Friday, March 24, 2017

Protestant Theologian Carl Trueman on Catholicism as the Default Position

In my account of my conversion to Catholicism, I mention that one of the main things that led me in that direction was coming to realize that the Catholic position is the default position.  What that means is this:  Protestantism broke off from the Catholic Church.  Christ founded his Church, and he commanded its members to obey their shepherds and preserve the Church's unity.  Therefore, unless Protestants can provide a good reason for having broken off from the Catholic Church, their movement is rebellious and schismatic and a violation of Christ's commands.  The burden of proof is on Protestantism to justify itself.  If, in all other respects, the evidence for Catholicism and Protestantism were exactly the same, we should choose Catholicism.

In an oft-cited quotation, Protestant theologian Carl Trueman makes the same basic point.  The quotation comes from a book review of a book by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom asking the question, "Is the Reformation Over?"

Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day. It would seem, however, that if Noll and Nystrom are correct, many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology; but those who reject the former and lack the latter have no real basis upon which to perpetuate what is, in effect, an act of schism on their part.

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