It has been quite a while since I responded to one of James White’s articles, but this one caught my eye and I felt I could not let it pass:
Why “Roman Catholic” is Accurate, and Merely “Catholic” is Not
10/25/2009 – James White
Frank Beckwith recently wrote:
One of my pet peeves is the intentional overuse of “Rome,” “Roman,” “Romanist,” etc. by Protestant critics of Catholic theology. Here’s why: the Catholic Church is a collection of many churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome. It’s catechism–The Catechism of the Catholic Church–is that of all these churches that are in communion with one another and with the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI. The theology found in that text, therefore, is not Roman Catholic theology. It is Catholic theology. That’s the way the Church understands itself. Common courtesy suggests that those who are critical of that theology summon the respect to refer to it as such.
http://romereturn.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-its-catholic-church-and-not-roman.html (White did not provide the link)
Please note what was said: all these churches “in communion with” whom? “The Bishop of Rome.” Not the bishop of Constantinople, Naples, London, or Milwaukee. Rome. A local church that did not even have a monarchical episcopate until the middle of the second century. A single local church that has been, through a long process of political development elevated to the point of claiming infallibility for her teachings. A church that claims for herself any number of grossly unbiblical titles, privileges and powers. It is the Roman Church that makes these claims.
What happens when you drop the delimiter “Roman”? You are left with exactly what Rome claims for herself: universal sovereignty. The “catholic” church is not centered in Rome. Its theology and beliefs are not defined by Rome. And in fact, she can never defect from the gospel truth, no matter how hard Rome may press her to do so (and she has surely done so in the past). This is the very goal Rome has, the acknowledgement (sic) of her as universal sovereign, the Mother of all Churches, the Catholic Church. But the fact is, Rome is none of these things, and she is surely not truly “catholic.”
So may I suggest that “common courtesy” would restrain the Roman Pontiffs from making the wild, extravagant claims they have made for themselves and their man-made office? May I suggest it is the follower of Rome who should summon the respect to refrain from arrogantly claiming sovereignty for his church over those who refuse to bow the knee to the Roman see?
10/29/2009 – Scott Windsor
Well first off, while I do understand Dr. Beckwith’s “pet peeve” here, for many non-Catholic apologists use and/or deliberately overuse the adjective of “Roman” when debating and dealing with those who belong to the Faith which they loath. Such apologists seem to be using it as an attack upon us and/or they cannot separate Roman Catholicism from the Roman Empire. However, there truly is nothing wrong with the use of “Roman” or “Rome” when dealing with us. The way I look at it is, if these non-Catholic apologists are trying to be insulting with the use of “Roman,” then they are only exposing their ignorance and bigotry. That being said, White rightly points out that our communion is with the “Bishop of Rome.” However, he wrongly states it is not with the bishop of Constantinople, Naples, London or Milwaukee – for as much as those bishops are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, we are also in communion with them! Our unity as His Church is demonstrated through communion with the Bishop of Rome – but it doesn’t end there, it begins there!
White wrongly states: “A local church that did not even have a monarchical episcopate until the middle of the second century.” However, it was to St. Peter, and to him alone to whom Jesus said in threefold command: “Tend My Lambs,” “Shepherd My Sheep,” “Tend My Sheep.” (John 21:15-17 NASB) You may or may not have heard non-Catholic apologists rationalize their way around this by saying, “That was just Jesus reconciling Peter back into the fold after he denied Jesus three times the night of His crucifixion.” Well, give them an “E” for “effort” – but Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is clearly passing on the reins of Shepherd to Peter here. All bishops are shepherds, but Jesus singles out Peter here again (like He did in Matthew 16:18-19) and gives to him in singularity and primacy the authority to shepherd His Flock. Then there’s: Luke 22:32 “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” Unless Jesus’ prayer is to be frustrated by the Father, this verse would imply that Peter’s faith will NOT fail and is the necessary condition for the “confirm thy brethren.” Also as our Early Church Fathers would so often point out – orthodoxy was tied to communion with the See of Peter, long after Peter himself was dead. To deny this “monarchical” hierarchy is truly just close-minded bigotry.
“Infallibility for her teachings” has, again, been with the One, True Church since the beginning of Christendom. Jesus Himself gave the Church the authority to bind or loose “whatsoever” she chooses – and “whatsoever” she bound on Earth was also bound in Heaven. So, infallible authority was given to our bishops in Matthew 18:18 and to our first pope in Matthew 16:18-19 because if something is bound in Heaven, it MUST be infallibly bound! White claims this authority was a later development, but clearly he is wrong (again) on this point. It may not have been exercised as much in the Early Church, but to deny the authority was there is again – close-minded bigotry. Why was it not used much in the Early Church? Well, typically this authority is utilized when heresy arises and a defined teaching from the authority of the Church needs to be put out to all churches for the sake of unity and orthodoxy. Why this doesn’t make sense to non-Catholic apologists is beyond me – but I guess it wasn’t always… I too used to oppose Catholicism, but I’ll not digress into that at this point.
