Recently, a prominent Reformed blogger I read (and generally appreciate) asserted that the the Roman Catholic Church is a false church. Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve read something like this. It seems to me that this is par for the course among Protestants of all kinds.
The thing is, apparently even Martin Luther wouldn’t have made such a serious accusation, despite his many harsh words directed toward the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.
Luther, for instance, said,
We call the Church of Rome holy, and the bishops' sees holy, though they be perverted...there are still Baptism and the Sacrament, the Gospel, the Scripture, the ministry, the name of Christ and God. Therefore the Church of Rome is holy.
Luther doesn’t stop there. He continues:
Wherever the Word and Sacraments substantially remain, there is the holy Church.1
The fact that even the Father of the Reformation realized the Gospel still resided in the Roman Catholic Church deals a mighty blow to the idea of the Gospel as basically equivalent to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Even Calvin acknowledged the validity of Roman Catholic baptism and said,
...some ruins of a scattered Church exist there...2
Obviously the Reformers had deep and divisive differences with the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, I am finding in some of their writings a charity that is strangely absent from mainstream Reformation Christianity.