Theological Triage (pt. 3): Love Covers a Multitude of Differences

loveToday, we finish our three-part series on “theological triage.”

In part 1, I suggested genuine Christians stand united in mere Christianity against those who deny the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and justification by faith. At the same time, I explained in part 2 how churches and individuals must pursue unity in the gospel, even when we differ on matters of church government, church ordinances, or charismatic gifts. This gospel unity that overlooks ecclesial differences does not deny the importance of these secondary matters, but it keeps in mind that some doctrines are more essential than others. Some doctrines separate Christians from non-Christians (first-level), some separate genuine believers into different congregations (second-level), and others remain points of disagreement even in the same local church (third-level). This tripartite division has been labeled “theological triage,” and it is this third section we consider today.

The Doctrinal Core

Members of any orthodox church must share the core convictions delineated in the first level (e.g., the Trinity, the Incarnation, the resurrection of Christ, salvation by grace alone, and so on). Likewise, every church must also come to biblical conviction about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church polity, etc. In most churches, these doctrines (first and second level) are found in their statement of faith.

The practical function of such a confession (or statement of faith) is that when the church gathers there is no need to debate why the Bible is central, why men lead, and why babies are not “baptized.” The confession functions as a general consensus—a doctrinal core if you will—of what the church believes the Bible to teach about the most important tenets of the faith. Still under the banner of a church’s confession (which derive it’s ministerial authority from the Scriptures themselves), there are other doctrines that are not defined. Wisely, confessional statements are abbreviated statements of faith that do not attend to every doctrine. Accordingly, there are other views, beliefs, or questions that members may hold differently.

Some of these doctrines include the doctrines of grace, the way spiritual gifts continue in the church today, and the timing of the millennium. The point of this post is not to address these doctrines, nor to suggest what to include or exclude in the confession. The point to be made here concerns how to handle these third-level doctrinal disagreements in the local church.

It’s All In How You Hold Your Doctrine

In every church, there comes a postural decision to major on the Messiah and his message of grace and truth, or to major on the minors (if only some minors). In practice, while two churches can have the same doctrinal statement, they can be radically different because of the way they hold their doctrine. If a church chooses to major on third-level doctrines—be it the order of the decrees or the timing of the rapture—that church will stifle maturity and develop disciples who are easily suspicious of people not like themselves.

By contrast, when a church declares the whole counsel of God in the proportion and tone of the Bible itself, it creates a community of faith that is skilled in the word of righteousness and mature in their powers of discernment (Heb 5:13–14). Moreover, by paying attention to the way Scripture presents doctrine (instead of the way certain teacher or school presents them), pastors teach their people how to read the Bible and ward off narrow-minded uniformity. In what is perhaps overlooked in some churches that major on doctrine, it is not just the content of the confession that is important. It is also the posture with which a person holds their beliefs.

Christ’s church, like God’s cosmos, is filled with diversity. Accordingly, we will find that most people are not like us. If this is true in personality, it’s also true in doctrine. And once we have established unity in the first and second levels of doctrinal, the main focus of doctrinal unity—the differences we find in our own church—should be met with forbearance, understanding, and sympathetic love. Once again, this does not mean we can’t have fruitful debate (and disagreement) in the local church, but it does mean that the majority of our conversations should revolve around what unifies us in the message and mission of the church.

In the church, when we express gentleness and patience towards those with whom we disagree, we demonstrate the love of Christ. By contrast, when we wield the Bible as a Billy Club perpetually convincing others to believe as we do, we rarely seek to ground people deeper in the faith. More often and more likely, we are working against the Spirit to make people more like ourselves. In such situations, we reveal in our actions that we desire personal uniformity more than spiritual unity.

Love Covers a Multitude of Differences

In every church, there are non-negotiable doctrines that must be declared and defended without apology. Nevertheless, viligance must be taken to uphold the first and second-level doctrines (the ones explicated in the church confession), allowance must be made for diversity on views that do not contradict the statement of faith. How else will young (untaught) believers have room to grow into the doctrines of grace? How else will hard-charging disciples learn to be gentle and patient in their speech and actions (2 Tim 2:24–25)?

In fact, I believe one of the reasons why God permits longstanding differences to exist in the church is that these theological differences (along with racial, ethnicity, socio-economic differences) serve as a backdrop for the unifying work of the Spirit. When matters of personal preference are set aside for the sake of loving one another, the power of the Spirit is visibly demonstrated. In other words, the unity of the church is not uniformity built on age-related, teacher-produced populism. No, the unity of the church says to the world, “We would not be united in, but for Christ!”

So, the goal of unity is not to “resolve” all differences, but to learn how to love one another in Ephesians 4:1–6 truths, as “we grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15). To do that, faith working itself out in love (Gal 5:6) is essential, and not surprisingly, that’s exactly what Jesus said would reveal his disciples to the world (John 13:34–35).

The Necessity of Learning Theological Triage

Anyone who has been in church knows such love is not as easy as it sounds. Like sheep, we are easily-frightened, easily-flustered, easily-separated. And thus, it requires the Spirit’s work to bring unity to us. And part of that process is teaching God’s children that not every doctrine weighs the same. Indeed, until local churches learn how to “triage” their doctrines, they will constantly divide when they don’t need to and unite when they shouldn’t.

At the same time, failure to rightly divide truth from error, unify around the main features of the gospel, and overlook tertiary differences will result in a pernicious anti-evangelism. Indeed, the church that is most evangelistic will also be most theological, for attention biblical theology is never a hindrance to the gospel. Spirit-fueled theology always leads to evangelistic passion.

May God be pleased to lead us into all truth and to give us grace to walk together in that Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

9 thoughts on “Theological Triage (pt. 3): Love Covers a Multitude of Differences

  1. Another outstanding piece. But it again begs a question, to me. In my understanding, Catholics and Protestants continue to agree in every point of what I consider, and what the Christian Church has historically considered, “first-order doctrines” — what was defined, as a confession, by the Nicene Creed and other affirmations of councils; what historically has separated Christian from non-Christian. You seem to be setting a rather arbitrary standard for separating Catholics from “orthodox Christians” (that is, apparently, Protestants), in the mere fact that Protestants separated from the Catholic Church. For there is no doctrine or creed or confession that the separated Protestant sects can all together affirm, no agreed-upon standard for “first-order doctrine,” that the Catholic Church could not also affirm.

