Oct 7, 2019

Roman Catholicism and the Battle Over Words

2 Min Read

Roman Catholics may use words like “grace” and “faith,” but they often have very different meanings. In this brief clip, Leonardo De Chirico explains one of the main challenges coming from present-day Roman Catholicism.

This Reformation Month, watch a short video every day on the history and insights of the Protestant Reformation. And don't forget that for this month only, you can request your free digital download of R.C. Sproul’s video teaching series Luther and the Reformation plus the ebook edition of The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols at ligm.in/Reformation. Offer ends October 31, 2019.


We have two main challenges coming from present-day Roman Catholicism: One is the battle over words. Roman Catholicism in its post-Vatican II time has tried to capture basic Evangelical Protestant language, trying to redefine it still using the same words, still using the same sounds but significantly redefining its meaning. In a very important book published in 2005, Is the Reformation Over? by Mark Noll and Nystrom, there is a recognition that if one reads the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, there is a sense in which two-thirds of the Catechism can be accepted by a Protestant—two-thirds—if you read these words prima facia "for what they mean," in terms of the readers perspective. But then the authors say, but if you look closely, and if you try to understand what these words mean, you find that wherever the Catechism speaks of Christ, it speaks of the church; wherever it speaks of grace, it speaks also of the sacraments; wherever it speaks of faith, it speaks of works; wherever it speaks of the glory of God; it speaks also of the veneration of the saints and Mary. You see the words are the same but the meaning is blurred. So that you have a sense that they are saying almost the same things but then the end result is that they are actually saying very different things.

In 2012 another important book written by George Weigel title Evangelical Catholicism tries not only to redefine the basic words of the gospel but also to redefine what does evangelical mean. And he says basically that Roman Catholicism is the noun carrying the doctrinal sacramental weight. Evangelical Catholicism is a way of describing a kind of spirituality. The good Roman Catholics—they pray and read their Bibles. And that is the way in which they are redefining the word evangelicalism by severing its biblical, theological, and historical roots and re-infusing, infusing of a different meaning what historically evangelicalism has always meant.