John Armstrong on Catholicism

John Armstrong’s been at his best of late. First off, he nails it with a post on whether or not Catholics are Christians (spoiler: we are). The conclusion’s not what’s worth reading: it’s his reasoning for getting there. The best part, in my opinion, was this insight:

The Catholics I know personally love Christ as their Lord and remain faithfully Catholic. But certain evangelicals think this is simply impossible, preferring their form of logic to love. Their reasoning proceeds in this way: Catholics deny justification by faith alone thus they deny the article that the true church stands or falls upon. No Catholic can truly know Christ unless they renounce the Catholic Church or (odd as it really seems) remains a poor Catholic who doesn’t really know what the Roman Catholic Church believes. (As odd as it seems, this becomes salvation by ignorance of the church and her faith!)

That’s well said. I’ve heard Catholics say of the mainstream media’s view of the Church that “the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic.” This applies just as well to some Evangelicals as well.

Yesterday, he picked up right where he left off, and his most recent suggestion is a conversation-starter: there are countless Evangelical missionaries in predominantly Catholic countries, working to convert self-proclaimed Catholics. These folks say they’re trying to build the Kingdom of God, but they’re forming splinter groups of Baptists, Methodists, etc., where there had once been a uniform Church. Now, there are some missionaries who defend their work by arguing that Catholics aren’t Christians (a view which is just indefensible, given the Middle Church argument from the last post, besides dozens of other really good reasons). But there’s a growing number who think that Catholics are (or might be) Christians, but recognize that there are a lot of nominal believers who aren’t Catholic or any other sort of Christian at all. This group isn’t concerned with taking people from the Church, but rather, with dedicating them more fully to Christ. And with this second group, Catholics should lend an arm of fellowship, because we share the same goal. In John’s words:

The issue here is not getting people out of the Catholic Church and into a Protestant church but rather about influencing everyone (in every church) to believe the gospel and explicitly trust Christ.

Exactly. There’s actually a really fascinating precedent for this in Poland. A certain Archbishop Karol Wojtyla (soon to be Pope John Paul II) worked with Billy Graham and others to reinvigorate the Catholic Church in Poland, and Catholic revivals modeled off of Protestant ones were successful in steering young people towards a deeper devotion to the Church.

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