November 30, 2020

Memo to Tim Challies: The War Is Over


Tim Challies represents the mindset of far too many Protestant Christians who have little understanding of the Roman Catholic church and who continue to recycle old, tired, and often incorrect ideas about the church’s teachings and practices. Without any authority but his own opinion, Challies has decided to issue a public statement calling Pope Francis a false teacher. He includes the current Pope in a series examining such historic religious notables as Arius, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Norman Vincent Peale, and Benny Hinn. Interesting group of names, huh?

At any rate, here is Tim Challies’ unequivocal judgment about the Pope:

For all we can commend about Pope Francis, the fact remains that he, as a son of the Roman Catholic Church and as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, remains committed to a false gospel that insists upon good works as a necessary condition for justification. He is the head of a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The core doctrinal issues that divided Protestantism from Catholicism at the time of the Reformation remain today. The core doctrinal issues that compelled Rome to issue her anathemas against Protestantism are unchanged. Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul, and officially damns those who believe anything else…

I am not going to take this post to try and “answer” Challies’ assertions about what Catholics believe. That would playing into the new calvinists’ game. For them, it seems, true religion is all about argument. It’s a matter of “contending for the faith” — and by that they mean insisting upon absolute purity when it comes to the dogmas of systematic theology. The leading teachers in the movement have theological “talking points” as refined and repeatable as any master politician and they will not get off message. In their view, Roman Catholicism equals “false gospel,” “false church,” “works salvation,” the Mass as a false sacrifice, Mariolatry, a false eschatology that includes purgatory, and so on. And of course, in criticizing the church and Pope Francis, Challies emphasizes one point above all: “But no false teaching is more scandalous than his denial of justification by grace through faith alone.”

If you want to read one well written response outlining how Challies fails to grasp Catholic teaching about justification, I suggest starting with Francis Beckwith’s post, “Tim Challies says Pope Francis is a false teacher, but misunderstands Catholic view of justification.” Beckwith gives good insight in his article, but I’m not convinced his approach is the best way to answer the Tim Challies of the world. Talking “at” each other in cyberspace and lobbing dogmatic theological statements back and forth doesn’t seem productive to me.

As my friend John Armstrong says:

When Catholics and Protestants engage in the polemics of theological polarities they quite often misrepresent one another. In the process they miss the deeper fruit of real ecumenism in doing confessing Christian theology. Non-theologians often do this more poorly because they adopt the views they have been taught by their favorite teachers and then treat them as the gold standard.

John, once a dyed-in-the-wool calvinistic separatist, is now at the forefront of encouraging people to participate in “missional-ecumenism,” which includes doing theology together, talking with one another, and studying side by side rather than lobbing theological grenades back and forth across no man’s land at each other. I encourage you to read John’s blog and follow some of the remarkable events he is setting up where people of Christian faith from different traditions listen to one another and talk about the faith. Here is his own testimony:

2241_49744396965_3932_nWhen the Holy Spirit revealed to me the truth of John 17:21 I felt I had no choice but to commit the rest of my days to humbly learning from other Christian traditions and teachers. Both my theology and practice necessitated a more humble epistemology and a deeper personal tone anchored in love. I did not jettison what I believed. I opened my mind and heart afresh to “seeing” truth in a far different way, a way that led me to listen more carefully and respectfully to the global catholic church. I realized that over the centuries the faith has been debated and understood and far too much of our history has been about pursuing truth without grace. But I am reminded that the Word was himself “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). If I was to faithfully follow Jesus my life should more nearly be one where grace and truth were both present in abundant measure.

This is also one of the traits I have always loved about Internet Monk. The blog itself is named for a Catholic: Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and one of the greatest spiritual writers of the twentieth century. Michael Spencer regularly featured book reviews, interviews, “Liturgical Gangsta” discussions, and guest authors that fairly represented Catholicism. He didn’t spout talking points about Roman Catholicism, he talked with Roman Catholics. He never swam the Tiber and he maintained strong doctrinal and ecclesiastical positions as a Protestant, but he did come to peace in his thinking about Rome and it irked him when people would promote the shallow stereotypes Tim Challies sets forth in his article.

I’m happy to say we at IM today are committed to continuing that approach. We love it when Martha helps us understand Catholic church teachings and history. We rejoice with our brother Jeff Dunn, who says one of the best things in his life right now is his move into the Catholic church. Damaris, whose family likewise joined the Catholic church in recent years, is especially good with giving us perspective on Catholic moral teaching and spiritual formation. I consider Our Lady of Gethsemani my go-to place for silence, prayer, and contemplation (and bourbon fudge, of course). We direct readers to great Catholic bloggers like Ryan McLaughlin and encourage study at sites like Bibliaclerus, which are in our links and on our blogroll.

So, Mr. Challies, there are plenty of examples out there of better thinking and more beneficial approaches than you take in your article calling Pope Francis a false teacher.

As far as I’m concerned the war is over. Of course, there is plenty to talk about, many areas of debate, and much work to be done to clarify the faith. But we are on the same side. So much has changed in the Roman Catholic church, especially since Vatican II, that it is ridiculous to rely upon old, tired formulas and stereotypes and to think we are accomplishing anything worthwhile by continuing to hide behind thick walls of separation. To do so is not only shoddy thinking, but it is also uncharitable to our brothers and sisters in Christ and unhealthy for our own spiritual well being. Ecumenical dialogue, theology, and mission has come a long way. I encourage you to put down your sword and shield and invite a few well-informed Catholic brothers and sisters to the table. Get to know them. Interview them. Have question and answer sessions with them. Review their books. Have them write posts for your blog. Don’t automatically label them, listen to them.

I like my friend John Armstrong’s description for what we need: “a deeper personal tone anchored in love” that “listen[s] more carefully and respectfully to the global catholic church.”

I also continue to take C.S. Lewis’s iconic illustration of the Great Hall and rooms from the preface of Mere Christianity as my fundamental perspective on questions like this. No one is suggesting that we have to give up our own rooms wherein we find fellowship and fuller agreement. I’m just saying we should also spend some time in the Great Hall together, recognizing and welcoming one another as fellow Christians. We may and indeed do differ significantly in our convictions and practices, but in the Great Hall can’t we find a place to mingle, unthreatened by each other and open to learning from each other? And when we do go to our own rooms, can’t we take Lewis’s reminder to heart?

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still In the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.


  1. Catholics are Christians. No doubt about that.

    But they do have some un-Christian doctrines. No doubt about that, either (the Council of Trent – “Let anyone who says that we are saved by faith alone be anathema.”)

    It’s hard to change things that one has taught for hundreds of years. So many of these errant doctrines become entrenched.

    But, they are STILL Christians. Albeit a bit less free (from the spiritual ladder-climbing project) than we would like to see.

    • Likewise there are many abhorrent teachings within the Protestant traditions. Ever heard of Christian Zionism? The Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel? Slain in the Spirit? Drunk in the Spirit? KJV-Only? Idolatry of the Bible (biblicism)? Heck, I would even throw in Hyper-Calvinism?

      Catholics may venerate their saints, but Protestants venerate their dead theologians. Catholics may elevate their Pope as their authority, arguably Protestants elevate their pastors to the same. Catholics believe in good works for salvation at the expense of faith. Whereas, Protestants believe in faith for salvation often times at the expense of ever doing good works.

      I think you will find more similarities between the two traditions, but they just look a bit different. I gladly call Catholics by Christian brothers in Christ. I sometimes think Martin Luther did more harm than good. I personally think its time we seek reconciliation between the two traditions. Because, really, do I want to be known as one who is always protesting (Protestant), or one who is always loving others. I think the latter.

      • “Likewise there are many abhorrent teachings within the Protestant traditions. Ever heard of Christian Zionism? The Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel? Slain in the Spirit? Drunk in the Spirit? KJV-Only? Idolatry of the Bible (biblicism)? Heck, I would even throw in Hyper-Calvinism?…I think you will find more similarities between the two traditions,”

        But there are not just two traditions. The examples you used do not represent a large portion of Protestantism, whereas the Council of Trent statement(s) does represent the RCC position.

        I am all for growing dialogue, and do believe the core of RCC theology of Christian (ancient, Nicene, etc…), but the Council of Trent does come up as a barrier for many.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And the Reformation Wars continue.
          “NO POPERY!!!!!”

          • I hope the wars don’t continue. In fact, I am more hopeful for cooperation and reconciliation than in previous years.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Regarding the Council of Trent – which you quote as:

      “Let anyone who says that we are saved by faith alone be anathema.”

      The the quote is:

      “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema..” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 12)

      You have replaced “nothing else than confidence in divine mercy” with “faith”. I do not accept this substitution as equivalent. “nothing else than” is an important qualifier.

      I do not have any significant discomfort with the statement in the Council of Tent [pronouncing people as “anathema” sounds harsh to the 21st century ear, but this matches the flavor of the times – the mid-1500s]

      • Can we agree that Trent intended to anathematize the Reformers? And that the Catholic Church has evolved away from this position over time?

        The problem is that what is needed is not evolution – it is repentance. The Catholic Church must repent of Trent, and of Papal Infallibility, and many other things.

        Saying “the war is over” is to throw away the hard fought gains of the Reformation.

        • David Cornwell says

          And what should the Protestant Church repent of? Fundamentalism? Biblicism? Prosperity gospel? And the list goes on…

          • But not all of Protestantism was involved in those things. It is not a single institution.

          • RDavid, once you go down that road you quickly end up in no true scotsman territory.

          • My point is that Papal infallibility prevents repentance (most importantly of Trent, which was a repudiation of the Gospel).

            I’m not aware of any Protestant doctrines which forbid repentance.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And the Reformation Wars continue on and on and on…

          • Dr. Fundystan-

            The difference is that those were not the official teachings of “Protestantism”, and are criticized by other Protestant streams. The RCC positions mentioned earlier are its official teachings.

          • The RCC is a much bigger tent and much more diverse than some of these comments recognize.

          • David Cornwell says

            Amen to Chaplain Mike’s comments. And I know for certain that no one is prevented from repenting. Repentance in Protestantism has meant, and still means a variety of things.

          • CM – absolutely! (You would think the Counter-Reformation was “current events” in many peoples’ estimation…sigh.)

      • Glad you don’t.

        Many of us do.

        If we aren’t saved by faith, alone. Then none of us can have any confidence or assurance and the whole thing becomes what I described earlier, a spiritual ladder-climbing project. And the Cross was in vain.

        Here’s the quote from the etwn (Catholic) site:

        Canon 9. (Council of Trent)

        “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone,[114] meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.”

        That is plain language.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          How is telling me that my beliefs render ‘the Cross in vain’ not a dismissal from the tent of Christianity? There is not brotherliness or inclusion in such a statement; we are at odds. Thus the Reformation lives on.

          > “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone,[114] ***meaning that nothing else***

          And again the “nothing else” qualifier is present; leaving me with no substantial disagreement with the text.

          “and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will”

          Only a hyper-Calvanist can disagree with this statement. Even the Baptist’s “accept Jesus into your heart” is a action of ones own will. So there is, if you remove this clause, only the Elect and nobody but the Elect. If this statement renders the cross in vain you have certainly cast out the majority of Christianity past and present; your big tent is a very empty tent.

          • St. Paul wrote to the Galatians that if they wanted to trust in what they ‘do’, in addition to the Cross of Christ, then “you cut yourself off from the grace of Christ”.

            This is important stuff.

            And, by the way, I never said anyone ‘IS’…or ‘IS NOT A CHRISTIAN”.

            That’s up to God. But we must never compromise on the gospel.

        • Steve, your text of Trent, and Adam’s, sound like the Epistle of James, balancing faith alone by displaying it in one’s works. The key is balance, but grace alone (and faith in that) is certainly the engine driving the train.

          Increasingly I’m hearing people say things like, “If your life doesn’t display a submission to Christ in your behavior, you should re-think whether you’re in fact a Christian.” While this may have a spark of James in it (or Trent, for that matter) I think it really gets away from grace and becomes spiritual bullying, even works-righteousness, while boldly proclaiming “grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone”—and meanwhile denouncing the Catholics for what’s perceived as their stand on faith vs. works, which should never be “versus” in the first place.

          As we know, Luther couldn’t stand the Epistle of James. It’s not surprising that we, as his descendants, can’t relate to that offending part of the Council of Trent.

          • Here is the proper balance:

            100% Christ…0% us

          • flatrocker says

            Or maybe we should consider the proper balance as it relates to the fullness of salvation.

            Justification: 100% Christ…0% us
            Sanctification: 100% Christ…100% us

            Hence we continue to fight the fight over terminology and percentages

          • No…not quite. He also sanctifies us…lock, stock, and barrel.

            We do…nothing. Nothing that benefits us in the eyes of God toward our justification…or sanctification.

            Maybe that is who St. Paul wrote, “He who began a good work in you, will wait for you to complete it.”

            Wait a minute…is that right?

          • James’ statement that Christians aren’t saved by faith alone, James 2:14-26, is a bit problematic for some .

  2. Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who is Tim Challies?

    • Evangelical celebrity, preacher, teacher, blogger.

      Gets some stuff right. Gets some stuff wrong.

      (welcome to the club)

      • “Evangelical celebrity” – hardly. Outside of the blogging world, few even know his name. As a blogger though, he has been blogging longer and more consistently than just about anyone. His background is as a web designer who only recently has taken on a full time ministry position.

        • Drena (@vadess40) says

          Yeah…. I never heard of him until now. People are paying attention to some guy who was in web design when it comes to stuff about theology? Anything to demonize the RCC I suppose.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > but who is Tim Challies?

      Exactly. These i’m-gonna-list-some-false-teacher guys are best just ignored. In an interconnected world of 6+ BILLION people how many false-by-my-standards teachers are there? This is a ludicrous construct in the 21st century.

      If Tim Challies does not believe I am a true Christian, I am completely comfortable with that.

    • +1


      • You seem to be the only person that got my Acts 19:15 reference. 🙂

        • But Eric, you’re implying that you’re a demon.

          I like your avatar, by the way—Chagall’s “White Crucifixion.” Speaking of Pope Francis, did you know that it’s one of his favorite paintings?

          • I did not know that.

            Well, I’ve been or been called a heretic, an apostate, and a traitor, so why not a demon?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who is Tim Challies?

      Just the latest in a long line of guys whom God has on speed-dial.

  3. Can all Neo Cals please never mention Tolkien or Chesterton ever again? This will clear up lots of confusion. Or maybe those are the only two Catholics in heaven or maybe the Neo Cal doesn’t actually think they are really elect but still reference them because they were good writers who God in his common grace used for his glory while damning them of course.

    • Here here! Though I would add (and I have actually said this before, because it is a pet peeve of mine) that Catholic traddies who foam at the mouth about “schismatics” can no longer use C.S. Lewis or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Ever. For any purpose.

      It’s high time we all got over this nonsense.

      • I wish there was an edit button– or Bach! or Handel! etc.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        And any YEC community is also forbidden from referencing C.S. Lewis, who was not a good Christian by that standard.

        “I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical.” – Suprised by Joy

        It gets even worse – “Thus something originally merely natural—the kind of myth that is found among most nations—will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself it would not have served. Generalizing this, I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature—chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not”.

        And the unforgivable statement of: “He [man] is an animal; but an animal called to be, or raised to be, or (if you like) doomed to be, something more than an animal. On the ordinary biological view (what difficulties I have about evolution are not religious) one of the primates is changed so that he becomes man; but he remains still a primate and an animal. He is taken up into a new life without relinquishing the old”

        > It’s high time we all got over this nonsense.

        Is it nonsense to be irritated by a speaker who condemns someone for a belief while lauding someone else who holds the same belief?

        It would be one thing if a speaker disagreed with A & B about X, then referencing A’s belief about Y is legitimate, but much of what gets said and written goes far beyond disagreement. If by not accepting the existence of a ~5,000 year old earth I “might as well have discarded all of scripture” (recent speaker on Evangelical radio), then so has everyone else who denies this, that puts them off limits for citations used to establish credibility. If someone is going to make such statements their arguments should be evaluated on the standard they assert.

        • I really don’t know what you’re talking about. I meant the childish nonsense like denouncing the pope as a
          “false teacher” or screeching about schismatics and heretics as though the Council of Trent happened last Thursday. It all has an air of Society for Creative Anachronism about it, these days.

          • I understand EXACTLY what ATW is speaking of.

            Evangelicals, including Fundy types, adore CS Lewis especially because of his great apologetic contributions. Very few know or agree with Jack when it comes to his views on Biblicism and science.

    • The Reformed Protestant love affair with Miss Flannery O’Connor is puzzling to me. She loathed Protestantism in all of its variety. Maybe its because she mentions grace so effusively, although the grace that is poured out in Miss O’Connor’s stories is more likely to make you tattoo the Byzantine Christ on your back or bow before a statue of the Virgin than convince you of some abstract propositions about God’s Law and your lack of intrinsic righteousness.

      Hans off Miss O’Connor as well.

      • In the interest of fairness, I guess I should throw away my Keith Green records. By the end of his life, he was closer to Jack Chick than Mike Spencer on the Catholic Church.

        Gay-friendly Christians may want to cull their vinyl collections as well, as should <a href= Earth Creationists or Theistic Evolutionaries.

        Ah well.

      • It’s probably the hipster factor. Something smart-looking to read while holding a latte and blogging about doubt and authenticity. I don’t know, I have to be honest and admit every time I have tried reading Flannery I have had to give up because it just did not hold my interest. Sacrilege around the Christian blogosphere, I know.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Can all Neo Cals please never mention Tolkien or Chesterton ever again? This will clear up lots of confusion. Or maybe those are the only two Catholics in heaven…

      Or maybe they’re Honorary Calvinists.

  4. I grew up in independent, fundamental Baptist churches in which there were three unpardonable sins: drinking beer, divorce and being Catholic. I’m not sure which, if any, was worse. Every Catholic was going to hell for certain and the Pope was demonized as far worse than a false teacher.

    I joined the SBC about 14 years ago, which means my wife sometimes wears pants to church and I read a Bible that is not KJV. My former fundamentalist friends wrote me off as a heretic a long time ago so they do not know or care that I have changed my position on Catholicism. Early in my blog history I wrote a post on Roman Catholic Christians inspired, oddly enough, by a sermon delivered one Wednesday evening by a small town SBC pastor. That post got enough traction that I was contacted by an online group known as Catholic Answers, and they are linked to from my sidebar to this day. They gave me a login and allowed me to participate in their Answer Forums; and me just a slightly liberated former fundy.

    The term “ecumenical” is still treated like a bad word in some circles. (I get annoyed with mission stats that give the impression SBC missionaries are the only ones there are in the world. Do other denominations do the same thing?) If I agreed with everything the Catholic Church teaches I would leave my church and join. But I have long given up the fight that you must worship Christ exactly the way I do in order to be Christian.

    • But I have long given up the fight that you must worship Christ exactly the way I do in order to be Christian.

      Well said. I wish that every Christian would take this to heart.

  5. At least Mr Challies believes the Pope is a Catholic!

    I must prefer these kinds of honest misunderstandings to reading ONE MORE newspaper article about how Francis is like no other pope ever in the history of the Church, particularly and especially that nasty Benedict XVI, and how he is completely overhauling every Catholic teaching (with the fervent hope either overtly expressed or at least implied that he will drag the institution into line with the 21st century and the issues ‘progressive’ Catholics and others want to see changed).

    The same way that, even if it makes my head spin, at least a forthright atheist saying it’s all a bunch of stupid nonsense is better than the line trotted out (once again just this Easter) that the Resurrection was ‘really’ the idea and memory of Jesus being present in His disciples’ hearts after His death and that’s how they felt that (somehow) He was close to God now in a special way and that’s why they went out and told everyone about Him.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > that the Resurrection was ‘really’ the idea..

      Come now, you mean you do not enjoy it when a complete stranger feels entitled to explain to you what it is that you ‘really’ believe? As for myself I am always so grateful when they clear all that up for me. Pfew, what a load off my shoulders! 🙂

      > that he will drag the institution into line with the 21st century

      This one gets old – because when I check my clock [which is synchronized to the atomic clock in Boulder] it says I am already in the 21st century.

      I do not understand what is going on with this one; is it reporters wishful thinking or what? Read in a certain way these types of articles are amazingly condescending and insulting. Having read a lot of what Francis has written I do not believe there is a revolutionary bone in his body. His primary concern is focus and approach – which in any institution is always the problem, human focus drifts and the zeal ebbs, flows, and gets caught up on externalities – which is not a Catholic problem, it is a human problem.

  6. If one steps out of the Evangelical bubble for awhile, the words and writings of people like Challies become as irrelevant to one’s faith as the pronouncements of a Muslim imam or the resolutions passed at a Trekkies meeting.

    If one steps out of the Christian bubble for awhile (here be dragons)….

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > If one steps out of the Evangelical bubble for awhile …. the resolutions passed at a Trekkies meeting

      Yep. But Evangelicals never has as much fun as you find at any given Con.

      > If one steps out of the Christian bubble for awhile (here be dragons)….

      One will find other groups just as prone to being pedantic, argumentative, and *talking*-inclusively. That helped make Christianity easier to understand, at least for me, not harder.

      Some things are just human, Christian or not. Organizational Behavior is in all organizations across-the-board, that does not make churches and other institutions illegitimate for having those issues; it just makes them human [but they would be better at addressing their failures if they accepted them as common human, and not Spiritual, failures].

    • Eric!
      I take umbrage at that!

      A Trekkies meeting is much more fun, and I could probably have a glass of wine and dance at the party after.

      • Ken:

        I didn’t say that Trekkies parties aren’t fun, nor did I disparage Trekkies. I simply wrote:

        If one steps out of the Evangelical bubble for awhile, the words and writings of people like Challies become as irrelevant to one’s faith as…the resolutions passed at a Trekkies meeting.

        Live long and prosper!

      • There are two kinds of Star Trek fans. Those who think The Inner Light is the best thing ever, and those who think The Best of Both Worlds is the best thing ever.

        Then there’s me, who loves DS9 the most…

        • You, sir, are NOT a Trekkie! (There…just started the TNG Reformation wars on iMonk.) (I always wanted to do that.)

        • Personally City on the Edge of Forever is my favourite.

          • That episode is probably the best, although I can’t resist The Trouble with Tribbles.

            In City on the Edge of Forever there’s this phenomenal woman, Edith Keeler (unfortunately she resembles Joan Collins) and I don’t blame Kirk one bit for falling in love with her.

            Then there’s Spock’s classic statement when Edith asked what he was doing with all of that static electricity: “Endeavoring, Madam, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.” (Spock was peeved with the “zinc-plated, vacuum-tubed culture,” and that Kirk couldn’t afford the necessary platinum on their meager wages from sweeping up.)

            And I think it’s the only episode (little known Star Trek trivia) in which Kirk swears. After Edith is flattened by the truck, and McCoy flabbergastedly berates Kirk for preventing him from saving her, and before they’re beamed back aboard the Enterprise from the time portal, whose echoing voice seems overly eager to please, Kirk says, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

            Great, great stuff. Also great theology. I mean, consider this: Edith Keeler was a focal point in world history; on whether she lived or died depended the outcome of World War II, the future of the United Federation of Planets and the very existence of Starship Enterprise, which our heroes very much wanted to get back aboard. Makes one wonder what Gene Roddenberry was up to. I mean, Christ’s death on the cross is THE focal point of world history, the axle on which the wheel of the universe swings (I’m currently reading a book by N.T. Wright, and he calls the crucifixion the “fulcrum” but I think “axle” or “hinge” works better). I’m assuming that Wright must be a trekkie. I know he likes Bob Dylan; close enough.

            Pardon the ramble. This is Star Trek, after all, and worth proselytizing. Sadly, my kids don’t have a clue.

        • Mule Chewing Briars says

          “In The Pale Moonlight” is my favorite episode of all of them.

  7. Clay Crouch says

    Maybe Mr. Challies has a new book coming out or maybe he just needed to goose slumping blog traffic.

    • Quite often that plays a big part of it.

    • ->”Maybe Mr. Challies has a new book coming out…”

      Yes. And he saw how Mark Driscoll’s “I’ll pay Result Source Inc. to turn my book into a best-seller” strategy created a firestorm, so he’s using a different approach to boost sales. 😉

  8. I read a book called Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical, which almost turned this Texas-born,dispensational, nondenominational cradle-Christian into a Catholic!

    It’s so well written and explained, and I recommend it to anyone who I talk to about the anti-Catholic sentiment in Evangelical churches.

    In fact, we are leaving our current church because the pastor has made so many anti-Catholic statements.

  9. All I know, as a FORMER Catholic, is that when I considered the possibility of returning to the fold, so to speak, the hurdles I was required to leap were just too much for me. Since I had not been to confession for almost 50 years, and had missed my “Easter Duty” (receiving the Catholic version of Communion), my soul was in peril of damnation.

    Much of the doctrine and PRACTICE of the Church has NOT changed in the intervening 50 years, only the words have changed. Where once there were unapologetic arguments for orthodoxy NOW there are sideways, mincing and word wrestling arguments for that same teaching. The end result is the same, only the tone has changed. More equivocating, less outright condemnation for my soul.

    All that being said, I can still accept Catholics as my Christian bothers and sisters, and will have to wrestle with my own salvation which the RCC STILL holds over my head.

    • There it is.

      The “project”.

      I would ask (them), “then why the Cross?”

    • Oscar,
      Same here. The Catholic Church would not accept me back as a full communicant, or her as a convert, unless my wife got a church annulment from her first marriage. The status of my relationship with my wife does not depend on the decisions of the Catholic church, and since we assert that, it will not accept me or her as full communicant members. They have created the separation and divide.

