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Jesus Creed


Is the Reformation over?

posted by xscot mcknight

A purple theology believes that to one degree or another the Reformation is over. By that it means that the Reformation’s summons of the Church to return to the Bible (sola scriptura) and to faith as the sole means of justification (sola fide) and to grace alone as that which saves us (sola gratia) has done its job. Those are no longer the central issues.
Has the time come for those sola-cutting instruments to admit that they did the job and that they have influenced Catholics and the Orthodox, and that there is therefore now a moment for us one more time to come together?
And there is always one sola many have forgotten: Is there a time for the post-Reformation folks to admit that they forgot the sola ecclesiam (the church alone)?
My friend, Scott Hahn, a well-known former evangelical and now leading Catholic voice at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, and I were once discussing matters not unlike this one when I said to him that if the 15th Century Roman Catholics had been like Scott there would never had been a Reformation. He chuckled. I’ve been on the same page of faith, etc., with some other Roman Catholics over the years, like my former students Tom Scheck and David Palm and Vaughn Treco — and I could name some more.
Post-Reformation Protestant evangelicals don’t quite have the relationship to the Easterns as they do the Catholics, mostly I guess because of their not being quite so numerous in our neck of the woods, but time and time again I’ve come into contact with Orthodox ideas and I say to myself that those Cappadocian fathers carved out the orthodoxy that we all believe.
And now with Alan Jacobs saying what he said in First Things I wonder …
Here’s what I wonder: Is it not the case that most of us really do anchor our faith in the orthodox statements of faith (Nicea, etc)? Is it not the rise of trinitarian theology at the end of the 20th Century that has provoked so many invigorating perspectives on theology? And do we not have so much to learn from one another?
And here’s what I observe about converts. Those who leave the evangelical Protestant world do so to find Tradition and Church; those who leave the Orthodox tradition find a non-ethnic, personal faith; those who leave the Catholic Church find a personal, vibrant, music-loving worship.
This is no silly utopia I have in mind: I’m not talking about John Stott, Pope Benedict and the big hats of the Orthodox organizing a Summit of Unity, once again in Nicea, and walking away with centuries of history swished off the stage into forgiveness. That ain’t gonna happen.
What I do have in mind is a commitment on the part of the purple theology generation to read one another, listen to one another, and begin day by day in the process of embracing the greatness of the Church, regardless of where it comes from. Emergence is convergence at some levels.
Purple theology is not, however, a theological movement.
Instead, it is a missional movement. It wants to see the whole of the Church’s theological tradition bathed into the heated, swirling waters of praxis so that the Church’s theology is no longer a set of lines but a set of lives that turn the lines into bold, believable, beautiful lives.



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Ted Gossard

posted March 29, 2006 at 7:05 am


Amen. The Reformation is indeed over (contrary to good people who teach otherwise, I believe). But I have reasons for not becoming either a RCC or EO. For being an evangelical. A post-protestant evangelical, I guess one could say.
We surely need to listen to each other and attempt to build consensus, which is already occuring for some time now.
As to sola-ecclesiam, fascinating. And surely the church as the pillar and foundation of the truth (Timothy) has been overshadowed by sola-scriptura- the very Scripture that bears this out, to be true.



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Martin Downes

posted March 29, 2006 at 7:12 am


Speaking with a Welsh acent from the British side of the pond I wonder whether “evangelicalism” is over rather than the Reformation.



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Ted Gossard

posted March 29, 2006 at 7:33 am


Martin,
The Reformation ideal of ever reforming is certainly not over, by any means. I know we’d agree there.



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Tim Jeffries

posted March 29, 2006 at 8:05 am


I’ve just come back from a couple of months in the Middle East with quite a bit of that time spent in Egypt. I was fortunate enough to visit some VERY old Coptic Monasteries and a newly founded Coptic Retreat Centre. The Coptic faith is rich and wonderful. Their theology is closer to mine than some of the people I’m proud to call co-workers and I found myself wishing there was more of them here in Australia. God Bless the Coptics, they were a great blessing to me!



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Jeff McMullen

posted March 29, 2006 at 8:55 am


Thanks. Great thoughts. Could you give a couple of book recommendations from the orthodox and catholic camps?



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:06 am


Jeff, can you ask that question a little more completely?



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Anonymous

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:16 am


The Upward Way Press » Blog Archive » Is the Reformation Over?

[...] Is the Reformation over? Purple theology says “yes”. Scot McKnight says purple theology is about mission more than theology anyway.   [link] [...]



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Observer

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:23 am


I think Martin has a point in #2. Ralph Winters suggests we move “Beyond Christianity”. I think he mainly means evangelical Christianity. The premise being this – just as first century Christianity needed to move beyond a Jewish framework; and just as the post-Reformation Christianity needed to move beyond a Catholic framework; we may be moving beyond an evangelical (reformation?) framework.



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Bruce Smith

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:25 am


This is why this atonement/salvation conversation is so important. Unless we get relative agreement on this, there will forever be division among the three branches of the church. In my mind the reformation is still in full swing as the churches which embrace the protestant doctrine of justification by faith are growing rapidly throughout the world.
For example, my grandfather was one of the first protestant missionaries to a certain part of Bolivia in which he faced great opposition from the RC church (he was imprisoned at the direction of local priests and accused of crimes he did not commit). Today, I am told that 40% of the people in that area are affiliated with one protestant denomination or another. This is mega growth by any calculation and it gives us every indication that the Reformation is not over.



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Martin Downes

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:39 am


I think it was David Wells who made that comment that the post-WWII evangelicalism way of believing and practising the faith is now over.
There are evangelicals who are self-consciously reformed in their theology and heritage, there are evangelicals for whom these matters are not of any significant importance. The idea of identifying evangelicalism confessionally (as one movement) by lining up its distinctives with the Reformation is I guess over.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:49 am


Bruce,
I don’t disagree with you on the growth of the charismatic/pentecostal Church (so P. Jenkins’ famous book, The Next Christendom), esp in the Southern hemisphere, but I don’t think the issue of justification is at the heart of it.
Very few convert because of that way of framing it — this would involve a long post, but what I am working on and what I’m seeing a lot of today, is that we need to learn to put justification in its place as an element of what we call atonement. But it is not the be-all of atonement. I see one element today arguing vehemently for two Reformed emphases: propitiation and justification as double imputation. And I see lots of others arguing just as vehemently that the atonement is bigger than that, other than that, and that the turn to relationality is unlocking a wider and fuller perspective on atonement. Bruce, you run into the risk here of suggesting that Jesus didn’t teach what is most important, and I’m one who thinks we have to start with Jesus (I call this a “Jesus first, but not Jesus only” theology). Only once does the term even appear, and then not with “by faith,” and we are not so sure that parable is really talking about justification in the Pauline sense. Until we see the ecclesial dimensions of atonement, which is a part of the project I’m writing on, we will not have an adequate theory of the atonement. But, this post is not about atonement.



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Jen

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:54 am


This question was asked in a different manner just recently, so it’s a surprise to see it again. Though, the way it was stated when I first heard it was in reference to the ecumenical push several years ago for greater unity between Catholics and Protestants (which, if I remember correctly, and I may not, since I only vaguely remember anything about it at all, was based on laying aside divisions rather than recognizing commonalities – but maybe that’s just how we saw it), and was phrased to the effect of: MacArthur, Sproul, et. al. know each other by virtue of their contending for the faith together in the face of a movement to unite the Catholic and Protestant churches – a move which would “undo the Reformation.”
Moving past the Reformation is one thing – I like that perspective on it. But undoing it? I hardly think that’s possible – the Reformation imprinted pretty indelibly on subsequent Christianity. There is no undoing it.
Still, that is how many Christians will see it (sadly).



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:58 am


Jen,
Where did you get the “undoing”?



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Jen

posted March 29, 2006 at 9:59 am


My pastor’s wording.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 10:11 am


Jen,
The Reformation can’t be “undone” for it did what it did, and nor would I want its impact to be unrecognized. I consider myself an orthodox, Protestant, evangelical but emerging Christian.



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Glenn

posted March 29, 2006 at 10:19 am


From the Orthodox Christian camp allow me to recommend Bishop Seraphim’s book, Theology of Wonder. He is fluent with the universal church and all it’s wonderful and various cultures, traditions and people. Bishop Seraphim is a one model of what purple theology can be. He also has a blog http://seraphimsigrist.livejournal.com/



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Bruce Smith

posted March 29, 2006 at 10:35 am


While certainly the Reformation’s growth may be attributed to many different stripes of Protestantism, justification by faith has traditionally been its most common theological distinctive. I have heard that Calvin once said that justification is the hinge by which all Christian theology swings. While this may be a broad brush (and I don’t know if he said it, for sure), there is some truth to it. Whether we (evangelical in particular, but not exclusively) protestants be pentecostals, arminians, calvinists, hist. pre-mills, dispensationalists, covenantalists, unlabeled, etc. al., we commonly hold, not always – but generally, the reformers understanding of Justification by faith alone.
It seems that if one can successfully dismantle the protestant/reformed (I use reformed in the broader sense) doctrine of justification by faith, the Reformation will essentially be brought to its end. Until that happens, however, it does not seem to make sense to say that the Reformation is over.
As you know, I don’t yet agree with (what seems to be) your view that the atonement and salvation are synonymous, but I look forward to your post on that subject.



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Glenn

posted March 29, 2006 at 10:40 am


“The Church can discover itself again. The journey toward each other is really the journey to God.” Bishop Seraphim



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rick

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:07 am


Scot said: “And here’s what I observe about converts. Those who leave the evangelical Protestant world do so to find Tradition and Church.”
Rick: Neat observations… you got me thinking. My experience of having served these folks is that many evangelicals convert as a result of the theology.
I agree that many a drawn to and appreciate the beauty but ultimately it is the rigid doctrines that many seem to be fleeing from. Of course, I am an Episcopalian and as you know, we are wide-open when it comes to “letting folks in.” So much so that some think we are heretics.
Believe it or not, there are some who discount anything and everything I say because of my affiliation.
Scot said: “those who leave the Orthodox tradition find a non-ethnic, personal faith; those who leave the Catholic Church find a personal, vibrant, music-loving worship.”
Rick: Another good observation. My experience has been that I have not met (it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen)a person who is an active and faithful Christian in the RC or Orthodox Church who converted to evangelical Christianity. I have met several who as kids “grew-up” in the RC church who have left and later converted as adults but rarely, if ever, have I met an adult who was a faithful follower of Jesus convert from RC to evangelical.
It is amazing to watch an cradle Episcopalian “respond” to vibrant music but most would never want it in their church. I thik there is a lot of fear around giving up what they view as sacred, yet I have led retrats where people are deeply moved with good music that is more vibrant. I’m not talking “Shine Jesus, Shine.” :)
I think this is what is happening with much of the “emerging conversation”. Many folks are looking not only for the beauty and sacred space to encounter God through their senses but also a theology that moves them beyond their roots of fundamentalism.
Great topic.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:11 am


Bruce,
Are you limiting “atonement” to the hilas– word group? In which case, we’ve got this:
Luke 18:13: God, be merciful to me a sinner.
Heb 2:17: in context, clearly an incarnation/ransom theory
1 Jo 2:2 and 4:10: “place of atonement” for sins (expiate)
Rom 3:25: which means “mercy seat”
Heb 9:5: which means “mercy seat” (place where atonement took place)
Summary: the term enters already in the NT into larger, saving theories and more than one. We have forgiveness (relational), incarnation/ransom, mercy seat (place where sins are expiated, the Temple purified, and humans reconciled). In short, salvation in its fullness.
Further, the history of this discussion has always used “atonement” for these theories:
Ransom
Recapitulation
Satisfaction
Exemplarist
Penal Substitution
And now more broadly Christus Victor (liberation)
Grotius’ divine government is occasionally talked about too.
In short, once again, fullness of salvation. That is how I use “atonement” most of the time. I do not dispute, of course, that it can be directly and narrowly limited at time to kpr but that is not how it is used in theological discourse.



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rick

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:12 am


About reformation…
It seems that the church has always been reforming… always. The first 1500 hundred years of Christianity was plagued with attempts to reform. It seems that many are always striving to “get back” to the rootsd of the early church, but the early church was deeply conflicted.
We’ll always be reforming.



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B-W

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:49 am


Interesting comments. I find myself in agreement with them, although it definitely causes me to reflect on some of the conversations in my family circles. It’s interesting that you mention Scott Hahn, as my brother-in-law (that is, my wife’s sister’s husband) is a colleague of Hahn’s at Franciscan University, and while we are still getting to know one another in all-too-short visits over holidays, I can say with certainty that my brother-in-law is very devout in his Catholic faith. I was honored to be invited to join him and his children at Mass one morning during the Christmas season this past year, although I certainly needed a lot of help keeping up with the prayers and when to rise and sit (which my nieces and nephews were very helpful in attempting to provide). As should be obvious by now, my wife and I are Protestants, as are most of the other members of our families (although of many different stripes within Protestantism). For the most part, I think we do a good job of respecting each other’s beliefs. However, it does not take long before significant differences become apparent in how we view the world due to our differing theologies. These are often not easily glossed over. It is hard to “agree to disagree” when some of these differences are so important to how we understand who God is, how God works in the world, and what we believe God asks of those who call themselves Christians.
It is clear that you have acknowledged this in your comments that a new Council of Nicea with “John Stott, Pope Benedict and the big hats of the Orthodox… ain’t gonna happen.” Still, it’s worth noting that this is a reality that touches many of us at the deepest parts of who we are.
I am thankful for the ongoing conversations I have with the many different parts of my family, but it certainly isn’t always easy.



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Duane Young

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:52 am


Maybe “emerging” needs to morph into “merging.” It really is hard to miss the oneness mandate of the NT, isn’t it? Of course this discussion is already a start: “E-merging!”
Sorry–couldn’t resist.



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len

posted March 29, 2006 at 12:12 pm


Ha.. I like it.. merging and emerging.. This past saturday we gathered with some local leaders to talk about recovering an evangelical and sacramental theology. But more than a theology, a wholistic and sacramental worldview where immanence and transcendence meet in our experience. We read Robert Bellah’s article together.. very helpful.. “Religion and the Shape of National Culture” (1999).



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T

posted March 29, 2006 at 12:20 pm


Scot, I agree with your post, and where I think you’re asking we all go from here. The effects of the Reformation are worldwide, even within the Catholic Church. That’s huge. There are other facets of God’s plan, though, that have been de-emphasized for far too long, including the sola ecclesiam. The problem, as I see it, is that there are too many that see the Reformation emphasis as the guts, if not the whole, of the gospel itself, making any unity outside of its own framework seemingly heretical. This is why the work of scholars such as yourself and N. T. Wright, and several branches of charismatic evangelicals and many others that are arguing for a “Jesus first” theology, which typically centers around the kingdom of God, is so important. That seems to me to be the only way many of the most conservative branches of the Protestant faith will be able to move in the direction you propose. I don’t see it happening without a redefinition of “gospel” around the reign of God, based on the OT, Jesus, Paul & the rest of scripture. How the atonement fits into God bringing his reign to the earth through Jesus needs to be hashed out and discussed clearly, graciously, patiently (and repeatedly) by respected Protestant leaders with an eye to moving us into the kind of oneness you propose, then “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
BTW, I don’t know if referring to the Reformation as “over” will help in this regard; I think your language about the Reformation having done the job it was sent to do was probably better.



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Bruce Smith

posted March 29, 2006 at 12:38 pm


You are the theologian, and I am not, so perhaps I am in over my head . . . You have previously indicated that you are not impressed with the ordo, but it does seem to address your point. The Bible appears to teach that salvation is a process that began before the foundation of the world and will culminate in our glorification. While the atonement makes that process possible (and is absolutely indispensable), it does not seem to be an adequate description of the process of salvation in its entirety. I agree that atonement, as well as justification, has been used synonymously with salvation in common theological speak.
To nuance this discussion further, would it be fair to say that the reformers believed that the atonement is an event that took place at a decisive and objective moment in history (namely, at the cross)? If this is correct then, salvation (for protestants) would then be the application of the atonement to a particular life. That salvation would include such blessings as adoption, sanctification, et. al., Thus, atonement and salvation are different in that the atonement is objective and subjective (in that order) and salvation is subjective and objective (in that order).



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Jeff McMullen

posted March 29, 2006 at 1:08 pm


Scot,
I looking for some resources to challenge and shape my understanding of the gospel. I would like to know some of the predominant modern works in both the orthodox and catholic tradition that should be read.



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Bruce Smith

posted March 29, 2006 at 1:11 pm


“Thus, atonement and salvation are different in that the atonement is objective and subjective (in that order) and salvation is subjective and objective (in that order).”
I realize that this may appear unclear, so let me say this in another way: The atonement is something that took place apart from me yet applies to God’s relationship with me. Salvation is something that happens in me yet applies to my relationship with God.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 29, 2006 at 1:15 pm


I would urge some caution e.g., in re # 25, about the Reformation having achieved it’s purpose. I understand that that is how a child of the Reformation would see it.
However, as a thought experiment, why not consider the way a Catholic sees it. I began studying the 15th century 30 years ago as a graduate student and wrote my dissertation on reform movements of the fifteenth century, employing Gerhard Ladner’s understanding of reformatio of the individual and of the church.
I am convinced that powerful movements of reform were underway precisely in the fifteenth century and that they could well have led to a full renewal of the Church without the Protestant Reformation.
Indeed, Luther’s initial efforts as studied by Jared Wicks (and his teacher Erwin Iserloh at the Institute fuer Europaeische Geschichte in Mainz) in several books was simply one of these reform movements. But the Protestant Reformation as we know it is not the same as the young Luther. Two things happened to change the course of history:
1. The princes chose sides in the 1540s (Schmalkald League etc.0, which made ending the dispute virtually impossible. Had the princes not chosen sides, perhaps after three or four tries (Regensburg, Poissy colloquies failed) the dispute might have been ended. I say this very cautiously, since Luther (sorely provoked by the Curia’s doubledealing when he was negotiating in good faith with Cajetan and Cajetan with him in 1518) staked out positions in 1520 that turned his reform effort into a full-scale assault ecclesiologically. But still, perhaps. . . . Lutheranism, because of its view of the church and society (two kingdoms) did not become a trans-European movement.
2. The Real Reformation came with Calvin and Calvinism–the exporting of the by now doctrinally and ecclesially radically different understandings across Europe both east and west and to England and eventually to America. It was incorporated into state-church/absolutist king consolidation of the nation state that created a huge obstacle to ever restore unity.
This upping of the meant that the indigenous Catholic Reformation from the late Middle Ages now also had to respond to a political-religion that was totally new. The old distinctiong between temporal and spiritual power (two sword) theory was gone. Catholic kings eagerly adopted the Erastian, state-church approach, even though not de jure (as in Zurich or London), only de facto. Interestingly, in Geneva itself, the closest Protestant approximation of the old Ambrose-Augustinian-Gelasian two swords theory was to be found. Unfortunately, when Geneva spread around the world, the two swords gave way to Erastianism.
This hardening of the boundaries because of politics, both Catholic and Protestant led to the Thiry Years War and then to an exhausted peace in which state-churches were enshrined in law everywhere. We solved that problem only by removing religion from the public square and that has not really been helpful.
The reform of the Church was already underway before Luther. Luther began entirely within that framework. But after 1520 a whole series of new factors entered the picture, polarizing things in a way that I cannot view as God-willed Reformation.
Catholic renewal did not begin at Vatican II. Trent had a hard-edged anti-Protestant side, mirrored by hard-edged anti-Catholic Calvinist confessions (the Augsburg Confession is not nearly so hard-edged, and it is much earlier!). But Trent also had very important and powerful internal reforms that in fact really did work. Baroque Catholicism was not the empty shell of externalized observance as it has been portrayed both by Protestant historians and by dissident Catholic historians whose goal is to de-Catholicize Catholicism along the lines of Liberal Protestantism. Trent’s inner piety and devotion grows directly out of the monastic renewals of the 4thc, 9thc, 11-12thc, 17thc, 19thc etc. and led to a vibrant and evangelical Catholic piety throughout the modern period. Outsiders won’t recognize its evangelicalism, though, because one has to train one’s eyes and ears to recognize what an unfamiliar vocabulary and set of practices mean and how they are equivalent to Pietist and evangelical practices. But it surely is significant that during the 17thc Pietist movements, both Reformed, Lutheran and Puritan, the Pietists were avidly reading Catholic spiritual literature: Jean Gerson, Bernard of Clairvaux, Ruusbroec, etc. Dutch Reformed Pietists were in close contact with French Catholics; Gottrfied Arnold read all the medieval mystics (through Protestant eyes, according to the definitve study by Peter C. Erb) and so forth. Confessionally their state churches were snarling at each other, but in terms of spiritual renewal, they understood that each was after the same thing.
Another example is from the American frontier. How may readers of this blog know, for instance, that Catholic revival preachers in Kentucky and southern Indiana and Illinois and Missouri during the early 1800s preached fire and brimstone sermons nearly identical to those of the Campbellites and Methodist circuit riders? The difference was what each exhorted the “converted” to do: Protestant revivalists exhorted those under conviction to come to the mourner’s bench and pray and repent; Catholic revivalists exhorted those convicted of their sinfulness to return to Christ via the sacrament of confession and penance. Catholic revivalism was pioneered in Europe in France and German-speaking areas during the late 1500s and esp. the 1600s–already at that time many nominally Catholic rural areas were secularizing and “missioners” would go to towns to hold “parish missions”–which were, in effect, revival meetings. The Redemptorist Order (Alphonsus de Liguori) led in this but also the Capuchins and individuals like St. Vincent de Paul (see the Jean Anouilh movie, Monsieur Vincent) and Louis Grignon de Montfort.
Had the Protestant Reformation not taken the course it did the renewal of the Church that now is unmistakable in the life and witness of John Paul II could have been visible centuries ago. It was in fact present but not visible except to those well-centered within the Catholic Church. And the state-church Catholics’ practices disguised it just as state-church Protestants did no signal honor to the Christ they claimed to follow.
The polemics of the Reformation, the misrepresentations of each other (e.g., on justification and soteriology, where in fact there was no real disagreement but plenty of perceived disagreement) so distorted each side’s reading of each other that the gap widened and made it harder to see where Christ was at work and where the Devil was at work in the “other guy’s church.”
So I cannot simply view the Protestant Reformation as having had a divine purpose to push the Catholic Church into renewal, a purpose now achieved, I think the Reformation delayed renewal as much as it stimulated renewal, though it did some of both. It was not God’s will that it happen the way it happened but God can and did turn evil to good. And the greatest evil of the era of the Protestant Reformation was the emergence of absolutist kings (and princes and town councils in Germany) who simply took over the church in their jurisdictions, appropriated the welfare function of the church for the state as part of a huge power grab of Church assets, and generally messed up European history for three centuries.
Of course, what would have happened if things had not happened the way they did no one can say. Genuine renewal might have happened faster or other obstacles and distortions could have arisen to slow it down even more.
But Protestants really do need to be aware of the complexity of the history of reform and renewal within Catholicism. It has been going on for thousands of years with major eras and spikes of success and Sloughs of Despond. The 16th century was one of four or five major eras of reform and renewal and was by no means the most glorious or successful of them.



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Bruce Smith

posted March 29, 2006 at 1:54 pm


Dennis, you are clearly a brilliant student of history and theology. Could you elaborate on what you mean by this:
(e.g., on justification and soteriology, where in fact there was no real disagreement but plenty of perceived disagreement)
More precisely, With regard to the doct. of justification, what do you mean by your assertion that there was “no real disagreement”?



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Dana Ames

posted March 29, 2006 at 1:57 pm


Thanks, Dennis. That is helpful, and I remember echoes of it in my RC childhood. A lot happens in Catholicism outside of the official channels, and then eventally the channels catch up.
Scot, your last sentence in the post is beautiful. As I came to the end, (“turn the lines into bold, believable, beautiful _________”) my mind wanted to put in the word Music- though your words conjure something more visual, on which I can’t quite put my finger…
Dana



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Dana Ames

posted March 29, 2006 at 2:07 pm


Bruce, #17
I think you are right about “dismantling the doctrine of justification by faith”. I’m not sure if dismantling is the best word, but certainly Wright, Schults and others are seriously shifting focus to a different set of questions than the refomers engaged. As Scot says, these are no longer the central issues, and continuing the focus on them as central is truly beating a dead horse.
And Scot, those Cappadocians who hammered out the orthodoxy we all acknowledge did so, in part, in conversations with a woman: Macrina, elder sister of Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. I’ve read that in the East she is referred to as “the Fourth Cappadocian” because of the significance of her contribution. If I have a patron saint, she’s the one- a wonderful model of theology and praxis swirling together in a life. I bet you know something about her.
Dana



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Martin Downes

posted March 29, 2006 at 2:52 pm


Scot,
Wih regard to 20#
Is your take on the wrath of God and expiation similar to that expounded by C. H. Dodd?



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:37 pm


Dana,
I love Macrina. I wrote about her in one of my books. Gregory of Nyssa says she was his teacher — and that’s no mean theologian there.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:40 pm


Martin,
On wrath, you’ll have to wait on that one until I get my book on atonement done. I don’t agree with Dodd or Morris.



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barry

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:40 pm


Scot,
You asked, “Is there a time for the post-Reformation folks to admit that they forgot the sola ecclesiam ?”
This sola sounds good, but what exactly would it mean? If it is meant to suggest that the church is the normative social location for hearing God and experiencing his salvation, then both Luther and Calvin would affirm that.
While they differed with Rome over what precisely constituted the church, they both believed in extra ecclesiam nulla salus (contrary to popular opinion,
perhaps). If it is meant to suggest that the church is the sole or ultimate norm for life and doctrine (thus, replacing the Reformation affirmation of sola scriptura), then I’m not altogether sure that a Roman Catholic would be happy with SOLA ecclesiam.



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Martin Downes

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:42 pm


Scot,
Okay. When are you due to publish?



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Rich

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:51 pm


Even though I am Lutheran. I believe in a lot of things that NT Wright(I guess he would be considered moderate Reformed because he is not a 5 point Calvinist) has to say except of course we would differ on his view of the sacraments but I do believe the Kingdom or reign of God was Jesus’ main message and evangelicals have as a whole missed this point.
I am waiting to read what Scot view on the atonement is.



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Rich

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:51 pm


Even though I am Lutheran. I believe in a lot of things that NT Wright(I guess he would be considered moderate Reformed because he is not a 5 point Calvinist) has to say except of course we would differ on his view of the sacraments but I do believe the Kingdom or reign of God was Jesus’ main message and evangelicals have as a whole missed this point.
I am waiting to read what Scot’s view on the atonement is.



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Rich

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:53 pm


Sorry about that double post.
Oh, and the Reformation is not over. We are always in need of reforming in the Church Catholic.



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Greg Mc

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:53 pm


Scot. #11 “I see one element today arguing vehemently for two Reformed emphases: propitiation and justification as double imputation. And I see lots of others arguing just as vehemently that the atonement is bigger than that, other than that, and that the turn to relationality is unlocking a wider and fuller perspective on atonement.”
Funny, I see a lot of people denying the truth of double imputation altogether. While the atonement is arguably larger than that (a fact which no one on the other side ever said it wasn’t) it is never less than that.
Dana: #32 I would say denial rather than dismantle.



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Martin Downes

posted March 29, 2006 at 3:55 pm


Scot,
You’ve got me scratching my head on Dodd and Morris. I thought that their views were anithetical (wrath as impersonal or wrath as personal).



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 4:03 pm


Barry,
Good and fair point; I’m playing a bit with sola to bring in ecclesiam, that’s all. We need to see the Church as one, too.
Martin,
Probably next winter. They do disagree but there is a via media here. Dodd’s view was too simplistic. You can’t make wrath impersonal, have God make a world with impersonal things like that occurring, and not connect wrath to God. If you do, you have less than an infinite God. Sin is not a substance (Augustine, Confesssions, book 7); it is the absence of good. From that point on you can work out: what is wrath if sin is not a substance and God is infinite?



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Martin Downes

posted March 29, 2006 at 4:15 pm


Okay. I guess that I would consider sin as more than the absence of good. In the narrative of the fall sin is denial of God’s goodness, rule, and authority. Sin is the dethroning of God, the re-writing of the constitution of the universe. Sin is deliberate, positive evil.



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Jim Martin

posted March 29, 2006 at 4:54 pm


Scot,
You make me think! :) This is good–very good. I’m not sure how this washes out practically. But–I love the spririt of this.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 29, 2006 at 6:37 pm


I must be brief (teaching all day and with an appointment coming) in reply to Bruce Smith, # 30.
I pushed the envelope, I will admit. But most fundamentally, what I meant was that for medieval Catholicism salvation was totally by grace through faith and included by extrinsic grace which one could reject and intrinsic sanctification. Although the Reformers distingished justification from regeneration/sanctification–and that is a difference, to be sure, a difference with significant consequence–in the end all the Reformers ended up with saved people who were expected to live like saved people. Those who claimed to be saved and lived otherwise (who were unsanctified) were presumed not to have been saved/justified at all.
In other words, none of the Reformers had any stomach for God as a mere puppet master or for antinomianism. How they mixed and matched sanctification and justification varied, but in the end they arrived at much the same place as Catholic soteriology.
Salvation by grace through faith ALONE–well, yes, that is a difference from Catholic salvation by faith active in works. But what the faith alone Reformers took away with the right hand they added back via sanctification by the left hand. I have had too many Lutherans and Calvinists tell me that Calvin didn’t really mean by faith ALONE ALONE ALONE and that he really truly didn’t entirely eliminate free will etc. I take them at their word, not being a Calvin expert.
Double predestination is a difference and if one embraces it to produce a truly Puppet Master God, it is a real difference. But even on predestination, the Puritans developed the back door approach of the conversion struggle that, if taken seriously, begins to circle back toward Catholic approaches.
Luther denied free will in the Bondage of the Will, yes. But I give him the benefit of the doubt that he really, really didn’t mean it–he let his fight with Erasmus back him into a corner. He said things he didn’t really mean–I try to be charitable. He certainly had plenty to say about living a fruitful Christian life. He just denied that that in anyway “merited” salvation. He refused to use the term merit, yes indeed, but if one looks at the Council of Trent’s declaration (which merely echoes Aquinas), all of the various causes of salvation are from God–the efficient, final, meritorius etc. Only in the sense of a material cause could one consider humans to
“cause” their own salvation–simply by being the stuff that is saved. Since today when we say “caused” we usually think largely of efficient cause, hardly pay attention to final cause etc., when Trent atttributed all those causations, including efficient causation, solely to the merits of Christ, I consider that very much sola gratia.
I don’t have time now but tomorrow I will post some striking confessions of faith in the power of Christ for salvation made by a whole string of 15thc monks–precisely the folks who supposedly were caught up in works righteousness. I first engaged this theme in my research on Carthusians in graduate school. The fourth chapter of my Fifteenth-Century Carthusian Reform makes the case for a sola gratia, extrinsic righteousness soteriology in medieval monastic theologians, though I would no longer defend part of the argument in which I placed a lot of weight on one word “ejus” in a quotation from the Carthusian monk I was studying.
Imputed righteousnes/intrinsic righteousness–yes, a major difference but I would claim that Calvin/Luther insisted on strictly forensic imputed righteousness only in the justification part of the process. They reintroduced (even if they would never have acknowledged the term) real intrinsic righteousness in their regeneration/sanctification. I know they would reject the term, but I would ask whether it is not true that in practice in the way they described the Christian life, they weren’t acknowledging it.
(On the reasons why “forensic” interpretation of justification even appeared–a philological mistake–I have posted before on Pontifications. I’ll try and resurrect that and post it tomorrow.)
So Trent and Calvin/Luther are at odds over imputed/intrinsic righteousness, yes; yes, Luther spoke of us being a dunghill covered by snow–but in the end, I really don’t think he ended up very far from the Catholic understanding of these matters, even if he was convinced he was infinitely far away.
That’s what I mean by talking past each other–they used different terms, really thought they differed, often misunderstood their opponents.
More anon.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2006 at 7:21 pm


Dennis,
Many thanks for your lengthy, but very helpful, contributions to this discussion today. Recently I’ve become more aware of Calvin’s shift in Book 3 to a “union with Christ”/transformational approach to the Christian life while having a lopsidedly uni-directional, but very consistent and attractive to modern Calvinists, approach to soteriology through a rigorous double-imputation theory of justification. You are absolutely right: no Reformer could live with a forensic righteousness that didn’t have an impact.
However, I’m not so persuaded as you are on the all virtues of the “evangelical” orientation of the monks or of the Catholic Church. Even if you assign lots of things to political and social movement, in the end lots of folks found good reasons, and many of them potently spiritual, for leaving the RCC for the Lutheran and Calvinist, and don’t forget Anabaptist, churches.



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Edward T. Babinski

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:03 pm


CHRISTIANS MULTIPLY BY DIVIDING
SCOT WROTE: “Here’s what I observe about converts. Those who leave the evangelical Protestant world do so to find Tradition and Church; those who leave the Orthodox tradition find a non-ethnic, personal faith; those who leave the Catholic Church find a personal, vibrant, music-loving worship.”
ED: And those who leave Christianity entirely find that the beauties and wonders of life and living and other people and other books, etc., are not so bad when viewed by themselves, without seeking to look at things through church or doctrine colored glasses.
There are over 45,000 different Christian denominations, missionary groups and organizations (according to the latest edition of The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Oxford Univ. Press). Indeed, within the religion known as “Christianity” there are nearly as infinite a variety of sects (each with their own weird beliefs and practices) as in Hinduism:
From silent Trappist monks and quiet Quakers – to hell raisers and snake handlers;
From those who “hear the Lord” telling them to run for president, seek diamonds in Uganda or sell “holy” cosmetics – to those who have visions of Mary, the saints, or experience bleeding stigmata;
From those who believe the communion bread and wine remain just that – to those who believe the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into “invisible” flesh and blood (and can vouch for it with stories of communion wafers turning into human flesh and wine curdling into blood cells during Mass);
From predestinationists to free will-ers;
From universalists to damnationists;
From Christian monks and priests who have gained insights into their own faith after dialoging with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests – to Christians who view Eastern religious ideas and practices as “Satanic”;
From castrati (boys who sang in Catholic choirs and underwent castration to keep their voices high) – to Protestant choirs – all the way to “Christian reggae” and “Christian rap music;”
From Christians who reject any behavior that even mimics “what homosexuals do” (including a rejection of fellatio and cunnilingus between husband and wife) – to Christians who accept committed, loving, homosexual relationships (including gay evangelical Church groups);
From Catholic nuns and Amish women who dress to cover their bodies – to Adamists who worshiped in the nude – to modern day Christian nudists (one in Florida is opening a nudist amusement park for Christians), and born-again strippers;
From those who believe sending out missionaries to persuade others to become Christians is essential – to those (like the Anti-Mission Baptists) who believe that sending out missionaries and trying to persuade others constitutes a lack of faith and the sin of pride, and that the founding of “extra-congregational” missionary organizations is not Biblical;
From Christians who believe Easter should be celebrated on one date (Roman Catholics) – to Christians who believe Easter should be celebrated on another date (Eastern Orthodox), which, among other disagreements, resulted in the Christians in the Western Roman Empire excommunicating all their brethren in the Eastern Roman Empire;
From Christians who worship on Sunday – to Christians who worship on Saturday (the Hebrew “sabbath day” that God said to “keep holy” according to one of the Ten Commandments) – to Christians who believe their daily walk with “God” and love of their fellow man is far more important than church attendance; From Christians who stress “God’s commands” to those who stress “God’s love;”
From those who teach that obeying the Bible’s command to be “baptized with water as an adult believer” is an essential sign of salvation – to those who deny it is;
From those who teach that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” along with “speaking in tongues” are important signs of salvation – to those who deny they are (some of whom see mental and Satanic delusions in all modern accounts of “Spirit baptism” and “tongue-speaking”);
From those who believe that avoiding alcohol, smoking, gambling, dancing, “contemporary Christian music,” movies, television, long hair (on men), etc., are all important “signs” of being “truly” saved – to those who believe you need only trust in Jesus as your personal savior to be saved;
From Christians who believe sticking one’s nose in politics is wrong – to coup d’etat Christians;
From “stop the bomb” Christians to “drop the bomb” Christians;
From “social Gospel” Christians to “uncompromised Gospel” Christians;
From pro-slavery Christians to anti-slavery Christians;
From Christians who wave their Bibles above their white hoods – to Christians “in the hood” who march for equal rights for people of all colors;
From Christians who worry most about doctors taking fetal lives – to those who worry most about doctors of religion raising questions that might “abort” a young person’s faith and their eternal life.
The history of Christianity is in short, a history of controversies too innumerable to mention.
Moreover, within each major “Christian” denomination there are fundamentalists, conservatives, moderates, liberals, and “everything in between,” including those who are conservative on some subjects and liberal on others. There are Christians in the same churches who disagree on interpretations from Genesis to Revelation – from how (and when) the world began – to how (and when) it will end, all according to the same Bible.
A variety of “Christianities” flourished before fourth-century church councils at Nicea and Chalcedon heatedly debated and composed their definitions of “orthodox” Christian belief. “There was no orthodoxy – only the pluralistic search for truth…There was a pluralism and fluidity to Christian theological experience…and the later creeds from Nicea and Chalcedon are only two slices of the whole.”[68] And those “slices” remained the biggest pieces of the Christian pie via the use of political force. The first Roman Emperor who was a convert to Christianity, Constantine, introduced and presided over the first major church council at Nicea in 325 and afterwards assured unanimity by banishing all the bishops who would not sign the new profession of faith. In 380, another Roman Christian Emperor, Theodosius, passed a decree that read: “We shall believe in the single Deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, under the concept of equal majesty and of the Holy Trinity. We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment.” Even the average Christians in the street were at odds with each other over matters of dogma. In the fourth and fifth-centuries citywide riots broke out between Christians with differing theological views and probably more Christians killed Christians at that time than the pagans had done during the previous centuries.
From the day the “creeds” of “orthodox Christianity” were nailed down by political decrees, to today, Christian sects have continued to arise. A few of the stranger ones that stick out in my mind include the Skoptsy, each of whose male members cut off their “male member” – to become literal “eunuchs for the kingdom of God.” (Shades of “Heaven’s Gate!”) And there were the Shakers, who were convinced that the Bible taught it was “best” for a Christian to never have sex, not even for procreation. (They raised orphaned children, but not enough of the children embraced Shakerism, so the sect died out.) According to some sources, there was even a Dutch Protestant Christian sect whose members murdered recently baptized infants to ensure that the infants would go to heaven[71] (a service also provided by some Catholic conquistadors who feared that if they left South American infants alive after baptizing them, then the infants might grow up and forsake Jesus for their parent’s paganism and wind up in eternal hellfire).
Even something as innocuous as “kneeling” proved a matter of debate within Christianity. The Church Fathers who lived in the days before the first Nicene Council (in 325 A.D.), along with the Council itself, agreed to forbid kneeling on all Sundays, and on all the days between Easter and Whit-Sunday. Kneeling was frowned upon as a pagan practice.
The existence of so much variety within “Christianity” proves that every “Christian” testimony could not possibly be “amazingly similar.” No doubt members of each group tell stories of their attraction to it that others in the group find “amazingly similar.” But that’s only true of members in the same group. For instance, Frank Schaeffer (AKA “Franky,” the son of the famous evangelical Christian apologist, Francis Schaeffer) harshly criticized evangelical Christianity in his first book, Addicted to Mediocrity, which was followed by a funny, charming novel about his family and his evangelical Christian home life that highlighted the shortcomings of both, Portofino: A Novel. Finally, Frank left evangelicalism for Eastern Orthodox Christianity and now speaks and writes about his conversion to that branch of Christianity with the same kind of intensity that marked his father’s advocacy of evangelical Christianity. See Frank’s books, Dancing Alone: The Quest for Orthodox Faith in the Age of False Religion (in which he critiques the secularizing influence of Protestantism), and, Letters to Father Aristotle: A Journey Through Contemporary American Orthodoxy. Franky Schaeffer also recently published anothe semi-autobiographical novel, Saving Grandma, about how the mother of Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer resisted her son’s arguments, and even pho-phooed them.
One could also cite the testimony of Dr. Charles Bell, a former Protestant charismatic who, like Frank, converted to the Orthodox Church, and wrote, Discovering the Rich Heritage of Orthodoxy. Or there’s Frederica Matthewes-Green testimony in her book, Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey Into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. In fact, Peter Gillquist has condensed the stories of over two thousand evangelical Christians and their quest for “historic Christianity” in his book, Becoming Orthodox.
Thomas Howard began his spiritual quest as a Protestant fundamentalist, but grew to reject such a faith in favor of a broader more mainstream Episcopalian-evangelical faith. In his books, Christ the Tiger: A Postscript to Dogma, and, Evangelical is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy & Sacrament, he outlines the changes he went through. Later, Mr. Howard left Episcopalianism for Catholicism and wrote, Lead Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome, and, On Being Catholic.
Scott Hahn, a former hard-line evangelical Presbyterian minister and professor of theology, described in his book, Rome Sweet Rome, and in numerous videos, his journey away from “false” Protestant doctrines, and his discovery of the one “true” faith, Roman Catholicism. A number of former Protestants have written similar books about their move to Catholicism, like, David Curie, author of Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, or, Stephen K. Ray, a former devout Baptist who became Catholic along with his wife, and wrote Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historic Church.
So, Schaeffer, Howard, Hahn and many others testify to their rejection of fundamentalism (and/or hard-line evangelical) Protestantism. In fact, they point out the “errors” in their former beliefs and the “truth” of either Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. Not a lot of “amazing similarity” with Protestant fundamentalist beliefs.
Of some of the many Christian I’ve read about in a chapter of Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict (1st and 2nd edition), there are few (if any) testimonies from folks who became Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican/Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Church of Christ, conservative Calvinist, or snake-handling, Christians. (I can not resist adding that a congregation of snake-handling Christians in Scrabble Creek, South Carolina, had a psychological test administered to them by a sociologist who gave the same test to a nearby Methodist congregation as a control group. And the serpent handlers came out mentally healthier!)
Some “converts” were raised as children to believe only in “Jesus and Christianity,” and later “rededicated” their lives. Some had a dramatic conversion experience that happened at a specific time and place. Others had relatively undramatic experiences. Cartoonist, Charles Schulz, attended some “Bible Studies” and “thought about the matter” until he realized he “really loved God,” yet, “I cannot point to a specific time of dedication to Christ.” [In 1999, Charles Schultz told an interviewer that his religious views had evolved over the years, and, "The term that best describes me now is 'secular humanist.'"
C. S. Lewis "decided to rejoin the church" during a trip to the zoo. Author, Eugenia Price, had a Christian friend and they argued about religion until Eugenia said, "'Okay, I guess you're right.' And that was it...Now I like to get up in the morning. He is my reason for waking up." Such stories are no more "amazingly similar" than testimonies from converts to other religions or belief systems.
McDowell cites fellow hard-line evangelical Protestants, E. Y. Mullins and Gordon Allport as experts on "Christian experience." (McDowell also cites Bernard Ramm - but I have discussed Ramm's "heretical" views above.) Naturally, Mullins and Allport write glowingly of "...irrefutable evidence of the objective existence of the Person so moving me...my certainty becomes absolute...the certainties of Christian experience...the blessedness of certitude." Such "absolute certainty" and "blessed certitude" is found universally among the most pious and devout adherents of different Christian denominations, other religions, and cults.
If McDowell (and for that matter, Lee Strobel) had more of the curiosity of a genuine scholar or journalist, and less of the "blessed certitude" of an evangelist, he would have discovered that a far FAR wider spectrum of religious testimonies and convictions exists than the narrow band they both focus on. For instance, there are the testimonies and convictions of Schaeffer, Howard, and Hahn, mentioned above; and those of many others even MORE DIVERSE, as recorded in the books below:
1) Journeys in Belief, edited by Bernard Dixon[75] (testimonies of people who converted from Catholicism to Judaism, from Christianity to skepticism, from skepticism to Christianity, etc., each time convinced that their new beliefs supplied the “best, or final, answers”).
2) Amazing Conversions: Why Some People Turn to Faith & Others Abandon Religion, by Bob Altemeyer and Bruce Hunsberger[76] (testimonies of some “amazing believers” and some “amazing apostates” contrasted and compared).
3) What I Believe, edited by Mark Booth (featuring the sincerest beliefs of Albert Einstein, James Thurber, Thomas Mann, H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, et al.).
4) The Courage of Conviction: Thirty-Three Prominent Men and Women Reveal Their Beliefs – And How They Put Those Beliefs Into Practice, edited by Phillip L. Berman (the beliefs and convictions of Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, Andrew Greeley, Harold Kushner, Jim Henson, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Mario Cuomo, et al.).
5) The Door Interviews, edited by Mike Yaconelli (interviews with Christians who are theologians, novelists, musicians, and politicians, and whose beliefs run the gamut from fundamentalism to liberalism and mixtures of both).
6) The Varieties of Religious Experience by the noted psychologist William James (who compares “once-born” and “twice-born” Christians).
7) Once-Born Twice-Born Zen by Conrad Hyers (about a school of Zen Buddhism whose descriptions of “satori” resemble being “born again”).
8) The Inner Eye of Love by Robert Johnson (a Catholic in Japan compares Christian agape love with Buddhist karnua compassion; and compares devotion to Christ with devotion to the compassionate Amida Buddha).
9) The Marriage of East and West, and, The Cosmic Revelation: The Hindu Way to God by Dom Bede Griffiths (a Catholic who founded a Christian-Hindu ashram in India, who was also a close friend of C. S. Lewis, talks about his inter-religious discoveries).
10) The Spirituality of Comedy, The Comic Vision and the Christian Faith, And God Created Laughter: The Bible as Divine Comedy, and, The Laughing Buddha: Zen and the Comic Spirit by Conrad Hyers (the spirit of comedic grace shared by both Christians and non-Christians).
11) Cosmic Trigger, Vols. 1, 2 & 3 by Robert Anton Wilson (wild transcendental experiences as seen through the eyes of a “transcendental agnostic”).
12) Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists by Edward Babinski (thirty-three testimonies from “narrow bibliolators” who converted to either moderate/liberal Christianity, the wiccan religion, eastern mysticism, agnosticism, or atheism; including the testimony of evangelist Chuck Templeton, Billy Graham’s closest friend, who became a “reverent agnostic”).[77]
Today, not just books, but also the World Wide Web makes available (to those who seek) many first-hand “testimonies” to the validity (and invalidity) of different religions and philosophies. And you can often e-mail the authors of such testimonies and receive e-mail from them in return, until your bloodshot eyes, carpel-tunnelled wrists, stiff shoulders, and patience, is frazzled trying to show them the error of their ways and the superiority of your own.
Google up the following websites by name:
1) Steve Locks’s website, “Leaving Christianity” for the largest single list of links to the testimonise of people who left Christianity.
2) Debunking Christianity (a blog whose members include ex-ministers and ex-seminarians).
And read, Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.
Thank you for allowing me to add to the conversation,
Edward T. Babinski
SIG LINE: What is the best book in the world? I’d say that even the best book remains a mere book, and not life itself. Even the best book is one that can eventually bore you, if only through repetition. Be open to the best in every person, every experience and every book, and use your better judgment, built upon a lifetime of your own experiences. Books are not life, and cannot lead your life for you. You must decide. Even Bible believers have to decide which passages in Scripture deserve greater emphasis than others. And if an action commends itself to your conscience you don’t need a book to also tell you whether it is “good” or not.
Do you believe that the God who “created your mind” with it’s exceeding curiosity (well, maybe not your mind), and its ability to ask the most fascinating questions of nature, art, beauty, science, etc., would also want to absolve us of having to think by giving us a so-called “perfect book” that must never be deeply questioned?
Read the Bible as you would any other book; think of it as you would any other, use your reasoning ability to ask questions as they naturally arise, just as you would if you were reading another book. And it will eventually dawn on you that the books of the Bible, or at least portions of them, were of strictly human and sometimes barbarian, invention.
On the other hand, if you have gazed at the Bible for many years through “theology colored glasses” then you may not be able to detect the many shades and depths of questions visible within the text nor those within your own head and heart as they relate to the text. Because after years of church indoctrination most people don’t even realize they have acquired a particular
“theological” slant, or that they have been hypnotized by “orthodox” comments made by fellow church goers, and by “orthodox” commentaries on Scripture filled with pious platitudes – commentaries that pass in silence over difficulties, or else that read into the text “orthodox” meanings that are not there.
Not only the Bible, but the Muslim’s Koran, the Mormon’s Book of Mormon, and the Hindu’s Bhagavad-Gita, have pious adherents and countless pious commentaries written about them. In courtrooms in India, people are even “sworn in” with their hands on the Gita, not the Bible.
And isn’t it laughable when two “conservative” commentators cannot agree on the meaning of a verse or group of verses, each commentator insisting that his interpretation is the perfectly natural one God intended? Both commentators agree that God wouldn’t bother to write a book unless every chapter and verse in it was relevant to believers like themselves, believers who were being “led into all truth” by the “Holy Spirit.” God wouldn’t let His words and their meaning get lost in hazy translation, or misconstrued over time, especially not by true believers like themselves, would He? Of course, the history of Christian dogma tells a different story. The controversies that revolve around interpreting the books of the Bible have been around since before certain books were even picked to be in “the Bible.” There were many competing interpretations before the Nicene Council in 325 A.D. (to which we owe the invention of “The Trinity”), all the way up to the multitude of different Christian denominations today, and God didn’t stop plenty of blood being shed over them.



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Michael Barber

posted March 29, 2006 at 11:13 pm


Dr. McKnight,
Thank you so much for putting up this post and furthering the discussion.
Two things.
First, I think many Protestants often slightly misunderstand the Catholic teaching regarding the relationship between grace and works. The Catholic understanding insists that salvation is by grace alone. Even Trent taught: “…we are therefore said to be justified freely, because none of those things which precede justification—whether faith or works—merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works” (Session 6, chapter 8).
The new Catechism of the Catholic Church, recently promulgated by John Paul II, affirms Trent’s teaching:
“The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit” (no. 2008).
Grace cannot be earned through good works (Catechism of the Catholic Churh, no. 1996). Yet, once one has received grace one is empowered to do good works. These good works are only possible through grace. These good works accomplished by the believer are, in actuality, the work of Christ himself. As Paul states, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ unites our works to his. Jesus, therefore, allows us to participate in His work of redemption. He turns our worthless deeds into saving acts by uniting them to His works. So Paul says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling; for God is at work in you” (Phil. 2:12-13).
Throughout my years studying at Protestant institutions I’ve heard it said over and over that the Catholic understanding of salvation detracts from the work of Christ. Hardly. Far from diminishing Christ’s role, I think the Catholic understanding involves an increased appreciation of Christ’s work. Christ’s work is so effective it merits our own ability share in Christ’s redemptive work. When Christ crowns our good deeds and makes them meritorious, his work is not lessened but glorified since our works are only possible because of him. In reality, then, when Christ crowns our work he is simply glorifying his own work!
In other words, just as there is no contradiction between sola fide and sola gratia – faith is a gift from God – so too there is no inherent denial of the primacy of grace in the Catholic understanding of the role of works.
The second thing I would say is that the reason Catholics and Protestants seem to “talk past” each other when it comes to the atonement is that the two views are rooted in very different contexts. Protestant atonement theory (at least, in the classical Reformed tradition) is rooted first and foremost in a juridical context. Catholic atonement theory as it is laid out in Trent and other magisterial documents, however, is primarily set in a familial context: justification as sonship. Scott Hahn and others have done a wonderful job showing the connection between justification as sonship and the larger covenantal context (e.g., kinship through covenant, “sacramentum” as “oath” swearing, etc.). Catholics do not deny the juridical element, it has its role (similarly, covenant making, while familial, also includes a juridical element). But the controlling image in Catholic understanding is not the courtroom but the family.
For those interested I hope to run a series of articles on the matter on my blog sometime in the next three weeks.
Thanks again for this post and for giving us a place to have thoughtful and charitable conversation about these issues.



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Roger

posted March 30, 2006 at 3:08 am


Scot, I do not remember the last time I found a more informative and less argumentative Christian blog. Thanks.
Michael (#49), thanks for that comment on the Catholic viewpoint; I was unaware of the familial emphasis.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 30, 2006 at 7:58 am


Michael,
This is a good comment, and I’m grateful to you for it. But, let me raise the level of discussion some. I have for years listened to the stories of Catholic converts, and I watch Journey Home and watched Mother Angelica, and I have plenty of Catholic associates, and I will say this: there is too much “Church” and not enough “Jesus Christ” in their focus. This disturbs me, and I write this as one who is trying to get evangelicals to have a more robust ecclesiology. But, time and and time after watching such shows I come away thinking that these are converts to the Church and I’m not hearing enough about the Trinity or Jesus Christ. I’ve raised this with friends, and here is a common response: “The Church is Christ’s Body.” I come back, when I talk about Kris to others I don’t talk about her body (which is now getting weird).
But, I do think we Protestants have told the story our way, and in so telling the story we’ve done a really good job of making the RCC look as bad as possible (esp in the age of Luther and Calvin). And we are wrong in that. But, I will ask that you too recognize that there were reasons for the Reformation, and some of them in a mess at the heart of RCC power and theology. There are reasons why the Protestants have told the story their way.
Now a purple theology issue for me: the sacramentalist focus of the RCC and the propositionalist focus of the evangelical movement distorts the ever-clear focus of Jesus — discipleship or orthopraxy or the Jesus Creed — whatever you want to call it. A purple theology will find less focus in the first two and summon people to a life of service, of love, of discipleship, and the like, and it is that life that matters.
On atonement: show me justification as sonship as the way Aquinas frames the issue. I love Scott Hahn’s stuff, but I’m not sure you can equate his stuff with how the Catholic Church has taught justification. Maybe I’m wrong on that one.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 8:04 am


Ah, Scot, # 51. I did not have time last night to complete my circle. There are real, real, real, real big differences between Protestants and Catholics over the nature of the Church. I have some prooftexts to offer later regarding monks and sola gratia. It really is true that they believed in sola gratia. But with # 51 you have hit the nail on the head. I’m sorry I had no more time yesterday because people might think I was trying to say there are no differences. (If there were none, none of us converts would have convert-ed :)
But my original point was that the differences are ecclesial, not soteriological, when one really gets down to it.
I will post some more on soteriology but had to get this in now.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 8:20 am


First, a comment about how poor philology led to forensicism (posted as # 10 at http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1328#comments
back in January)
Speaking as a historian, if I understand McGrath’s account, the Reformers made a fundamental scholarly error. They were enthused about Renaissance humanist recovery of Greek. In that recovery, the humanists did the elementary lexical work of exploring how dikao and variants were used in non-biblical Greek sources and discovered that it was only used forensically, as an acquittal in law, never in the transformational, intrinsic sense. Excited about this, the Reformers concluded that this was the “true” Pauline meaning of the term and that one aspect of the papal church’s fall or apostasy was to substitute this intrinsic/transformational understanding for the forensic. To deal with the Scriptures that clearly teach a transformation into being righteous with the forensic secular Greek meaning of the term, they developed the two-step justification/sanctification distinction.
The scholarly error here, it seems to me is that they didn’t think (didn’t understand) enough about how language works. Paul was not working from secular Greek literature. He was working from the Greek rendering of Hebrew terminology in the Septuagint. The forensic secular Greek vocabulary that the Septuagint translators chose (as the best available) to render the clearly transformation Hebrew understanding of “righteousness” could well have been colonized by the Hebrew content. Indeed, it would be very surprising if vocabulary used to render clearly transformational Hebrew righteousness content were not transformed by the content. Thus for Paul, dikao and variants could very well have meant transformational/intrinsic righteousness rather than forensic.
And if that were the case, then the consistent intrinsic/transformational theology of justifi-facere which the Church consistently taught and which makes the imputation/forensic understanding of dikao a true innovation in the 16thc, would simply continue Paul’s theology rather than representing a departure from Pauline forensicism. (Justifacere is post-classical–which supports my hypothesis that the Latin word itself is in large part a Christian creation seeking to render the Hebrew transformational righteousness that had come to the Latin Fathers via the Septuagint.).
So the humanist and Reformatino Graecists were too clever by half! Excited about discovering the forensic meaning of dikao in secular Greek, they slapped it down over the NT usage and drew far-reaching conclusions without knowing enough about how strong enough religious content can shape and transform the host language when a religion moves from one language/culture into a new one. They were doing fundamental philology but didn’t know enough about ethnology and anthropology to employ their research results optimally.
Now, of course, as I said earlier on this thread, I don’t think most Protestants really stuck with strick forensicism but they thought they did and they thought that it was a crucial dividing point and it was based on a primitive understanding of how language works.
And, even if Calvin and Luther avoided antinomianism and Puppet Master predestination via the back door, there are Calvinists out there (I’ve engaged them on other discussion lists on the Internet) who do believe in strict Divine Puppetry. So with them Catholics have a real difference over soteriology.
But so do Free Will Baptists and Wesleyans and Arminian Calvinists. The very fact that Calvin could be read in a free-will way by Arminius ought to tell us something, namely that Calvin had a more nuanced vision of things but his epigones, as so often happened, narrowed and systematized and consistentized (if that’s a word) his vision.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 30, 2006 at 8:27 am


Dennis,
I assume you are talking about McGrath’s Iustitia Dei?
Counter point: even the New Perspective scholars, who more often than not are correcting, modifying or even abandonding many Reformational ideas, see “justification” as forensic. It is pretty hard not to see that this term, along with tsedeq, has a courtroom scene in the prophets and in Paul. For me, the problem has been making it means exclusively “declare” righteous and completely walking away from “making” righteous. God, so I believe, doesn’t just “declare” so justification is “God’s right-making acts”. By the way, Dennis, the New Perspective has a stronger ecclesial element (praise God) in its understanding of justification.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 8:54 am


Now regarding monks and sola gratia. In an article I published in 1995 in Catholic Historical Review about the way the Carthusians were persecuted in Basel (the story is really quite hilarious at time–the city council put a Protestant administrator in charge of the monastery after the monks refused to embrace the state [city-state]-church Protestantism, a monk who had gone over to their side. He took up residence in the former prior’s cell and brought in his 15-year-old bride to rub the monks’ noses in the new faith. (The city couldn’t simply eject the monks onto the streets without appearing to be unfair and cruel.) He tried to show off to them her feminine charms salaciously (toplessly) and carried on and caroused until one day they had a newlyweds’ quarrel and she hit him in the face with the big bunch of keys that a properly married woman carried as a badge of matronly honor in that culture and left him with a black eye and bruised face. The chronicler commented, ” Der Kussmonat War Herum’” (the honeymoon, in German, the “kissing month” was over).” (This part is not in the CHR article but in another article I published: “The ‘Honeymoon Was Over’: Carthusians between Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie,” in Die Kartäuser und ihre Welt: Kontakte und gegenseitige Einflüsse, vol. 1, Analecta Cartusiana, 62.1 (Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1993, 66-99
).
I concluded the CHR article (”Carthusians during the Reformation Era: Cartusia nunquam deformata, reformari resistens,” Catholic Historical Review, 81.1 (January 1995), 41-66) this way:
“One need only study the remarkable mid-fifteenth-century confession made by an otherwise unremarkable member of the Basel Carthusian community as he prepared to take his monastic vows. In it Martin Ströulin expressed his confidence in Christ’s works, rather than his own merits, in unmistakable and affective language that evinces precisely the sort of confidence in a gracious God for which Luther searched so hard: ‘For all these my many and great transgressions and sins I offer you, most loving God, for satisfaction, the most precious and overflowing treasure of the most innocent passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified, your most beloved Son, since I know that I can be saved and satisfy you in no other way than by the merit of his innocent suffering and death. [Appendix VI in Vischer and Stern, eds., Basler Chroniken, vol. 1, 510-515, text 514-15, German translation, 516-17.]
Nor was this isolated and untypical. In Hermann Josef Roth’s article, “Die Zisterzienser,” in Orden und Klöster im Zeitalter vom Reformation und katholischer Reform 1500-1700, vol. 1, ed. Jürgensmeier, Friedhelm, and Schwerdtfeger, Regina Elisabeth, Katholisches Leben und Kirchenreform im Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung, 65 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2005), ch. 3, pp. 73-97, at p. 78, he notes that all the members of the Carthusian monastery at Walkenried recited in their chapter meeting (their weekly community assembly, in other words, recited officially, the following profession of faith, to Christ
“durch welchen [wir] allein und wahrhaftig im Glauben gerechtfertigt [seien]. . . . nicht Mönchsgelübde, nicht Kukulle, weder Fasten noch irgendein menschliches Werk . . . vermag den Menschen zu retten.” (1469)
to Christ, “through whom [we], alone and truly in faith are justified . . . not [through] monk’s vows, not the cowl, neither fasting nor any other human work, . . . a man is able to be saved.”
I don’t have the original Latin here and am dependent on Roth’s German translation but have no reason to doubt its accuracy.
Roth goes on to mention a Cistercian monk at Loccum in 1473, Engelbert Arnoldi, who composed a Latin confession of faith: “. . . ich bin ein Mensch und ein grosser Sünder, und an dir allein habe ich gesündigt. Aber ich glaube, dass du, mein Herr, o Jesus Christus, allein meine Gerechtigkeit und Erlösung bist; und wie Abraham Gott geglaubt hat und dieser Glaube an Christus zum Heil genüge. Lieber Herr, erbarme dich meiner nach deiner grossen Barmherzigkeit.”
“I am a man and a great sinner, and against you alone, have I sinned. But I believe that thou, My Lord, O Jesus Christ, alone art my justification and salvation, and as Abraham believed God, that this faith in Christ suffices for salvation. Dear Lord, have mercy on me according to your great mercifulness.”
Three different places, two private individuals from two different orders (one known to be very strict and fervent, the other more lax! by the late Middle Ages) and one official statement by the entire monastic community, all from about the time Martin Luther was born–this points to these not being mere aberrations but very typical and representative. One could multiply this many times over if one read enough mundane devotional manuscripts that have been ignored in favor of formal theolgical treatises but which lie by the tens of thousands in the great libraries of Vienna, Paris, London, Munich etc. I immersed myself in these manuscripts 30 years ago and that’s the basis upon which I made the claims about monks and sola gratia.
Also in chapter four of my book on 15thc Carthusian reform, I summarize a treatise by the Carthusian prior I was studying. It was about how to live as a monk after making one’s solemn vows. He explicitly cautions his readers not to think that by vowing obedience and putting on the monastic habit one somehow has a ticket to heaven. He points out that anyone who does not realize that he will face different but equally severe temptations, including the temptation to think he is “safely home,” doesn’t understand the first thing about what he has just done and will almost inevitably end up in hell.
Moreover (and I’ll spare you the prooftexts now), these monastic writers (e.g., Saint Hugh of Lincoln, a Carthusian become bishop of Lincoln under Henry II and Richard I in the late 1100s and the 15thc Carthusian I studied) explicitly said that salvation was equally available to those who married and lived in the world and to monks–that the monastic life was simply an intensified version of the very same Christian life that lay people were supposed to live. This is precisely the supposedly “new” doctrine of the “universal call to holiness” enunciated in ch. 4? (perhaps ch. 3?) of Lumen Gentium, the document on the Church from Vatican II. It was there all the time.
Now certainly there were people in the 15thc preaching salvation by works just as there are such today! These were abuses and they needed to be corrected and that’s what the Catholic reform movement of the late Middle Ages and the 12thc and the 4thc and the 16th and 17thc were all about. My good friend, now Ordinarius for Church History at Erlangen, Berndt Hamm, wrote a book about “piety theology” (Froemmigkeitstheologie) back in the late ’70s that argued that Johannes von Paltz at Luther’s Erfurt friary preached a rather mechanistic confidence in the sacraments. I don’t entirely dispute that, though I think he may have read von Paltz through Protestant eyes–there’s a good reply by Francis Clark to the Oberman School’s claim that late medieval Catholics taught semi-pelagianism that shows how nuanced one needs to be in one’s understanding of exactly what these guys were saying. If there’s interest, I can post a summary of it later. But von Paltz and Tetzel (a much worse case of abuse) are distorting what I honestly believe was a clear Catholic sola gratia teaching. It’s utterly clear in Aquinas. It’s utterly clear in the boots on the ground circles of the ordinary monks I quoted above.
One of the chief errors of the Protestant Reformation was to throw baby out with bathwater–to forget that abusus non tollit usum. Yes, there were abuses but to change one’s whole ecclesiology rather than stick to reforming the abuses, that was the tipping point that distinguished the Protestant Reformation from Catholic Reformation. And to decide that it’s no longer a matter of reformable abuses but a matter of tearing up the ecclesiology at the roots (which is what the Fall of the Church ecclesiology shared in differing ways by all Protestants does), that was the fateful step Luther took after 1518.
I have a host of other evidence that I cannot offer here and now. I believe I have happened on to manuscript material that can show that the lay members of the Church in Saxony, Erfurt, Eisleben, Brandenburg–in the heart of Luther country, was flourishing in a manner not unlike Eamon Duffy has claimed for the Church in late medieval England in his book, Stripping the Altars and that precisely contemplative monks, Carthusians were at the heart of this–devout civic leaders actually turned to Carthusians for advice on how to live a Christian life in business, government etc. They were not lax and careless but eager to ensure a Christian culture of holy living. But now is not the time to fill that out in detail.
This leads us to the question of the Church, which I will eventually address. (And the question of sacraments, which Scot raises in # 51, is a subset of ecclesiology. On that point too, I think there are some serious misunderstandings.)



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Bruce Smith

posted March 30, 2006 at 9:03 am


Dennis, thanks for doing such a great job answering my question. Your evaluation makes sense to me.
Scot, do you think that the distinction I attempted to make between salvation and atonement is valid? Given the NT Biblical references you listed, with regard to the atonement, only the Luke reference seems to be an exception. Also, I did not know that the reformers taught that God doesn’t make us righteous? Is it really true that they argued that salvation includes only a declaration of righteousness and nothing more?
Thanks again for your insights.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 9:04 am


# 54. Yes, Iustitia Dei. No problem, Scot, with this reading of “declare.” My point is that the initial Renaissance/Reformation reading of courtroom acquittal language did not add the “making righteous” nuancing. The nuancing came in by the back door via regeneration/sanctification, so it ends up not too far different. That contemporary Reformed theologians are reading the NT language this way only underscores my point, I think. I think Paul had that nuance already embedded in his thinking because he was Jew who knew the Hebrew scriptures inside and out and carried in his very soul the making righteous implications of the vocabulary. That the Septuagint used a term that up to that point in secular Greek was a courtroom acquittal term didn’t phase him. And the Renaissance Graecists who thought they had discovered a correction of the traditional Catholic “distortion” of Paul in fact were the ones doing the distorting based on undigested philological study.
The New Perspective folks make my point–their perspective is really “old”–it’s only new because of the detour that the inadequate graecist philology of the Renaissance and Reformation sent the Reformers off onto. The Catholic insistence on “salvation by grace through faith active in love” is actually what Paul, Hebrew of the Hebrews, meant all along.
This Reformation detour illustrates what I mean by “talking past each other.”



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 10:31 am


I won’t be so longwinded on the real differences between Catholics and Protestants, in ecclesiology.
The fundamental issue, I think is the indefectibility of the Church. Did Christ intend to establish a visible, historical Church that he would guard against apostasy, against defection from him or did that promise that the “gates of hell would not prevail” apply only to the Church in the Eschaton and in heaven?
The 16thc Reformers did not want to shift from an indefectible church to a defectible, merely human one, by no means. They saw plenty of sinners occupying offices of bishops and the papal chair. They concluded that the visible episcopal-papal church had in fact defected from Christ, so Christ’s promise of indefectiblity had to apply to some now to-be-miraculously-restored True Church. They knew it could not be the “papal church” for that was beyond reforming. In short, all the Reformers took up one form or another of the Fall of the Church ecclesiology. They disagreed about exactly wherein and when the Fall took place, but that the papal (which included the episcopal structure) church had Fallen, that was clear. All Protestant groups rejected episcopacy in apostolic succession (Church of Sweden and Church of England excluded but even there there was back-and-forth and to the degree that Anglo-Catholics and Church of Sweden theologians maintained faith in the apostolic succession episcopate they distanced themselves from “real Protestantism.”)
Initially each of the main families of the Reformation insisted against all the other families of the Reformation that their vision (presbyteral, congregational etc.) of the True Church was the only True Church; hence Luther’s excoriation of Zwingli’s Defection or Apostasy was just as sharp as his excoriation of the “papal church” and its Apostasy.
But after the rival claimants for being the True Church reached a few dozen and then hundreds and then thousands, none of them could with a straight face maintain the fiction that their group and their group alone was the True Church that had remained faithful to Christ. Yes, some of the more extreme separationist Fundamentalists would say that, some Mennonites until fairly recently and perhaps the Landmark Baptists to this day? still argue that, via a chain of True Remnant believers down through the ages; perhaps some strict Reformed Calvinists?, but for the most part, since the 18thc and early 19thc, Protestant denominations and confessions recognized that the only really credible way to look at it was to say that, while I think my denomination or confession has just a bit more (or a lot more) of the True Church in it, still, I recognize that the True Church is not to be found visibly on earth anywhere–only in the Eschaton.
This in effect reduces the visible Church on earth to something approaching a merely human institution. It is, to be sure, a human institution animated by the Holy Spirit and, if it not one of the really off the tracks denominations (for Liberal Protestants the Fundies are really off the tracks; for strict Reformed, the Arminians and charismatics/Pentecostals are the real black sheep; for Baptists, the infant baptizers are really off the tracks but for all of them, until recently, Catholics and Orthodox are really really off the tracks because they still believe in the True Church visible here on earth and “fence the sacraments” by denying intercommunion).
All of the distinctive Catholic doctrines: mediatorial and sacramental priesthood, the office of bishop and an authoritative magisterium, the principle of faithful development and continuity without any real reversals or discontinuities in Tradition, the objective efficacy of the sacraments and so forth derive from the basic belief that Christ has through the Holy Spirit preserved his Church united around the successor of Peter as first among equals among the bishops to avoid apostasy and defection. The visible Church in communion with Peter (with the Bishop of Rome) in this view can never be subordinated to culture but always stands in critique of culture, sometimes accepting cultural develops but doing so critically, not because subordinate to them, sometimes rejecting and labeling sinful cultural developments.
The Church in this view, including its visible structure built on the bishops in apostolic succession with Peter at their head, is both divine and human. It is a living organism, the true Mystical Body of Christ.
Only on this basis can Catholics and Orthodox claim what they claim about the sacraments. And it is very important to study carefully what they claim. Objective efficacy does not mean externalized magic. Sacraments are objectively efficacious–validly performed the accomplish necessarily what they signify–but they also have a subjective application to the recipient that can vary depending on the recipient’s disposition. So even though objectively the bread and wine truly are transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, to the person in mortal sin who does not “discern the body” they subjectively cause damage, even death, according to Paul and to the person repentant of sin and cleansed and opened [absolutely and totally by God's grace cleansed and opened] they work powerful sanctification in his heart and soul and even body, because body and soul are an integral unity.
I’ll stop here. There are a lot of implications following from this, but this is the heart of it and I don’t want to obscure the main point.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 10:32 am


Well, I guess I was longwinded after all. My apologies. There, for once I kept it short :)



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 10:36 am


Sorry, I see I didn’t really complete the one paragraph in longwinded # 58
“This in effect reduces the visible Church on earth to something approaching a merely human institution. It is, to be sure, a human institution. It is, to be sure, a human institution animated by the Holy Spirit and, if it is not one of the really off the tracks denominations”
long digression on examples of “off the tracks” denominations
I should have then continued:
if it is not one of those “off-the-tracks” denominations, it will be viewed by its adherents as participating more fullly in the Eschatological True Church, but it is not to be identified with the True Church, indeed, to identify my denomination or any other with the True Church is idolatry.



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Greg Mc

posted March 30, 2006 at 10:42 am


Dennis you obviously have done a great deal of study in this area. What I would like to see, (rather than obscure references that do not have Papal authority) are official RC statements to bolster your assertions that we are “talking past each other.”
Luther’s reforms could have been addressed within the Church until the question of Papal authority entered the mix and then money and politics more as much or more than theology demanded that he be put in his place.
It is not lost on me that Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are still the prime targets of Papists.
It is my understanding that indulgences are still being sold to this day, out of some supposed “treasury of merit” that certain super saints earned, surplus to their own need, so that lesser mortals can get out of Purgatory a few centuries early. The very idea, (Official Papal teaching as it is) of Purgatory makes a mockery of the sufficiency of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, never mind repeating it over and over again in the Mass.
You seem to be cherry picking as I said, obscure references that make it seem Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants are closer than they actually are because the official teachings of Rome still anathema-tize the Gospel.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 10:52 am


Finally, two minor but significant, I think, points.
1. Some may not know that some of the Cistercian monasteries in Protestizing North Germany simply changed allegiances, accepted the state-imposed Protestant reorganization and continued as Protestant Cistercian monasteries for centuries. Their daily round of activities scarcely changed. Likewise, the Knights of the Hospital (Johanniterorden) and the Knights of Malta maintained an organizational unity that tolerated houses of both Protestant and Catholic members for a century or so. People at the time did not see Protestant doctrine as utterly incompatible with ancient ways of living the Christian life. One of the Cistercian Lutheran houses, I think, has survived to this very day. To me this shows that the Reformation schism as it ended up was in large part imposed by nationalizing governments. Theological differences were claimed as part of the justification, but in fact these differences often involved saying roughly comparable things in different words.
2. Supporting my view that Calvin and Luther retained by the back door what they rejected frontally in their “finished forensic justification” is the fact that each has been read by significant movementsw in a “Catholic way” at various points over the past four centuries. The Mercersburg theologians thought that they could reconcile Calvin on sacraments and ecclesiology with Catholicism to a large degree. Now, they did not convince the other Calvinists that this could truly be done and I think they did overargue their case and that there are real differences on ecclesiolgy and sacraments.
But that the Mercersburg theologians could with a straight face even mount their case and get as far as they did in convincing others to join them indicates that in a figure of genius like Calvin lies enough nuancing and subtlety to permit the sort of “back door” harmonizing on soteriolgy that I have attempted. I don’t harmonize him on ecclesiology but even there, among the major reformers, Calvin is the closest to Catholics on church-world, Christ-Culture issues, which grows out of his concern that Christians truly be transformed in Christ and thereby transform the world. This differs from Luther who with his two-kingdom theology was more pessimistic and mistrustful of the “transforming the world” line of thought (which led, also in its Anglican variant, to Kulturprotestantismus) and differs from the Anabaptists who certainly had the high sanctification/transformation drive but restricted it in their gross pessimism about the world, to their small, separated remnant ecclesiology.
But enough already, I’ve exhausted everyone’s patience and I’m not getting my work done!
I guess I never responded to Scot’s question about sonship/theosis. Anna Willliams’ book is important there, so too the Finnish Luther scholars on theosis in Luther. There’s a young Jesuit writing a dissertation at Oxford on theosis in Augustine and a bunch of others working on the same theme. Adopted sonship/deification is simply embedded in St. Paul and the entire Patristic heritage, both east and west. Protestant forensicists were frightened by it but the Finns now claim that it’s there even in Luther. Certainly the entire Wesleyan and to some degree the Pietist traditions revert to type.
All of that suggests to me that theosis/divinization understood as NT adopted sonship (Jn. 1, Jn 3, Jn 6 and Paul in Eph. 1 and Colossians etc.–you know the drill) is the mainstream and that the Protestant flirtation with strict forensics and merely imputed righteousness and dunghills covered by snow is just that–a flirtation that some epigones today try to turn into the main affair and thereby confuse things for everyone.
But now I must stop.



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Greg Mc

posted March 30, 2006 at 10:57 am


#58 “All of the distinctive Catholic doctrines: mediatorial and sacramental priesthood, the office of bishop and an authoritative magisterium, the principle of faithful development and continuity without any real reversals or discontinuities in Tradition, the objective efficacy of the sacraments and so forth derive from the basic belief that Christ has through the Holy Spirit preserved his Church united around the successor of Peter as first among equals among the bishops to avoid apostasy and defection.”
I suppose the Donation of Constantine proves that? Even if you can establish Peter as THE primary leader of the early Church, that is a long way from establishing that Rome is the valid successor to that position. The fact is if Rome was operated today as it was in the time of the Reformation, Bill Gates would probably be Pope today.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 11:14 am


Oh no, Greg Mc has now asked for official references. It’s all there in the Catechism and has been cited on this thread–Trent, repeated in the CCC–the final, efficient, meritorious etc. cause of our salvation is absolutely only solely the merit of the work of Christ on the Cross. It’s all there in Aquinas. Please read the decrees of Trent and the revelant passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
I took all that for granted. My references are not obscure, please, really. I took pains to show that they are typical for the late Middle Ages. But perhaps I didn’t complete the argument, so here goes:
Scot McKnight had posted about Scott Hahn chuckling at Scot’s assumption that had the 15thc Church been more like the clearly evangelical doctrine found in Scott Hahn’s writings and in the Catechism etc., the Reformation would not have been needed.
That’s what my “obscure references” were responding to: the arguement that, well, yes, we grudgingly admit that the Catholic Church today does not teach works righteousness, that it’s doctrine on salvation is fully evangelical and maybe even Aquinas had it right on thes matters but stlil, the Catholic Church was teaching something different in the 15thc and things were horribly messed up in the late Middle Ages and that’s why the Protestant Reformation was a God-given providential and necessary event.
And Scot specifically pointed to monks as the culprits. I took this (perhaps wrongly) to mean that he thought, okay, Aquinas taught sola gratia, the Catholic Church today teaches sola gratia, but the monks were stuck in some form of self-salvation, semi-pelagianism (the claim is often made that since John Cassian, the father of much of western monasticism joined the semi-pelagians, therefore monasticism in the West was always tinged with semi-pelagianism).
My point with the references to explicit salvation by grace alone through faith (faith active in works, of course) by these 15thc monks was to respond to Scot’s assumptions. They were not obscure as responses to his specific narrowing of where the corruption lay in the Cathoic Church. Along with Eamon Duffy, I think the evidence is very strong that the Church, despite many abuses and much corruption, also had deep reservoirs of evangelical, sola gratia solid faithful patristic theology and Christian living precisely on the eve of the Reformation. That’s what my evidence was designed to show and I believe the references I offered are only the tip of the iceberg.
All of this was aimed at the topic of this thread: is the Reformation over? Initially a number of posters responded by saying, well, perhaps it is but it served a good purpose while it lasted.
I respectfully disagree. While it did seek to correct abuses, it unfortunately caused even greater harm and delayed genuine reform in some ways. It did so by falsifying the nature and degree of deformation on the eve of the Reformation. I tried to point out that much of the blame for these bad, sad effects of the Protestant reformation rests with the princes and kings who coopted it for state-building purposes. Part of the blame rests very much with evil, venal Catholic bishops and curial officials and the early 16thc popes who sinfully resisted reform. And part of the blame rests with Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and their followers who, for whatever reason, either in good faith miunderstood and failed to see the reservoirs of truth and genuine, authentic biblical evangelical Christianity that I see clearly present in the fifteenth-century or who saw them and misrepresented them, in part because, in the case of Luther, they were provoked and mistreated by the venal and evil Curial officials.
So there’s plenty of blame to go around but I cannot help but see the Reformation as a tragedy that delayed and complicated the process of reform, split Europe into state-church nationalist rivalries.
While I taught at the Mennonite seminaries in the 1980s I told my students the Reformation was a tragic necessity. I at that time shared Scot McKnight’s view that things had gotten so bad, so deformed, in the 15thc that the Protestant Reformation or something like it was necessary, though it was tragic that things had to come to that pass.
I no longer believe that. I don’t think it had to happen the way it did and I blame the kings and princes a lot, though not exclusively. I have since read countless lives of holy, evangelical Catholic saints from this era (stories most Protestants don’t have a clue about); I have read more and more examples of evangelical Catholic monastic reformers, I have discovered the interaction between devout civic officials and traditional Catholic monastics. Eamon Duffy’s book came out in 1993 and offers a very different view of the state of the Church in the 15thc. All of that is in respectful response to Scot’s way of preserving a “need” for the Reformation.
And that’s why I chose the references I did. I did not cherry pick except insofar as the specific things I was responding to were already “cherry picked.”
But the official, highest level formulations are all readily available and some have been alluded to on this thread. I don’t have time to lift them out and post them here, but trust me, my “obscure references” are very much taken from the center of official Catholic teaching of that era, teaching that remained consistent from the time of the Synod of Orange in 529 through Anselm and Bernard of Clairvaux and Aquinas to Trent and Vatican II and the CCC.
Or, perfectly reasonably, don’t trust me! Go to the relevant passages of the CCC and read it for yourself and note that the footnotes point directly to Trent.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 11:36 am


Uh, Greg, (# 63), really the Donation of Constantine has nothing to do with the claim I made. It’s found in Irenaeus, Clement of Rome and a whole host of sources in the early Church. Its NT sources are Mt. 16 (read together with Is 22) and John 21 and Luke 22 and so on and so forth). The Eastern Orthodox fully affirm it, from the same sources.
There’s a whole body of literature here that most Protestant scholars recognize. The old arguments about “big rock” and “little pebble” for Mt. 16 no respectable NT scholar or any persuasion accepts.
I understand that we are talking out of vastly different, scarcely overlapping universes of knowledge. I don’t want to get into polemics with you. From your reliance on the Donation of Constantine, I assume that you are not familiar with a lot of the patristic and even contemporary historical theological and systematic theological discussion of these controverted issues.
The centuries of polemics between Protestants and Catholics that Mark Noll and Alan Jacobs and our host, Scot McKnight believe are now over rested on two ships passing in the night. Protestants since the fruitful interchange with Catholics in the 17thc that I described in my first posting on this thread, lived in nearly complete lack of contact with Catholics and vice versa. That has changed over the past half-century. Noll, Colson, Neuhaus, Timothy George and dozens of other respected Evangelicals and Catholics now share a body of information about each other that permits them to, while still disagreeing, converse with each other without defensiveness, recognizing that each side was not the monster the other side made it out to be, that in fact they have a lot more in common than they realize.
But if one lives primarily within the universe of knowledge that John McArthur or Michael Horton or others of their persuasion live within, one will have virtually no contact with the opposite side’s universe of knowledge.
I am not seeking converts to Catholicism. I am seeking honest, irenic conversation partners who are ready to suspend judgment and consider thoughtfully evidence counterintuitive to the many centuries of polemics. But the first step is to recognize at least the possibility that the pre-judgments and misinformation runs far deeper and in more hidden and obscure channels in the hearts of the more radically polemical Catholics and Protestants than we realize. Trust me, I have engaged in some very tough and frustrating efforts to try to convince unreconstructed Feeneyite Catholics (those who believe that all non-Catholics are necessarily damned–a position for which Fr. Feeney was excommunicated by the pope in the 1940s) that their hearts and minds are filled with misinformation and prejudices against Protestants as well as with unreconstructed strict Calvinists who seem to adhere to a Puppet Master soteriology that even Calvin would be appalled to hear.
Blessings on you, my friend and brother in Christ,
Dennis Martin



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Greg Mc

posted March 30, 2006 at 11:41 am


After a five minute migration to the top of this thread I read one line in the original post about the 15th Century.
“My friend, Scott Hahn,…. and I were once discussing matters not unlike this one when I said to him that if the 15th Century Roman Catholics had been like Scott there would never had been a Reformation. He chuckled.
Your obscure references were very interesting, but they carried zero authority. If they had been then your point would carry more weight than it otherwise does.
Talking past the issue happens when one ignores actual points of contention (Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide) and instead focuses on commonalities like the necessity of Grace which both sides always affirmed.
The real test comes when someone asks; “What must I do to be saved?” The answers that a Roman Catholic gives are completely different to the answer a Reformed Protestant gives. Both can’t be right.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:04 pm


Lest I be misunderstood, I am not claiming that the Church in the 15thc was all fine and dandy. When I say that the real difference between Catholics and Protestants has to do with belief in the indefectibility of the visible, historic Church participating in the living organism that is the Body of Christ, I do not mean to say that this indefectibility always lies on the surface.
After Nicea for 50 years to most observers, it might have seemed that the whole church had defected; one could have lost hope. At various times in history–and the 16thc was one of them for many people but not all–it seems on the surface that all is lost, the Church has defected, the only hope lies in the Eschaton.
So yes, the 15thc situation had horrific abuses and corruption alongside what I consider to be examples of great faithfulness and sterling, faithful, evangelical Christian teaching and living.
Depending where one stood, one might see only the horrific abuses. But that’s where the division begins: those who see only abuses and conclude that all or some major part of the visible Church (in this case, the papal church) has Fallen, defected, have exchanged an ecclesiology of indefectibility (of the visible Church) for one of defectibility of the visible Church/indefectibility of the Spiritual-Eschatological church).
That the abuses were grave and widespread and to many observers made the situation hopeless is understandable.
I think countervailing evidence was available at the time and it seems obvious that some people at the time saw the situation as grave but not hopeless because of their indefectibility ecclesiology. Even the Protestant Reformers did not say the whole Church was hopeless–they labeled what they thought was one part of it (the Papal Church) hopelessly irreformable and put their very real hopes in God’s gracious reformation of the “other part”–but to do this had to reconfigure the relationship between visible, historical, episcopal-papal structure on the one hand and the mystical/spiritual Body of Christ on the other. Those who looked around and saw hope despite horrific abuse, who saw hopeful phenomena in some places and also retained a theology of indefectible papal/episcopal/visible church) stayed with the papal church through to its eventual reform.
Others, quite understandably but in my view tragically and incorrectly, could not see evidence for hope and adjusted their theology about just how the Church is indefectible to accord with their reading of the exact nature of the hopelessness. They remained hopeful but placed their hope differently and that required a different ecclesiology.
Of course, they may have been the ones who saw things truly and hoped rightly and the Catholics who saw hope in different places, despite the horrific abuses, and retained the older ecclesiology, may have been wrong to do so. I obviously choose the latter but my purpose here is to try to lay out the issues in a way that many Protestant evangelicals may not ever have encountered. They still might, after considering the layout I’ve offered, reach conclusions opposite to mine.
All I ask is that one consider whether the recasting of the issues I’ve attempted here might not have some merit.



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Greg Mc

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:07 pm


CANON IV. If any one shall affirm, that man’s freewill, moved and excited by God, does not, by consenting, cooperate with God, the mover and exciter, so as to prepare and dispose itself for the attainment of justification; if moreover, anyone shall say, that the human will cannot refuse complying, if it pleases, but that it is inactive, and merely passive; let such an one be accursed”!
CANON V.- If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of Adam, man’s freewill is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing titular, yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the Church; let such an one be accursed”!
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
“Trent indicates that the grace of justification can be lost in two ways. The first is by infidelity, in which case faith is lost and justification with it. The second and more significant way is by mortal sin, in which case one may have faith but lose justification. If it is possible to have true faith but not have justification, then it is clear, by resistless logic, that justification is not by faith alone. Again it is arguable whether such faith would be considered true faith by the Reformers. Yet it is considered true faith by Rome, and this faith does not include justification” (Faith Alone, p. 123).



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RJS

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:07 pm


And here we have the best and the worst of the “Professor Mentality” from one passionate about his area of expertise.
Actually, Dennis, thanks for taking the time. I have found this discussion very interesting and enlightening.
RJS



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:08 pm


Sorry, Greg. I see where you are headed. I don’t think an irenic discussion will be very possible–we are indeed occupying different universes of knowledge and talking past each other. I wish for you rich blessings in Christ Jesus.
Dennis



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:15 pm


Greg,
Please, indulgences are not sold. To sell indulgences was reprobated by the Church when Tetzel did it. To repeat that canard and apply it to the present-day practice of the Catholic Church indicates that the sources of your information are terribly distorted. I recognize that you will not belief this to be the case. I can only say that it is the case. If you wish to read the present Catholic teaching about indulgences, I can point you to the official texts. There is nothing in them even hinting at sale of indulgences. But you will need to at least suspend your prejudgments if you are to read those sources and understand them.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:33 pm


Dear RJS (# 69). I’m not quite sure whether “And here we have the best and the worst of the “Professor Mentality” from one passionate about his area of expertise” is your own voice (and therefore your critique of me) or someone else voice that you are quoting–whether approvingly or not, I can’t tell.
But I really do think it a bit unfair to dismiss me (whoever’s voice did it) as merely passionate about my small area of expertise and professorially narrowminded.
I have taught the entire range of Christian history, all 2000 years of it, based on reading the primary sources, now for 20 years. When I use primary source material from the 15thc century in response to a specific major point about what might have justified the Reformation, I do so not to make a narrow point but to speak to a significant claim: that the situation on the eve of the Reformation made such a complete shift in ecclesiology necessary. In my postings I have ranged all the way from Irenaeus and the NT to the 17thc Pietists and 19thc revivalists. I did not cite primary sources in each case–to do so would be impossible and would then merit me criticism for being too detailed. But rest assured that what I wrote about the Pietists and revivalists, about Luther and Calvin, about the Catechism of the Catholic Church today, about Irenaeus and the Synod of Orange II and so on an so forth was based on reading of the historical sources of the period, sources I sought to summarize in brief compass.
I have, to be sure, done my most concentrated research in 15thc monastic history but I have done original research from the 12th to the 16thc and have read the primary sources, though not at a publishable expert’s level, for the other periods of the church’s history. I have lived a life as a historian-teacher both within Evangelical Protestantism and within Catholicism. I know the viewpoints and arguments and interpretations from both these universes of knowledge.
While my conclusions and interpretations may be flawed, I think the one thing that cannot be said is that I live and write out of a narrow and passionate concern with my small professorial area of expertise.
Indeed, if you were to ask those historians (church and secular historians) who know something about my publications, most would (rightly) characterize me as insufficiently specialized, as a dilettante who, instead of publishing solely from his special area of expertise, has ranged too far across too much territory and therefore become an amateur in many areas but a top-of-line expert in none of them. Because undergraduates needed it I have spent ten years teaching John Paul II and contemporary Catholicism rather than cranking out the detailed Carthusian history projects I once hoped to complete. I at one time worked in primary sources for Anabaptism but left that unfinished body of work to develop other areas.
But this has given me, I think, a wide view of the overarching theological-historical issues over the centuries. I do not claim expertise in systematic theology, whether Catholic or Protestant. I do, however, think that the general principles (that ecclesiology rather than soteriolgy is the fundamental dividing point) I have enunciated are born out by historical sources over the entire sweep of church history.
Am I passionate? To that I plead guilty. But passionate as a Christian layman, for whom the Christian faith is my life, not as a professor passionate about his narrow speciality. In the eyes of true professors passionate about their specialities, I committed long ago the unpardonable sin of taking the results of detailed specialized research about 15thc monks and applying to and integrating it into amateur, dilettantish general conclusions about Protestantism and Catholicism. But I did it because I care about which of these two (and other) ways of reading the general history of the Church is most accurate, most edifying, most life-giving.
And to that scholarly sin, I do plead guilty but of it I do not repent.



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Rich

posted March 30, 2006 at 12:50 pm


I am not an atheist or agnostic but a majority of these comments makes Edward T.Babinski’s premise most convincing.
Nevertheless, I cannot recant God or Christ. Here I stand!



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Greg Mc

posted March 30, 2006 at 1:17 pm


Dennis, Whether indulgences are STILL sold or not, does not change the underlying problems with a “treasury of merit” and a theology that needs Purgatory.
I never claimed to be some expert in early church writings and it is easy for you to just dismiss me but there are lots of solid credentialed theologians that would refute your claims of the primacy of Rome on your own turf. William Webster, or James White just to name a couple.
http://www.christiantruth.com/mt16.html
http://aomin.org/Whitewash1.html
“Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have left for myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. But if it is by grace, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.”



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RJS

posted March 30, 2006 at 1:23 pm


Dennis,
Actually as a tenured faculty member of a major research university, although in an area that probably wouldn’t interest you, it was more of a tongue in cheek comment on the whole profession.
However, the comment was in fact intended as a compliment and not in any way intended to be dismissive. I have truly enjoyed reading and learning from what you have written. Thanks for taking the time.
RJS



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Dennis Martin

posted March 30, 2006 at 2:05 pm


Greg, before going any farther, please do read the contemporary theology on indulgences in the Catechism or in the proclamations of indulgences for the jubilee. Using the word “sold” is not just a minor matter. If your real quarrel is with treasury of merits, then you should have stated that. You see, the casual use of “sold” suggests that you are not familiar with contemporary theology about indulgences, as do your present comments about purgatory.
This is an area where Protestants and Catholics do disagree but the disagreement may once more be over misunderstandings of what the opponent truly teaches and believes.
I do not have time now to summarize the theological basis for “temporal punishment for sins” which is what indulgences eliminate and what purgatory purges. It has to do with the very same phenomenon we all experience when a friends or spouse has betrayed us: the offender can come to his senses, repent of his sin, ask forgiveness and be forgiven. At that point his sin is forgiven, washed away. But a wound is left behind in his heart (all sin and betrayal damages the sinner because we are made for not-sin, righteousness and sin violates our very nature). If the couple acts as if the wound is not there, as if they are back to where they were before the betrayal, the wound, which is very real, will fester and sooner or later cause trouble. The offender has to realize this wound is there and regain the trust of the one he sinned against by doing trust-making things, proving he is now trustworthy.
It cannot be otherwise. They cannot simply trust themselves as they once did because the offender did something untrust-worthy. But if the offender over time proves his trustworthiness, his “toward-the-spouse” love, eventually she can trust him totally again. That heals the wound.
God is not wounded by our sin in the same sense. The analogy is both similar and different. But we are deeply wounded by our sin and our loving relationship with God is impaired. Our sins are forgiven, cast into the depths of the sea, removed from us as far as the East is from the West. We are safe from Hell (unless we sin again). That is the total removal of eternal punishment.
But the wound left behind is the temporal punishment. It is real. God forgives us but we have created a gap for ourselves. We have a problem, not God. In our sorrow for our having sinned (and even the sorrow is a gift of God’s grace) we offer ourselves to God in prayer, selfless love of others (almsgiving), self-discipline (fasting) to demonstrate TO OURSELVES that we are toward God deeply truly, totally.
If before we die we have truly overcome this wound left behind by our sin (temporal punishment) we are ready for his presence. If not, God’s burning love removes it from is (it was his love that was removing it from us in every act or thought of selfless love, prayer etc. we did while living–please, please recognize that we Catholics insist that all our acts of love toward God are enabled finally, efficiently, meritoriously soley by grace through faith–please do not say that I have articulated any works-righteousness here) in purgatory.
I understand that given your forensic framework and belief that when justified we cannot lose our salvation (if I have properly interpreted your preceding posts) you will not agree that what I have just written is Biblical. I believe that your forensic approach is not biblical and may not even be true to Calvin and Luther, though I don’t know for sure exactly what you beieve along these lines.
Please, I am not trying to convince you that our belief about temporal punishment for sin as distinct from eternal punishment and thus our belief in indulgences and purgatory is true.
What I am trying to do is point out that our reasons for believing these things are not grabbed from thin air, are not simply the result of pelagian works righteousness, but are one way of addressing real, perceptible aspects of who we are as human beings and how we relate to God. We believe that this wound of sin (temporal punishment) belief is congruent with total sola gratia through faith salvation. I understand that you probably think it cannot in any way be compatible.
But what I have described here is the basis for indulgences (which are not to be sold) and for purgatory. Behind it lies the question of the doctrine of the Keys. Forgiveness of eternal punishment belongs to God alone. But we believe (you probably do not) that Christ himself gave the Church in the person of the Apostles (who later delegated it to priests) the authority to assign and therefore to remit the temporal punishment for sin and to pronounce in His name His forgiveness for eternal punishment. Indulgences are one aspect of that authority of the keys.
You do not agree with us Catholics on this. I understand that. But my aim is to invite you to step back and recognize that our beliefs about indulgences rest on other, more basic doctrines (ecclesiology again) about which we disagree and to hope that you would then be willing irenically look at the basis upon which we believe that Christ granted this authority over church discipline and sacramental authority to pronounce absolution in His name, to try to understand it, so that if (as you undoubtedly will) you still disagree with it, you will be disagreeing from a position of knowledge of what we believe, not from lack of that knowledge.
To start by throwing at us our belief in indulgences and purgatory is to put the cart before the horse. If we are wrong about the sacrament of confession and the keys etc. then we are also wrong about indulgences and purgatory. But the discussion needs to begin with the nature of Christ’s commission to his apostles in Jn 21 and Mt 16 and elsewhere. On this issue, again, Catholics and Orthodox agree, though they do not work it out in practice the same way (indulgences and purgatory are Western developments offf of the shared principle; Orthodox have their ways of practicing these principles).
We Catholics and the Orthodox could be wrong about the power of the keys. But that’s the issue dividing us–and it’s ecclesial, not soteriological.
Yours fraternally,
Dennis Martin



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Bruce Smith

posted March 30, 2006 at 2:12 pm


Scot, I just read #51 and I really appreciate the way you are processing these issues openly.



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Michael Barber

posted March 30, 2006 at 4:11 pm


Dr. McKnight,
Thank you for your comment. After all these years reading your work, it is a pleasure to speak with you. Let me respond to the two issues you brought up.
I agree with you—our faith should be a Christocentric faith. Moreover, I think the Protestant emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus is absolutely correct and I wish more Catholics would focus on its importance.
I think there are two extremes we need to avoid. The first is an emphasis on the communal aspect of faith—the Church—which neglects the personal dimension of faith. Catholics, especially in responding to the charges of Protestantism, are more likely to be prone to fall into this trap.
I don’t want to leave the impression, however, that Catholics do not affirm the personal aspect of faith. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Mother Theresa, Alphonsus Ligouri—these are only a few Catholic believers who spent their life dedicated to helping others grow in their relationship with Christ. I think if you read through John Paul II, Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, etc., you’ll be surprised and delighted to find a similar focus.
Yet, we Catholics need to do more. The Protestant critique here has been not only helpful but extraordinarily significant. Of course, the failure of Catholics to discuss this dimension is one of the main reasons people leave the Church for Protestantism.
Your point is well taken.
Keep in mind though that those who leave the Church thinking that Catholics do not affirm the importance of the personal aspect of faith have obviously not been taught by people trained in Catholic teaching and spirituality. In fact, many of these same people think that Catholics worship Mary—which the Church explicitly condemns. The fact is there is a crisis in Catholic catechesis.
Protestants have done a wonderful job encapsulating their message. Catholics have done a much poorer job. Certain subtleties are hard to explain in a sound bite.
The other extreme is individualism. I think the emphasis on the communal aspect is often the result of a felt need to address tendencies toward individualism. I think this was less of a danger in the ancient world where, for example, faith was set within the larger context of the covenant community (OT Israel, Qumran, etc.). The problem emerged in a special way with the rise of nominalism in the fourteenth century. Thomas was re-cast in the individualistic nominalist perspective and spirituality became divorced from theology (e.g., cf. Servais Pinckaers, Sources of Christian Ethics).
At the time of the Reformation, nominalism was reigning in most Catholic academic circles. The influence of nominalism on the Protestant reformation is, of course, well known. In fact, Colin Brown (and many others) argues that Luther’s disagreements with Thomas Aquinas were often the result of reading Thomas through nominalist lenses (Christianity and Western Thought, 150-1; see endnotes for further sources).
With the rise of capitalism and the American notion of “rugged individualism,” this danger is even more pronounced.
I think many Catholics—especially converts, e.g., those on The Journey Home—react against a perceived reductivism in the Protestant focus on “me and Jesus,” which is seen as a denial of the communal aspect of faith. Ultimately, however, what needs to be stressed is not simply theological orthodoxy but interior conversion, transformation and, most of all, personal relationship with the risen Lord. The polemics need to be eliminated.
I think in terms of spirituality and living the Christian life BOTH extremes need to be avoided. Catholics need to do a better job of emphasizing the personal dimension, Protestants, the communal. This would go a long way to healing the divisions in the body of Christ.
Incidentally, I think sacramental theology is key here. Reception of the sacraments involves both the communal (1 Cor 10:16-17) and the personal (e.g., John 6:56; especially in regard to self-examination, cf. 1 Cor 11:27-32).
A theology without sacraments will, I believe, lead to extreme individualism. However, a sacramental approach that neglects the personal dimension will lead to an impersonal communalism.
Much more could be said—e.g., Catholic prayer seems to highly accentuate the importance of the Trinity, thus leading to a more communal theology—but I feel I am running long here.
As for the other comment you made, Thomas’ treatment of justification was not quite addressing the questions of the Reformation. Nonetheless, a careful reading of the Prima Sucundae of the Summa reveals that Thomas believed that justification involved the reception of grace, which is nothing less than sonship. In q. 113 he writes, “The entire justification of the ungodly consists as to its origin in the infusion of grace” (I-II, q. 113, art. 7). In the next question he describes the effect of grace: “… whereby a man, being made a partaker of the Divine Nature, is adopted as a son of God, to whom the inheritance is due by right of adoption, according to Rom. viii. 17: ‘If sons, heirs also.’”
Thomas’ treatment of sonship is even more pronounced in his commentary on Galatians.
Of course, Thomas is not considered a magisterial source. Trent, however, is—and its explanation of justification was clearly rooted in sonship. The discussion begins with original sin, which is described as making humans “children of wrath.” Justification of the sinner is summarized as “a translation from the state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our savior” (Session 6, 8).
Hope this was helpful. Sorry it was so long!



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Ted Gossard,

posted March 31, 2006 at 1:10 am


Dennis and Michael, Thanks much for sharing your perspectives and beliefs with us. I intend to read through them all on Friday (after four ten hour days!). I’m happy for the interaction that goes on in “Jesus Creed”. Scot does such an excellent job on it. Remarkable when considering everything else he does. And great to have guys like you, who I’m sure are likewise busy, joining in. Thanks.
grace and peace,
Ted



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J.R.Dollins

posted March 31, 2006 at 9:30 am


I am a protestant layman. I attend a small church (100 people) with 14 nationalities and over 10 denominational traditions represented. It’s pretty cool to have Freewill Baptists, Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Methodists, Orthodox, Catholics, Assembly of God, Christian Missionary Alliance, Mennonite Brethren and others worshipping together.
Most of this discussion has been over my head but I have enjoyed learning about the differing perspectives and approaches to scripture, worship, and relationship. I have many RC brothers and sisters and we seldom discuss theology past relationship with Christ – which we can agree on.
I am currently living in third world Latin America and I can’t get past this from Michael’s post in # 78, “In fact, many of these same people think that Catholics worship Mary—which the Church explicitly condemns. The fact is there is a crisis in Catholic catechesis.”
As a layman I had to look up “catechesis” and I understand this to mean word of mouth instruction. I assume passed down from Rome to the far reaches of RC churches.
Why is this condemnation of Mary worship not disseminated or enforced better? I know you said this issue is a “crisis”, but wouldn’t a simple forceful edict from Rome fix this? My limited experience would note that Mary worship is still encouraged here among the uneducated as well as among my well educated RC friends back in the US. I see Mary worship all around me (at the office, in a taxi, in shops, national holidays, celebrations, parades, jewelry, art, etc.) and in every beautiful cathedral that I visit whether here or in the US.
I have also had divorced RC friends of mine in the US discuss with me a “shopping amongst different priests and parishes for the cheapest annulment” exercise that they undertook to be able to participate in communion again.
In theological and scholarly circles interpretation and beliefs may not differ that much between RCC and Protestantism, but my snapshot experiences lend something different to my understanding.
If Rome indeed condemns these practices, why is almost ALL of my personal experience demonstrating otherwise?
For these reasons when I encounter RC brothers and sisters I keep the conversation Christocentric which often circles back to Mary, the Pope, or other tradition. I have to admit that I worry about their citizenship in the Kingdom often.
I’m ready to move past the reformation, but how? How should I respectfully engage the RC laity when I worry about their Kingdom citizenship?
Blessings,
JR



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Dennis Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 1:33 pm


Dear JR (# 80). Actually it is pretty hard for you to know whether you are seeing Mary worship. Although “worthship” once meant assigning worth to anyone, to God and to men, hence in archaic texts (e.g., St. Thomas More on veneration of statutes can talk about “worshiping statues” but he means giving to statues the worth they merit, which is the worth of a creature, not worth-shiping the statue as if it were God) it now means assigning only the worth of God to something. SO now we say we venerate or honor creatures but worship God alone. We really mean that to God alone is given the worthyness belonging to God. To assign the worthyness merited by God to a creature is idolatry.
But the postures involved in giving worship to God are also on occasion involved in venerating creatures. Traditionally one knelt in the presence of a king; today there are protocolls if one is admitted to an audience with the Queen–curtsey, bow etc.
In Catholic religious symbolism, kneeling is often intended to signify adoration/worship of God–genuflecting before the Reserved Eucharist. But since one kneels in normal prayer on a wide variety of occasions, one cannot say that a person observed to kneel in front of a statue of Mary is worshiping Mary as God. You just can’t know from external posture.
And if you examine carefully the common prayers involved in Marian devotion, they carefully avoid assigning worth to her as God.
I do not exclude the possibility that in Latin America some people in fact do worship Mary as God. But I would urge caution against rash judgment. I know for a fact that claims of Mary-worship I have encountered from opponents of Catholic veneration of Mary have been falsely understood, poorly exegeted because the Protestant who has heard them makes inaccurate assumptions about what words mean.
Yes, it is very true that many Catholics are very poorly catechized. Are sure that all of what you consider to be idolatrous Mary worship is in fact idolatrous?
I really have to raise serious doubts if you claim that you see Mary-worship all around you in churches in the US. I’m sorry, but I have never seen or heard anything that could remotely be called Mary-worship in a Catholic Church in the US. I can understand that some syncretism may take place in indigenous surroundings in Latin America. But that you casually make the claim about the environment I am familiar with leads me to wonder if you are simply labeling as “worship” what in fact is veneration of Mary by people who know the difference between idolatry and veneration and avoid even a hint of idolatry. It is easy for those unfamiliar with Marian devotion to jump to conclusions.
But exactly what evidence do you offer for frequent, common Mary-worship in your experience especially in the United States? How do you know that the people you observe truly believe Mary to be divine and worship her as God? How does one know that unless one hears words to that effect from the person’s lips? I know of no such prayers in use by Catholics in the US although I do know of prayers that might be falsely interpreted that way. And I certainly do not claim to know all that goes on among Catholics of various ethnicities in the US. However, I do regularly have contact with Hispanic Catholics, some of whom are “just off the boat” and I have never seen anything remotely approach idolatry in their veneration of Mary. So I’m curious to know just what you have seen that you are sure is idolatry.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 1:38 pm


JR, you asked at the end how to move beyond the Reformation. My long response indicates what I believe to be the first, simple steps in that direction: Catholics and Protestants alike need to realize that they often misinterpret each others’ words, actions etc. The first step to “move beyond” is just to step back, suspend judgment, recognize that what something seems like on the surface may in reality be different, to let Catholics explain what they really believe and do to non-Catholics and let Protestants do the same for Catholics and for each really to listen to the other.
All I’m saying is what family therapists tell us: much of our tension and conflict arises from not listening, from thinking we know what the other guy is saying, champing at the bit to get in our response, and as a result mis-communicating. We all do it all the time with our friends, spouses, children, students. Nothing more, nothing less than good communication skills. That’s how to move beyond the Reformation. And I write that to myself as much as to you.



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Greg Mc

posted March 31, 2006 at 1:39 pm


Dennis, Thanks for taking so much of your time to address these issues. I took your challenge and read the official
“APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION ON INDULGENCES” (Indulgentiarum Doctrina) at http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Paul06/p6indulg.htm
Everyone who thinks that the differences between Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants are essentially minor should read it for themselves. I think if they do, they will be a shocked as I was.
The bible teaches that when Christ died he died for ALL SINS that the believer commits past present and future! He said “It is finished” not “OK, take it from here”.
“not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place ONCE FOR ALL, having obtained ETERNAL REDEMPTION.” (Heb 9:12)
What a contrast that is to this quote from Indulgentiarum Doctrina:
“It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or “purifying” punishments. …… These punishments are imposed by the just and merciful judgment of God for the purification of souls, the defense of the sanctity of the moral order and the restoration of the glory of God to its full majesty.”
God does not punish His children for the same things that Christ died for. That is what the cross was for; not what I must do as a believer.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Cor 5:21)
I am ready to stand before God right now. Not because I have done anything to make myself acceptable to God, but because I have received a righteousness that is not my own. (Phil 3:8-9)
One thing on which the Reformers and Rome do agree on; (and which I wish more so called Evangelicals would understand) is that ONLY PERFECT PEOPLE go to heaven. Where they disagree is on how that is accomplished. Rome says God will graciously infuse you with the power to become righteous and you will not see God until you do (either through your own efforts like the saints or with their help from the treasury of merit.
The Reformers saw that the bible teaches Christ’s righteousness is inputed to undeserving sinners who can do nothing to expiate their own sins, never mind those of others.
“David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”” (Rom 4:6-8)
Purgatory makes a mockery of the Biblical Gospel of Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone!
When Rome teaches that which is contrary to the clear teaching of the Scriptures, then Scripture is taken as the authority above the teachings of men. That is Sola Scriptura!
The Reformation is not over, and any fair reading of Rome’s officially documented teachings will make that abundantly evident.
As JR noted the situation on the ground is even worse that the official teachings would indicate. The Evangelical Church is in a mess and in fact may be a spent force but the Roman Church is much worse. You have argued for the indefectability of the Church and erroneously ascribed that position to Rome. Really you are arguing for Sola Ecclesia. I don’t think you can substantiate that, and apply it any visible man made organization be that Rome or Geneva. What was true in Elijah’s day, and in Paul’s day, is true in our day as well.
“Lord, they have killed thy prophets, they have digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have left for myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. But if it is by grace, it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.”



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J.R.Dollins

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:23 pm


Dennis,
This perspective reveals that obviously much (but probably not all, I don’t know) of what I am seeing is veneration and not worship equal to God Almighty. Thanks for this. Because of how I worship God I have obviously mistaken this Mary-reverence in the things I mention above to be similar.
Some of my experience goes like this: “I have this problem, X, and I prayed to Mary or lit some candles to Mary to fix problem X.”
Pardon my ignorance but how does this work?
I know that in many areas we’ll continue to see things differently. I’m ok with that. Thanks again for this explanation.
your brother in Christ,



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J.R.Dollins

posted March 31, 2006 at 2:40 pm


Dennis,
Another ignorant question:
Why is there so much art, parades, holidays, jewelry, prayers, etc, etc dedicated to Mary and, in my opinion, less dedicated to God the Father and Jesus the risen Savior?
Why is Mary eternally a Virgin?
Who is the Our Lady of Guadalupe? Why on this site http://www.sancta.org/opro1.html (the first one I visited)are people lighting virtual candles and praying for miracles and forgiveness from her?
These are honest questions and not a veiled attack.



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Rich

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:04 pm


J.R They sure seem kind of in-your-face you are wrong-I am right kind of questions?
What is wrong about so much art, etc about Mary? Mary did bore your Lord and savior.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:26 pm


Dear J.R.,
Mary is merely a human, but the first believer (she was the first one to know of God’s plan to save us by incarnation and she believed). She could have disbelieved. Her faith was greater than Abraham’s. (Faith is a gift, so what we are saying is that both she and Abraham did not reject the gift of faith but acted on it.) But Mary’s challenge was greater and she did not give up believeing that her Son was the Savior even when he was nailed to the cross. Only faith could have carried her through that. So Mary is literally the very first Christian, the first to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Savior. Those who cherish Romans 4-5 on Abraham’s faith ought to cherish her for that reason alone.
Mary is human and is in heaven. All the Christians in heaven live in the full presence of Christ, live in a fuller experience of the communion of the Body of Christ than we do on earth because our sight is veiled (1 Cor 13, through a glass darkly). In the communion of all Christians (all saints–to use Paul’s term), all those who now are in heaven have to be fully holy, fully sanctified, so they are saints, in the communion of the saints we here on earth participate. Just as on earth we ask our fellow Christians to pray for us when we are afraid or ill or suffering, so too, in communication made possible by our shared incorporation into Christ through our baptism, we can ask those in heaven in His presence to pray to Him for us.
That’s the principle of the intercession of the saints, of whom Mary is the first and foremost. We pray to her (in the old sense of “I pray thee, friend, to pass the saltcellar to me”; “prithee”) to ask her to ask her Lord who is also her Son to come to our aid or to thank him.
Of course we also pray directly to Him, all the time. You would never urge your fellow Christians not to ask each other to join you in your prayers to Christ when your child is sick or your mother is suffering. No, you ask Christ to come to your aid but you also ask every Christian brother and sister you know to pray with you–the more the merrier.
And you do this in confidence because you believe your brothers and sisters in Christ are devoted to him and are not alienated from him in a state of gross sin.
Mary’s heart was always completely centered on her Son. She is the utmost example of devotion to Christ so whatever we direct toward her automatically is directed also toward Him.
This of course is predicated on the claim that Mary never sinned. I understand that this is a stumbling block for non-Catholics. But hear me out: we have no explicit Scripture saying she sinned. (I know, Chrysostom and one or two other Fathers interpreted her coming to see him when he was preaching and “interrupting him” as a lack of faith and a sin on her part, but the rest of the Fathers are united in rejecting that opinion–but see, for everyone on all sides, those who believe she never sinned and those who believe she did, it is a matter of scripture interpretation because no text clearly shows her sinning.) The reasons the Fathers believed she did not sin is the phrase “full of grace” (I know, there’s a lot of philogical debate about it, but again, both interpretations are interpretations–there’s no smoking gun to say that it does not mean “full in the sense of so full of God’s grace that she did not sin.”)
This does not mean she could not have sinned–she was free like all human persons and so she could have rejected God’s grace. We believe she did not. The other reason the Fathers agreed (and Orthodox and Catholics today agree) on her sinlessness is that she was the New Eve promised in Gen. 3:15 and sinlessness was fitting to that role (not necessary in the sense of total necessity but necessary in the sense of fitting necessity).
Now I don’t expect everyone to agree with all this, but Scripture does not resolve the issue simply on one side or the other. If a Protestant positively asserts Mary sinned, he is interpreting that into Scripture as much as the Catholic or Orthodox who says she did not.
Yes, I know there’s “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” But philologically, “all” can mean “all without exception” or “all except for …” That’s just a philological fact and which meaning one chooses is a matter of interpretation. Indeed, if we truly are free to reject God, then “all” could not mean “all, absolutely deterministically must have sinned”–it would deny free will to say that Mary had to have sinned because she was human. It would deny the principle that sin is not our nature but is the result of our free choice. And it would destroy the hypostatic union because if human nature is by nature and always without exception sinful, then Jesus could not have assumed a sinless human nature. So it must be at least possible that Mary could have chosen always again and again to accept God’s grace and not sin. In the absence of explicit Scripture describing her sinning, the preponderance of evidence actually favors sinlessness.
All this applies if one believes in free will. If one is a puppet master monergist Calvinist, none of this applies. That debate is for another occasion! (But I’ll note that nowhere is any sort of Puppet Master deterministic Christian theology found before the 14th century–and no, Augustine maintains free will theology to the end of his days–see his late letters. Given that the ancient world was dominated by deterministic religions and philosophies, that all the Fathers and medievals up to the 14thc defended free will strenuously, it highly suggests that it is the proper way to interpret the difficult passages like Romans 9-11.
You begin to get the picture! There are complicated issues of scripture interpretation that most modern Protestants have never really sat down and considered. (Luther remained devoted to Mary all his days.) We venerate Mary not because we need a goddess anthropologically but because, if indeed God did become incarnate in Christ, he had to have a human mother to have a full human nature and having had a mother, she ipso facto deserves incredible devotion as a marvelous human person–she said yes to God and by her yes made possible our salvation. Of course she did not initiate the matter–God asked her courteously. God did not force himself on her.
And she was venerated highly in the liturgy. Nestorius denied the title Mother of God and, as Newman points out, that was an innovation that the rest of the Church rejected at Ephesus because for centuries they had been proclaiming her that in the liturgy. If Jesus truly was God (which is affirmed at Nicea but not as a slow elevation of Christology, rather the earliest Christologies affirm him as God and the earliest heresies do not dispute his divinity, only his humanity–Docetism, Gnosticism) and if he truly was human and had a mother, then Mary just plain is the Mother of God.
And so we venerate her as the most perfect example of Christian discipleship because she was the first disciple, before Peter, before John, before Paul.
Regarding lighting candles and Our Lady of Guadalupe–we light candles for birthdays and all sorts of occasions. Lighting a candle by itself can mean a whole range of things. A burning flame at a place of devotion is simply very, very ancient religious practice in virtually all cultures. When a candle burns before the tabernacle where we Catholics believe Jesus is truly present hidden under the sign of bread, it signifies Divine Presence. But when the same candle lit in front of a statue or icon of Mary or of some other great Christian: Ignatius of Loyola or Polycarp or Ambrose, it does not signify Divine Presence and is not an act of worship of God but of veneration, honor, devotion (devotion can be given to a fellow human–husbands ought to be devoted to their wives–the word simply means pledged to, committed to).
Our Lady appeared to the peasant Juan Diego in 1531 and this initiated the conversion of the Indian peoples of Mexico to Christ. They had resisted Christianity up to that point. I teach courses dealing with the question of miracles and the appearances of Mary and other saints and the basis for believing that some are genuine (and others are total frauds) is basically empirical and scientific, but I can’t get into that here. I do believe that the evidence for the Guadalupe appearance is convincing and new evidence came to light only about 10 years ago that seems to put the matter beyond dispute, though plenty of Catholics dispute it. But please note: unlike the doctrines of Scripture as the Church has preserved and taught them to us, even when a scientific review of a supposed “private revelation” concludes that solid, empirical evidence showing that a supernatural even took place exists, faithful Catholics are free either to agree and believe or to disagree and not believe. So one can be a faithful Catholic and deny that Mary appeared to Juan Diego or that she did.
Perpetual virginity will have to wait. Again, there are Scriptural arguments pro and contra–both sides are engaging in proper exegesis of the Scriptures. I find the philological evidence and the theological reasoning convincing but I can’t go into that now.
I better stop here, I’ve abused your patience enough.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:31 pm


Rich (and J.R.) I for one interpreted J. R.’s questions as respectful and very much in Christian charity. He has a subjective perception that Catholics have far more Marian parades and devotion than Christ-symbols and devotion. I look around and see them very much the opposite, but I recognize that my eyes are attuned in ways his are not and should not be expected to be attuned. Because Mary has been such a problem for many Protestants (but not Luther), the parades and visible devotion looms large. I could readily imagine that J.R. has had statues of Jesus, the Sacred Heart, the numberless crucifixes with his body broken and wracked with pain for us in front of his eyes but they didn’t register. He ought not be criticized for that.
So, to J. R., just bracket out your perception about the relative frequency of Marian- compared to Christ-art in Catholic Churches for now and start watching. Start looking for Christ-art, especially all the crucifixes. Once you start really counting, I think you’ll be very surprised at what you see.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:37 pm


Correction to my long post on Mary. I forgot, there were the anti-free will disciples of Augustine during his own lifetime and soon after his death debating the semi-pelagians. So it’s not quite right to say there’s no Puppet Master monergism to be found until the 14thc. But that 5thc extreme denial of free will was condemned immediately and it did not resurface until the Augustine Renaissance of the late Middle Ages, an Augustine renaissance that in many cases distorted Augustine on free will.



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Dennis Martin

posted March 31, 2006 at 4:46 pm


Greg, you have read but you have not understood, like the Ethiopian Phillip met. I never said there were no differences between Catholics and Protestants. You really don’t read carefully. I said that the reason we differ on indulgences is not the indulgences themselves but the much deeper issue of the authority for church discipline, the power of the keys.
Much of what you write about differences in soteriology in your last post, that Catholics don’t believe in salvation by grace through faith is just plain wrong. I pointed that out at length in earlier posts, which you have ignored. Catholics emphatically do believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The dfference is that faith for us is faith active in love because “faith without works is dead.” For you as a Calvinist (am I correct that you are one?) faith can be separated from works. I really don’t think Calvin would approve, but that’s between you and him.
And that’s the difference–whether faith must be active in love of God and neighbor or can be separated from love of God and neighbor. Not only James but 1 John seems very, very explicit. And Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed on this point supports the Catholic side, not your view of faith devoid of active love.
I will not respond to further postings from you. I hope you will understand, but it is difficult to converse when you look straight past what I wrote in earlier posts and say that we believe things we do not believe. Since you believe you know what we believe better than we ourselves know, I think you’ll need to hammer this debate out with yourself rather than me.
I do consider you a brother in Christ and wish you well.
Dennis Martin



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Rich

posted March 31, 2006 at 5:01 pm


I pointed that out at length in earlier posts, which you have ignored. Catholics emphatically do believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The dfference is that faith for us is faith active in love because “faith without works is dead.
Yes The Roman Catholics and the Lutheran World Federation and ELCA are in dialogue on this.
http://www.elca.org/ecumenical/ecumenicaldialogue/romancatholic/index.html



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Dennis Martin

posted April 1, 2006 at 8:36 am


The great tradition of Marian veneration is not only Biblical, but it begins with Jesus himself: Jesus himself honored his mother! The basis for this assertion is found in Lk 11:27-28 read in conjunction with Lk 1-2 and other passages.
It is my understanding (I do not have Greek and welcome commentary from those who do) that the KJV and the Vulgate translations render the Greek for Lk 11:27-28, more accurately than some modern translations based on “better Greek MSS”: quippini or quinimmo or quippe enim means “yes, rather . . ,” not “no, rather.” In asserting that those are blessed who hear and keep the word of God Jesus is not contradicting the woman in the crowd who venerated his mother just because she was HIS mother but rather endorsing the woman’s veneration and explaining the basis for it. The NIV suppresses this and turns it into a contradiction by simply translating “rather.”
In Luke 11:27-28 the woman in the crowd calls out to venerate the woman whose womb carried Christ and whose breasts nursed him. When Jesus says, “No, blessed are those who keep my word,” if one recognizes with rhetorical criticism what seriously crafted rhetorical works the Gospels are and if one interprets Scripture with Scripture (the staple of patristic exegesis and contemporary Evangelical Protestant exegesis), then interpreting this passage as Jesus’ ringing endorsement of veneration of his mother rises to the top of the plausible interpretations, given the striking emphasis in Lk 1-2 on Mary’s pondering, keeping of the words of the angel, the events of his birth, and above all the wordplay on Logos, the Word of God that she kept in her heart (keeping under the heart is an ancient metaphor for carrying a child in the womb).
More, pro and contra, on Mary and perpetual virginity etc. is found at http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1392#comments Of course there are dozens of books, including John McHugh, Mary in the New Testament.



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Dennis Martin

posted April 1, 2006 at 9:10 am


Correction to # 92: “When Jesus says, ‘yes, rather’” not “no, rather”.



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Dennis Martin

posted April 1, 2006 at 12:21 pm


Coincidentally, two English Evangelicals are currently blogging on Lk 11:27-28 as proving Catholic and Orthodox veneration of Mary wrong; one finds an important rejoinder at
http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1550



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Dennis Martin

posted April 1, 2006 at 4:38 pm


At the risk of abusing everyone’s patience, I suggest taking a look at comments # 12 and 13 at
http://catholica.pontifications.net/?p=1550
This is a good illustration of how we talk past each other. # 12 is written in good faith, seeks to acknowledge that Catholic and Orthodox veneration of Mary is healthy and often misunderstood by Protestants, yet draws the line at the belief in the Assumption, on the grounds that it would deprive Mary of the joy of the Resurrection. But, as # 13 points out, the premise was mistaken and reflects lack of knowledge of what the Assumption doctrine involves: the Assumption includes the Resurrection, Mary died and was raised from the dead in advance of the rest of us.
Now, I am not directing attention to this in order to try to convince anyone to accept the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption, merely to illustrate how all too often people object to a Catholic without fully understanding what the doctrine objected to actually teaches.
So much of our supposed differences rest on mistaken Assumptions, one might say. We do have real, real differences, but they are often not the differences we think we have! My goal in posting here is to ensure that as we continue to disagree we do so knowledgeably rather than uninformedly.



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ruthie

posted April 1, 2006 at 10:07 pm


comment #48 had some interesting observations and he seemed to be ignored. any reason?



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Rich

posted April 2, 2006 at 10:39 am


Ruthie,
I responded to question 43 at question 73 as well



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Anonymous

posted April 2, 2006 at 2:18 pm


Mr. Aston.org » Is the Reformation over?

[...] Is the Reformation over?: [...]



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ruthie

posted April 2, 2006 at 11:02 pm


thank you rich. i think he made some relevant points and added to the dialogue. i hope his view of god or jesus would not allow him to be dismissed. truth is truth. there are 45,000 denominations according to his souce and even if we don’t agree with everything he says, most of what he says makes sense. i can easily understand why people get so brutalized by theology that they end up walking out of the church.



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Rich

posted April 2, 2006 at 11:09 pm


I agree. We must be honest and admit where we have failed in our history. Christian history was brutal and we should not whitewash it.



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Dug V.S.

posted April 2, 2006 at 11:17 pm


I am first time reader of this site tonight was amazed at dialog. Casual feeling, since only a feeling I recognize I could be interpreting in a reactive fashion.
The body of letters, and questions and answers constantly refer to the traditions, practices and theological viewpoints of history; even using modernity as the current model for intimacy with Jesus.
Reformation theology was at heart a movement in the heart. Look at theology in general, very vew works on the Holy Spirit. Until Calvin, his person is not at large in the church. In Calvins introduction, his desire was twofold, one, that the perseqution of Holy and Godly persons who were being burned alive would stop becuase governing authorites would see the beliefs in writing. Two, that his beloved countrymen would understand what they belived more clearly. Justification is not a movement, it is a process that I have to tell myself to belive everyday. As Luke begins his parable of the Pharasee and the publican, “There were those who were righteous in their own eyes and despised everyone else.”
Am I alone in this belief? “Those who are aquainted with humane nature in general, and sin in particular, no that the last vestige of sin rooted from the human heart is self righteousness.” G. Whitefield–”The Lord our righteousness”
Dicussion can continue with endless nuances on beliefs, but no matter what camp I chose to stake out my tent, I fight a continual inner battle that wants to take credit for me saving me, with a little of God’s help. Right now I go to a little house church where many seem to despise Calvinism. Yet I feel we float into discussion so easily about why we are better than the big churches, how God is so impressed with us, because like the Pharasee, “Were not like other men.”
I do agree, we erect the Bronze serpent and worship what our spiritual forefathers fought for, but that is not because what they belived is insignificant, it is becasue we do not want to experience what they did. I think Paul’s comment in Gal. 5:11 “The offense of the cross.”
I was drawn to this site becasue of the refreshing commnetary I read of yours on Galations years ago. I look forward to reading the Jesus Creed.
How do you have time to read all this? Is everything written on here published on the format? I guess I’ll find out.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 3, 2006 at 6:53 am


Dug V.S.
This post is getting even longer, but I do read each comment. Often the readers get to talking between themselves and I just watch.
On your comment, I’m not quite sure which direction you are taking it, but I would say that many today are not against the Reformation but believe it is in the past and we are not trying to resurrect it — but instead, we are trying to respond to the gospel in our day as the Reformers did in their day. And we hope, also, to learn from their mistakes.



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J.R. Dollins

posted April 3, 2006 at 7:31 am


Scot,
Thanks for the forum.
Dennis, Thanks for taking the time to explain in charity. At this time, perhaps simply on the premise of my thorough protestant paradigm, I disagree on some issues. I also realize that I gotta work on that paradigm. Forgive my delayed responses as I am in the middle of an intl move back to the states.
Rich, I apologize if my questions seemed presumptuous or unkind. I really am seeking to understand and here I have encountered brothers, sisters and RC’s with the charity and education to answer me directly and thoroughly…from their perspective not reinterpreted and retold by a protestant.
For this I am thankful.



