Archive for the ‘Nomenclature’ Category

Papist Propaganda

June 20, 2009

1718, from Mod.L. propaganda, short for Congregatio de Propaganda Fide “congregation for propagating the faith,” committee of cardinals established 1622 by Gregory XV to supervise foreign missions, prop. abl. fem. gerundive of L. propagare (see propagation). Modern political sense dates from World War I, not originally pejorative.


That’s all well and good, but I actually want to highlight one of the recent propaganda (modern sense) items provided by a few papists on the word “papist.” One of those items is that word was originally conceived by those persecuting the papists.

1534, “adherent of the Pope,” from M.Fr. papiste, from papa “Pope,” from Church L. papa (see pope).


Notice the actual etymology – not a term of English coinage but a borrow word from Middle French. Moreover, while the term certainly was employed at times when the papacy was resolutely opposed in England, the “persecution” as it is sometimes characterized was not principally religious in nature.

Papists were perceived as a political threat to at least some of the folks in the English Monarchy, especially Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This was not simply a pretense to put down Catholicism, but a genuine and legitimate concern coming out of the medieval period during which the popes and their minions frequently meddled in the political affairs of Europe.

So, in short, no. The term “papist” was not coined as derogatory term, nor need it carry derogatory connotations. It does not (contrary to the most bizarre piece of propaganda I recently received) mean “pope worshiper.” Although some people do use it in a derogatory manner, you will not find this blogger using it that way, but rather in a way that is descriptive of ecclesiology. Yes, some dictionaries have seen fit to label it as derogatory, but hopefully any sincere papists who read this blog will not fall prey to propaganda but will look to the intention of the word, which highlights an important difference in church structure between us.


Can Papists Properly Call Reformed Churches, Churches?

January 3, 2009

Mr. Paul Hoffer referred to Reformed churches by the rather modernist/pluralist terminology of “faith communities. Mr. Mike Burgess has come to Mr. Hoffer’s aid by suggesting that Mr. Hoffer is just being proper, and that properly Reformed churches cannot be said to be churches because they are not part of the true Church. We deny.

In opposition to this error, I present several arguments:

1. Pius XI, even while distinguishing them from the “true” church, referred to the reformed churches as such.

24. In his Controversies, although the holy Doctor made large use of the polemical literature of the past, he exhibits nevertheless a controversial method quite peculiarly his own. In the first place, he proves that no authority can be said to exist in the Church of Christ unless it had been bestowed on her by an authoritative mandate, which mandate the ministers of heretical beliefs in no way can be said to possess. After having pointed out the errors of these latter concerning the nature of the Church, he outlines the notes of the true Church and proves that they are not to be found in the reformed churches, but in the Catholic Church alone. He also explains in a sound manner the Rule of Faith and demonstrates that it is broken by heretics, while on the other hand it is kept in its entirety by Catholics. In conclusion, he discusses several special topics, but only those leaflets which treat of the Sacraments and of Purgatory are not extant. In truth, the many explanations of doctrine and the arguments which he has marshaled in orderly array, are worthy of all praise. With these arguments, to which must be added a subtle and polished irony that characterizes his controversial manner, he easily met his adversaries and defeated all their lies and fallacies.


2. “Faith Communities” appears to be a term born out of attempted ecumenical dialog with Judaism. Example (link) (Cardinal Kasper states: “I am committed to work together with you for the reconciliation of our two faith communities, on the basis of a total mutual respect for our respective traditions and convictions.”) While it may be viewed as a valid super-category for Church and Synagogue, it is not a “more proper” term for “heretical” and/or “schismatic” churches. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that no one could find a pope using the expression “faith communities” before Vatican II.

3. Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 speak of the “synagogue of Satan.” If “false Jews” can be said to be of a synagogue (even Satan’s synagogue), then “false Christians” could be said to be of a church. Moreover, as Mr. Burgess admits, the claim today is not even that the Reformed churches are full of false Christians, just separated brethren.

