That’s a good idea, John.
To expand on one of the points you made, we should keep in mind that Roman Catholicism’s liberalism has had a major impact on other holidays and seasons. Much of the anti-Biblical material that’s published during the Christmas season, for example, comes from Roman Catholic scholarship and former Catholics (e.g., Raymond Brown, John Dominic Crossan, Geza Vermes). Then there’s the failure of so many Catholics, not just liberals, to do much to defend the traditional view of the infancy narratives or the Biblical resurrection accounts, for instance. Evangelicals are at the forefront of conservative Biblical scholarship and apologetics, whereas Catholics are much less so, despite their advantages (larger size, more money, more media access, etc.). As I’ve worked in apologetic contexts over the years, and in the process of watching what’s going on elsewhere, I’ve been astonished by how much bad and how little good Roman Catholicism does relative to its opportunities.
My response to him was a bit long, so I thought I’d turn it into a fresh post:
Thanks Jason -- We're about to have a presidential election, and I think that Romney will win, and that we'll be able to see an improving economy for a bit. But longer term, a presidential election is not going to solve a lot of problems.
In this country alone, the number of abortions performed every year is so outrageous, the debt structure is so massive, and the morality is such an indictment on our culture, that I honestly think that the only cure for our ills is Christ alone, and by extension, the true church bringing Christ to the world, “making disciples of all nations” as it has been commissioned to do.
I would qualify slightly one thing that you say. You talk about “how much bad and how little good Roman Catholicism does relative to its opportunities”. That much alone is true, looking across the world in our day.
But historically, I think that very many of the evils in the world are the result of things that “the official church”, “the church which perceives itself to be in authority” has done, officially -- extending back into the early church. While many individual Christians have done many good things -- and many of these were either “Catholics” from the first millennium (like Augustine), say, or “Roman Catholics” in the last 500 years, by far it seems to me that what is wrong with the world today is traceable to causes put into motion by the official church.
Some of these are inadvertent. We may think of the sudden rise of Islam. Islam was able to conquer areas of the world where the Christian church was cut off by schism. That includes Monophysite Africa and “Nestorian” Asia. Islam was able to spread so quickly, in part, because huge parts of the church had been cut off from larger portions of the church and did not have the wherewithal to stop its earthly spread.
The Medieval European church, while fostering the rise of learning and the universities, also officially took doctrinal positions which had to be opposed, and the Protestant Reformation, while offering the best hope to the world of that day, was mightily opposed by the Roman church, and had to make strange alliances with secular governments, alliances that turned out not to be in the best interest of the cause of Christ.
This is not an attempt at placing blame, but really, an honest look to try to see what went wrong, and what might be done to try (from our end) to help put things aright.
I continue to think that Roman Catholicism’s claims of authority, the claim that “the church that Christ founded subsists in the Roman Catholic Church”, is the biggest impediment in the world today, working against “the church” being what “the church” really ought to be in the world.
With that said, I’m tremendously encouraged by some of the discussions I’m seeing around the Internet. I think Andrew Clover’s Lutheran and Reformed Discussion Group is a model that we’ll want to look at moving forward. While there are still some disagreements, the potential for folks from one side understanding the other side are tremendous.
And while the “two kingdoms” discussions generate a lot of heat, some of the rough edges on the various sides of this debate are being worn down, and the result, I think, will be that Christians, on the whole, will have a better understanding of the role of the church vis-à-vis government.
As well, The Gospel Coalition has just recently published The New City Catechism, which is very much like one of the earliest confessions from the Protestant era. Using the latest technology to promote some of the best theology is only going to have a good effect on the church.
While I don’t think The New City Catechism will turn the Trinity Broadcasting network into Orthodox Puritans, it will enable far more evangelicals to be honestly and historically informed about the Christian faith. Far more opportunities along these lines are coming. And that’s cause for great hope.