20 Theses on why the Reformation is not over

Whereas: -
1. Continued division between Christians who hold to the orthodox faith is deplorable and regrettable and we should work to heal it;
2. Insisting on division based on mere prejudice against Roman Catholics, or cultural snobbery, or ethnicity, or sectarianism  is deplorable and should be repented of;
3. Hyped-up and largely loveless Protestant rhetoric and sabre-rattling for the love of mere aggression must be eschewed;
4. It is a matter of great rejoicing that Roman Catholic priests and lay people have discovered the Scriptures anew in recent years;
5. A person is not saved by assenting to justification by grace through faith alone;
6. Evangelical Christians have much to learn from the tradition of the Christian church over two millennia (as the Reformers themselves taught);
7. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are in many respects admirable, even extraordinary men;
8. We are increasingly needing to stand together with Roman Catholics on issues of social justice and religious freedom;
9. We have common cause with Roman Catholics against the New Atheism and the other forms of intellectual secularism;
10. I rejoice in a number of Christian friendships with Roman Catholics whom I happy to call brothers in Christ and from whom I have learnt much;

it is still the case that: -
11. The Roman Catholic Church still insists that the authority of Scripture is subject to the interpretation of the Church, and indeed is a creation of the Church;
12. The Roman Catholic Church still asserts the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome in the Church – however carefully this is nuanced – and his infallibility in matters of faith;
13. The Roman Catholic Church, despite lengthy and peaceful deliberations with Lutherans and Anglicans on the matter, still holds a semi-Pelagian view on the doctrine of justification – that is, the believer in whatever small way, still is able to co-operate with the grace of God and earn the rewards of heaven;
14. Roman Catholics still determine to define faith as ‘assenting to doctrines’ rather than ‘personal trust’, and therefore put the emphasis on love;
15. Justification by grace alone is in practice denied by a view of the sacraments as the operative vehicles of God’s grace;
16. Despite modifications to Roman Catholic teaching on the afterlife in recent years, purgatory is still an official teaching of the Church;
17. The Roman Catholic Church still affirms as dogmas several non-Scriptural (and I would argue, contra-Scriptural) teachings: namely, the perpetual virginity of the Mary, her immaculate conception and her assumption;
18. Devotion to and prayer to the saints is still very much part of Roman Catholic spirituality and teaching;
19. The Roman Catholic Church maintains that Christians who are not members of the Church of Rome are at best ‘separated brethren’ and are not admitted to the Lord’s Table;

And thus:
20. There is still need to maintain a separation between the Church of Rome and the churches of the Reformation.


(Feature photo: gravitat~on)

Michael Jensen is rector of St Mark's Darling Point and is the author of the book My God, My God: Is it Possible to Believe Anymore? He's on twitter: @mpjensen

Comments (45)

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  • Craig Schwarze
    October 31, 11 - 9:17pm
    Clearly and graciously said. Well done, Michael.
  • Justin Moffatt
    October 31, 11 - 11:46pm
    Good post, Michael. And I couldn't agree more in content, tone and conclusion. When I was in NYC, I had the pleasure of one hour with the late Fr Richard John Neuhaus. I asked him: 1. Why he moved from the Lutheran Church to the RC Church and 2. How he embraced your points 11-19 even though there was scant biblical evidence for these things (not that I had your list)?

    His answers were (not quoting here, but still accurate reflection of what was said)- 1. I always wanted to move. I'd hoped that the Lutherans would move too. When they didn't move, I 'returned home'. And 2. Once you embrace the Magisterium, you give up all the hard questions.

    In other words- he always wanted to be RC. And he just embraced all the extra Biblical material on faith. Faith in the Magisterium.

    He was a gentleman. But your points are valid.
  • Doug Philpott
    November 1, 11 - 1:11pm
    Thank you Michael. We also need to remember that many of the English reformers died because of their objection to transubstantiation. It remains a major point of difference and objection.
  • Philip Griffin
    November 1, 11 - 2:42pm
    I wonder, Michael, where you see clear evidence of what you call:
    Hyped-up and largely loveless Protestant rhetoric and sabre-rattling for the love of mere aggression

    Sometimes, even to speak against some of the teachings of Rome, those teachings you have identified above, is to be accused of being unloving, regardless of the tone.

    Of course a love for aggression and sabre-rattling is to be very strongly discouraged, but I know of no one in the diocese who is guilty of this. Where do you see this occurring? Overseas?
  • Michael Jensen
    November 1, 11 - 2:47pm
    @Philip - I hope here I have both a) spoken against the teachings of Rome and b) done so in a constructive way which isn't just the case of singing to my own choir.

