The Approach Of New Shape Roman Catholicism To Scriptural Inerrancy: A Case Study For Evangelicals -- By: John Warwick Montgomery

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:4 (Fall 1967)
Article: The Approach Of New Shape Roman Catholicism To Scriptural Inerrancy: A Case Study For Evangelicals
Author: John Warwick Montgomery


The Approach Of New Shape Roman Catholicism To Scriptural Inerrancy: A Case Study For Evangelicals*

John Warwick Montgomery

[*An invitational presentation at the Seminar on the Authority of Scripture (Harold John Ockenga, chairman), held at Cordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts, June 20–29, 1966.]

At the beginning of each meeting of the Second Vatican Council, participants and observers witnessed an ancient oriental custom, newly reintroduced at the Council: the enthroning of the Book of the Gospels. This rite well symbolized the powerful biblical revival in twentieth-century Roman Catholicism and reminded Protestants that Holy Scripture is not the private domain of the heirs of the Reformation. Indeed, Vatican II displayed at its very heart the concern for biblical understanding characteristic of Roman Catholic scholarship since the founding of the Ecole Biblique at Jerusalem by Pere Marie-Joseph Lagrange; 1 as Jesuit R. A. F. MacKenzie has recently said of the Council’s work: “Important as the Constitution on the Church is generally agreed to be, it is equaled in stature by the Constitution on Divine Revelation; the two are the most fundamental documents produced by the Second Vatican Council.” 2 This laudable stress on the doctrine of revelation should goad contemporary Protestantism—too often preoccupied with achieving vaster ecclesiastical unions and nontheological goals—to re-examine its own biblical foundations. More particularly, the current Roman Catholic emphasis on revelation should receive the closest attention from evangelical Protestants who are endeavoring to clarify their historic position on the absolute authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Holy Writ. It is the judgment of the present essayist that recent developments in Roman Catholic thinking on the revelational issue can provide an invaluable case study for evangelicals facing similar problems. No apology is offered for the negative thrust of later sections of the paper: I praise the Lord of the Church for all genuine enthronements of His scriptural Word, but I must also seek to distinguish what is truly honoring to His Word from what is not. And a valuable lesson can have a negative moral; as a very wise man once said, “Those who refuse to learn by history are forced to repeat its mistakes.”

The Classical Roman Catholic Position on Biblical Inerrancy

Rome’s position on the inspiration of Holy Scripture has, through the generations preceding our own, seemed exceedingly clear-cut and unambiguous both to her friends and to her enemies. The Council of

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