Thank you, Pax.
For whatever it's worth, you may want to spend some time reading about the role of Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch Reformed church and political leader of the late 1800s and early 1900s who virtually singlehandedly managed to break the historic alliance between Roman Catholics and secularists in the Netherlands. That led to a social conservative alliance between evangelical Protestants and traditional Roman Catholics. Unlike most of the rest of Europe where liberals generally managed to wreck the churches and society, the Netherlands remained fairly conservative up until the Nazis basically destroyed the country during World War II.
Kuyper’s theology of church-state relations, mediated through men like Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy, was a key underpinning behind the rise of the Christian conservative movement in America, and for very similar reasons. Trying to get Roman Catholics to leave the Democratic Party, which had historically been their protector in America against anti-Catholic bigotry by the older WASP establishment, required many of the same methods in America that Kuyper had used a century earlier in the Netherlands.
As you well know from firsthand experience, bitter hatred was not unusual between Protestants and Catholics until the 1960s blew things sky-high in America. If that hatred had continued, the modern pro-life movement could never have gotten off the ground. Evangelicals and Roman Catholics needed to put aside enough of their differences to cooperate on fighting abortionists who want to murder babies for profit.
Liberals like to divide and conquer. That's the way minority groups get power — they get larger groups to fight each other rather than fighting liberals, and then once the people fighting are weakened, the liberals come in and pick up the pieces. They win not because they have more adherents than conservatives or because they have better arguments, but because they know conservative Christians value absolute truth, and it's all too easy to get us fighting each other.
As a Roman Catholic, Protestant theology may not interest you very much, so I'll be brief about Kuyper’s doctrine of “sphere sovereignty.” To make a fairly complicated situation simple, Kuyper understood that conservative Protestants who have a high view of Scripture are going to demand strict standards of doctrinal agreement in ecclesiastical matters, and often have a great deal of difficulty cooperating with other evangelical denominations, let alone with socially conservative Roman Catholics, Jews, or nonbelievers. Kuyper pointed out — correctly — that the standards of I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 for church leadership are not the standards of Romans 13 for leadership in the civil government. There are numerous cases in Scripture where God commanded obedience to civil rulers who, if they had been rulers in the church, would have and should have been removed from office based on moral and doctrinal failures.
Kuyper taught that God administers his creation through covenant heads — the fathers in families, the elders in the churches, and civil magistrates in the state. While the three spheres are related, neither the church nor the state are supreme; in fact, the family is the most “basic” unit of government, and we can know a great deal about somebody’s ability to lead the church or the state based on how he leads his home.
That framework allowed Kuyper to say that conservative Protestants could cooperate in the sphere of the state with people who we could never work with in the sphere of the church.
The bottom line is that I am quite willing to argue with a conservative Roman Catholic about doctrine. I did my senior thesis on the theology of John Henry Cardinal Newman, and I am not exactly uninformed about Roman Catholicism. Even so, I agree with staunch Calvinists like J. Gresham Machen (founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Seminary) that I have more in common with a conservative Roman Catholic who affirms the authority of his church's official statements of doctrine than I have in common with a liberal who doesn't believe in any sort of absolute truth at all.
As Machen said in his seminal book, “Christianity and Liberalism,” liberalism not only is contrary to the most basic principles of Christian doctrine, it is in an entirely different category of religions than Christianity.
Thank you for the information.
Am bookmarking for reading - after finals this week. Only taking five classes this semester!
(Yes, I am one of those crazy, older “non-traditional students”. :-)
I’m open to discussion based on mutual respect and reason, but with the goal of better mutual respect and understanding - not with the intent of “converting”. That, I believe, must be guided by God within the soul, and I must respect and trust that others are following God to the best of their
I don’t like to argue! :-)
I sincerely hope that we can work together to contribute to better relations between Christians.
It’s very nice meeting you and I’m looking forward to reading!