    You encounter some of the rhetoric overseas, yes. Northern Ireland would be one place - though many Northern Irish evangelicals (including my next-door neighbour) are among the finest Christian people I know. Has it been a feature of Sydney's history? I would say of course it has. Recently? I'll let others decide.

  • Christopher Herrmann
    November 1, 11 - 3:19pm
    Michael, thank you for this article. You're short by 75 Theses!

    Can I add another one? "There is still a division between sacred and secular." In order to complete the Reformation (or commence another one!), we need to adopt a Hebrew way of thinking which honours God as the Lord of all of life, including business, rather than continuing to hold to a Greek dualism.

    This plays out in our theology in many ways, not least of which in the clerical/lay division. Full-time gospel work, or full-time ministry of work/parenting/retirement/mission/etc...?

    Thanks again,
  • Philip Griffin
    November 1, 11 - 3:36pm
    @ Michael, thanks for your comment at 5. Yes, in the past it has been a problem within Sydney and indeed within the community at large, but not for many years now, in my view.

    And yes, I think you have achieved your aims in writing this article.
  • Donna Green
    November 1, 11 - 4:19pm
    I hope Michael you don't mind if I join in and perhaps clarify some points.
    Point 11:
    Not quite right. Sacred scripture works with and includes the sacred tradition. One does not manipulate the other but work together to present God's message. They are both the Word of God. Because the Church was operating well before the scriptures were completed, it seems quite reasonable to say that the scriptures were written by the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course. Jesus never told the apostles to write. He told them to preach. God's power is enough to allow His message to remain spotless through men by the power of the H.S

    Point 12:
    Whilst there is clear biblical evidence for the doctrine of infallibility, the question needs to be asked - has letting the Holy Spirit guide individuals in interpreting scripture been a unitive thing? If I am permitted I would like to elaborate on the biblical evidence for the doctrine of infallibility. I'll wait to see if there is interest.

    Point 13:
    Without going into the depths of justification etc I'll just touch on the whole 'co-operating with God's grace' thing. An example in scripture where God works with His people to bring about His message. Mark 16:20: "And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them (sunergountos) and confirmed them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it."
  • Donna Green
    November 1, 11 - 4:50pm
    Again in Romans 8:28: ..God works for good with (sunergei eis agathon) those who love him,..."

    I think it interesting what Dale Moody (Protestant theologian) Moody in his book "The Word of Truth" and in his bible commentary, talks about the Greek verb "sunergei" in Romans. He clearly does not see biblical evidence for a Calvinist view.
    2 Cor:6:1 is even more unpalatable for a Calvinist. "Working together with (sunergountes) him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain." Surely this biblical language means it is possible to accept the grace of salvation at one time and then lose it, or it means it is possible to accept the grace of salvation and have it in vain because you fail to cooperate with the offer - either of which means that this grace is not irresistible.

    Paul uses the language of a co-worker with Christ in 1 Cor. 3:9. With all this, it is still because of God's grace that we are able to co-operate. All praise to God who is the giver.

    What I cannot reconcile is the glaring division between protestants themselves on this particular doctrine. Not all protestants are Calvinists and not all Calvinists are 5 pointers, or 4 pointers or ........Not all believe in double predestination. So how do protestants try to reconcile these differences or do they just pretend it doesn't exist?
  • Donna Green
    November 1, 11 - 5:08pm
    Point 14:
    Not quite sure what you are trying to say here. Don't forget Jesus said "if you love me obey my commandments". Assenting to doctrines and having a personal trust in Jesus are not incompatible.

    Point 15:
    I think you misunderstand what sacraments are. The reality of the sacraments are operative because of God's grace alone. Christ commanded that we baptise; that we remember Him through the Eucharist. The sacrament of the Eucharist is made real because of Christ's words alone. The sacrament of Baptism is made real because of Jesus' command to baptise in the name of the Holy Trinity. If we are to only accept Jesus as our personal saviour alone, then it seems pointless for Jesus to command us to baptise etc. A symbol for the sake of a symbol is useless, unless it is transformed by the power of Christ. A sacrament is what is symbolises. I think the problem is that protestants put God in a box and cannot see that He can use whatever means he chooses to minister grace.
  • Michael Jensen
    November 1, 11 - 5:23pm
    Well Donna, thanks especially for your clarifications of various points. But you do rather prove my point: the Reformation is far from over - not least because Roman Catholics themselves continue to view Protestants as being in error!
  • Donna Green
    November 1, 11 - 5:24pm
    Point 16:
    Ask any orthodox Jew do they believe that there exists a place of purification before they enter Heaven and you will get a loud Amen! Scripture must be read in light of what was believed at the time and not in light of what the reformation deemed scriptural. A couple of points should be made:

    1. Jesus read from the Septuagint which contained those books of the bible that the reformers disposed of. Two such books were the books of Maccabees.

