Francis Schaeffer's response to "Co-Ministry With Roman Catholics?"

A response by Francis Schaeffer to "Co-Ministry With Roman Catholics?"

  • Chalet le Chardonnet
  • 1885 CHESIERES
  • Switzerland
  • May 26, 1980
  • Dictated May 19, 1980
  • Mr. Michael Fishkin
  • 9Bennett Street
  • Brighton, Mass. 02135
  • Dear Mr. Fishkin:

Thank you for your letter of May 9 and for the material you sent. I have read with special care the tracts on Yom Kippur, on science and the Sound of the Trumpet. I thought the one on using the scientists was an especially unique approach and I trust that you have found it useful among those that you are working with.

I was so glad that Edith’s and my books have been such a help to you. We truly are thankful. I must say Edith and I are both filled with wonder at the way the Lord has used the books with so many people in so many places. We are truly thankful.

Concerning working with Roman Catholics: As I see it, one must first make a distinction in such a battle as being against abortion between being a co-beligerent and an ally. We can join with anyone who is fighting the same battle we are on a moral issue but this does not mean that we agree with them on other issues or all issues. Thus , in the case of abortion I am glad to be a co-beligerent with anyone who stands for the right to human life…

It should be noted though that both in the past and in the present when a person in the Roman Catholic Church becomes a Christian they have done so in spite of the Roman Catholic teaching and not because of it. Undoubtedly since Vatican II some Roman Catholic leaders are very much true Christians but against this conflict with the formal teaching. I would suggest that you read, if you have not done so, my chapters on the Middle Ages and the Reformation in How Should We Then Live?. They give what I think is the correct view of what had happened to the Roman Catholic Church by the time of the late Middle Ages and onwards. There was a double problem which was an insipid humanism. First, that of authority in which the authority was fixed finally in the church rather than the Scriptures. The second problem was in salvation in which something was added to the work of Christ. These problems still exist in the Roman Catholic Church as a church.

On the other hand, one would have to stress again that undoubtedly there are real Christians who are part of the Roman Catholic Church and also that there is a place in such an issue as abortion to stand together. This is a very different thing, however, from what you have said of considering the Roman Catholic Church as a church to be just another denomination with its individual problems, such as Baptists, Lutherans, etc. The balance is not easy, of course, to not fall on one side into a rabid anti-Roman Catholicism, and on the other side to recognize that the official Roman Catholic doctrine still is as mistaken as it was when the reformers found it necessary to leave it.

I would have to add one other thing and that is that while saying what I have said above about the Roman Catholic Church I would also say that I also could not consider a liberal theology in the Protestant denominations to be of such a nature that I could co-operate with it on anything except a co-beligerent level in some issues. Certainly a liberal theology under the name Protestant is just as far away from us as is Roman Catholicism. I would repeat, a balance is difficult and yet must be maintained…

I hope this is helpful.

I will enclose a folder on our coming conference in Rochester, Minn. I wish you could come. Do you know that we now have a L’Abri branch in Southborough, Mass.? The address is: 49 Lynbrook Road, Southborough, Mass. 01772. The phone number is: (617) 481-6490.

With warm personal greetings,

In the Lamb,

Francis A. Schaeffer

(dictated by Dr. Schaeffer but signed

in his absence to avoid delay)