Roman Catholicism

Am I a Catholic now?

After my post on why I affirm infant baptism but not paedo communion, an old friend wrote:

So I am curious. ... are you Catholic now? If you are still Protestant, then you can't with authority say how communion should be done. Historically, certain Protestants disagree on this topic, thereby weakening their stance on it. Just saying. Would be interested in knowing what you think.

No, I am not Roman Catholic. I reject papal superiority, transubstantiation, purgatory, and other dogmas of late Western Christianity. I do identify, however, with broader Christian tradition such that I use the lowercase "c", as stated in the Apostles Creed: "I believe in a holy, catholic (universal) church." To be catholic in this sense is to affirm one essential church throughout all times and places, to whom belong the Spirit, the kingdom, and true faith.

As for speaking with authority, I realize Protestants are divided on many points (as are Rome's millions, though less obviously to outsiders). In no way do I endorse a “just me and my Bible” mentality. We need to stand on the work of Christians who came before us and take their theological efforts seriously. That is why I worship as a Confessionally Reformed Protestant and subscribe to the historic doctrinal summaries found in the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort. Each of these is about 500 years old, and builds on earlier creedal statements.

Does this mean I place faith in human tradition? No, not directly. To be Reformed means, among other things, that I regard Holy Scripture as the supreme authority over all faith and life. Doctrinal statements bear authority only insofar as they accurately reflect the teachings of Scripture. Likewise, I reject the claim that doctrinal questions cannot be resolved without a sole human arbiter (i.e., the Pope), as well as the patently wrong notion that tradition is infallible. Councils have erred, Popes have erred, but God preserves his life-giving Word in a way that is sufficiently clear on all essential matters (we call this "perspicuity"). Through due use of our created abilities, the Spirit enables believers to have reasonable certainty regarding core teachings of the faith.

To be Reformed means, among other things, that I regard Holy Scripture as the supreme authority over all faith and life.

Were this not the case, the Apostle Paul could not have instructed Titus to "muzzle the mouths" of those who are teaching false doctrines. Indeed, Paul does not tell Titus and Timothy to appeal to the tradition at Rome, which was not yet even a thing, but to the Scriptures themselves. Early Christian fathers had no inherent authority, but stood upon the foundation laid by the Apostles and prophets, namely the revelation given in the Word of God.

I will say this, I have more sympathy for thoughtful Roman Catholics than for shallow evangelicals. In both camps are those who take the word more or less seriously. In both camps are people trusting ultimately in their own merits, rather than in the sufficiency of Christ's imputed righteousness and the Holy Spirit's effectual grace. I am also persuaded that among both groups, Roman and evangelical, are people resting in the gospel by faith, believing God receives as righteous any sinner trusting his promise of mercy through Christ. In both camps are people in whom the Spirit is perfecting holiness for the age to come, despite their association with corrupt forms of worship and erring symbols of the faith.

PS: If you haven't read the Heidelberg Catechism, I highly recommend it.