Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Does Protestantism have a future?

The Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University hosted a fascinating discussion last night featuring Carl Trueman, Peter Leithart, and Fred Sanders. They discussed the future of Protestantism vis-à-vis the Roman Catholic Church. Should the shape of Protestant theology be determined by the Reformation’s reaction to Roman Catholicism?

The conversation is inspired in part by an article that Leithart wrote for First Things last year. Other questions addressed by the panel: Is the Reformation over? How should American Protestantism relate to Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy? Will Protestantism need to change if it is to thrive in the 21st century? Watch above.


  • Bridget

    I watched 90% of the video. All three of the speakers seemed to agree that the Roman Catholic Church is part of the corporate Church of Jesus Christ (however defective). Therefore, Catholics are our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is an extremely hard pill to swallow considering my Mom’s former Catholic background (God rescued her out of the RCC 35 yrs before she died) and friendship with nuns up to her death who were still obviously in a works-based system.

    I also street witnessed for upwards of 3 yrs in a high populace urban city and never met one Catholic (and I met MANY) who didn’t say that getting to heaven required obedience to the law or sacraments. I’ve also personally witnessed to other Catholics I’ve known or ended up meeting. There is no assurance of salvation based on the finished work of Christ. Their religion is a works-based religion. And yet, they are considered part of the Church? Our defective brothers and sisters in Christ?

    I find it interesting that one of the speakers quoted one of the reformed fathers (was it Calvin?) who said something to the effect of, “Rome is part of the Church, they just have a lot of wolves as shepherds.” Seriously? Isn’t that a clue? Might we compare them to the Pharisees? Their false gospel and false teachings can be read in their own catechism, for goodness sake. The list of their serious, dangerous errors is extensive beginning with faith + works = possible purgatory where one is punished for their sins.

    This discussion boggled my mind.

    • Ian Shaw

      There’s so much I can’t agree with in addition to what you said, so I’ll just respond with, I agree with your points and omit bringing up further obsurdities that the RCC adds to the finished works of Christ.

    • Kelly Hall

      “If you love Jesus, there is no better place to serve Him than the Catholic Church.”

      Bridget, what you have written is a gross generalization of some Catholics you met, as well as opinion of what you think the Church teaches. Your comments remind me of what one of the men stated in the video. He does not know what Catholics actually teach, but takes great care to discredit and malign them. He assumes all Catholics are like the handful he knows that apparently don’t go to church.

      I’m sure I could look at Baptists, Methodists, Episcopals or any other Christian denomination and make a gross generalization like that. I will not, since I recognize that the “wolves” are mere men. Man is sinful and falls short of the grace of God daily. Just because that “wolf” sins does not mean that an entire group is as sinful as him.

      What boggles my mind is that there are still people arguing that Catholics aren’t Christians. Do you know history? Do you see that The Church has defended Christ’s teachings for 2,000 years? And, why in the world would one discredit the Church but use the very Sacred Scripture provided and protected by the Church?

      You stated “false gospel and false teachings”. What part of this is false: “(God) calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”? (Opening of Catechism)

      • Bridget Platt

        Kelly, I’m not talking about people who don’t go to church. As I said, my mom was friends with the Catholic nuns she went to school with all the way up until her death 8 yrs ago. They did not understand the concept of salvation by grace through faith. It is a works-based system from start to finish. I spent 2 hrs talking to a devout Roman Catholic last summer in a pro-life booth. He knew Catholic doctrine well. He had no assurance whatsoever of his salvation and thought it arrogant of me for thinking that I did.

        When I mentioned that John wrote (in John 5:13), “I write these things to you who believe in the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life,” he looked at me like a deer in the headlights. This is not a gross generalization, this is years of first hand experience with talking and witnessing to Roman Catholics and hearing my mom’s personal tales and frustrations of trying to talk to her family and friends who were attempting to earn their way to heaven and had no assurance at all that they would get there.

        While I’ll concede that there are most probably some stray Christians within the RCC, I’ve met but one or two in my whole life that I can honestly say had the fruit of a true believer.

      • Ken Temple

        “What boggles my mind is that there are still people arguing that Catholics aren’t Christians.”

        What you probably refer to is something more nuanced than that. What Reformed Protestants say is that the Roman Catholic Church condemned itself as a false doctrinal church when it anathematized the doctrine of justification by faith alone at the Council of Trent in 1545-1563. If a Roman Catholic is trusting in their good works and prayers to Mary and going to mass as their salvation, then it seems that they are adding to the finished work of Christ. “If righteousness comes through obedience to the law, then Christ died needlessly.” Galatians 2:21

        In Roman Catholicism, one is never fully justified until they obey all the works throughout their life and then have to suffer through satis passio in purgatory.

        It is a contradiction to Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:16, 2:21; 3:1-5; Romans chapters 3, 4, 5, 8, the whole book of John, book of Acts; Philippians 3:9. Good works are the fruit of justification; the result of real faith in Christ, not conditions to fulfill as if one is not justified yet. James 2:14-26 means the proof of true faith, not conditions in order to be justified. It means just saying and claiming that one has faith is not enough; there must be evidence of true faith. There is big different between conditions in order to get justified, and results and proof that one has been justified. Genesis 15 came before Genesis 22, as James 2:14-26 shows.

        It is matter of the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, not a personal attack on Roman Catholics as people. Reformed Protestants are ont trying to judge individuals as to their salvation; but rather an honest assessment of the doctrines of the Roman Church.

        Even though there were talks between liberal Lutherans (some Lutherans who even ordain homosexuals) and some low level Roman Catholics and they agreed in principle to some things, in the “Joint Declaration on Justification”; it was not officially approved of by the Pope and Magisterium. The anathemas on the Protestant doctrine are still official from Trent. Vatican 2 has softer language (“separated brethren”), but it did not repudiate the decisions of Trent. But post Vatican 2 theological development did seem to assert that Muslims “adore the same God” (CCC # 841), and atheists can be saved, “through no fault of their own”. (CCC # 847)

        • Bridget Platt

          Well put, Ken. There are a lot of serious errors in Catholic theology, but justification by faith alone is an insurmountable hurdle. I think of Paul’s words in Rom 10 about his concerns for Israel. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” – Rom 10:1

          So, he is clearly stating that they are not saved. Why? “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

          His words make it clear that only those who believe fully in the substitutionary atonement of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins are free from the law. Everyone else is still under the law and God’s wrath remains upon them.

  • Daryl Little.

    I realize that for me to critique Peter Leithart is akin to him critiquing what I do for a living…but I will.

    I simply have a hard time seeing how he understands what the reformation was about and why it matters. I can’t comprehend, as Bridget above, how a church that formally denies the gospel (and more and more even the exclusivity of Christ) can be call a church of Jesus Christ in any way at all.

    I appreciated how Carl Trueman continually brought it back to the importance of theology and how that matters to the “regular Christians” in everyday life.

  • Bridget Platt

    I also liked the question from the guy in the audience. Does having many different denominations really affect our witness to the world as a unified church when the world pretty much lumps us all together as intolerant, crazies who believe in a risen Savior anyway? I agree with his implication that it doesn’t. I, too, doubt the Huffington Post thinks twice about the internal, doctrinal differences we wrestle with. We’re pretty much all the same to them. And as far as the RCC church is concerned, I’d also quote 1 Cor 11:19:

    “For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”

    Or as one of my favorite preachers says, “Disunity for the sake of unity.” Do we really want to blur the gospel?

  • Ken Temple

    I watched the whole thing; but I admit I fell asleep here and there for 5 minutes or so. I think I went back and listened again to the parts I missed.

    I am trying to understand Peter Leithart.

    He was tried for heresy (it seems, if I understand it rightly, basically, of being accused of aspects of the “Federal Vision” – that infant baptism justifies and regenerates – and aspects of something similar to the New Perspective on Paul that seem to be adding the merit of works for final salvation and not distinquishing between justification and sanctification), within the last couple of years, but was exonerated.

    Go to the Aquila Report and search under Peter Leithart and you can find the details.

    But the main prosecutor, Jason Stellman, later became a Roman Catholic. (very ironic)

    Leithart seems to say that Roman Catholicism is part of the same body of Christ and the people are brothers and sisters as they were baptized with the same Trinitarian baptism. Leithart seems to be arguing the same kind of thing that Doug Wilson argued in his debate with James White, “Are Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters?” (see at – Wilson says something like “grab them by their baptism”.

    I think Peter Escalante was wrong at 1:28:00 where he says that Francis Turretin said that the RCC was a church, just deformed, but has word and sacrament, etc.

    Turretinfan provides evidence to the contrary:

    No one mentioned directly the anathemas of the Council of Trent on the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    In this video, Leithard emphasizes:
    1. Ecumenical meetings, Unity, John 17 – getting together locally to foster unity and discussions with Roman Catholics
    2. Seemed to say that Transubstantiation could be an opinion, but not a dogma ( ?? !!!)
    3. Liturgy
    4. Sacraments
    5. Eucharist/Lord’s supper has to be celebrated every week

    Carl Truman said that J. Gresham Machen’s view was that theological liberalism was not Christianity, but that RCC is a distorted form of Christianity; and that the Reformers did not re-baptize anyone who converted from Rome to the Protestant faith.

    Truman was good in emphasizing the Word/Scriptures/preaching/teaching and pastoral implications of helping the average person understand the issues, by not confusing them with too much ecumenism.

    They needed to have James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries there to make the discussion more lively.

  • Daniel Stevens

    I recommend some of the posters here who speak about Catholicism interact with the writers at the Called to Communion website. These writers are all converts from Protestantism, and most have a background in Reformed theology and seminaries. (I don’t write for the website myself

    The comments made about Catholicism in general and Catholics (however poorly they were able to translate their beliefs into language that a non-Catholic could understand) don’t seem to reflect any careful reading into what the Catholic Church teaches and why.

    If the Catholic Church is truly as erroneous as Bridgett, Ken, and others make it seem, then how do you give an account of the carefully reasoned explanations given by former Protestants for converting to the Catholic Church? Also, how do you explain how the early fathers of the church who learned the faith from the apostles and their immediate successors also sound so Catholic?

    What I find so disturbing about the responses to Leithart (which is how much I’ve listened to so far) is that neither engages the principle motivation behind Leithart’s position: Christ’s own prayer that Christians be unified. Christ offered his passion, death, and resurrection for this purpose, and St. Paul later commanded that we be of like mind. The silence on this point from Leithart’s respondents was deafening. All three speakers failed to develop a definition of “church” that could ever serve to sustain in a visible way the one true faith on a global, universal scale.

    From a Catholic perspective (and this point is well developed in a response to Leithart given on Called to Communion), the speakers on the video seek to find the church based on a set of ideas about what the church should be. But as Christians, we aren’t called to dream a church of our liking into being. Rather, we are called to be obedient to the real, visible church that Christ established. This Church has been around for 2,000 years, and I can go to bed tonight without the slightest concern that she will be around (if it is God’s will to allow human history to progress this long) for another 2,000 years without changing her doctrinal and moral teachings.

    I am SO thankful to be Catholic!

    • Ken Temple

      Thanks for that recommendation. I actually have read a lot of the Called to Communion blog and articles and interacted with Tim Troutman, Bryan Cross, Matt Yonke and Tom Brown, and some others. (K. Doran and several others) I commented on some of them, especially in Matt Yonke’s article on Hermeneutics and Authority in Sept. – Oct. of 2009; and Tom Brown’s article on The Canon, in Jan. of 2010. It was frustrating, because it took too long to let my comments through, and then in between 10-15 others commented. Other times my comments were rejected. ( I had some friendly email exchanges with Tom Brown and Tim Troutman on those issues) Some of their articles are 500 or 300 comments and some up to 1,200 or so comments. It became too much. But I have read some of the main articles, in 2009 and 2010 – the ones on Scripture, Sola Scriptura, Interpretive Authority, and the Canon, and Hermeneutics. Bryan Cross is very philosophical and when they deem something off topic, they dismiss it, or if they judge something as a tu quoque (you too) argument. I think Keith Matthison’s response to them is correct on the critique they gave of Sola Scriptura. see –

      Most of these guys were former Presbyterians, and it honestly seems to me that, especially Bryan Cross, puts philosophy first, then church history, then Scripture is interpreted in light of those things and Papal dogmas. He is very intelligent and philosophical and sometimes over my head. As a believer in believer’s baptism, or baptism of adults after repentance and faith, all the appeals of infant baptism and baptismal regeneration and rituals and unity don’t do much for me – if one is already convinced about infant baptism, then it seems easier to go that route. I don’t want “unity at all costs” or “unity at the expense of truth”. To accept the Roman Catholic dogmas and things that we disagree on, is too much of a price to pay – it is compromise, and unbibical to me. It seems wrong, in all honesty.

      Roman Catholics like to use John 17 and the issue of unity a lot in their arguments; but it seems disingenuous to me, because from a Roman Catholic perspective, it means that it is a call for us to repent and submit to the Pope – one has to come and submit to the Pope in order for their to be unity, but there is nothing in John 17 about Peter and successors or being bishop over all bishoprs or any kind of Papal office. If Peter was a “Pope”, then he would have mentioned in his second letter, in the section of 2 Peter 1:12-19, where he talks about being diligent to remind the believers in the truth that they have, when he is gone – “this is the second letter I have written to you” ( 3:1), “to stir up their minds” and “remind them in the truth” – “knowing that I am about to lay aside my earthly dwelling”, etc.

      12 “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” 2 Peter 1:12-15

      I have read some of the early church fathers, especially 1 Clement, Didache, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, some of Tertullian, some of Cyprian, a lot of Athanasius, and some of Augustine. They are not as Roman Catholic as Roman Catholics claim. They are fallible humans. There is much good in them, but they were not infallible and they got some things wrong. But there is nothing in them that is definitely Roman Catholic, as things that are clearly dogmatic at the time. There are early wrong traditions, violations of Scripture, such as baptismal regeneration, penance, priests (no such thing in the NT), mono-episcopate, Mary as the New Eve, Mary as perpetual virgin (mostly Jerome in 400 onward – clearly contradictory to Matthew 1:18, 25, 12:46; 13:55-56). those seem to be the first mistakes. Prayers to Mary was wrong – a clear contradiction to 1 Tim. 2:5 – whenever it started that they started praying to dead saints and visiting their graves, etc. There is no Papal doctrines – Cyprian and 85 other bishops in 258 AD clearly rebuked Stephen bishop of Rome for making such a claim, not much for the Marian dogmas (some comments that are later developed into dogmas in the 6th century to the middle ages to 1854 and 1950), no transubstantiation in the early centuries. Just because they used the word “catholic” (kata holic = according to the whole) and “eucharist” (thanksgiving) does not make them Roman Catholic. They do seem to believe in baptismal regeneration, one of the earliest mistakes of the early church. The ideas of “do penance” from Latin was wrong, another early mistake, along with distinction of mortal sins vs. vential sins (Tertullian onward) and Ignatius, later than 1 Clement, around 110 AD, exalting out of the college of presbyters one bishop/overseer/episcopos over the rest of the elders/presbyters. This was wrong, and Acts 20:17, Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-5; Philippians 1:1 and I Clement 44, and the Didache shows that the presybters and episcopas are the same office.

  • Bridget Platt

    Daniel, do you concur with the answer to the following question from the book, “A brief Catechism for Adults, A Complete Handbook on How to be a Good Catholic” by Fr. William J. Cogan?

    Q: What is necessary to be saved?

    A: You have to be baptized, belong to the Church established by Jesus Christ, obey the Ten Commandments, receive the Sacraments, pray, do good works and die with Sanctifying Grace in your soul.

  • Ken Temple

    I forgot to make this point:

    How does Peter remind the believers in the truth? How does he be diligent before he is about to die? By writing his second letter. It is Scripture. Scritpure is what Peter gives them, so that when he is gone, they will have something to “remind them of the truth”. 2 Peter 1:12-15; 16-19; 3:1. Seems like the place to mention successors, replacement bishops, Papal office, if that was the case, but he doesn’t.

  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Bridget and Ken,

    Thanks for your question. My answer is a qualified yes. Obviously, Scripture presents people (e.g. the good thief) who die without the opportunity to be baptized or perform good works (though believing in Christ is itself, according to Scripture, a good work). The Catholic Catechism teaches that while baptism normally refers to the sacrament involving water and spirit (John 3:5), there are exceptional situations where one can be baptized by desire (e.g. the good thief or a faithful catechumen who dies in an accident before being able to receive the sacrament). About the other things, I would simply ask you: do you NOT believe them? They are all taught in the Bible. (Which is one reason that so many Bible-believing Christians are converting to Catholicism…because they are discovering how Biblical its teachings are).

    Ken, glad you were able to check out the CTC website. Brandon’s article is a good one, but the point isn’t to take sides but to work together to overcome differences in light of Christ’s prayer (John 17) and St. Paul’s constant command to be unified. I pray that instead of taking sides that we can ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to the larger questions, such as what is Christ’s plan from the beginning so that the world-wide church can agree on all the essentials? (And according to St. Paul, everything, every Word of Christ given to the Church, is essential.)

    And about 2 Peter, who says that that one letter needs to teach that particular doctrine, which is found elsewhere in Scripture? And doesn’t Peter also say there is more I have to tell you that I will not put in Scripture? Also, 2 Peter 3 indicates that the letter is meant to serve as a reminder. Do you think that letter reminds them of every single thing that Peter taught them? 1 Peter 5 indicates that Christians should submit to the elders, who shepherd their souls. And Peter himself writes with apostolic authority, an authority received from Christ and passed along to successors, as shown at the beginning of Acts and practiced down through the centuries by the Catholic Church.

    May the peace of Christ be with you!


  • Ken Temple

    See my earlier comment; as it was in moderation. I started reading the Called to Communion site in 2009 and interacted with several of the main bloggers. 1 Peter 5:1-5 – elders; and Peter is a fellow-elder – a very clear – a Biblical church will strive to have a plurality / college of qualified elders/overseers where they keep each other accountable and encourage one another. (Titus 1, 1 Tim. 3) – we agree with that, and we agree in principle that new elders should be appointed by the local church, just as the apostles did in Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5-7. But there is no guarantee that successors cannot go wrong on some things. They are not infallible; they made mistakes in history. The key is to constantly go back to the Scriptures and let the Scriptures decide, based on proper exegesis and interpretation. We believe we follow apostolic authority by going back to what the apostles taught in Scripture.

  • Ken Temple

    And about 2 Peter, who says that that one letter needs to teach that particular doctrine, which is found elsewhere in Scripture?

    Seems like Peter should have mentioned the Papacy there in his last letter, right before he dies; so that they and we would know about such an important doctrine. His purpose is to stir up their sincere minds and remind them of spiritual truth. (2 Peter 1:13-15; 2 Peter 3:1) He says he is being diligent by writing this letter – in order that they will have a way to be reminded of those spiritual truths “when I am gone”. Why wouldn’t he also say, “After I am gone, if you have any questions or problems in the future of different interpretations and schisms and heresies and disagreements, just follow my successors, whom I appoint (and name them – Linus, Clement, or Anecletus ? – Tertullian and Irenaeus around 180-220 are the first to mention these as bishops of Rome – but they seem to be projecting the mono-epicopate back into the earliest times.) – “they will be the infallible living voice in the future to solve all disagreements and disunity and heresies that will come up – listen to them.” Why doesn’t Peter take the opportunity to teach that, if it was truly a real entitiy in existence at the time. The reason he does not is simply because it did not exist. And the Papal office did not exist in the early centuries either. It is arguable not even around in 600 AD, because Gregory 1, bishop of Rome, rebuked John of Constantinople for claiming to be “universal bishop” and, it is definitely not around in 258 AD, when Cyrpian and 85 other bishops rebuked Stephen, bishop of Rome, for his claim to be “bishop of bishops”. The eastern Orthodox agree, even to this day, of this fact.

    The Papacy is not found anywhere in Scripture, it is just not there; it is not in Matthew 16:13-20 or John 20:23 or John 21:15-17 or Luke 22:31-32 (the usual Scriptural passages that Roman Catholics claim the basis for the Papacy are in.) It is obvious that the rock was Peter confession of faith, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, not his person or office as apostle-bishop-elder.

  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your reply, and sorry that I missed your earlier response before typing my own reply. I’ll try to let more time pass this time before typing a response. I only have time to share a few thoughts right now, and with 4 young children at home, I may have to simply pray that you will continue engaging in discussion at forums such as CTC, Shameless Popery, etc. There, you will find people who are more competent than I to address your points.

    I’ll say only two things right now:

    Sincerely seeking unity–and making Christ’s desire for it our own–doesn’t require in and of itself for every Christian to swim the Tiber. (Yes – we Catholics do make a claim about what that unity might look like, something I’ll address below.) But it does raise the question: what is the nature of the unity that Christ and the writers of Scripture had in mind? Does this unity allow for unity in the essentials and disunity on the unessentials, and who has the authority to decide which is which? (And is that even how truth works, or do all truths hang together in a symphonic splendor, to borrow an expression from Von Balthasar?) Answering these questions well does require a sophisticated philosophical thinking, but even persons without a gift for philosophy (such as myself) can recognize the epistemological implications bound up in how one answers the above questions. And the implications of some of the claims you are making are difficult to swallow. For instance, if Christ’s Church is not gifted with infallible teachers (teachers who are protected by the Holy Spirit from officially teaching error as truth), then how are you certain of any of the tenets of your own faith system (even including which books should be considered Scriptural)?

    If you believe that your interpretation of the Bible is correct (including your denial of various Catholic doctrines, but also those of many Bible-based Protestant denominations, such as infant baptism), you must also believe that Jesus Christ wants every Christian in the world to come to your interpretation of Scripture. (As Benedict XVI says, dogma is simply the Church’s interpretation of Scripture.) Since even the speakers on the Future of Protestantism would disagree with you on major tenets of your interpretive tradition, how do you see the Holy Spirit working to bring them into the truth? Or, do you admit that you could be wrong on some, or even many, of your understandings of Sacred Scripture? If so, how would you know it, and how would you go about correcting it (and making up for having taught so many other Christians through your ministry things that are not true)?

    I don’t know of any Catholics who claim that Peter had to have the same understanding of his role as chief apostle that modern Catholics have of the Papacy today. And I still don’t agree that the fact that Peter didn’t say X, Y, or Z in his second letter tells us anything about what he thought about X, Y, or Z. I assume you are familiar with the various Catholic websites that answer your claims about interpreting texts that support the existence of the papacy, though if anyone reading this is unfamiliar with these sites and would appreciate the references, please let me know, as I’d be happy to provide them!

    May the peace of our risen savior be with you!


  • Bridget Platt

    Daniel, I won’t go into the difference between good works being the fruit of justification vs the conditions of justification because Ken already said it well above. I don’t strive to please God in order to earn my way to heaven, I strive to please God because I am His child and going to heaven based on the merits of Jesus Christ alone. I would encourage you to read the book of Romans. There are so many similarities between the religious leaders of Paul’s day and the Catholic religious leaders of today.

    “I do not set aside grace, for if righteousness could be obtained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” – Galatians 2:21

  • Ken Temple

    Daniel Stevens wrote:
    But it does raise the question: what is the nature of the unity that Christ and the writers of Scripture had in mind?

    Whatever it means, it has to be based on careful exegesis of these texts.
    John 17:20-23
    Ephesians 4:1-16
    I Corinthians 1:10-12;
    1 Corinthians 4:1-6 – “do not go beyond what is written” – the standard is Scripture.
    I Corinthians 11:18-19 – “it is necessary for divisions to be among you, so that those who are approved may become evident.”

    Unity is an ideal, but churches and people don’t live up to that ideal. Jesus prayed for unity for the apostles and believers and those that would believe in their word in the future. True Believers already have that unity. Ephesians 4:3 indicates it is ours, but we must be diligent to guard it.

    In John 17, the unity He says in the same way that the Father and the Son are unified. But it cannot mean “in every way” that the Father and the Son are “one”, because they are unified perfectly as “one God” ontologically, in substance, and we as humans by nature are millions of different persons and we can never achieve that perfection in heart and soul.
    Jesus also commands that we love one another – and by this will all men know that you are My disciples. “All men will know” without exception? Do you think Jesus is teaching that all people will eventually be saved, when we “attain to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:3, 13) ? No, what he means that others who can witness our love and unity and principled life, will have good reason to investigate Christ and God the Father. The epistle to the Ephesians was written to a local church. The Roman Church first excommunicated the Protestants at the council of Trent. So the call for unity in Ephesians and 1 Cor. does not obligate us to try and be unified to you. It applies to us in our local churches.
    Jesus also prayed for our holiness and sanctification – John 17:17 – is that a reality yet? He is conforming all true believers into the image of Christ. God will not fail in that – Romans 8, Ephesians 1

    “that the world may believe that You have sent Me” – what does that mean? That every single human unbeliever will believe in Christ? Obviously not. Or that some unbelievers can witness love and unity and a good witness in a local church through local witnessing and then want to believe and become a believer in Christ.
    Does he mean local churches? I think the emphasis has to be on local living out the gospel with our neighbors in local churches, and as unbelievers see that, it is a good witness.
    He cannot mean an external organizational unity – that Roman Catholics want all to come under submission to the Pope.
    What Jesus meant, and prayed for, was that we should have a credible witness to our unbelieving neighbors, and that God uses that lifestyle of holiness, love, unity, principled life-style, to bring others to Christ; but it is not a guarantee that every individual in the world would believe if all Protestants and Eastern Orthodox suddenly came under the Pope’s authority and we were all “cookie cutter” churches.

    Does this unity allow for unity in the essentials and disunity on the unessentials,

    That whole distinction was forced upon us all in history, because of the persecution and punishments of the State church, which lasted from Theodosius (380 AD) to Justinian (500s) to the modern era until the “separation of church and state” (Europe, Enlightenment, and USA basic principle) The whole reason for that is because of the harshness of the Roman Catholic Church in persecution of heretics, schismatics, dissent, etc. – the persecution of the Donatists in N. Africa, the Coptic and other Monophysite churches in Syria and Armenia, (by the way, that harshness also contributed to the peoples of Egypt, Syria, and Levant, to accept the Islamic invaders as opposed to the Byzantine Chalcedonian Creed persecutors. I agree with Chalcedon’s creed regarding Christ as one person with two natures, but the harshness against the Monophysites contributed to Islam taking over those areas. Sad.) the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of the Waldensians, Hugenots, Jan Huss, Wycliff, etc. The RCC would have killed Luther if Frederick of Saxony had not rescued him.
    Yes, it allows for that, but that means there will different churches. (As long as they are not liberal – Baptists, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical Free, Bible Churches, Pentecostal-Charismatic- but not Word of Faith – that is heretical) I think it is good think to allow freedom in those areas.
    Yes, some Protestants persecuted one another. Thank God for the eventual principle of separation of the state government from the church.

    and who has the authority to decide which is which?

    Local biblical, Evangelical churches. Not liberal. We are free from the tyranny of Rome and the spirit of Boniface VIII – in Unam Sanctum – “It is necessary for salvation for every human creature to be in submission to the Pontiff/Pope of Rome.” (1302) One of the most arrogant and unBiblical statements ever uttered by a human being. Contradicts Romans 3:28; John 3:16; 5:24, 20:30-31; Romans 4:1-16; 5:1, Galatians 2:16; 2:21; Phil. 3:9; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 16:31; Luke 13:1-5, Ephesians 2:8-9, etc.

    • Ian Shaw

      Ken, I have heard some unbiblical stuff form the CCC before, but never heard about 1302. That’s pretty absurd. But it’s not sola scriptura with the RCC. “Thus sayeth the pope” statements get raised to the level of scripture or higher.

      • Ken Temple

        Ian, do a google search on the Papal Bull, “Unam Sanctum” of Pope Boniface VIII in 1302 AD, and you will find it.

        Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

  • Ken Temple

    The rest of your arguments, Daniel, are the subtle strategies of skepticism and constantly asking, “how do you know for certain?” (that the church got the canon right, and that you have the right interpretation?) I am not persuaded by that kind of skepticism and doubt.
    God never expects us to have unreasonable kinds of certainty. The RCC ploy is to try and create doubt and demand that we have to have infallible certainty. There is no such thing as infallible certainty. Only God is infallible. We can have reasonable certainty and assurance of salvation that the Scriptures promise through the Holy Spirit. (I John 5:13; Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:16; Romans 8:28-34) I see no reason to question the canon or the doctrine of the Trinity (the early church got those right) or other doctrines that one can see in Scripture and history and use their reason in careful exegesis, and with open hearts and open Bibles, if we are sincerely seeking to be submissive to the Holy Spirit, our hearts do not condemn us. (1 John 3:21)
    How can you be certain of your decision to follow the Roman Catholic Church when Honorius, bishop of Rome, taught heresy and was condemned by subsequent Popes for some 300 years? More than forty years after his death, Honorius was anathematized by name along with the Monothelites by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680 AD. The anathema read, after mentioning the chief Monothelites, “and with them Honorius, who was Prelate of Rome, as having followed them in all things”.
    Furthermore, the Acts of the Thirteenth Session of the Council state, “And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to [Patriarch] Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.” The Sixteenth Session adds: “To Theodore of Pharan, the heretic, anathema! To Sergius, the heretic, anathema! To Cyrus, the heretic, anathema! To Honorius, the heretic, anathema! To Pyrrhus, the heretic, anathema!” This formal condemnation of Honorius continued for some 300 years.

  • Daniel Stevens

    Thank you for your comments, Ken (and Ian). Can you clarify for us what you believe is the difference between the phrases (the first offered by Ian):

    “Thus sayeth the pope”

    and that implied by your comments:

    “Thus sayeth Ken”?

    In the same thread that you deny papal authority or more generally the authority of the Church, you presume to have the authority to interpret Scripture in a way that would force me to change my beliefs as a Christian.

    I claim that none of my beliefs as a Catholic contradict the meaning of Scripture *when interpreted correctly.* Put more simply, I offer a hearty “Amen!” to every verse of the Bible.

    So, do you claim to have interpretive authority over me as a fellow believer? If not, why not just let me go on my way? And at the very least, why shun believers who interpret Scripture as positing (and receive from history) a visible, apostolic authority passed down from one bishop to the next, and who believe that Christ has sent this apostolic community with the same authority with which he was sent, and can thus charge that “whoever hears you hears me, and whoever rejects you rejects me”? Why insist that we are wrong to interpret Scripture and historical data in that way, unless you are, yourself, a kind of self-proclaimed magisterium?

    In short: why should I follow your interpretation of Scripture (which I trust that you have asked the Holy Spirit to bring you to, and has likely been influenced by the interpretive communities within which you developed it) over my interpretation of Scripture (which I also have asked the Holy Spirit to guide and protect, and which was also developed in a particular interpretive community)?

    In the peace of Christ,


    p.s. I agree that careful exegesis of the Scripture verses you cited is important, though I don’t agree that any of the verses you cited (or any other Scripture verses) teach sola scriptura. But even if one were to accept sola scriptura, I would ask why you seem to think that your interpretation of Scripture has any authority over me as a fellow believer. Once we get that straightened out, we’ll be in a much better position to compare interpretations, and we’ll have a clear sense of how we might respond to any remaining differences after such a comparison takes place.

    • Ian Shaw

      “I claim that none of my beliefs as a Catholic contradict the meaning of Scripture *when interpreted correctly.*”

      That the same reasoning Mormons use when asked about the authority of the Bible. “It’s correct when interpreted correctly”.

      My statement of “thus sayeth the pope” is a reference to statments made by pope’s throughout the RCC history that are then made just as authoritative as scripture

      Many teachings/doctrine of the RCC were man made legalisms.For example the Catholic teachings on prayers for the dead originated around 300 A.D., the veneration of angels and dead saints (375 A.D.), the exaltation of Mary and the use of the term “Mother of God” (431 A.D.), the doctrine of purgatory, instituted by Gregory I (593 A.D.), the title of “Pope” (first given to Boniface III in 607 A.D.), holy water blessed by a priest (850 A.D.), canonization of dead saints (instituted by Pope John XV in 995 A.D.), the rosary used in prayer (1090 A.D.), the sale of indulgences (1190 A.D.), transubstantiation (first proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in 1215 A.D.), Auricular (private) confession of sins to a priest (instituted by Pope Innocent III in Lateran Council in 1215 A.D.), the doctrine of seven sacraments (1439 A.D.), the Hail Mary (1508 A.D.), tradition declared to be of equal authority with the Bible (Council of Trent 1545 A.D.), the Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent (1546 A.D.), Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854 A.D.), infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals (proclaimed by the Vatican Council in 1870 A.D.). There are others, but this is a short list of man made teachings that are legalistic in nature and when carefully comparing these teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with the Bible it becomes clear that many/numerous of these man made practices contradict the without-error truths contained in the Word of God.

      Let alone the teaching that the RCC is the “one true church”. Sounds a bit blasphemous, no?

      • Daniel Stevens

        Hi Ian,

        Thanks for your response!

        Regarding the “thus sayeth,” I don’t think you answered my question regarding if the things that *you* sayeth have any authority over any Christian beside for yourself (and in this context, over me). If your Biblical interpretations do carry authority, how do you not become a self-proclaimed pope? If they do not, why should I give your ideas more than a moment’s consideration?

        (Potential answers might include that they carry the authority of right reasoning, but since you haven’t actually provided any arguments for your interpretations, I’m only left with assertions. Fine, but am I free to take them or leave them?)

        Regarding Catholic teachings, you are repeating claims that are made in any number of the books that populate my bookshelf of anti-Catholic books. I’ve read Boettner’s Roman Catholicism and many other similar books on the church, so I’m not unaware of the claim that the Catholic Church supposedly invented various teachings and practices after the death of the last apostle (if we may draw the line there).

        Your list makes me think that you, too, have read many of these same books. Are you aware, however, of the Catholic response that has been made to the meta-objection: that the Catholic Church has introduced or invented doctrines? If you would be kind enough to read some of these books, I think you will learn why, to Catholic ears, this list is non-persuasive. Rather than respond to each point, I would simply say that:
        1. Historical evidence suggests that some of the claims are factually incorrect
        2. Doctrines are typically defined when they are first attacked, not when they are first taught. (Do you deny the Trinity because it took three centuries to be first defined? Was the Trinity also invented by the Catholic Church?)
        3. Every uniquely Protestant doctrine and practice was *invented* around or after the fifteenth century would then, if you are going to be consistent, become a stone that you could throw against your own Christian tradition.

        But, I think with some more reading (starting I would suggest with Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine) that we can develop a more nuanced historical understanding of how, why, and when Christian doctrines have been defined and developed through the long two thousand years of Christian history (which, as I may remind you, is also your history as a Christian).

        In the peace of Christ,


    • Ian Shaw

      Daniel, correct me if I am wrong, but based on the history and time frames of the teachings I listed, it would appear that none of the major traditions or doctrines of the Catholic Church were taught, defended, practiced, or embraced by the apostolic church.

      • Daniel Stevens

        Hi Ian,

        This list is only convincing if its unspoken premise is correct: that none of these doctrines/practices can be found in the Christian community before the date listed next to the item.

        You are right that it would *appear* (from the list, as formulated) that none…were found in the apostolic church. But appearances can be deceiving.

        I’d recommend reading Karl Keating’s book Catholicism and Fundamentalism to get a fuller response to the argument that the Catholic church is in the business of inventing doctrines.

        In Christ,


  • Daniel Stevens

    And by the way, I do want to respect that this is a combox for discussing the video at the top of the page. So, perhaps we could also bring the discussion back to what we each thought about the positions taken by the speakers. I, for one, found it interesting that there was no clear answer to what “the future of Protestantism” should or might look like. The speakers seemed caught between a rock and a hard place: between achieving real, visible, institutional unity on the one hand and doctrinal compromise and relativization on the other. As a Catholic, I would suggest that the only solution to this dilemma is a principle of unity that is able to serve as the “gold standard.” We humans, left to our own devices, can’t do it, which is why we believe that the Holy Spirit has gifted the Church with divinely protecting those teachers who have been chosen to speak in God’s name. Catholics and (most) Protestants (institutionally, that is) believe that God was able to protect the writers of Scripture so that what they wrote was God-breathed and inerrant. Whether they realize it or not, your average Protestant implicitly trusts that God protected the Catholic bishops who assembled the New Testament Canon. Why does it seem beyond the Protestant imagination that God is either incapable or would not choose to protect Christian teachers from interpreting that inerrant written Word correctly? Or, to put it more simply, what good are inerrant Scriptures without an infallible interpreter? And to tie these questions back to the discussion in the video, how in the world is global Protestantism going to achieve anything more than a modicum of institutional unity if these three brilliant men can’t even seem to take a first real, and sure-footed step forward?

    In the peace of Christ,

  • Ken Temple

    Daniel wrote:
    you presume to have the authority to interpret Scripture in a way that would force me to change my beliefs as a Christian.

    I don’t make any claims to force anyone to do anything. For you to change is up to the Holy Spirit to change your heart.

    I claim that none of my beliefs as a Catholic contradict the meaning of Scripture *when interpreted correctly.* Put more simply, I offer a hearty “Amen!” to every verse of the Bible.

    You are free to believe that. I am also free to believe that your Roman Catholic interpetations are wrong – Perpetual Virginity of Mary, IC of Mary, BA of Mary, Papal infallibility, Transubstantion, indulgences, penance, purgatory, denial of justification by faith alone, ex opere operato priestly powers, etc.

    So, do you claim to have interpretive authority over me as a fellow believer? If not, why not just let me go on my way?

    You are free to go on your way. I make no claims to be your pastor/bishop/elder, etc. I am only here to give the information and answer some of your objections and comments. You recommended the “Called to Communion” site and I showed you that I have already been reading them and interacting with them since 2009. I also spent several years debating with Dave Armstrong at his site, which I noticed you link to at your blog also.

  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your answer to those questions.

    Your answers lead me to ask another series of questions:

    1. Do you claim interpretive authority over yourself? If so, how does the idea of Christian obedience of faith fit into this system? If not, I presume you would claim to be following the Holy Spirit. But how do you know you are following the Holy Spirit, especially considering that hosts of other Bible-believing (and if we may presume, good-willed and sincere) Chrisitians also pray and ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance and draw different conclusions about the meaning of Scripture?

    2. Taking this interpretive paradigm (Holy Spirit guiding individual Christians) to a global, historical scale, how is your average Christian (NOT the type with the intellectual wherewithal or resources) down through the centuries going to have the slightest hope of being able to arrive at your particular understanding of the gospel (which, for the sake of argument, I will presume is the correct understanding of the gospel that Jesus desires every human person to know) and to know to avoid every other false teacher’s interpretation?

    3. And finally, how do you reconcile that your understanding of the gospel (and all that it entails) is quite different from the Christian message as preached by the fathers of the earliest centuries of Christianity. I have read hundreds of conversion stories to Catholicism, and one of the most common threads of connection is reference to the early fathers. I have also read dozens of conversions of Catholics who have left Catholicism for protestantism. None of them have made reference to the fathers. This seems to me to be a striking point of difference between the many conversion stories into and out of Catholicism that I have read.

    Thanks for the stimulating conversation!


  • Daniel Stevens


    You have been very kind to interact here as well, and sorry that I haven’t had the time to respond.

    This recent Called to Communion article addresses some of your concerns regarding justification:

    I largely agree with what you said. I also don’t strive to earn my way to heaven, as nothing we do apart from God’s grace can earn us anything other than death. I boast in nothing other than God’s grace, and I stand amazed that God would humble himself to work through me, a humble sinner, to accomplish HIS good works. In crowning HIS good works wrought through a life of faith, my merits are not mine but HIS. This point is made abundantly clear in the CCC.

    One technicality regarding justification, which we agree owes entirely to God’s grace working in us to bring both to faith and good works: I believe that both the grace-wrought faith and grace-wrought good works can justify us. But please note well, as the Council of Trent emphatically claims: NOTHING before faith can justify us. We don’t receive initial justification/sonship even by a good work but through faith. But, just like Abraham (exhibit A in the NT texts on justification) was shown to have been justified on three separate occasions (the latter two AFTER his initial justification) we believe that we can be justified by works and not by faith alone (a quote that finds support in James, as I’m sure you know). But these are not the “works of the law” that Paul discusses in Romans and Galatians (books that I have read many times), and not works to obligate God to save us (we cannot obligate God to save us, because we are condemned by our sins before justification), but rather are the good works of charity that HE works through us AFTER we have initially been justified by faith.

    So, I hope you will rejoice with me in seeing that, even if we still may disagree on some of the finer points, we may indeed be MUCH closer to one another on this point than you (or other readers) might imagine.

    May the peace of Christ be with you,


  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Bridget,

    No, because like St. Paul I believe I must persevere to the end to be saved. While I know that God will be faithful to his promises, I do not know that I will remain faithful to the end.

    This position is also pretty close, practically speaking, to the one taken by most proponents of OSAS with whom I have spoken. These folks routinely find that when a committed Christian (e.g. a pastor at a local church) falls away too far, that they must have never been saved to begin with. This pastor might have thought, for decades even, that he was saved, but now is judged by others to never have been saved….meaning that one can think they have assurance of salvation but not really have it because they later fall away.

    The Catholic position is far more coherent and Biblical, as I explain in these posts (the second of which contains almost 100 Bible verses that oppose Eternal Security):

    God bless you,


  • Bridget Platt

    Hey Daniel, I do hope that you’ll answer this last question of mine. I appreciate all the interaction you’ve had too. I could methodically go through each point that you’ve raised, as Ken has, but the problem is that in Catholicism, so many doctrinal truths from Scripture are there, but they are twisted in such a way as to actually negate the truth, yet are so cloaked in Biblical language as to deceive. For an example, you saying that in regards to justification, you agree that it is God’s grace working in you to bring both the faith and the works.

    If that were true, then you would have 100% assurance you are saved and on your way to heaven because if it is God’s doing, it will succeed. But can you honestly say that? I have not met a Catholic yet who could. Why? Because Catholics who die with a mortal sin on their soul are sent straight to hell with no hope and they can’t really be sure that that won’t happen to them. Heaven or hell (or purgatory) is based on their mortal & venial sins and their confession. And who really knows the fine line between venial and mortal sins.

    So even though you believe that God grants you the faith to believe that Jesus Christ suffered and died on a cross so your sins could be forgiven, it is highly possible that you could commit some future sin that could send you to hell. Or less serious, you could commit venial sins that would send you to purgatory where you would have to suffer for the very sins that Christ suffered and died to forgive. In a court of law, that would be called double jeopardy.

    My mom stayed friends with a couple of Catholic nuns even years after she left the church and I remember her telling me once that she went to visit one of them and she was doing penance (which I trust you believe actually removes eternal punishment for sin – not temporal punishment though). And my mom said something like, “Why are you doing this? You know that Jesus paid for sin at the cross so that we wouldn’t have to?” and the nun said to her, “Well Jesus can’t do it all.”

    Daniel, if you are not trusting in Christ alone and what he accomplished at the cross as God’s one and only reason for allowing you to have fellowship with Him and enter heaven, then you are adding your good works to Christ’s and negating what he did. I fear for you if you are doing this because it is insulting to the living God to try to add our measly works to the finished work of Christ, basically saying that what Christ did wasn’t enough. Please consider what those of us in this thread are saying and think, read, (the Bible) and pray about this. I will pray for you, friend.

    “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we would become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Cor 5:21

  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Bridget,

    I answered your question, but the comment is still waiting in moderation. (Sorry about that!)

    My salvation is 100% God’s doing, and God humbly allows me to participate by growing in a life of faith working itself out in love. But as God’s grace is a free gift, it is a gift that can be rejected. History is full of people and beings who began in a state of friendship with God but rejected that gift. Lucifer himself was one of the highest angels, but fell away. Adam and Eve enjoyed peace with God through the first covenant, but fell away through sin, bringing spiritual death to themselves and to all their offspring (including you and me). God loves each of us so much that he gives us the free will to be able to love him (or reject him) in return. St. Paul warns us time and again that we, like the nation of Israel, may be cut off from the vine if we do not bear good fruit…implying that we had first been part of the vine (saved). Since no born-again Christian knows if he or she will persevere to the end in their walk with the Lord, no Christian has an absolute assurance of salvation. But each of us has a firm moral assurance of salvation, rooted in Christ’s Divine Mercy, His love for us, and the promise that he has, is, and will forgive our sins. I place my trust in his mercy, knowing that I too could be cut off should I turn against God and embrace a life of sin.

    Thank you for your prayers, Bridget. Like I said in a previous comment, I 100% agree with you that I can add nothing to my salvation apart from God’s grace working through me. Even the council of Trent taught this. I will pray that you take it upon yourself to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches, which is quite different from what you think she teaches.

    Bridget, it is clear to me that you don’t understand Catholic teaching very well. As dear as I’m sure your mom was, she (nor the nuns whom you are quoting second or third hand) are the official mouthpiece of the Church’s teaching. If there is a line or section from the CCC that you would like to discuss, please feel free to say so. But I’m not in a position to critique the statements when I don’t know the nuns, the context, and even whether that is what the nuns themselves said.

    In the peace of Christ,

  • Bridget Platt

    Hi Danny,
    I’m going to avoid going into a back and forth over whether one can lose their salvation (which I don’t think is possible) because I realize this is a common misunderstanding even in the evangelical church. Yet classic Arminianism is nothing like Catholicism. I have studied the Catholic Catechism, but not to the degree that Ken has, and since his careful, methodical analysis of the many heresies didn’t seem to concern you at all, I feel my attempt would be a waste of time and energy.

    I do think, however, that there is something to be said for years of experience in talking personally to Catholics. And the sad reality is that, almost without exception, when asked the question of how one receives salvation, the answers speak of keeping the commandments, the sacraments, being sorry for sin, and doing good works. The message of the cross and what Jesus accomplished is completely lost in works-based answers.My experience may not be a scientific study on Catholic theology, but it speaks volumes of what Catholics are really trusting in.

  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Bridget,

    That’s fine: I certainly don’t mind tabling the doctrine of Eternal Security. I do hope you take some time to look over those 97 verses I point out in that one blog post. I appreciate your concern for heresy, but I hope you are equally concerned about the possibility that you are have staked your faith upon a doctrine that is itself not in harmony with Scripture. I have alluded to multiple scripture verses in my responses that suggest that a saved Christian can be cut off (by God, even!) and thrown into the fire. I hope you understand that if I’m not given a reason to deny what seems to me to be the clear teaching of these verses, that I’m going to remain faithful to those scriptures. (In case you missed it, my earlier comment recently came out of moderation.)

    Again, I can’t speak for what Catholics with whom you have spoken have told you. Sadly, we are living at the tail end of a 50 year period in the Catholic Church that experienced a virtual breakdown in good catechesis. Trust me: I’ve spoken to many, many Catholics as well, and 95% of them don’t know how to systematically present that Catholic faith, especially to Protestants who harbor all sorts of fears about a works-based system.

    At the same time, I am really concerned that because of your (correct) concern for people who think they can work their way to heaven (and I, for one, would be the first to join you in correcting this mentality), that you are failing to distinguish between (1) works done apart from God’s grace to try to earn heaven or obligate God to give it to us and (2) works done in response to God’s grace that make us His and allow us to grow as His children and to receive His sanctifying grace.

    I believe that the Bible is clear: we receive salvation through faith AND baptism. 1 Peter 3:21 clearly states that “baptism…now saves us.” Peter, in the first sermon, says “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.” Paul teaches in Romans 6 that “as many of you who were baptized have been baptized into His death” and raised with him. And Jesus, in John 3:3-5 (the entire context of which in John 1-4 is baptism) states that we must be born again of WATER AND SPIRIT to enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Whether or not you agree with my interpretation of these verses as referring to baptism, I would at least have you consider:
    (1) Do you see how Catholics in good faith could read the Bible and conclude what it literally (word for word) teaches: that “Baptism saves us”?
    (2) Can you stop for a second a consider that baptism is not OUR work but actually a work that JESUS does? I can’t agree with you more: our works do not save us. But JESUS’S WORKS DO SAVE US. And baptism is the New Covenant circumcision that Jesus performs on our soul, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like Jesus cured a man’s blindness using spit and mud (obviously combined with his divine power and Word), he cures our spiritual blindness using the “washing of water in the Word.” Baptism isn’t only water. It is water and spirit, two things that we see joined throughout the Bible (at the first Creation, the flood, the Exodus, Ezekial’s prophecy, John 1, John 3, and finally at the cross, where Jesus gave up his spirit and water and blood, like the New Eve, the Church, came flowing from his side).
    (3) Historically, the early Christians without argument and without exception taught that baptism is the Sacrament of our rebirth, and they taught this on the basis of having received the teaching from the apostles and their immediate successors.

    I think if you could make just one slight adjustment to your perspective and see the Sacraments as JESUS’s works in our lives–and to see our meritorious good works as JESUS’s working through us, so that he gets all the glory–this would solve a lot of problems about how you understand Catholic teaching. And my friend, this is all there for you to see in the CCC. So please, let’s refer to official teaching and not what those less equipped to explain their faith (especially to a passionate adversary such as yourself) have to say.

    And about Ken’s list, he didn’t make an argument about why any of those doctrines are heretical, and I’m not going deny my faith because some guy on the internet says that a teaching was formally defined after the the death of the last apostle. As I mentioned, the Trinity wasn’t defined for centuries after the death of the last apostle. Does this mean we should deny the Trinity?

    If there is a doctrine on Ken’s list you would like to discuss, please email me ( I’m sure Denny would appreciate it if we keep our discussion closely tied to the topic of this post.

    In the peace of Christ,

    • Ian Shaw


      Quick question. You stated that the RCC position on salvation is thru both faith and baptism. And the NT tells us that when the Gospel was shared, those that repented were then shortly thereafter, baptized. How then can you have infant baptism?

      If A+B=C, B cannot equal C. If repenting (faith as you mentioned) and being baptized gives you salvation, how can an infant truly repent (have faith) of sins they have commited, let along the fact of being born into sin? If you need A and B for C, why bother doing B, knowing that it will be years before you can have A? At best, infant baptism is an incomplete process, which will not grant salvation to that infant, nor keep the child from hell (God forbid) if something happens to the child prior to being able to genuinely repent).

      Just curious as to how that holds up. Granted, I do not believe baptism is part of the salvation process, but part of the sanctification process as we are baptized out of obedience to God and as a public profession of our death to ourselves and new life in Christ.

  • Bridget Platt

    Btw Danny, before I head off to work, just wanted to say I hope you’ll click on my name and read my blog post, “My Mom” that I wrote, ironically, a couple days before this thread. I realize it’s not a systematic refutation of the doctrines of Catholicism, but I hope you’ll one day find the assurance my mom had when she lay dying 8 yrs ago. There was no wondering if she had remained faithful enough to God. There was no wondering if there may have been some unconfessed mortal sin on her soul that would send her to hell or if she had unconfessed venial sins that would send her to purgatory so suffer. Unlike her many years as a practicing Catholic, she has perfect rest and peace in the finished work of Christ, her hope and security was fully set on Him and she eagerly awaited heaven to be with Him. I pray you’ll find that same rest and peace she had.

    • Daniel Stevens

      Hi Bridget,

      Thanks for referring me to your blog. I actually read that post a day or two ago! Your mom seems like a sweet later, though not knowing her, I obviously can’t comment or judge the reasons she might have offered for leaving the Catholic Church.

      I would recommend that you listen to this talk on ecumenism by Peter Kreeft (a convert to Catholicism from the Presbyterian Church):

      He makes a good point that I largely agree with: that if a Catholic is not receiving what they need spiritually from a Catholic parish (and I’ve been in my fair share of spiritually dead Catholic parishes), then that Catholic will rightly be drawn to a place that is spiritually alive. As Kreeft puts it, “our spirits abhor a vacuum.” But we have to be careful in over generalizing: though some Catholic parishes may be spiritual vacuums, other Catholic parishes are so alive that I bet you’ve never seen anything like it. My former parish in Ann Arbor, MI (Christ the King Catholic Church) was one of those on fire parishes. (This Easter vigil, I heard through the grape vine that well over 200 adult converts joined that parish alone.) Many amazing stories have come from that parish, like the time a Methodist pastor driving by saw flames leaping from the building and rushed in to find the priest consecrating the Eucharist during the Mass. A similar event occurred at my childhood church in Lakeland, FL, soon after Eucharistic adoration was instituted. Two atheists were walking by the church and saw an amazing bright light pouring from the chapel. They walked in to see from what the light poured and met my dear friend (and a profound spiritual influence in my own life), who was able to explain to them the reality of Christ’s presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. So, let us not make the logical error of extending the reality of some parishes to them all. (And let us not forget that the blame for being spiritually dead falls on the members; Jesus himself is still there present in the Eucharist, ready to share with us infinite grace and love, if only we are willing to open our hearts to Him and receive His love.)

