Pope Benedict has apparently angered many Protestants by declaring yet again that the (Roman) Catholic Church is the only fully true church. Why does this not surprise me?My friend Mike first brought this to my attention the other day in a comment on an unrelated post. Thus, this I hope this post can be the place of fruitful Christian dialogue and conversation (though not that of the Emerging kind that doesn’t arrive at a knowledge of the truth).I severely disagree with “Benny”, the palpacy and the Roman Catholic magisterium: I do not agree with Rome that Protestant churches aren???t ???churches in the proper sense??? because they ???don???t enjoy apostolic succession in the sacramental Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church.??? This is where a cornerstone distinction between Protestants and Roman Catholics is found, one of the most significant reasons why we have split from the RCC: “a true church is constituted by a body of believers where there is the right preaching of the word of God and the right administration of the sacraments.”
We derive our doctrine of church and everything else from Scripture alone as the authoritative basis for theological reflection. We may gather from other sources of revelation for insight, but such is never authoritative. Whenever there is a disagreement between creeds or confessions that are a product of man’s minds, we always return to the standard of God’s Word to discern exegetically what is true, what has been true and what will always be true in the realm of Christian theology. Various pastors or theologians from the same denomination even may very well contradict each other on the rare occasion and give differing interpretations on certain texts, but while they do authoritatively exposit the Holy Bible for us through preaching, these men of faith are not the authority — but rather, the Scripture they claim to preach from is.Even with our experience of the Holy Spirit who still seems to speak to us today (my cessationalist friends, insert “Ahhh!”), God’s Spirit will never speak independent of or contrary to what God has already divinely inspired in His inerrant Word. Oral tradition mediated through the teaching magisterium of the Catholic Church is thus of no authority to us whatsoever. And thus, here lies the massive rift between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.See Carl Trueman’s commentary on this issue (Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary).My coworker asks, “Who’s right then? Who is really true then?! Cause you can’t both be right!” In accordance with the RCC’s standard of authority, they are right and we are wrong. According to our standard of authority which is above and beyond the magesterium of the RCC, namely, God’s Word the Holy Bible, we are right. In the sense of doctrine, the RCC will always fall short of God’s glory as they put themselves under the foot of radically corrupt and totally depraved people.But then again, they probably don’t believe in the doctrine of original sin as proclaimed in Scripture, so thus this post is coming full circle and to a close.