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Catholicism and Protestantism: The History and Organization of the Roman Catholic Church

Catholicism and Protestantism: The History and Organization of the Roman Catholic Church


Darrell BockWelcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. And
our topic today is a comparison between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. We’re going to talk
a lot about the history of the development of the Roman Catholic Church and some of the
differences that exist between Catholics and Protestants because sometimes people are not
aware of the differences that exist and why we have Roman Catholicism on the one hand
and Protestantism on the other. I am Darrell Bock, executive director of the
Howard G. Hendricks Center for Christian Leadership and Cultural Engagement, and I am executive
director of cultural engagement for that wing of the center. And to my right is Scott Horrell,
who is a doctor and professor of systematic theology here at Dallas Theological Seminary.
And to my left is Michael Svigel, who is also a doctor and a professor of systematic theological
at Dallas Theological Seminary. So I’m surrounded by full-blown theologians today.
Scott Horrell: Truly good men.Darrell BockI – here I am, this little bible reader, and
I’ve got these theologians to my right and my left. So anything that I say can and will
be used against me in the court of law. So thank you, gentlemen, for coming in to
discuss this topic. We’ve been wanting to do this for some time.Michael SvigelThanks.Darrell
BockWe’re going to begin by talking first about Catholics and Protestants and just getting
some statistics in front of you so that you understand the relative sizes and makeup of
the groups and for that, Dr. Horrell has brought his trusty pie charts. And so give – tell
us some of the issues between Catholics and Protestants in terms of size of groups and
that kind of thing.Scott HorrellWell, it is interesting. The Pew Forum just in January
published some things along this line. You have about 1.1 billion professing Catholics
in the world, maybe a little more than that; 1.2. What is interesting is the demographic
shift all around the world. In 1910, 65 percent of the Roman Catholics in the world were in
Europe. That has dwindled down to about 34 percent today, and – 24 percent, excuse
me, and the group in Latin America has grown significantly, as one might expect, with population
and all of that. But from 1910, when there were less than one percent Roman Catholic
in Sub-Sahara Africa, today there are 16 percent of the world Catholics are in Sub-Sahara Africa.
The Asian Rim has also grown rather extraordinarily too, from less than – well, about five percent,
thinking of the Philippines and other countries like that, or in India there’s still a sizable
church, a Roman Catholic Church, so now 12 percent of the world’s Catholics are in Asia
and the Pacific Islands. The United States has always been – or I
should say North America – rather slender here. In 1910 we were about five percent of
the world Catholicism, and today it remains about eight percent. What is interesting in
the United States is that the number of, let’s say, Caucasian, Catholics is seeing significant
fall away, whether into non-religion or whether into other groups. What is keeping the ranks
fairly healthy is the immigration, particularly from Latin America. So lots of fascinating
things are happening in the world today as we now have a new pope as well.Darrell BockNow,
did you mention the Latin American population of Catholics and what its make up is? I don’t
know.Scott HorrellLatin America is surely far and away the largest group of Roman Catholics
today. That’s about 40 percent of world Catholicism, and there’s something of an ebb and flow.
Largely there’s been a drift either towards secularism or even into evangelicalism, particularly
Pentecostalism, Neo-Charismatic movements. There is concerted effort, on the other hand,
by the Roman Catholic Church to stop the flow and indeed gain many back in. And one example
is, of course, now Francis I, our first Latin American pope from Buenos Aires, Argentina,
faithful as a conservative Catholic through it all.
And one of the first events now that he’s launching is a World Youth Day or a Roman
Catholic Church World Youth Day, which happens about every two years. But that is staging
in Rio. And the – interestingly, the advertisement for it, which my wife regularly watches online
is almost completely what we would call evangelical, talking about how we as a Catholic Church
needs to be reaching out and proclaiming the love of Christ and much, much more. So there
is an effort to redraw youth back into the church.
And one more example: there is a very charismatic Roman Catholic priest, Marcelo Berti, in Sao
Paulo, and he is well known for his speaking as well as his singing, with kind of a rock
band in the background, or a very much Latin popular music. He’s just built a huge cathedral
in Sao Paulo. It’s called The Mother of God. It seats 6,000. Fourteen thousand can also
be there standing up. Outside are the huge screens which accommodates another 80,000
people. There is a strong desire to draw Brazil and of course other Latin American countries
back into the fold for the Roman Catholics.Darrell BockJust quickly, why don’t you summarize
the time that you spent in Latin America so that people know that you have direct contact
with that part of the world?Scott HorrellSure. I started out in Puerto Alegre in the very
far south, which has a well known – Darrell BockSouth of?Scott HorrellSouth – [laughter]
sorry, as far south as you can go in Brazil.Darrell Bock[Laughter] Okay.Scott HorrellSo we’re
about straight across from Johannesburg, South Africa, the largely German/Italian area with
a very large Roman Catholic constituency, many trained even in Germany elsewhere, Leonardo
Boff and others out of that area. Then I moved to Sao Paulo, and I was there a total, with
my wife and children and I, a total of about 18 years, taught across the street from the
huge Pontifical University in Sao Paulo with about 40,000 students.Darrell BockSo when
Argentina appraised Brazil, you root for Argentina?Scott HorrellPlays Brazil?Darrell BockYeah, in – Scott
HorrellAre you kidding? Brazil all the way, sure, yeah.Darrell BockOh,
wow.Scott HorrellNo, Argentina in that sense are our arch enemies, unless they make it
into the finals too, so.Darrell BockThere you go, okay. Very good.Scott HorrellAnd we’re
not. So we’ll vote for them.Darrell BockSo you’ve attached yourself to Brazil and are
– have Brazilian soccer blood.Scott HorrellRather thoroughly.Darrell BockYeah, okay. Very good.
Well, now that we’ve got your theological pedigree thoroughly presented –
Michael, why don’t you talk a little bit about the history of Catholicism and Protestantism,
and by which I mean here the Reformation. Let’s talk a little bit about the Reformation,
where it came from and what Luther was reacting to, and actually what Luther was still comfortable
with.Michael SvigelGood. Yeah. When we talk about Roman Catholicism, we have to always
ask the question of when are we talking about it, where are we talking about it and who
are we talking about. So the things that Martin Luther, for instance, were responding to more
or less don’t exist anymore. The church itself, the Catholic Church, has gone through several
reforms of their own and several phases of evolution themselves. So what Luther was responding
to primarily, and even some of his predecessors – we think of Wyclif and Hus as well, some,
many, many others going back to the 13th centuries and earlier.
Luther was responding to a Roman Catholic Church that was very much part of the social
political structures. They had doctrines and practices that had developed contrary even
to their own official pronouncement centuries earlier. And so you’re seeing in the 13th,
14th century Roman Catholic Church, what Roman Catholics today would see as actual moves
away from the intended stream of their tradition. What Luther was responding to primarily was
the Catholics’ doctrines of salvation, justification, especially their abandonment of what Luther
thought was the Augustinian view of salvation.Darrell BockAnd we’ll come back to that.Michael SvigelWe’ll
come back to that. The abuses, the luxurious lives of the popes and the papacy and the
functioning of the papacy too close to the world. And so a lot of these things that many,
many people, including Roman Catholics, were outraged about, and Roman Catholics today
would see those excesses as unacceptable. Substantially, the main essence of what Luther
eventually settled on was the doctrine of justification, as he saw, better understood
in Paul’s writings as well as in the history of the early Church. Surprisingly, what Luther
was very comfortable with was a very high view of the Lord’s Supper. Probably discuss
that a little bit. Wasn’t exactly the same as the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation,
but it was much higher than many Protestants and evangelicals since then.Darrell BockSo
the difference between the elements becoming the body and blood and the – and, if I can
say, the elements being surrounded by the presence of Christ.Michael SvigelRight, right,
exactly. So he was comfortable with that. He had a very high view of the church and
the function of the church. Infant baptism did something. The – he had – the big
deal was, justification by faith, by grace through faith alone and then the hierarchy
of the church and the authority of the pope.Darrell BockWhich led to Luther’s emphasis on the
