Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bavinck on Roman Catholicism

Here's a quote from Bavinck on Roman Catholicism (taken from The Certainty of Faith) which was reproduced in part by Norman Jeune, who was in turn cited by Mike Bird. A fuller version is given here, which I reproduce below.
'Far be it from us to immediately denounce the latter with the protestant judgment that since such piety issues from a false principle—righteousness by works—it is therefore worthless to God. For no matter how much truth that judgment may contain, before we utter it we must remind ourselves that the Catholic righteousness by good works is vastly preferable to a protestant righteousness by good doctrine. At least righteousness by good works benefits one’s neighbor, whereas righteousness by good doctrine only produces lovelessness and pride. Furthermore, we must not blind ourselves to the tremendous faith, genuine repentance, complete surrender and the fervent love for God and neighbor evident in the lives and work of many Catholic Christians. The Christian life is so rich that it develops to its full glory not just in a single form or within the walls of one church.

Nevertheless, Catholic piety, even in its best form, is different in character from that of protestantism. It always remains unfree, unemancipated, formal, legalistic. Complete inner certainty of faith is lacking. It always leaves room for the question: Have I done enough, and what else should I do? Rome deliberately keeps the souls of believers in a restless, so-called healthy tension. Spiritual life fluctuates between false assurance and painful uncertainty. Catholicism does not understand the word of Holy Scripture that the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and that all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.'

Living as I do in a Roman Catholic community, I can uphold Bavinck's sentiments (particularly the final two sentences of the first para above). And I would urge Protestant Christians to think likewise, for they sometimes do not.