Book Plunge: Protestants and Catholics

What do I think of Peter Toon’s book published by Servant Books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Discussions about Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism was never something I really wanted to get into. I have been a subscriber of Mere Christianity for several years and been one wanting to look at defending the essentials. What changed is when my wife started asking questions and I realized if she’s doing this, I need to start looking into this. I asked a friend fluent on the issues for a good book on the topic and was recommended Peter Toon’s book.

Toon writes from a Protestant perspective, but his writing is friendly and he shows problems each side has with the other and ways that both could handle things better. There is no hint of anything that says that Catholics are an apostate church or anything like that. There is nothing saying that Protestantism is where the action is and we have it all together on our end. He points to statements made by both Protestants and Catholics that are good and that are problematic He points to honest concerns that both have about the other.

He covers the main issues as well. Not everything, but some of them. Authority is a big one. When I encounter Catholics, many of them say that it’s not really possible to understand the text of Scripture without the magisterium. Protestants reply that the meaning is in the text. Catholics say they gave the canon of Scripture. Protestants say canonicity lies in the books and the church discovered that rather than created it.

Authority I think could be the biggest issue. Where does the authority lie? This is the issue that leads to Sola Scriptura. Protestants say that the tradition cannot be known to be accurate, but we can study the Scripture and know that this is what the apostles said. Catholics see the tradition as being based in apostolic succession and thus reliable.

Other issues come up too such as justification. This is likely also before the understanding of the New Perspective on Paul so that isn’t a big debate in the book, but it was a major issue. Fortunately, I do think Protestants and Catholics are starting to come together to discuss these issues more.

Sacraments are also an issue. Protestants tend to only recognize baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Catholics recognize more. There are also differences on how the Lord’s Supper is to be seen. Is it transubstantiation or real presence or is it something else?

Mary is one of the last topics covered. Catholics often see themselves as defending the mother of God and upholding her honor and such. Protestants look more and say that it seems to border on idolatry to them. Unfortunately, Protestants then go and don’t seem to pay any attention to Mary. While we can think Catholics give too much honor, let us not be guilty of giving too little.

One nice appendix also in the book is a letter John Wesley wrote to a Roman Catholic. It is a letter seeking reconciliation and focusing on what is agreed on. Many of us do hope that one day there can be reconciliation. I am not sure how it is possible, but I can hope.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts On The Eucharist

Do we think about what it means to say the body of Christ is broken for us? Let’s see as we dive into Deeper Waters.

I have a job on the night shift now and on my job, I can listen to the radio or a podcast while doing something else, so last night I was listening to some N.T. Wright, and I was thinking about what he said about Christian unity. At one point, he brought up the Eucharist, also known as Communion, and I started thinking about that.

When I got back from my honeymoon, the first Sunday that we had was Communion Sunday and I remember my wife had hurt her leg somehow so we were in the back room of the church watching the service on a projection screen and then Communion was served. One of the deacons came back with the bread and juice each time for us and I remember that I took it from him and used it to serve my wife. I remember how much that spoke to me then realizing that I was in charge of a family now and that I had to use that position to raise my wife up in Christ as well as any future children we might have.

So last night, I thought about Communion again and I thought about what Christ says in that his body is broken for us. We all know that this happened in the crucifixion. It was there that Christ was made subject to the evil of the world in the form of the Roman Empire and of the Jewish authorities at the time.

Then you think about how we constantly hear about unity in the epistles. Christ tore apart the wall to unite Jews and Gentiles as one. You think about how Jesus prayed that we would have unity. Yet by contrast, you see in 1 Corinthians that some say “I follow Cephas.” Some say “I follow Paul.” Some say “I follow Apollos.” Others say, “I follow Christ.”

We can be tempted to think of Paul just randomly picking prominent names at the time, but Ken Bailey in “Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes” sees the text differently. Cephas would refer to Peter, who would be known as having a Jewish role. Cephas was a Jewish name after all. Apollos was a Greek name and would be a leading Greek seeing as he was from Alexandria. Paul of Tarsus had a Roman name and was a Roman citizen. You have allegiance then to Jewish culture, Greek society, and Roman heritage. Of course, there are also still the super-spiritual types who say “I follow Christ” and like many who say that today when popular teachers are mentioned, there is a lot of arrogance in that as the point is not to lift up Christ, but to show one’s self as superior in practice.

Divisions in the body. They’re a sad reality. Now that does not mean there is never ground for disagreement. That does not mean there is no chastisement. The purpose of such is to lead to healing. What we must remember is that we are all one body and that is the body of Christ.

Thus, when we speak about how in Communion the body of Christ is broken for us, then we should realize that when we bring about division in the body, that we are in fact crucifying Christ all over again. When we have bodies that attack themselves, then those bodies do not survive. So if the body of Christ attacks itself, it is in bad health. We do know that body survives however due to what Scripture says, but that does not justify our attacking that body.

How far are we willing to break the denominational lines? Am I willing to go to a soup kitchen in the name of Jesus if the person I’m with is a Calvinist or Arminian? Can I raise funds for the poor with an old-earther or a young-earther? Can I do street evangelism with a dispensationalist or a preterist? Can I visit those in the hospital with a charismatic or non-charismatic? Can I do Bible study with a Baptist, a Roman Catholic, or an Eastern Orthodox?

Some of us might say “I feel uncomfortable with some of those people.” If so, then do you want to spend eternity with God because being with Him eternally will also mean being with some of those people. They will be redeemed and renewed truly, but God will never destroy them. He will destroy what is not them. Them, the people themselves and not just their belief systems, are the ones you will spend eternity with. If that is the case, then ought you not to prepare for that now by learning to love your fellow brother and sister in Christ, no matter how wrong you might think their doctrine is?

Communion is meant to be for unity and meals are often times of unity, but what are we united in? We are united in the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who died and rose again that we might be justified in the sight of God and bring about the restoration of creation to its full redemption. We are united on the question of Jesus and who He is and His relation to God. All else is secondary. Let’s keep it that way and be a unified front today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters