Below is a basic denominations & traditions chart I made for the residents while working at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission. I’m hesitant to share this here because, admittedly, its overly simplistic and I suspect many will find it unsatisfying or maybe even at times misleading for that reason. Nonetheless, for someone who is less familiar and looking simply to get a basic acquaintance with the general landscape, I hope this can provide a helpful starting place, notwithstanding the understandable short comings of something as brief as this.
The printing press was invented in 1440, allowing written works — like the Bible — to be widely produced and distributed.
Desiderius Erasmus’ Greek New Testament of the Bible, the first of its kind to be made, was published in 1516, facilitating the movement “ad fontes,” and a close examination of scripture in its original language.
The Protestant Reformation kicked off contemporaneously, circa 1517.
Coincidence? I think not.
When the Word of God is unleashed, expect theological reform.
At the heart of the Reformers’ agenda was to put the scriptures into the hands and ears of the people. Contrast that with the Roman Catholic Church, who, at the time, forbid preaching or translating the Bible into the common language. (Of what were they afraid?)
The Reformation was a movement of the scriptures.
The Roman Catholic Church holds itself up as the official interpreter of scripture.
But to claim such is for the Roman Catholic Church to assert itself into a position of standing over scripture. No longer would God and his Word serve as a supreme authority. Final appeal would not be made to the scripture itself, but to Rome and it’s interpretation of it.
In such a model, the Roman Catholic Church would, in essence, serve as the highest authority. But to make something other than God the highest authority is functionally to say that something has more authority than God himself, which is blasphemy Continue reading
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is written to those who are Protestant, in an effort to help them sense the theological chasm between Protestantism and Rome. As such, it is not written as much with an eye towards Catholics, to help them understand Protestant convictions or arguments.
Almost all attention is given to unpacking Catholic thought. Protestant views are only mentioned occasionally in so much as to provide a contrast. But they are not expanded upon.
The above is not a critique of the book, just a clarification that if you are looking for a book that contrasts Protestant and Catholic belief, simultaneously making a case for Protestantism, for example, this is not your book. Sproul, rather, is detailing Catholic thought with an aim of depressing inappropriate ecumenical tendencies (i.e., blowing off differences with Rome) among protestants.
As he proceeds towards this aim, Sproul does a fair job presenting Catholic views. He is charitable, and avoids caricatures, which are all too common among protestants. He gives the needed nuance to Catholic views. He wants to help protestants genuinely understand Catholic theology, and to see it’s rationale.
This book is to be recommended for those looking to understand Catholicism better, specifically on those key subjects where it differs most significantly from Protestant thought.