Baptists and Roman Catholicism
By James Leo Garrett, Jr.
Broadman Press, 1965, 45 pages
In this 1965 booklet, Southern Baptist theologian, James Garrett, examines historical Baptist attitudes towards Roman Catholicism in North America. He categorizes Baptist authors opposed to Rome as follows:
- The Rebuttalists – Those who critically compare Roman Catholicism to God’s Word.
- The Exposurists – Those who emphasize the immoralities within Catholicism.
- The Successionists – Those who believe in the succession of Baptist-like churches from the New Testament era to modern times, in opposition to Rome’s claim to apostolic succession.
- The Church-and-State Writers – Those who argue Catholics cannot be good American citizens because their primary allegiance is to a foreign ruler.
Garrett then looks at Baptist attitudes towards Catholicism in light of Rome’s conciliatory gestures towards the “Separated Brethren” coming out of Vatican II. It’s here that Garrett’s message drifts into the schizophrenic. On the one hand he readily concedes Rome preaches a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit but then indicates there would be much benefit in “dialogue” and “fraternal interchange” between Baptists and Catholics. He hopes dialogue with Rome would lead to the “extirpation of the pagan and the peculiarly Roman elements in Roman Catholicism” and chides those who refuse to cooperate with Rome as being “old Baptists” (p. 45).
How did that work out, Professor Garrett? Since 1965, Rome hasn’t changed any of its essential doctrines but these days we have Southern Baptists tripping over each other trying to catch a photo op with the pope (see Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Dallas Willard, Ed Young, Timothy George, Richard Land, etc.). Instead of standing on the truth of God’s Word without apology men like Garrett opened the door to compromise and apostasy through “dialogue” and “fraternal interchange.”
Some personal thoughts on Baptists:
Catholics look at Protestantism and see a car going down the road without a driver. For Catholics, the authority claimed by their church is their hope and security. But the Holy Spirit did amazing work through the Reformers and continues His work through all the ragtag Evangelical groups that continue to spring up.
I have a special fondness for churches of the Baptist tradition. Martin Luther led the initial break from Roman legalism in his attempt to return the church to personal faith in Christ the Savior and succeeding Reformers continued to cleanse the church of vestiges of Roman ritual and traditions. The early Baptists were considered radical, even among Protestants, for their outspoken stand against infant baptism and for their belief in separation of church and state.
I was led to the Lord with the help of some “KJV 1611-only,” “Ruckmanite,” independent fundamental Baptists in 1983 but I purposely steered toward a more moderate, Falwell-style IFB church where we stayed for the next eight years but even that proved too hardcore and judgmental for me. I became soured on “churchianity” altogether and walked away from the Lord for 23 years. What a dummy!
My Lord kept calling me back and I returned to Him early last year. What joy to be received mercifully back into His arms! I didn’t want to get involved with an IFB church again so we joined a small Southern Baptist Convention church for a little over a year but I found out the critics weren’t kidding when they said SBC really stands for Slowly Becoming Catholic. We just started attending a non-denominational church, which has strong baptistic roots and takes a strong stand against “churches” that teach a works gospel (e.g., Catholicism). We hope we can be a blessing and be blessed as we seek to serve Him.