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Christianity thus has an intrinsically dogmatic character, which is to say it remains confident in the truths on which it is founded. The Christian way is not based on pious feelings and good intentions. Inspired by the Spirit, faith is the enduring disposition of assent to and reliance upon God’s revealed Word. A Christian assents to truths made evident by God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, truths about God as Trinity, creation, redemption, and the consummation of all things at the end of history. These truths are reliably transmitted by human beings who, inspired by God, have also been shaped and influenced by their historical circumstances. They have been communicated, reformulated, and deepened in ways that invite ongoing discussion and debate about their full meaning and import. (See the ECT statement “Your Word Is Truth.”) This does not undermine the dogmatic character of faith. The Christian way uses reason to understand more fully divinely revealed truths, not in order to decide whether or not to believe them.
Even now, the Christian way bears witness to the fullness of life promised in Christ. Caring for the sick and the poor, friendship for the prisoner and the outcast, comforting the sorrowful and educating those who need instruction: These are works of mercy that embody the love of God in Christ. This active witness is crowned by ongoing prayer for the needs of fellow Christians, as well as for the world. The Christian overleaps the boundaries and limits imposed by a broken world. As Jesus teaches, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45).
It’s an illusion to imagine that that this papacy is detaching the Catholic faith from partisan politics, when its semi-official spokesmen harrumph that the true faith does not “build barrier-fences crowned with barbed wire.” Such language is not a sober statement of principle. It is a partisan intervention into the debate about immigration that is roiling politics throughout the West.
In addition to contradictions and self-deceptions, “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism” manifests an unfortunate authoritarianism. Father Spadaro and Figueroa create an atmosphere of condemnation, and they do so while insulating themselves from any responsibility for the truth of the matters they discuss.
What precisely is Pope Francis’ teaching on the role of religion in public life? Does the turn to a more “pastoral” approach mean bishops should now refrain from teaching about sexual morality? Is it now wrong to pronounce the marital bond indissoluble, or to regard certain acts as intrinsically disordered? Is one even permitted to ask the Pope these and other questions?
Reformers recognized that those earlier believers were not inspired, were not inerrant, and, in fact, quite often made errors in their judgments and beliefs, just as people do today. The only infallible rule of faith, they argued, is found in the pages of Holy Writ. The big differences between Catholic and Protestant versions of sola scriptura are that Catholicism believes an authority in the form of the papacy is necessary along with tradition. One of the big ironies about sola scriptura is that the same arguments against Protestantism are used against the Orthodoxy by Catholicism. So between Orthodoxy and Catholicism you have two churches claiming the authority of tradition, and yet their authorities conflict with each other; their traditions conflict with each other. And yet, they laugh at Protestants.
The problem is that human wisdom is fallible, and not a sufficient foundation for believing anything about God. It is not sufficient to assume that when the New Testament speaks of tradition, it means tradition in the sense of the Roman Catholic or Orthodoxy way of understanding tradition. God’s Word needed to be written down to govern His people through all generations. And so it’s not surprising that this written Scripture became the standard for testing.
This is why I can appreciate Bishop Barron’s approach to Catholicism and the Reformation. I too think its better for Protestants and Catholics to find common doctrine to build on rather than create animosity. I do appreciate that he unlike other Catholic thinkers does acknowledge the faults in the Church when dealing with the reformers and not being receptive to the criticisms. I do think however that he does still tend to dance around some of the fundamental issues for the cause of the separation between the churches. Those fundamental issues being: purgatory, the mass, transubstantiation, indulgences, the treasury of merit, penance, the rosary, prayers to Mary, holy water, the papacy, and on and on. What you will find is that biblical exegesis does not support these traditions only a supposed Apostolic Oral Tradition.
I do enjoy the more traditional and liturgical aspects of Catholicism. I studied Latin from an early age and on a stay in Rome I had the pleasure of attending a Benedictine vespers. Very awe inspiring and actually made me want to consider the Catholic faith. However I did not make the switch mainly due to my reservations in the differing theologies.