Saturday, October 31, 2009

Reformation Day 2009: Is the Reformation Over?

Today, October 31, is Reformation Day, a day on which many Protestants commemorate Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517. Writes Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, "The Protestant Reformation began when a Catholic monk rediscovered a Catholic doctrine in a Catholic book. The monk, of course, was Luther; the doctrine was justification by faith; and the book was the Bible."

In 2005, Baker Book House published Is The Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism, authored by the eminent historian Mark A. Noll and journalist Carolyn Nystrom. It was one of the many works that I read on my journey back to the Catholic Church. As I write in chapter 5 of Return to Rome:
Although this led me to read other sources including the 1999 Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, I also read several reviews of the Noll/Nystrom book, one of which was written by Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. I single out this review because of its concluding paragraph, which rocked me to the core:
When I finished reading the book, I have to confess that I agreed with the authors, in that it does indeed seem that the Reformation is over for large tracts of evangelicalism; yet the authors themselves do not draw the obvious conclusion from their own arguments. Every year I tell my Reformation history class that Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day. It would seem, however, that if Noll and Nystrom are correct, many who call themselves evangelical really lack any good reason for such an act of will; and the obvious conclusion, therefore, should be that they do the decent thing and rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot go down that path myself, primarily because of my view of justification by faith and because of my ecclesiology; but those who reject the former and lack the latter have no real basis upon which to perpetuate what is, in effect, an act of schism on their part. For such, the Reformation is over; for me, the fat lady has yet to sing; in fact, I am not sure at this time that she has even left her dressing room. (emphasis added)

Professor Trueman’s reasoning would serve as a catalyst for reorienting my sense of whether the Catholic Church or I had the burden in justifying the schism in which I had remained for over thirty years.

10 comments:

lojahw said...

“Roman Catholicism is, at least in the West, the default position. Rome has a better claim to historical continuity and institutional unity than any Protestant denomination, let alone the strange hybrid that is evangelicalism; in the light of these facts, therefore, we need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic. . . ."

It amazes me that so much is written on this subject which ignores the obvious: both the “run of the mill Protestant” and the “anti-Catholic” believe that Rome teaches “another Gospel.” Two significant examples are its teaching on the papacy and Marian devotion, as illustrated below:

“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302).

We repose in the most Blessed Virgin—in the all fair and immaculate one—who has crushed the poisonous head of the most cruel serpent and brought salvation to the world: in her who is the glory of the prophets and apostles, the honor of the martyrs, the crown and joy of all the saints; in her who is the safest refuge and the most trustworthy helper of all who are in danger; in her who, with her only-begotten Son, is the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix in the whole world” (from Pope Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus – source of the 1854 “ex cathedra” teaching on the immaculate conception). Which Gospel teaches the above?

Further, in the same document, Pope Pius IX commanded the Feast of the Conception of Mary “to be observed under the censures and penalties contained in the same Constitutions” (cf. CCC 2042). What is the sin according to the Gospel to fail to observe Mary’s conception?

Of Mary, Pope Leo XIII also taught in 1894: “every grace granted to man” passes from God to Christ to the Virgin, and “from the Virgin it descends to us . . . we cannot often enough call to mind the blessings of her unwearied charity in the work of our salvation” (Encyclical on the Rosary). Which apostle taught that Mary is the mediator of all graces? See also, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 963-969.

Even Pope John Paul II declared his utmost allegiance to Mary with the motto he had engraved on his casket: “totus tuus, [ego sum]” ([Mary,] I am yours alone) and his exhortation to all Catholics to consecrate themselves and their families to Mary. Which gospel does this represent?

How does one demonstrate that these are not distortions of the apostles’ teaching, and thus do not represent another Gospel?

Blessings,
Lover of Jesus and His Word

Deacon Harbey Santiago said...

"How does one demonstrate that these are not distortions of the apostles’ teaching, and thus do not represent another Gospel?" I would recommend the following method.
1) What does the gospel says or does not say about this position?
2) What do the historical teaching of the church (ie the early fathers teaching) say about this position?
3) Is there anything in our Christology that would be affected by denying this position?

On second though... you say:
"How does one demonstrate that these are not distortions of the apostles’ teaching"
If the Gospels do not record the apostles talking about these points, How can we say these are distortions? Who can decide if these are valid teachings?

Viva Cristo Rey!!

Deacon Harbey Santiago

Jae said...

Mr. lojahw,

Blessings

If you only trust and believe what Jesus (GOD) Himself promised to His Church, we shouldn't have a problem:

John 16:13

"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into ALL TRUTH. He will not speak on his own accord, but will speak whatever he hears and will declare to you the THINGS THAT ARE TO COME."

Dictionary, word ALL means: whole, every single one, FULLNESS.

Jesus sais ALL Truth, not one or two or three "essentials" but ALL.

Another one:

n John 20:19-23, Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has SENT me, so I send you.” And when he said this, HE BREATHED on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are FORGIVEN them, and whose sins you retain are RETAINED.”

2 Very Important points:

1.) To SEND: means, authority was given to the apostles for their mission. In the upper-room where it happened ONLY the Apostles were present and this authority was not given to any fellow who professes to be a believer.

2.) GOD-BREATHED: means, inspired by God with His Own Authority – you know who He gave it to? ONLY 2 - Scriptures and His Apostles (Magisterium-Teaching Office of the Church).

This moment, when Jesus breathed on his Apostles, constituted both the institution of the Catholic ministerial priesthood and the sacrament of confession. Christ gave his first priests, the apostles, the authority to forgive and retain sins. It was his intention that all sin be forgiven though the Church by aural confession of sins to the priests (auricular means: listening through the ears-how could one tell his confession without the other one hearing them?). We should realize that in Holy Scripture God breathed on man only twice: once when he breathed life into the clay of earth to create man (Genesis 2:7) and the second time when He breathed the life of grace into his Apostles. Both instances were that of an intimate, riveting moment between God and man. It is clear that the ability to forgive and retain sin given to the apostles, requires that each of us (even to this day) confess our sins to the priests of the Church so that our sins can be forgiven or retained.

The best protestant defense and reply to the passages above is that the authority Jesus gave to His Apostles the forgive sins had CEASE TO EXIST and HAD DIED with them and not passed on to their successors. So, in other words they are saying, the Divinely inspired Command of God (God-Breathed) was not Eternal, ONLY TEMPORAL, powerful but with limitations. Are you really going believe men or God?

There are a lot more biblical citations for the "authority" of the Church.

By the way just by claiming which one is important (essentials) or not is already an affirmation of authority which protestants hated the Catholic Church for.

lojahw said...

Blessings, Jae & Deacon Santiago,

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. In order to promote better understanding about this topic, it would be helpful if you would answer the following:

1) How do you understand the gospel, which Paul calls the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16)? (We must agree on the meaning of the Gospel – the “good news” - message in order to determine what constitutes “another” Gospel.)

2) Do you believe the gospel was fully revealed in the time of the apostles? If not, why not? (This question relates to John 16:13; i.e., did Jesus keep his promises to His apostles about the Holy Spirit?)

3) Do you believe the Church has the authority to change the gospel? If so, how and why? (This question relates to Paul’s teaching in Galatians 1.)

Jae, can you explain what your question about John 20:22-23 has to do with my quotes about the papacy and Marian devotion?

Blessings,
Lover of Jesus and His Word

Jae said...

Mr. lojahw,

Blessings

You raised some good points, thanks.

Brother, I suggest you could look into www. catholic-legate.com or catholic answers.com for all your objections and questions.

How do we settle disputes and offenses?

Jesus didn’t say the Bible but go to His ...Church.

Matt 18:15

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the CHURCH; and if he refuses to listen even to the CHURCH, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Jesus said, if there are offenses, disputes we should take it to the Church as the final arbiter, but the question today, which one? which church was Jesus talking about? does it still exist today? is it the Mormon church? or Jehovah witness? the Baptist? Seventh day-Adventist? Methodist, Pentacostal, your own pastor? my own church? just me? or maybe we could say the church as whole body of believers (as we use to say).

The million dollar question is……
Could it render a decision and FINAL judgment to declare that such an offender that still doesn’t listen to the “church” to be an outcast-tax collector (anathema)AS prescribed in the BIBLE?

Jesus appointed specific people, 12 to be exact, to carry out his mission. Even though Jesus has many, many followers, he called out 12 specific individuals to guide his flock.

Remember, Jesus didn't leave us with copies of the Bible but 12 sinners who had been given authority from Him.

Even in Heaven there is a structured hierarchy where God is the Head, where Archangels and angels follow their rank, position and dominions also in the early church is very very hierachical as Paul described it as having Bishops, presbyters (priest) and deacons. In fact the church could not exist if Jesus had not been around to start it himself and he did, but he left it in the hands of Peter (Mt 16:13-19).

So, we see that there was a church, with a specific structure of leaders that were called by God to lead the church. with all believing members. This is the Catholic (Universal) definition of church.
Now, if the church is founded upon the leaders then it is safe to say that “the church” can also mean “the leaders” or “the one’s with teaching authority” or we called as Megisterium.

If there is no visible head, we must obey the laws of separation, split from split from split.

At the end, protestantism is all about make yourself your pope with teaching authority put together into one.

If there is no pope, everybody is pope.

In Christ.

lojahw said...

Jae, If you won’t answer my questions we will not come to a better understanding of each other. This is not about the kind of disputes - personal and behavioral – that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18. This is about understanding the gospel.

To resolve disputes about truth, Jesus was famous for saying, “It is written.” Paul in Galatians did not appeal to the Church to resolve the dispute about the requirements for salvation – he appealed to the apostles’ teaching on the gospel itself, which he defined as “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Please try again to answer my questions.

Regarding the fullness of revelation of the gospel to the apostles, I suggest that you also consider Acts 20:27 and Jude 1:3. Paul said that he declared “the whole council of God” to the Ephesians. Jude exhorted his readers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Consider these statements in light of Jesus’ promise to His apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into “all the truth.” Consider also how many generations of Christians were NOT taught what the Church in later centuries insisted MUST be believed (cf. CCC 891, 892). Futhermore, truth, as Pope Benedict XVI taught in Dominus Iesus, is not relative to time or culture. The gospel preached by the apostles is timeless – lacking nothing – for all generations of Christians.

The implications regarding the questions I raised about the papacy and Marian devotion cannot be lightly dismissed.

Blessings – the truth will set you free!

Jae said...

Mr. lojahw,

Blessings

I don't want to debate you brother, if you see fit to follow some traditions of men (e.g. Nestorius, John Calvin, John Smith, Ellen White of Seventh Day and hundreds more) or your abilities and understanding of the Scripture outside of the Living Authority of the Church of Christ, then go in peace.

Regarding the Immaculate Conception of Mary (which actually exalts Jesus) or the papacy you could google the exact words in any catholic websites for your answers.

As for me and my household we will go with the 2,000 years old Apostolic and Catholic Church so as not to be led astray in this confused world.

In Christ.

lojahw said...

Excuse me Jae, but I don’t follow your logic that the words I quoted from Holy Scripture represent the traditions of men? (I assume you did not object to my citation of Pope Benedict XVI.)

Regarding your suggestion that I find answers on catholic websites: I have found their answers do not withstand careful examination in the light of Scripture and the writings of the early church fathers.

