The statement leaves out faith. The Protestant belief is that salvation is by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus). The statement does not present the complete biblical salvation formula as presented in Ephesians 2:8-9. While including the “not of works” aspect, it ignores the Roman Catholic understanding of that, which is “not of works of the law,” but still requiring other certain works as necessary for salvation (i.e. good works such as the giving of alms and charity work; as well as keeping the sacraments – which the Roman Catholic church believes in seven sacraments – and belonging to the Roman Catholic church). To include these as necessary for salvation is contrary to Scripture.

    And the third are the Roman Catholic beliefs that are contrary to Scripture, such as the absolute and unquestioning authority of the pope over each and every Christian worldwide (thus making the pope and not Christ the head of the Church), the perpetual virginity of Mary, Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven, the role of Mary as co-mediatrix (and in some cases co-redemptrix), etc.

    I find is somewhat suspicious that the statement does not address these issues, as they must be adequately addressed before there can be any real hope of any kind of unity between Protestants and Roman Catholics.