priesthood of all believers.Michael SvigelExactly, right.Darrell BockOkay. Well, we will come
back to these two areas in more detail in a minute. Let me put one other term or set
of terms in front of you and let you both play with them a little bit. Sometimes we
discuss – and this isn’t just a Catholic/Protestant discussion but generally in thinking about
ecclesiology – we’ll talk about the difference between what we call “high church” and “low
church.” And what do those terms suggest, and where, generally speaking, does Roman
Catholicism fall on that scale, if I can say it that way? Is it –
Scott Horrell: The high church would be typically a church with a strong hierarchy, top down,
and a strong liturgy that would be fairly universal. So the Roman Catholic Church would
be the highest of the high churches with its formality –
– and the pope and everything down through Roman and into the rest of the world. The
Eastern Orthodox would also be fairly much a high church, though they don’t see themselves
quite in that vein, but with their metropolitans or patriarchs as the regional leaders under
the kind of chief amongst those in Constantinople or now Istanbul. So the high church would
again be that: hierarchy liturgy are stressed. Liturgy, sated with meaning.Darrell BockSo
Anglican church, Episcopalian Church or a high, generally speaking, high church – Scott
HorrellThere’s high and low Anglican churches, as you well know.Darrell BockYeah, that’s
right, right.Scott HorrellLow church would be those which would see a more lay-oriented
and comfortable and a kind of service that would be more indigenous to wherever it is,
with a plurality of leadership sometimes.Darrell BockSo a looser form, extensively.Scott HorrellYes.Darrell
BockAnd we’re talking about an emphasis then as you move from high to low, you tend to
move in a direction that emphasizes the priesthood of the believer perhaps a little more because
everybody’s seen to participate. There’s less direction from the front in the worship, if
I can say it that way.Scott HorrellRight.Darrell BockThat’s where the liturgy comes from, that
kind of thing, because, as we’re going to be talking about shortly, when we think about
the Roman Catholic Church in particular and its theology and the way in which the church
at least mediates or directs in the salvation process and in the service, this leads to
a sense in which the minister really is a – how do I say it – a minister alongside
the individual as opposed to the individual being their own entity before God. There’s
a sense in which the minister can be seen to minister grace in a way that you don’t
see in Protestantism. Is that a fair summary of what’s going on?Michael SvigelYeah. That’s
a good summary. One thing with high churches is, from church to church, you more or less
know what to expect.Darrell BockGood point.Michael SvigelYou know who’s in charge. There’s no
question about who’s in charge here. You know that when you walk in you’re going to expect
a certain order of worship. There might be slight variety, but you’re – Darrell BockYou’re
talking about in high churches.Michael SvigelIn high churches.Darrell BockYeah.Michael SvigelLow
churches you don’t know what – Darrell BockWho knows? Yeah. [Laughter]Michael SvigelRight.
You never know what to expect from church to church, even within the same denomination.
But that is also key is the function of the actual church leader, the priest or the bishop,
is really mediating something that you can get in no other way but through the services
and through the mass, through the ministration of that leader.Darrell BockAnd this leads
to the idea that the church is the true church because of the way in which the minister – how
I’m going to say it is mediates and provides access to grace or to blessing – Michael
SvigelThat’s right.Darrell Bock– in a way that, generally speaking, you don’t hear about
in Protestant Church, generally speaking.Scott HorrellWe might add one other thing, and that
is the issue of accountability. In the high church, there’s a very tight accountability
on through the hierarchy. In the low church – and that can describe many different kinds
of different denominations as well as independent churches. There are varying degrees of accountability;
some hardly any accountability at all. It all orients around the man of God, or the
pastor, so to speak, who – around which the congregation gathers. Other times there’s
more a body of Christ plurality of leadership, so a mutual accountability.Darrell BockSo
– well, I was going to say, there’s a structure for accountability, whether the accountability’s
actually exercised or not, sometimes, given the way particularly the history, the recent
history with the Roman Catholic Church and some of the scandals that we’ve seen; whether
it’s been – whether it’s actually executed or not is a question of entirely another matter.
