Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Loyal to the King...King Jesus that is


My recent post on the catechism of Pope Pius X generated disagreement from several Roman Catholic readers. While we have disagreed, I have appreciated their civil discourse but hold no allusions about there being some kind of reunion between Reformed Christians and Roman Catholics. I concur with C.S. Lewis' statement from an essay he wrote-

"As a Christian, I am very much aware that our divisions grieve the Holy Spirit and hold back the work of Christ; as a logician I realize that when two churches affirm opposing positions, these cannot be reconciled."

I am sure future posts will generate more such discussion, though I have no real confidence anyone's mind will be changed.

I do want to address a particularly clever response of one of the RC responders. "Reepicheep" is the namesake for my blog because he is my favorite fictional character. His loyalty to the King is ultimately what I so appreciate. Reep values loyalty to the King as paramount, it drives him. I chose Reepicheep as the name for this blog because I want to have the spirit of Reepicheep regarding King Jesus. Note how a very thoughtful Mr. Lyons responded-

"It's about your screen name, Reepicheep (Loyal to the King). One is hard pressed, in my mind, to be loyal to Aslan without also being loyal to the kings and queens he has set over Narnia. Unless, of course, one is simply unaware of the authority provided."

On the basis of the discussion generated by the "Pius Post", the responder was implying that I should be loyal to the "kings and queens" God has set over me/us, particularly meaning the Pope. A clever response, I have to grant him that.

But alas, I do think any person loyal to God must be loyal to those God has put over him. I believe I am aware of the authority God provided. God is specific about who He has put over me/us-

Psalm 2:6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

Luke 1:33 ...and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

There is only one Head of the Church and it isn't a Pope, it's Jesus. To be loyal to God I must be loyal to King Jesus. The Church is only legitimately The Church when she is loyal to King Jesus and whatsoever He commanded. Claiming ancient roots, aggressively promoting spurious doctrines like Apostolic succession, and quoting medieval theologians far more than offering a sound exegesis of myriads of biblical texts doesn't make an organization The Church.

Frankly, much of modern Roman Catholic apology reminds me of the Jews of Jesus' day with its claims of authority due to antiquity and century old traditions. Christ may be claimed as King by some of her parish names, but He's so obscured by the smells, bells, idols, rituals, Popery and pageantry that most RC's couldn't tell you the first thing about how to have a relationship with Him.

Most of the RC's that respond to my blog are former protestants not representative of the vast mass that identifies itself as Roman Catholic. To listen to the formerly Reformed RC's you might be lulled in to thinking most RC's know some semblance of the gospel. I spent a solid 18 years as an active Roman Catholic and a large portion of my family and many friends still are, I'm telling you most are clueless regarding what it means to be justified before God.

I know there are lots of Roman Catholic blogs that have been fired up by former protestants, mostly written to comfort each other and win more protestants to join their communion. It's all very interesting when blogged and theorized about, but as a pastor I grieve for the millions of Roman Catholics who do not trust in Christ as their Savior because they have not been given a clear exposition of what that means. I spent lots of time listening and asking questions. I wanted someone to give me answers at St. Stephen’s in Grand Island, New York. I sat faithfully every Sunday and Wednesday as a youngster thoroughly confused as to how I might be right with God. “Go to confession”, Father Snyder told me. “Attend Mass regularly” Father Judge told me. “Be sure not to miss CCD,” Father Hughes would say. When I asked too many questions I got catered off to Father Cahill’s study so he could tell me how reliable the Church was. I didn’t doubt him in the least, however asking more questions earned me a dis-invite from my CCD (confirmation) class so my mother could “work with me at home”. I wasn’t asking Reformation questions. I was asking how I could be right with God, I assure you. The answer I got was varied and confusing, but it came down to works. Do this, do that…it never ended and you could never be sure. Some here might say that’s not what the Church teaches, but I’m telling you that’s what millions hear. This ain't no straw man.

