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Shall we go to Rome?

This article was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 13, January-March 1999.

C ARDINAL Winning, the leading Roman Catholic in Scotland, has made a bold claim. He is reported in The Scotsman as saying that 'Catholicism' (for which read Popery) would be Scotland's only faith in the next century. Believing that the smaller Presbyterian denominations are dying out, while the 'mainstream' Churches are moving away from their traditional "dreariness" he is offering remarkable terms for 'reunification': a return to pre-Reformation doctrine and government but with a much diminished role for the Papacy.

Leaving aside the Cardinal's prophetic speculations (which we believe and pray will be disappointed) we see how the modern ecumenical mind works. It regards all churches (and increasingly, all faiths) as a continuum, each divided from the rest only by degrees of understanding; from 'Catholic' to Calvinist there is a sliding scale of belief. Such thinking has no place for vital truth: it wilfully disregards the fact that the true Reformed Faith and Popery are separated not by an accident of history but by the gospel itself. Romanism (and, indeed, Arminianism) teaches a gospel of works, not of grace only: those who preach it place themselves under the Divine anathema delivered by Paul (Gal. 1:6-9); the Lord's people have no business in seeking communion with such darkness.

The scheme proposed for ending hostilities is far from a 'meet-each-other-halfway' one. Says Winning: "There will be no movement on doctrine and no movement on the seven sacraments.... Remember, it was them who left us." Surrender is required and reunion will be by absorption. As someone said, when in this dispensation the lamb lies down with the wolf, the likely outcome is that the lamb ends up inside the wolf, disappearing altogether.

Finally there is the assumption that episcopacy is 'a good thing': "The other Churches will have to accept bishops." The Scots of all people have reason to be wary of prelates. We have heard of a friend who recently spoke up for biblical church government at a meeting promoting ecumenism only to be denounced by an Episcoplian clergyman as an idolater: "You worship the Bible!" Not so, but worshipping the God whose Word it is we say to all such that it is not right "to hearken unto you more than unto God" (Acts 4:19) - in anything. May Scotland soon see that the Cardinal is not after all winning!