The disagreement over Scripture in the sixteenth century persists today, forming an insurmountable barrier to union between //Protestantism and Rome. If Protestants and Roman Catholics could agree that there is but one source of revelation, the Scriptures (minus the apocryphal books in the Roman Catholic Bible), we could then sit down and discuss the meaning of the biblical texts. But ever since Trent, all efforts to have biblical discussions between Protestants and Roman Catholics have come to dead ends when they encountered a papal encyclical or a conciliar statement. . . . Trent declared that Rome’s interpretation of Scripture is the only correct interpretation. When a Protestant presents a biblical interpretation, if it differs from Rome’s official interpretation, further talk is pointless, because the Roman Catholics simply say the Protestant is wrong.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 27-28.
From the Roman perspective, justification is a function of the sacerdotal operations of the church; that is, justification takes place primarily through the use of the sacraments, beginning with the sacrament of baptism. Rome says that the sacrament of baptism, among others, functions ex opere operato, which literally means ‘through the working of the work.’ Protestants have understood this to mean that baptism works, as it were, automatically. If a person is baptized, that person is automatically placed in a state of grace or in the state of justification. The Roman Catholic church is quick to say it does not like to use the word automatic, because there has to be a certain predisposition in the recipient of baptism; at the very least he or she must have no hostility toward the reception of the sacrament in order for it to function. In any case, Rome has a high view of the efficacy of baptism to bring a person into a state of grace. This is because, in the sacrament of baptism, grace is said to be infused or poured into the soul.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 30-31.
Rome teaches that
God will not say that a person is just unless that person ,under analysis, is found to be actually just. . . . Righteousness must be inherent within the person; God must examine his life and find righteousness there. If a person dies in mortal sin, he goes to hell. If the person dies with any sin, with any imperfection or blemish on his soul, he cannot be admitted to heaven but must first go through the purging fires of purgatory, where his impurities are cleansed away until such time as righteousness is truly inherent in him.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 38-39.
Baptism conveys grace ex opere operato, and the grace that is conveyed in baptism is the grace of regeneration. This means that when a person is baptized, he is born again of the Spirit and the disposition of his soul is changed, leaving him justified in the sight of God . . . . However, even though baptism cleanses a person of the power and guilt of original sin and infuses into him the grace of justification, it does not leave him perfectly sanctified. There is still something of the nature of sin left over. In Roman terms, baptism leaves a person with concupiscence, an inclination or disposition toward sin, which accounts for the fact that baptized people frequently fall back into sin. However, concupiscence is not itself sin. This is a point of disagreement for Protestants, for whom anything that is a disposition to sin is sin. According to Rome, sins that are committed after baptism, especially mortal sins, destroy the justifying grace of baptism, which makes it necessary for a person to be justified again.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 69-70.
Rome does not regard confirmation as a new infusion of grace in addition to baptism, but as an increase of grace unto maturity. . . . In most cases, confirmation is administered when a child reaches the ‘age of discretion,’ the age when he can understand the rite (usually taken to be around the age of seven). It is usually administered by a bishop and involves anointing with oil and the laying on of hands.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 70.
A wedding is not merely an external rite involving promises, sanctions, and authoritative decrees, but special grace is given to the couple to enable them to accomplish a real mystical union."
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 71.
Originally, extreme unction was a healing rite, not a last rite, and the Roman Catholic Church only recently reemphasized that it is a gift of grace that is to be used any time a person is seriously ill, not with a view simply to prepare him for death, but hopefully to bring healing. Its primary use, however, is as a final anointing of grace to strengthen penance, lest a person die with mortal sin in his life and therefore go to hell, the mortal sin having killed grace of justification. . . . It is administer by a priest, who applies oil that has been consecrated and blessed by a bishop to the forehead (usually in the shape of a cross) and to the hands while praying.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 71.
The sacrament of holy orders is the ordination of a priest, bishop, or deacon. It also gives and infusion of grace, which confers special powers to those who receive it. The two special powers given to a priest in ordination are the power of absolution and the power of consecration. Absolution is the power to forgive sins as part of the sacrament of penance, allowing the recipient to receive the sacraments without sin. Consecration is the act by which the bread and wine used in the Lord’s Supper are set apart and, according to Roman Catholic belief, transformed into the body and blood of Christ. The priest accomplishes the act of consecration by speaking the words of institution.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 71-72.
