Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some Things I Think Evangelicals Can Learn from Catholicism

What's printed below is the gist of the lesson I taught today, as part of the series, "Always Being Reformed by the Word of God"

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” 2 Tim.3:16

Christians and churches should always want to please the Lord in all things by discerning what is best which includes examining everything, holding on to the good, avoiding all that’s bad (Col. 1:10; Phil.1:10; 1 Thess.5:21;-22). In order for that to be true, we must continually allow the Word of God in Scripture to ‘reform’ our beliefs, values and practices – not only as individual Christians, but as a church together. (1 Tim.3:14-15; cp. Matt. 28:18-20).

The Protestant Reformation was triggered as Martin Luther and others began to examine beliefs and practices of the (Catholic) Church in light of the teaching of God’s Word, centered in the true Gospel. That led them to reject some beliefs and practices, to revise others, and to add others.

As Protestant, evangelical Christians, we believe the Roman Catholic Church is fundamentally and seriously mistaken about key doctrines such as justification by grace alone through faith alone, and the unique authority of Scripture. But because the Catholic Church has been influenced by Scripture, there are still things we can learn from the Catholic (and ‘high church’) stream of Christianity. To say it another way, we as evangelicals need to be continuously opened to being ‘reformed’ by the Word of God as well, including in the areas described below.

What we can learn from Catholics (and other ‘high church’ traditions):

-- reverence, sense of transcendence – Heb. 12:28-29; John 4:23-24; 2 Cor. 7:1.
*When was the last time you experienced a sense of ‘awe’ and deep reverence in relating to God? What were the causes for this? How can things like music and even architecture play a role in this?

-- respect for the Church universal, its nature, ‘authority’, and it’s place in salvation as the ordained by God for proclaiming his message and carrying out his work (Matt.16:16-19 ; Acts 2:41; Eph. 3:10-11; 4:4-6, 11-16).
*In the New Testament, it’s unimaginable that a professing Christian would not be baptized, and not be joined to the church. Why do you think baptism and church membership are considered ‘optional’ by so many professing evangelical Christians today?
*When are ‘parachurch ministries’ (e.g. a youth ministry like ‘Youth for Christ’) helpful, and when are they unhelpful?

-- the importance of ‘catechizing’
Catholic (and Lutheran and Presbyterian) churches have traditionally taken the task of ‘catechizing’ very seriously, as a means for teaching and passing on the Christian faith to new believers. Why should ‘catechizing’ be especially important to evangelical Christians and churches? (Deut.6:4-9; Matt.28:18-19; Col.1:28; 2 Tim.4:2-4)

-- The use of ‘imprimatur’ (a bishop’s granting permission to publish approved books for ‘the faithful’ to read) -- cp. Jas.3:1ff.; Tit.1:9; 2 Pet.3:16ff.)

-- benevolent service to ‘parish’ and a commitment to ‘social justice’ in the right sense (for example, in opposing abortion and in defending traditional marriage) – Matt.5:16; 1 Tim. 6:18; 1 Pet.2:11-17)

For further study: “Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic” by Chris Castaldo

“Nothing in My Hand I Bring: Understanding the Differences Between Roman Catholic and Protestant Beliefs” by Ray Galea (you can read the first chapter online at

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