Next White attacks “grossly unbiblical titles.” Well, I guess we’ll have to chalk that one up to White’s adherence to the “grossly unbiblical” concept of sola scriptura. In my past dealings with White, he would deny the extremist position of “if it’s not in the Bible, it’s not true” which some sola scripturists maintain – but it sure sounds like he’s advocating that premise here, doesn’t it?! Since when is it necessary for a “title” to be found in the Bible? Just because something is not found in the Bible does not mean it is not true. Perhaps White meant to say “anti-scriptural,” as in opposed to Scripture? Well, he didn’t – he said “unbiblical” which would simply mean it is not found in the Bible. If he meant “anti-scriptural” – then let him amend his words – and we can challenge then which titles he might claim oppose Scripture. If he insists on sticking to the extremist “grossly unbiblical” statement – then, well – I need to say it again – that’s just truly close-minded bigotry.
White continues: “What happens when you drop the delimiter “Roman”? You are left with exactly what Rome claims for herself: universal sovereignty.” I find it a bit ironic that he attacks the “Roman” Catholic Church for this – but then immediately identifies what the “catholic” church is. Hmmm, somehow it’s NOT okay for the real and tangible Catholic Church to have this “sovereignty” – but some intangible “catholic” church would, by White’s own statement, be “left with exactly what Rome claims for herself.” The ramifications of White’s assertion comes back to bite him.
And continuing, White says: “The “catholic” church is not centered in Rome. Its theology and beliefs are not defined by Rome. And in fact, she can never defect from the gospel truth, no matter how hard Rome may press her to do so (and she has surely done so in the past).” White’s nebulous “catholic” church has no center, no unifying point of authority given it directly by Jesus Christ Himself through the bishops He Himself selected and they in turn pass down to others in valid succession. No, White would claim the “unifying” authority is sola scriptura. Again, a “grossly unbiblical” and I will say anti-scriptural concept. Scripture tells us that Jesus would indeed build His Church (singular, not multi-denominated plural) in Matthew 16:18-19. Scripture tells us that the Holy Ghost would be with His Church and guide it to all truth; that He would not leave them orphans and that the Holy Ghost would be with them “forever” (John 14:16-26). We know from Acts 1:20 that the Apostles held an “office” and that “office” is known as the “bishopric” – thus we know the Apostles are our first bishops. He breathed on those first bishops, and gave them the Holy Ghost and passed on to the the authority to forgive and retain sins (John 20:22-23). Just before doing that, He told them that as the Father had sent Him, He also sends them (John 20:21). So if Jesus was sent to pass on this authority to forgive sins – and in the exact same context He says as He was sent, He also sends them – then they too must pass on this authority! To do less would be to do less than as He was sent – and be anti-scriptural. Therefore we MUST have a valid succession of bishops, and this is a real and tangible office in the real and tangible Church which Jesus Christ built. Outside of the communion of those bishops – you do not have the Church which Jesus Christ built. You have impostors preaching “a different gospel” and as such should be avoided. They come as wolves in sheeps clothing, as to fool even the elect. White accuses the Catholic Church of defecting from the Gospel, when in reality – this defection is in cults like his own and uses his attacks to divert attention from the wolf underneath the sheep’s clothing.
White closes his article/blog smugly saying:
It is clearly shown, to the objective reader, that the “office” held by the “Roman Pontiffs” is not a man-made office. The office of the Roman pontiffs is that of bishop. The office of bishop was created by God when Jesus Himself called the first twelve bishops. To the Bishop of Rome a primacy is held, as passed down from St. Peter – the first Bishop of Rome. As St. Peter was called by Christ, so must successors of St. Peter be called and likewise empowered. Anything less would be anti-scriptural. All true Christians are subject to the Bishop of Rome. Some who call themselves “Christian” do not recognize the respect Jesus Himself gave to the first holder of that office – who was named to be the Petros – and the Shepherd of Jesus’ Church/Flock.
Oh, and here’s the last part of Dr. Beckwith’s article, which White did not quote:
For a nice summary and overview of the rites and churches of the Catholic Church, go here.
Let me just respectfully offer a minor correction to Dr. Beckwith’s statement. Maronite Catholics are in communion with the Bishop of Rome who is the bishop holding the primacy. Yes, he is “first among equals” – but one cannot dismiss the “first” part and the fact that Eastern Rites and even Eastern Orthodoxy does not refuse the Bishop of Rome the title of “Coryphaeus” – or “head” as in the Head of the Choir of Apostles/Bishops. So while the Maronite Church may not ethnically be “Roman” or “Latin” in their rituals or rite – they are “technically” Roman Catholics too.
Being a “Roman” Catholic is nothing to be ashamed of! It truly identifies us with the one Jesus picked to be His vicar.
I hope you, the reader, has gained something from this article and I am interested in hearing/seeing your comments, so feel free to leave some. You may do so here, or join us in the Catholic Debate Forum.