My main question for you evangelicals is this: could this be your child?
Have you raised your children to understand what is the matter with Romanism, to understand not just that "Roman Catholicism is bad" or that "the Pope is the Antichrist" but what is wrong and anti-Biblical in the theology of Rome?
In studying Augustine with a group of believers the other day, I was surprised to hear one claiming that Augustine held such-and-such a view because of "Roman Catholic influences." The person making this statement was not young - and really should have known better than to make such a vast anachronism.
Unfortunately, I doubt that this person is alone in imagining that Roman Catholicism was around in Augustine's time. There are doubtless countless folks who are simply uninformed regarding what the early believers and medieval churchmen taught and believed regarding various doctrines.
Contrary to Mr. Shea's claim, the deeper I've delved into church history, the more clearly I've seen that "Protestant" principles like Sola Scriptura were taught and believed in the early church.
In this particular case, I'm afraid that whoever educated this person did not provide a full tool-bag of epistemology and hermeneutics to understand and evaluate Scriptural doctrine and the claims of Rome.
Let's take a few examples:
(1) In a recent post entitled "Beginning to Understand Indulgences," this person writes: "I don't claim to fully understand indulgences or why the church has chosen to make use of them, but I'm not going to reject it based on the already tenuous Protestant concept of "saved once and for all"."
The major reason to reject them is the fact that Scripture does not teach this doctrine.
But as well, the idea that we are "saved once and for all" is not just a "Protestant" concept, it is an explicitly Biblical concept:
Hebrew 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Perhaps even more relevant to the topic of this post, indulgences are an innovation. The use of indulgences was something unknown to, and unused by, the apostles. One does not arrive at indulgences by diving deeply into history, but only by walking about in the shallows.
(2) In another post called, "The Beginning of My Mental Conversion," the person addresses the issue of contraception. As this person points out, the person's views against the teachings of Catholicism on this point were "from eugenic propaganda."
Again, on this topic, the major objection is that the teachings of Catholicism on this matter are not in keeping with Scripture. Not only is it legalistic of Catholicism to insist that all artificial methods of contraception are wrong, but it is violative of Scripture for Catholicism to encourage couples to cheat one another of marital relations for the purposes of avoiding conception.
Every Christian parent should, at the appropriate age, sit down with their children and explain the meaning of:
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Having recreational intimacy with one's spouse is honorable and undefiled - having "unitive and procreative" relations outside of marriage is a heinous sin. That's the teaching of Scripture, whether one's church teaches otherwise or not.
(This particular post also addresses the issue of infant baptism. The person ties in the rejection of once-for-all for salvation to the rejection of believers-only baptism, so I must say that the reasons this person had for rejecting the sola-credo view were not entirely the right reasons.)
(3) In a third post, entitled, "Then who, Luther? You?" the person provided some comments on reading about Luther. The person wrote:
Luther tells Eck, "I give St. Peter the highest honor, but not the greatest power. For he does not have the power either to create, to send forth, to govern, or to ordain the Apostles." From the context, he seems to be talking about appointing successors to the apostles.But this belies a category error. Luther's answer would not be that Luther had such a power, but simply that no mere mortal has such a power.
My immediate reaction to this is to say, "Then who has this power, Luther? You?"
The person goes on to argue:
Christ is gone until he returns at the end of time. Eleven men ordained by Christ did not reach all the Earth with their teachings before they died. Those of us who have come after need guidance. I have often heard Luther's assertion that Christ is the head of the church even now defended by saying the Holy Spirit is our liaison with Christ, and the Bible is the sole authority because people are unreliable. Honestly, every unreliable person depending on their own individual understanding as opposed to that of a structured, trained, and blessed leadership seems a lot more flawed.The problem with this argument is that the Apostles did provide guidance to be handed down, namely the New Testament. Another problem is that it is simply a matter of fact that humans are unreliable. We see popes and councils erring when we study church history. Finally, the comparison between each person being on their own compared with a "blessed leadership" is a doubly-false dichotomy. The choice is between a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit and leaders that claim to be blessed. And even that believer is not on his own. While humans are not infallible guides, they can be of assistance. Thus, the Holy Spirit does provide the church as an invaluable aid to believers.
(4) Finally, a post entitled, "So I married a Catholic," provides the context that explains part of the reason for this change of views. The Scripture teaches:
1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
We need to teach our children to be careful about how and with whom they communicate. This particular person evidently was attracted to the Romanist now-spouse for what probably seemed very good reasons: the now-spouse was defending a theistic position against an atheist/agnostic. The problem is this, the now-spouse (whether or not a Christian) is and was a part of a church that rejects the authority of Scripture, placing itself (as a result) against the Word of God.
We can be friends with and friendly towards members of an apostate church, but we must be aware of the person's allegiances. A Christian young person needs to recognize the importance of choosing a spouse who is willing to submit his/her beliefs to the authority of Scripture.
Furthermore, Christian parents need to encourage their children not to view those within Catholicism as potential spouses, and why that is the case. I cannot say whether this person's parents provided such instruction, but it does not appear to have "taken," as this person never considered that a factor.
In this case, it seems that the person got married to a very dogmatic and insistent papist, and has been influenced by the spouse to adopt many of the doctrines of Catholicism. This is not the result of getting deep into history, but rather of failing to be grounded in a proper understanding of our source of knowledge about God and the way to obtain that knowledge.
I've tried to use this particular person (brought to the public light by Mr. Shea) as an example, not to pick on this particular person or the person's parents, but to serve as a warning to Evangelicals who are raising their children in a religious diverse world. While your children are young, you may be able to shelter them from the world and worldly religions, but there will come a time when they have to go out into the world, whether that is in college, in a job, or whatever it may be. Prepare your children now to understand what the Scripture teaches about itself, about God, and about man. Catechize your children well, so that they understand both what they believe and why they believe it.
As Scripture says:
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.