      • It is very off-putting and frankly weird, to say the least. When my husband started RCIA, although we have both only ever been married to each other, the VERY first thing they did when he got through the door was start fussing about the validity of our marriage and whether or not we were “allowed” to..hrrrrm carry on as usual in the mean time. What!!?!?! I did not ask for their input tyvm. Not even my gynecologist is so straightforwardly bossy and intrusive into my intimate personal life. And this was right off the bat, before he was even sure if he would convert…I guess they were more worried about making sure everyone’s sex life was compliant than “losing the sale.”

        • My wife, who grew up Christian & Missionary Alliance, is actually quite attracted to the spirituality of the RCC, particularly the Eucharist-centered worship, and she also has much admiration for the new Pope. Even though my own experience growing up in the RCC was alienating, and there is much that I will always disagree with there, I know that it’s possible to practice Catholicism in a way that is not legalistic, and that is shaped by one’s own conscience. For my wife’s sake, I would be willing to reconcile with the RCC if she wanted to convert.

          But neither of us is willing to make the legitimacy of our marriage provisional on meeting the RCC’s annulment criteria, even if it’s likely that an annulment would be granted, because neither of us has any doubt that our marriage is legitimate. If we were to take steps toward reconciliation/conversion together, and annulment of her first marriage was subsequently denied, we could not stay in the RCC, because we would both know that the RCC was denying what is self-evident to us: we are legitimately married in God’s eyes.

          The door is shut from the other side.

          • One contentious area that needs to be discussed in all traditions is the church’s moral teaching, how it relates to the gospel, and how discipline should be practiced within the community of faith.

            In situations like you’ve brought up, Robert, the new calvinists only wish they could exercise the kind of moral authority the Roman Catholic church wields because of its hierarchical structure.

        • You bring up a great point that those of us in the wilderness encounter. We read Catholic theology and find answers that were so fleeting in our past. So we walk up to our local Catholic parish to be shown a fence much higher than we want to jump to join. I refuse to walk through the door of another church where I am told that what I have done in the past isn’t good enough. I guess I will remain in the ELCA where I can be a theroretical “Catholic”.

  10. I have ceased to have time for all this. I’m not sure I understand the fascination with calling others out and crushing them under the weight of our own particular belief set. Well, I guess I sort of understand it, but you know, it’s just ridiculous. It comes from both ends, by the way, and I don’t like either. I certainly have my own, internal issues with the Catholic Church, but the whole “not being real Christians” thing is not one of them. I doubt very much that the infinite and all-powerful God is anywhere near as concerned about any of this business as some of us seem to be. Peace to all in this house.

    + Alan

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I’m not sure I understand the fascination with calling others out

      I understand it completely, there is no mystery.

      It fills space. It is easier that talking about substantive issues – like what to do, how to live, how to answer questions people actually ask. Those questions are both explosive and tedious. It is easier to keep assuring your tribe that is is more-awesome.

  11. Richard Hershberger says

    “As far as I’m concerned the war is over.”

    Of course it is, as far as you are concerned. This is implicit in your going ELCA. The predecessor bodies to the ELCA made their peace with Rome over a half century ago, as did most of the mainlines. It would be very weird to find an ELCA pastor today refighting this war. (An LCMS pastor doing this would be less weird, and a WELS pastor not weird at all.)

    The Evangelicals, however, were not part of the John XXIII peace of the 1950s. Theirs is the John Paul II peace of the 1980s. I have never been convinced it was a real peace, rather than a temporary armistice as the Evangelicals and the Romans became allies of convenience in the culture wars. Also, the armistice was never total. It certainly didn’t extend into Latin America. Now with the culture wars winding down, concurrent with the rise of neo-Calvinism, and with competition for the Hispanic population, I would not be the least bit surprised to see the old anti-Catholicism make a comeback. Indeed, I have been expecting it for several years now.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Note the use of “Rome” and “Romans” instead of “Catholic”.

      And what do you mean of “making a comeback”? Like a lot of epidemics, Anti-Catholicism never left its reservoirs and once conditions get a little easier for it (lack of herd immunity, finding a ready vector) it’ll spread out from those reservoirs once more. Like Whooping Cough once vaccinations slacked off.

      • Just got back from a mission trip to Mississippi with a bunch of high school kids where we helped build a Baptist Church (remember that I am Catholic – but we went down as a secular high school group).

        Two things – first, I got to hear a story from a Baptist that when he was a recruiter for the Army he was recruiting one day in a Catholic high school when he ran into one of them Arch-Bishops. He happened to be sitting reading a chapter from the Bible at the time when the Bishop approached him, asked him what he was reading, and then admonished him, stating that he shouldn’t be reading that because he was not able to understand what he read (implying Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible). After I had a good deep laugh, I good naturedly called Bullsh#t and said that certainly wasn’t going on in my lifetime.

        Second thing – a Catholic friend of mine has a wife who is Baptist. He spends his time split between the two churches. He has been attending a bible study and finds that, although these are Godly, good hearted people, they spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince him that the Catholic Church is of the Devil instead of just learning/praying/worshipping together.

        So in a nutshell I believe the war is still on-going, though with a much softer touch….

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > After I had a good deep laugh, I good naturedly called Bullsh#t and said that certainly
          > wasn’t going on in my lifetime.


          And I could counter that I was once told, by a Baptist, I would not be able to “fully” understand scripture because I didn’t grow up in the church, my understanding would be tainted. Which was one guy being a bully, and not representative of Baptist doctrine.

          Of course he was also correct – a lot of it I don’t understand.

      • HUG – might have something to do with us ELCA types using the phrase “one holy catholic and apostolic church” …

  12. “bourbon fudge”?? As a once “dyed in the wool” calvinist, I want to know more about that, CM.

  13. Oil and water are both liquids, and if the key definer of Christianity is that it is a liquid, then both Protestants and Catholics are Christians.

    But as the above comments indicate, at certain deep and foundational levels there are some things that since the Reformation forever separate Roman Catholicism from Protestantism. You can shake a container of oil and water as much as you want, but the two liquids will always separate and stay separate.

    Maybe Challies is simply impolite, and the ecumenicists are trying to gloss over the unglossable.

    If two “Christian” groups can’t take communion together, they are not One Body. Is Christ divided? If He can be divided, then it’s not Christ.

    Is a Catholic a “Christian”? As that famous theologian William Jefferson Clinton said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

    Maybe neither Roman Catholics nor Protestants are Christians.

    • I once heard a minister from Northern Ireland say that the problems going on in his country stem from the fact there are too many Protestants, too many Catholics, and too few Christians.

  14. David Cornwell says

    One of the advantages of growing up Methodist was that we did not spend time bashing other Christians. My parents had disagreements with Catholics, but I do not remember either of them saying so much as a hint that were not Christian or participants in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. In fact said little about it at all. Most of their criticism was saved for certain brands of Protestantism, of legalistic bent. And this was not because we were “liberal” Methodists, which was far from the truth. The churches we attended were conservative.

    Even when I went to a conservative, mostly Methodist college I heard little about this subject. And the same was true at the seminary I attended.

    We have better things to do and a better way to live than tearing asunder the body of Christ. Let God be the judge. We ourselves should spend our time building up, not tearing down.

    Most postliberal Methodists share a lot in common with Catholics. And Mennonites. (Interesting mix).

  15. The Challies article lists the same cliches about the Catholic Church that I hear in my church, a small, conservative, American Baptist one. The problem with cliches, though, is that they are often true; so it’s important that we find out in order not continue to cause division.

    Most of us have a children’s Sunday-School understanding of our faith, and a lot of what I hear about the Catholics comes from former Catholics in our church, people who left as teenagers with grim memories of boring liturgy and of nuns pinching them for minor infractions. And they didn’t get much beyond that until they left and later found Jesus elsewhere.

    I don’t know what former Baptists are saying after they leave my church as teenagers. That too could be grim.

    A couple of things:

    1. One of my prayers is that the Catholic Church in Latin America become a greater vessel of the Holy Spirit. I’m encouraged when I visit churches in Ecuador, usually once or twice a year, although I do see some of the glaring old cliches too. Mentioning this hope to my missionary friends doesn’t get much encouragement, as they have their own stories; but I’m stickin’ with it.

    2. I don’t think Tim Challies has met any of my adult Catholic friends, nor has he met Damaris, or Martha, or Joanie, or Pattie, or Jeff. Or anyone else here that I’ve left out.

    • Ted:
      I think you only need to read 6 months worth or iMonk to see what former Baptists (and other Evans) are saying!

    • Ted, thanks for the shout out and your sensible comments. I have been internet-less since last Tuesday and therefore missed all of the “fun”.

      I go back to the often quoted “Millions of people hate what they THINK the Catholic Church believes and teaches, on only a handful have an issue with what the Church really DOES believe!!!”

      And as mentioned, many of these are people “raised Catholic” who jumped to another bank of the Tiber when they were teenagers, OR, those who never went beyond the understanding they learned at 14 in Confirmation class!

  16. As a rather traditionalist Anglican who’s practicum is highly influenced by the more Anglo-Catholic circles, but whose theology is highly influenced by a lifetime in Evangelical circles, I often have one foot in Roman Catholic media and one in Evangelical media. The #1 thing that drives me nuts about that is how often they really don’t understand each other. To hear Roman Catholic apologists talk about the Reformation and the Solas is to see so many straw men erected that one would think one was in a cornfield. And to hear Evangelicals talk about Catholic theology often makes me wonder if they’ve ever actually read a Catholic book or had a Catholic friend. It does indeed get very silly at times.

    Don’t get me wrong, the theological issues that keep me from swimming the Tiber are very real. But so are the issues that would keep me from ever becoming, say, a Presbyterian. Nevertheless, my favorite preachers are all either Roman Catholic or Presbyterian. We Anglicans do a lot right, but preaching often ain’t on that list (with apologies to +Tom Wright, of course).

    • Fr. Isaac, I’m a layman who’s got one foot in RC media and the other in the Protestant/Evangelical media as well. Your comments here resonate very much so with me. Though my favorite preachers are either RC, dead Anglican divines and more recently, Confessional Lutherans.

      I wonder if Tim Challies would ever read a book like “Justification: Five Views” (2011: IVP Academic). Maybe that’s asking too much…

  17. Mule Chewing Briars says

    We Orthodox have our own issues with Rome, and it is curious how much of an intramural debate the Reformation looks like from this angle.

    I’ve had innings with Tim Challies, both as Reformed and as Orthodox. They were pleasant enough. He smokes the same brand of pipe tobacco that I do, which goes a long way towards ameliorating the fact that I forbidden to confess monergism.

  18. I would take Challies with a grain of salt. For one thing, he struggles with his own set of false teachings – for example, his church does not allow women to read the Bible aloud in church. I can imagine that this kind of made up (and inherently misogynistic) law is a stumbling block to the gospel for many. And yes, I think Ted’s 9:41am comment is legitimate – I see just as much works righteousness in Challies’ church and circles, even if they call it something different. Finally I would point to the epistemic foundation of a sentence like “Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul“. Apparently the accuracy of one’s intellectual assent is now the power of the gospel. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. All that to say that the linked article is not really the kind of thing I can think seriously about, so maybe we just let this one slide.

  19. I’ve never met an actual Catholic who believes all of that and only a few who believe any of it. They would all have to look up “Council of Trent.” Catholic Churches are just like Baptist churches — some are saved, some are not, and if you ask ten of them a question about any of this, you get ten different answers. In Oprah-Dawkins-Spong culture we live in today, Catholics are not the enemy.

  20. Dan Crawford says

    I gave up arguing Catholicism with evangelicals a long time ago. Their infallibility rivals the pope’s (and they’re not bound to any tradition of dogma – they read the Bible and by heaven, if they find a verse that coincides with their point of view, it is embraced with fervor – in spite of other verses which may contradict or complement the one they cling to, and in spite of a long hermaneutical tradition which may suggest their narrow view lacks perspective).Too many embrace doctrinial positions which seem to make God a puppeteer and manipulative monster, and their dismissal of even the Eucharist (excuse me, the “Lord’s Supper”) makes the presence of God among us depend on preacher’s “expositions” of the Word, feelings, signs and wonders, and the whole panoply of ecclesiastical tricks which seem to appeal to so many, but which leave so many, according to their own research, feeling starved after several years. The amount of ignorance about Catholic practices is stunning, and sometimes, deliberate. Saying this is not to leave Catholicism and some of its weirdness off the hook, but for Protestants, Orthodox or Catholics to refuse to acknowledge what is of God in their contrasting positions is to impoverish the Christian treasures which should enrich all Christians.

  21. Challies is a good speaker and writer, well-spoken and obviously intelligent guy. He’s one of many, though, who have reduced the mystery of faith to a math equation, and if you’re not completely in tune with his interpretation of Scripture, then in his mind there’s no way possible you can be a Christian.

    There are some problems with his theology: He promotes the idea of “Scripture alone”, but then would utterly disregard the teachings and writings of most of those who were a part of the ecumenical councils who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, put together the very canon he holds so dear.