Re: “the all fair and immaculate one—who has crushed the poisonous head of the most cruel serpent and brought salvation to the world.” Pius IX’s confusion of Mary with Jesus does not come from the Apostles’ teaching nor from many centuries of teaching by their successors. It is widely known today that a translation error of Gen. 3:15 in the Latin Vulgate is responsible for the confusion about who “crushed the poisonous head” of the serpent. The early church unanimously ascribed all of the above to Christ, not to Mary.

As St. Vincent of Lerins wrote long ago: “But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's…” (Commonitory 23)

It is telling that dogmas so prominent in your Church had no place in either several centuries of Ecumenical Councils or in St. Vincent’s writings on the Catholic faith. No one has ever refuted my assertion that the papal and Marian dogmas I quoted were later additions to the deposit of faith handed down by the Apostles. Hence, these dogmas are not truly Apostolic. They are simply not part of the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

I am sad for you if you trust in the institutional continuity of your Church alone.

May God help you to seek the truth to be blessed by the freedom it brings.

Jae said...

"Excuse me Jae, but I don’t follow your logic that the words I quoted from Holy Scripture represent the traditions of men? "

Yes, you are right to quote the Scriptures all you like, the problem is there are hundreds more people who differ from you thru the ages on the same single passage alone and more so on the same Book and please don't tell me "it's clear from the Bible stuff" because it's not a monopoly of yourself.

Do you realized in the 1930' ALL christian churches AGREED that artificial contraception is against the Will of God?

What happened in the 30's was when christian churches "caved-in" one by one to secular pressures and thus changed their "truth" to conform with the world.

Now, it is sad to see the Evangelical Lutheran, Unitarians, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and a lot more christian churches succumbed as well of gay-marriage, stem cell, cloning, genetic designing etc (which is not even mentioned in the Scripture). Come to think of it they are now teaching them as biblically ok - same bible as you have and claiming guided by the same Holy Spirit as you.

When a church teaches what is morally wrong it's the same as abandoning the Truth which is quite very different from a personal sins committed by an individual.

So, when the Catholic Church say that those who uses artificial contraception is sinful and still some catholics do so regardless - the Church says they are committing grave sins.

This are the reasons of my point that...the Living Authority of the Church to proclaim and declare faith and morals to the flock must be quaranteed as free from error (infallible).

If Christian morals and doctrines are indeed Divinely reveal Truths, which men must believe under the pain of eternal lost, the gift of infallibility to the Church is NECESSARY, if she could err at all, she could err in ANY POINT. The flock would have no quarantee to the ALL Truth of God.

To me it makes a lot of sense, so I believe in the promise of Jesus to His Bride.

Deacon Harbey Santiago said...

Hello Iojahw

Sorry for the delay but my life subscribes to the following equation:

Full Time Ministry +Full Time Family + Full Time Job = No Personal Time

So forgive me if I'm to brief and infrequent with my answers. You asked:

1) How do you understand the gospel, which Paul calls the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16)? (We must agree on the meaning of the Gospel – the “good news” - message in order to determine what constitutes “another” Gospel.)

I subscribe to the gospel (the good news) as presented in scripture. 1 Cor 15:1-5 & Acts 2:22-36

2) Do you believe the gospel was fully revealed in the time of the apostles? If not, why not? (This question relates to John 16:13; i.e., did Jesus keep his promises to His apostles about the Holy Spirit?)

Yes, I also believe that the Gospel was completely recorded in scripture, however I do not believe that it was completely understood. This is the reason for John 16:12-14.

3) Do you believe the Church has the authority to change the gospel? If so, how and why? (This question relates to Paul’s teaching in Galatians 1.)

Of course not. But the Church have been given the authority to interpret the Gospel, with the assurance from our Lord that the Holy Spirit will guide those he has designated to shepherd His flock. (again see John 16)

As interesting as this discussion might become. I really doubt Dr B. would appreciate it if we clog his combox with endless back and forth messages. If you would like to continue this discussion of-line drop me an email at
hanamalu@netzero.net

Viva Cristo Rey!

Deacon Harbey Santiago