I refer to the article on BBC news, Vatican text angers Protestants.
It begins by saying, “Pope Benedict has approved a new text asserting that Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism are not true Churches in the full sense of the word.”
And further, concerning this document:
“Other Christian denominations, it argues, cannot be called Churches in the proper sense because they cannot trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.”
It is good for the Roman Catholic church to state their position openly, which they do from time to time. Despite all the overtures to other denominations, the real position of the Roman church is here.
It is my position that already by the Second Century the foundations for the apostacy that is the Roman Catholic church were laid by people like Ignatius and even Irenaeus.
It is these writers who, in seeking a trump card against the heretics of the day, especially gnostics, chose to appeal to an argument based on their own position as church leaders rather than an appeal to the Scriptures.
Now to me it is not very relevant whether you can trace a line of bishops back to St.Peter or one of the other 12. The Orthodox church, by the way, can do this, at least as much as the Catholics. They were both slightly divergent streams of the same error whose leaders ended up condemning each other in the 11th century. The fact that this Vatican document excludes the “Orthodox” even though they appeal to the same kind of reasoning about having a chain of relationships back to the apostles via bishops, just shows how its more about claiming pre-eminence than loving the truth.
I am prepared to state that a true church is one where people are led together by the Holy Spirit to gather in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit DOES NOT need a bishop to lay hands on someone to make this real.
In the book of Acts, many churches were founded even before apostles could get to those places. The important church at Antioch is a case in point. The apostles only came in later to strengthen the church, appoint leaders and put things in order.
Time and time again the Holy Spirit proves He can work in people’s lives without some bishop being involved. This website documents a lot of contemporary proof for that statement. But Ignatius says, “Do nothing without the bishop”. I am glad the Holy Spirit does not listen to the words of Ignatius.
These appeals to chains of bishops are fundamental to the claims of the Roman and Orthodox churches. But by whose authority do these arguments stand? These arguments appeal to an authority that comes ultimately from some second century church leaders and their followers. And lets remember that most of these leaders who wrote such things were practically strangers to the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the Bible. No, they were religious politicians, whose main concern was to keep control over the people of God. It is understandable, but it doesn’t make it right.
Paul made it clear that after his departure from the scene many in the church would depart from the true faith and draw disciples after themselves. He said these people would forbid to marry and command people to abstain from certain foods. See 1 Timothy 4:1-5.
Now Protestants are angry about the words of this Vatican text. Why should these Protestants be angry only now? These are learned men, no? They should know what the Roman Catholic church believes. There is a sense in which they are saying (and you can refer to the BBC article to see this), “We’ve been compromising with you for so long, and throwing out our Protestant convictions so much – is this all the thanks we get?”. To think that the Roman Catholic church is going to give up its pretensions to lordship over God’s people just because Protestants compromise their protestant convictions is really foolishness, anyway.
Let us face facts. The Roman Catholic church sets itself up as being the authority OVER Scripture and MAKES THE WORD OF GOD OF NO EFFECT by their traditions, handed down, just as the Pharisees did in the days of Christ (see Matthew 15, Mark 7). They forbid “priests” to marry (1 Timothy 4:2), they set up OTHER mediators between God and man apart from Christ, when THERE IS NO SUCH MEDIATOR according to 1 Timothy 2:5, they teach a system of salvation through sacraments rather than through faith in Jesus Christ and his perfect sacrifice, and they replace repentance with penance. And not one Roman Catholic keeps himself free from the so-called “mortal sins” to the day of his death, since they don’t even know, most of them, which days they MUST attend mass (apart from Sundays). Their own system condemns them, which is why it is so rare to find a Roman Catholic who has assurance of salvation and does not feel guilty before God. Its a system of legalism, ritual and tradition, and as such it cannot save. Only Christ can save. Their may be Roman Catholics who are saved, but only because of Jesus, not because of the confusing errors of their church.
Its good that Vatican leaders at least come out and say that only that which they rule over is a true church. Its time for many to evaluate if THESE PEOPLE themselves are not the liars and deceivers. Especially when they claim such things. God is above all this and thankfully, God does set people free from such errors. Blessed be the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.