Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I chose the Reformation500 theme

I'm a marketer by trade, and I spent a lot of time considering the name that I wanted to attach to my message. And I chose Reformation500 for its ability to be meaningful in our time, while at the same time focusing on one of the greatest events in history.

I think Philip Schaff's "History of the Christian Church" is a fabulous work. I'm not sure where it stands with respect to other histories, but Schaff certainly put the Reformation into perspective in church history:

Schaff, "History of the Christian Church," Volume 7, § 1.

The Turning Point of Modern History.
The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization.

The age of the Reformation bears a strong resemblance to the first century. Both are rich beyond any other period in great and good men, important facts, and permanent results. Both contain the ripe fruits of preceding, and the fruitful germs of succeeding ages. They are turning points in the history of mankind. They are felt in their effects to this day, and will be felt to the end of time. They refashioned the world from the innermost depths of the human soul in its contact, with the infinite Being. They were ushered in by a providential concurrence of events and tendencies of thought. The way for Christianity was prepared by Moses and the Prophets, the dispersion of the Jews, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the language and literature of Greece, the arms and laws of Rome, the decay of idolatry, the spread of skepticism, the aspirations after a new revelation, the hopes of a coming Messiah. The Reformation was preceded and necessitated by the corruptions of the papacy, the decline of monasticism and scholastic theology, the growth of mysticism, the revival of letters, the resurrection of the Greek and Roman classics, the invention of the printing press, the discovery of a new world, the publication of the Greek Testament, the general spirit of enquiry, the striving after national independence and personal freedom. In both centuries we hear the creative voice of the Almighty calling light out of darkness.



The Reformation was like a big chiropractic "adjustment" on the back of the Body of Christ. It straightened out things that had really gotten out of whack.

Certainly there was resistance to it. The church had developed many problems, and it had become complacent in many ways. Those are all certainly worth exploring, but I think it is very important these days to bring to the front some of the most positive aspects of the Reformation.

James has spent a good bit of time tracking down and setting straight many of the things falsely attributed to Martin Luther. But to put it into perspective, Steven Ozment, the Harvard historian who believes that the Reformation was ultimately not successful, nevertheless believed that Martin Luther was the "most brilliant theologian" of the Reformation era. "He led the revolution against Rome and traditional religion not as a visionary spiritual reformer, but as a skilled doctor of theology." (Steven Ozment, "Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe" pg. 231).

Under the heading of "Luther and Scholasticism," Ozment wrote:

Between 1509-10, when he wrote his commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, and the indulgence controversy of 1517, Luther was an exceedingly active scholar. He read deeply in Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, and Ethics. In addition to sermons and letters, he wrote lectures on the Psalms (1513) and on St. Paul's letters to the Romans (1515-16) and to the Galatians (1516-17). Preparation for these lectures required extensive reading in medieval biblical commentaries. He further annotated works by St. Augustine (1509-10), the Psalterium Quincuplex of Jacques LeFebre d'Etaples (1513), the sermons of Johannes Tauler (1515-16), and Gabriel Biel's Exposition of the Canon of the Mass and Sentences commentary. He edited a portion of an anonymous mystical treatise, which he entitled the German Theology (1516), and later published the full manuscript of his work (1518), calling it a precedent for the new "Wittenberg Theology." (232)

His last work prior to the ninety-five theses against indulgences was a broad attack on the whole of late medieval theology: the Disputation Against Scholastic Theology of September 4, 1517. Here Luther joined the classic medieval debates over the nature of religious justification and the extent of man's natural knowledge of God. (233)


The date, October 31 1517, is a kind of anchor point by which we remember the beginning of the Reformation. Our minds naturally look to these "anchor points" as a way to remember things. For me, history has been a framework on which to hang the knowledge of more substantial doctrines that developed over the centuries. And I think that 500 years is a nice round time-frame to look back on an anniversary.

But from the dates that Ozment gives, Luther himself was already fully involved with the course of study that would lead him to the momentous events of the next decade.

Dr. R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, has a blog (that many of you probably already know about) called The Heidelblog. He recently put Luther's work into perspective:

Reformation Day, as we know it, is misleading. It creates the impression that the Reformation was about "cleaning up" the church. It wasn’t. There were moral reform movements about in the late middle ages and early 16th century but the Reformation wasn’t one of them. The Reformation was a theological event that was intended to have moral consequences, but it wasn’t first of all about moral self-improvement and tidying the ecclesiastical house. Beware all the various “Reform” movements in our churches today that want to turn the Reformation into moral renewal (and that’s most of them). Beware when folk invoke a "new" Reformation who don’t understand the old one. Beware when folk call for a Reformation that requires a repudiation of the first Reformation. Those movements abound.

Reformation Day, as we know it, perpetuates the pietist myth that the Reformation happened suddenly and in one-fell-swoop of religious experience (the so-called Turmerlebnis). It wasn’t and it didn’t. The Reformation doctrines developed gradually between 1513-21. In succession, and with fits and starts, Luther gradually realized the great Reformation solas. There are some Reformation solas with which we’re not all familiar. Luther’s first breakthrough happened during his lectures on the Psalms when he realized that Scripture teaches that we’re not just a little sinful but that we’re completely sinful, i.e., that the effects of sin are radical and affect every faculty. We’re not able to "do our part" or to "do what lies within us" toward justification because, as a consequence of the fall, all that lies "within us" is sin and death. Therefore the first Reformation sola was "solely unable." This is the essential assumption behind sola gratia, the claim that justification is by grace alone. Grace, is no longer to be reckoned a sort of medicinal stuff with which we are injected, with which we cooperate toward eventual justification. Luther came to understand that grace is God’s attitude of favor toward sinners. Grace isn’t something with which we are infused. Rather, God is gracious toward us. He shows us favor. He gives to us what we do not deserve: righteousness and life.

