As we now live in a post-Christian culture, there no longer remains an objective standard of truth. Whatever truth claim someone makes, the inner self is believed to be sovereign as subjective feeling determines what it means to be happy. Whatever I decide, on my own authority to do with my life, my body, my orientation, is the standard, and you have no right to question “me”: it’s true and you must now bow to my sovereign self-determination.
Christians reject this pursuit of going inward for truth as idolatrous. The problem is that Christianity today is ripped apart with more internal division than in any other period of church history. How can Christians today make any headway in this highly subjective culture when we struggle with what seems to be little unanimity with regard to the truth. It is for this reason that many have jumped to Eastern Orthodoxy or “swam the Tiber” to the Roman Catholic church. Christ’s “true” church shouldn’t look this messy, therefore, a return to Rome for absolute safety in the truth must be the answer, after all, this is exactly what Rome claims to be.
This is the predominant reason why we are seeing so many turn to Rome in our day for truth. If the psychological man of our day determines absolute truth by going inward, the religious man’s counterpart is to let the Roman church be that standard for you. The assumption is that unless there is a church that is given full power to be divinely protected from error, one can never really be sure his doctrine is true; it’s reduced to mere subjective opinion.
The church must have all supremacy of power and judgment on earth for us to have any kind of certainty of truth from the human opinions of men in their private readings of Scripture. Since Rome claims an unbroken chain of apostolic succession since Peter, passed to whoever is the present Pope, this is the only true church divinely protected from error. This is the assumption made, but is it “true”?
One of the greatest Protestant apologists, William Perkins, addressed these issues in the Reformed Catholic. In Point XVIII on Supremacy, Perkins observes that everything Christ does in his mediatorial work is something that originates from the two natures, human and divine, concurring in the same actions. This kind of mediatorial power cannot pass to any created nature.
In Hebrews 7:24 Christ is said to have a priesthood which cannot pass from his person to any other, whence it follows that neither his kingly, nor his prophetical office can pass from him to any creature, either in whole or in part because the three office of mediation in this regard be equal. Nay, it is a needless thing for Christ to have a deputy [vicar] to put in execution any part of his mediatorship, considering a deputy only serves to supply the absence of the principle, whereas Christ is always present with his Church by His Word and Spirit for where two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in the midst among them…
Perkins recognizes that Christ’s medatorial work as prophet, priest, and king is not passed on to another man. Christ’s mediation is something that he always lives to accomplish for his church. Pastors are only instruments in a representative manner, but Christ himself retains the power of mediation. The idea that Christ has passed on this prophetical power to a pope assumes that Christ himself, to one degree or another, has ceased his mediatorial work on our behalf.
Further, the question can be addressed by looking at the fruit that has resulted from Rome’s position on the authority of the church.
Perkins outlines seven sins of the Roman church:
1. Atheism in making the merit of the works of men to concur with the grace of God thereby overthrowing the grace of God.
2. Idolatry in the worship of saints and images.
3. Adultery in the toleration of uncleanness among men and women.
4. Sorcery through a breaden-God in exocisms over holy bread, holy water, and salt and casting out devils by the sign of the cross, holy water, ringing bells, by relics, etc.,
5. Perjury as a papist may answer dishonestly against the direct intention of the examiner.
6. Reversal of God’s commandments.
7. Lying to justify their doctrine.
“The error” here is obvious: if Christ passed on his mediatorial work to the Church of Rome to have full supremacy in being protected from all error, how do you explain the gross doctrinal sins and errors that have resulted?
The only way to know the truth comes through the mediation of Christ through the authority of his Word. This is the Reformed doctrine of Scripture alone as the source of all authority since it is his mediatory Word. God’s Word created the church, is found in the church, and preached by the church as his living Word. The mediatorial function of Christ’s prophetical office is not passed to another man, it is a work of the Holy Spirit who is given to keep the elect in all truth. In this way Christ remains the head of his church as he governs her by his Word and Spirit.
“What is truth,” asked Pilate. Never did Christ confirm the truth by any doctrine of tradition. Christ plainly responded that his Word is truth, and whoever welcomes Christ’s Word not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, is promised by Christ himself that he has already passed from death into life.
This may not seem satisfactory to us, but this is precisely the reason the Holy Spirit was sent to us, to keep us in all truth. If we have received Christ in true faith, the truth has set us free. Going to the Roman Pope for truth is simply the other side of the coin of going inside to become your own “pope”, both take you away from the truth as it is found in Jesus and continue to lie of the devil from the beginning.