Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “Being Made Holy”

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In his Large Catechism, Luther says that he “cannot give a better title” or summary to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed “Being Made Holy” (LC, 2.35). He goes on to explain that the entire third article is nothing more than an explanation of how a Christian is made holy.

This is confusing at first, because nowhere in the third article does it mention the Christian being made holy. In fact, most people, when they read the third part of the creed, perceive it as a sort of appendix to the main parts of the creed. The first part is about God the Father as creator, the second is about God the Son as redeemer, and the third adds along with the Holy Spirit a long laundry list of descriptors:

[And] I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic (Christian) church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Whenever I first became acquainted with the Creed, I thought whoever wrote the creed must’ve felt the obligation to cram the rest in.

Luther explains quite conclusively that this is not at all true. What is actually the case, is that everything included in the third article is placed underneath the Holy Spirit because those are things that properly the work of the Holy Spirit! Who makes me part of the catholic church? Who enjoins me to the communion of the saints? Who applies the forgiveness of sins? So on… The answer is quite simply: it is the Spirit who makes these things a reality in the life of the Christian.

Luther explains:

In [this article is] expressed and portrayed the Holy Spirit and his work, which is that he makes us holy… The Holy Spirit effects our being made holy through the following: the community of the saints or Christian church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. That is, he first leads us into his holy community, placing us in the church’s lap, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ (LC, 2.35-37)

In other words, while we might say it is the work of Christ to accomplish our salvation, it is the work of the Spirit to apply that work to us. And he does this by picking us up out of our state of sin and death, and bringing us into the community of saints and setting Christ before us in word and sacrament. He applies Christ’s work to us through the church. The common trinitarian framework is thus: the Father elects us unto salvation, the Son accomplishes our salvation, and the Spirit effects our salvation.

Luther explains it this way:

The work [of Christ] is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remain buried but be put to use and enjoyed, God has cause the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure, this redemption. Therefore being made holy is nothing else than bringing us to the Lord Christ to receive this blessing, to which we could not have come by ourselves (LC, 2.38-39)

The Holy Spirit, by way of the church in its proclamation, “brings us to Christ” and applies his blessings to us. Luther therefore calls the church

…the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit reveals and proclaims, through which he illuminates and inflames hearts so that they grasp and accept it, cling to it, persevere in it (LC, 2.42).

The church is effective in its ministry as mother principally because the Holy Spirit causes her to be effective in her preaching. The Spirit illumines, enlivens, and causes believers to accept the gospel and cling to it. Thus, Luther proclaims, “outside the Christian community,…where there is no gospel, there is also no forgiveness, and hence there can be no holiness” (LC 2.56). And why? Because the Spirit is the worker of the Christian community, making the proclamation of the gospel and effective ministry.

How might we summarize the third article then? Luther rightly says it: “being made holy”.

Father Abraham, Mother Mary

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I’ve been studying the gospels as of late. And one thing that I’ve only recently noticed is the striking parallels between Abraham in the Old Testament, and Mary in the New Testament.

In Romans, Paul calls Abraham the “father of all who believe” (4:16). The reason he calls him that, is because Abraham is the prototypical believer. He is the man of faith. He assents to God’s call from his homeland to a land he doesn’t know. He believes the promise of God: that he will have a son in his old age, and that this son will bless the nations. He believes even in the face of Sarah’s disbelief. But perhaps most shocking is Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice the promised son back to God. Not many years after God miraculously gave Abraham his son, God told Abraham to offer Isaac back as a sacrifice. In typological fashion, Abraham leads Isaac up the mount as he carries the wood of his own sacrifice. Hebrews tells us:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Heb 11:17-19)

Through and through, Abraham believed and obeyed. For this, he is our father in the faith. The “father of all who believe”. He is an example of life in Christ.

