Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rome is Still Rome

I went to the Roman Catholic Bible study here on base. It is currently taught by a very dedicated and learned layman. He knows his Roman theology and is very respectful.

I don’t think that they want me to come back. When I told my wife that I didn’t think that the Roman Catholics wanted me to come back to their meeting, she asked, “What did you do?” We were text messaging, but I can just hear the tone in her voice.

In my defense, I was on my best behavior! I did not speak unless I was asked a question or invited to share my point of view… that just happened to be more often than I had hoped. Since this Lutheran donkey had wandered in and was chewing his cud in the room, the conversation always seemed to compare Rome with Protestantism and Lutheranism in particular. I did my very best to give a clear, humble response to every question and offer everything with charity. It was a very respectful discourse.

Regardless of the theological issue, every conversation went this way:

1. The Roman Catholic espoused the dogmatic position of the Church. The Roman Catholic pointed out the errors of radical Protestantism and other heresies.

2. I put in my two cents which was mostly made up of agreeing with his criticism of radical Protestantism and other heresies... and then making slight distinctions between the Roman position and the truth. Most of the time, I was directly quoting (or at least summarizing) the Augsburg Confession and its Apology.

3. The Roman Catholic replied with a "yes but" and then reasserted the authority of Rome in matters of doctrine. Most of his counter points were exactly what you would hear in the apologetic responses to the Augsburg Confession 500 years ago. He sounded exactly like the Council of Trent. It got so predictable that I knew what he was going to say before I finished talking.

4. I would usually reply with an appeal to the early church fathers or to Holy Scripture. I would say something like “Scripture says [this] right [here] therefore I believe it,” or “Records show that the church has taught [this] since the 5th century therefore I believe it without adding any of my own opinions to the apostolic faith.”

5. The Roman Catholic would reply with some Greek philosophy or complex pontificating (hehe… what a great pun!) that would talk way over the heads of everyone in the class.

6. I would reiterate the simple message of the Gospel and let him have the last word.

It was very eye-opening for everyone. They learned a little Lutheran doctrine and I learned that Rome has not changed no matter how much they insist that the Church has moved beyond her past errors.

At the beginning of the class, the teacher confidently declared, “Most Roman Catholic scholars agree that Lutheranism is no longer necessary because we have fixed most of the errors that Luther pointed out in the 95 Theses.”

I replied, “That’s good to hear! What about the more serious errors that we pointed out in the Heidelberg Disputation, the Augsburg Confession and Apology, the Smalcald Articles, and the Examination of the Council of Trent? Have you addressed those, too?”

Of course they had not heard of those documents before so that created a great deal of edifying discussion.

After over an hour of in depth discussion, I think they at least got the idea that “most Roman Catholic scholars” are wrong for thinking that Lutheranism has been rendered obsolete.

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