The sacrament of penance was instituted by the church to help people who commit mortal sin.. . . It is regarded as the second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls. One makes shipwreck of his soul by committing mortal sin, which destroys the grace of justification. However, the person can be restored to justification through penance. . . . There are three dimensions to the sacrament of penance—contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Contrition means turning away from sin out of a genuine sense of having offended God, a brokenness of heart, not merely a fear of punishment, which we call attrition. . . . The second dimension, confession, is, of course, the act of confessing one’s sins. Protestants have no issue with contrition and confession. The issue is the third dimension of penance, which is satisfaction. Roman Catholics teach that for the sacrament to be complete, it is necessary for the penitent believer to do ‘works of satisfaction,’ which satisfy the demands of God’s justice. So, a sinner is not off the hook when he confesses his sins; he still must do works of satisfaction. These works may be very small. The sinner may be required to say five ‘Hail Marys’ or three ‘Our Fathers’ . . . . But if his sins are especially severe, he may be required to make a pilgrimage. One of the favorite methods of doing works of satisfaction in the church historically has been the giving of alms. As I noted earlier, Rome teaches that a work of satisfaction gives the penitent sinner congruous merit. This kind of merit is distinguished from condign merit. Condign merit is so meritorious that God must reward it; congruous merit is only so meritorious that it is congruous or fitting for God to reward it. Still, it is true merit. It is accrued to the person, and without that merit the penitent sinner, no matter how much faith and trust he has in the atonement of Jesus Christ, cannot be justified.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 73-75.
"In the Eucharist, there is bread and wine. The substance of bread and wine and the accidens of bread and wine are present. According to Rome, in the miracle of the Mass, at the prayer of consecration, the substance of the elements is transformed supernaturally into the substance of the body and blood of Christ, but the accidens of bread and wine remain. The bread still looks like bread, tastes like bread, feels like bread, and smells like bread. . . . The substance of it, the essence of it, has been supernaturally transformed to the body, the flesh, of Jesus Christ. Likewise, the substance of the wine has been transformed to the substance of the blood of Christ. . . . Rome nuances its teaching on the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, saying that it is an unbloody sacrifice and that it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ. However, the whole idea of any kind of sacrifice happening in new-covenant worship is repugnant to Protestants, who hold that the value, the significance, and the merit of Christ’s suffering on the cross was so great that to repeat it is to denigrate it. Protestants also struggle with the question of how the human nature of Christ can be in more than one place at the same time. The Roman Catholic view essentially attributes the quality of omnipresence to the physical body of Jesus.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 77-79.
First, papal infallibility is restricted to those utterances of the pope on faith or morals that are given ex cathedra, that is, when he is giving a decision on behalf of the whole church. Therefore, Vatican I was not saying that if we encountered the pope on the streets of Rome and asked him for directions to the nearest pizza parlor, we could assume that he would give impeccably accurate directions. . . . In other words, the council did not proclaim an infallibility of person, merely an infallibility of office only when the pope speaks on matters of faith and morals, speaking from his official chair, exercising the office of the pope. Second, according to this statement, papal infallibility is not intrinsic; rather, it comes through the divine assistance promised to the pope in Peter.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 93-94.
This doctrine was officially declared in a papal encyclical in 1854. . . . It is the belief that Mary was not infected with original sin at her conception, so she lived a sinless life. This doctrine, of course, has drawn strong objections from Protestants. One problem is that if Mary was sinless, she did not need a Redeemer. Also, if she had no sin, she was herself fit to be the champion of our redemption in some degree. Indeed, this doctrine has fueled the view in Roman Catholic circles that Mary is our Co-Redemptrix, that she participated in the redemptive process. This title has not been official sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church, and it is much disputed in Rome, but many hold this view of Mary.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 105.
Veneration of Mary
Officially, the Roman Catholic Church does not sanction the worship of Mary—but it comes very close. Rome sees a difference between what it calls latria and dulia. Latria is the Greek word for worship, while dulia is the Greek word for service. Giving latria to something other than God would be to worship and idol. Giving dulia is simply to give service, obeisance, or veneration, which can be given to things other than God. Rome made this same distinction with regard to statues during the iconoclastic controversy in the Reformation era; it said that when people bowed down and prayed before images, they were not worshipping them, they were merely doing service, using them as means to stimulate their own worship. Rome insists that Mary is given dulia, not latria; she is venerated but not worshiped. However, for all practical purposes, I believe I can say without fear of ever being proven wrong that millions of Roman Catholic people today worship Mary. In doing so, they believe they are doing what the church is calling them to do. I grant that there is a legitimate technical distinction between latria and dulia, between worship and veneration, but it can be very hard to spot the line of separation. When people are bowing down before statues, that is of the essence of worship.
R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012), 114-15.