Michael Svigel: Good point, yeah.Darrell BockOkay. Well, let’s start off with probably the most
obvious difference that exists between Protestants and Catholics, and that is that, generally
speaking, Protestants don’t have a pope, [laughter] it’d be fair to say. But the Roman Catholic
Church does. Let’s talk a little bit about the development of the papacy because I think
most people are very unaware of how – and in fact, this is something we’re going to
see in all the discussion we’re going to have, how doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church
very much develops in – over time and formalizes as it moves through different phases. This
is why I think Michael’s point earlier about, well, when you talk about the Roman Catholic
Church, you’ve got to ask kind of the when, where and who questions.Michael SvigelRight.Darrell
BockAnd so let’s talk a little bit about the papacy. The claim is, of course, that the
pope is the Vicar of Christ who was given the keys to the kingdom, in Matthew 16, when
Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ in Matthew 16, and that this has been an unbroken
line since the time of Peter. I can distinctly remember being Rome and walking in the Church
of – Scott HorrellOf St. Paul’s, yes.Darrell Bock– of St. Paul, exactly. And you walk
in, and you see the row of popes, starting with Peter running all the way through an
unbroken line, all the way up; well, at least when I was there the last time, of course,
it was Pope John Paul II. Michael SviegelThey only have space for about three more, in fact.Darrelll
BockSo yeah, I don’t think it’s a prediction of when Christ is returning. But anyway, but
it is an interesting thing to see, to actually walk in there and see one after another, this
unbroken line of Vicars of Christ. Of course the Bishop of Rome – the pope is the Bishop
of Rome, and then the Bishop of Rome is viewed as the, how do I want to say it – among
equals, so I’m forgetting the first word. But anyway, he has primacy over the rest of
the cardinals. And that’s where he inherits the authority from.
So that’s the claim, if you will. What about the history of the development of the papacy?
And I ask this question because of my son, Stephen, went to a Roman Catholic university.
He went St. John’s in New York City. And he took a course on the history of the church,
and the book that he was assigned was The History of the Roman Catholic Church, and
it was written by Hans Kung, which meant that he was evaluating this papacy claim. And literally,
I read the book while my son was in the class, to interact with him. And he actually walked
me through this history. It’s actually pretty fascinated.
So with that as a – I think I’ve set the table for the discussion.Michael SvigelSure.
Let me first say that, when you walk into St. Paul’s outside the wall in that church
and you look at that unbroken line, it’s a great idea. It makes things really simple.
The problem is it has to cut a lot of historical corners. What’s interesting is the pope in
Rome, the Roman – Bishop of Rome originally started out as the, what we might call a pastor
of a local church in Rome presiding over the city churches of small scale. However, the
Roman Church very, very quickly, already in the New Testament time, grew in power, wealth.
By the second century, it was a force to be reckoned with. It had members that were part
of the Imperial Court. And so from the start, the Church in Rome had, just by virtue of
being in Rome, the capital of the empire, a privileged position with finances and power
and influence. And so that’s just a historical reality.Darrell BockAnd we’re a little bit
suspicious that the Gospel of Mark may actually be written to or have some association with
the Roman Church as well. So we’re very early on. It has – it does have a ____.Michael
SvigelVery, very influential. And so there’s no doubt about that. But it wasn’t the only
one. There are other – Jerusalem was very influential, Antioch extremely influential,
Ephesus for a while, Smyrna, wherever you had apostles living for a long time and their
disciplines. So it was one of many what eventually became – started to be called Episcopacies,
Episcopales – Darrell BockBecause these are regional hubs, basically.Michael SvigelRight,
the regional hubs, and usually very, very large cities. So they had resources. And from
these you had the missionary work flowing from these churches. What’s interesting is,
for the most part, everything west of Rome, and including Western North Africa, were daughter
churches of the Church in Rome through their missionary efforts for several centuries.
And so whenever there were problems, whenever there were issues, whenever they needed leadership,
they appealed to the mother church in Rome. So really there was no question that, in the
West, Rome was the mother church, just by historical fact.
