John Bugay at Triablogue, back in 2015 did a series of excellent articles on Gregg Allison’s book, “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice”
I remember seeing them at the time and reading some of them, but I must have forgotten. I have Allison’s book and it is good, of what I have read.
Allison posits that Roman Catholicism has 2 root principles:
- Nature-Grace – the grace comes to human through physical objects, creation objects
- Christ-Church – that the Roman Catholic Church on earth is the only true Church that Jesus founded, and is actually the extension of Jesus’ incarnation in this world and only the RCC dispenses grace to people.
see the article for links to the book.
What struck me was the “nature-grace” principle of Roman Catholicism. Eastern Orthodoxy seems to have the same principle = God’s grace is conveyed to a person by means of literal physical things – water in baptism, bread and wine in the Eucharist, oil in chrismation or anointing – and I would add, through touching statues or praying to, kissing icons or staring at them and repeating the EO “Jesus Prayer” (an acquaintance of mine recently told me he stares at an icon of Jesus and says the EO Jesus prayer over and over for hours, trying to deal with sin, etc.) over and over, or relics and pilgrimages and church buildings and giving alms to the poor and doing other external works.
The focus and emphasis on physical things seems to be what Paul is rebuking the Colossians and the Galatians for: rebuking them for legalism, putting philosophy over Christ, external works, asceticism and mysticism.
“the elementary principles of this world”
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.
Galatians 4:9 -11
8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
What prompted me to remember these articles by John Bugay and Allison’s book, is seeing some of Allison’s videos and the listening to the content and remembering and then pulling the book back out and reading more of it, skipping around.
John Bugay has provided a great diagram of the essence of Roman Catholic understanding of itself, that only she can dispense grace into the world.
Two videos that made me get out Allison’s book again:
“Is the Reformation Over?” – answer: No.
Austin Suggs of “Gospel Simplicity” interviewed Gregg Allison on Roman Catholicism: