Shall we unite with Rome? (3)
Rome has had her difficulties in the past with men within her bounds who were tainted with modernist unbelief. Liberal tendencies developed under Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), but they were rigorously suppressed as ‘heretical’ by Pius X (1903-14).
Rev. George Tyrrell, a convert from the Church of England to Rome, replied in 1907 to the Vatican decrees against modernism and was excommunicated.
Xavier Rynne in his Third session [of Vatican 2] derides the conservative [Catholic] minority for holding ‘traditional inerrancy’ (p. 36) and scoffs at ‘the various attempts to reconcile impossibly irreconcilable historic statements in the Gospels’ (p. 38).
One of Rome’s best known prelates, Cardinal Koenig, head of one of the newly appointed Vatican secretariats, stated openly in the Vatican Council that ‘it must be recognised that there are factual mistakes in both the Old and New Testaments, which in no way interfere with either divine inspiration or inerrancy’ (p. 44).
The cardinal might have some difficulty in explaining how a mistake is not an error and how the God of truth can inspire a lie. Rynne says that the cardinal’s admission ‘provoked the horror of the older school who felt that every word, in both testaments, was guaranteed by divine infallibility’.
But the amazing thing is that such a statement was openly made at a council of the Roman Church. Evidently many Roman dignitaries are influenced by Karl Barth and even by Rudolf Bultmann (Rynne, pp. 45, 47).
Rynne affirms that the ‘conservative’ bishop Cekada of Skopje painted a dark picture of the inroads of modernism ‘among some of the [Roman] clergy’ (p. 90). He also quotes the following remarkable description of the ‘progressives’ as ‘2,000 good-for-nothings, many of whom, in spite of the pectoral crosses around their necks, don’t believe in the blessed Trinity or the virgin birth’.
This description is attributed to Monsignor Romeo, a ‘conservative’. It is no doubt an extreme estimate, but it bears testimony to a wind of change. A very significant last-minute change was made in the section of the council’s decree on revelation dealing with the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures.
It read: ‘All the books of Scripture, with all their parts, teach, as we must confess, the truth of salvation faithfully and firmly, wholly and without error’.
It was changed to read: ‘The books of sacred Scripture teach, as we must confess, the truth which God wished to have written down in the sacred Scriptures for our salvation’. The words ‘wholly and without error’ were removed and a vague statement substituted.
Canon Pawley, Anglican observer at Vatican II, has stated recently that, at the Second Vatican Council, ‘there has been shown to the world the liberal reforming element prevailing over the Roman Catholic Church and transforming her’ (Furrow, January 1966).
But this does not do justice to the success of the conservative minority in resisting change. We must remember the emphasis at Vatican II on the primacy of the pope and devotion to Mary. On such points there is no change.
When Canon Pawley says that ‘Pope Paul VI … has now replaced the curia … and has opened up the government of it to a “senate” of bishops, who shall be elected by national conferences’, he appears to be speaking prematurely and with exaggeration.
It is true, however, that the so-called liberal element in the Roman Church has grown very strong. It might have carried the day at Vatican II were it not for Pope Paul.
Canon Pawley speaks of Pope Paul VI as a shrewd, calculating, liberal … determined as a good pastoral bishop to bring along everybody with him, and under no circumstances to be responsible for a schism in the Roman Church (Furrow, January, p. 9).
What if the liberal element, which was very much in the majority at Vatican II, should carry the day and be in firm control of the church?
Then there would be the speedy prospect of a union of the liberal Roman Church (while still retaining its pope and ritual) with a liberal Protestantism — to form the greatest menace to historic Christianity since the Dark Ages.
We have no sympathy with Rome’s conservatives in their battles and manoeuvres — they contend outright for tradition and against religious liberty. On the other hand, we have no sympathy with Rome’s new school.
It would seem that among them there is a turning from the Scriptures as the inerrant and infallible Word of God, the only rule of faith and practice. If they united with the World Council of Churches, the result would be a Babylon rather than a city of God and a preparation for the very Antichrist.
Canon Pawley, speaking at Swanwick to Anglicans referred to Rome’s numerical superiority over Anglicans, and added: ‘If you believe in Christian union, you believe in a possibility of your becoming a member of a transformed church, the majority of whose members are those whom we now call Roman Catholics; and unless you so regard Christian union, it is not union that you are talking about; and that in regrouped and reunited Christendom, the Roman Catholic Church, reformed, we hope, transformed, renewed, must predominate’ (Furrow, January 1966).
Canon Pawley, speaking in Rome in December 1965, stated that ‘after the end of the [Vatican] Council a permanent full-time Anglican delegation would remain in Rome’ (Herder correspondence, February 1966).
This is significant, as is also the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Rome in March 1966, accompanied by six Anglican dignitaries.
Dr John Moorman, Bishop of Ripon, was the chief Anglican observer at Vatican II. He is described in an article in the Sun (8 January 1966) as ‘the spearhead of the Anglican moves for unity with the Church of Rome’, and is quoted as declaring ‘his determination to organise the country’s first joint service in which Roman Catholic and Anglican priests and nonconformist ministers will lead the worship together, at the altar of a Roman Catholic church’.
In October 1965, Prof. J. M. Barkley, of the Irish Presbyterian College, took part in a discussion as a member of a panel which included also a Church of Ireland minister, Methodist minister and Roman priest.
As reported in the News letter, Dr Barkley stated in reply to a question: ‘It is certain that the Churches will come together sooner or later’. Many more examples could be given of the movement toward union with Rome, but these will suffice.
Rome too has her eye on the prospect of reunion. One of Pope John’s aims in bringing the church ‘up-to-date’ was in order to engage more effectively in dialogue with the ‘separated brethren’.
The duty of true Bible-believers in this hour of crisis is to take a firm and uncompromising stand.
We must stand firm for the Word of God
The large churches of Christendom — both the Roman and Protestant churches — no longer stand for the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. It is simply assumed as proven that this position can no longer be taken.
But that great and devoted scholar, Prof. J. Gresham Machen, used to say, ‘The Bible is capable of scholarly defence from Genesis to Revelation’. In fact, it is true to say if God reveals himself at all, he must reveal himself infallibly. The God of truth could never reveal himself through a lie.
To the authority of his Word then, we must bow with our whole souls. Luther at Worms could say, ‘My conscience is captive to the Word of God’. And so he uttered the noble words in the face of great odds, ‘I can do nothing else; here I stand; so help me God! Amen’. We in this hour of crisis in our day must also take a firm stand for God’s Word.
We must call upon God
At the Diet of Spires, where the Reformers made their ‘protest’, from which they got their name ‘Protestants’, the situation was so menacing that Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s friend, said, ‘All that remains for us to do is to call upon the Son of God’.
Therein lies a great secret of the Protestant Reformation — the use of prayer. It is ‘the mightiest weapon that created natures can wield’. It lifts its hands to the throne of God, as the hands of Moses were lifted up long ago, and brings victory in the fight. Therefore, ‘pray without ceasing’.
We must cut clear of all compromise
We must not stay where staying involves disloyalty to Christ our King. Listen to Dr B. B. Warfield, one of the greatest of Bible scholars, when he says, ‘Compromise! In that one word is expressed a very large part of a Christian’s danger in the world.
‘We see it on all sides and in every sphere of life … Our motto must be, and that unfailingly, no compromise’.
The greatest danger of the hour arises not so much from the liberalism of Rome and of the World Council of Churches, but from the flabbiness, shortsightedness and apathy of evangelicals.
We should all remember the warning Mordecai gave to the hesitant Esther, ‘If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise from another quarter’ (Esther 4:14). We must ‘stand in the battle in the day of the Lord’ (Ezekiel 13:5).
Stand then in his great might,
With all his strength endued;
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God.
W. J. Grier
By permission of Affinity