Misunderstanding Vatican II
When the question of the divide between Rome and evangelicals arises in contemporary discussion someone inevitably brings up either the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between Lutherans and Roman Catholics or the series of documents published jointly by a group calling itself Evangelicals and Catholics Together. These agreements, many believe, put the Reformation era controversies to rest.
The problem is that they do not. Rome has not recanted her positions with regard to Justification by faith alone, the singular norming authority of Scripture, her corruptions of the Doctrine of Grace Alone, nor her confusion with regard to the sole mediatorial work of Christ. Because these essential doctrines are clearly taught in scripture and because they have to do with the eternal salvation of souls, there can be no true unity until and unless they are embraced by all who call themselves Christians.
While we rejoice in the many theological and social agreements between evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church: Trinitarian doctrine, Christology, the sanctity of life, the autonomy of the Church with regard to the state…we cannot let our cooperation in these areas or our mutual affection obscure the significant divide with regard to the nature and essence of the Gospel. Here’s RC Sproul on the question:
There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church has changed since the sixteenth century. But the changes have not closed the gap between Rome and Protestantism. Indeed, the differences are greater now. For instance, the formally defined proclamation of the infallibility of the pope and all of the Mariology statements have come since the Reformation. Neither has Rome backed down from any of the positions it took in the sixteenth-century debate. In the updated Catechism of the Catholic Church, released in the mid-1990s, the treasury of merit, purgatory, indulgences, justification through the sacraments, and other doctrines were reaffirmed.
I think this misunderstanding has been driven primarily by confusion over the significance of Vatican Council II (1962–65). It was only the second ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church since Trent, the other being Vatican Council I (1869–70). So, these councils are rare events, and the church and the world were surprised when Pope John XXIII convened Vatican II…read more
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