However, as one looks at the life of Mary, one finds incredible similarities that cannot be overlooked. Mary assents to the angel’s promise of a son, one through whom the nations will be blessed: “He will be great….and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:32-33). In fact, Luke contrasts her faithful assent to God with Zechariah’s doubt-filled question to the angel: “How shall I know this?” (Lk 1:18) Instead of doubting, Mary responds with: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary and Zechariah parallel Abraham and Sarah. And like Abraham, Mary was asked to give assent to her Son’s self-sacrifice; except, while Isaac was spared, Jesus was not. Mary, at the foot of the cross, watched her Son truly die! And watching her Son die, Mary certainly would have struggled to believe as Abraham did. How could her Son bless the world, if he was to die? She was forced to believe in a more dramatic and real way than Abraham “that God was able even to raise him from the dead” (Heb 11:19).

Now, what is even more striking here, is that while Paul assigns Abraham our father in the faith, Christ himself assigns Mary our mother in the faith. As Jesus hung on the cross, he gave his mother to his disciples! John 19 tells us:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,“Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:26-27)

The beloved disciple is John. However, he leaves his name out to include all of Christ’s disciples. In this way, Jesus is giving his mother to the entire church as an example of the Christian life. She, like Abraham, believes and trusts. She, like Abraham, is a parental figure, an example of life in Christ. One may even say, a greater example, for she saw her Son truly die; and in the face of opposition, she believed God’s promise. In this way, then, Mary is the mother of all who believe.

Joseph Ratzinger now gives some insight:

The parallel between Mary and Abraham begins in the joy of the promised son but continues apace until the dark hour when she must ascend Mount Moriah, that is, until the Crucifixion of Christ. Yet it does not end there; it also extends to the miracle of Isaac’s rescue – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Abraham, father of faith – this title describes the unique position of the patriarch in the piety of Israel and in the faith of the Church. But is it not wonderful that – without any revocation of the special status of Abraham – a “mother of believers” now stands at the beginning of the new people and that our faith again and again receives from her pure and high image its measure and its path?

The Meaning of Sacrifice

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Sacrifice is a concept found quite literally everywhere in the scriptures. In fact, throughout every major story in the Bible, we find instances of sacrifices. While it is readily apparent that the concept of sacrifice finds its fulfillment, its telos, in Christ, it is not readily apparent what the meaning of sacrifice is.

Joseph Ratzinger, in his Spirit of the Liturgy, has an interesting discussion on its meaning. He begins by noticing that the “common view is that sacrifice has something to do with destruction. It means handing over to God a reality that is in some way precious” (Kindle version, loc. 250). Put another way, one way to view sacrifice is that destroying something is a means of “acknowledging God’s sovereignty over all things” (loc 250), as worshipping him as supreme over all things. 

Ratzinger however disagrees with the concept: “belonging to God has nothing to do with destruction”, he says (loc 250). Instead, he brings in Augustine’s definition of sacrifice. He says,

The true ‘sacrifice’ is the civitas Dei, that is, love-transformed mankind, the divinization of creation and the surrender of all things to God: God all in all” (loc 258).

What Ratzinger means by this is that sacrifice, rather than being about destruction, is about the giving of oneself in totality to God. It is “losing oneself” in total surrender to God, and thereby finding life in God’s own life. It is giving oneself in love to God to the point of being completely eclipsed by the divine love, and becoming “divinized” with his life.

To clarify his meaning, Ratzinger references creation: he points out rightly that creation itself is a divine act of self-giving love. God, out of the sheer gift of his own self, gives in the act of creation: he gives mankind life and creaturely freedom. And man in his freedom has two choices: he can receive this sheer gift of grace and give himself wholly back to God; or, he can retreat into himself and collapse into selfishness.

Ratzinger says,

God’s free act of creation is indeed ordered toward [a return]…Sacrifice in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization (loc 313, 321)

Man as created is meant to receive God’s love and in his own gift of freedom, give himself wholly back to God’s love and life. The more he gives, the more he participates in God’s own life. So then, Adam was given creaturely freedom in order that he might give himself totally back to God. Instead, he retreated from God and preserved himself. 

This is, Ratzinger says, sin at its essence: it is the retreat of oneself into the self, into self-preservation, into finitude, into death. Ratzinger says:

Original sin, so hard otherwise to understand, is identical with the fall into finitude, which explains why it clings to everything stuck in the vortex of finitude” (loc 305).

In his fallenness, rather than giving of himself to God, man clings to himself, and collapses into “the vortex” of finiteness. This condition of finitude, or turning in toward oneself, is what every man must thus be redeemed from. He is called to sacrifice, to give of himself, and yet, he cannot! He is utterly unable, tangled in the mess of his own selfishness. And thus he destroys himself.

Consequently, this is why Israel’s animal sacrifices were so insufficient, and called for a better sacrifice: Israel sacrificed bulls and goats. At best, these offerings were a part of the self, a gift of remorse and thanksgiving. However, at worst, they were a replacement of the self, a substitution of the self. Ratzinger explains:

Temple sacrifices was always accompanied by a vivid sense of its insufficiency… Already in 1 Samuel 15:22 we meet a primordial word of prophecy that, with some variations, runs through the Old Testament before being taken up anew by Christ: “More precious than sacrifices is obedience, submission better than the fat of rams!” In Hosea the prophecy appears in this form: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings (6:6) (loc 391-99)

The blood of goats and bulls was not only insufficient, but detestable by the completion of the Old Testament, precisely because it was Israel herself that God wanted. Israel at her worst gave the sacrifices in place of herself. Their hearts were far off from God, even when offering the sacrifices! This called for a true sacrifice, which could give mankind fully to God. 

Taken into the New Testament, this is precisely why Christ’s self-sacrifice is sufficient: it is in the cross that Christ offers himself — the perfect man —  fully and without reserve to God the Father. God the Son, in the incarnation, takes humanity to himself, and offers it to God to the point of death; he gives himself in totality to the divine love, and thereby becomes divinized; or, put biblically, he is raised imperishable. Finitude no longer has a say, for the divine love has illuminated mankind through the self-offering of Christ.

This is also why Christ is called the new Adam. He is the true man, who gives himself back in love to God. And it is through this self-sacrifice that humanity is thus welcomed into the life of the Godhead. Ratzinger explains:

The vicarious sacrifice of Jesus takes us up and leads us to that likeness with God, that transformation into love, which is the only true adoration (loc 502)

Being united to his sacrifice through faith, we are brought into the life and love of God; and being united to the Godhead, we are then called to “take up our cross”, to “love ourselves not, even unto death”:

It is man, conforming himself to [Christ] and becoming [Christ] through faith, who is the true sacrifice, the true glory of God in the world” (loc 478)

What does the Bible say about Homosexuality? (Sermon)

This is a message I gave to Fellowship Student Ministry during a series called “Tough Questions”. We asked the question: why is homosexuality a sin? And so I covered all that the Bible says about sexuality and homosexuality.

Click here to listen (just a note: the recording stopped and then restarted around 15 minutes. Only about 30 seconds was lost): 

6 Common Objections: The Bible and Homosexuality

Below are 6 common objections to the Bible’s stance on homosexuality, with answers:

The Bible barely talks about homosexuality. Jesus never even mentions it. Why should we give so much weight to so few verses?

Answer: If you are going to the Bible for moral advice, it doesn’t matter how much or little it says something. We should take each verse seriously. If the Bible is the “Word” of God, than every word matters!

It doesn’t matter how many times I tell my daughter not to do something — in fact, once should be enough, right?

It says in the OT that homosexuality is wrong. But, it also says not to eat shellfish and not to mix your clothing material. Isn’t that hypocritical to pick and choose laws to follow? More than that, didn’t Jesus abolish the law when he died on the cross? Why do we need to follow any of it?

Answer: This is misrepresentation of our stance. Christ tells us in Matthew 5:17 that he came to fulfill the entire law for his people, not abolish it. Paul also tells us in Romans 10:4 is that Jesus is the “end (completion) of the law”. What this means is that in his life and death, Jesus came to fulfill every aspect of the law for us and in us, that we might become the righteousness of God. The point of Jesus’ life was not to abolish any or even some of the laws.

The Bible lays this out for us. For instance, Jesus became the true temple (John 2), where we can enter into God’s presence. He became the true Exodus (Rom 6), where we escape the bondage of sin. He became the true Sabbath, (Heb 4) where we find our rest. What all of this means is that in Christ, the ceremonial laws of the OT are fulfilled in us. We no longer need to participate in Jewish ceremonies, because they are completed in Jesus (cf. Col 2:16-23).

