Chris Castaldo - "The Unfinished Reformation"
1:32AM Jun 30, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it is our pleasure to be speaking with Dr. Chris Castaldo. Dr. Castaldo is lead pastor of New Covenant church in Naperville, Illinois and author of several books including, Holy Ground, Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic, and Talking with Catholics about the Gospel, and co-author of the text that we'll be discussing today, The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 Years. Dr. Castile it's an honor to be speaking with you today.
Thanks, Jonathan. My privilege,
Dr. Castaldo, as we begin,
I just want to mention that you have for our viewers sake that you have a unique life experience. You're a former Roman Catholic, you served full time in the Roman Catholic Church and now you're a pastor at a prominent Evangelical Church in Naperville. As you reflect on your own story, how much of the difference Between Catholics and Protestants, would you say is attributable to cultural differences?
Yeah, culture exerts influence, to be sure. As they say, there's no such thing as a view from nowhere. We're all embedded in some cultural situation. And so it's difficult to parse out what aspects are doctrinal and what parts are cultural. So for example, as a Catholic boy, I would go to my local parish and put my hand into the holy water font, make the sign of the cross, what parts were informed by doctrine, what parts were doctrinal, or when we celebrated the feast of St. Joseph, we Italians would eat the set zeppeli Santos Zippy. There again, it's not always easy. I think. We help ourselves when we ask the question why? When we ask why we are beginning to do theology, it helps us to get underneath are religious practices? So in the case of the holy waterfront, why would we do that? Why would one do that as a Catholic, and you discover there is a total mystic theology there that nature conveys grace that God works through water and wine and bread and oil. And similarly for Protestants, why do we gather around God's Word to hear it preach? Why do we study it ourselves? It's because we believe it's inspired by God is the means through which the Spirit works to enliven our souls. And so difficult as it is, I think that we have some opportunity to gain insight by asking that question why
Dr. Castaldo, in your book, the unfinished reformation you don't shy away from the specific doctrinal differences that do divide Catholics and Protestants, if we can dive into some of those more difficult issues. What about Mary? If we as a broader Christian community study out Mary ology in more detail? Is that going to bring us closer to one another? Or at the end of the day? Are we going to simply throw up our hands and say these are points on which we we cannot agree?
Yeah. Well, I think the the central problem with Marian devotion from a Protestant point of view is the way in which Mary often supplants the centrality of Christ, eclipses his preeminence. I think of the words of Bernard of clairvaux, for example, who said, if you have a need, go to Mary, let her take those requests to her son Jesus. After all the logic goes, What Jewish boy could ever resist the appeals of his mother. So Mary becomes the warm, inviting maternal figure, and Jesus is often regarded as the transcendent destiny. And perhaps even terrifying, divine figure. And that's a that's a problem from a Protestant point of view. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Our Lord said, Come on to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, I'll give you rest. And so when Protestants look at Marian devotion, it seems that is the the problem that rises to the surface. And when you read Catholic documents, I think that difference comes into sharper focus. If I may ask another thorny
question, what about papal infallibility?
What are the points where Catholics and Protestants are speaking past one another, and there is an opportunity to perhaps come to a position of resolution that we didn't understand before, and where the points probably have simply simply a permanent
A key difference has to do with the idea that there is a representative of God upon the earth who can speak into From a Protestant point of view, we would say, the only Vicar of Christ who speaks infallibly for God is the Holy Spirit. sent by the father and the son in dwells The church was the spirit, who inspired the writers of Scripture to produce these infallible texts, and it is the Spirit who works through those texts in order to illumine and apply that truth to the lives of men and women. I think even more troubling, however, is the way in which the doctrine of papal infallibility impinges on salvation. So for example, if we were to read the statement on the assumption of Mary, which was pronounced to be infallible by Pope Pius the 12th in 1950, there at the end, after he explicates the content of this dogma, it says that if a person Has the temerity to deny or repudiate this doctrine. That person has completely fallen away from the divine and Catholic faith. So it's it's essential for someone to uphold this teaching in order to be in relationship with God is the idea. And so when when infallibility goes to that extent, evangelicalism are naturally going to recoil and see that as a very different understanding, not only of Revelation, but also of salvation itself.
Dr. Castaldo, in your chapter on the church and sacraments you address what perhaps is one of the most intractable differences between Catholics and Protestants. Is there any way that we could come to agreement on the differences that we hold between the doctrines of church and sacraments or is this anchored in a simply different way of expression? practicing the Christian doctrine of grace.
Yeah. Well, there are fundamental differences in our theological starting points. I think this is reflected in the way we arrange our furniture at our churches. For example, if you walk into a Catholic Parish, what do you see front and center, you see the altar on which the mass is celebrated. And if you go into a Protestant church, you usually see a pulpit or a podium there at the center, where the Bible would be placed. And behind that you're exactly right. There is this entire system of theological thoughts on the Catholic side. It is the conviction that Christ incarnates his presence into one holy catholic and apostolic church. That's how grace operates or extends from heaven to earth and the instrumental means through which that extends into the lives of people are the sacraments And at the center of the sacraments is the Eucharist, the source and summit of Christian life. And it is through the consecrated trans substantiated a host, that God is thought to extend his sanctifying grace, x operate up urato into the souls of men and women so that they are internally renewed. And on that basis, they are accepted by God, they're justified. That's a very different understanding from the Protestant vision of how grace operates for the Protestant is very much a word centered relationship. So you have Jesus, the living word at the right hand of the Father, and Jesus the written word, in the text. So john one In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God. And it is through the word that the Spirit goes about enlivening souls. It is Through the word that the spirits sanctifies and, therefore our Christian lives as, as Protestants are oriented around that in that Divine Word. So these are, once again, fundamental differences of conviction. And I think one needs to assess them on the basis of those assumptions. And against the backdrop of Scripture. Assess which of those is more in keeping with Scripture and the Christian tradition
doctrine Castaldo, I've long wondered whether the differences between Catholics and Protestants today could be articulated by looking back at to the platonic metaphysic and wondering if the Catholic Church has retained a more intact heritage through the middle ages of this platonic metaphysic, which sees the sacraments As, as as arbitrating Christ's actual
place and and operation
and the the Protestant viewpoint which is seemingly lost its metaphysical orientation from antiquity in the Middle Ages, would you care to comment?
Well, it's true that from a Roman Catholic point of view, you have the teaching of Thomas Aquinas, which is typically more associated with, with Aristotle, that formulates the understanding of nature and Grace, Grace so that nature conveys grace and grace is thought to elevate and perfect nature. And that understanding of the sacraments is quite different from the way a Protestant understands them, which may be summarized simply as visible words. So it is the word that is pronounced alongside of the sacrament which provides The divine authority through that word that the Spirit operates in his in his work of sanctification. And so there is very much difference in the way we appropriate these these ideas from the Greek world. And in the case of the Catholic sacramental system, it is it is far more indebted to those thoughts then would be the Protestant understanding. Thank you for your willingness to engage on that point. Dr. Gustavo.
Dr. Castaldo, in the final section of your book you close with the provocative question is the Reformation finished? And you give the equally provocative answer No, but I wish I understand mean that the divisions created during the Reformation continue to reach into the present, but that the present is also a time of opportunity. In your view, what are the real roadblocks to ecumenical progress in the present All
right. Well, we have made progress. Now we have a congenial relationship with our Catholic friends. In the 16th century, Catholics and Protestants were impaling drowning, exacting all manner of violence toward one another. And so we can be thankful that we live in a new day. We have lunch with our Catholic friends, and we pray for their families and their children. And that's that's the appropriate relationship. And yet, we also need to recognize our differences. You asked about obstacles that keep us apart. I think on the Catholic side, it would be the notion that the true Church of Christ subsists in the Roman Catholic Church, so that Protestants are regarded as separated Brethren, and not as a complete church, in and of themselves. That is what leads to the Catholic understanding of Eucharist as a meal that is open only to Roman Catholics. That's a real problem because the Lord's table is the place where we showcase our unity to the world. And so, until that changes the Roman understanding of the church and the way in which we approach the Lord's table, there's going to be very limited unity, I'm afraid on the Protestant side. The problem is that we sometimes equate fidelity to the gospel with anti Catholicism. And that's the mistake. We need to take doctrine seriously. We need to be precise as it relates to Christian authority. It is sola scriptura. And also our doctrine of salvation were justified by faith alone and a range of other issues. So we attend to truth but we also need to apply the grace of God we need to exhibit the character of Christ. I like to, to describe it in terms of john 114. Jesus came full of grace and truth. So we were serious about doctrine. And we're equally serious about kindness and respect. And the the brotherly love to which we're called as Christians factory installed to the
question of inter communion is always near the surface when we speak of interdenominational relationships. What is your counsel concerning inter communion services or services were inter communion is practice between Protestants and Catholics?