On these three points, I’d respectfully disagree with Mr. Burgess’ attempted buttressing of Mr. Hoffer on this issue of nomenclature. I can appreciate that Mr. Hoffer’s choice of words may have been made with total innocence of any derogatory ring, aiming instead to use the language of ecumenicism (it should be noted that the Vatican now uses “faith communities” to refer not only to Jewish synagogues and the church of Rome, but also to “Protestant” churches, such as the Methodists).

To that, however, I’d add that the Reformed churches are part of the true church, while the Vatican is not. What are the marks of a true church?

See the Real Turretin’s comments on this subject.


Reading Material for Mr. David Armstrong

December 19, 2008

It may be that, for some reason or other, Mr. Armstrong still pops by my blog. If so, I think he’ll get get a kick out of this post (link). Mr. Armstrong’s policy of labeling those who say that Rome teaches another gospel “anti-Catholics,” leads to a conflation between what the author of the linked article calls “good anti-catholicism” and “bad anti-catholicism.” I don’t agree with the article, but I think it should provide those who are quick to apply the “anti-Catholic” label with some food for thought.


Update on Dr. White and God’s Desire

December 2, 2008

On today’s Dividing Line radio program, Dr. White provided Tom Ascol’s discussion regarding the decrees of God, and the sense in which we can say that God desires that his commands be obeyed. Ascol also apparently noted that repenting and believing are God’s commands. Dr. White indicated that he agreed with Ascol’s comments. Presumably, this puts to bed any continued assertions that Dr. White denies that repentance and faith are desired by God in the sense of being within God’s decretive will, although Dr. White continues to agree with Phil Johnson and others that to use the word “desire” in such limited senses can lead to confusion. Will this satisfy those who have been accusing him? Who knows. I think it may help to persuade some of the more moderate of them.

UPDATE: here is a video clip to watch the statements:


Where’s the Catholic Church?

July 30, 2008

Richard (aka “Mary’s Son”) provides us with an example of two logical fallacies in one (source):

Richard writes: “You can say Roman all you want to try to confuse the term Catholic; but go out on any street in the world and ask for directions to the nearest Catholic church: you’re not going to end up in a Presbyterian church or any other church but in the only Catholic church there is; that which is in communion with the bishop of Rome.”

1) The argument from ignorance. Paraphrased as: “Since most people don’t know the difference between the term “catholic” and “Catholic,” it must mean there is no difference!” The fact that most people are ignorant of the difference is a negative judgment on their education: it is not a way to establish the matter logically.

2) The argument from the masses. Paraphrased as: “If practically everyone thinks it is so, they must be right.” The fact that most people think something is so doesn’t make it true. Democracy is not the way we establish truth.

The refutation to this silliness is simple: Ask the man on the street for an “Orthodox” church, and he won’t point you to a church in communion with Rome! Oh no. He’ll point you to a church more or less loosely affiliated with Constantinople. It must mean (by analogous reasoning to that of Richard) that Rome, while “catholic” nevertheless has fallen into heresy! This is obviously unacceptable to most of those who would have the same church affiliation as Richard.

In fact, despite many bad arguments from “Orthodox” folks, I think I’ve never heard such an obviously bad one. It’s too bad that there are at least some few people who think that the argument is a good one as applied to Catholicism.

Of course, Richard’s underlying accusation, i.e. that people use “Roman” to try to “confuse the term Catholic,” is a misplaced accusation. No one (that I’ve ever heard of) uses that term to try to confuse, but rather to try to avoid ambiguity, since there is a real and important difference between the church of Rome, which calls herself the “Catholic Church” and the universal (“catholic”) church of Christ (all those people who believe on Him for salvation as he is offered in the Gospel).

Finally, it’s not an horribly original argument. It’s loosely based on similar arguments either presented by or attributed to church fathers. It’s important to remember that not every argument made by the church fathers was a good argument. But when one engages in taking an argument about nomenclature, ripping it out of its context, and plopping into a new context a thousand years later, one should be unsurprised that it flops around like a fish out of water — and just as quickly expires.

To answer the subject question, the catholic church is the body of all believers. It is not at an address: it is throughout the whole world. Its faith is preserved in all those churches where the Gospel is preached and believed. Thus, through metonymy, a “catholic church” (i.e. a congregation that fits the label “catholic”) is a place where the faith of the catholic church is taught. By that definition, one would not look to the churches in communion with Rome, but in Evangelical churches.

