Roman Catholics and Evangelicals
Agreements and Differences
This work by Stuart David Gathman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Thu Mar 14 16:12:52 EST 2002
As our age becomes more Godless, Christian unity
becomes more and more essential. But Christian unity must be built
on truth held in common. Unity built by casting truth aside is deception.
The Catholics and Evangelicals class addresses
a sad 500 year division in the Body of Christ. In class, we will
explore the real disagreements between Catholics and Evangelicals, as well
as put to rest many tragic and often silly misunderstandings. You
will find that Evangelicals hold far more truth in common with the Catholic
Church than with some American Episcopal bishops.
The purpose of this class is not to debate
the disagreements. The purpose is for both sides to first have an accurate
understanding of what the other side is saying. Only then can real
debate begin. There will be short debate periods in class on those
occasions when we cover actual disagreements.
We will review the book Roman
Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences by Norman Geisler
and Ralph MacKenzie, paying close attention to the chapters on differences.
While this book has some flaws in the way it presents Catholic teaching,
it does provide an excellent general analysis of the agreements and differences.
The authors embrace unity based on common truth, and are on the whole sympathetic
to the Catholic Church (except for the doctrinal differences). We
will correct any misrepresentations encountered during the class.
Week 1 - Introduction
Catholics, like Protestants, are a mixed lot. Not all professing
Catholics subscribe to the Church's teaching. The Christian
Research Institute has identified six
general categories of Roman Catholic. Several of these categories
are in need of evangelization, but our strategy should be to work within
Roman Catholic institutions rather than seeking to "convert". Although
Protestants believe the Roman Church to be in error on several points,
they are not a cult. Many deceptions common to individual Roman Catholics
can be countered by an understanding of their own Church's teaching.
We will introduce the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" as the official
Roman doctrine on almost any theological or ethical issue. We will
introduce Christ-centered Catholic resources and how to steer Catholics
toward them. These include the many conservative parishes in Northern
Virginia, and the Catholic Charismatic movement. We will learn about
the importance of learning
Catholic "jargon" to
The Source of our Authority
Week 2 - Magisterium and the Pope
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 1 - Revelation, and Chapter
11 - Infallibility
The most important difference between Protestants and Catholics concerns
the authority of Scripture vs. the Magisterium
the Pope, and Tradition. When Catholic apologists ask how Protestants know
which books are in the Bible, R.C. Sproul responds that the Bible is a
"fallible collection of infallible books". On the other hand, when Protestants
ask how Catholics know which Papal dogmas and Church Councils are infallible,
we find that they have a "fallible collection of infallible dogmas".
You may also wish to read
James Akin: Scripture and Tradition for a Catholic defense
A.A.Hodge: The Word of God for a Protestant defense.
The important thing for Protestants who want to encourage Catholics
is to work with Catholic authorities and institutions that are scriptural
and Christ centered. There are more agreements than disagreements, especially
compared with the heretics and liberals afflicting both sides.
Week 3 - The Apocrypha and Scripture vs. Tradition
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 9 - Apocrypha, and Chapter
10 - Scripture
The Apocryphal books are important because
they give us the history of
the Jews between Malachi and Matthew. They are called "deuterocanonical" because
they were established by the Councils of Rome, Carthage, and Hippo - after
the other books. The Council of Trent (and others) reaffirmed
the Deuterocanonical ("other canon") books (the Apocrypha) to be fully
inspired and part of Scripture. Protestants, some Eastern Orthodox,
and Jewish canons do not include the Apocrypha. (But most Eastern
Orthodox accept the full Catholic canon and then some.) The
Apocryphal (or Deuterocanonical books, as Catholics prefer to call them)
are often quoted to defend prayers for the dead.
You may also wish to read
James Akin: Defending the Deutorcanonicals
for a Catholic defense.
Week 4 - The Nature of God and Man
Before coming to class, please read Chapters 2 through 4 - God, Human Beings,
These are important areas of agreement between all orthodox members of
Christ's body. We must all be able to explain and defend these historic
The Basis of our Salvation
Week 5 - How are we saved
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 5 - Salvation, Chapter 12 -
We look at the classic dispute. Catholics say we
are saved by the kind of works produced by faith. Protestants say
we are saved by the kind of faith that produces works.
"We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone." - Variously
attributed to Calvin or Luther
Week 6 - When are we saved
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 13 - Sacramentalism and Chapter
16 - Purgatory
We look at the Catholic and various Protestant views of the sacraments.
We also look at the "Once saved, always saved" vs. "Lordship Salvation"
dispute among Protestants. Arminians: "He that perseveres to the end shall
be saved." [Matt 10:22; Matt 24:13; Mark 13:13] Calvin: He that is saved shall
persevere to the end. [John 10:28,29]
Week 7 - The Church
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 6 - The Church and Chapter
14 - Ecclesiology
Roman teaching on the Church seems to have changed,
and not all its members have followed happily. One ultra-traditionalist
priest was excommunicated for teaching that we can be saved only in communion
with the Roman Church! On the other hand, Vatican II claims to merely clarify
what has been the Churches true teaching all along, and early Church documents
Other Agreements and Differences
Week 8 - Mariology
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 15 - Mariology
The Dogmas concerning Mary are often
problematic to Protestants. At the time of the Reformation, Protestants
and Catholics were agreed on Mariology. Over time, Protestants began
to reject several traditional views of Mary due to a lack of explicit Biblical
support. Rome responded by dogmatizing the Assumption and the
Perpetual Virginity of Mary. Protestants, however, continue to affirm
the Marian doctrines established in the early Councils.
Protestants see veneration of Mary sometimes becoming idolatry
of Mary, and prefer the term "Bearer of God" to "Mother of God".
Week 9 - Last Things
Before coming to class, please read Chapter 7 - Ethics and Chapter 8 -
Catholic eschatology is amillenial and post trib
- the millennium is a symbol of the new heavens and new earth, not a literal
1000 years, and the Rapture occurs after the tribulation. This is
not the pre-trib pre-mil fare many Protestants are used to, but is just
as orthodox. The chapter on Ethics shows the great debt Protestant thinkers
owe to the great Roman Theologians Augustine and Aquinas. This is
a good time to consider the strengths of the Roman Church and what we as
Protestants can learn from them.
Week 10 - Ecumenism
Before coming to class, please read Chapters 17 through 20 - common goals.
Ecumenism means different things to Catholics, Protestants,