But what about the moral aspects of the law? How does that work? Do we still need to follow them, and why? Paul explains for us in Romans 8:3-4:

“God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”

So what does Paul say? The point of Jesus’ coming is to fulfill every aspect of the law in us. What this means is that by faith and union with him, by the power of his Spirit, we can actually begin to embody the law from the inside out! By faith in Jesus, we become true temples of the Holy Spirit, empowered to, from the heart, live out true holiness.

I was born gay. Why would God create me gay and tell me not to be who I am?

Answer: Many people may have homosexual desires they were either born with, or didn’t ask for. But what the Bible says is that God did not create them this way. The Bible says that sin has affected us negatively in so many ways! We are all born with “inborn” sin as a result of the fall, with desires contrary to God’s law.

If homosexuality is wrong, and I am attracted to the same sex, that means I must live single all my life! That is unfair, and wrong. 

Answer: For some Christians who have same-sex desires, they will have to live in singleness to obey Jesus. However, it is not wrong to ask that. Why? Jesus is Lord of every aspect of our live! And he tells us, that if we want to follow him, we must take up our cross. All of us are called to give up something to follow Jesus as King and Lord. This process can and will be painful, and for some, immensely hard; but the trade off is worth it! Paul says in Philippians 3:8: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”

More than that, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that singleness has many benefits. Marriage and sex is certainly not the end all. Paul says that the celibate Christian is able to devote more of his time to the service of the Lord. His time is not as divided. Paul wished that all would follow him in this single devotion in celibate singleness!

Doesn’t the Bible say that “God is love”? So, doesn’t that mean that love is all that matters? Why should gender roles really matter, as long as two adults simply love and commit to one another?

Answer: Yes, God is love. But he isn’t just love. His love doesn’t swallow up all of his other attributes; God is also perfectly just and perfectly good and perfectly holy and righteous. God is many other things, and this puts his love into a certain context.

More than that, when the Bible talks about love, it speaks of it less in terms of romance or emotions, and more in terms of action. Agape, the common term given in the Bible, means to consistently desire the good of another. To be loving means to desire human thriving, and to desire God’s highest good. This means that love desires God’s design above else, even when that means saying “no” to other things. Sometimes love is “tough”! Sometimes love is “intolerant” of things which would destroy the common good!

And actually, it is because God is love, that he does everything to redeem and restore his creation back to his design. This means he condemns sin, displays wrath against the evils of this world. This is why Jesus took the wrath of God! It was to redeem from the destruction of sin.

You’re on the wrong side of history; Science has disproven many things Christians used to believe: Christians used to believe the earth was flat! They also believed that the sun revolved around the earth! How can we possibly believe that homosexuality is wrong with all we have discovered?

First of all, not everyone believed the earth flat! Every educated person in Columbus’ day knew the earth was round. This is a perpetuated myth. And actually, many of the best scientists were Christians!

But second of all, this theory presupposes that as history moves on, we become more civilized; that the past is always dreary. This is simply untrue. History is known to repeat itself. For instance, Darwinian evolutionary theorists applied their new-found science by arguing for sterilization of the “lesser stock”, in order to help evolution along. Surely this is wrong, right?

What I want my students to know about gay marriage

So SCOTUS ruled last week that gay marriage will now be accepted by the government. And I’ve stayed off social media about it for several reasons. But I did want to write something about it from the perspective of a youth pastor (which I am), because I believe it’s incredibly important for students to have a biblical and loving stance toward this issue. With that said, here are a few things I want my students to know about gay marriage:

First of all, I believe the Bible is incredibly clear on issues of sexuality and marriage. What the scriptures say is that God was the one who invented marriage, and he designed it to (1) be between a man and a woman (Mark 10:7-8, Eph 5:31, Gen 2:24), and to (2) be a life-long relationship of sacrificial love that images the gospel of Jesus (Eph 5:25-31). Biblically, marriage is not just about love. It includes gender. It includes the gospel. Man and woman together, imaging Christ and his bride. The Bible is clear on this point. What this means is that anything outside of those boundaries is inherently not biblical. This includes gay marriage, but it also includes sex outside of marriage, live-in relationships, pornography, prostitution, etc.