Thus, if you get the subject question, I hope you’ll consider answering: “Are you looking for a place where the Gospel is proclaimed?” And then directing them to such a place, or explaining why that ought to be their objective.


Centuri0n is an Anti-Catholic? (I am not!)

July 25, 2008

In a recent post, Centuri0n (Frank Turk) has declared that he is an “anti-Catholic” (link) or at least why he’s ok with being called that. While I appreciate his basic rationale (which could be paraphrased as: “they’ve anathematized me, so – yeah – we are anti-one-another”), I am certainly not interested in adopting the title.

Why is that? Because the term is usually associated with nutcases like the college professor discussed here (link), who go out of their way to offend other people for the point of offending them. That’s not me.

I realize that some of things I say are going to offend, and there’s just no way around that:

1) Telling people that their religion is based on a false gospel that will not save them, is not something most people like to hear, even if it is the truth.

2) Telling people that the church they were raised in is not a pure church of Christ is something that bothers people who have been taught (and have believed) that it is such a church.

3) As we have discovered, even using a word other than their preferred title (e.g. not using “Catholic”) to describe them (even when done to avoid theological and historical confusion) is something that can upset people (see here for example).

4) In fact, telling people generally that they are in sin offends them. People don’t like to hear: “Repent and believe.”

That message is offensive, but it is offensive incidentally, just as calling one’s church “the universal church” is offensive to other churches that are part of the true universal church. Moreover, the message is truly “Catholic” in the original and proper sense of the word: it is the message of the universal Christian church. All who come to Christ do so in repentance and faith in Christ. This, of course, makes the whole “anti-Catholic” slur that much more inapplicable to folks like Centuri0n who in fact hold to what is properly (though not popularly today) designated the Catholic faith, though not to the doctrines of Rome.

The nutcase above, in contrast, aims to offend (and particularly to offend those who are transubstantionists – although he also has tried to offend many other groups). Others who would be properly labeled “anti-Catholic” hate people who call themselves “Catholics” (the KKK comes to mind). These are the folks that can properly be labeled for what they are.

We need to remember not to be like those groups. The Vatican has set itself against us and against the gospel. In past ages, it openly persecuted and had put to death many of our spiritual forefathers. Today, it opposes the gospel in other ways. It is not a good institution, and it is especially evil in arrogantly claiming to be “the Church.”

That said, Scriptures tell us to love those who persecute us (and frankly, while modern Rome doesn’t like what we have to say, “persecute” is a rather strong word for what they do in most English-speaking parts of the world today).

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Thus, to associate ourselves with the likes of vicious, godless mockers and haters simply because we oppose the doctrines and practices of the Vatican is wrong. That’s one reason I object to being mislabeled by certain hostile Vatican-friendly apologists as an “anti-Catholic,” and why I think Frank Turk should do the same.

I don’t think Centuri0n should be considered an “anti-Catholic,” because I am quite sure he doesn’t hate “Catholics,” because I am fairly confident that he doesn’t do things especially to offend them, and because the main source of offense between him and them is the Gospel. In fact, I think if you asked Frank if he loves “Catholics,” his sincere answer (like mine) would be, “yes” – as well it ought to be.

To those of you who happen to read this blog and who happen to consider yourselves “Catholics.” As strongly as I am opposed to the doctrines and practices of your church, I do care for you as a person. In fact, one reason I spend time trying to demonstrate the errors of the Vatican is for your benefit.


P.S. This is an issue that comes up from time to time. Accordingly, I may end up date bumping this post either to the top of the blog in the event that it needs to be said again, or to the back of the blog, if it needs to go to a reference post status.

Papist Assistance

July 21, 2008

PA’PIST,n. A Roman catholic; one that adheres to the church of Rome and the authority of the pope. (Webster 1828)

A few people have griped about my use of the word “papist.” I would use “Roman catholic,” except that (a) people get confused and think I mean “Latin Rite,” and (b) the term “Catholic” to describe a Roman catholic, or papist, is mis-descriptive.

Here’s my request for assistance from those who bridle at the designator “papist.”