    2. Jews believed in a place of purgation, as I have already mentioned. Nowhere does Jesus or the apostles stand to correct the Jews at the time.

    3. Paul speaks of this place of purgation in 1 Cor:3:10-15. Contrary to what I have seen some protestants say, this loss is not referring to the works, because it clearly states that the "man" will suffer loss, although saved. Catholics call this purgatory.
  • Donna Green
    November 1, 11 - 5:25pm
    Points 16-19 I will get to later, if permitted.
  • Donna Green
    November 1, 11 - 5:37pm
    Agreed Michael. The reformation is not over but I think we have come a long way in understanding what each other believes. I think the propoganda produced at the time of the reformation has done much damage to relations. Unfortunately, it still prevails to this day. Much of what protestants believe about Catholicism is completely inaccurate. I find it interesting that the "Book of Martyrs" is still being sold in Christian bookshops when it has been slandered by secular academics as completely a piece of religious propoganda, historically inaccurate and in some cases complete myth. We must deal with each other with integrity.
  • Michael Jensen
    November 1, 11 - 6:19pm
    I must correct you here Donna. Speaking as one whose doctorate was in the area of martyrdom, Foxe's Book of Martyrs is highly regarded by contemporary historians for its careful use of eyewitness accounts and other contemporary sources - granted for a polemical end.
  • Michael Jensen
    November 1, 11 - 6:26pm
    some points about your points - (though I don't want to get to squabbling over the minutiae)

    Of course, Donna, you will readily admit that Catholics, even Catholic theologians, disagree with each other as vociferously as Protestants do. Roman Catholicism is certainly not as monolithic as it presents itself to be.

    11. in practice and in doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church does not place itself under the Scriptures or see itself as attempting to conform to them, but rather regards itself as the sole authorised interpreter of Scripture. I don't think this is a distortion.

    12. a) I think you in turn misrepresent the authentic Reformation position on this - though many Protestants do as well! Individual interpretation does not and has never meant solo interpretation of Scripture.
    b) And yes it has been on the whole a marvellous thing - for society and for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Michael Jensen
    November 1, 11 - 6:39pm
    in 13 - again, I think you don't really understand what Calvinists are saying here. Disagreeing over certain doctrines is something Roman Catholic theologians do several times before breakfast - so I can't see how this can be a weapon to wield against Protestants. Ever heard two RC theologians agree on the interpretation of Vatican II? Not me. The reference to 1 Cor 3 has nothing to do with the issue - you are quoting out of context.

    In point 14: when I talk to Roman Catholics, a point of great confusion arises because they understand faith to mean 'agreeing with doctrines'. Protestants use it to mean 'personal trust in the God who saves'. This changes everything.

    In 15: do I misunderstand what Rome teaches about the sacraments? Possibly. Do I misunderstand what the sacraments are? I don't think so of course! The accusation about putting God in a box is a caricature as I am sure on reflection you'll agree. God can of course do as he pleases: but we creatures are constrained to expect him where he promises to be, and not somewhere else.

    16 - recent commentators Ciampa and Rosner don't think 1 Cor 3 is about purgatory. To interpret that passage as purgatory would be to go entirely against the whole tenor of the eschatology of 1 Cor - see chapter 15 especially. It is simply a case of cherry picking a text out of context I am afraid.
  • Martin (Enkidu) Shields
    November 1, 11 - 11:05pm
    I'd like to add a couple of quick responses to Donna's comments.

    11. "They are both the Word of God. Because the Church was operating well before the scriptures were completed, it seems quite reasonable to say that the scriptures were written by the Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course."

    You sensibly say "before the scriptures were completed" which is a very important point, because there existed an authoritative body of Scriptures before the church. It was not complete (the NT books were added to it), but it came into existence without the church, it was recognised and treated as authoritative before the church existed. Why then must we insist that the church was necessary for the finalisation of the canon when it was not necessary for the initial formation and recognition of the first part of the canon?

    16.1 "Jesus read from the Septuagint." Do you have any evidence for this?
  • Christopher James Ashton
    November 2, 11 - 3:34pm
    @Michael J. - Terrific. Thanks for writing this.

    @Christopher Herrmann (#6) - The Reformation recognised an appropriate sacred/secular (read Luther on the two kingdoms) and particularly a clerical/lay divide (read Calvin's Ecclesiastical Ordinances). As did the "Hebrew way of thinking" to which you refer (think of Korah's rebellion). The reformers would have viewed modern evangelical anti-clericalism, every-member-a-minister movement as a novel innovation indeed!

