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March 14, 2008

Evangelicals and Catholics -- together or apart?

At the Heidelblog, R. Scott Clark takes issue with Chuck's response to Tim Challies about the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Take a look here. (H/T Rebecca Writes)

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Jason Taylor

Unless one thinks that Catholics are not Christians and Evangelicals are(or vice-versa)there is no schism, only difference of opinion. Unless we wish there to be.
When we talk about things like Grace and Works we are talking about something we don't understand and really need not affect our behavior. As I have said before , I have met grace people who sounded positivly phariseeical. My father says he has met alledgedly "workish" Catholics, who thought they could live however the wished as long as they confessed to their priest. Which shows that the vice attributed to each doctrine, seems to be found quite often in the adherants to the other. Then to from all I have heard, the argument of each sides theologians has historically been directed at caricatures of the other's doctrine.
Such doctrinal issues have their place. But if they really have such importance then children, fishermen, and peasants who of course can't understand either, cannot be saved. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another" is far more fundamental then the proper balance between grace and works. You will note that Paul did not say whether the followers of Paul or the followers of Apollos were right. What he said was that they were making to much of a bother about it.
If Evangelicals and Catholics agreed they would not be-Evangelicals and Catholics. So the whole point is premised on disaggreement. And the ability of those who disagree to work together.


We need to get together, the enemy has attacked us all. United we stand, divided we fall

R. Scott Clark

Hi Pat and Jason,

If Rome says we are justified because we are sanctified and has eternally condemned what protestants understand to be the gospel, is this a small thing?

How are you doing with your sanctification today? Are you prepared to stand before the living God on the basis of your sanctity?

As they say, good luck with that.


R. Scott Clark

One other thing.

If we agree with the Reformation, that there are two kingdoms in this world -- one civil and the other spiritual/ecclesiastical -- there's no reason why confessional Protestants must agree with confessional Roman Catholics on justification in order to cooperate socially. I'm happy to cooperate with my Roman Catholic friends and neighbors on common civil issues such as the protection of innocent life or on other issues.

If we would make such distinctions we could keep our theological integrity and achieve important social goals at the same time.


Rolley Haggard

It is not uncommon for things we say we believe to differ significantly from the things we actually do believe. That’s why in heaven many whom we thought would be last to enter will be first (and vice versa). Judging from the fruits many Catholics bear (genuine adoration of Christ and rightly-motivated good works to people for His sake) it is probable that there are great numbers who, despite their intellectual understanding of the way justification works, do in fact trust in Christ alone for salvation. Though in their heads they may mistakenly understand and describe the grace of faith as an internal quality of the heart that merits justification rather than the empty, undeserving hand that simply receives it, if in their hearts they have cast themselves entirely upon His mercy, then they are our brothers and sisters, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. They are justified not in spite of believing something different, but because in the final analysis they actually do believe – in their hearts – the same thing evangelicals do. They just have not yet been able to see the distinction between what they truly believe and what they confess they truly believe.

The dialogue that Colson and Neuhaus are nurturing is enabling evangelicals and Catholics to mutually discern the difference between what is confessed and what is truly believed. As a result, Catholics are learning to appreciate our historic creeds, and evangelicals are coming to appreciate the Catholic emphasis on loving works performed not to earn salvation, but in gratitude for it.

The process is slow and painstaking, but if we continue to prosecute it, it is reasonable to think we will eventually come to unity since what is lacking amongst the truly faithful on both sides is not will, but understanding. What Colson is doing is "unto the Lord", and such labors are never in vain (1 Cor 15:58), especially as we hold each other accountable. I see little chance of Colson (or other leading evangelicals) capitulating to Romanism, but great potential for Catholicism to gradually embrace our understanding of justification by faith.

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