In 1950, G.C. Berkouwer wrote in his work “Conflict with Rome,” in a chapter entitled “Unshakable Authority?” that:
To the mind of Rome, there is a causal relation between the Reformation of the sixteenth century and the tensions of modern times. At bottom [for Roman Catholics who don’t want to truly understand the Reformation] they are one and the same revolution: that of the subject against the legitimate authority given by God. The moment this revolution was proclaimed the tensions arose that were ultimately discharged in the chaos of the modern world.It’s time to note here that the definition of the word “church” already is at question. Or it should be. I’ve often believed that to really understand “the definition of the word ‘church’, one ought to try to understand ‘what they knew, and when they knew it.’” That is, to go back and ask the people who made up the church -- in the year 35, in the year 50, in the year 100, in the year 140 -- “describe the church for us. Tell us what it is, how it operates,” and how these things came into being”.
The problem thus posited ought to alarm every Protestant if it is really possible to demonstrate convincingly that Rome accepts the authority of the church and the Reformation does not.
The modern Roman Catholic, following Roman Catholics of the last several centuries, is not content with that method. The modern Roman Catholic wants to start with the conceptions of Roman authority, as they are defined today, and to anachronistically read that authority back onto the people of an earlier time.
That is, modern Roman Catholics say of the ancients, “they believe what we believe, only they just didn’t know it.”
That is the biggest line of BS the world has ever known.
Some astute Roman Catholics recognized this, and so they sought to hide that awful truth [that the Roman conception of authority is BS] in a metaphor. “They believed [Roman authority] it in seed form.” Acorn and oak.
But that metaphor (like all metaphors) breaks down in real life. In real life, an acorn immediately sends down a strong and straight taproot, and it sends up a straight and tall trunk, and the shape of that oak seedling is very much the same as it will be for the rest of its life. It does grow branches in time. But it is as straight as it is ever going to be. There is no semblance at all to the twisted and contorted chains of doctrines that Rome has assembled over the centuries, which it calls its “infallible teaching”.
But the situation is quite different. The Reformation did recognize and accept authority. In reaction to an objectivistic conception of authority the Reformation did not reject all authority. But it did oppose the absolute ecclesiastical authority claimed by Rome. ... When the Reformation had to determine its position in the church of all ages it was not led by a confused subjectivism to prefer relativeism to absolutism, but it had a conception of the church entirely different from the Roman view. When the Reformers called the authority of the church ‘relative,’ they understood its original sense, ‘in relation to.’What prompted me to bring this up was something that Ryan said down below, in comments to Nick.
The Reformation refused to detach the structure of the church from the revelation transcending it. Ecclesiastical authority was relative, i.e., it stood in an absolutely dependent relation to the Word of God which alone made it possible for the church to exist.
On this point the Reformation denied the Roman view. The struggle of the Reformers was not directed against authority and stability. It was not a revolution of individualism, but the establishment of the life of the church in the Word of the living God. The issue was the truly free and liberating authority of God.
We receive a multiplicity of blessings by faith. These blessings are given to every child of Abraham. You don’t avoid my point that you are collapsing all the spiritual blessings into one blessing by appealing to a contextually irrelevant difference between my understanding of the nature of saving faith and your own. Also, since I have already explained in what manner regeneration can be said to be not merely incidental to justification but rather an instrumental cause of it and in such a way that is fully consistent with the Reformed position, to be honest, I think your first paragraph was a swing and a miss. It didn’t really address any of the points it should have and seemed to have been intended to take us away from exegesis.* * *
Pastor Lane Keister at Green Baggins has posted an item, and the comments from the Roman Catholics here have illustrated this Roman tendency to just say “nuh-uh” to what is genuinely said, and to assign their own parroted meanings to is being said, regardless of what is actually being said. I’ll let you look at Tom Riello’s comments, but here is the incredibly helpful and instructive “proof” that Lane started with:
Owen starts with something that Roman Catholics, Reformed and even Rationalists all agree on: the divine origin of natural revelation “declares itself to be from God by its own light and authority…: without further evidence or reasoning, without the advantage of any considerations but what are by itself supplied, it discovers its author, from whom it is, and in whose name it speaks…common notions are inlaid in the natures of rational creatures by the hand of God, to this end, that they might make a revelation of Him…, are able to plead their own divine original, without the least contribution of strength or assistance from without” (discussing Romans 1, in Owen, vol 16, p. 311). Muller’s comment on this: “If such a view of natural revelation is assumed, how much more ought its logic apply to Scripture!” (vol 2, p. 268). Then comes the killer quotation from Owen:
Now, it were very strange, that those low, dark, and obscure principles and means of the revelation of God and his will, which we have mentioned, should be able to evince themselves to be from him, without any external help, assistance, testimony or authority; and that that which is by God himself magnified above them…should lie dead, obscure, and have nothing in itself to reveal its Author, until this or that superadded testimony be called to its assistance (Owen, p. 311, quoted in Muller, pp. 268-269).
The substance of the argument, then, is that if natural revelation is acknowledged to be of divine origin and authority without the support of the church, then why shouldn’t special revelation also be acknowledged to have divine origin and authority without the support of the church, especially since the latter is much clearer than the former, and is given by God a higher priority and authority than natural revelation? Why would God not make natural revelation depend on humanity, but then make a more important revelation depend on humanity? Revelation is of God from first to last. God requires no human crutch to make His revelation authoritative. It is authoritative because of its Divine Author.