    He believes in “Faith alone”, then systematically judges those of a different brands of Christianity based on how they practice their faith…their works. Who am I to say that a Catholic shouldn’t confess their sins to a priest, use icons in prayer, or pursue good works? If you’re going to judge others by their works, then be prepared to be judged for your own.

    He rejects the idea of a pope, but embraces himself as an interpretive authority on scripture, whom everyone should look at as the last word on theology. Now, he would say that his brand of theology is scripture interpreting scripture, but fact is, it’s Challies’/Piper’s/Calvin’s/Driscoll’s interpretation of Scripture. He’s set himself up as a pope, just without the title.

    I’ll be glad when we all get to Heaven, where everyone is an Orthodox Anglican…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Challies is a good speaker and writer, well-spoken and obviously intelligent guy. He’s one of many, though, who have reduced the mystery of faith to a math equation…

      Copied to the 20th Decimal Point from the Spiritual Engineering Manual. (CM came up with that description, and credits it to the Industrial Revolution producing “Minds of Wheels and Metal” like Treebeard described Saruman.)

  22. So, according to Mr Challies, the first 1500 years of the church was spent
    populating hell?

    • Yes, kinda sounds like it. I guess Jesus died 1500 years too early, eh? 😉

    • That’s called the great apostasy. It’s implicit in most evangelical circles. Where is the trust in Christ that his church would prevail? Additionally, the common understanding of heaven/hell are far from the nuanced versions in the NT. Sheol and hades are simply the abode of the dead, neither one is hell though they are often translated so. Heave and hell are states of being. They start in this life and continue into the next. It depends on how willing one is to cooperate with the grace of god (the Holy Spirit). Works if love and works of the law are different things. St Paul speaks of works of the law in Galatians. James speaks of works of love in his epistle. The reformation problem was that Luther conflated the two. They are not the same.

  23. This post is money. So are most of the comments. Thanks, everyone.

    I really liked this:
    ->”John, once a dyed-in-the-wool calvinistic separatist, is now at the forefront of encouraging people to participate in “missional-ecumenism,” which includes doing theology together, talking with one another, and studying side by side rather than lobbing theological grenades back and forth across no man’s land at each other.”

    Not only is that a good, healthy approach for Christians to interact, but I’m finding it a very good and healthy approach in presenting the Good News of the gospel to agnostics and atheists. Yes, respectful conversation and dialog works better than Bible thumping!

  24. Christiane says

    does anyone know Challies’ political preferences?

    that may have something to do with his antipathy towards the leadership style of Pope Francis who is not a great friend of vulture capitalism

  25. This really is the right way to respond to Mr. Challies. I have been banned from commenting on his blog for criticizing Al Mohler one too many times. He does not like debate or dissent.

  26. Also, Challies is on the political right.

    • Don’t blame the right for Challies. There be plenty of Catholics over here.

    • I thought he was Canadian. Doesn’t that automatically wipe out any right wing tendencies?

      • While the “right” in Canada is not exactly the same as the “right” in the United States, there are similarities. And Canada is not as much on the left as it and other nations like to think that it is. We have had a conservative federal government since 2006. Though it is a mix between American neo-conservatism and European neo-liberalism.

      • Most of the Canadians I know appreciate their health care. That makes them automatic leftists.

  27. Robert W. says

    Catholicism presents many of the same issues as Mormonism. Both supplement the Bible with additional required beliefs and authoritative leaders (who are held to enjoy a special connection to God), but disguise their innovations by means of elaborate public statements and public-relations initiatives.

  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    What do you mean “The War is Over”, CM?

    Just look at this comment thread.

    • Christiane says

      dear Headless . . . the fact that this very blog EXISTS and thrives
      is a sign of a huge change among Christian people from different faith communities . . . and we can thank Michael Spencer, of blessed memory, for bringing us together to talk with one another and to learn from one another . . .

      ‘blessed are the peace makers . . . ‘

    • The war is over, but battlefield reenactments are still staged. The “Battle of Fort Sumter” is relived on the last Sunday of October.

  29. I only ever read Challies’ blog for the daily Kindle deals.

  30. “It isn’t difficult to have unity without holiness, nor is it particularly difficult to have holiness without unity. It is very bloody difficult to have holiness and unity—something which we Anglicans have been learning for centuries.”

    N.T. Wright

  31. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I’m very much grateful for all that the Roman Catholic Church did for me growing up. She…

    1) Introduced me to the Trinitarian God;
    2) Educated me through high school (by Jesuits); and
    3) Sacrificed time, funds, even he liberty of some to bring me out of Cuba.

    On the other hand they laid some guilt, fear, and shame on me as a way, I suppose, to “fix” me (which, by the way, only made me worse). I was led to believe that I was as good–or bad, rather–as my most recent mortal sin, and that even if those were absolved by way of confession and penance that I would most likely wind up in purgatory which, I remember the priest’s words verbatim, “is just as hot as hell.” And I remember my 8th grade teacher, a nun, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was no good and would not amount to anything in life. She told me this after I won first place in a science contest. Best I can figure is that she did not think Hispanics should win top prizes (I’m sure some Anglo parent complained to her and she took it out on me). Regardless, for years I believed her. How could I not, she was a nun, a woman “wedded to Christ!”

    Now, I don’t blame Pope Francis or Roman Catholicism for my experiences for I am well aware that there are jerks in every tradition and area of life. And whereas I am thankful for all the good they did for me, I can never swim back across the Tiber, as some here like to say, as God has revealed to me truths of the Christian faith which Roman Catholicism rejects.

    And I do agree that Roman Catholicism is not heretical in the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and that there are Christians in Catholicism just are there are in other traditions, among them my son and daughter-in-law (they are Byzantine Catholics). Interesting note, my DIL was told by some Catholic “church lady” that Byzantine Catholics are not “real” Catholics. Regardless, Archbishop Sheehan of the Diocese of Santa Fe has them on the list of “genuine” Catholic churches in New Mexico. I suppose the Archbishop’s word trumps that of “church lady” any day.

    Is war over, well, no one is burning “heretics” at the stake any more, so I suppose that’s progress. And unlike the way things were when I was younger, when I was told I could not visit the Presbyterian church some of my distant relatives attended or risk being excommunicated, I find that RCs regularly visit Protestant churches w/o fear of added time in purgatory. So I suppose that’s progress, too.

    PS: CS Lewis has good wisdom to offer.

    • Calvin, your comment is an eloquent example of the complexity involved in discussing this subject. It shows why we need to go beyond polemics and talk about our traditions in thoughtful and generous ways, as you have done here. On the other hand, merely dismissing an entire tradition 2100 years old on the basis of oversimplified assertions as Tim Challies did is inexcusable for anyone who genuinely seeks truth, grace, and love.

