Evangelical Confusion About Roman Catholicism: Part 2 -- By: Mike Stallard

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 13:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: Evangelical Confusion About Roman Catholicism: Part 2
Author: Mike Stallard

Evangelical Confusion About Roman Catholicism: Part 2

Mike Stallard

Seminary Dean

Professor of Systematic Theology

Baptist Bible Seminary

Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania

Several factors make a discussion of the differences between Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism a necessity at the present time. Confusion is caused when leading scholars such as Francis Beckwith, the President of the Evangelical Theological Society, decide to become Roman Catholic while at the same time claiming to remain evangelical.1 In addition, the overwhelming notion of tolerance discriminates against the declaration of real differences in our postmodern religious climate. Popular level perceptions that there really is not much difference also reinforce the need to educate the churches about significant doctrinal details where these two traditions collide. A statement of where the two traditions agree would be insufficient if teaching the whole counsel of God is a desired goal, as Scripture suggests using the words of the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:27). Most of all, differences that affect eternity—such as how one receives eternal life from God and the inability to take communion within the Catholic Church without denying the biblical gospel—mean that the divergence cannot be sidestepped easily.

A previous article in this series dealt with the differences between the two camps over one’s view of history, ultimate authority, the Bible, and justification (including exploration of baptism and communion).2 This current article will flesh out

remaining differences in other areas, some of which reflect serious divergence that affects the ability of the two camps to cooperate honestly and fully in any meaningful way.3

Apostolic Succession

One of the most heated discussions, especially since the Reformation, is how the Church receives authority from God. Ultimate authority for Catholicism under God is vested in the Church. For evangelicalism, final authority under God is grounded in the Bible. Here we want to explore the related idea of apostolic succession as proclaimed in Catholic teaching.

One way of understanding the Catholic view of apostolic succession is to review the following statement from a modern catechism: “The whole liturgical ensemble … has the Catholic faith for its content, which the Church believes has been entrusted for preservation and interpretation to the succ...

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