A Primer on Roman Catholicism
In this excerpt from John Gerstner’s Primitive Theology, Dr. Gerstner carefully sketches the basic differences between Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism, focusing on the differing views on justification. Over the coming days we will highlight this unique resource.
Several years ago, a Presbyterian-turned-Romanist wrote a book detailing his journey to “Rome Sweet Home.” I maintain, “Rome is Not Home.” Let me explain.
Rome affirms the Bible and its account of the creation of Adam and Eve, their temptation, and the fall of mankind by the disobedience of Adam. So Rome agrees with most Protestants that this is a fallen world and that it needs redeeming, which can only be done by God through His Son Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium pretends that agreement on the deity of Christ and His bodily resurrection is an adequate foundation for Christian unity. As a matter of fact, there has never been any disagreement on those doctrines. Rome separated from the true church in the 16th century because she rejected Christ’s way of salvation!
Let me now sketch the basic differences between Evangelicalism and Romanism. Let us begin with the lost person’s becoming acquainted with the way home. He gets information about a way out of his wilderness. Here Rome and Protestantism agree. Both know that a person must hear the gospel of Christ and its divinely appointed way. So Rome is involved in propagating her message, just as all Protestant churches are. Rome has a different road map from the Protestant one. Both agree, however, that unless a person gets on the Christian road he cannot find his way home to God. The views of the road may differ crucially, but there is a concurrence on the fact that the Christian road is the necessary road out of the wilderness and into God’s celestial home.
From that point on, the two descriptions of the one way differ fundamentally. Both these theologies, the Roman and the Reformational, believe that lost man can grasp the meaning of salvation, of Christ, and of the atonement. When lost man does grasp the Christian message, his next step is diversely viewed by Rome and Geneva. Rome thinks that he can be persuaded of the truth of the Christian religion centering on an infallible papacy. Reformed theology believes that the Reformed pastor can prove that is not the true way, but that the Protestant, Reformational way is the biblical way.
Excerpted from Primitive Theology by John H. Gerstner.
Note: This primer is intended to give an overview of the significant theological differences between historic Protestantism and historic Roman Catholicism. In a primer of this size, it is not possible to give a thorough examination of a theology that has been controverted for centuries. For a fuller treatment of the main difference between Catholicism and Protestantism—justification by faith alone—see Justification by Faith Alone or, for Dr. Sproul’s response to “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” see Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together.