Only then did Luther realize, as he next lectured through Romans that it was only by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ that we are justified. The entire medieval system was about interior moral renewal. The Reformation is that the gospel is outside of us. The Gospel is that Christ has done it all for us. Justification is solely on the ground of imputed righteousness.

During his next two sets of lectures in Galatians and Hebrews Luther gradually realized that the medieval definition of faith as "formed by love" (fides formata caritate) is false and a misreading of Gal 5. Faith doesn’t justify because it produces sanctity (holiness) in internal moral renewal. Faith justifies because it apprehends Christ and his obedience and death for us (pro nobis). This is solus Christus. Faith is an open, empty hand. Faith is a beggar. Faith looks outside of itself and one’s self to Christ. Faith has no power except Christ its object. Faith is receiving and resting on Christ and his finished work for sinners. Faith is a certain knowledge and a hearty trust in Christ and his gospel. That’s sola fide.

With these breakthrough conclusions came others. During this period Luther came to a new hermeneutic. Where much of the patristic and all of the medieval church had read the Bible to contain two kinds of law, old and new, Luther came to see that the Bible had throughout two kinds of words: law (do) and gospel (done). The gospel is not: here is more grace so you can keep the law. The gospel is not: Christ will approve of you if you do your part. The gospel is: Christ has done it. This turn to the law/gospel hermeneutic was a foundation stone of the entire Reformation and it was adopted by all the Protestant churches and confessions Reformed and Lutheran. One of the great tragedies is that today there are congregations that will celebrate Reformation Day or who celebrate a nearby Reformation Sunday who will look you straight in the eye and tell you that the Reformed don’t use a law/gospel hermeneutic.

Another global change that occurred at the same time is the turn to Scripture as the magisterial and unique authority for faith and life (sola scriptura. There’s no one point at which this view developed, but it’s certainly symbolized by Luther’s stand for the sole and unique magisterial authority of Scripture at the Diet of Worms in 1521.) (emphasis supplied)


So we are already in the thick of the time when we can start remembering the 500th anniversary of the great events leading up to the Reformation. We can and should work to understand the theological muddle that the medieval church had become, and we can and should look not only to Luther's work, but to the work of Wycliffe, Huss, Zwingli, and all of the many others who stood firmly on the Truth, in spite of threats to their lives. In doing so, they really did create a turning point in modern history. We are the heirs of that effort.

50 comments:

Lvka said...

Well, congratulations on a decent post! :-) I hope that you'll keep proving my initial anxieties wrong by each and every single future post! :-)

[/pleasantries]

Your first quotation, from Schaff, could be equally applied to the rise of Islam.

Your last, from Ozment, basically proves that Protestantism is an innovation (again, like Islam). -- And so does your blog-title, btw. (Reformation 500: too bad Christ lived 2,000 yrs ago... pity, isn't it?)

[/criticisms]

Lvka said...

Grace isn’t something with which we are infused. Rather, God is gracious toward us. He shows us favor. He gives to us what we do not deserve: righteousness and life.


Explain then Luke 2:40 or John 1:14.

louis said...

Excellent first post, John.

Lvka,

Did we read the same post?

Schaaf's quote paints a positive picture of the fruits of the Reformation, giving rise to "every forward movement". This is the exact opposite of Islam's conquest by the sword and camping out in midevil barbarism.

Ozment's quote goes to show that Luther stood on the theological foundations of previous generations, not that he innovated anything.

And yes, it's a pity that while Christ lived 2,000 years ago, the Immaculate Conception was promulgated less than 200 years ago.

John Bugay said...

Thanks Louis.

Explain then Luke 2:40 or John 1:14.

Luke 2:40: And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Not sure what you are asking.

Lvka said...

the word used in both texts (verses) is "grace" (Greek: haris).

If grace is an unmeritted gift, how can the Bible say (in Luke) that "God's grace was upon Him" -- did God show Him unmeritted favour?

The same for John's Gospel: "Full of grace and truth": was He full of unmeritted gifts? Was God's own Son unworthy (of God)?

Lvka said...

Ozment's quote goes to show that Luther stood on the theological foundations of previous generations, not that he innovated anything.


From Ozment himself:


During his next two sets of lectures in Galatians and Hebrews Luther GRADUALLY REALIZED that [...]

With these BREAKTHROUGH conclusions came others. During this period Luther came to a NEW hermeneutic. [...]

Another global CHANGE that occurred at the same time is [...]



And another one:


Grace, is no longer to be reckoned a sort of medicinal stuff with which we are injected, with which we cooperate toward eventual justification.

In other words, Luther taught mono-energism, contrary to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council -- so far for the myth that Luther "stood on the theological foundations of previous generations".

louis said...

Those are quotes from Scott Clark, not Ozment.

louis said...

Clark was writing a blog post emphasizing Luther's achievement; Ozment was writing a scholarly work situating Luther and the Reformation within its historical-theological context. Those are two very different writings with vastly different emphases and levels of analysis. Don't confuse the two.

Besides, obviously Luther developed insights that drastically changed the Christian landscape. We are the first to admit that. That doesn't make it an "innovation" in the sense of being something totally new. The Reformers went back to the Apostolic faith and also drew from earlier theological works. They took the wheat, dispensed with the chaff, and restored the church.

Lvka said...

The Reformers went back to the Apostolic faith and also drew from earlier theological works.


