Midwestern workshop focuses on Catholicism
By Cory Miller
MBTS Director of Communications
November 15, 2005
KANSAS CITY – More than 85 students from five states and as far away as eastern Illinois attended a special two-day interfaith evangelism workshop focusing on Roman Catholicism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 21-22.
Attendees heard a range of topics – from the origin of the Roman Catholic Church to Peter’s confession in Matthew 16 – that sought to equip them to minister and witness to the largest denomination in America, which has an estimated 74 million members on the continent.
“This interfaith workshop was one of the largest attended we’ve had so far,” Midwestern President R. Philip Roberts said referring to previous workshops held on Islam, Mormonism and the New Age. “We offered this seminar to equip and assist the evangelical Church, and particularly Southern Baptists, with the necessary knowledge and differences of Roman Catholicism so they can effectively minister to their friends, neighbors and coworkers.”
“These were quality presentations at every level,” he said. “I am so thankful that our participants were able to enjoy the in-depth training this event provided.”
Roberts, who served as interfaith evangelism director at the North American Mission Board from 1994-99, presented a session during the conference titled, “ Nashville and Rome: Are We on the Same Path?,” to address ecumenical pressure in the body of Christ to unite with Roman Catholics.
“While Baptists and traditional Catholics share in common an orthodox view of God and Christ, there are clear differences which divide us,” Roberts said. “The most obvious one is a different view on salvation.”
The two-day conference was emceed by Midwestern theology professor Mark DeVine, who spoke on the differences between Protestants and Catholics, the question of authority between Scripture or tradition, and justification.
Speaking on the doctrine of tradition as ultimate authority in Roman Catholic belief, DeVine said historic Christianity has found its authority solely in the Bible, providing reformer Martin Luther as an example.
“Luther treasured tradition insofar as it coincided with the teaching of Scripture,” DeVine said. “Thus he took great pleasure in quoting St. Augustine against the theology of the Late Medieval Papacy. Yet Luther acknowledged only one source of divine revelation – Scripture alone, or sola scriptura.”
Only where Scripture stands as judge of all human thought, he said, can idolatry be avoided and confidence in divine truth flourish.
Michael McMullen, MBTS church history professor, gave a detailed examination of the progression of Roman Catholicism from the disciples believing in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ to practicing things like the veneration of Mary and salvation by sacraments.
“Emperor Constantine has always borne much of the blame, and probably rightly, for the Church becoming much more superficial in its beliefs and practices,” he said. “But believers too, also share in that blame, for whenever the people of God allow themselves to drift from Scripture’s clear teachings, then we are deliberately thereby placing ourselves in great danger.”
He added that Roman Catholicism is an example of “just what can happen when the doctrines of men become as or more important than the words of Scripture.”
According to Bill Gordon, apologetics evangelism associate with the North American Mission Board, while many of the customs of the Catholic Church changed as a result of Vatican II, the council modified none of the dogmas or major doctrines of Catholicism.
“The meaning and significance of the seven sacraments remained unaltered,” said Gordon, a specialist in Roman Catholicism, who also spoke on the veneration of Mary during the conference. “Likewise, Vatican II did not alter the practice of offering prayers to Mary and the saints.”
Three audio sessions of the MBTS Roman Catholic Workshop are available for downloading online at: h ttp://www.mbts.edu/Resources. Audio CD recordings of the workshop are also available for $4 each (plus $1.50 shipping and handling) by contacting the MBTS Library at 800-944-6287.