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Doug V.S.

posted April 3, 2006 at 8:17 am


Thank you for your responce, I should have been more careful to be clear with the late night comment.
You say we are trying to respond to the gospel in our day as the reformers did in their day. Didn’t the beginnings of the reformation start when Luther was crawling on the steps and thought of the verse in Hab. “The just shall live by faith.” We see the inner responce of one individual. My point is that every man has no other way to respond to the gospel but to acknowledge his sin and cast ourselves upon the mercies of God. Once that is done, it is not over, the battle is to “Walk by faith, not by sight.” It seem’s like that is still a great problem in the body today, to try to re-justify ourselves by our theology, works, social behavior, even after we know the truth.
In that sence, can the beginning theology of the reformation ever end, because even once saved, our nature is to take credit for salvation? I also don’t understand how we can respond any differently to the gospel then they did if man’s nature hasn’t changed.
Thanks again for your insight, I hope I’ve been clearer.
Doug V.S.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 3, 2006 at 8:28 am


Doug,
Luther didn’t discover human sinfulness. Keep reading on this blog and some of this will become clearer. Might I suggest you go to the Sidebar, check out Books, and read the posts on Alan Mann’s book about atonement in a sinless society. It gives an idea of what is behind lots of this debate — the attempt for many of us to move beyond Reformation and beyond Catholicism to a new unifying, emerging form of the gospel and the Christian faith that anchors us deeper into the Bible and the earliest Christian faith.



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Dennis Martin

posted April 3, 2006 at 8:35 am


Doug V.S. You have conflated two events in Luther’s life–his visit to Rome and his so-called Reformation Breakthrough which he himself said occurred on the cloaca (on the toilet, though he may have meant this figuratively because cloaca was a euphemism for being assailed by the Devil). For the latter, a late date, 1516 or 1518 seems most likely, many years after the Rome trip.
But the point that a number of us were making on this thread is that the Reformation was not in fact really about works righteousness versus salvation by grace.
Catholics and Protestants agree totally that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. They disagree only about whether the faith is faith formed in agape (caritas) or not. And many Protestants, even Luther and Calvin, by joining sanctification with justification agree that the faith must be formed in love for it to be saving faith in the end.
But I don’t want to repeat everything. You are certainly right that we all, Protestants and Catholics can be tempted to claim we are saved by our own works. But we know that that is wrong and that is an abuse, an error. So we seek to correct it, as you do here, reminding us that we are saved solely by God’s grace.
If the Reformation had been only about criticism of abuses (of which there were plenty), it would have been only one of many reform movements in the long history of Christianity. But it was not merely about abuses, whether abuses in preaching about salvation or abuses in the government of the Church. It was about all of those things, of course. But it became THE REFORMATION when Luther shifted from critiquing real abuses (he was actually concerned initially about the sacrament of repentance for sin and penance) to rethinking his entire view of the Church, rejecting some of the sacraments and rejecting the “papal church” in the three famous documents of 1520. At that point it became a controversy over the very nature of the Church, the visible Church, the True Church, the spiritual reality and historical reality of the Church etc.
Today Protestants disagree widely over the Church, sacraments, Eucharist, infant/adult baptism etc. Evangelicals agree about salvation by grace alone through faith alone, but on that point they agree also with Catholics though they express things differently. Some Protestants come quite close to Catholics on some aspects of sacraments and the Church, others are at quite opposite positions.
Scot McKnight launched this thread by asking whether the Emerging movement could not be a means to step back from four centuries of presuppositions and take another look at the whole business–what happened in the 16th century, why it happened, whether it has any ongoing significance for evangelical Protestants today.
The first step in stepping back and taking another look is to recognize that a lot of hoary myths exist regarding what the Reformation was all about, leading to hoary myths about what Catholics really believe and do and hoary myths among Catholics about what Protestants really believe and do.
I think we can all benefit by a desire to overcome hoary myths! Marital counselors insist that the first step toward learning to live together in peace is to peel back the layers of mistrust and misinformation about what happened, about all the unfair hurts and verbal assaults that quarreling spouses threw at each other over the years.
Now, often it happens that the two spouses have very different recollections of what each one said, so as they try to clear away the hurts and injuries, they start quarreling again about just what the other guy said–”I never said that . . . ”
Unlike a marriage where different subjective memories exist and it often is impossible ever to clear up just who said what, in the case of our ecclesial disputes, there is a paper trail. Granted, both sides in the controversy will interpret the paper trail differently, based on their hoary myths and presuppositions. But as in a marriage, the one thing we can do is drop our defensiveness and in good faith, with as much of an open mind as we can muster, look at the paper trail and really listen to the other person as she explains what she thinks she really did say. The husband may then still not agree that she said what she says she said (in our case, that the paper trail reveals what she says it reveals), but at least he will have heard better what she believes she said. They (we) might then be able to agree to disagree about some things, discover that we don’t disagree about an awful lot of things, and even if not becoming fully reunited, at least we might no longer live with as many hoary myths about each other.
Just a thought, and a prayer.



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Michael Barber

posted April 3, 2006 at 12:33 pm


Dear Mr. Dollins,
Your concern for the “citizenship” of Catholics in the kingdom saddened me. Let me say a few things about the Catholic understanding of Mary. Obviously, this is not a book length treatment. But I hope the following will provide some helpful clarification and perspective. I’ve broken up my comments into seven points.
First of all, Mary is not divine, a goddess—she is a human being. Offering her the worship due only to God is indeed a grave sin. And yes, I wish Catholics—especially in Latin American communities—would be more clear on this.
Second, you may associate the presence of Marian statues with Mary-worship. Statues are especially problematic for Protestants, since Protestants read the 10 Commandments as forbidding all graven images. Catholics, of course, have a different interpretation: it is a sin to make a statue and then to worship it.
You may not agree with it, but at least allow yourself to understand this view and see how it comes from an honest reading of Scripture. This interpretation flows from a canonical reading of the Decalogue. Not long after giving Moses the Decalogue, God goes on to give Moses instructions for building two statues of angels to place on the ark of the covenant (Exod 25:18). Note, the holiest object in Israel had statues on it! Later, in Numbers, God even commands Moses to make a statue of a serpent (Num 21:8-9).
Statues are used to remind us of the saints—they are like older brothers and sisters who have gone before us as examples of faith. Moreover, we believe that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). We believe that the saints are not dead—in a sense, inasmuch as they are in heaven, they are more alive than we are! (Much more could be said, e.g., the incarnational dimension of faith and the role the physical senses play in belief, but this will have to suffice).
Third, the Catholic belief of the communion of the saints is also problematic for Protestants. Catholics, of course, insist that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5; cf. Heb. 9:15, 12:24 ). Yet the sole mediatorship of Christ does not mean that Christians should not pray for one another. Scripture encourages us to summon the leaders of the community to pray for us in time of need: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…” (Jas 5:14). Other examples of Christians praying for one another could also be cited (Rom. 15:30–32, Eph. 6:18–20, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1).
Catholics believe that the saints are a cloud of witnesses that not only surround us with indifferentism but with fraternal concern for us. We believe that death is not able to prevent them from praying for us. In the Apocalypse, the twenty-four elders—a symbol of Christians in heaven, likely an image of the martyrs—hold “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev 5:8). In fact, throughout the Apocalypse, there is a profound connection between the worship of the saints in heaven and the events on earth. For example, in Revelation 19 the saints are aware that the wicked city has been destroyed and rejoice because of it. Moreover, as the entire book unfolds we read that the liturgy of heaven affects and propels the events on earth.
Fourth, this understanding may seem like a contradiction of Scripture’s clear teaching against necromancy: “There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord’; and because of these abominable practices of the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deut 18:10-12).
I have often heard the Catholic practice of asking for the intercession of the saints condemned as a violation of this prohibition. Keep in mind that this is an injunction against sorcery, séances, and conjuring up the dead through necromancy. The Church doesn’t encourage that! It simply recognizes that the saints are alive, that they are somehow aware of our present condition, and that they can pray for us.
Or does God condemn us for thinking that our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have gone to be with him, continue to keep us in their prayers?
Has death overcome our communion with them in Christ? I don’t think so.
Reading James and Revelation canonically, I think it’s not a stretch to say that just as our “elders” on earth pray for us with powerful effects so too our elders in heaven intercede on our behalf.
Fifth, Scripture seems to teach us that Jesus wanted believers to see his mother as their mother. This, of course, stems from a reading of John 19 where Jesus tells the beloved disciple—who is understood as a model for all believers—“Behold, your mother” (John 19:27). Catholics have very strong heartfelt love for this woman who we believe is given to us to be our mother as well. The importance of Mary in Catholic tradition stems from a desire to honor one of Jesus’ dying requests.
Sixth, Mary was so united to Christ, Simeon tells her, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 1:35-36). Another passage along those lines appears in Colossians 1:24, where Paul states, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” Our suffering, when united with Christ’s, seems to have a redemptive role to play. As his mother, who remained by him until the bitter end, Mary is a model for all of us believers who offer their sufferings in union with Christ’s (cf. Rom 8:17).
Finally, seventh, Mary proclaims: “henceforth, all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). That’s the whole point—to recognize the powerful thing God was able to accomplish in Mary. Of course, in whatever way Mary’s role is appreciated, the glory is all God’s. Honoring Mary does not detract from the glory due to God. Mary is only holy because she is “full of grace” (Luke 1:28).
If, in the end, we give Mary too much credit, it’s only because we give Christ too much credit.
On the last day, I’d rather tell God, “I’m sorry—I guess I over exaggerated the power of your grace,” than, “I’m sorry God—I really didn’t think your grace was that transformative.”
Ultimately, these questions stem from a deeper issue. How do we interpret Scripture? The Reformed view seems to me to be a precursor the Enlightenment’s vision of what Roger Lundin calls the “orphaned individual.” There is no decisive (extra-biblical) authority. There is no tradition. Interpretation is principally a private work accomplished by the individual. As Lundin, Gillespie and others have shown, this was Nominalism applied to theology.
Yet without the authority of something other than the Bible, how does one know which books belong in the Bible in the first place? How do we know which books are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit? No biblical book gives us the list. (And even if one did, how would we know that it itself was inspired?) It seems therefore that the Bible’s authority is not sufficient—there’s a need for something more than Scripture in order to know what belongs in Scripture.
Catholics believe Scripture must be read in light of the same tradition and authority through which it came to us in the first place.
Much more could be said. I just want to communicate to you that the Catholic view may not be as naïve or simplistic as you might think. Yes there are a lot of people calling themselves Catholic who misrepresent what Catholics believe. But there are also a lot of people out there who call themselves Protestants who give the Protestant tradition a bad name as well.
I know you won’t agree with everything we believe. But recognize that we’re not all dunderheads. Yes—thank you very much—we know the bible speaks of “brothers of Jesus” and we know Jesus said “Call no man father” (etc., etc., etc.). But there are many Catholics who have seriously wrestled with the Protestant critique and come to an honest disagreement here. The theological issues run deep—much deeper than a post on a blog! It cracks me up to see that somehow it seems we’re all trying to do that here!
I encourage you to read Scott Hahn’s book, “Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word”, which is a more scholarly reflection on the role of Scripture and liturgy. He’s no slouch and yet somehow he became Catholic! I also highly recommend Ignace de la Potterie’s book, “Mary in the Mystery of the Covenant”.
May God continue to bless your ministry and may your love for Christ and Scripture continue to inspire others as it has inspired me.
In Christ,
Michael Barber



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Bruce Smith

posted April 3, 2006 at 1:20 pm


Dennis, if you get the chance, please take a look at John S. Feinberg’s (Chair of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evan. Div. School) book, “No One Like Him” (Crossway Books). It may challenge you to give at least one version of Calvinism a second evaluation. It is the greatest book devoted to the doct. of God that I have personally read. I appreciate the way you have been willing to share your knowledge with the rest of us.



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Greg Mc

posted April 3, 2006 at 2:39 pm


Mr Martin;
As to #90; “I never said there were no differences between Catholics and Protestants.”
I said the differences were far more serious and basic than you had indicated. I did not say that you believed “there were no differences between Catholics and Protestants” and I did not say that that “Catholics don’t believe in salvation by grace through faith” You are quick to tell me that I don’t read carefully and that I don’t understand the position of Rome but then you turn around and put words in my mouth that I did not say. You all but ignored the issue of indulgences and purgatory as arising out of a faulty view of justification that leaves people needing to expiate (through suffering in purgatory) the sins that Christ paid for in full, at the cross. You seemed to be saying that the Roman Church has authority to proclaim any doctrine they desire regardless of biblical support, but I don’t want to be like you and put words in your mouth.
With regards to indulgences I quoted directly from the official Indulgentiarum Doctrina:
“It is a divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishments inflicted by God’s sanctity and justice. These must be expiated either on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and calamities of this life and above all through death, or else in the life beyond through fire and torments or “purifying” punishments. …… These punishments are imposed by the just and merciful judgment of God for the purification of souls, the defense of the sanctity of the moral order and the restoration of the glory of God to its full majesty.”
Where exactly is that idea divinely revealed? That quote from Indulgentiarum Doctrina seems to indicate that we are the ones who must undergo these ““purifying” punishments” but scripture says that Christ died once for all.
Now in your latest post you repeat this statement;
“Catholics and Protestants agree totally that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone.”
Dennis you know that is at best misleading, if not an out right false statement. Are you now repudiating the council of Trent? It seems you are willing to redefine faith alone to mean that which it has never meant, a mixture of justification and sanctification, of faith and works. Even divinely, graciously worked sanctification cannot be added to faith without destroying the biblical definition of faith.
“And Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed on this point supports the Catholic side, not your view of faith devoid of active love.”
Protestants have always been careful to insist that true faith results in works (active love) but that mixing faith and works confuses, and even denies the Gospel message.
“However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”



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Tom Reagan

posted April 3, 2006 at 4:12 pm


Regarding #92 and veneration of Mary, this immediately made me think of perhaps an easier example. If Jesus was without sin (and I hope everyone agrees on that here), wouldn’t He have to honor his Father and his mother (capitalized and not, respectively) in order to be without sin, per the Ten Commandments?
Interesting discssion, folks. (Scot, I will be in one of Dr. Hahn’s classes this Fall, and looking forward to it. Thanks for the forum.)
Tom “God bless you and your descendants” Reagan



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Dennis Martin

posted April 3, 2006 at 8:54 pm


Dear Greg, try looking at the footnotes in the treatment of Indulgences in the Catechism for the the scriptural basis. I said that we agree that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone but I also said we disagree about whether that faith is active in charity or not. I was trying to show how we can mean different things by similar words and to isolate the true difference: is faith possible apart from works? Your response on the one hand says, no, it is impossible then contradicts itself by insisting that the only biblical definition of faith is one without works added. That seems to run directly contrary to quite a number of scriptures.
But it doesn’t really matter. You ask if I am denying Trent. I think you will find that Trent’s rejection of “faith alone” is a rejection of faith defined as devoid of works, which seems to be the way you want to define faith.
I’m sorry, Greg, but we cannot have much of a conversation if you insist on playing gotcha. You really don’t want to understand the Catholic documents you read. You read them with “gotcha” in mind. Look, if I went to Ghana intent on trying to understand Ghanaian culture but observed (“read”) everything with a chip on my should against Ghanaian culture, looking constantly for whatever aspect of that culture would provide a smoking gun for my pre-judgment that Ghanaian culture was vastly inferior to my own, I’d never have a ghost of a chance understanding Ghanaian culture.
I try to read Protestantism as generously as I can, as charitably as I can, searching for places where it agrees with Catholics and then pointing out where we disagree. In case you have forgotten, my original claim was that on soteriology we largely agree, though you divide into two parts what we consider one (justification/sanctification or regeneration)–you care about Christian living very much so you integrate it into your soteriology even though you keep it out of justification per se. We end up at the same place but by rather different routes. But then I also assorted that we have vastly different views on the Church. You’ve never engaged that overall claim. Instead you fixate on indulgences. I explained that, while we do indeed differ on indulgences, the root of that disagreement is in a much, much bigger disagreement about whether Christ authorized the apostles to absolve Christians from their sins in His name or not. I thought the bigger disagreement is the one worth talking about–we have what we believe to be solid scriptural basis and you certainly would interpret those same verses different.
But you ignored that invitation to conversation and once more, in your present post, simply dismiss us Catholics as unbiblical. Can you perhaps see that that does not invite further friendly conversation?
Even my generous reading of Protestantism offends you because you already know we Catholics are wrong and thus even our efforts to find common ground must be reprobated.
So, Greg, this is it. I won’t respond to “gotchas” anymore, not because I don’t believe solid arguments against them are possible but because I don’t perceive you to be interested in civil conversation about these matters.



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Dennis Martin

posted April 3, 2006 at 9:00 pm


Bruce, I have great respect for Calvin even though I disagree with his justification/regeneration distinction and his view of our condition after the Fall, and the efficacy of the sacraments, rejection of episcopacy, his reading of Augustine on free will and so on and so forth. As I think I may have mentioned, of the major Reformers he is closest to Catholicism on church/world matters. I will try to take a look at the book you mention.



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Rick

posted April 3, 2006 at 10:46 pm


#107 Thank you for you clearly articulated comments. I consider myself a catholic Christian. Not necessarialy, RC, but catholic never the less.
Like a friend once told me: “If I’d meet your momma you’d want me to treat her with respect, wouldn’t you? Well, why would you treat Jesus’ momma any different?”



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Bruce Smith

posted April 4, 2006 at 8:33 am


Thanks again, Dennis, for your great clarity and honesty. I have enjoyed your posts.



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Anonymous

posted April 8, 2006 at 1:27 pm


PostReformed.com » Blog Archive » Is the Reformation Over?

[...] also too late to read everything in detail). It did seem interesting to me that a post like “Is the Reformation Over?” can bring certain people out of the woodwork to demonstrate that well, the Reformationisn’t over at least for some people especially on both sides, Protestant and Catholic. [...]



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blund

posted April 19, 2006 at 3:34 pm


Of course, we would all like to get past the Reformation, and be faithful to the gospel in our day as they were in theirs. The problem isn’t “the Reformation” – some theoretical tag – but rather individuals all agreeing that they are protesting Rome. This isn’t “We’re gonna take our Institutes and go play in the corner until the papists play nice;” rather, “Please, for the love of Christ, come back to the true Church, dear Rome!” May I humbly suggest that sola ecclesiam is exactly the problem – Rome has left the sheepfold, and certain Protestants won’t let her forget it.
Anyone can disagree and say that faith alone|scripture alone aren’t the main issues anymore. But Scripture was during the ’70s and ’80s. And if you want to disagree with Luther that justification by faith alone clings to the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone, you can, but again, a blog post probably won’t do justice to a lack of argument for that position.
The “commitment to purple theology” and its dream are really nice, and if you say they aren’t utopic, I’ll believe you. But Protestantism isn’t the only -ism that is fractured beyond repair. I’m very glad so many people feel so strongly about ecclesial unity, but what sort of missional structure has the clout to impose anything anymore? It takes an ecclesia to do this, one I’m not sure the emerging, missional community owns.



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