Developing an Evangelical Analysis of Roman Catholicism in Rome, Evangelical Focus
In contemporary evangelical theology, there is a noticeable lack of reflection on Roman Catholicism, with few exceptions. After a two-year suspension due to the pandemic, the sixth edition of the Rome Scholars and Leaders Network (RSLN) was held June 13-17, 2022.
It was organized by the Reformanda Initiative and took place at the evangelical church Breccia di Roma in the heart of Rome.
Overall, there are no similar conferences which offer evangelical scholars the opportunity to grow in their analysis of Roman Catholicism.
As ecumenical pressure on the evangelical movement to reconcile downwards with Rome intensifies, it is even more strategic and urgent to promote the evangelical study of Roman Catholicism. The RSLN is unique for its disciplinary focus in this regard, and for the quality of its program.
This year’s RSLN saw 25 participants from 13 countriess (from three continents: Europe, Oceania and the Americas) participate in sessions characterized by presentations, seminars and dialogues for five consecutive days.
Some participants were university theologiansothers were doctoral students in theologyy, and most were theologians-pastors or leaders of evangelical initiatives in the areas of formation and/or mission.
Half of them were participating for the first time, the other half returned for their second, third and fourth RSLN. Over the years, the RLSN generated a community of evangelical scholars and students who, engaged in various responsibilities in the fields of research, teaching and the development of evangelical networks, has benefited and contributed to the growth of the evangelical consciousness of Roman Catholicism in various parts of the world.
In addition to the RLSN, the Reformanda Initiative promotes an annual training program (Mentoring all year), produce a podcastand maintains a website that provides easily accessible resources (articles, videos, etc.) regarding Roman Catholic evangelical theology.
A group of Australian RSLN participants is about to launch a video course on Catholicism for small discussion groups within evangelical churches. Plans also include launching a theological journal that will make the papers presented at RSLN more accessible and available each year. Some former RSLN participants are now engaged in doctoral programs.
Various topics were discussed throughout the week. Always approaching a “systemic” vision of Roman Catholicism, the articles addressed the classic nature-grace themes interdependence and the interconnection between Christ and the church (the two axes of Roman Catholicism), with historical themes (the controversy between Bellarmine and the Reformation, the exchange of letters between Calvin and Sadoleto).
There was also doctrinal themes (the doctrine of sin in Catholic theology, Mariology, the atonement in Catholic teaching), contemporary themes (the influence of a Catholic author like Henri Nouwen, the analysis of liberation theology by Gustavo Gutièrrez, the document Praedicate evangelium of Pope Francis) and missiological questions (the challenges of witnessing to Catholics).
The program was characterized by intense plenary discussions on these issues. Moreover, as is the custom of the RLSN, one evening was open to the public.
A few dozen Roman evangelical believers attended the presentation of the book 10 Dead Guys You Should Know About by Rachel Ciano, Lecturer in Historical Theology at Sydney Bible and Missionary College and regular contributor to RSLN. This helped promote a bond between the evangelical churches of Rome and the RSLN.
Two highlights of the RSLN were dialogues with Roman Catholic theologians.
The first saw the rector of the Pontifical Saint Thomas University discuss the theme What is the fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic faith and the Evangelical faith?.
The second saw a Catholic patristic scholar discuss with an evangelical scholar the theme Was Augustine Catholic or Protestant?. The Rector of the Patristicum Institute in Rome (the prestigious institution dedicated to patristic studies in the city) also participated in this second session.
Dialogues with the best Catholic theologians confirmed the plausibility of considering Roman Catholicism as an integrated whole Which one is neither based on scripture alone nor on faith alone.The RSLN can be said to have been an opportunity for high-level interactions with Roman Catholic theology.
In contemporary ecumenical parlance, dialogue is often confused with forms of spiritual unity. At the RSLNhowever, the dialogue was experienced as an opportunity for a respectful and candid conversation.
Roman Catholicism is a theological system which, while using words that closely resemble biblical language, is a bad gospel and certainly different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Leonardo De Chiricoevangelical pastor in Rome.
Posted in: Evangelical Focus – Characteristics
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