So, in other words, they themselves deny that there has been anything inbetween them and the Apostles... a blackout of 15 centuries in church history. (so much for historical roots)


They took the wheat, dispensed with the chaff, and restored the church.

Who? The Muslims? :-) (if not, why not?)

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Lvka writes:

So, in other words, they themselves deny that there has been anything inbetween them and the Apostles... a blackout of 15 centuries in church history. (so much for historical roots)

I'll let another commentator dispense with this prejudicial characterization, but assuming it is true, how is that a lack of historical roots? The Scriptures are historical documents, older and more reliable than any other historical documents from the Christian Church. If we are forced to choose between the fallible, contradictory works of the early church fathers and the infallible, inerrant Word of God, the latter is always going to provide better historical roots.

John Bugay said...

Lvka -- Weren't you in the Zwingli thread? It was posited there how the early church lost the biblical sense of grace. It was promised that "wolves" would come into the church. Do you suppose that all the wolves stayed exclusively on the outside? 15 centuries is a long time for things to go wrong. It is certain that they did. No, we won't say things went totally wrong. But they went badly wrong.

Lvka said...

Well... you got the first century AD covered... and you also got the last five centuries covered... but mankind didn't go to sleep for the 14 centuries inbetween... history was still written in those centuries... so the historical problem remains.


Yes, Christ did send us as sheep among wolves, ... but He also promissed that not even the Gates of Wolfenstein will prevail against the fold.


And since Sola Fide was, according to Luther, the litmus test "upon which the Church stands or falls", I guess either Christ's promise was false, or Luther's hermeneutic standard was wrong.

Lvka said...

I'm a marketer by trade


Well, if you're a marketer by trade, what do you think of the subtitle I chose for this blog? :D ;-)

John Bugay said...

Well... you got the first century AD covered... and you also got the last five centuries covered... but mankind didn't go to sleep for the 14 centuries inbetween... history was still written in those centuries... so the historical problem remains.

Nobody said they went to sleep. But important concepts like grace were muddied up, while other things (i.e., the Trinity) were focused on and gotten correct. I don't see a historical problem with saying that.

Yes, Christ did send us as sheep among wolves, ... but He also promissed that not even the Gates of Wolfenstein will prevail against the fold.

"Gates" implies something that's stationary, toward which the missionary church goes. The wolves coming into the flock represents a different metaphor.

And since Sola Fide was, according to Luther, the litmus test "upon which the Church stands or falls", I guess either Christ's promise was false, or Luther's hermeneutic standard was wrong.

Can you imagine that he meant that the church in his day would stand or fall? Can you imagine that he didn't have the earlier church in mind when he said that? James can probably shed more light on that thought.

Well, if you're a marketer by trade, what do you think of the subtitle I chose for this blog? :D ;-)

If I tell you, I'll have to send you an invoice. ;-)

Lvka said...

"Gates" implies something that's stationary


Like the Ottoman Gate, you mean? (aka Sublime Porte) -- Porte means Gate, btw. -- Were these guys "stationary", according to you? Is this how they conquered the world?

louis said...

The church did not disappear for 14 centuries. The church consisted of the people of God, who continued, despite the increasingly false teaching of the Roman Bishop and his ilk. God called his people out of the apostate Roman church in the Reformation. Christ's promise is true; the gates of hell have not overcome his church.

Lvka said...

Can you imagine that he didn't have the earlier church in mind when he said that?


No. The faith was once and for all delivered to the saints. He who adds, to him will the seven cups of the wrath of God be added; and to him that subtracts, shall his portion be subtracted from the tree of life.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Lvka writes:

Well... you got the first century AD covered... and you also got the last five centuries covered... but mankind didn't go to sleep for the 14 centuries inbetween... history was still written in those centuries... so the historical problem remains.

History was also written during the generations prior to 2 Kings 22:8-11, but that didn't stop Josiah from rejecting those generations as completely lost and returning to the rediscovered Law of God. I have yet to see why, even assuming your characterization of Protestantism, that there is a "historical problem" here.

Ben M said...
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Lvka said...

Mat,


1) Jewish monotheism did not disappear from the face of the earth for 1,400 years before Josia.

2) That history is recorded in the books of Samuel/Kings & Chronicles.

Lvka said...

At #2) I meant the continuous, uninterrupted history of Jewish monotheism prior to King Josiah. (Just so it's clear what I'm talking about).


Protestant Church history, on the other hand, is like Swiss cheese on a chronological axis.

louis said...

Ben,

Are you sincerely asking a question, or trying to make a polemical point? Either way, I can't make sense of what you are getting at. Feel free to rephrase it if you want.

Ben M said...
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Joe said...

Hi Ben M.

So the question is, why? Why, if God could persevere the Magnificat, would he not also preserve the Gospel - especially the Gospel! ??

Have not both been preserved...through the scriptures? Wherever we have the scriptures...we have the gospel (and Magnificat), no?

And certainly there are different levels of preservation. As we see from the scriptures, the church in Galatia, in Pauls own day...started believing a different gospel. So, though parts of the Church can lose the gospel for a season...Protest can believe in the preservation of the gospel for all time as well.


God preserves all his teachings throughout "all generations."


As stated above, there can be various levels of preservation. According to scripture (Galatia)...this statement cannot be true in every Church, in every age, in every moment. It seems your statement proves too much.

So are you saying that every single one of your faith's teachings (assume you are RC, but please correct this assumption if false) has been preserved throughout all generations? Honest question.

Would that also mean that all your beliefs held today, were also taught by the apostles as well? Honest question.

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

louis said...

"God must therefor have necessarily caused:

a. the Gospel to be "lost".

b. the Magnificat to be preserved - "ALL generations shall call me blessed."

So the question is, why?"

