Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Come out of her, my people..."

I have lost good friends, including my father in Christ, because I have refused to label the Roman Catholic Church as an out-and-out cult.

Now, don't get me wrong; I don't for a second consider Rome to be a healthy church, by any stretch of the imagination. I don't consider it to be an institutionally faithful church, either.

But I don't consider it to be a cult.


For those who kick and scream and demand otherwise, you've got problems. No less an authority than Jesus Himself (you know... the whole "God in the flesh" guy, Creator of the universe, Head of the Church, etc., etc...) said that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church]."

For over a thousand years, the only coherent institutional expression of the church that existed on the planet were the Roman and Orthodox churches (which has problems all its own). Sure, there were other groups, but they were almost universally heterodox in their own right. So, either Jesus was wrong and you (who insist on calling Rome a pseudochristian cult) are right and the church really did cease to exist as an identifiable body for a period of nearly a thousand years, or you're wrong and Jesus is right, after all.

Guess who I'm voting for?

Again, please don't misunderstand; I'm not saying that the RCC is a healthy or Biblically faithful expression of the Body of Christ - it isn't. But neither do I for a second believe it is a cultic body on par with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Roman Catholicism (at least in its official doctrine) teaches all the cardinal truths of Scripture:

(BTW, please understand - I'm not saying that the RCC teaches these and other cardinal doctrines of the Faith with equal, necessary clarity and Scriptural faithfulness, only that these core doctrines, though often buried in a thick muck of often weird, deeply settled doctrinal hooey, are still there. This article from CRI was actually a very balanced, very well done treatment of the issue which I think successfully navigated the treacherous doctrinal waters between the Scylla of false ecumenism embodied in the trend to "go along to get along" and turn a blind eye to Rome's massive doctrinal and praxis failures, and and the Charybdis of carte blanche, universal condemnation of all things Catholic and if you don't agree with me that the Pope eats Protestant babies for breakfast then you're one of them and you're a foul, foul apostate aaaah, aaaaah, aaaaaaaaaaa - you get the point.)

The problem arises that Rome has accreted a gob of doctrinal detritus that often obscures and obfuscates the core orthodoxy that is still there.

In other words, I believe it is entirely possible to be genuinely saved and yet still a Catholic.

I even believe it is possible that there are {{gaaaaasp!!!}} genuinely saved priests who truly love the Lord Jesus and are trusting in His merits alone to save them.

In light of all this, I found it refreshingly interesting to read this entry in my e-Sword commentary on Revelation 18 while studying to teach that chapter tomorrow morning here on the Lakeshore. From the People's New Testament, I read:

This invitation is given to the people of God yet in captivity, lest by remaining they should be involved in her destruction. As God once had a captive people in the old Mesopotamian Babylon, so he has a people in the spiritual Babylon. Ever since the Reformation began his voice has called on them to come out of her. Nor can it be doubted that he has many true and earnest worshipers still who have found enough of Christ in the mazes of the Papacy to have given him their hearts. The condemnation of the great spiritual despotism is not a declaration that all whom she has enslaved are the children of the devil.

I concur wholeheartedly.

Without diminishing the fact that the doctrinal corruptions of Rome truly do constitute a near-endless series of "mazes" surpassed only, perhaps, by Mormonism, and that it is admittedly difficult to see Jesus' finished work clearly through the thick fog of extra- (and often contra-) Biblical hogwash that Rome's gone and gathered around the simplicity of the doctrines of Christ and salvation, the fact remains that there is still enough of the "deposit of faith" in the deep labyrinths of the Roman Church that - I'm utterly convinced - there are yet some (and even possibly many) of God's kids still within the institutional bounds of the Holy See.

To summarize: I believe it is impossible to be Mormon, or Jehovah's Witness, or a Christian Scientist, or the like, and be genuinely saved. But whereas I would never encourage anyone to remain in the Catholic church, and I would never recommend the RCC as being a Biblically faithful representation of the Body of Christ, I believe it is entirely possible to be Catholic (or part of one of the Orthodox communions) and be genuinely saved.

As I'd stated at the outset of this blogpost: I've lost many friends I'd counted dear over this issue - including the very man the Lord used to bring me to faith in Him in the first place back in my Navy days. This is not an easy, cost-free stand to take.

I'll go ahead and close with an apropos quote from Luther:

Here I stand. I can do nothing else. God help me. Amen.


Anonymous said...


I used to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was a cult, but then God called me to work at a museum on the grounds of a Benedictine abbey. I believe that protestants have been so separated from catholic and orthodox churches that they do not always see each other clearly. If all bible believing Christians left these two traditional branches of the body of Christ, who would lead their members to Jesus? God always leaves at least a reminant in these places. I fell perfectly at peace in any denominal church because I bring Jesus with me. I do love Calvary Church the most because of the exposition of the bible instead of sermons on why you should add to the building fund. Many of the people in protestant churches are just as lost as those in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.


Jimmy Dunn said...

I am completely in agreement with you here Mike - my dad and I had a discussion about this just the other day (the context of the conversation was entertaining, but not something I'd care to post as a comment on a blog for the rest of "the interwebs" to see. I'll gladly tell you about it next time I see you though! Which better be soon!)

It was odd, because my dad is normally a very loving/understanding person on a lot of issues, but even he had a touch of a mental roadblock on the subject of Roman Catholicism. We came to a good understanding though - I basically said all the stuff you did but with less finesse and no analogies from Greek mythology (rest assured, the irony of using Greek mythos in a blog about Roman Catholicism was not lost on me).

So, if it gives you any peace of mind or whatnot on the matter that a 17 year old kid from the Lansing area agrees with you, then you've got it!

mike macon said...

Well, Jim-bo... if you'd be there during the huddles, I'd see you, and then we could chat some more about the relative merits of Frank Herbert vs. Peter Hamilton vs. Isaac Asimov vs. Dan Simmons vs... wel, you know.

Your dad rocks. He has no hair to speak of, but he rocks.

Jimmy said...

But they're Pastor's huddles, and I'm not a Pastor!

And yeah, my dad does rock :)

P.S. I got on a Vonnegut kick, and thankfully got off before he melted my brain.

P.P.S. Have you ever read Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy?