A while back I was reading Jimmy Akin’s comments about my being a Christian on his blog. Of course, the idea was “White was validly baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, therefore he is a Christian.” And this has been the basis many RC apologists have used for saying that I am an anti-Catholic but they are not anti-Protestants. The idea is, “How can I be an anti-Protestant when I say you are a Christian? You, however, say I am not a Christian, therefore, you are an anti-Catholic.” And given that few folks these days spend much time analyzing arguments very closely, for most of their followers, that works. But let’s think about it a second.
In the argument above, we have a classic case of equivocation, using a particular word in two different ways. You see, what the Roman Catholic is granting me in the term “Christian” is far less than what I mean when I say “Christian.” I am talking about one of the elect, a person who has been truly born again, born from above, regenerated, justified, adopted into the family of God. I’m talking about a person holding to the truth who is a servant of Jesus Christ. I define the word “Christian” by the gospel, not by a ritual. All the Roman Catholic is granting me is that I underwent a valid baptism: given the reality of mortal sin in Catholic theology, whether that baptism still has any meaning to me is very much up in the air. They certainly cannot guarantee that I remain in a “state of grace.” So what I am denying to them (due to the fact that I believe their gospel to be “another gospel” that is under the condemnation of God and cannot save) would be far more parallel with a different term for them: a believing Roman Catholic!
But, returning to the argument, we see that there really is no basis for saying I am an “anti-Catholic” because I deny a much fuller, much broader, much more meaningful definition of a term (Christian) to them when all they are saying when they say I am a Christian is that I was validly baptized. How can this non-parallel comparison provide a meaningful basis for calling me an anti-Catholic while they engage in apologetics against Protestants but refuse to be called anti-Protestants?
Which brings us to the topic of the upcoming debate with Doug Wilson as well. I was listening to Pastor Wilson’s sermons on Galatians today, and I noted an odd thing: after saying that refusing communion due to doctrinal differences between denominations was wrong (which included the very popular “we are justified by faith in Jesus, not justified by faith in justification by faith” diatribe), I then noted that the list of those allowed to partake of the supper at his church did not include Roman Catholics. Now, he made reference to the back of the bulletin, and noted it said, “All who profess belief in the Lord Jesus Christ are cordially invited to participate with us in the Lord’s Supper,” but when he went through the list of denominations that included, Roman Catholicism was conspicuous by its absence. I would think, however, that given his acceptance of the validity of Roman Catholic baptism, and his rejection of the idea that “properly parsing” justification by faith is a proper basis for exclusion from the table, to be consistent, a Roman Catholic would have to be allowed to partake. I hope someone will let me know if in fact that is the case. Now, I know, canonically it would be a sin for a Roman Catholic to do so, but we are not discussing Roman canon law, but the consistency of defining the term “Christian” on the basis of such things as a “valid baptism done rightly” over against defining it by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just a thought….