Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trueman drops the gloves on new Roman Catholic book


When people find I was raised Roman Catholic they often ask why I left "The Church" (if they are Roman Catholic) or "Romanism" (if they are an astute Protestant).  It's not an easy question to answer in simple fashion, but it came down to wanting to know God's will.  Where could I find God's will, especially about being right with Him?  The Roman Church said it was to be found with the Church, specifically the Papacy.  Papal authority is the "buck" for Romanism.  I understood that assertion very clearly and did my very best to appreciate it and be a good son of the Church, so to speak. I had several kind, learned priests and nuns instruct me during my time in CCD class.  But what about the Bible?  Through attending a vacation Bible school ministry at a Protestant church in the Reformed tradition, I was introduced to a different paradigm for finding God's will-the Bible.  I didn't read the Bible much in my Roman Catholic experience, including the CCD classes I attended faithfully.  There were a few short readings during Mass, and a very brief homily by the priest that would touch on some simple scriptural theme, but that was it. Bible reading was not encouraged much, at least in the 1980's. To this day, the only Roman Catholics I know who are biblically literate are converts from evangelical churches. There was a definite sense of enigma about the Bible and you were made to feel you could not really understand it on your own (as a side- one of the most liberating things I witnessed in my father was his discovery of Scripture- reading and studying the bible when he left the Roman Church to go to a Protestant bible-teaching church at age 70 and then joined our church at the age of 74. He almost never missed Mass for seven decades, yet knew very little about the content of Scripture). Given their view of authority, I understand why the Bible isn't emphasized too much in Romanism, at least not among the laity. Through the aforementioned Reformed Church I began reading the Bible and then about guys like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others.  These men wrote profoundly and prolifically about Scripture being THE authority in all matters of life and faith.

So, for me, it was a matter of authority- the Pope or the Bible.  Admittedly, there are challenges with either because on the one hand, the doctrine of the Papacy is racked with problems biblically, historically, morally, etc.  On the other hand, when you say the Bible is the authority, which interpretation is the right one? Any time I post something that criticizes Romanism, long debates break out that ALWAYS come down to the matter of authority mentioned. It's tiring...and not my point in drawing attention to Trueman's post.  

A new book just came out where the author tries to blame Protestantism for a host of things (a favorite approach by be fair...Protestants do it to).  Carl Trueman, a learned professor and exceptional writer, takes the author to task by addressing some of the tired Roman Catholic attacks on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.  Trueman will use the more technical doctrinal designation- "Perspicuity of Scripture", but he is practically referring to the way Protestants say the Bible is the final authority on all matters. I won't re-state his line of argument, because he says it way better than I can.  At the same time, he does cover various problems with Romanism- particularly the ignoring of many glaring issues that strike at the heart of the doctrine of the Papacy- that I have been noting for years.

I don't expect any one committed to Romanism to agree with me or Trueman, so save the usual debate points.  Instead, I think Trueman's post will give Protestants sick of the tired Roman attacks on Sola Scriptura some confidence in their trust in Scripture over the Papacy.  I like how Trueman ramps up his argument-

I wonder if I am alone in finding the more stridently confident comments of some Roman Catholics over the issue of perspicuity to be somewhat tiresome and rather overblown. Perspicuity was, after all, a response to a position that had proved to be a failure: the Papacy. 

Thus, to criticize it while proposing nothing better than a return to that which had proved so inadequate is scarcely a compelling argument. Yes, it is true that Protestant interpretive diversity is an empirical fact; but when it comes to selectivity in historical reading as a means of creating a false impression of stability, Roman Catholic approaches to the Papacy provide some excellent examples of such fallacious method. The ability to ignore or simply dismiss as irrelevant the empirical facts of papal history is quite an impressive feat of historical and theological selectivity.

I highly recommend Trueman's post:  

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain! Roman Catholic History and the Emerald City Protocol By Carl Trueman


Woody Woodward said...

Pretty heady reading. Didn’t really comprehend all of what Trueman said, but I did feel the since of apathy that so many millions of devout Catholics live under. “It’s what the Pope says that matters.”
The two times I have been to the Vactican City, I have found it most interesting the witness of those going to worship or those just going to see the vastness of this amazing structure. From what I have observed, with all the pomp and ceremony going on, it’s not about individual worship, but following hundreds of years of what I would call “vain traditions.” “Wood hey and stubble” in the Lord’s eyes of I Corinthians 3:10-16. And seeing the vast lines of folks of all ages, taking their turns to rub the right foot of the huge bronze statue of St Peter for good luck I guess? Well that pretty well sums it up for me.

Zach said...

You don't know any biblically literate cradle Catholics? That's a pity. I can't swing a dead cat without hitting one, so if you ever want to remedy that deficiency in your life, it would be my pleasure to introduce you to some.

Reepicheep said...

No Zach, I really don't know any. I know several "cradle" Roman Catholics who are very well versed in theology via various medieval Roman scholars (especially the scholastics), but not what I would call biblically literate. Then again, to be honest, I know a ton of evangelicals who aren't biblically literate either.

Lloyd said...

I was raised Catholic too, no one I knew had any knowledge of Scripture. That was also true in my Ph.D. studies at a Catholic university (in theology). The Catholic students would sometimes tease the Protestants for knowing the Bible so well. Only the profs in OT or NT had equal to or better Scriptural knowledge. Anecdotal to be sure, but I know many well educated cradle Catholics for whom this is true.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Lloyd. I recall a few years back chatting with a *very* well-informed Roman Catholic.

After a bit, he said in exasperation, "You Protestants, it's always 'Bible, Bible, Bible.'"

Jim said...

I know some biblically literate Catholics, although they're all Protestant converts.

I recall a conversation a few years back with a *very* well-informed Catholic. He said, "You Protestants. It's always 'Bible, Bible, Bible.'"