Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Brothers and Sisters,
I’m still a catholic.
What an odd and alarming thing for an ordained presbyterian minister to say. After all, I’ve taken vows that commit me to the Westminster Confession—a quintessential expression of Protestant faith that takes Roman Catholicism to task on many crucial issues.
So, how can I still call myself a catholic?
I’ll give you three reasons: biblical, theological, and historical.
The Bible speaks of a singular church which existed “throughout all” (kata + holos) Judaea and Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:31). This kataholos (catholic) church would not be limited to that region but extended to the ends of the earth (1:8).
Theologically speaking, there can be only one church because there is only one Head and one body (Eph 1:22-23). This church’s truest locale is in heaven (Heb 12:22-24; Phil 3:20), though that catholic, “throughout-all body” is distributed across space and time in the form of local churches.
As for history, the Protestant Reformers “believed their efforts to be both catholic and evangelical, that is, on behalf of the whole church and for the sake of the integrity of the gospel, particularly the singularity and sufficiency of Christ’s person and saving work (solus Christus).” The Reformers did not want a new catholic church. They wanted a reformed church, rooted in Christ and free of papal tyranny.
That’s why I’m still a catholic—well, a Reformed Catholic to be more precise.
Why does this matter?
Far too many evangelicals today have lost touch with catholicity. As a result, our tendency is to style our own ministries, denominations, and traditions as the one, true church—if not in our words, then at least in our practice.
We don’t pay much attention to the Great Tradition which has permeated the church through space and time. We lack a sense of the deep connection we have with brothers and sisters in Christ across social, cultural, historical, and ecclesial lines.
All this cuts us off from the many resources God has deposited in His church. It weakens our ability to stand firm in one spirit and strive together for the gospel. Intimidation is coming as our culture grows more hostile to the faith. The catholic body of Christ needs to stand as one.
Don’t get me wrong; doctrinal differences matter. They ought not to be ignored (that way lies the folly in most types of ecumenism). But catholicity is about unity—not uniformity. We can be one, even if we disagree on important points of doctrine.
I pray you’ll reflect on that which unites us as brothers and sisters—both within our church and the broader body of Christ. We’re all a part of something much bigger than ourselves that we hope to see one day when a great, catholic multitude from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people group gathers around the throne to sing praise to the Lamb.
In Christ Alone,