Yeah, I mean, there are certainly things Catholics and Protestants can and should do together. In the public square. We can speak with one voice in defending the unborn advocating on behalf of the elderly, protecting and caring for refugees. I think when you have evangelicalism and Catholics, who have the Bible and personal relationship with Jesus at the center of their lives there, there's opportunity to come together as brothers and sisters and pray, pray for the world. Yes, we're not going to pray to Mary and their patterns of Catholic prayer that are different from what Protestants practice. And yet let's do what we can. In the context of worship, I'm afraid it's limited. Certainly we can preach the word and learn from one another about the riches of God's word there. There are lessons Protestants can learn from Catholics on a number of issues, social justice, being one example. But when it comes to again, the Lord table, then Protestants are not welcome to that communion. And so there are necessary limits to the amount of fellowship we can enjoy in the context of worship.
And Dr. Castaldo, if I may press on that very gently just for a moment, as a Protestant minister, would I'm sure you've thought of this many times? Is it appropriate for you to open up your church or for a church like yours to open itself up to inter communion with Catholics?
Yeah, I mean, I would want to know what inter communion means exactly. I think it here at New Covenant, we would be disinclined to engage in worship together for the reasons we've already discussed. On the other hand, it was about a year ago when we had rusty Reno first things come and deliver a lecture in our cultural engagement series on the subject of marriage. So there was a question Leader here speaking to us. And I think that was an appropriate thing for us to do.
Dr. Castaldo, thank you for your reflection and with your experience as an author, speaker, Pastor, both in the Catholic Church and in the evangelical community, what is the best that you've seen in the way that we can share real mission share real theological discussion with one another? Could you offer a few more concrete examples, please?
Yeah. If I were to put my finger on one suggestion, I would say that every, every Protestant should have a Catholic friend, someone with whom we grab coffee, lunch. And this is especially important for pastors. Because it's in that relationship in that friendship, deeply theological experience, where we begin to listen differently, and Catholicism is no longer this nameless, faceless belief system, but instead it's associated with someone we care about. And I think it will enrich our understanding of Catholicism. And so let it happen on the grassroots level among friends. And I think that's going to do something for the way we engage the larger conversation, whether it's in writing or public speaking or through some other mode of communication.
Dr. estado, if I can ask a question about Pope Francis, what do you see as the particular opportunities as well as the particular challenges that Pope Francis gives to the Catholic Protestant dialog today?
Yeah. Yeah, Pope Francis receives a lot of attention. And I think of a book recently written by Cardinal Walter, Caspar Pope Francis is revolution of tenderness and love. And in it, he describes the pope as someone who's in touch with humanity. He he understands the longings and the pains of the human heart. And as an anthropologist, he's able to evocatively describe them. I think there's something to that. I mean, when I have read the Pope, I think he has some keen insights into the needs of the human soul. Where the Pope, let's decide down very often, though, is in the, the remedy his expression of the remedy to that problem. That is to say, there's very seldom a clear explanation of the gospel in terms of one's need to turn from sin and embrace Christ alone as the Savior embraced Jesus as the the atoning sacrifice for their sin. And so, for example, when the Pope was here in the US, he spoke at the show In sessions of Congress, and then in the same trip also at the United Nations, and in both instances, he failed to mention the name of Jesus now from a Protestant point of view that is deeply troubling, um, for the Vicar of Christ, to fail to mention Christ. And so I think it's, it's natural for Protestants to have mixed feelings, to certainly resonate with the way the pope goes about describing the plight of humanity, but often being very frustrated by the failure to proclaim in a clear way, the good news of Christ
Dr. Castaldo, some have spoken about whether there could someday be a Vatican three Council. Do you see any possibility of a another Ecumenical Council where both Catholics and Protestants would be represented?
I suppose all things are possible. All. I mean, if one had asked before 1962 whether there'd be another Ecumenical Council, the answer would probably have been no. But john 220 third, pulled it off. Um, so yeah, I think that would be that would be very interesting. I have no reason to think that there is such a meeting on the near horizon. But there are to be sure, a number of topics that are now hotly debated, not least of which the matter of marriage and the way to treat so called irregular situations, those who have been divorced, remarried and and now desiring the Eucharist. Um, and so it's interesting to watch that conversation unfold. It's deeply painful for conservative Catholics. Just last week, I was at a gathering in which a Lutheran and Catholic disgust the legacy of Martin Luther and it was held at a Local Catholic Church, and afterward I got to chatting with a dear elderly woman who identified herself as a conservative Catholic. And she said, you know, during the pontificates of pope john paul and Benedict the 16th, someone had asked me, whether I'd side with the progressive us church or the papacy, it would have been a no brainer, the answer would have been the papacy. But now, I don't know what to do because I disagree with the teachings of this current Pope Francis. And as someone who recognizes the papacy is central. I find myself in a position I've never been in before. It's very interesting to hear her describe that. So all of that is to say I think there is a certain pressure building to discuss these issues and realize some resolution. The form that it will take, however, remains to be seen. Dr. Castaldo
many of us have appreciated the work of the Catholics and evangelicals together dialogue of the last two decades that work has slowed somewhat Do you have a movement that you look to is perhaps most promising and leading the way in Catholic and evangelical dialogue?
Well, I'm very fond of this statement that was recently released. The reforming Catholic confession. Now, this is Protestants who are articulating this position. And I understand it to be an attempt at upholding the grace truth balance that we talked about earlier. Here is a clear statement of what we believe in value as Protestants is evangelicalism. And here's how we understand the Roman Catholic Church. As it relates to gatherings with Catholic I've been part of a few it's been my privilege. Most recently, I participate pated in the dialogue that was sponsored by the United States Council of Catholic bishops, and we met to talk about the doctrine of justification, I went very optimistic, having just completed my doctoral research a year or two before that, on the subject of justification, and my thesis was aimed at arguing that there is common ground here between Catholics and Protestants in our understanding of twofold righteousness, that we are forgiven. And we are made righteous. Now the way we orient those two forms of righteousness differ. But there's, there's actually a lot of good conversation that can happen on that common ground. So I went to the dialogue with those ideas in mind. And after a day and a half. When I felt like I had built enough rapport with my conversation partners, I began to articulate them to propose the And I was really surprised by how disinterested they were these Catholic interlocutors of ours. They said in effect that's Trent has spoken. The basis of one's acceptance is the Spirit working in their heart which gives rise to meritorious works. And that the idea of two fold righteousness was repudiated a trend. And so Protestants need to recognize that the wonder of salvation is that God gives his spirit and produces in US works of righteousness that are pleasing to Him. Well, that's really different from your the evangelical Protestant understanding of justification. I won't say that my ecumenical balloon was popped. But uh, my optimism was, was allayed or was dampened, I should say,
to some extent, at that point, Doctor Castaldo,
if we take the premise that the various churches denominational, historic and denominational churches, Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox communion, the Lutheran Church, etc, if we take these churches as each preserving something of earliest Christianity, an aspect of the gospel or aspect of church life, and and has the end that we today have the opportunity of learning from one another's denominations, what what is it? What is the maybe central aspect that you would identify that evangelicalism ought to be learning from the Roman Catholic communion?
Yeah. Well, that last word you said, is, I think, insightful communion, that we belong to a community. A part of the unintended outcome of the Protestant Reformation was, I'm afraid, individualism. Now we want Christian faith to be personal. Indeed, that's that's what was missing to some extent and provoked the reformation, you might say, um, but it's, it's a problem when a personal faith becomes a hyper individualized faith, such that we fail to recognize that we have a larger communal identity before God that we are responsible to one another. And I think the Catholic Church captures that in ways from which we can learn. As Protestants, I think, similarly, in the Catholic tradition, there is often a regard for God's holiness and reverence that you don't see in a lot of Protestant churches. And so, I won't use any examples, but there's, you know, a certain part of our tradition, which is a little too familiar with God and enters his presence with a latte in hand and you know, it doesn't reflect, reflect the awe and wonder we should have when we enter into the presence of God. Now, I realized that in the Catholic tradition, that transcendence is often pushed to an extreme. And there's a failure to appreciate personal relationship with Christ. So I think we, we need to be open to learning those valuable lessons from one another. as Catholics and Protestants, Dr. Castile,
we're very grateful for your time. And if I can close with one final question, what would it mean for the church today to be united? How would we recognize this unity and what is it that we can do as Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed and john 17?
Well, the suggestion I made earlier comes to mind about finding a Catholic friend. I think that will go a long way in bringing us together We'll still disagree on those issues of difference. But at least we'll do it as as friends. Beyond that, I would say that we have a great deal to gain by reading scripture together by acquiring a more biblically chaste understanding of who we are in Christ, and our mission in the world, that the leading edge of our identity is this enterprise of proclaiming Christ. That's what it means to be of angelical. And so, let's befriend Catholics. Let's do it. Honestly, with humility, let's be students. And let's do it with reference to Scripture, so that we can understand better who we are in this world. And what it is God has called us to
spend our huge pleasure today to be speaking with Dr. Chris Castaldo, lead pastor of New Covenant church in Naperville, Illinois, and also author The texts that we've been discussing the unfinished reformation, what unites and divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 years. Dr. Costolo, thank you so much for your time this
morning. Thank you, Jonathan.