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The Deeper Protestant Conception

We discuss how a return to sola scriptura through confessional Reformed theology spares us from the errors of Roman Catholicism and modernism.

Reformed covenant theology, broadly considered, is facing a crisis regarding what constitutes “reformed” theology. The situation currently is one of chaos and confusion. Some claim that the way forward is by way of retrieving the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor of the Roman Catholic church, in the service of a so-called “Reformed” apologetic. The line of this argument is that if you follow the Roman Catholic theology and method of Aquinas, you will arrive at Protestant conclusions. Others enlist Aquinas in conversation with the likes of John Webster and Karl Barth, in the interest of retrieving “catholic” tradition in the development of a reformed theological identity. Still others, outside of our reformed circles, are engaged in ecumenical dialogue between Thomas and Barth (Bruce McCormack and Thomas Joseph White’s Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: An Unofficial Dialogue, or Keith Johnson’s Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis, which helpfully to my mind points out the significant points of convergence between the two theologians).

It is very much worth pointing out that Van Til virtually predicted this in advance in his sadly neglected but highly important work Confession of 1967, where he says, “If now we live in a dialogical age and if only the church as ecumenical can meet the needs of such an age, then surely the Roman Catholic too must learn to see this fact. As Martin Marty says, “If Protestants and Roman Catholics wish to make possible a creative coexistence, to enrich our pluralistic society, and to profit from each other’s separate histories, they will have to participate in dialogue.…” And what does such “dialogue” look like? Again, Van Til says, “It was Hans Urs von Balthasar who, more than anyone else, has helped Barth to see that Roman Catholicism also begins its theology from the Christ-Event. Roman Catholicism, says von Balthasar, does not believe in direct revelation any more than does Barth. To be sure, Rome does speak of “faith and works,” of “nature and grace,” of “reason and revelation.” But this “and” is not, as Barth thinks, fatal to the idea of the primacy of Christ and of faith in Christ. The whole discussion between Barth and the Roman Catholic position may therefore start from the idea that revelation is revelation in hiddenness. ”The difference between Barth and Roman Catholicism will therefore be not of principle but of degree” (Confession, 119).

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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