Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Roman Catholic Catechism 1

The notorious Monday reading group decided to read through selections of the Roman Catholic Catechism this semester with a very interesting question--just how different is Roman Catholic belief than Wesleyan?  The hunch is that Wesleyans and Catholics agree on far more than most Wesleyans think.  I'm not sure what will come of it, but it's possible that Keith Drury will take the collective take-away and make it public in some form. I don't want to distract from that, but I may post some of my own thoughts as we go through, trying not to distract from any final product that may come out of it.

Yesterday we read Section One of Part One (see the link above).  Out of 47 pages, I only saw five disagreements, and I don't even consider most of these very significant (although they might be for a Roman Catholic, admittedly):
  • The Wesleyan tradition doesn't worry about apostolic succession (77), although Wesley would no doubt have preferred it. 
  • The Wesleyan tradition would not consider Scripture and Tradition of "equal" value (82), understanding that for RCatholics, Scripture is part of Tradition.
  • We wouldn't ascribe any special privilege to the Pope or bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in interpreting the Bible (100), although they are free to work out their salvation with the rest of us ;-)  To me, this is the most significant difference.
  • Wesleyans don't consider the Apocrypha to be part of Scripture. It's not that we consider them evil.  We just don't consider them Scripture.
  • Wesleyans don't have anything against Mary, but don't generally think she remained a virgin after Jesus was born and don't have a dog in the race that sees her as the most perfect embodiment of the obedience of faith (148).
The agreements and "likes" were much greater--basically everything else.  Here are some of the agreements that especially stood out to me:
  • I liked the fact that the purpose of doctrine was said to be love, not head knowledge for its own sake (25).
  • I like the sense that Christ is the supreme Revelation of God and that the Revelation has been unpacking ever sense (65-66).  Protestants and Catholics tend to disagree on the unpacking of that final Revelation.  Protestants tend to see Scripture as a somewhat definitive unpacking of that Revelation. Catholics see big T "Tradition" as the unpacking of Christ, with Scripture as the fountainhead and beginning of that Tradition (see above).
  • I like the openness to private revelation, with the distinction that it is not part of the "deposit of faith."
  • What do you think about this??? "All that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures" (107).
  • I enjoyed the four fold sense of Scripture, although it was made clear that spiritual senses don't contradict the literal (115-117). Of course many evangelicals insist on the literal or plain sense only, but the holiness tradition has generally been more open to "spiritual" readings, like charismatics and unlike mainstream Protestants. 
  • Faith is a "free assent" (150, 160), so Wesleyans are closer to Catholics on this one than they are to Calvinists.
  • Faith is both a gift and a human act--human will and divine will cooperate (155). Again, Wesleyans are closer to Catholics on this one than to Calvinists.
  • Faith is necessary for justification (161).
  • I love this: "Faith is a personal act... But faith is not an isolated act" (166).


Paul Tillman said...

Since the historical "bridge" between the Roman Catholic Church and we Wesleyan/Methodists is the Anglican Church, it might also be interesting to also compare ourselves with them. As examples, with regard to women, we are more like the Anglicans in belief, with regard to homosexuality we are more like the Roman Catholics in belief.

Rob Henderson said...

My mother's greatest disappointment was that I was not baptized in the Catholic Church like her, she once told me as I was preparing for ministry in The Wesleyan Church. However, she passed away as a Wesleyan.

I cut my early spiritual teeth by not only going to a Holiness church as a child but the Catholic Church VBS. There I received some little booklet of which sparked my little mind about God and spiritual things.

I am grateful for your posts and especially these that give proper due to other believers and followers of Christ.

John C. Gardner said...

The vast majority of world wide Anglicans are traditional Christians in their moral beliefs. The Roman Church has an interesting version of tradition. John Wesley himself was an admirer of the Patristic Fathers from the East(as am I).