Second, the ruling from our government in no way changes this definition of marriage. While the government may have redefined marriage in their eyes, it’s not changed in God’s. God has spoken, and no man can change that ruling. For this reason, we shouldn’t react as if it has changed the biblical definition. That’s impossible.

Third, our attitude toward this bill should be nuanced. Why? Well, first, the bill is not a threat to the biblical definition of marriage. And so we shouldn’t fear, or panic, or worry. In many ways, the game has not changed. Christians are on the same mission and plan: go make disciples of all nations. But at the same time, this doesn’t mean we should be indifferent. We live in a relativistic society: “Whatever works for you” is the mindset in America. And it would be easy to say to this bill: “whatever works for them. Just don’t take away my religion”. The massive problem with this, is we worship a Man who not only rose from the dead, but now reigns over the universe at God the Father’s right hand. And he calls all men to worship him or perish. Psalm 2:10-12 says this

 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Philippians 2:8-10 says this:

Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus calls kings and rulers and men from all nations, “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish”. “Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. This applies to everyone. And as America whole-sale enables people their sin, we should grieve. Relativism or indifference is not an option (much less celebration!). Jesus is the risen King, and he calls everyone to allegiance to him.

Lastly, and most importantly, we must remember that homosexual practice is not a special sin. It certainly is a sort of the taboo topic right now, especially with all the media buzz. And we are forced to address it for that reason. But let’s not forget the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 

Notice the sins that Paul lists along with homosexuality. And, notice that all of them are equally condemnable. The “greedy” are no better than “idolaters”. “Revilers” are no better than “men who practice homosexuality”. The point here is that all sin is grievous in God’s eyes. Homosexuality is not any worse than the rest. Every type of sinner is on equal ground. The trouble is that it is often our temptation to “tame” sin. Greed is bad, but it’s not as bad as that sin over there. Stealing is pretty bad, but at least I’m not that guy over there. The Bible simply doesn’t allow us to rank our sins. All sin condemns. And Christ redeems every type of sinner. This is the humbling power of the gospel. And so, as we are forced to look at this issue of homosexuality and marriage, we simply cannot forget that God loves every type of sinner. And we are called to love them as well.

Why I won’t convert to Roman Catholicism

In the past 6 months, I’ve read more Catholic theology than I have in my entire life. Now, why did I do that? Well, I did it because, to a large extent, I realized I knew nothing about Roman Catholicism except for the common stereotypes. I only really knew the common Protestant objections: pope, tradition, priests, works, Mary, icons, etc. But I had never really dug into the theology. And so, I bought some works by major Catholic theologians.

I have to say, I really enjoyed reading them. At the end of the day, I value theologians like Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Rahner, Scott Hahn, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Barron, et al. For all my differences, these guys really center on the big picture stuff. So I really enjoyed them.

I also really enjoyed getting to know the distinctives. Papal authority, priesthood, sacerdotalism, infused (vs imputed) righteousness, etc. This was an area which I had simply never studied. I feel better off for having studied these theologians.

With that said: I really don’t plan on converting to Roman Catholicism. I could never convert in good conscience. I want to list 3 reasons why I wouldn’t ever convert:

Exclusivity: 

The first reason I could not convert is because of how exclusive Roman Catholicism is. I’ve read of a number of stories from Roman converts, and the stories are all relatively similar. These people are happy Protestants, until one day, they realize the wide history of the Catholic church. They realize the size, the teaching, the rich theology. And they realize that their thinly-veiled Protestantism just can’t stand up to it. And so they switch. But what most if any of those converts do not realize, is that when they switch, they are saying something very negative about their past experience as Protestants: namely, that it wasn’t a valid or true Christian experience. Peter Leithart explains it this way:

Here’s the question I would ask to any Protestant considering a move: What are you saying about your past Christian experience by moving to Rome or Constantinople? Are you willing to start going to a Eucharistic table where your Protestant friends are no longer welcome? How is that different from Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles? Are you willing to say that every faithful saint you have known is living a sub-Christian existence because they are not in churches that claim apostolic succession, no matter how fruitful their lives have been in faith, hope, and love? For myself, I would have to agree that my ordination is invalid, and that I have never presided over an actual Eucharist. To become Catholic, I would have to begin regarding my Protestant brothers as ambiguously situated “separated brothers,” rather than full brothers in the divine Brother, Jesus. To become Orthodox, I would likely have to go through the whole process of initiation again, as if I were never baptized. And what is that saying about all my Protestant brothers who have been “inadequately” baptized? Why should I distance myself from other Christians like that? I’m too catholic to do that. (source)

For a Protestant to make the move, they must by definition invalidate everything they had experienced before. That is simply not catholic in the real sense of the word: that is exclusivism. Peter Leithart goes so far to say that it is nothing else than sectarianism. To convert would be to say that my prior conversion was sub-biblical, that my baptism invalid, that my whole life was in some form out of the will of God. There is really nothing “Catholic” about that.

History: 

Of all that I’ve read, the main reason people convert is because of the deep history of the Catholic church. Put simply, Protestants do not understand the history of the church, and they are shocked by the long history of the Roman Catholic church. And for them, when they are exposed to this history, and the relatively shorter history of Protestantism, they opt for the older church.

The problem here is two-fold:

First, the history of the church is much less clear than Roman Catholics would like us to realize. The reality is that the early church did look different from the Protestantism of today; but it also looked different from the Roman Catholic church of today! Anyone who claims that the early church was the same, or even similar, to what it is today, is oversimplifying things. Many people convert because they feel that history is settled: the church of the apostles was Catholic. Not true. It is a historic fact that the Roman bishop (pope) did not have supremacy until the 3-4th century (link). It is a historic fact that transubstantiation was not dogmatically formulated until the medieval period. To make any claim on the early church is to muddy the water.

Second, and more important, many look to the early church as if they had it all figured out. The early church fathers were closer to the apostles, yes, but they did not have everything figured out. For instance, there was no formulated atonement theory until Anselm. The Trinity was not articulated until the 5th century. For goodness sake, it wasn’t until the reformation period that the church really began to think about and formulate the doctrine of justification!

My point here is that while we owe much to the early church, we shouldn’t glorify the period as if they had it all figured out. There was much more to be understood in terms of doctrine and practice. Both Calvin and Luther quoted the early church fathers frequently, and saw themselves in historical continuity to them. They wanted to reform and develop the Catholic churchnot brake from it. They wanted to be a voice in line with saints before them. This is why I see my Protestantism as connected to that wide history of the early church. You should too.

Theology:

Lastly, I am not a Catholic because of the theological distinctives which make up Roman Catholicism. This should be no surprise. I do not believe that their theology, particularly of church authority and justification, is correct. By church authority, I mean papal authority. Their claim that the bishop of Rome has universal jurisdiction is, in my book, historically inaccurate, and biblically unfounded. More particularly, papal infallibility is unsafe, because it binds the consciences of the laity to one man.

Also, I believe their theology of infusion conflates justification and sanctification. What this means is that justification, for Rome, is the infusion of grace into the soul, which can ebb and flow, and can ultimately be lost by mortal sin. I think this is a grave error. This robs the believer of assurance, which is a biblical concept (Rom 8:15). And it places the believer’s final justification on their own shoulders rather than Christ’s. This, to me, is a huge deal.

Carl Trueman says this of Roman Catholicism:

The insight of the Reformation on assurance is key, theologically and pastorally. And… that it is one thing that every convert to Roman Catholicism must lose…That is a very high price to pay. Speaking for myself, all of the liturgical beauty of Rome, all of the tradition, all of the clarity of the authority structure (and the clarity is often, I think, more in the eye of the beholder than the Church itself) cannot compensate for the loss of the knowledge that I know I have been purchased by the precious blood of Christ that conversion to Rome requires (The Creedal Imperative, 125)

Trueman is right on. The owness in Roman Catholicism is on the person, not on Christ. That, to me, is not only unbiblical, but simply devastating. I wouldn’t be able to bear it.

I love much in the Roman Catholic tradition. However, with these reasons in place, I simply couldn’t convert.

If you want further study on this, please read these links, HERE, HERE