    You are very gracious in your willingness to accept sects with whom you disagree on important matters like infant baptism as nonetheless Christian brothers. But if you exclude Catholics, then you must also exclude many traditional Lutherans and Anglicans who agree with the Catholic Church in most important matters — I don’t recall that you’ve mentioned them, so perhaps you do. And if that’s the case, do you limit “orthodox Christianity” to only the Reformed tradition? And if that’s the case, do you not see a problem in the fact that no Christian before the sixteenth century could have affirmed the very doctrines you use to divide “Christian” from “non-Christian”?

    The peace and grace of the Lord to you.

    • To Joseph

      As an ex-Catholic, may I point out that, amongst other things, Roman Catholics worship (ie pray to) a human and fallible being, Mary, the human mother of Jesus. She has even been given the title of co-saviour with Christ, even though the Gospels, especially John’s, clearly show she was a fallible human being (and it is significant that John’s gospel, being written later than the synoptic gospels, seems to intend to show Mary’s (and Peter’s) fallibilities, he must have felt the need, as early as the 1st century, to refute wrong attitudes towards Peter and Mary, which have nonetheless continued in the RC church to these days.

      Further, “saints” in the RC meaning of the word, are commonly worshipped and prayed to,also. It’s both idolatry (ie you shall have no other Gods but Me and you shall make no statues … and bow before them) but also worshipping the dead, which is very disturbing if you stop and really think of it. (And that’ true of Mary, too) These practices of idolatry and worship of the dead, surely, must qualify for a basic denial of 1st level doctrines, worshipping only the triune God and considering only Christ as intercessor are prime tenets of Christianity. Historically the Roman Catholic religion has been contaminated by Greek and Roman religious beliefs, the belief about transubstantiation (whereas the Jewish feast of the Passover is all about symbolism), the Queen of heaven with her baby son, Christmas, and so on.

      There has always been a minority of Christians, long before the Reformation, who fought to keep pure beliefs, within or without the Catholic Church, God kept a remnant for Himself. They may be totally obscure people, or better-known movements. I’m thinking of movements like the Franciscans at their very beginning. After all, Luther was a Catholic monk, he was not the first to question the RC church doctrines within the church.

      It’s true that not all Roman Catholics worship Mary and the saints, I for one could never learn “Hail Mary” and never recited it, even as a child, but it’s despite the Church’s teachings, not because of them.

      • Cathy: Thanks so much for the comment. You have my deepest sympathies. I am not sure it’s useful to quibble over whether or not Catholics “worship” Mary or the saints: As I’m sure you well know, Catholics insist we do not, that the practices you describe are neither “idolatry” nor “worship.” Your words here reflect serious errors and misunderstandings of Catholic doctrine.

        To briefly them:

        From the very beginning, you equate “praying to” someone as “worshipping” them (“Roman Catholics worship ie pray to”) — but there is no essential connection between these concepts at all. “To pray” simply means to ask, beg, seek, beseech, petition, entreaty. “Praying to” the saints is merely to ask for their intercession. It does not assign to them any worship, honor, or praise that is due only to God. It does not ascribe to them divinity or divine qualities. It is no different than my asking any other close friend to pray for me.

        Yes, Mary was a human just like you or me. No Catholic calls her “co-saviour”. Peter was also quite human and imperfect. The Catholic Church does not teach otherwise. You have been misinformed.

        Again: Catholics do not “worship” the saints. The use of statues is not in itself “idolatry”: God Himself commanded the Israelites to fashion images and statues on a number of occasions (e.g. Exodus 25:18-22, 26:1,31, 36:8,35, 37:7-9, 1 Kings 6:23-35, Numbers 21:8) — the very commandment you cite declares that “idolatry” is to bow down before such images in worship, to hold them up as “other gods” before the One God, which Catholics do not do. Neither is seeking the intercession of the saints “worshipping the dead” — for it is not “worship” and they are not “dead”: Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Rather, the saints are more alive with Christ in heaven than we are on earth: they are “the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). Faith in the intercession of the saints contradicts nothing in Scripture but rather affirms it. The Revelation of John presents these very “first-born in heaven” lifting up to the throne of God “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints [that is, the holy ones of the Church on earth]” (Revelation 5:8).

        There is no credible evidence at all that “the Roman Catholic religion [was] contaminated by Greek and Roman religious beliefs.” Jesus Himself and the Words of Scripture themselves teach the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (John 6, Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-20, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and especially vv. 27-32), and faith in it is attested to universally by the earliest Christians (see Ignatius of Antioch, c. A.D. 107; Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150; Irenaeus of Lyons, c. A.D. 180; Clement of Alexandria, c. A.D. 200; Cyprian of Carthage, c. A.D. 250): the same message in every author in every place, citing the personal teaching of the Apostles and their understanding of Scripture. And on the contrary: the Jewish understanding of the Passover meal was quite sacramental, and the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist is its immediate fulfilment; see the research of Dr. Brant Pitre, author of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.

        You claim there was “always a minority of Christians … who fought to keep pure beliefs.” Usually when people appeal to this argument (more or less connected with the historically unsupported “Trail of Blood” theory), they seek to claim such persecuted sects as the Donatists and Cathars as “pure Christians,” merely because they opposed the Catholic Church — when in truth, per their own teachings, these groups denied the very fundamental tenets of Christ’s Gospel of grace. You take a different tack: You claim the Franciscans as “pure Christians,” but seek to reject the Catholic Church? The same “early Franciscans” (speaking for St. Francis himself) who held a deep and profound devotion to the Virgin Mary (“A Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary” is one of St. Francis’s most famous prayers), who venerated Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist (“What wonderful majesty! What stupendous condescension! O sublime humility! That the Lord of the whole universe, God and the Son of God, should humble Himself like this under the form of a little bread, for our salvation”), who knelt in prayer before the image of Christ on the Cross (see the San Damiano Cross)? Yes, St. Francis was a “pure Christian,” as pure as there ever has been! But he was thoroughly Catholic. If you hold him up as your example, then you have no grounds at all to oppose the Catholic Church.