I disagree with both of your conclusions.

a. The Gospel was never "lost", just obscured by false teaching. There is a diference.

b. The magnificat was not "preserved" in the way that I suspect you mean. Just as Rome perverted the Gospel, so they perverted the role of Mary in the church. Indeed, these two things are very much related.

In addition, the church did not "become" invisible. Surely it is just common sense that not all who profess Christ actually belong to Christ. Those who actually belong are His church.

Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Joe said...

Hi Ben,

Truth is preserved in and by THE CHURCH: "The truth, which LIVES IN US and will be with us forever." 2 John 1:1

Well, I do not disagree with this. But I do not see how it contradicts that the scriptures preserve the truth. Are you saying that the scriptures do not preserve the truth?

I think our disagreement is to what level or how preservation is defined, and of course, how the church is defined.

Besides, the Church has always had the Scriptures, but just ask folks around here if it has always had the gospel!

I think it again depends on how one views preservation. I do not think the entire church had the truth for every, minute, hour, day, week, year, etc... I do think the 2 John 1 passage shows that all who know the truth, will be with them forever...but I do not see John referencing the entire church for every moment in every age. Certainly individual churches can fall away because of the next generation not believing.

Even so, the Galatians still KNEW WELL the gospel which they had received from the apostle; only now, there was a competing gospel! And this among those who had had the tremendous advantage of having been instructed by an apostle! In any event, the first gospel was never lost or forgotten.

I do not see the point in your distinction that they still knew well the true gospel but were rejecting it. It seems like a distinction without a difference. My point of bringing up Galations was to show that the gospel can indeed be rejected/lost, whatever you want to call it...for a period of time. And if it can happen even in the apostolic age, how much more later.

Same with the erring local churches in Revelation; we see God IMMEDIATELY on the scene, guiding and correcting his Church, just as he promised. God, you see, is intimately and continually involved in his Church. And why not? The Church is Christ's body, the Church is Christ's bride (we even may say the Church is Christ!), and so far from abandoning her, the Lord never fails to continually "nourish and cherish" her (Ephesians 5:29).

For the most part, I would agree...but obviously we probably define church different.


The notion of “centuries of darkness” in which Christ had abandon his bride to error is a nothing but a Protestant fiction.


Yes, that is your position. And perhaps it is fiction...that is one thing I am trying to seek the truth on. But as phrased, I would disagree. Even if that position were correct, that the church went through centuries of darkness, I would reject the notion that Christ abandoned it. Sin is wholly ours...except for His cross.

Also, don't even some RC scholars teach that aspects of faith alone was taught throughout church history, even up to the Reformation?

(continued)

Joe said...


Yes, though not always in their fully developed form. And think about it; the word of God is called a seed for reason: because it grows and develops


Okay. I do think that some principal of development is legitimate. For example, the Trinity. Where certain beliefs that can potentially be contradictory, be reconciled. God being one, but Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit all clearly referred to God as well. So one can see good reason for a type of "development". But even with the Trinity the facts were already there, but they had to be "organized" in a coherent way. And it seems to me that the RC uses this development concept to accept things that never crossed the aposltes/early church mind.

May I ask where do you see the Assumption of Mary in the scriptures or even early church? If it was not, how and for what reason did it develop?

Also, which brings up a related question...would you say that all your doctrines can be found in scripture? Or some are in scripture, some are in tradition that are not found in scripture?

Sorry for all the questions...it is just that I have asked them elsewhere without an answer, I am trying to honestly learn what the RC positions are...as to examine what I currently hold as true. After reading a little book on Jonathan Edwards (Unwavering Resolve of JE, by Steven Lawson), I have been convicted to more fully examine my life, including doctrinal positions.

In Him,

Joe

Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Joe said...

Hi Ben.

I'm saying what the apostle himself says, viz, "The truth, which LIVES IN US and will be with us forever." 2 John 1:1

The Scriptures themselves do not and cannot preserve the truth, for the simple reason they are variously interpreted and understood. Witness the countless heresies from the beginning of Christianity down to our own day!

The Church however, which is a divine institution and is guided by the Holy Spirit - “the Spirit of truth” - is thus the sole repository and guardian of “the truth” - “The truth, which LIVES IN US…”


I guess I disagree that the scripture in any sense does not preserve the truth. Script is the word of God....and His word does indeed preserve the truth. Certainly, the script cannot get up an walk to a pulpit and speak...but it does act as the source of truth and is preserved.

If 2 john 1:2 means what you say it means, this would certainly imply that all your doctrines would have been held from the beginning. Can you show me where the Assumption of Mary is in the script or early church? As John Bugay has shown elsewhere, the papacy as it stands today did not exist in the early church either, which RC even admit. And development of doctrine that must be held to account for some RC doctrines, in my view, contradict this meaning of 2 John you are giving it.

Is this passage infallibly interpreted by Rome? Can you point me to which passages have been? Honest question...I cannot get an answer from anyone.

To be sure, individuals can and do err, but how can the Church, inasmuch as she is guided by the very “Spirit of truth,” ever err? It makes no sense.

Now surely all men of good will want truth; God himself implanted such a desire in man. And shall he now disappoint?


Well yes, if the Holy Spirit is directly guiding the Church, any individual, or anything for that matter...it will not err. But obviously that is where the real question is. Where & how does the Holy Spirit guide anyone?

Concerning this issue of when the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church....can you tell me what passages the RC has infallibly interpreted, is there disagreement on which papal statements are infallible, and if all your doctrine are found in any form in the script....or are some doctrines only found in Tradition?

