Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification the church’s final word?

" The question before us is this: Is the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification the church’s final word? Emphatically not. Rome has developed its doctrine of justification, and it will doubtless continue to do so. None of the ecumenical councils, not even Chalcedon or Nicea, is terminal in the sense that it ends all possible development.

They are not terminal, but they are decisive. Rome can indeed develop the views expressed at Trent. What it cannot do without radically altering its view of itself is repudiate or “correct” Trent. Those who look for such a repudiation, or who think they have already found it, are whistling in the dark.

Source: Sproul, R.C., Faith Alone : The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995) pp.120-121

22 comments:

David Waltz said...

Hello James,

You posted the following:

>>They are not terminal, but they are decisive. Rome can indeed develop the views expressed at Trent. What it cannot do without radically altering its view of itself is repudiate or “correct” Trent. Those who look for such a repudiation, or who think they have already found it, are whistling in the dark.>>

Me: You are certainly welcome to your opinion on this matter, but many Protestant scholars in this particular field disagree with your assessment.

Previous threads on my blog have addressed your, and Sproul’s, skewed assessment; the following are some samples:

An Evangelical Critic of R.C. Sproul’s “Faith Alone”

James Swan on Justification

”APOSTASY”

James, you really, and I mean really, need to read A.N.S. Lane’s Justification by Faith: in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue—An Evangelical Assessment; Dr Lane is to justification studies, what you are to Luther studies…

Grace and peace,

David

Carrie said...

Those who look for such a repudiation, or who think they have already found it, are whistling in the dark.

David Waltz has been whistling in the dark for awhile now :)

David Waltz said...

Hi Carrie,

If reading, and embracing (much of, but not all), up-to-date scholarship on the issue/doctrine of justification by highly respected Protestant and Catholic authors (e.g. Aune, Fitzmyer, Lane, Malloy, McGrath, Reumann, Root, Rusch, VanLandingham, et al.) is how you would describe, “whistling in the dark”, then yes, guilty as charged…


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Yet one more example of “whistling in the dark”…

POPE CLARIFIES LUTHER'S IDEA OF JUSTIFICATION




Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Arrrgh...previous link is not working...try this:

LINK

James Swan said...

Yet one more example of “whistling in the dark”…POPE CLARIFIES LUTHER'S IDEA OF JUSTIFICATION

I wish someone would actually take the time to read through the Zenit link David posted and comment on it, because I don't think I could ever do it.

Carrie said...

If reading, and embracing (much of, but not all), up-to-date scholarship on the issue/doctrine of justification by highly respected Protestant and Catholic authors (e.g. Aune, Fitzmyer, Lane, Malloy, McGrath, Reumann, Root, Rusch, VanLandingham, et al.) is how you would describe, “whistling in the dark”, then yes, guilty as charged…


First, I'm not sure all your scholars would agree with you completely. But even so, scholars are not infallible, they can be wrong.

Sproul's assessment is common sense - modern-day Rome can't shake Trent as much she may try. To assert that Trent's views are just misunderstood (as you have done in the past) is wishful thinking.

L P Cruz said...

I will take a stab at this.

1. re: Law, as before in Trent, Pope B16 confines the Law to ceremonial laws meant for Jews to observe. Classic Prots understand the Law to include the moral law.

2. re: Luther correct if faith is not opposed to love.

Of course, Luther was correct, faith is not opposed to love, faith works through love. But here there is a category mistake. The source is not the same as the thing produced. Faith implies Love. Simple logic says Love is not the same as Faith, these are separate distinct categories. For Pope B16 faith and love are synonymous. Classic Prots says no, rather it says we are justified through faith, yet we are not justified because of the love that is produced by that faith. Justification is a free gift on account of Christ's work on the cross, for his sake, (in a simple nutshell), so says Classic Prots.


LPC

bkaycee said...

Sounds like the Pope is wooing unsuspecting and shallow prots with sweeping generalizations that sound almost doctrinally correct, but in fact just gloss over the same old Roman system of synergistic salvation. Same old wolf in a "German Shepherds" disgsuise.

Stacey said...

It is my understanding that their doctrine can only be "developed" as you say, and not contradicted. Why would it be a good thing if they did contradict themselves over the years?

Nick said...

