Reformed not Roman

“Are you Catholic or Christian?” This is a question I have been asked many times, especially in my work in Mexico and among Hispanic people in Colorado and Texas.

Knowing what the inquirer means, I simply answer Christian. But in some ways, the truer and better answer is both. Deep down, we Presbyterian Christians consider ourselves to be Reformed catholics, not Roman Catholics, just as our forefathers of the Reformation did.

That is one reason why we recite the catholic and ecumenical creeds in worship. The Apostles’ creed (2nd century) states,

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints

The Nicene Creed (4th century) states,

And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We can recite these creeds by faith with a good conscience not only because we are Presbyterian and Reformed, but because we are orthodox Christians. As such, we are members of Christ’s Church along with all who confess one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians. 4:4-6)

With the help of God’s grace and truth, we are ever seeking to be reformed and reforming according to the word of God, so that we might be conformed to the image of Christ.

Now, in light of all that, I want to recommend the multi-part series on The Leadership of the Roman Catholic Church: Now vs Then posted on The Calvinist International. (See links below.)

The author does a fine job of making a case from biblical and historical sources that the Roman Catholic system and structure of church government is not rooted and grounded in Holy Scripture. This is not some deep-in-the-weeds theological snipe hunt. This is something that touches on daily life. It matters to us, our neighbors, and the world. Here’s why:

Quite simply, if Rome is wrong about how the Christian Church was founded and who governed it, then Roman Catholicism as such is not what it claims to be. Its other claims, especially its anathemas against dissenters, are thus shown to be unjust (and frankly divisive and sinful). And if Rome is not the only true church, then individual Christians owe no unique and unquestioning loyalty to its clergy and need not submit to its larger hierarchical claims. (Wedgeworth, Part 1)

The pastoral ramifications must not be ignored.

Read the whole series here. Note updated links:

Part 1: The Crisis of Rome and Its Claims of Ultimate Authority

Part 2: Church Origins and Officers in the New Testament 

Part 3: Bishop-Elders and Bishops in the Late First and Early Second Century (Didache, 1 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Hermas) 

Part 4: The Second Century Development of Bishops and Succession (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and various bishops’s lists compared)

Part 5: Third Century Bishops and the Need for Councils (Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, and Augustine’s reception of Cyprian)

Part 6: Counterarguments Against An Original Papacy


John Calvin’s Letter to Sadoleto is just as relevant now as it was then:

We show that the only haven of safety is in the mercy of God, as manifested in Christ, in whom every part of our salvation is complete. As all mankind are, in the sight of God, lost sinners, we hold that Christ is their only righteousness, since, by his obedience, he has wiped off our transgressions; by his sacrifice, appeased the divine anger; by his blood, washed away our sins; by his cross, borne our curse, and by his death, made satisfaction for us. We maintain that in this way man is reconciled in Christ to God the Father, by no merit of his own, by no value of works, but by gratuitous mercy. (A Reformation Debate)

Image: Holy Ghost Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, Texas (taken 08/31/18)