One of the common ideas in the current ecumenical climate is that Vatican II altered or at least has the potential to alter the relationship between Protestants and Roman Catholics. There were major changes made at Vatican II, particularly liturgical changes and softening of the RC Church’s stance towards those outside the church. But many central assertions remained. One of the greatest divides, if not the greatest, between Roman Catholics and Protestants is the authority of the Bible and the authority of tradition. Vatican II did not alter the Roman Catholic Church’s view on tradition and Scripture. Here are some quotes from Vatican II
The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church.
Sacred tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.
It is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything that has been revealed. So, both sacred tradition are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence.
Sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, which is committed to the Church.
Matthew Barrett comments on these quotes saying,
While the document goes on to say, “this teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it,” Vatican II cannot meant this in the way that the Reformers did, for it then says this teaching office “draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” So while this teaching office may serve the Word of God, it originates from the one holy deposit along with Scripture and must be equally revered as God’s Word.
There is debate in Roman Catholic circles about what all of this means. But that is largely irrelevant. The institution of Roman Catholicism is built on tradition plus Scripture. In the end, unity is impossible if one group accepts two divinely received sources of authority and the other group accepts only one and rejects the other.
Correct doctrine does not inoculate against sin. Just because the right things are taught sin does not magically disappear. It is easy to believe that if we just teach a biblically grounded view of courtship then all we have to do is set those two young ones lose, following our courtship rules, and all will be well. Or if we have the right liturgy then the parishioners automatically become more righteous. Or if we teach our daughters modesty then all will be well and so on. The trouble with this perspective is that the problem with sin is rarely knowledge. Sin lives within us. Whatever system we have (and some are better than others) we bring our sin into it. Many pastors and parents function as if teaching the right doctrine automatically sanctifies. But it doesn’t. And this why a pastor must preach to his people, not just the right doctrine, but also that right doctrine must translate to right living.
In our church we teach headship and submission. It is a biblical concept. It is one of the key issues of our day, along with numerous other male/female, husband/wife issues. But teaching headship and submission is not a vaccine against headship submission sins. In fact, someone can believe in headship and submission and have a terrible, unbiblical marriage. Here are two specific sins that crop up when a church teaches headship.
There will be men who are drawn to this teaching because they are tyrants. They use headship as a shield for accountability. They love headship because they think it means they get to do whatever they want. My wife is my servant and I am the master. These men are often over-controlling, easily offended, lack real accountability, think their children are too good for anyone else, etc. They keep their wife really close because who knows what will happen if she drifts. They speak in terms of protection, but what they really want is control. They speak of their sins in generic terms instead of specifics. They are good at cultural critique, but not good at self-critique. Continue reading
Here is an excellent quote by Pierre Marcel on why we do not baptize infants because we assume they are regenerate. All italics are Marcel’s.
While recognizing that children of believers are baptized because they are in the covenant and are, as such, heirs of the promises implying a right to justification and to the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, a certain number of Reformed theologians have attempted to add one of the effects of the covenant of grace to the foundation of infant baptism, namely, presumptive regeneration. They have considered that presumptive regeneration could be the ultimate ground of baptism, more so than even the covenant. It must be acknowledged that this attempt has failed. Presumptive regeneration cannot be regarded naturally as the legal ground of infant baptism, for this cannot be anything other than the promises of God contained in the covenant. One cannot baptize on the basis of a presumption. To the question: “Why can you presume the regeneration of the children of believers?” one can only reply: “Because they are born of believing parents” ; or in other words, because they are born into the covenant. Besides, Scripture and experience afford proof that not all children born into the covenant are regenerated to salvation.
It is obvious that to refuse to consider this presumptive regeneration as the foundation of baptism is not at all the same as saying that it is impossible or unjustifiable to assume that the little children of believers are regenerate: we shall return to this point. But, in accordance with the indications of the Word of God, we do not wish in any way to restrict the divine liberty which acts in sovereign independence when and as it wills, and which is never confined to means. The promise of the regeneration of the children of the covenant is sufficient for us. It is not for us to define whether this regeneration in view of salvation is found in the elect children before or at the moment of baptism, or sometimes even years afterwards.