Why I’m Not Roman Catholic (Redux)
A user at the CARM forums linked to the original version of this post. While I’m happy for the traffic surge that produced, I disagree with a substantial portion of the post and I only addressed that in the comments. So I should correct any misconceptions the original post might produce about my theology, since I’ve come to a much different conclusion about Roman Catholicism in recent months of study.
In fact, I flirted with becoming a Catholic again, chronicling my thought process here:
- The Temptation to Become Catholic Again
- The Centrality of the Church
- The Perpetual Virginity of Mary
The temptation centered around a major problem I have with Protestantism: disagreement and in-fighting. Against classical Reformation theology, I reject sola scriptura and perspicuity of Scripture. I also embrace a high church concept — though that isn’t against Protestant theology, it flies against sola scriptura and makes waves with the world.
So it was tempting to become Catholic. It really wouldn’t be that big of a step, I thought.
But it turns out it is, for I can’t get on board with the Marian dogmas, veneration of saints, and universal primacy of the Pope (including papal infallibility). As I detail in #3 above, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is largely unsupported and is poorly argued — but is earlier than other dogmas which means it’s one of the best developed.
I’ve found recently in two snippets from the news and the book Justification by Hans Kung that the Roman view of justification is essentially the same as the Reformed view. I admit that I haven’t read Justification carefully enough, but I’m assured that that is the conclusion of the book. Man is justified before God solely on the basis of grace through faith, plus nothing. That is the Reformed view as well as the Catholic view.
However, Catholicism differs from the Reformed view of grace significantly. Grace is dispensed through the sacraments in Catholicism. In the Reformed view, it is God’s discretion upon whom grace is given; in other words, it is a free gift and not of works (Eph 2:8-10). Since grace is unmerited favor, it makes no sense to work for it. Ever. God bestows grace upon whom he will (see Rom 9).
Worshiping anyone or anything other than God is idolatry; Scripture makes that clear (see, for example, this post from TurretinFan). Therefore, I see no justification for the veneration of saints, angels, or the Virgin Mary.
The rubber justification is that latria is paid to God, while dulia is offered to the saints and Mary. Latria is pure worship, while dulia is more like a deep reverence. This is a distinction without a difference. One should err on the side of caution, especially in light of the first commandment’s harsh penalty proscriptions for idolatry.
Consider the severe punishments that God pronounces on the entire nation of Israel for her disobedience and idolatry. Consider the judgments of the pagan nations in the Promised Land due to their idolatry. This is something that God takes very seriously. So should we!
Finally, papal infallibility seems to make Roman Catholicism into a cult. The power of the pope to define doctrine ex cathedra, thus binding all Roman Catholics to that teaching for all time, is too much power to vest in one man. This sort of behavior is seen in all of your finer cults — the power hungry, unquestioned leader. What Velma once referred to as “the Papa Smurf figure” in the first Scooby Doo movie.
Let’s be clear. I do not think Roman Catholicism is a cult. I know that the Popes have all been very careful and reverent about their use of papal infallibility. They ask the Cardinals for opinions. And, since the authority of papal infallibility has been recognized almost 200 years ago, it has only been used twice.
Cults, by contrast, use this unquestionable leader mentality to their advantage.
We don’t see that here.
Also, I have come to respect the Catholic position of natural law and many of the arguments from Sacred Tradition. Catholicism, I find, is closer to the Bible than 99% of modern Protestantism. It deserves not the contempt of our brethren, but respect.
And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention excellent Catholic writers like Dave Armstrong (who I was really wrong about — Sorry, Dave!) and Jennifer Fulwiler. And don’t forget one of my favorite Catholic bloggers (and fellow geek) Jimmy Akin.
I’m not a Protestant out of mere preference, as many are. I understand the theological issues that divide us. One day, I pray we are one body as Christ prayed in the garden. But for now, there are many issues to be settled and I caution those who are Catholic out of preference or Protestant out of preference to study those issues and find out what you really believe.