A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
24th April 2008
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Protestantism is a protest. Our protest is against the enormity of the claims of the Roman Catholic Church.
Some people are born as Protestants. They are anti Roman Catholic because of their own tribal roots. They have no belief other than Roman Catholics are wrong.
But Protestantism is not tribalism. It is the belief in the sole authority of the Bible. The Bible explains to us that salvation is only by the Grace of God. This salvation comes through Christ alone, and is received by faith without any works on our part. So all is to the glory of God alone. It is the belief that Christ's death was sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world. In his death Christ turned away the anger of God. Our Prayer Book describes Christ's death as “a full, perfect sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”
So we protest against Roman Catholic claims to authority. We object to the Pope claiming to be the Vicar of Christ. We reject all claims to authority that imply the insufficiency of Scripture. We oppose their confusion about the way of salvation. We reject any implication that Jesus work on the cross was insufficient or is received by more than faith or requires some other mediator.
This protest against Roman Catholicism is no small complaint. It goes to the very heart of the gospel and the way of salvation. The 39 Articles of the Anglican Church state “the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith”.
That sentence was written in the sixteenth century. Since then the Roman Catholic Church has added to its heresies—the Immaculate Conception (1854), the Infallibility of the Pope (1870), and the bodily Assumption of Mary (1950). There is nothing in modern Roman Catholicism that reduces our need to protest. They have not repented of their Reformation errors.
In a few months time the local Roman Catholics are going to host the World Youth Day, in our city. This large congress of people will inconvenience the normal flow of our lives. It will cost our community large sums of money. Some people have protested against it. Their complaint is usually in terms of separation of Church and State or the undermining of the secular nature of our state.
These protests have little to commend them. Australia as a nation has a proud Protestant heritage. That is why we have so many policies on individual rights and tolerance. But about a quarter of Australia's tax paying citizens are Roman Catholics. They have every right to enjoy a gathering of their people.
It is an honour for our city to host people from all over the world. It is to the credit of our city that we are willing to be hospitable not only to people with whom we agree but also to those with whom we disagree.
Of course our hospitality is expensive. That is the nature of hospitality. But in the larger picture of our finances it is a small amount of money. Compared to the amount of tax our Roman Catholic neighbours contribute it is as nothing.
Naturally our hospitality is inconvenient. We are regularly inconvenienced by parades and demonstrations, by sporting events and parties. That is the nature of living in a world city. The sectional groups that invade our space are all part of the rich tapestry of city life. I do not have to like every group that meets in the public square.
The World Youth Day does not compromise the separation of Church and State. Nor does it undermine secular government. The government provides facilities and security for any group. This is done without reference to what they believe. To refuse to provide these facilities to the Roman Catholics would compromise the separation of Church and State. This is true especially if the refusal was because they were Roman Catholics.
Our secular government is just doing what they are elected, and paid to do. They are providing the things of this age—roads, power, police, electricity, etc. The fact that they are providing them for Roman Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or Hindu's is an irrelevance. We can only complain when there is favouritism. The complaint then is about favouritism not about the group to which favouritism is shown.
Once again we see the confusion of secular with secularism. It is the confusion of secularist philosophy with secular government.
Secular means this age—of this world. We have a government that is secular i.e. relating to the things of this age—hospitals, building, roads, economy etc.
Secularism is the religious philosophy, which teaches that there is no other age or world than this one. Secularism is another name for materialistic atheism.
The secularists wish to impose their atheistic belief on society through government. They are the ones who do not believe in the separation of church and state. They try to use government to enforce their viewpoint. Thus they oppose the normal secular support that is given to Roman Catholics.
It is perverse to think that the government is helping promote Roman Catholicism by assisting World Youth Day as they are. If this were the World Jehovah Witness day or the World Yoga conference the government support would be the same.
We live a city with neighbours whose life-style choices are varied and whose philosophies of life are diverse. As citizens we need to help each other whether or not we agree with each other.
The Government closing roads or making way for pilgrims does not compromise my protest against Roman Catholicism in the slightest.
I will not be welcoming the pope, going out to see him or waving a flag. But I am certainly not going to pray for rain on his parade. Remember our Lord said that our Father in heaven sends sun and rain on friend and foe alike. This is God giving secular support. We should want our government to do the same.