Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Real Story of the Reformation? Guest on Catholic Answers Says Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura Not Invented by Luther

This is another follow-up to my earlier post (and this post) on the recent Catholic Answers broadcast, The Real Story of the Reformation with Steve Weidenkopf, a lecturer of Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College.

Here's an odd occurrence in this broadcast. For those of you involved with Roman Catholicism, you've probably heard the oft-repeated sentiment that Luther created sola fide and sola scriptura and that these doctrines did not exist previous to his alleged invention of them. For instance, Catholic Answers states, "The Bible nowhere uses the expressions 'justification by faith alone' or 'salvation by faith alone.' The first was directly the invention of Luther; the second his by implication. Luther inserted "alone" into the German translation of Romans 3:28 to give credence to his new doctrine." And also Catholic Answers has stated:

Some Christians claim, "The Bible is all I need," but this notion is not taught in the Bible itself. In fact, the Bible teaches the contrary idea (2 Pet. 1:20–21, 3:15–16). The "Bible alone" theory was not believed by anyone in the early Church. It is new, having arisen only in the 1500s during the Protestant Reformation. The theory is a "tradition of men" that nullifies the Word of God, distorts the true role of the Bible, and undermines the authority of the Church Jesus established (Mark 7:1–8).

So there you have it from two offerings from official pages from the Catholic Answers website. If you were to venture over to their discussion boards, it wouldn't be hard to multiply examples like this. Now here's where the odd occurrence comes in. At around 35 minutes into the broadcast, Professor Weidenkopf takes a question regarding the origins of sola fide and sola scriptura and if these were "Martin Luther creations." Based on his first 35 minutes of answers, I expected he would say Luther invented sola fide and sola scriptura.  At 36:21 minutes Professor Weidenkopf though gives the following answer:

And so, he wasn't the first individual who actually, uh, furthered these, er, proposed these doctrines. There were what we like to call in history the proto-Protestants. There were heretics before him, one in England by the name of John Wycliffe who lived in the 14th century and then also Jan Hus who was ah, a Bohemian heretic. Both of those individuals, John Wycliffe and John Hus also advocated sola fide and  sola scriptura, and railed against the church, and ah, advocated the changing of church teaching and even the getting rid of the church in many aspects in their own individual writings. So those individuals kind of um, began those teachings, and there were others who had those that heresy in mind as well, but why they come to be mostly associated with Luther is because he's the most vocal proponent of them. It's through his works and his writings and I should mention that Luther was a prodigious author, he wrote well over 400 500 some odd treatises in his lifetime, so many many many books, many many many pamphlets, he utilized the invention of printing by meta-movable type, and so his works were just, you know, um, published, printed, and spread all throughout Christendom, so that's why he again gets most of the credit, but they did do predate him, sola scriptura sola fide also brought further on by John Calvin in his work the Institutes of the Christian Religion where he attempts to try to systematize Protestant theology and give it some kind of form and give it more organization than what Luther had, but uh, but again, those doctrine... not his creation but he's definitely the main proponent of them.

Now I found this answer fascinating, especially when he stated, "So those individuals kind of um, began those teachings, and there were others who had those that heresy in mind as well." I don't recall ever interacting with one of Rome's defenders willing to admit there were people previous to Luther advocating sola scriptura and sola fide. It just goes to show that when it comes to Roman Catholicism and history, Rome's defenders can pick and choose which version of history one wants.

For a look at the Reformers before the Reformers, see my earlier posts:

Reformers Before the Reformers #1, The Supremacy of Scripture

Reformers Before the Reformers #2, The Marriage Analogy of Johann von Staupitz

Reformers Before the Reformers #3: The Sole Infallible Authority of the Scriptures

I'm trying to decide whether or not to purchase Steve Weidenkopf's mp3 from Catholic Answers on The Reformation. Catholic Answers wants $9.95 for a 90 minute mp3 which appears to me to be overpriced (as are many of the products offered by Catholic Answers).  I also found an online blog interview with Steve Weidenkopf: Reformation: Myths and Revolution with the same sort of material as that presented on Catholic Answers.


Acroamaticus said...

More reformers before the Reformers: Lutheran Catholicity:

AncloteJoe said...

He sites Jan Hus and then neglects to mention how his life came to an abrupt end at the hands of the roman church.

James Swan said...

AncloteJoe said...
He sites Jan Hus and then neglects to mention how his life came to an abrupt end at the hands of the roman church.

I think it was Tim Staples in debate with Dr. White who claimed the Roman church did not kill Jan Hus- rather the Roman church handed him over to the authorities who executed him.

James Swan said...

Acroamaticus said...
More reformers before the Reformers: Lutheran Catholicity:

Thanks- It's interesting to me that I've come across Rome's defenders arguing (and with some validity) that there were efforts previous to Luther towards reform in regard to corruption (monetary, power, etc.). On the other hand, many of Rome's defenders don't usually want to admit there were Reformers before the Reformers- particularly in regard to doctrine rather than simply abuses.

Jason Engwer said...


Thanks for telling us about the Catholic Answers broadcast. I wasn't aware of it.

I appreciate your work on these issues. I've benefited a lot from your posts over the years.

James Swan said...


I've used many of your links for years, often going back to the Internet Archive to your Ntrmin entries.

Thanks for cross-posting this blog entry.

Protoprotestant said...

I think you can make a strong case for Sola Scriptura before the Reformation. You might also look at the Waldensians, Lollards and certainly someone like Petr Chelcicky.

But, I don't think you can argue that any of them taught Sola Fide the way it was presented by Luther and Calvin.