What I wanted them to do is confirm my feelings were true- I was a sinner. Then I wanted them to tell me how to be saved from my sins. It’s possible the answer was buried in the heap of Hail Mary’s and “Our Fathers” Father O’Brien made me say at confession, but I didn’t hear it. I don’t think many do. Why wouldn’t someone just say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” in all it’s beautiful simplicity?

Sure, some of the newly converted RC's will say that Christ is clearly taught in the Roman Catholic Church, somehow I just missed it. “I’m sorry you had such an experience Tony, but your experience shouldn’t be considered the norm”. I simply respond by saying that I meet dozens of RC's and rarely do I find one who was born and raised in the RC Church who can give any kind of cogent biblical description of the person and work of Jesus Christ. That's straight up. I think my experience is unusual only in that I kept asking questions and genuinely wanted to understand “my” religion and be faithful. Most people just shut up, take the Host each Sunday or Saturday night, and go back to their disconnected, irreligious lives immediately after.

So, will all those who call themselves Roman Catholic but lacking clear understanding of the gospel be saved because of their trust in the Roman Catholic Church?

I think not. No one should think so.


If a place claiming to be "The Church" cannot make clear the gospel of God's grace it ought to look at the jungle of traditional weeds and briar's that have obstructed and choked out Christ and cut them all down. Lo, such a church needs to reform. Maybe they're not really the Church they keep telling themselves they are.


When I read Hebrews (and Galatians for that matter), I know old Judaism is in view, but wow does it seem like Roman Catholicism could just as well be in view. As you might expect, the Westminster Confession captures my sentiments on the bible's teaching concerning the Church –

The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all.


The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion;and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (WCF, 25.1 & 2)

Being Reformed, especially as a former Roman Catholic is a major way I live out my loyalty to King Jesus. It wasn't a popular decision when I decided to leave Romanism. It came with a price I assure you, however, to be loyal to King Jesus I had no choice. Heck, being Reformed isn't even popular among Evangelicals, so it's not like I'm jumping on some kind of popular bandwagon in opposing Popery. I oppose Romanism as an act of loyalty to King Jesus.

Once again, I think the framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith rightly interpreted Scripture when declaring-

There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof. (WCF 25.6)

Matthew 23:8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.

So, I'll stick with Reepicheep...it's a perfect namesake.

10 comments:

Rick Calohan said...

Tony,

A beautiful and honest testimony of your loyalty and faithfulness to the King…King Jesus that is!

It reminded me of the prayers of George Whitefield

“My life, my blood, I here present,
If for Thy cause they may be spent,
Fulfill Thy sovereign counsel, Lord,
Thy will be done, Thy name adored.
Give me Thy strength, O God of power;
Then let winds blow, or thunders roar,
Thy faithful witness will I be;
‘Tis fixed: I can do all for Thee!” Amen.


and


“Lord, we thank Thee for all those with whom we spoke this day, and we rejoice that their lives and destinies are entirely in Thy hand. Honor our efforts according to Thy perfect will. Amen.”

Lyle said...

Wow! Great post, Tony. (You do some of your best work after 1:00 am) :o)

David said...

Rome has not overturned Trent's anathemas. All talk is academic. There is not a stronger blindness than that of the religious eye.

And it's no accident that Paul's most robust defense of Justification by Faith Alone was written as a letter to the church at....Rome.

Roger Mann said...

WCF 25.6 originally stated:

“There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God.”

What changed over the past few hundred years? Has the “Pope of Rome” in any sense changed? Has the Roman Church repudiated any of her soul destroying doctrines and blasphemous anathemas against the true gospel? Or were virtually all the Reformers and Westminster Divines simply wrong here?

Scott Lyons said...

Tony, blogs aren't the best tools for a conversation; besides, it is better to lose an argument, than to wrong a brother. But let me say a few things, not for argument's sake, but as a brother.

