This booklet launched formally in July 1998 to coincide with a visit to Ireland by Mr J.I.Packer (one of the supporters of similar documents issued in America in 1994 and 1997) will pose a major problem for good Roman Catholics (an expression used by Mr Packer to denote which Roman Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ of Evangelical Protestants when he defended his endorsement of the first American ECT document) and for bible believing (Protestant) Christians. The major problem is this – WHO DO PEOPLE BELIEVE? Do they believe the people who drew up this Irish ECT document or do they believe the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church for they are not one and the same even though the Irish ECT document had Roman Catholic participants on what the booklet refers to as the Group Participants (ie. those who drafted the document) and list of those who endorsed the content of Irish ECT document including leading Roman Catholic clergy as well as laity.
On page 3 of this document we read – ‘Salvation is by grace, received by faith, with no help needed from good works or religious observances done to improve our chances of being saved. Introducing works of any kind would only serve to detract from the glory that rightly belongs to God alone, by affording us grounds for boasting and claiming merit.’
That is a fine biblically-correct statement but THE PROBLEM is that the Roman Catholic Church denies such teaching and places a curse (‘anathema’) upon those who do not believe in the absolute necessity of ‘good works’ for their salvation. The Council of Trent (the teachings of which were fully re-affirmed by the Vatican II council in the 1960’s – On page 412 of Vatican II Volume 1 we read – This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in glory of heaven or who are yet being purified after their death [ie in purgatory]; and IT PROPOSES AGAIN THE DECREES of the Second Council of Nicea, of the Council of Florence and OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT’) made the following decree under Session 6 Canon 24 –
‘If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God THROUGH GOOD WORKS but that those works and merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained but not the cause of its increase [and the grounds of acceptance by God] let him be anathema.’
The contradiction is emphasised again on page 4 of the Irish ECT document – ‘We agree that justification is not earned by any good works or merits of our own’ The statement quoted from Trent teaches that justification is ‘preserved’ and ‘increased before God THROUGH GOOD WORKS.’
WHOSE WORD ARE PEOPLE TO TAKE ON THIS ISSUE? A HANDFUL OF ROMAN CATHOLIC CLERGY AND LAITY OR THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE SELF-PROCLAIMED ‘ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH.’
Reflections On The Visit of J.I. Packer
I [Cecil Andrews] attended two meetings in Belfast on Thursday 30th July [am-Fitzroy Presbyterian; pm Lowe Memorial Presbyterian] and one in Dublin Friday 31st July [ pm-Kill-O-The-Grange Church of Ireland]. At the two evening meetings Mr Packer was the sole speaker but at the Thursday [am] meeting ‘Father’ Pat Collins also spoke. Basically Mr Packer outlined briefly the history of ECT in America involving in particular Charles Colson and Richard Neuhaus. He stated how on the basis of a limted number of common beliefs he was prepared to recognise Roman Catholics as Christians- the list includes
THE TRINITY; ABUNDANCE OF GRACE; ONE HOLY PEOPLE; ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE.
It is important to note that nowhere is ‘testimony to being born-again’ included in the things supposedly held in common. In relation to the historic Trinity [in which I believe] it is not the trinity of Roman Catholicism. The second person of the true Trinity cannot be contained ‘body, blood, soul and divinity’ in a piece of bread over which a so-called ordained priest has said some words of consecration in order to have it transubstantiated and then to receive worship due to God alone [this is sheer idolatry].
Roman Catholic grace is not biblical grace. God’s One Holy People are those born-again sovereignly through the work of God The Holy Spirit and not through the sacramental act of a sinful man. The activity of the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled by anyone [ie.Ex opere operato in the Roman Catholic sacraments]. Man can no more control The Holy Spirit than he can control the wind to which the Holy Spirit is likened in John 3:8
For Roman Catholics the Authority of Scripture is neither unique nor final as Sacred Tradition and The Magisterium also have equal authority. In his talks Mr Packer also made reference to a common belief in the incarnation and the atonement. In relation to the incarnation the true Christ was not born of an ‘immaculate/sinless’ Mary and as for the atonement Roman Catholicism teaches that it failed to deal with a problem which they call ‘temporal punishment’ so the allegedly common-beliefs turn out to be falsely viewed as such and form no basis on which to reguard Roman Catholics as Christians.
At the meeting in Dublin Mr Packer alleged that the Roman Catholic signatories to the document agreed with his views of justification [see above the question [WHO DO PEOPLE BELIEVE?] I posed to him at the Thursday night meeting and which he really didn’t answer] so from the floor I challenged the RC signatories present to confirm their agreement to the Reformed view expressed by Mr. Packer [thereby rejecting Trent and putting themselves under the ‘anathema’ of their own church] and asked Mr Packer if they did to rename this document ‘Evangelicals and EX Catholics in Ireland.’ There was silence both from the RC signatories and Mr Packer. In response to a question from a converted Roman Catholic Mr Packer stated that he viewed the present Pope John Paul II as a ‘fine Christian man’ but he had problems with the office of the papacy. On reflection one scripture sums up Mr Packer’s performance “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” James 1:8