Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Mindless, Knee-Jerk Protestantism
Yes, there are many errors in the Roman Catholic Church. They have anathematized the gospel, exatled the Pope above the Scriptures, changed the institution of the Supper, forbidden their priests to marry, turned gospel into law and law into gospel, invented purgatory thus denying the efficacy of the atonement, turned the saints into mediators, and many other such things. In fact, there is a lot more wrong with the R0man Church than can be dealt with in a short blog.
But, and this is a big but, there is something just as wrong with the kind of knee-jerk, mindless protestantism that seeks to find distinctions between the Roman church and ourselves in the outward ceremonies and customs that we share in common. How often have you heard someone reject a practice or custom of the Church because, "it's too Roman"? When questioned about why it is wrong, the person who objects really has no answer. It is as if "being Roman," was enough to banish said custom or practice to the ash heaps of Church ritual.
Why do many American Lutherans reject the crucifix? It's too Roman. Why do many American Lutheran reject the elevation and adoration of our Lord in the Sacrament at the altar? It's too Roman. Now when questioned, many Lutherans will say that the reason the crucifix is wrong is because, "Jesus rose from the dead," as if Roman Catholics don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead. So the empty cross is a symbol of the resurrection? What about the empty crosses of the thieves next to Christ? Have they risen from the dead? The Sacrament should not be elevated? Why, if Christ is in the Supper, shouldn't Christians make that confession by bowing or genuflecting.
Here's a list of things that are Roman Catholic.
1. Having Church on Sunday morning.
2. Reading the Scriptures in the service.
4. Singing to the Lord.
5. Receiving Communion.
6. Hearing a sermon.
You're right. These things are catholic, therefore we shouldn't do them.
Of course we should. And we should do the others as well; Chanting, candles, observing the church calendar, vestments, processions, gospel processions, elevating the host, displaying the crucifix, conferring absolution, etc. We can do these things in Christian freedom. We should do these things to confess that they fall within the bounds of Christian freedom, especially in the face of all who tell us we shouldn't because they're too Roman.
We shouldn't try to fix the boundaries between the papal church and ourselves on the basis of customs that the church has practiced before there ever was a Roman Catholic Church in the sense in which we know it today. We fix those boundaries around doctrine. The Augsburg Confession defines the Church as the place where the pure word of God is taught and the Sacraments are administered according to their institution. We define our difference with the papal church by doctrinal truth and error. Anything else is mindless, knee-jerk protestantism.