The comments on the original post are accurate, the teachings of Trent cannot be changed, but can be further clarified.

As for the book Faith Alone, I was pretty disappointed. It was more about Protestants not being faithful to Sola Fide, rather than an actual detailed discussion on SF. The God Who Justifies was way, way better at actually discussing the details, but still came up short on many parts.



Anyway, I stopped by here because I came across some information about Luther that I wanted more info on. Apparently Luther wrote something called a "Treatise on Indulgences" which accompanied the 95 Theses, yet in this Treatise Luther affirms that indulgences are true and good but that they were abused. Also, it is said this Treatise is one of the most suppressed/ignored works of Luther.

James Swan said...

Anyway, I stopped by here because I came across some information about Luther that I wanted more info on.

what exactly do you need to know?

James Swan said...

As for the book Faith Alone, I was pretty disappointed. It was more about Protestants not being faithful to Sola Fide, rather than an actual detailed discussion on SF. The God Who Justifies was way, way better at actually discussing the details, but still came up short on many parts.

One book was primarily a historical overview, the other was primarily an exegetical overview.

Nick said...

I was wondering if you know about Luther's "Treatise on Indulgences."

If yes, then have you written about it and is it available online?

IF Luther actually affirms indulgences in that treatise, then the 95 Theses are not what Protestants think they were.

James Swan said...

IF Luther actually affirms indulgences in that treatise, then the 95 Theses are not what Protestants think they were.

Not necessarily Nick. You are right, in that often "the 95 Theses are not what Protestants think they were" because some Protestants wronlgy believe the 95 Theses were totally against indulgences. They were not. Rather, the were against the abuse of indulgences.

The treatise you mention is not surprising at all- see Brecht's book:

http://books.google.com/books?id=hH6nI6Q6qBIC&pg=PA188&lpg=PA188&dq=%22Treatise+on+Indulgences%22+%2B+Luther&source=bl&ots=0IuiBWZt96&sig=Db3PUYkJEhMMPZyvvjwN7h_jONg&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

Stacey said...

Nick,

I'm reading Luther's biography right now, and yes, the 95 thesis are not what Protestants may think. And they are, as James says, against only the abuse of indulgences. Luther even says the Pope would rightly condemn anyone attacking indulgences themselves.

These were written at an early point in Luther's career and theological development. He goes on at a later time to reject papal authority and indulgences completely.

James Swan said...

Luther even says the Pope would rightly condemn anyone attacking indulgences themselves.

somewhere here on this blog, I've done some posts on indulgences. I assume one of the search engines would locate them.

Luther was actually very careful in the 95 Theses to ask for debate and discussion on issues not clearly defined by the Roman Church.

Stacey said...

I'm not sure what you're saying, James, but here's the quote to clear up misunderstandings.

"Luther had not attacked indulgences as such in his thesis, but only the most blatant forms of them. 'The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made for them,' he declared, and added that 'the pope justly thunders against those who plot by any means whatsoever against the sale of indulgences.'"

p. 107, Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and his Career

James Swan said...

I'm not sure what you're saying, James, but here's the quote to clear up misunderstandings.

Hi Stacey-

I was agreeing with you, and letting Nick know he can search the blog for further clarification on your point.

Regards,
James

Nick said...

Thanks for this information.

That link talks about the treatise but does not give the full text. The fact he originally supported them but later went onto reject Papal authority and indulgences means he was literally re-deriving the Gospel from scratch.

Since this is off topic to the main post I won't push it any further.

James Swan said...

The fact he originally supported them but later went onto reject Papal authority and indulgences means he was literally re-deriving the Gospel from scratch.

I don't see how this follows, but I do know why Indulgences played a crucial role in Luther rejecting Papal infallibility & authority.

L P Cruz said...

The 1530 Exhortation of Luther says this...

We, too, may see, to our comfort, what great and glorious fruit the Word of God has produced. We shall begin at the point where my doctrine began, that is, with the indulgences.

Then an outline against indulgences...

For example
8. In the indulgence they sold the good works of the whole Church and also, as a special thing, the absolution which the Gospel forever gives to the whole world free of charge; thus souls were seduced from the Gospel and from Christ to the works of men.

http://www.bookofconcord.org/exhortation.php

LPC