      • I agree with you, Mike, and thank you for your kind words. You see, over the past five years or so I have come to the realization that the world will never know we are disciples (John 13.35) unless we love one another, and as long as we continue to throw polemical stones at one another we will not arrive there.

        God used my son’s departure from Evangelicalism–Reformed, at that–to open my eyes to see the beauty and truth in other traditions. Seeing him christened and later married in a Byzantine Church, and having my co-pastors and many in my congregation there, and welcoming of it, is a positive step in the right direction.

        I expect to die a Reformed Evangelical. Who knows, I may even request that the TULIP thing be engraved on my gravestone and that copies of the Westminster Confession be handed out at my funeral service. OK, I jest, of course. But what I don’t want is to be remembered as one who further divided the Church but who instead worked to reverse the wounds.

  32. Christiane says

    It is not enough for Christian people that a war between them is over. The world needs a greater witness from us.
    There is a lot on the web about this happening, and I think it does show the kind of reconciliation which may hold a promise for the healing of many wounds:

    times are changing . . . there IS something in our shared faith that pulls us towards each other . . . I think it’s a grace from the Holy Spirit pointing us all in the same direction . . . towards Lord Christ.

  33. This does a very good job of unpacking just how the whole tiff got started…and why:

  34. So, you’re saying that the Roman Catholic Church today supports and teaches sola scriptura and sola fide? I don’t think they do.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      No, of course they don’t. Neither does anyone else. Well… some groups claim they do. But they don’t.

      • Adam, could you please clarify your statement? We teach sola scriptura and sola fide, as do many other churches, both now and for hundreds of years. When you say that “some groups claim they do. But they don’t” I’m baffled as to what you mean by this and what evidence you have in support of your statement. Perhaps if you clarify what you mean I may better understand what you’re getting at.

  35. Excellent point Adam.

  36. I come from a non-Christian family.

    When I was a young lad I remember my mother saying:

    The Christian army is the only one that shoots it’s own in the back

    I am sad to say she was right.

  37. Michael, you have represented my views and personal journey very well in this blog post. Reading the scores of responses that have followed your blog makes for some every interesting reading to say the least. I have taken these response, at least those posted through this evening at 6:00 p.m., and will turn some of them into a Q & A about missional-ecumenism that I will put on my site. By taking these rich and diverse comments and questions from your good readers (all without their names so no should panic) I can respond to some of the comments within my own world and framework. As you rightly note my world is one in which I am now deeply engaged with the intersection of Catholic and Evangelical ecumenism. This is not a blog interest for me but a mission and call. If readers would like to interact with me then I welcome that in my posts when they go up next week. You can visit my blog at Again, thank you Michael for using my words in such a helpful and Christ-honoring way.

  38. Patrick Kyle says

    The problem as I see it is that the RCC does something very post modern. They maintain that the old edicts and dogmas still stand, but bury them under decades or centuries of nuances, ‘clarifications’ and new pronouncements and re-interpretations. They ‘pad the blow’ so to speak.

    A good friend of mine swam the Tiber. He was on his third marriage, but wanted to be accepted into ‘full communion.’ He had the magisterium grant him annulments for his first two marriages. (Both of which happened when he was a Christian, with two children from the first marriage.) They were granted on the grounds that they were both invalid because they weren’t married in the RCC and were thus invalid and not true Christian marriages. Oh, did I mention that the annulments were very expensive?

    This is the kind of thing is why the Reformers were indignant.. Check out an old (from the 1950’s) Baltimore Catechism. Note the table that delineates the years in Purgatory for various sins. (Also note the Papal Imprimator on the inside of the cover) Who determined that God ordained these particular sentences for these sins? Haven’t heard the RCC repudiate that struff.
    Challies is right insofar as the Pope promulgates and teaches dogmas like Purgatory, the Treasury of Merit, Mary as Co-mediator and Co-Redemptrix with Christ, and indulgences.(Yes they are still granted. I saw one in the office of a once renown televangelist for said televangelist.) In these areas and several more the Pope is a false teacher. I am not saying he is not a Christian, nor am I saying Catholics aren’t Christians. However, the church at large is not served well when these differences are papered over and denied for the sake of some ginned up unity. Also makes me seriously question whether those who ‘swim the Tiber’ have done their due diligence.

  39. Sorry for this long-winded quote from Paul Tillich’s “Protestant Era”, but this is key to defining protestantism. And, yes, he does state that the fight against collectivism is a tenant of liberalism. If you can grasp how grant a collective the tea party has become, you will understand.

    “The most important contribution of Protestantism to the world in the past, present, and future is the principle of prophetic protest against every power which claims divine character for itself—whether it be church or state, party or leader. Obviously, it is impossible to build a church on the basis of a pure protest, and that attempt has been the mistake of Protestantism in every epoch. But the prophetic protest is necessary for every church and for every secular movement if it is to avoid disintegration. It has to be expressed in every situation as a contradiction to man’s permanent attempts to give absolute validity to his own thinking and acting. And this prophetic, Protestant protest is more necessary today than at any time since the period of the Reformation, as the protest against the demonic abuse of those centralized authorities and powers which are developing under the urge of the new collectivism. It is in this Protestant protest that the eternal value of liberalism is rooted.”

  40. The irony for Challiies is this line: “It has to be expressed in every situation as a contradiction to man’s permanent attempts to give absolute validity to his own thinking and acting.” Given the sheer hubris and absence of self-criticism displayed by the prominent leaders of the Fine Young Calvinists (aka young, restless, and reformed), it is the duty of protestantism to oppose the movement and hold it to account.

  41. Ox,

    that prophetic protest can arise from people who are not Protestants… The Eastern Church did not have a Reformation for several reasons, one of which was that it listened (sometimes very grudgingly indeed) to the prophetic protest from within, most often from monastics and sometimes from others who were not priests or bishops, and eventually convened councils to deal with the issues. We’re still kind of a mess in certain ways, but we do take great pains to avoid the kind of rupture that happened in the Western Church. And we actually have room for disagreements that are not contrary to doctrine as revealed in our worship: opinions – even somewhat radical opinions – are allowed, and I can’t think of any time we have shed blood over mere opinions. (Unfortunately not the case with other things…) I read somewhere that St Basil the Great himself thought that if Mary and Joseph had had a “regular marriage” after Jesus’ birth, that would not really hurt Christian doctrine regarding who Jesus is, but since the people were so convinced of Mary’s continued virginity, the Holy Spirit must be speaking through them regarding the matter, and he came to believe the people were right to uphold this dogma.