You give many quotes for Augustine. I don't really disagree with anything there...but beyond that, don't you agree that his view of the Catholic Church is different than yours. Don't you differ on elements of the Church from Augustine? As I begin to understand more about history...though I am attracted a more clean model of the RCC or EO, and the implausibility of the core issues of salvation/justification being lost/hidden/etc for centuries...it seems like there where many different positions taken within the Church since the beginning on many key issues. So if the Holy Spirit was guiding the Church as you define, why are there so many different viewpoints, and hence different errors throughout history? And this is not directly to those that were labeled heretics. People of the catholic faith different on key issues....issues that are taught now by the RCC to be spiritual life or death.

Thanks,

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ben.

Joe, your disagreement is not with me, but with Christ, who said:

"I have MUCH MORE to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide YOU (i.e., the CHURCH) to ALL TRUTH.” John 16:12-13


Well, if I am disagreeing with Christ then I am obviously wrong...but this is just an assertion really.

Not sure how this passage contradicts what I am saying. I do believe that the Spirit led the apostles in all truth. But, that does not mean, they will not err at all times as explicitly shown in Galations, the apostle Peter himself was teaching error, and the history of the Church. Err was taught by those (individuals and collective groups) who were told that they were being led by the Spirit in some way. It does not really matter if the Spirit corrected it right away. If the error was taught for a day, week, couple years, etc...it seems to contradict the meaning you give to "all truth".

So how long are you willing to allow the Spirit to correct errors before He would violate the verse above? Obviously you would say not centuries? But beyond that, how long? 5 years, 20 years, 50 days?


Besides, Protestants themselves claim to have “the pure gospel,” to have preserved it in all its purity from the time of the Reformation to the present day, and that they intend to do so until the end of time? What prey tell, makes them immune from error? What makes them infallible guardians of the “pure gospel”?


Well, I do not know if Protest formally teach that the pure gospel will be preserved until the end of time as you are defining preservation. I believe the gospel will make it to the end...but that does not mean it will not be rejected for a season (day, month, years, etc). Maybe I am ignorant on what most Protest teach on this, but I am unaware of the teaching of an infallible gift given to the Church held by Protest or the idea that children of the Reformation are immune from error. Of course, we are not immune from error. Who said otherwise?

In Him,

Joe

John Bugay said...

Hi Joe -- I've been following your conversation with Ben for a bit -- haven't really had time to respond, and I don't have much time right now, but I wanted to encourage you to continue to think about things as you are doing. I was especially heartened by this:

I guess I disagree that the scripture in any sense does not preserve the truth. Script[ure] is the word of God....and His word does indeed preserve the truth. Certainly, the script[ure] cannot get up an walk to a pulpit and speak...but it does act as the source of truth and is preserved.

God says, in Isaiah 55:

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


Note this passage from Romans 9: "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,(Y) "For this very purpose I have raised you up, …"

And Galatians 3: And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."

Here's an article that talks about that:

http://www.the-highway.com/scripture_Ridderbos.html



Ben will try to do two things consistently: 1. He will claim all the blessings that are promised to "the church" as if only Rome has a lock on these blessings, whereas Protestants can't or won't experience "the fullness" of what God has planned for the church. It is Rome's view that Protestants don't have "the fullness of the faith." It is the Protestant view that Rome has added ungodly and even idolatrous doctrines over the centuries, which is what this "fullness" represents.

2. He will downgrade the majesty of Scripture, as you've noticed above, in that only by suggesting that Scripture is imperfect to accomplish what God intends it to do, can he claim that "The Church" (meaning the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church) has been appointed some kind of official arbiter.

But it looks as if you've figured this out already.

Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Joe said...

Hi John,

Hi Joe -- I've been following your conversation with Ben for a bit -- haven't really had time to respond, and I don't have much time right now, but I wanted to encourage you to continue to think about things as you are doing.

I certainly do not expect you to respond. Since you are involved in many many other posts...I can hardly see where spending time on my little conversation with Ben would be a valuable use of your time. Don't get me wrong, I would be honored to have your input...as you know much more than I. And I would say Ben also has more historical knowledge than I as well.


God says, in Isaiah 55:

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


Great passage! I love that one for many reasons...though I have not considered it in terms of this discussion, but think it directly applies. Thanks! (for the article too)

Ben will try to do two things consistently: 1. He will claim all the blessings that are promised to "the church" as if only Rome has a lock on these blessings, whereas Protestants can't or won't experience "the fullness" of what God has planned for the church.2. He will downgrade the majesty of Scripture, as you've noticed above, in that only by suggesting that Scripture is imperfect to accomplish what God intends it to do, can he claim that "The Church" (meaning the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church) has been appointed some kind of official arbiter.


Right. I see this more clearly now via Ben than I understood prior. And this is what I am attempting to judge as to its truthfullness. This is not my position now of course (being of the Reformed/Lutheran mindset), but I am again attempting to examine myself in all respects (incl doctrine) which can be a difficult process!

Your newest post about Bryan Cross also is great info bearing on my discussion with Ben.

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ben,

Well, as I've said many times and many places before, Scripture simply cannot be divorced from the one Church and preserve the truth. For the Apostle explicitly say, “The truth, which LIVES IN US and will be with us forever?"


I agree that the Scipt cannot be "divorced" from the church. In a real sense, I think the Word of God creates the church. God called the father of the faithful Abraham. His word, and in turn, script has the power to create, even the church. So I have not suggested divorcing the Scrip from the church.


Joe, I don’t know why you seem to be having so much difficulty accepting this clear, explicit biblical teaching. The truth lives in us! How much plainer can these sacred words be?


Well, if I am wrong, my error could be attributed to many things...sin, upringing, mental capaciites, etc. Take your pick, I probably struggles with all three! :)

However, I do not see how this verse with the rest of scripture contradicts my viewpoint and that the meaning you are giving it proves too much...since it is clear that from the NT that parts of the Church went astray for a season.

Like I said...how long are you willing to allow the Spirit to correct errors before He would violate the verse above? Obviously you would say not centuries? But beyond that, how long? 5 years, 20 years, 50 days?

First, please understand that it’s not my place to determine the meaning or sense of Scripture; that’s the Church’s job. I do not follow my own opinions, but obey the Lord’s command to “hear the Church.” I do not shepherd myself. What I have, I have received. “What have you that you have not received?” asks St. Paul (1 Cor. 4:7).

So this passage is infallibly interpreted by Rome? If not, why are you trying to convince me of its meaning when you just said it is not your place to determine the meaning of scripture? Is that not what you have been trying to do?...convince me of your understanding of the passage?

Now perhaps Mary was assumed after the Scriptures were written. But even if not, what does the Apostle say?

“Though I have MUCH to say to you, I do not wish to do so with paper and ink; for I hope to be with you and to speak to you face to face, that your joy may be full.
2 John, 12-13.


Okay, just so I am clear...your position according to these remarks is that all your doctrines are NOT found in scripture or even in the early church. I thought you said otherwise, no?

Also, if the Assumption was not taught until centuries after John...how does this passage help you? John is saying that the knowledge he has would cause their "joy to be full". So they could have had fullness of joy without any teaching of the Assumption.

In any event, surely the Blessed Virgins’ fate was and important topic among the early Christians and was frequently discussed! Besides, why would the Church teach it if it were not true? What does it gain in so doing?

Maybe it was, maynot is wasn't. I have no idea. Why would the church teach it? What does it gain? One reason might be because it can at times, as show from the NT, err. But common Ben, even you must agree that that is not an argument for its truthfulness.

In Him,

Joe

(will have to finish second half later)

Joe said...

continued..

Well, shouldn’t we expect considerable a considerable amount of development over 20 centuries? And keep in mind that, at the very least, Scripture teaches that the Roman Church occupies a unique place of authority within the Church (see Romans 16:20).

No...why would we expect considerable development? especially development that would mean the apostles and early church were completely unaware of...if the 2 John passage you raise says their joy would be complete then, and the "faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints".

and since you said the opposite earlier. (Me: Would that also mean that all your beliefs held today, were also taught by the apostles as well? Honest question.

Ben: Again yes.


Me:And development of doctrine that must be held to account for some RC doctrines, in my view, contradict this meaning of 2 John you are giving it.

Ben:I don’t see how.


Well, Ben...I suppose I could ask the similar question you asked me as to how you can not see how, as it seems obvious.

First, (as I understand you, so please correct me if I am missing something)...you said that all your doctrines were taught by apostles/early church...and you brought up I John 2 saying that the Truth will abide forever, meaning that there will never be a lapse in doctrinal truth. Then, you say that there should be considerable development and that some doctrines, specifically the Assumption was not taught by Script/early church.

Perhaps not this particular passage as such, but the Church does teach that in her alone resides the “fullness of truth.”

Do you know which passages of Script have been infallibly interpreted? I have asked this to other RC, and cannot get an answer.

I don’t have a list handy, but the Church infallibly defines doctrine, and not necessarily a particular passage of Scripture.

Okay, this sounds like Rome does not interpret any passages? Am I reading that correctly? So you do not have a list of infallible papal statements handy...but can you find them for me? Or point me to where I can find them?

And yes, there are always those in the Church who will disagree with the Magisterium.

Not was not really my question. My question is more specifically, if there are indeed infallible decrees by the Pope, Magesterium, or Tradition....are there disagreements as to which ones are infallible? The reason I ask is because I hear RC say that Protest cannot know the Script without an infallible interpreter...but if Rome decrees certain things infallible (Pope, Magest, Trad) but there are disagreements on which ones are infallible and the interpretation on such decrees....how is the RC situation much different than the Protest?

Joe said...

continued...

Also, I still would like to know if all your doctrine can be found in Script or are some doctrines only found in Tradition? I ask because you seem to be going in both directions....and I have RC friends that bring up 2 Thess, but then say all doctrines can be found in Script. I don't understand the purpose of bringing up 2 Thess if all your doctrines are found in Script.

Ultimately, we must go to the one Church, in order to find the fullness of God’s revelation to man. Now of course Scripture is a part of that fullness, but it is not the only part, because God actively and constantly is involved in guiding and protecting his Church from error. And the Scriptures themselves attest to this fact. So the ultimate source of revelation is a Person, not a book! And that Person is the "one man" of which the Scriptures speak.

Well, I with the sentiment that the Christian is certainly called to communion with other believers and it is not an individualistic religion. So, in that way...yes Script alone, by individual alone, would not be the "fulness" of Christianity. Of course, at this point in my life anyway, I do not see Rome as the ONE TRUE Church. I do agree that God is guiding His church...but that does not mean the church can never fall into error for a season, as shown in Script.

I agree that the ultimate source of revelation is the one man, our Lord & Saviour, the Alpha & Omega...Jesus the Christ.

Another thing. Could anyone seriously believe that God is less concerned with truth than say, Luther, who said (in What Luther Says, p. 637):

1957 The Smallest Offense Against the Word Is Intolerable.

“We should not consider the slightest error against the Word of God unimportant.”

And in a sermon on Col. 3:12-17 (1525) Luther says:

“But this tender mercy is to be exercised only toward Christians and among Christians, for toward those who reject and persecute the Gospel we must act differently; here I am not permitted to tolerate and endure false doctrine.”

Ibid., No. 1958. Heresy Worse Than an Evil Life.


Agree with Luther's statements...and that incorrect doctrine is sin against God. We are in agreement here.

Ben, just so you know, I do appreciate your time and this discussion. I am trying to understand things that are internally foreign concepts and beliefs to mine, namely the RC understanding of our blessed faith.

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ben,

And keep in mind that, at the very least, Scripture teaches that the Roman Church occupies a unique place of authority within the Church (see Romans 16:20).

I forgot to comment on this point.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet". Rom 16:20

I have no real qualms saying that Roman Church was unique in some way...as I do not want to throw out the baby with the bath water. But I do not see the significance of this passage that bears on our discussion really...or how it deals with as you say, authority. It seems that regarding one church higher/better/etc...than another would be against the sentiments of Paul that rebuke divisions.

Certainly Paul spoke highly of other NT churches as well, and had lofty language for them as well.

Satan's was going to be crushed under their feet. Praise God. But not sure how this relates or supports that the Roman Church was the ONE TRUE church.

In Him,

Joe

Ben M said...
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Joe said...

Hi Ben.

Sorry for the delay. I thought you were writing more, as stated in your last post...and been busy getting ready for our baby over the past week.

Anyhow...

Well, Luther apparently believed God’s word remained only about 40 years in a given place , after which, I suppose he thought decline inevitable. Course it's ridiculous and blasphemous - but that’s Luther for ya!

Well, I am not exactly sure what your referencing here with Luther specifically. But my question was certainly not what Luther thought...my question is what you think. You are using 2 John as teaching that all truth will abide forever, disproving some Protest claims that the church lost (or whatever you want to call it) truth for hundreds of years. But since we do see the NT examples of churches losing truth....it brings up the question as to how long your willing for the Spirit to correct falsehood before He violates the 2 John passage, as your interpreting it. 5 years, 50 years,?


Joe, I doubt that particular passage has been infallibly interpreted.


Okay. Have any passages been infallibly interpreted? And since this passage is not...is this your private interpretation? I know you said it is not your job to interpret scripture...but if the RCC has not interpreted this verse...how are you coming to your viewpoint on this verse, other than by private interpretation?

And I’m not trying to convince you of its meaning. I am however somewhat puzzled as to why, given the Protestant insistence the Bible is perspicuous / conspicuous, this passage - which explicitly says that the “truth lives in us” - is not eagerly accepted at face value?? (Maybe John B. will have John the Apostle up on charges for “downgrading the majesty of Scripture” for his very un-Protestant notion that the truth lives IN US, and not ONLY in a book!). ;)

I REALLY do not understand how you are not trying to convince me of its meaning. If so, why are we discussing it? Why bring the verse up, with its meaning you assign to it, then?

I do, and assume JB also, takes the verse at face value...but do not see the meaning you assign to it.

No. Everything the Church believes can be found, if only as a mustard seed - "the least of all seeds" (Mt 13:32) - buried somewhere in the Scriptures.

Sacred Tradition is simply the Holy Spirit's providential action on this seed whereby He draws out - only in the one Church - the true meanings and implications of the Scriptural seed, often vis a vis heresies. And only the Holy Spirit can give growth and development to that seed (the word of God) which is part of the Church.


Okay. If everything doctrine can be found in scripture, even if only in seed form...how do your comments below not contradict this thought?

Now perhaps Mary was assumed after the Scriptures were written. But even if not, what does the Apostle say?

“Though I have MUCH to say to you, I do not wish to do so with paper and ink; for I hope to be with you and to speak to you face to face, that your joy may be full.
2 John, 12-13.


Aren't you saying here that not everything is on paper and ink? Why bring this passage up if you think everything was taught in some way in Scripture?

Also, if everything is in Scripture...then why do RC use 2 Tim 2:15 to show that not everything is in Scripture?

Lastly, I have now come across some RC that believe there everything is not in Scripture and some believe everything is. Are both positions acceptable?

Thanks.

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ben.

But John, tell me, is St. Basil ‘downgrading the majesty of Scripture’ when he writes:

“If anyone says that the teaching of the Holy Scripture is sufficient for the amendment of his ways, he resembles a man who learns carpentry without ever actually doing a carpenter’s work or a man who is instructed in metal-working but will not reduce theory to practice. To such a one the Apostle would say: ‘Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.’”

“The Long Rules,” Ascetical Works, p. 251.


I was looking up the Basil link and found a few other relatable quotes on Scripture in the same work.

That every word and deed should be ratified by the testimony of the Holy Scripture to confirm the good and cause shame to the wicked. p. 106

Concerning the Hearers; that those hearers who are instructed in the Scipt should examine what is said by the teachers, receiving what is in conformity with the Scipt and rejecting what is opposed to them;
p.185

I do not see how the quote you give from Basil supports your position. It seems to me that he is saying that simply by listening to scripture will not amend ones ways...and we have to believe and consequently act on what the scriptures actually says. As he seems to make this clear, ironically from your standpoint, when quoting more scripture that gives evidence to my interpretation above.

In Him,

Joe

Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Ben M said...
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Joe said...

Hi Ben,

Hey, that’s great news! Many blessings…!! :)

And sorry I haven’t responded sooner; been meaning to get by the library to check some resources – still haven’t made it. Maybe in a few days.


Thanks!! This child is certainly a surprise. We have 12 & 11 year old boys now, and this little girl is on her way in August most likely. We were trying to adopt and that did not go through and thought we were not able to have anymore children. But, obviously God has a different plan!

I’m referencing this essay:

Success and Failure in the German Reformation by Gerald Strauss.


