Friday, November 18, 2011

“Why the Spirit, not the magisterium, will lead us into all truth”

Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, “the magazine of Evangelical conviction”, responded to the question, “What do you make of all the evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism?” Here’s a quick overview of the response he gives is:
The Holy Spirit set the pattern for what church would be like at the day of Pentecost. And it looked like this: Massive confusion. So much confusion that when onlookers tried to describe it, they called it a drunken party (Acts 2:13). When Peter interprets what was happening, he says this:
And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17–18) ….
Many matters took decades, if not generations, to settle out—including the matter of which writings were to be included in the canon to help settle these matters! In other words, there was no magisterium in the early church, but only Christians who lived and argued together at the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Yes, there were bishops and councils who attempted to settle disputes that arose, but many of those bishops were simply wrong on key points, and many of the councils had to be reversed by another council. The full sweep of church history suggests that the Holy Spirit has, in fact, led us into all truth through no other way than men and women, slave and free, Jew and Gentile wrestling with one another about whatever issue is at hand until, in the Spirit's good time, a consensus emerges….

This is the church the Holy Spirit birthed at Pentecost, and this is the church in which the Holy Spirit raises up all manner of people to say one thing or another we all need to hear. One way we adjudicate these issues is by listening to one another today. Just as important is to listen to the church historic, our great tradition of creeds and confessions and great theologians of the past. And yes, more than anything, we continue to mine the Scriptures to discover the truth the Holy Spirit is leading us into, which is always an old truth we've not been able to hear until today….

The common critique of evangelicalism is that "the center will not hold." Bah. Humbug. Of course the center will hold, because at the center is not a doctrine, nor some human authority figure, nor a complete and inerrant statement of faith. There is only the Center, Jesus Christ. We don't need a magisterium. We already have a Lord, who told us that not even the gates of Hades (whose landlord loves to sows confusion in the church!) will prevail against the church.
His response leaves a lot to be desired, but he’s fundamentally right. We don’t need the Roman Magisterium. The Roman Magisterium is a contrived thing. It’s a counterfeit. The Holy Spirit does lead the church. And this question, asked very publicly, and his answer, is one that’s going to help to continue to draw the lines that need to be drawn. It’s going to help a lot more Evangalicals (especially those who have left Rome) to begin to focus on what the right answers are.


  1. “What do you make of all the evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism?”

    I thought I read Pew Poll reports that said more people are leaving Catholicism than there are Evangelicals joining the RCC.

  2. I'm sure that's the case. In the beginning of the article, Galli talks about Christian Smith and Beckwith as Evangelicals who converted, and Neuhaus and Robert Wilkin (Lutherans). So even though the tide is going one way, there are some high-profile folks going the other way.

  3. "It’s the recruitment side that sets Catholics apart. Four people leave Catholicism for every one who joins, and there’s no other religious group where you see a similar ratio."





  4. Thanks for this -

    Didn't know about this "Christian Smith" guy.

    I googled and found this:

    looks good.

    Is there an Evangelical / Reformed critique of his newest book?

    "95 Difficult steps" - I wonder at what point they bring in the Marian piety and dogmas and the lateness of the infallibility of the Pope dogma ?

    Those are usually the later steps, usually they start by tricking Evangelicals with incomplete and biased skewing of the history of the canon, apostolic succession, the Lord's supper, baptismal regeneration, and bishops, etc.

  5. Hi Ken, thanks for your comments here. I had seen the "Impossible" work, but not the "95 steps".

    You are right, though. Trickery is involved.

  6. presidential candidate Newt Gingrich a few years ago left the Baptist faith and converted to Roman Catholicism. --
    a while ago an OPC magazine mentioned that C. Smith's father-in-law is an OPC minister - the mag had a review of C. Smith's book: "Moral Believing Animals."

  7. I found a few articles on 2 of C. Smith's 95 steps.

    Amazing that there is not more yet.

  8. The tide has definitely been more leaving Rome for evangelical churches (, but as the latter becomes more superficial in the West, those who live more by sight look to the self-proclaimed insurance company of Rome with her external show and historical premise of authenticity, versus Christ in the church the living God which manifest that He is by effectual preaching of the gospel which effects manifest regeneration, by the grace of almighty God, to Him be thanks for ever more.

  9. A helpful response to Smith's book: