—THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED. Check out the input from Steven Greydanus.—
… at least, that’s the allegation made in a student editorial in SPU’s student newspaper The Falcon on the issue of division within the church. If the student’s report is accurate, well, I can only applaud.
I’ve been reading Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating, and Evangelicalism is Not Enough, by Thomas Howard (who has long been one of my favorite writers), and both of them go a long way to showing just how poorly researched, how outrageous, and how narrow-minded are most Protestant objections to the Catholic faith. And reading now about Mark Driscoll’s protests, audaciously and naively delivered from the pulpit, I see these shoddy objections being perpetuated… without any effort being made to find out if true Catholicism actually asserts these things, without any effort being made to ask a devout Catholic if these claims hold any water.
(I know I’m going to get some angry email now from anti-Catholics. I won’t be able to answer those messages until the complainants have bothered to read these manuscripts for themselves to see what I’m talking about. When authors like Keating and Howard have provided such researched and thoughtful answers, there’s no need for me to duplicate their work.)
So, three cheers for Amanda Lengyel on a much-needed editorial. And shame on Rev. Driscoll for perpetuating such falsehoods from the pulpit.
UPDATE: I’ve asked my colleague Steven D. Greydanus, himself a Catholic, to respond to the editorial. Here’s his reply:
It does sound like Driscoll’s sermon reflected an embarrassing degree of flat-out ignorance and error.
For example, Driscoll says that the Church teaches that we are saved by baptism, not by grace, whereas the student says the teaching is that we are saved by grace, not by baptism.
Neither is correct, or rather, both are half right and half wrong. The student is certainly right to emphasize that the Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by grace alone, solely through the merits of Jesus Christ. That is true.
However, it is also correct to say, as all Christians until the Reformation did say, that Jesus saves us through baptism, and thus that we are saved by baptism. Baptism saves us precisely by the action of Jesus Christ in the sacrament applying his own merits and grace to us, but still we are saved by baptism.
The student is on shaky ground in saying that baptism is “a sacrament, not a requirement.” It would be more accurate to say that baptism is BOTH a sacrament AND a requirement — not an absolutely exceptionless requirement (meaning that all the unbaptized are in hell, which is not true), but still a requirement, not an option.
Again, Driscoll says that in confession the priest, not God, forgives sins, whereas the student says that God, not the priest, forgives sins. But Jesus said to the apostles, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:23). The verb “forgive” is used twice, once predicated on the apostles (explicitly), and once predicated on God (implicitly).
Likewise, the Catholic teaching is that the sins forgiven by the priest are also forgiven by God, which is to say, God forgives our sins through the absolution of the priest. It’s both/and, not either/or.