        No, Luther was not the first to seek to reform Catholic doctrine. The very doctrines Luther initially criticized (abuses of indulgences) were already a known subject of reform in the Church. And even Luther, you should know, maintained a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary even after his departure from the Catholic Church, continued to affirm the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (in a modified form of the Catholic doctrine), and affirmed the necessity of Baptism and the Sacraments. Is he a “pure Christian,” too?

        May God bless you and His peace be with you.

  2. Thank you, Joseph, for your reply. I don’t suppose we will ever agree on this topic and there is a certain pointlessness in carrying on, yet, if nothing else, I want to acknowledge my blunders. I did not know that much about Francis of Assisi, apart from the fact that he resisted the corruption and love of riches in the Church of the time and sought poverty and simplicity instead. You are indeed right that my quoting him as an example of Biblical Christianity was illogical and ignorant. And I should not have used “pure Christian” as indeed no Christians are pure. I meant Biblical Christian.

    Luther is a complicated figure. Certainly he did not follow far enough the implications of what he discovered in Scriptures and he was a bitter hater of Jews, which raises many questions.

    You are also quite right that I wrongly equated “praying to” with “worshipping”. Thanks for pointing this out. However I still think that there is something fundamentally wrong with those practices, even if it is not actually idolatry and the persons are indeed alive in Heaven, as you also pointed out. For, in any case, why go to mere men, whether holy or not, when you can go straight to Christ, to the throne of grace itself? Why ask “a friend”, when you can go straight to the omnipotent God? If not idolatry, it is diminishing Christ’s glory, it shows a lack of faith in him, in the all-sufficiency of his atonement, of his intercession and an inability to see God as our Father in Heaven, who wants to give us good gifts. You cannot deny that many Catholics never pray to God but address their prayers solely to Mary and the “Saints”. Although I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, it seems a glorifying of men over God.

    It’s the same with the Eucharist. To me, it is blasphemy to presume that a mere man, a priest, can “repeat Christ’s sacrifice” over the altar, I believe the actual words used are “sacrificing the Son of God”, Sunday after Sunday, and take upon himself to mediate between God and his congregation.

    I too read a book about the Jewish roots of the Lord’s supper, written by an French evangelical theologian of Jewish origin, I believe. It would be interesting to compare these two books. “Mine” basically showed that, as the Passover was all about symbolism, the bitter herbs symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt, etc., so the Lord’s supper carries on with symbolism with the bread and wine and the cups. You know that the verses you quote were originally written in Greek and that there was no verb “to be”, i.e. Christ did not say “This is my body” but “This my body”. In any case, as he was standing there, he could not be in the bread at the same time. It’s precisely the influence of the Greek mystery religions that sadly led Christians to see magical transformation in this ritual, something common in those religions, when there was none. Likewise the Bible clearly says that Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all. It’s belittling the sacrifice to presume to do it again and again, as if it was not sufficient, as if it needed perfecting. And again it glorifies man over God.

    This is not to say that this glorifying of man over God is only found in the Catholic church, sadly evangelical churches are guilty of it all the time, and most Christians in their hearts, at times, have that attitude but it is actually enshrined in the doctrines of the RC church: the intercession of Mary and the “saints”, Mary called the Mother of God, the Eucharist, the Pope as being infallible and the representative of God on earth (just stop and think for a minute of this incredible claim), the doctrines of the church equated with Scriptures, the pomp and incredible riches of the Vatican, all this is a glorifying of man, to me. I would say develop this further but I fear offending you and this is a public forum after all.

    Why did you say I have your deepest sympathies? :) Because I left the RC church? It was a well thought out decision. Surely you don’t believe that salvation is found only within the RC church? Don’t you think there are true Christians in every denomination?
    Blessings,
    Cathy

    • Cathy, thanks so much for your kind reply. Yes, I said you had my sympathies because you left the Catholic Church. It was kind of a snide remark and I almost didn’t include it, but I’m glad you weren’t offended. Yes, I do believe it’s possible to be saved in other churches; but I’ve come to believe there’s a fullness in the Catholic faith that just isn’t present in Protestant Christianity, so many good, beautiful, graceful and salvific things that I missed out on severely when I was Protestant, that I don’t know how I ever lived without (not very well). That you walked away from such richness does indeed make me very sad: I say that sincerely and with sincere sympathy. I can only suppose, as if with most “ex-Catholics” (in fact, there’s no such thing: you will always be a child of the Catholic Church and will always be welcome in her arms), that you suffered from poor catechesis and tragic misunderstandings of your faith. If I sound condescending in that, I am sorry; but it’s true that you don’t seem to have a very deep or true understanding of what the Catholic Church actually teaches.

      I actually believe, if we are patient and charitable, that conversations like these are not pointless. Already I feel we are understanding each other better. Yes, St. Francis opposed corruption, as many people in the history of the Catholic Church have, and sought simple poverty and charity — and I don’t believe you are wrong at all in calling him a “pure Christian” with a heart bursting with the love of Christ. Your observation is a good one: it’s your premise, that being a “pure Christian” is somehow contradictory to being a Catholic Christian, that is mistaken. If your preconceived standards would case you to reject such good and holy men as St. Francis, St. Augustine, or St. Bernard, whose good fruits of love and service commend them to us richly, then isn’t it possible that your standards actually fail to reflect the goodness and holiness of these men?