Thanks for the Luther info. But again, I really am not trying to understand Luther in this discussion....just you.

(Also, from what I have heard (from a much more knowledgeable friend than I concerning Luther)...he still thought the gospel was being presented, and hence not lost, since people still heard the gospel via the Supper.)

Well again, the Church will always have the truth; this doesn’t mean of course that there will be an absence of error in the Church. On the contrary (as I think you yourself recognize), Scripture teaches that both will exist, as it were, side by side. Remember what the apostle warned: “There must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved may be made manifest among you.” 1 Corinthians 11:19

Well, I guess I kind of agree with a qualification. I do think the Church has had different degrees of the truth since the beginning.

I think it can lose elements of truth though. (Like in the OT when the book of the law was lost for a period of time.) We can see whole Churches losing the main gospel as well. As we have mentioned, the Galatia church in a real sense lost the gospel.

So errors, schisms, heresies are all right there, right from the beginning, right in the Church of the Apostles! Bad as these things are, they are nevertheless part and parcel of the true Church as the Scripture portrays it!

Imagine: Bad members, immorality, corruption, heresy, every imaginable kind of sin - all right there in the "pure" N.T. Church! But despite all this, the "Gates of hell..."


Agree.

Yes. Granted, it's is not much at the moment, but see e.g., this. I’ll also see what else I can find...

Thanks for the link of infallibly interpreted passages! Is there disagreement on any of these texts being interpreted?

This extremely small list is one aspect of Rome that is a stumbling block for me to convert to it. For all the talk I have heard (literally from dear friends) that the Church needs an infallible interpreter...to have 7 verses is just very odd to me, and seemingly shows this claim to be false, at least in my humble opinion. I should say this with the disagreements as to what constitutes Tradition, which papal statements are infallible all seem to have the RC in a similar position as to many Protest relying on private interpretation.

Well Joe, I'm not going by my interpretation here, but the constant living tradition of the Church! You see, you won’t find a single Church Father, not one, who held that Christ had, at any time, abandoned his bride, the Church, or that there ever was a time when the Church (particularly the Roman Church) was not in possession of that same faith which “which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Well I do not think Christ ever abandoned His church. But this does not answer my question really. If this passage has not been infallibly interpreted, how is it not your private interpretation?

Also, when referencing "once delivered"...are you arguing that the Church (Roman or otherwise) of the apostles taught the Assumption of Mary and the infallibility of the pope, etc...?? Again, this passage does not seem to help your argument.

continued...

(hopefully finish post tonight, have to feed kids, and grandpa is close to passing away, so I cannot promise to finish tonight)

Joe said...

....continued

I’m REALLY beginning to wonder myself! LOL! But seriously, the only reason I mentioned 2 John 1:1 was simply to show how opposed Scripture itself is to the idea that teachings of Christ could ever be lost.

Well, I agree that the teachings of Christ will never be permanently lost. But the Scrip do mention that certain truths can be lost for a season.

“The truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever." What then do you suppose this verse really means?

Well I am not proposing anything radically different than you are. The truth will be will us forever, that is, to the end. This does not preclude elements of truth being lost for a season as Scipt points out. But the truth will ultimately prevail. Also, it sounds like it is referring to Christ Himself as well. Christ will be with us, and live in us forever.

Also, reading the entire book....I may change a comment made prior which agreed with you that the truth Church is full of heresy, etc...

I do believe that the true Church is not pure, being full of sinners, false teachings, etc...but perhaps somewhat qualified, since John says those that deny Jesus coming into the flesh is anti-Christ. So I have a hard time saying that this heresy can be likened to the true Church. Anyway, just thinking out loud here, so bear with me.

Precisely to show that the written word itself teaches that not “everything is on paper and ink!”

So we can say, in certain sense, that yes, everything that God wishes us to know is taught in Scripture, even the fact that not everything God has revealed is written down!


What? There must be a disconnect here....because I completely am not understanding. Scrip is by definition written, no? How can everything God wishes us to know be taught in Scrip, but not be written down???

Also, if everything is in Scripture...then why do RC use 2 Tim 2:15 to show that not everything is in Scripture?

You have to clarify this one.


Okay. I have heard many times from my RC friends that 2 Thes proves that not everything we need to know is in scripture....since Paul references tradition. So I am very confused now as to how you (and RCC) view the sufficiency of scripture. If everything is contained in scripture that God wishes us to know...why do RC apologists often refer to 2 Thes, showing that not everything is contained in Script.

Lastly, I have now come across some RC that believe there everything is not in Scripture and some believe everything is. Are both positions acceptable?

Only if we understand the sense in which such statements are made.


Okay...please explain and help me understand these two seemingly contradictory statements. This would probably help with my confusion above.

Sure. But my only point was that Basil might be construed as in some way downplaying Scripture. That’s all.

Okay. But Basil from the text you raise simply cannot be construed that way....and even seems to contradict what Rome would say. Perhaps he downplayed it elsewhere, I have no idea...it wouldn't appear so, if he was going to be consistent with his other quotes.

I looked up other quotes provided in William Websters book.

Believe those things that are written. What is not written inquire not into. - Homilia Adversus Calumn

All the commands of the Savior are written.- Homilia Adversus Calumn.

Question: What mind ought a prelate to have in those things which he commands or appoints? Answer: Towards God, as a servant of Christ, and a steward of the mysteries of God, fearing lest he should either speak or order anything beyond the will of God as declared in the Scriptures, and be found a false witness of God, or sacrilegious, in either introducing anything foreign to the doctrine of the Lord, or omitting anything acceptable to God. Regulae Brevius Tractate


In Him,

Joe