After many years in the Reformed tradition, I have learned to appreciate history beyond the last one hundred years. History teaches that our dogmatism is easily overruled and once loved traditions can be easily refuted. With this in mind, I have come to admire the Roman Catholic Church, though my admiration has diminished in the last twelve months for various reasons. ((Among them are Pope Benedict’s radical return to ancient catholic dogma asserting that Rome is the only church; though I respect Benedict’s commitment to the ancient tradition, I hope and pray that Rome’s future is more ecumenical and less exclusive with Trinitarian Christian denominations)) Nevertheless, my initial appreciation for the Roman church stems from a love of our forefathers. From greater to lesser: Augustine and Aquinas. Augustinian theology has largely shaped my ideas of theology as sacramental, rather than simply abstract pieces of propositions. On the other hand, Aquinas has given the church a powerful apologetic (though deeply flawed in many ways in its Aristotelian foundation) contra the anti-ecclesiastical establishment of his time and in some small way, even today. Further, Aquinas taught us in the Summa that the”object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason.” Even Van Til would concur.
A second reason I have admired the Roman church is its consistency on the issue of life. On an ethical level, it has been largely committed to natural law, but Rome’s view of natural law has led them to defend life. Though I deny the use of natural law as an ethical guide, I still stand beside catholics who defend life no matter what their reason may be. ((Certainly, great progress from the days of the Inquisition)) Modern apologists for the Catholic Church are strong supporters, both privately and publicly, of the unborn. ((Think of Alan Keyes)) Of course, in many ways their natural law theory has also led to the denial of the death penalty. In this case, they are entirely incorrect, though in light of our modern political corruption, the application of the death penalty today would suit the poor more so than the O.J. Simpsons’ of these United States.
A third reason I have admired Rome in my last 6 years of this Reformed pilgrimage, is that Rome is still alive. Regardless of our critiques, Rome is still alive and well…I probably should say “not as well as it used to be.” It is alive and that is my point. While our evangelical church prides in her divisiveness, Rome prides in her unity (though we may disagree with her reasons). While our pitiful evangelical churches claim “me and my Bible,” Rome claims “Ecclesia and the Bible.” ((Though once again at this point we may disagree with the nature of ecclesiastical authority)) Remember, Rome is still creedal; evangelicalism generally still prefers to quibble over Bible translations and pre-lapsarian debates. As Michael Horton once mentioned, evangelicalism prefers to talk about their individual testimony than their history. Remember that Rome is still trinitarian; evangelicalism cares little about Trinitarian theology. ((See for instance Catholic Hans Kung’s excellent work: Christianity: essence, History, and future))
Certainly, some like myself do not even want to carry the label “evangelical” around anymore. But for very pragmatic reasons, it still may be useful. The evangelical world is still, unfortunately or fortunately, according to different perspectives, our tradition. This is why it is reasonable to remind our brethren that we have long strayed from our history and hence to remind them that Rome is not a lost cause; that there is hope for Rome; there is hope for reconciliation and that there is hope for evangelicals; hope to see Rome and acknowledge her good as I have mentioned, as well as properly seeing her bad, and once in while seeing her ugly side too.