Friday, June 10, 2005

Popestant or Protestant?

<< I Love the Word "Popish"
. . . along with Romanist, Romish, Popery, and Papist. Not because it is a legitimate word, with proper etymological pedigree, mind you, but because it is so patently ridiculous and, well, downright idiotic (would anyone say "fatherish" or "fatherist"?). Just when you think no Protestant is silly enough to actually use this linguistic monstrosity (along with the others in the anti-Catholic catalogue), sure enough, Reformed Baptist apologist Steve Hays (the guy who thinks Catholicism is officially as liberal as American Episcopalianism is), brings it back from retirement.

He has (quite predictably) used the other similar words, too:

Both Romanist and popery.



I never knew that Dave Armstrong learned English as a second language, but then, it’s always a full moon over at Cor ad cor loquitur, so one comes to expect the unexpected.

Okay, I guess I have to give Mr. Armstrong a mini-course in remedial English. Using the “–ish” suffix to turn nouns into adjectives is a grammatically unimpeachable feature of standard English, viz., Amish, British, childish, Danish, English, Finnish, Israelitish, Jewish, Polish, priggish, Rhemish, Scottish, Spanish, &c.

Likewise, use of the “–ist” suffix serves a similar adjectival function, viz., Adventist, alchemist, Baptist, Buddhist, Calvinist, classicist, Congregationalist, coreligionist, cultist, deist, Donatist, evangelist, Hellenist, humanist, Jansenist, liturgist, Latinist, Marxist, Methodist, Molinist, monotheist, Novatianist, Occamist, polygamist, polytheist, psalmist, Redemptorist, Satanist, Scotist, Talmudist, theist, Thomist, Trappist, tsarist, Vedantist, &c.

The late JP2 was fond of these sorts of coinages as well, to wit: Yahwist, Elohist.

It would be best, therefore, if Armstrong avoided words like “idiotic,” as these are apt to recoil on the head of the disputant.

No, we don’t employ “fatherish” or “fatherist.” But we do employ “paternal” and “paternalistic” to express the same relation. It’s just that in that particular case, English usage favors Latin derivatives over Anglo-Saxon.

I suppose a Roman Catholic would object to “Romanist” or “Papist” on the same grounds as a Muslim to “Mohammedan.” Just as a Muslim will protest that he is a follower of Allah, not of Muhammad, a Roman Catholic will protest that he is a follower of Christ, not of the Pope—I guess. But isn’t the Pope the vicar of Christ?

In any case, I reserve the right to use designations which reflect my theological viewpoint, and not the outlook of my theological opponent.

A Romanist is someone who adheres to the primacy of Rome. A papist is someone who adheres to the primacy of the Pope. And so forth.

Since a Calvinist takes no offense at being denominated a Calvinist, I don't see why a Catholic should take offense at being denominated a papist or Romanist.

Hence, I will continue to opine on the papistical popery of papistically papizing papists in the thrall of papistry and popedom.


  1. The Romanists have the marketing advantage with words. Their term "Catholic" has a positive connotation [universal].

    On the other hand, "Protestant" has a negative connotation. We're defined in a negative sense: "this is what we aren't." While the Roman Church was opposed and still must be opposed today, that's not the core of being Protestant [or I'd submit that it shouldn't be].

    I'm not exactly sure who termed the words "Protestant," "Lutheran,"
    "Calvinist," etc, but such terminology puts the Protestant on the defensive from the very beginning.

    A good single word for us would be, I submit, "Biblicists." It isn't optimal in the sense that no single word can do the trick of a much longer and more nuanced description, but it seems the best of the all the bad single-word choices out there.

    But then again, there may well be good reasons why I'm not working on Madison Ave.

  2. I don't think Romanists enjoy a marketing advantage with words. For example "Reform" is pretty much associated with Protestant Christianity, and even though there were and are reform minded elements in Roman Catholicism - due to the word's association with the Reformation, many of them struggle to use that term for their own tradition. John O'Malley wrote a book on this very subject (I've reviewed it at Amazon) and it's an interesting read:

  3. Der F --- nice to hear from you again.

    For me personally, working in a bastion of the Left, the word "Reform" has a real negative connotation in my experience, as "reforming" something usually means making it more collectivist, more anti-freedom, etc. The word "Reform" is ingrained in me as a term that is used to support Big Government intervention, and that is not a good thing in my book!

    Going even more curmudgeonly, I hate the term "always reforming" in a religious sense since it just sounds, well, cheesy.