Present Truth Magazine is not interested in cheap polemics against Rome. We gladly acknowledge and salute those Christians who are found within the communion of the Roman Catholic Church. But we cannot ignore the stupendous issues of the Reformation. In this issue of Present Truth Magazine we will present some documents that will help us more clearly understand the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by faith.
Some may quite reasonably ask, "What profit is there in studying that which we reject as error?" But we submit that there are reasons which justify the documentation in this issue of Present Truth Magazine.
1. Rome is a good mirror of the religion of human nature at its best. We have found that many people are awakened to the real force of the Reformation doctrine only after they have appreciated that their own thinking is reflected in Rome's teaching on justification. We have taken surveys and proved beyond question that the great proportion of professing evangelical Christians are basically Roman Catholic in their religious thinking — and they don't know it. We have on occasion presented lectures on the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation and had people say, "Why, that's really what I've always believed. Do you mean to say that I've been a good Catholic and haven't known it?" Exactly!
2. An understanding of Rome's doctrine of salvation will give us insight into current religious trends. For instance, three years ago we published a special issue on "Justification by Faith and the Charismatic Movement." In this we showed how the spirituality of Pentecostalism is in basic harmony with the spirituality of medieval theology. Some of our charismatic friends received these submissions with great surprise and chagrin. Now that the charismatic movement has gained the pope's approval, we hope that many of our charismatic friends will reconsider these issues.1
Most evangelical preaching is diametrically opposed to the fundamental emphasis of the Reformation. It is thoroughly man-centered and experience-centered. In last year's speaking itinerary in the United States, the Australian Forum put this simple and basic question to a number of seminary audiences: On what basis (ground) does God accept a person — (1) a live of perfect obedience or (2) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? The overwhelming majority responded, "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." In making the inward quality of faith the basis of acceptance with God, they gave, in reality, the classic Roman Catholic answer.2 No Reformer or sound Protestant scholar has ever taught that faith is the basis of justification. The ground of salvation will always be perfect righteousness. To say that faith is the basis, or ground, of salvation is to put a personal, inward quality in the room of the vicarious work of Jesus Christ.
In the documentation in this issue of Present Truth Magazine, we want to present the doctrine of Rome at its best, for only then will we be sharpened to the real issues at stake. If our readers are well armed to discern the basic elements of the theology of Trent, they will be well equipped to detect the same theology being propounded from the most surprising places. "He that has ears to hear, let him hear."
1 See "On the Religious Front," p. 45.
2 See documentation in this issue.