Another Perspective on Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue
[Note: The item below was provided by WRF member Dr. Thomas Johnson who lives and ministers in Prague. This material does not necessarily represent the position of the World Reformed Fellowship. It is provided here as a discussion-starter. ]
The Relationship of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance to the Roman Catholic Church
Five hundred years of separation are enough is a theme to be heard at various commemorations of the Reformation. The Swiss Evangelical Alliance SEA also wishes unity; however, that is not easy. In theology and practice there is much that unites us; but there are also differences which cannot be concealed. This working paper provides a basis for discussion as well as guidance for the cooperation of the SEA member churches [and other interested parties] with local Roman Catholic parishes.
”It is hard to overestimate the importance of the Catholic church’s value for European culture and for the whole world. … The Catholic church developed a spiritual power unequaled anywhere, and today we still admire the way it combined the principle of catholicism with the principle of one sanctifying church, as well as tolerance with intolerance. It is a world in itself. … With admirable power, it has understood how to maintain unity in diversity… . But it is exactly because of this greatness that we have serious reservations. Has this world really remained the church of Christ? Has it not perhaps become an obstruction blocking the past to God instead of a road sign on the path to God? Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Has it not blocked the only path to salvation? Yet no one can ever obstruct the way to God. The church still has the Bible, and as long as she has it, we can still believe in the holy Christian church. God’s word will never be denied (Isa. 55:11), whether it be preached by us or our sister church. We adhere to the same confession of faith, we pray the same Lord’s Prayer, and we share some of the same ancient rites. This binds us together, and as far as we are concerned, we would like to live in peace with our disparate sister. We do not, however, want to deny anything that we have recognized as God’s word. This designation Catholic or Protestant is unimportant. The important thing is God’s word. Conversely, we will never violate anyone else’s faith. God does not desire reluctant service, and God has given everyone a conscience. We can and should desire that our sister church search its soul and concentrate on nothing but the word (1 Cor. 2:2).” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Works, vol. 9, 528-529.)