      Kreeft makes another great point, more on the topic of the video at the top of this page: Evangelicals will only begin to become Catholic when they see that Catholics are more Evangelical than they are. The Catholic Church as a whole still has a way to go, but I think the tide is definitely turning. And though the ship has only begun to turn, I feel like we are already receiving a wave of high-profile converts. And you know what another common thread of their stories is (aside from seeing how Catholic the earliest Christians were)? That they never knew how many lies and misconceptions they had been taught about the Catholic faith.

      It obviously pains my heart to see you, Ken, and others laboring under many misconceptions about the Catholic Church, but I’m also thankful that you are willing to continue engaging in dialogue.

      Until I have time for more, God bless you,


  • Ken Temple

    Daniel – sorry I have not had time to devote to your questions, until now.

    Daniel Stevens wrote:
    1. Do you claim interpretive authority over yourself?

    It depends on what you mean by that. I am responsible to interpret the Bible properly, but also I am responsible to submit to God, the Holy Spirit, because He speaks through Scripture. I also have a local church and submit to it and the elders/pastors. The local church is God’s institution on earth. But the line of your questioning is again about “how do you know for sure?” – you are using epistemology to try and cause doubt. Your questions have an underlying premise – they are basically, “how do you know that you know?”

    There is an aspect of this that we all individually have to use our minds and hearts in wrestling with the meaning of texts and interpretations and historical development of theology. I think it is reasonable, as the Scripture says “let each one be convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:5 You had to use your mind in order to make your decision to become Roman Catholic. Each one is responsible before the Lord. How do you know your mind made the right decision to submit to the Pope and RCC dogmas such as Mary’s sinlessness, immaculate conception, and bodily assumption into heaven? How do you really know that when the priest says in Latin over the bread and wine, “this is My body” and “this is the cup of the New Covenant in My blood” that it actually ontologically changes into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why don’t they allow you to drink the blood? How do you know Joseph and Mary didn’t have a normal marriage after Jesus was born? Matthew 1:18 and 1:25 are clear, Mary was a virgin until after Jesus was born. (Greek: “heos h-ou” ‘??? ‘?? ) that Jesus had brothers and sisters is clear from Matthew 12:46-47 and 13:55 and Mark 3 and John 6. It is sophistry to explain that away as Jerome did, as “Jesus’ cousins” or as Joseph’s children by a previous marriage and that his first wife died. Which one is it? How do you know for sure?

    If so, how does the idea of Christian obedience of faith fit into this system?

    “the obedience of faith” is in Scripture – Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26; 15:18; Acts 6:7. It refers to two things – 1. Obeying the command to believe and the obedience that comes from and is based on faith first. The Bible also commands faith – “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31) and “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15) “from faith to faith” in Romans 1:17 seems to indicate that the Christian life begins with faith and ends with faith, but we are to follow the Lord in obedience and submission – “take up your cross daily and follow Me” – Luke 9:23. That obedience comes from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

  • Ken Temple

    I have read hundreds of conversion stories to Catholicism, and one of the most common threads of connection is reference to the early fathers.

    Yes. I know all about that. One of my best friends did that, in 1996 – Rod Bennett; and he wrote a book on four of the early church fathers. Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words, Ignatius Press. I also debated with him for 8 years (1996-2004) (lunches, five hour meetings, emails, phone calls, discussions) and have written articles on his book and Roman Catholic doctrines and dogmas over at a blog I am a part of, called “Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics”. I wrote a review of Rod’s book where he cuts the quotes from the fathers precisely at the points where it would give more balance to a more Protestant understanding of the early church father. The early church was the early church; they were not Roman Catholic nor Protestant. You can read my review of his book at Amazon – I gave it 2 stars, and at the Beggar’s All blog. It has a lot of good stuff in it, but because of it’s Roman Catholic bias and real purpose to undermine Sola Scriptura and Evangelical faith, I gave it 2 stars. Dave Armstrong recently critiqued my review, and I have answered a lot of Dave’s points in the comboxes at his website. Lord willing, I hope to put it all together into a book dealing with church history, historical theology, Roman Catholicism, and the Islamic invasions that conquered many areas of the eastern churches. (Middle East and N. Africa)

  • Ken Temple

    But how do you know you are following the Holy Spirit, . . . ?

    There it is again, that Roman Catholic apologetic tactic of “how do you know for sure?”
    You are right that many sincere Christians who sincerely believe that they are following the Holy Spirit, get different interpetations and conclusions about some things. God is in control. I cannot figure all that out. Psalm 131 – “I don’t try and figure out things that are too high and beyond my mind.” (things too wonderful for me) I don’t see any profit from your radical skepticism.

  • Ken Temple

    I have also read dozens of conversions of Catholics who have left Catholicism for protestantism. None of them have made reference to the fathers.

    True; they read the Scritpures / heard the gospel and got saved through the Bible! Roman Catholicism did not explain the Bible to them, and they have historically tended to avoid deep Bible study or exposition. Most priests tend to give ethical exhortations “be good” type homilies and perform the rituals of the mass. Many Roman Catholics were starving for the word. There has been some push in recent years for RC churches to get more back to Bible study; and explain things to people. This is a response to loosing so mary people in recent years to Evangelical faith.

    This seems to me to be a striking point of difference between the many conversion stories into and out of Catholicism that I have read.

    I have read enough of the early church fathers to see the good and reject those things that don’t line up with canonical Scripture. One can see that at the beginning of the second century, at the close of the canon and the first century, that (all NT books were written by 96 AD; and most were written before 70 AD) there are evidences of following Scripture (Clement of Rome has a clear statement consistent with justification by faith alone, and treats elders and overseers as the same office, but later Ignatius (110 AD) exalts one presbyter out of the college of elders and creates the “mono-episcopacy”. Infant baptism was rightly questioned by Tertullian (about 180-220 AD), and it was not the norm until late in the fourth and early century. baptismal regeneration was a wrong interpretation of John 3:5, the Latin “do penance” rather than the Greek repent, lead to – centuries later – all the problems of working and earning salvation, priests (no such thing as a NT church office of priests – all Christians are priests – 1 Peter 2:4-10; Rev. 1:6; 5:10), penance later developed into treasury of merit, indulgences, purgatory, praying to dead saints, visiting graves, rubbing and kissing relics, exalting and praying to Mary, icons and statues, etc. . They were not there at the very beginning.

  • Ken Temple

    ” . . . global, historical scale, how is your average Christian . . . [going to get the ]correct understanding of the gospel . . . ? “, etc.

    That’s one reason why Jesus commanded the church to evangelize, witness, make disciples and teach. We don’t have to figure all that out in your question. People can be saved by a minimum understanding of God and His holiness and the details of the gospel – Christ, the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection, the command to repent and believe, etc. We are justified by faith alone, but true faith does not stay alone (it results in change, fruit, good works, deeper levels of holiness and growth, deeper levels of repentance); but we are not justified by understanding intellectually the doctrine of justification by faith alone. God is working among all nations and drawing His elect to Himself, through evangelism, missions, preaching; teaching. (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 2 Timothy 2:10; 2 Peter 3:8-15)

  • Daniel Stevens

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for taking the time to write out your thoughts. I’ll have to beg your patience for a day or two, as my own schedule is pretty busy (my students just submitted an assignment that always takes me a good 8-10 hours to grade).

    I’ll be in touch ASAP.

    Until then, may the peace of our risen Lord be with you!


  • Ken Temple

    I don’t know if Denny wants us to go on and on, but if you click on my name, at one of my blogs I have a new post on the issues of Sola Scripture, the Canon, and Roman Catholicism – and a video of Dr. Micheal Kruger and James White. You can comment there, after you listen to (watch) the video. (smile)

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