What happened, though, was there was often a jostling then and – when you get into
the third, fourth, fifth centuries between these other major hubs. So Alexandria in Egypt
and Jerusalem and Antioch and Rome and then eventually Constantinople, once that – you
have two capitals of the empire. And so when the church becomes very much intertwined with
the political realities, now you have several major cities and major bishops competing for
prominence. The Church in Rome, very early on, tried to assert that they were, because
of Matthew 16:18, “On this rock I will build my church,” referring in their understanding
to Peter, that they should be the presiding church, the major city. And so – Darrell
BockYeah, I have a – Michael Svigel– it develops then throughout the history from
that point.Darrell BockI have a list here. It’s interesting. This comes out of a dictionary
of theology, and Victor in 190 rebukes the Asia Minor churches because they don’t celebrate
Easter on the correct date. Stephen 254-257 claims a Petrine deposit. He’s actually the
first one to make a direct appeal in language in a conscious kind of way as he interacts
with North African churches that have heretics who are supervising the sacraments. So you
see these moves. You see some of this in some of the apostolic father letters where Rome
is trying to put pressure on Corinth, for example, and Corinth pushes back. So these
are important tensions. So it’s not as clear. You said “cut historical
corners.” It’s not as clear in these early days that they have this right or that everyone
understands they have this right as much as they’re contending for it. Is that – Michael
SvigelI would say that’s absolutely true. And it is important to note that even though
the Eastern Orthodox Church, the church, primarily the Greek-speaking church early on in the
East, acknowledged the importance of Rome and the importance of the Bishop of Rome as
one of a confraternita brotherhood of bishops. They never accepted this supremacy or papal
infallibility or any of the things that Rome obviously came to in the course of history.
So I think it’s an important point to realize that this is something that develops. It grows
over time. Most of the time it’s understandable. Sometimes it makes sense when the Roman Empire
is being attacked by the Vandals and the Goths and Visigoths. The church is there as a stabilizing
factor. And they did a lot of good, but only afterwards you see the results of that are
a very – a cozying up between the secular and sacred authorities and this – the Roman
Catholic doctrine in the Medieval Period of the two swords. So they interpret this passage
where Peter says to Jesus, “I have two swords.” And Jesus says, “That’s enough.” Well, later
exegetes interpret that as saying, “Well, the one sword is the sacred authority. The
other sword is the secular authority, and therefore…”Darrell BockWell then, I have
to write a new section of commentary.Michael SvigelExactly. So this is a case where biblical
interpretation’s following this developing theology.Darrell BockNow, you mentioned the
Greek Orthodox Church or the Eastern Church. We’ve got to stop there a little bit because
they recognize the pope as the head of the Western Church, but they do not accept the
idea that he has authority in their area, which shows a slight difference of approach
ecclesiologically; even though there’s a hierarchy, they’re contending for an equality that’s
a little bit more regional, if I can say, even though those are big regions, a little
more regional in the way it’s viewed as opposed to one who’s over everybody else. Fair enough?Michael
SvigelI would say that’s fair.Scott HorrellAnd they still look to Jerusalem. They call that
“the mother church,” which was not presided over by Peter, by the way.
James was the head of Jerusalem Council, you’ll recall, so.Darrell BockRight. Yeah. So those
are some examples of the historical corners. Now, the papacy really begins to formalize
their decreed layers in the fourth and fifth century. Leo the Great 440 to 461 begins to
really bolster the role and claim it and almost exercise the authority of it. And my sense
is that he’s kind of the – he’s the first one to use the term that actually comes out
of the Roman Empire directly, the Pontifex Maximus, the supreme priest, if you want to
think of that, or chief priest, you could think of it that way, the “top dog.”
And so in that sense, we begin to formalize this. But the doctrine really continues to
develop really beyond that once we come into the Medieval Period, et cetera. The date that
I have here for the claims of infallibility tied to the pope, 1059, which is much later.
The structure of electing the pope through the College of the Cardinals, formalized at
that same time period; so much further on down the road. So when are we talking about?
