At Vatican II Roman Catholicism changed the status of Protestants from “heretics” to “separated brethren”. This was intended to be an ecumenical act. It was a means of reopening dialog between Catholics and Protestants likely in the hope (of most Catholics) that the Protestants would eventually be “welcomed” back to Rome.
For many Protestants this is not satisfying because for the most part Catholicism speaks of itself as the “true church”. We see similar language amongst Eastern/Greek/Russian Orthodox types where there is a willingness to call the rest of us “Christian” but maybe second class.
As a former Oneness Pentecostal it does not surprise me when I hear Oneness Pentecostals condemn the rest of us Christians to hell. They have been taught and teach that they are the “remnant”. Nevertheless, there are many (especially younger) ones who want to revive the old “Second Blessing” language of Pentecostalism in order to include the rest of Christendom that has not spoken in tongues (or amongst Oneness Pentecostals who have not baptized “in the name of Jesus” according to the language of Acts 2.38 or even further for some who demand “holiness standards” of “true” Christians) in the mix as still “Christians” but somehow second level, second class, lesser Christians. They don’t want Lutherans or Methodist to be “lost” but they don’t want to let them be equal either.
When I hear some friends who are Oneness Pentecostals speak as if the rest of us are “separated brethren” I known they mean well. They are trying to find a reason to keep us out of hell. Like the language of Vatican II–that does seem to have worked in reviving conversations between Catholics and Protestants–so this language does seem to create an opportunity to at least talk to some Oneness Pentecostals knowing they haven’t condemned us to hell.
On the other hand, I find it somewhat condescending. It is still a bit discomforting to know you are talking to a Christian who thinks you are a “Christian”. It may be as bad as being told you are essentially “lost”.
How do you feel about this? As a Protestant do you appreciate the effort of Vatican II or do you see it as still being a negative assessment of your faith? Or as a Catholic amongst Protestants are you OK with Protestants talking about you like you are a Christian with a few kinks to work out? Maybe some “liberal” Protestant feel this way about evangelicals? Do you mind being considered a “second class Christian” or is this as bad as not being considered a Christian at all?