Fall from Grace – OPC Pastor Converts to Roman Catholicism

Former OPC pastor Jason Stewart decided to leave the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) as a pastor for full communion into the Roman Catholic Church. His blog post outlines his reasons and I must say they would not be surprising for someone that was raised Roman Catholic, but I find them untenable for a former pastor of the Reformed Faith.

He has three reasons for defending his decision. Here are high-level problems with his reasoning:

1. The positive principles of the Protestant Reformation – For his authority on this position he references a book written and I quote: “The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer was recommended to me. Bouyer was a Lutheran minister who converted to Catholicism mid-last century.” The main thesis of the book is that each of the major points addressed in Reformation were rooted in Roman Catholicism. Yes that is true, which is why those points had to be reformed and when dipolomocy failed to reform them, more drastic measures were necessary. Notice how there is no defence of this position biblically which of necessity he has to accept for both his arguments and his decision to convert to Roman Catholicism.

2. The writings of the Church Fathers – His next argument is that the early church fathers were throughly Roman Catholic in what they taught and believed. I think he have a plethora of golden nuggets of theological wisdom from the early church fathers, there is also mixed in with them truth and error. Let’s just take one of the early church fathers, Origen as an example:

“Origen taught the pre-existence of souls, universal salvation and a limited hell, doctrines for which he was posthumously condemned as a heretic.”

3. The question of Church authority – His view in this area is nothing new as Roman Catholicism goes as he clings to Matthew 16:18 as defending the need to have a universal bishop in the form of the pope. What’s ironic is what he says about where the church gets it’s authority in his attempt to refute Sola Scriptura: “In contrast to this “Scripture alone” position, the Catholic Church teaches that the Church, not the Bible, is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15)” Wait a minute. Did he just use the bible that the bible was not the pillar and foundation of truth, but that the “Church” is? To me that is like saying everything is relative and then asking the person who said that it that was a relative statement! He essentially cuts the branch he is sitting on to make his argument. An argument made of sand.

In conclusion let’s just take a look at one Roman Catholic Pope in the form of Benedict IX:

Benedict IX was Pope from 1032 to 1044, again in 1045, and finally from 1047 to 1048, the only man to have served as Pope for three discontinuous periods. He was also one of the youngest Popes (reigning from around age 18-20). He reportedly led an extremely dissolute life, and also allegedly had few qualifications for the papacy other than connections with a socially powerful family, although in terms of theology and the ordinary activities of the Church he was entirely orthodox. St. Peter Damian described him as “feasting on immorality” and “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest” in the Liber Gomorrhianus, a treatise on papal corruption and sex that accused Benedict IX of routine homosexuality and bestiality.

He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of “many vile adulteries and murders.” Pope Victor III referred to “his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a Pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.”

Benedict gave up his papacy for the first time in exchange for a large sum of money in 1044. He returned in 1045 to depose his replacement and reigned for one month, after which he left again, possibly to marry, and sold the papacy for a second time, to his Godfather (possibly for over 650 kg /1450 lb of gold). Two years later, Benedict retook Rome and reigned for an additional one year, until 1048. Poppo of Brixen (later to become Pope Damascus II) eventually forced him out of Rome. Benedict’s place and date of death are unknown, but some speculate that he made further attempts to regain the Papal Throne.

The argument will be made that he was forced out of Rome, but the Roman Catholic doctrine states that he was the vicar of Christ while he was executing this office. Let the reader beware and consider.

2 thoughts on “Fall from Grace – OPC Pastor Converts to Roman Catholicism

  1. Good post Justin. It saddens me to read about professedly Reformed & Presbyterian ministers (such as Scott Hahn, Gerry Matatics, and now one of our own, Jason Stewart) "swimming the Tiber" into Romanism. (I have to wonder just how commited to and/or knowledgeable of the Reformed Faith men like this actually were before their "conversion" to Rome.) Mr. Stewart's arguments as you list them above are standard fare in Romanist apologetics and conversion stories, but as you show even a little careful thinking about such arguments demonstrates how vacuous and superficial is the case for Romanist claims.

    As you point out above, Stewart inconsistently appeals to Scripture in order to disprove "Scripture alone" (and ironically he does so by misinterpreting 1 Tim. 3:15 and Matt. 16:18). Romanist apologists frequently try to win over Protestants by claiming that "Scripture itself doesn't teach Scripture alone," but in my opinion they rarely interact seriously with the best historic Protestant biblical arguments in favor of sola Scriptura or with Scripture passages that would appear to refute their "Scripture plus Tradition interpreted by an infallible church" view; plus they seem often to misrepresent Protestant Sola Scriptura as if it means "just me and Jesus and my Bible in my prayer closet, without the interpretive authority of the church" (a straw man of what the Reformers meant by Sola Scriptura). They claim that an infallible Bible needs an infallible church to offer a true interpretation. The fallacy in their thinking is the assumption that a fallible church could never yield a true interpretation of the infallible Word. Ultimately the Romanist position is not "Scripture plus Tradition," but "Sola Ecclesia" (the church alone), for ultimately both Scripture and Tradition must bow to the current dogmatic thinking of the church's hierarchy (Pope & Magisterium).

    The Romanist appeal to "the unanimous consent of the church Fathers" is almost laughable, since the church Fathers disagreed with each other on a whole host of issues, and some were quite unsound (as you pointed out in your reference to Origen). The idea that the early Church Fathers were thoroughly Roman Catholic is historical anachronism — reading more recent debates and issues and doctrinal positions in church history back into the earlier centuries. The fact is that the papacy had a gradual historical development, and many of the doctrines of the modern Roman Catholic church were completely unknown (or in some cases undeveloped) in the early church (the immaculate conception, papal infallibility, etc.). Though there are some superficial resemblances, the ancient "Catholic" (i.e., "universal") church was not the same thing as the modern "Roman Catholic" church.

    Again, good post. Keep up the good work.

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