Looking Across the River: Presbyterians Critique the Claims of Rome

The defection to Roman Catholicism of Presbyterian Church in America pastor Jason Stellman has Presbyterian blogs taking a closer look at the claims of Rome.

At Green Baggins, PCA Pastor Lane Keister asks:

what is the linchpin of Romanist claims? Surely, it is the Petrine succession argument for the Popes. Without an ironshod succession from Peter to Benedict XVI, there is no sacramental magisterial authority at all. It does no good at this point to claim that the apostolic succession can be legitimated without the Papal succession, since the Papal succession is what legitimates all the rest of the succession down to the ordination of priests. If the Papal claims are void, then so are the ordinations that come from a false Papacy.

As I write 631 comments follow his question.

Given the historical nature of the Romanist claims, it’s nice to have a historian in the house. In response to the Romanist church history D.G. Hart presents a Protestant view:

From a historical perspective, not to mention the way we understand ourselves, truths don’t simply fall out of the sky, pile up in neatly proportioned columns, steps, and arches, and remain intact for time immemorial.

…The church began among the apostles and disciples in Jerusalem and then spread to the center of the ancient church in Asia Minor and eventually to Europe. The Eastern Church remained relatively strong until the rise of Islam. The Western Church picked up the pieces of the Roman Empire and had fewer threats from Islam. Both of these churches, though different in culture and language, did not formally sever ties until the eleventh century. After 1054 Constantinople went into decline, Rome went the opposite way. The papal reforms of the eleventh century improved the authority of Rome. But even during the heyday of the papacy’s vigor — the high middle ages –Rome hardly controlled what was going on in the British Isles or France. Europe had no trains, not postal service, and little political consolidation. Trying to give coherence to Christianity was an impossible proposition until modernity gave us print, the nation-state, and effective transportation.

…The contention here, then, is that justification came late to debates in the Western Church. Protestants initiated those debates and made proposals. Rome rejected those proposals outright at least at Trent. But prior to Trent Rome had no official position on justification. Protestantism accordingly developed within Roman Catholicism, which developed from relations with churches in the East, which developed from the ministry of Jesus and the apostles in Jerusalem. To say that what we have in Roman Catholicism is what the early church had in the first three centuries is like saying that some angel of God left some gold plates containing the final revelation buried underground somewhere in upstate New York.

For those inclined to “blame” Stellman’s conversion on his Two Kingdom perspective, Hart has discovered a blog entry in which a Roman Catholic credits transformationalists John Frame and Tim Keller for helping him to appreciate images.

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