1. Try to realize that I’m just indicating the definition above. I’m not trying to impugn your character, mock your ancestors, or cast aspersions on your intellect or sincerity.
2a. Try to set aside your ideas that if someone uses that term, they must not like papists as people. For whatever reason (I ascribe it to a sincere belief in the soteriological importance of works), some of the nicest, most personable people I’ve met have been devout papists. Some of my most stimulating intellectual and theological discussions have been with papists, many of whom are very bright.
2b. That said, I do (strongly) disagree with your doctrine. There is no Scriptural doctrine of the papacy, and it is wrong for Rome to teach such a doctrine, and wrong for you (or anyone) to accept such a doctrine, since it is not from God (notice that this is just a statement of my position, not the argument for my position).
3. In short, do not mentally impose some unintended (by me) negative connotation onto my use of the term “papist”.
4. If there exists an accepted synonym for “papist” that lacks the connotations you dislike, let me know what it is. I’ve seen “papalist,” but that – to me – just sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to spell “papist.”
5. “Catholic,” which is what seems to be about the only acceptable label to some of the more vocal complainers on this topic, is not an option for me, because I am unwilling to cede the title “Catholic” to church that is not only not itself catholic, but has departed departed from the catholic faith as defined by Scripture. As I have to remind certain people, your church is not “the Church,” and your church is not “catholic” both because it is not universal either in scope (there are Christian churches that are not in communion with Rome) or authority (there are Christian churches that do not owe a duty of obedience to Rome) and because the way of salvation taught by Rome is not the way of salvation set forth in Scripture.
6. Another option, “Romanist,” has been similarly tarred as being objectionable, for essentially the same reason that it has negative connotations. Furthermore, “Romanist,” runs the risk of being confused as being relevant only to “Latin rite” folks.
7. Frankly, I get the feeling that the main response that is going to be running through the heads of those who accept the authority of the pope and who read this is, “Just call us ‘Catholics’!” In fact, I get the feeling that some folks out there are set on being offended by any other label, no matter innocuous it is in itself, or how well or accurately it describes those folks’ theological position. I recognize that this post, or a hundred more like it, will do nothing to persuade such people. Such people are not considering the matter rationally, but emotionally. Nevertheless, if there is an easy way to accommodate them without sacrificing the truth, I’d be happy to hear the suggestions.

I welcome suggestions from those who are papists by the definition above, but who might not like that term or who might even find that term something unpleasant or revolting, despite the fact that it simply and accurately describes one’s adherence to a principle of church government (much as I am a Presbyterian, while other Reformed folk are congregationalist or episcopalian in their church government).

Remember that your suggestions are primarily for me, although I may share them with others – particularly others who are in the same position as me, of being essentially told that unless we use an incorrect and/or misleading term we’re hurting your feelings (something that is not our purpose [well, perhaps I should just speak for myself: it is not my purpose to hurt anyone’s feelings by the use of the word “papist” no matter how much people may dislike that term]).

Finally, a word of caution. Some people employ radical double-standards on this issue. I quote from “Julie R.” who identifies what offends her as: “Being labelled ‘Roman’ Catholic. Well, incidentally, I am of the Latin Rite. But on behalf of my non-Latin rite friends… Also, because of the origin of the term in Deformation England. ” (source – with more examples)

Notice how she uses the purely derogatory term “Deformation,” which is designed to express an opinion about the thing being described, while complaining about the fairly mild (if at all offensive) term “Roman” being affixed to “Catholic.”

In the same thread, MaryRita states: “Perhaps I’m thin skinned but the term “papist” really offends me. I guess because it is meant as a slur by those using it.” Presumably if MaryRita ever sees this post she’ll recognize that I don’t use it as a slur, but simply as an accurate description of ecclesiology. I wonder whether she would still insist on being offended by it. I would hope not.

Finally, I should point out that “Seminole Jim” later in the same thread states: “I rather like “Papist” and refer to myself that way if I’m asked what religion I am.” His sentiments are immediately echoed by another user “jmcrae.” I just happened to stumble across these two today. I can assure you that there are plenty of others who feel the same way.


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