      Indeed, if your standard for a “true Christian” is a “Biblical Christian” according to your understanding, then I don’t think you will find very many if any “true Christians” prior to the seventeenth or even eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. Many of the doctrines you are insisting on, and the rejection of other doctrines you want to reject, were simply late developments in Christian history. In fact, Catholics are the original “Biblical Christians.” The true faithful of the Catholic Church affirm the truth and authority of the Word of God just as surely as Protestants do, and did for 1,500 years before any Protestant ever breathed. Protestants have different interpretations of the Scriptures than Catholics, but every tenet of Catholic doctrine is firmly supported by if not based completely in Scripture. In most cases, it is the Protestant interpretations of Scripture that lack any basis in the historic practice of the Church. If no Christian prior to the sixteenth century ever believed the doctrines you hail as “Biblical Christianity,” how can they possibly be true? And if Catholic doctrines are just as well and easily supportable by Scripture (and they are), and are also supported by the testimony of the earliest Christians outside the Bible, are they not far more credible?

      For, in any case, why go to mere men, whether holy or not, when you can go straight to Christ, to the throne of grace itself? Why ask “a friend”, when you can go straight to the omnipotent God? If not idolatry, it is diminishing Christ’s glory, it shows a lack of faith in him, in the all-sufficiency of his atonement, of his intercession and an inability to see God as our Father in Heaven, who wants to give us good gifts.

      It’s not an “either/or” situation; so often in the Catholic understanding, it’s “both/and.” If I can go straight to Christ, and ask other holy men and women to pray for me to Him, is that not better, more uplifting, more encouraging that just my single prayer on its own? Paul entreats us in Scripture to intercede for other another (1 Timothy 2): Is it “lack of faith” in Christ to ask my earthly brother to pray for me? Does it diminish Christ’s glory? Or does praying together in agreement not glorify him all the more (Matthew 18:20)? Why, then, would asking for the intercession of my brother in heaven, one whose faith in Christ has already received its reward? He is glorified in His saints, in all who have believed, not diminished (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

      You cannot deny that many Catholics never pray to God but address their prayers solely to Mary and the “Saints”. Although I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, it seems a glorifying of men over God.

      Actually, no, I have never met a Catholic who prayed solely to Mary or the saints. Every Mass is itself an extended prayer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Catholics pray the “Our Father” throughout the day just as our Lord taught us, and indeed He opened the way for us to commune with the Father directly. “Saints,” you know, just means “holy ones”; and the “spirits of just men made perfect” in heaven can certainly be called that without qualification! And the saints in glory now exalt Him without end: how can this in any way detract from His glory?

      It’s the same with the Eucharist. To me, it is blasphemy to presume that a mere man, a priest, can “repeat Christ’s sacrifice” over the altar, I believe the actual words used are “sacrificing the Son of God”, Sunday after Sunday, and take upon himself to mediate between God and his congregation. … Likewise the Bible clearly says that Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all. It’s belittling the sacrifice to presume to do it again and again, as if it was not sufficient, as if it needed perfecting. And again it glorifies man over God.

      But again, that’s not actually what Catholics believe. There is no notion in Catholic theology of any man “repeating Christ’s sacrifice” or “re-sacrificing Jesus”: this is a common misunderstanding. Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice once and only once on the Cross (Hebrews 9:26, etc.): in the Mass, He makes that sacrifice present again for us, just as He told the Apostles to “do this in memory of me.” Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church (a bit of a lengthy quote but I think it is important):

      1363. In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men (cf. Exodus 13:3). In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them.

      1364. In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present (cf. Heb 7:25–27). “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7).

      1365. Because it is the memorial of Christ’s Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: “This is my body which is given for you” and “This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:19–20). In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28).

      1366. The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit.

      1367. The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner … this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” (Council of Trent; cf. Heb 9:14, 27).

      “Mine” basically showed that, as the Passover was all about symbolism, the bitter herbs symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery the Hebrews endured in Egypt, etc., so the Lord’s supper carries on with symbolism with the bread and wine and the cups.

      The idea of a Sacrament is that God through visible signs accomplishes invisible graces in our lives. Certainly there are symbols, and the symbols are rich, and the Catholic Church does not deny this symbolism or its richness. But that is not all there is to it. Just as God did throughout salvation history, just as Jesus did in His signs and wonders, God works through signs to pour His grace into our lives.

      You know that the verses you quote were originally written in Greek and that there was no verb “to be”, i.e. Christ did not say “This is my body” but “This my body”.

      Actually, that isn’t true. I have the Greek in front of me. It reads: Τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου [Touto estin to soma mou]: rendered literally, “This is the body of me.” The word for “to be” is ἐστιν [estin], lemma εἰμί [eimi], and it is very much there in the Greek, in all four accounts. In fact, it’s quite emphatic: This is my Body.

      In any case, as he was standing there, he could not be in the bread at the same time. It’s precisely the influence of the Greek mystery religions that sadly led Christians to see magical transformation in this ritual, something common in those religions, when there was none.

      If Jesus is God and can be present anywhere and everywhere, if He could turn water to wine, heal the blind and raise the dead, why could He not accomplish this miracle? You presume there is influence of “Greek mystery religions” where there is no evidence at all of this happening. You are presuming facts outside of Scripture in contradiction to the plain sense of Scripture: Jesus said “this is my Body.” There is nothing at all “magical” about the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, and no belief that does not find its root in Scripture itself. Jesus affirmed, again quite emphatically, that “unless [we] eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, [we] have no life in [us]” (John 6:53). As I indicated above, the belief was present from the very beginning, even in the writings of Paul, and universally in dozens of Christians who followed even in the first few centuries. Is it really so easy to believe that even after the ultimate and definitive revelation of Jesus, after He giving His life for us, rising from the dead, and breathing His Holy Spirit into us, God allowed His faith to become so corrupted even in the first generation of converts — that the very saints to whom the faith was delivered could be so faithless and apostate? If that is the case, how can we possibly trust these same faithless men to have preserved the Scriptures for us uncorrupted? And if we believe that God preserved the Scriptures, why could He not have preserved His Church as He promised (John 16:13)?

      … That attitude [of glorifying man over God] … is actually enshrined in the doctrines of the [Catholic] church: … Mary called the Mother of God …

      You should read about the title “Mother of God” before you so quickly proclaim that it “glorifies man over God”. The title was originally Theotokos in Greek, literally “God-bearer.” She was hailed by this title as early as the first century not to exalt her but to exalt Christ: for the one she bore is God Himself. If Mary is not the Theotokos, the early Christians rightly saw, then the one she bore was but a man.

      … the Pope as being infallible and the representative of God on earth …

      The Catholic Church believes no such thing. The pope is but a man, a very human and imperfect man, who is the pastor of the Catholic Church. He is not said to be “the representative of God on earth.” He is called the “Vicar of Christ,” which does not mean the same thing. A “vicar” is a “representative” in one sense, but not as a stand-in or replacement or equal. Compare what a “vicar” is in the Anglican Church: he is a representative of the bishop, but he does not have the power or authority or presence of the bishop; he is the lowly pastor whom the bishop sends to a local parish as a delegate or servant. Likewise the pope is the servant of Christ, appointment to be the earthly pastor of His Church while He Himself is at the right hand of the Father. More than anyone else, the pope is the representative of Peter, whom Christ first appointed as His shepherd (John 21:15-17) and steward of His Church (Matthew 16:18-19; cf. Isaiah 22:20-23).

      … the doctrines of the church equated with Scriptures …

      Again, this is not what the Church teaches.

      … the pomp and incredible riches of the Vatican …

      The Vatican actually has “riches” that amount to approximately the annual budget of the City of Birmingham, Alabama. It has even recorded a deficit in recent years.

      I would say develop this further but I fear offending you and this is a public forum after all.

      You can’t offend me. You’re kinder and more polite by leaps and bounds than most of the people I talk to on the Internet. :) I welcome the discussion. I can only hope Dr. Schrock approves of it: again, I feel this is productive and beneficial.

      God bless you and His peace be with you!

      • Once again, thank you for taking the time to answer my objections so thoroughly. Your time was not wasted for I do see now that Catholic doctrines can be misrepresented at times by Protestants like me.

        I am not competent to comment on the Greek words and this was a book I borrowed and have not been able to buy. However we do not seem to understand the quotes re the Eucharist in the same way. “1364. As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out… 1366. because it applies its fruit…1667. the same now offers through the ministry of priests… the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner…this sacrifice [of the mass] is truly propitiatory ” For me, these doctrine can only mean that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient on its own and needs the human mass for ‘the work of our redemption to be carried out’. Nothing seems to justify this from Scriptures. On the priestly aspect, the breaking of bread can clearly be done by any Christian and that’s what the early Christians were obviously encouraged to do, whenever they met. But, most of all, the sacrifice was fully accomplished once and for all on that cross, 2,000 years ago. We are saved by it unconditionally as soon as we put our trust in Christ, there’s no need to add anything else, except to give glory to man.

        Another one of your points troubled me: “In most cases, it is the Protestant interpretations of Scripture that lack any basis in the historic practice of the Church. If no Christian prior to the sixteenth century ever believed the doctrines you hail as “Biblical Christianity,” how can they possibly be true? … God allowed His faith to become so corrupted even in the first generation of converts — that the very saints to whom the faith was delivered could be so faithless and apostate?”

        Yet this is what happened historically. For instance, let’s take the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, which is clearly taught by Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, (James only writes from a different viewpoint and to attack hypocrites). This doctrine was clearly taught by St Augustine in the 4th and 5th Centuries, to be largely forgotten by the Mediaeval Church till it was rediscovered in the 16th Century by Martin Luther, Zwingli and others. This shows that doctrinal truth can indeed be buried and falsehood prevail in the church for hundreds of years.

        Further, from the Epistles, it is clear that false doctrines and false prophets plagued first century Christians.

        But, ultimately, this point relies on “human logic” for “narrow is the road that leads to salvation and few walk on it”, so it is not necessarily what the majority believes, in any one time, but also down the ages, that matters.

        God’s revelation to the Jews was progressive. Israel went through dark periods of no miracles, no revelation, of near anarchy, of exile. Why could not it be the same for the Church? God’s purpose in the Church is so much above our heads and minds, we cannot really comprehend it. “My thoughts are not your thoughts” I believe in dispensationalism (not because I was taught it but because it answered many questions that troubled me). If the Church is a parenthesis in History, the parenthesis of grace, then, the actual length of the parenthesis is unimportant. It’ll take the time it takes for the full number of gentiles to be saved, and then, it will be finished. Granted, that’s dispensationalist but certainly the Bible tells us that a thousand years are the same as one day to God.

        So that, whilst as human beings, we cannot comprehend why God would leave His Church in darkness for 1,500 years, (as you say, it’s less than that, I think) it shocks our finite logic, like Martha or the disciples when the precious perfume was poured on Jesus’s feet, it seems to our utilitarian minds “a terrible waste of time and means”, but to Him, it might be just Him showing His patience with us, patiently bringing about the conditions (i.e. the Renaissance, the rediscovery of the original tongues of the Bible, the freedom of criticism, etc., necessary to bring about the Reformation) for the salvation of many.

        Finally, the adversary fights hard to suppress truths, and indeed Luther tells of very vivid encounters with demons, which shows that his affirmations were strongly opposed by the enemy. And, indeed, the Renaissance brought both this new appreciation for the original meaning of Scriptures but also Humanism, which attacked the Church in a different way. He changed his tactics. He let the Bible be properly understood and available to all in their own language, he gave up on that score, but he attacked the very foundation of the belief in God and in a supernatural dimension, which had seldom been questioned before, in any society. So that the Renaissance was a pivotal time that brought incredible good and incredible bad to the Church, as if the “stakes got higher” suddenly.

        To answer more generally your other points: it all hinges really on how we view the “fullness” that you talk of. Is it really fullness or is it unnecessary and unscriptural additions, to please men and not to please God? Some of them indeed harmless, though not necessarily helpful, others more dangerous, none making it impossible, of course, to be truly saved, just complicating things that should be simple. It’s subtle, but seems deceitful.

        When I decided to become a Protestant, though I was religious, I was not a born again Christian yet. I sought simplicity of worship (ie no statues, no incense or candles, no rich vestments, no sacraments, no liturgy, no Mary). It was more a rejection of certain things than a search for true Christianity. I actually was disappointed when I saw that the local Baptist church I attended practised the Lord’s Supper! But God had His own purpose for me and I had to “relearn” Christianity from the start. I felt I knew it all, I knew the vocabulary, yes, but I did not know the real meaning. I believe, and please, in your turn, do not be offended, it’s the contrary for you. You already know the real meaning from your Protestant background.

        Also it seems to me that Catholicism is widely different when it is found in Protestant countries such as the UK or the USA. In the USA, Catholics engage in ecumenical talk with Evangelicals; in South America, they still persecute Evangelicals…both with the blessings of the Vatican.

        Further, you know as well as I do the corruption, the constant scandals linked with the Vatican bank, or paedophilia, and so on. Yes, Evangelicals have their black sheep, too, yes, no church is perfect but Evangelical churches/denominations are independent from each other, the Protestant world is diverse and, by its nature, cults easily spring from it, it’s its weakness. We’re talking here of one worldwide centralised system where deep corruption undeniably reigns, where incredibly wrong behaviours (paedophilia, clandestine unions and illegitimate children of priests…) are rife and covered up. (This is not at all a personal attack on you or on other godly Roman Catholics.) “By their fruit, you shall know them.” I have been an Evangelical for more than 30 years. I have never met corruption or paedophilia in the mainstream churches I have attended both in the UK and in France. On the contrary, I have met countless godly leaders and church members who have impressed me and inspired me with the sincerity of their faith, walk and commitment to Christ. Now how could it be so if they lacked some kind of “fullness”?

        God bless you, too, Joseph.

      • Again, Cathy, thanks for the kind response.

        For me, these doctrines can only mean that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient on its own and needs the human mass for ‘the work of our redemption to be carried out’. Nothing seems to justify this from Scriptures. … Most of all, the sacrifice was fully accomplished once and for all on that cross, 2,000 years ago.

        The Catholic Church teaches, just as Protestants do, that the sacrifice of Christ was solely sufficient for our salvation, and that it was accomplished once and for all 2,000 years ago. The whole idea of the Mass, as these quotes teach, is that His one sacrifice is present for us eternally, that the graces of it never run out and flow out to us unendingly. It is through the instrumentality of priests (not any work of their own) that Christ makes present that sacrifice to us: he uses the hands of His ministers to do His work. You yourself say that the sacrifice was fully accomplished 2,000 years ago, but that it only saves you when you believe. So would you not say that His sacrifice is also made present to you? Does God not continually use Christian ministers to bring the Gospel to the unsaved, in the Protestant conception? How is it any different to say that He continually uses His ministers to bring the Gospel, in the form of His very Body and Blood, to sinners? “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). If He equates believing with consuming Him, so that He might give us eternal life, then is giving the people His Body to eat not the work of salvation? If no man needs to do any more, then why is there still a need for the work of pastors, deacons, missionaries, or evangelists?

        We are saved by it unconditionally as soon as we put our trust in Christ, there’s no need to add anything else, except to give glory to man.

        There is little or nothing in Scripture to support this, that there is “nothing else to add.” In fact, Scripture speaks repeatedly of salvation being a way, a continuing process, not something that is complete in the present, of God continuing to sanctify and perfect and transform us: “I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). “Work out [i.e. complete, accomplish, effect] your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:18). Do you really believe that you were a completed work in Christ from the moment you first believed in Christ, that you are already completely conformed to Him? Yes — the work of Christ is complete, and there is nothing else that must be added. The ongoing process is the applying of that work to us, the working out of our salvation, by which we are sanctified and transformed in His likeness.

        On the priestly aspect, the breaking of bread can clearly be done by any Christian and that’s what the early Christians were obviously encouraged to do, whenever they met.

        His command to “Do this in memory of me” was made to a select group of the Twelve Apostles. There is no instance in Scripture — nothing “clear” or “obvious” at all — of anyone but an Apostle “breaking bread.” Ignatius of Antioch, writing about A.D. 107, wrote, “Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8). Thus from the very beginning, there is no evidence at all that “any Christian” was ever authorized to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

        Yet this is what happened historically. For instance, let’s take the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, which is clearly taught by Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, (James only writes from a different viewpoint and to attack hypocrites). This doctrine was clearly taught by St Augustine in the 4th and 5th Centuries, to be largely forgotten by the Mediaeval Church till it was rediscovered in the 16th Century by Martin Luther, Zwingli and others. This shows that doctrinal truth can indeed be buried and falsehood prevail in the church for hundreds of years.

        This is false. The Catholic Church teaches today, and has always taught, that salvation is by grace alone. This is indeed taught by Scripture, was taught by Augustine, and has been taught continuously in the Church; it was never “forgotten” or “buried” in the Middle Ages. It is a Protestant myth that the idea of salvation by grace was ever “lost” or that Luther “rediscovered” it. Medieval theology developed ideas about grace and faith that Luther reacted against and rejected; but the fact is that even in that theology, the teaching was constant that we are saved by the grace of God alone and not by anything we can do apart from that grace. Where Luther’s ideas were new (not “rediscovered”) were in his reimagining of the doctrine of justification by faith alone as a solely forensic declaration and of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner as something alien to him. These are mere theological quibbles and do not affect the substance of Christ’s gospel, which is by grace alone. The Catholic Church has always taught the doctrines of Augustine: but are you aware that Augustine taught the necessity and efficacy of Baptism and the Sacraments (not “faith alone” in the Protestant sense), the necessity of works in salvation, and the cooperation of the regenerate human will with the divine will? Are you sure you still want to claim Augustine as an exemplar?