What’s happening at a given time? When we come to the latest development, the
pope speaking ex cathedra, okay, from the throne, when he is exercising his ability
to interpret infallibly on behalf of the magisterium, which is where we’re going to go next. That’s
18 – Michael Svigel1870, yeah.Darrell Bock– 1870. So we’re very, very late in the game
in the overall scheme of things. But I think walking through that, just walking through
that history and seeing the – kind of the blocks fall into place shows you part of what
we’re talking about, that this is a church that has developed its doctrine. It develops
its doctrine around, we’re going to be talking about shortly the magisterium, the tradition
coming alongside the Scripture to develop really the mechanism of the church, the hierarchy
of the church, the “highness” of the church; we want to think of it that way. And so what
we have later on in the history of the church isn’t necessarily what we were dealing with
early on.Michael SvigelCorrect, yeah. Yeah, and I might just mention a resource here,
historical resource, a good classic work, pretty accessible by most people, is a book
by Margaret Deanesly called The History of the Medieval Church, which basically looks
at a period from about 600 to the eve of the Reformation and traces exactly what you describe:
that development; when do things come in, when do various popes add various levels of
authority. It’s a very eye-opening study for further study on this.Scott HorrellWe should
probably add here, Darrelll, that there have been quite a few missteps by popes as well.
Athanasius, the great defender of the Trinity, was condemned by Pope Liberius, and the list
goes on to where you had at one point even three popes contending with each other. So
there have been some sloppy things happening in history. Gregory I, Gregory the Great – Darrell
BockGreat, yeah.Scott HorrellPerhaps the – Darrell BockAround 600.Scott Horrell– most remarkable
organizer of the church, he said something interesting. He said that anyone was the antichrist
who took upon himself the role of the title Universal Bishop. Now that’s what Gregory
the Great said, and yet that’s the title that virtually all modern popes assume. Darrell
BockYeah, and – Scott HorrellSo – well, I was going to say that in 1870 then, we take
that big step of the pope speaking ex cathedra, “from the throne,” infallible dogma. And
that happens very, very rarely. The last time was in 1950. Pope Pius XII proclaimed that
as absolutely dogma for all Roman Catholics, Mary’s physical bodily ascension into heaven.
She did not die, but was rather taken there by her son.Darrell BockYes, and we’ll – when
we come to Mary, we’re going to discuss the development of that teaching as well. The
papal infallibility strikes me, in looking at the history and – part of history is
sociology, and – strikes me as the Catholic Church’s reaction to the encroachment of modernism
in the church and trying to get control of the doctrine by adding this layer of authority
on top of what – the way the church operated as a way of stopping certain encroachments
into the church. Okay, well, that’s an overview of the papacy.
We aren’t going to take as long on the other discussions we’re going to have, but that’s
obviously important. The pope is certainly the most visible personal figure tied to the
Roman Catholic Church and he may well be the most visible personal figure tied to Christendom
worldwide in terms of how people perceive Christianity from the outside, which is why
whenever a pope is elected, it’s a big deal; it’s automatically international news. Everybody
covers it. Even CNN and Fox are there together holding hands as the pope is elected.
And so it’s not an unusual – it’s not unusual to see a lot of attention drawn because the
pope is such a visible figure. And actually, that’s one of the – how can I say it? That’s
one of the sociological elements of the Catholic Church is it is a structured church that has
some logic to the way it’s structured, which makes operating under it, at least from the
point of view of the way it looks, seen very organized as compared to, say, if I can say
this, Protestantism, which doesn’t have a pope, doesn’t have a singular church to appeal
to, that kind of thing, much more scattered in the way it operates, much less organized
in the way it functions, which I think is an important sociological observation.Michael
SvigelAnd it’s very – that’s very appealing to a lot of people who do tire out of the
disorganization and lack of the authority in some of the Protestant traditions.Scott
HorrellAbsolutely.Darrell BockExactly. Okay. Well, let’s shift now to that which is – to
an idea that’s very much related to the papacy, and certainly the pope has responsibility
for it in some way, and that is the magisterium. Scott, what do you understand by the magisterium?