I like your screen name as I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan. I understand that you do not believe that Christ has put any authorities above you, but himself. And that's fine. I was not trying to make a point so much as an observation that had been and is meaningful to me - certainly finding any meaning within it requires other beliefs. If you did believe that the bishops (including the Pope) were successors of the Apostles and placed there by Christ, then your loyalty to Christ would demand that you be loyal also to his Church. They would be the same loyalty. (Reepicheep's loyalty to King Caspian X is loyalty to Aslan.) That is where I am. As you said before, the issue here is a disagreement about authority.

Christ is the head of the Church. No question. We are his Body. And within his body there is authority, under-shepherds, presbyters. We are told of this in the Scriptures. And the disciple of St. John, St. Ignatius, says that where the bishop is (the presbyter), there also is Christ, there is the Church - and only there. I cannot convince myself that between St. John and his disciple, St. Ignatius, there would be such terrible miscommunication. That John so miserably failed to pass on the faith to even one generation (or, more accurately, that the Holy Spirit failed to keep the Church, the Church that Christ promised would be kept). But that is me.

And while we disagree, let it be known that Christ is my king as well. And only Christ. I do not mind disagreement between brothers, but the disunity is painful. And flagrantly disobedient. But we are a long ways down that road, are we not?

You are right that many Catholics are totally unaware of how to have a relationship with Christ. Many priests have failed in passing on the faith. But the same could be said of my Protestant brothers and sisters - many who hold all kinds of strange ideas about what friendship with Christ means. That is not to excuse the Church, however. I spent 25 years as an Evangelical, among many who are more antinomian or gnostic or American than Christian. Unfortunately. The same can be said of Catholics. My point is that this is not a Catholic problem, it is a failure of both our communities, Protestant as well as Catholic. It is a failure because of sin and abuse and ignorance - because we have other loyalties. I doubt that you would be willing to hold up Reformed Christians as perfect Christians or even perfectly instructed Christians. We both know that is not true. But we do the best we can, where we are, and pray for God's mercy (who is merciful).

We also both know that the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed in Catholic parishes - if by no other means than the faithful reading of the Scriptures (and, I would say, through the gift of the Eucharist, which is the gift of Jesus among us). It is true that many do not hear or understand that gospel. At the same time, many Protestants believe that one is justified by one's belief in justification by faith. But that is not what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures teach that one is justified by faith in Christ. There is a world of difference, a great gulf between the two understandings.

Perhaps many miss the Gospel in Catholic parishes because they are looking for instructions for salvation: "Do A, B, and believe C, and eternal life is yours." That is not Christ. Christ desires friendship with us, salvation is a relationship. Christ's goal is not to produce machines that know all the right answers. Christ desires to create new men and new women, persons who know him, the Truth, Love. Relationship is far more complex than we make it out to be. Christ is not a product. Christ is the great Subject. Salvation is unity with him, friendship with him. We all err when we reduce salvation to a formula, regardless of the formula.

Reepicheep said...

Scott,

Thanks for your response.

To be clear, I do think God has placed earthly authority over me. The Scriptures define that authority as the elders of the Church. The elders of the Church are determined by biblical guidelines, not by virtue of their title or some special unction of God's prophetic spirit.

In my case I am under the authority of my fellow presbyters as a plurality. Not one man, but a plurality of godly men. Again, their authority comes from a faithful administration of God's Word. They/I lose authority if we are unfaithful to God's Word.

So, I don't mean to say I'm some kind of rogue independent. I believe in the government God has placed in the Church- a plurality of elders. I reject the notion of apostolic succession and governance by one called the Pope.

In the Lamb,
Tony

Frontier Forest said...

Dearest Pastor Tony, I felt the anointing over your painful, yet carefully crafted, Holy Spirit words directing truth. All of us must remember… opinions are just that. It is His inerrant Word, being rightly proclaimed, that forever changes us, not necessarily the messenger.

Michael Lockridge said...

That image of Reepicheep would make a good tattoo.

Now, about placement...

Michael Lockridge said...

Oh, and check this out-

http://www.actionfigureinsider.com/main/2008/06/page/2

Reepicheep said...

Michael, lets just say I'm way ahead of you on that.... :)