        Further, from the Epistles, it is clear that false doctrines and false prophets plagued first century Christians. … [A]s human beings, we cannot comprehend why God would leave His Church in darkness for 1,500 years.

        And yet Jesus promised his followers that “the gates of hades would not prevail against the Church” (Matthew 16:18); that the Holy Spirit would “guide [them] into all truth” (John 16:13); that He would “be with them even to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Did He then fail in these promises? How is it consistent with Scripture at all to believe that the light and the faith of Christ could be “snuffed out” and the “Church left in darkness”? You maintained earlier that God would preserve a “remnant” of true believers — did He not? You’ve pointed to such Christians as Francis of Assisi and now Augustine as “true Christians”; do you still believe they are? If they were “true Christians,” then you cannot claim that the Catholic Church was “false” or that the whole Church was “in darkness” at all, for they both held the whole and orthodox faith of the Catholic Church. If they were not “true” but “false” — who and where were the “true Christians” for those 1,500 years (or however long)? If the whole Church was ever “in darkness,” when, and in what doctrines, do you think it “fell away” from the truth?

        [God] patiently [brought] about the conditions (i.e. the Renaissance, the rediscovery of the original tongues of the Bible, the freedom of criticism, etc., necessary to bring about the Reformation) for the salvation of many.

        So you are contending that the Reformation was “necessary for the salvation of many,” i.e. that in the Catholic Church (“in darkness”), none could be saved?

        It all hinges really on how we view the “fullness” that you talk of. Is it really fullness or is it unnecessary and unscriptural additions, to please men and not to please God? Some of them indeed harmless, though not necessarily helpful, others more dangerous, none making it impossible, of course, to be truly saved, just complicating things that should be simple. It’s subtle, but seems deceitful.

        Here you say that no Catholic “addition” makes salvation impossible. If you accept, then, that Catholics can have true faith in Christ — then why the language about the Church being “in darkness”?

        I want more than merely what it “necessary.” Protestantism gives am austere, bare-bones faith, stripped of the richness of history (indeed having little conception of history at all), stripped of the many worthy saints and heroes of the faith who have gone before us (ignoring them completely, or else dismissing them as “lost” if what they actually believed should become known), stripped of the centuries of exegetes and theologians who thought so deeply on matters of Scripture and faith, stripped of the Sacraments which pour so much grace into our lives (indeed it is difficult to be saved without them), stripped of the beauty and power of traditional liturgy and music and art. No, these things aren’t “necessary,” but they are wonderful gifts to us! God forbid I should ever again be satisfied with only what is “necessary”!

        I had to “relearn” Christianity from the start. I felt I knew it all, I knew the vocabulary, yes, but I did not know the real meaning. I believe, and please, in your turn, do not be offended, it’s the contrary for you. You already know the real meaning from your Protestant background.

        Indeed, I knew and understood the meaning of Christianity, of faith and grace and salvation, from my Protestant background. And here’s the thing: I haven’t rejected any bit of that. The Catholic Church took what I believed and brought me an endless parade of gifts to bless it, strengthen it, and enrich it.

        Further, you know as well as I do the corruption, the constant scandals linked with the Vatican bank, or paedophilia, and so on. Yes, Evangelicals have their black sheep, too, yes, no church is perfect but Evangelical churches/denominations are independent from each other, the Protestant world is diverse and, by its nature, cults easily spring from it, it’s its weakness. We’re talking here of one worldwide centralised system where deep corruption undeniably reigns, where incredibly wrong behaviours (paedophilia, clandestine unions and illegitimate children of priests…) are rife and covered up.

        So if the independence and diversity and lack of oversight of Protestantism leads to doctrinal chaos, heresy, and “cults,” and that is its weakness — how is it that the centrality and organization of the Catholic Church is not a strength? You allege here that “deep corruption undeniably reigns” in the Catholic Church, but admit that every Christian church has its share of sinners. But the idea that “deep corruption undeniably reigns” is a Protestant slur, not supported by any facts. Yes, there have been scandals, and you’ve named them. Yes, priests, bishops, even popes have done things that are deeply wrong. But have all priests? Have all bishops? Have all popes? You allege that these abuses are “rife and covered up,” that they are endemic to the whole Church. But the most you can point to is a few sensational scandals in only parts of the Church: the Vatican bank, the dioceses where there have been cover-ups of sexual abuse, priests and bishops (mostly in the worldly Middle Ages and Renaissance) who had clandestine unions and illegitimate children. How do even a large number of these incidents equal “deep corruption in the whole Church”?

        The Church of Christ is full of sinners: it is in fact a hospital for sinners. So are Protestant churches. You acknowledge that Protestant churches are independent and isolated. When scandals happen in a Protestant church, they are perceived as local, isolated, independent episodes. When a scandal takes place anywhere in the Catholic Church, it is a scandal and an embarrassment for the whole Church as one body, and the multiplicity of incidents — as there is bound to be in any organization encompassing more than a billion people in every country in the world — are ascribed to a single, global punching-bag that especially the secular media love to attack. But in fact statistically, Protestant pastors are more likely to sexually abuse children than Catholic priests. There have been far more allegations of abuse against Protestant pastors (“isolated incidents”), especially in recent years since the scandal in the Catholic Church erupted, than against anyone in the Catholic Church. Because — and this is the key — the organization and global reach of the Catholic Church can be a strength: once a problem is diagnosed, as it has been with the clerical abuse scandal, the Church can do something about it, systematically and thoroughly; she can root it out from top to bottom, which is what the Catholic Church has been doing in recent years.

        “By their fruit, you shall know them.” I have been an Evangelical for more than 30 years. I have never met corruption or paedophilia in the mainstream churches I have attended both in the UK and in France.

        You have been fortunate. But you need only look around you — try googling “pastor sexual abuse” — to see that Protestants are not at all immune. Prominent Protestant pastors worldwide have fallen prey to sexual scandals. It is a problem for the whole Body of Christ.

        On the contrary, I have met countless godly leaders and church members who have impressed me and inspired me with the sincerity of their faith, walk and commitment to Christ. Now how could it be so if they lacked some kind of “fullness”?

        You would similarly know many godly leaders and believers in the Catholic Church with sincere faith and commitment to Christ, if you were still formally in the Church. God gives His saving grace to all Christians — being an overabundantly good and merciful God. What Protestants lack in “fullness” does not nullify their Christian walks (just as you maintain these things do not “make salvation impossible” for Catholics), but the lack does make their Christian walks more difficult and less rich.

        God bless you and His peace be with you!

      • Hello Joseph, and again, thank you for your long and detailed reply to my objections.

        I did read it carefully and spent a lot of time answering each of your point. However I will not be posting this answer as I fear that this discussion is going round and round in circles.

        The reason that I feel this is turning into what we call in French un dialogue de sourds, a dialogue of deaf persons, is because I notice that the reasons you left the Protestants for the RC are the same reasons why I joined the Protestants. You did not want “an austere, bare-bones faith”, I was searching for austerity, simplicity, sobriety, a return to the source, to the Word, a form of Christianity I’d discovered in the books I read as a child, Swiss and British, funnily enough, so you see we’re unlikely to ever agree! :)

        I’m glad however that we had this exchange: hopefully it will help me avoid caricaturing some of the practices of the RC Church in future. This being said, I am also even more convinced than before that this church has a tendency, in a myriad of ways, significant or insignificant, to give glory to man that should be given to God, and, to me, your last answer illustrates this abundantly, and I do not see this in the Bible, far from it.

        But, what I confess I’m confused about, is how important this is and how much of a barrier, if any, it creates between Evangelical Protestants and Catholics, To refer to the origin of this discussion, are these differences of 1st level, 2nd level or 3rd level?

        A oecumenical-minded person would say 3rd level: different church traditions are meant for different temperaments.

        On a lighter note, unlike St Francis, I did summarily know about St Augustine’s other teachings! ;)

        May the Lord bless you, too, Joseph,

        Cathy

      • Cathy, thanks again for the reply. I would have been interested in your longer reply. I do think we were making process.

        I think you are seeing a false dichotomy: there is nothing in the Catholic Church that is necessarily contradictory to “austerity, simplicity, sobriety, a return to the source [or] Word.” Catholics believe in the authority of Scripture just as strongly as Protestants, and I would argue more consistently. As you yourself idealized, there are many traditions within the Catholic Church — notably the Franciscan tradition and the Benedictine tradition — which emphasize simplicity and sobriety of life and a return to the fundamentals of the Gospel. Our current pope exemplifies many of these impulses. I myself am part of a humble, rural Catholic parish whose focus is simple love and service and not the pomp you seem to think Catholics are made of. So no, I don’t see any reason to conclude that what you were searching for could not and cannot be found in the Catholic Church.

        In terms what I was looking for and what I left behind:    If the Protestant proposition represented only a return to simplicity and austerity and the Word, then there is no reason why I could not have found what I was searching for among a more traditional Protestant sect such as the Lutherans or Anglicans. But the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, especially as most Evangelicals practice it, represents not merely a “return to the Word,” but a fundamental abridgement of the truths we have received, a casting away of the rich heritage of history and tradition and faith and authority we have received as unnecessary and irrelevant. On the other hand, I fail to see in the Catholic tradition any “glorification of man” where glory should only be given to God. Scripture itself presents us with heroes and examples of the faith (e.g. Hebrews 11): Does this “glorify man,” or in praising God’s workmanship of faith, does it not more greatly glorify God? Does the Protestant exaltation of the authority of each individual’s private interpretation of Scripture not “glorify man” far more greatly than any Catholic practice — in which men are merely servants of God’s grace and revelation? I would like to understand what you mean.

        The bottom line for me is that when I read Scripture, I do not see an austere God or a spartan faith, but rather a God of extravagant mercy and love and overabundant grace, who poured out His gifts upon humanity in nature and in especially in the Gospel. And I do not see any hint in Scripture that Scripture was to be God’s only gift to us, that the revelation and radical authority of Christ would ever be reduced to merely a book, to be subjected to private human interpretation. Such a notion contradicts then whole trajectory of the history of salvation: the revealed Law, with priests and prophets and kings to guide His covenant people; repeated promises of an eternal kingdom and “shepherds after his own heart” (Jeremiah 3:15); God Himself taking on human flesh to reveal Himself, teach us, and redeem us; the breathing of His own Holy Spirit into our hearts to be our Advocate; and then — a book? And nothing else? We are left to fend for ourselves, for all the rest of the age, with a book? I do not mean to denigrate the authority of Scripture; but “Scripture alone” is of no authority at all if each individual can interpret it how he sees fit and live by his own interpretation. Did Jesus come to give us relativism and individuality and fundamental disunity, to the tune of more than 40,000 distinct and discrete sects — the inherent and inevitable consequences of “sola scriptura” — or did He come “that we might be one” (John 17:21), one covenant people in Him? Where are the prophets, kings, and priests we were so lavishly promised? The whole thing, from the Protestant perspective, seems very anticlimactic.

        I really didn’t mean to ramble on about that; I know I am straying far off topic and trying to hospitality of our host. To that matter, considering what Dr. Schrock has written about “doctrinal triage,” I would say that the differences that divide Catholics and Evangelical Protestants are “second order,” differences that divide sects of Christians but not that divide any from the Body of Christ. Dr. Schrock responded to me privately that he felt that the differences amount to “first order,” especially in the Catholic and Protestant differences regarding justification by grace. But as I’ve responded here, Catholics and Protestants are in general agreement regarding that, and their differences on that point may in fact amount to “third order” differences. I am glad, in talking to you, Cathy, that you at least agree with me to that extent! I know Dr. Schrock is busy, but I hope he can reply more about that, even publicly. 

        May the Lord bless you abundantly and give you His mercy and peace.

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