What is it? Whenever we go to terms that are Latin, we’ve got to help most of the people
who don’t work with the dead language, or mostly dead language. And so what is the magisterium,
and then let’s relate it also to the role of Scripture and tradition, which is another
important difference, I think, between Protestants and Catholics. Protestants will hold up the
doctrine of Sola Scriptura as something that is to be affirmed. And actually, Catholics
have a variation of Sola Scriptura too, but they apply it differently. So how does that
work?Scott HorrellWell, magisterium would be the official teaching dogmatic body of
the Roman Catholic Church. Usually, it’s related to the cardinals, and finally the large house
of cardinals and the leading theologians in the movement; but finally, that all comes
under, of course, the pope himself. But the magisterium is the authoritative interpreter
of not only Scripture, but Roman Catholic tradition.
So tradition: it is interesting. I have here, Darrelll, it might be interesting to read
out of the catechism of the Catholic Church. Darrell BockNow, you said you were going to
mention some resources. So why don’t you tell people what that – exactly that is and,
if they’re interested, where they can get it, because it is a way to get a reference
to what the Catholic Church teaches.Scott HorrellThis is the Catechism of the Catholic
Church. It’s the second edition; that’s important. It was done in Latin in 1994, English 1995.
You can get it Doubleday various editions since then, but this is the official teaching,
the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and I might add there’s an awful lot
in there we will agree with right down the line. There is also a – this is 800 pages,
so whoever wants to read it can. There’s a 200-page user-friendly version called
Compendium. It’s 2006.Darrell BockThe Cliff Notes version?Scott HorrellCompendium of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church. And that’s a lot more accessible. Both are in this question/answer
kind of format, so it makes it very easy. Those are some on the Roman Catholic side,
and of course many other books out. Those who are evangelicals may want to argue some
and look at some of the differences. One is John Armstrong, The Catholic Mystery, this
details some of the things where traditionally Protestants and Catholics have differed. Ronald
Zinn, as well, another one called Romanism. There are many arguments on many sides. But
those are basic, helpful books that may be useful.
The issue of Sola Scriptura, of the great cry of the Reformation, versus Scripture plus
tradition is perhaps the fundamental difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism,
Evangelicalism.Darrell BockBecause everything grows out of the difference and the way in
which it’s applied. You’re talking about it’s a hermeneutic, a way of doing theology.Scott
HorrellIt sure is. If you say that the Holy Spirit has infallibly guided the church not
only to interpret the scriptures but to interpret the interpretations of the scriptures, then
you may be confessing the bodily ascension of Mary into heaven; well, you surely will
be as well. With the Reformation, as Mike has brought up very well, there was an outcry
that some of the traditions have surpassed and contradicted the Scripture. And that’s
where the rub comes. Here’s what the Catholic Catechism does say, and it might be helpful
just to hear it: “Sacred Scripture and – a sacred tradition and sacred Scripture, then,
are bound closely together and communicate one with the other, for both of them flowing
out of the same divine wellspring come together in some fashion to form one thing and move
toward the same goal.” Now, they first talk about sacred Scripture
as the speech of God that’s put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. They
go on to talk about the inerrancy of the Scripture, at least regarding issues of saving faith.
But then it goes on, “and holy tradition transmits in its entirety the word of God.” It comes
down through the Apostles. One paragraph here, two sentences, is important: “As a result,
the church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of revelation is entrusted does not derive
for certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture
and tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”Darrell
BockWell, that is very interesting, and because I work in New Testament and work with Second
Temple Judaism, it’s interesting to hear this juxtaposition to revelation and tradition
because you see it in Judaism as well in the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud.
But it’s interesting that in Judaism it’s handled differently. It’s not moving towards
one authoritative tradition that trumps everything else, but what you get is – are the voices.
In Judaism you get the voices of what various rabbis have said. Now, there certainly is
a dominant position, a majority position that’s always stated oftentimes at the end of a particular
discussion. But you get the conversation as opposed to this driving to the singularities.
So there are actually different models of how to deal with revelation and tradition
alongside one another. And this is an interesting question to probe a little bit, and that is:
in Protestantism, although we emphasize Sola Scriptura, there is a sense in which we work
– I’ll say this carefully – we work with tradition even though we distinguish it from
Scripture and don’t give it an equal status, and that difference is very, very important
in this conversation. Is that right?Scott HorrellYes, indeed.

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