    An appropriate sacred/secular divide in no way devalues secular work (it affirms it as a calling or vocation), rather it acknowledges it acknowledges that some Christians will be called to labour in ministry (the Great Commission, disciple-making, sacraments), while others will be called to labour in jobs where there is extensive commonality with unbelievers (the Great Commandment, loving others, working hard in all manner of roles). The latter is still to work to the glory of God, but referring to secular work as "ministry" is what devalues it.
  • Mark Gilbert
    November 2, 11 - 3:37pm
    @Michael and all

    Great to see you are continuing to think about and write about talking with Roman Catholics about the Jesus.
    We need to get past the idea of, “Whatever you do don’t mention the war”
    Indeed there still remain significant doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants, just as there are also significant similarities.
    So it is right to call and keep calling the institution of the Catholic Church to repent and the framework of the Reformation gives us a good platform to do that. It is also right to keep listening to their criticisms of us. God’s wisdom extends beyond any institution – we both believe that!
    However I fear that all this attention to doctrinal differences can lead Protestants into thinking that talking with Catholics about Jesus involves getting involved in talking about doctrinal disputes.
    I have found, a far more effective strategy is to get alongside our Catholic neighbours and friends, most of whom don’t go to Mass any more, try to understand the Spiritual struggles they are having – more likely to be struggles with guilt, confusion they have with the teachings of their church or the perceived irrelevancy of their Church’s teaching and practice and show them how a personal trust in Jesus changes everything. Welcome them in, pray and read the Bible with them, listen to them and love them. They are welcome at our Communion tables – all they need to do is trust Jesus.
  • Mark Henderson
    November 3, 11 - 10:57am

    As a Lutheran pastor I agree that Rome and the churches of the Reformation must remain separated. However, within our own Reformation camp division persists. I have posted '5 Theses' of my own in response to yours at my blog 'Glosses From an Old Manse' (http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com) if you or others here are interested. Just for the record, I hold Sydney Anglicans in high regard.
  • Mark Henderson
    November 3, 11 - 12:07pm

    Further to your comment at my blog post (thanks for your interest, btw):
    'Altar and pulpit fellowship' is the Lutheran terminology for 'communio in sacris', communion in holy things, i.e. joint communion between churches. For confessional Lutherans it is the terminus of unity, not a means thereto (Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox hold the same view, as did the ancient church, although I'm aware it's not a widely held in the Anglican Communion). The Lutheran 'guarding of the pulpit' serves to preserve the true evangelical doctrine. Exceptions can be made by the appropriate authorities in both communion and preaching, but they remain exceptions. Hope that clarifies it somewhat.
  • Lionel Windsor
    November 4, 11 - 8:15am
    A fantastic post, Michael, thank you. I would also say that your post was important, helpful, significant, useful and interesting, if I wasn't afraid you'd hit me over the head with a huge unmarked wad of theology essays...
  • Dennis Bozik
    November 4, 11 - 2:10pm

    A good article but...

    I have quite a few reservations being "protestant". Once I began reading from the Post Apostolic Fathers, I noticed their teachings have far more in common with Catholicism. (I can say this as a convert from Catholicism 30 years ago). Their theology is Incarnational in nature rather than focussing on Justification by faith alone, in the "protestant" sense. The things that most protestants have jettisoned but was re-discovered by the High Church, was:

    - the meaning of the sacraments
    - a deeper meaning of the Eucharist
    - reverence of the liturgy as a tool for worshipping God
    - Incarnational Theology
    - a validation of monastic traditions
    - taking some theological definitions of the Ecumenical Councils seriously

    Sure there have been abuses in these forms of Christianity that needed rectifying, but I don't see the logic in supporting 2 Reformers as "prophets of God" (ie Luther & Calvin), over against the Fathers. What happened to the Holy Spirit for 1500 years. Did all the Fathers abuse the system, fall from grace & wallow in the blindness of Incarnational Theology until the reformers could set them straight ?

    It's too much to swallow for me. The further people stray from Incarnational Theology, the further they weaken the church & cause disunity. Jesus himself prayed for us to imitate the unity He had with the Father.

    Some theologians, such as Thomas Oden & NT Wright, have a greater respect for earlier Christianity.

  • Michael Canaris
    November 4, 11 - 5:25pm
    Thanks, Dennis.
    Sure there have been abuses in these forms of Christianity that needed rectifying, but I don't see the logic in supporting 2 Reformers as "prophets of God" (ie Luther & Calvin), over against the Fathers.
    Neither would Luther nor Calvin, considering how keen they were on returning ad fontes.
  • Michael Jensen
    November 4, 11 - 6:51pm
    Yes, Michael is right. The Reformers had a great respect for early Christianity, but they were also aware that it needed to be subject to scrutiny and critique. Respect for the Fathers means applying to them the norm of Scripture, as it does with the Reformers. Wright and Oden are not special in this regard at all.
  • Eric Henry Wynter Best
    November 4, 11 - 9:19pm
    As a former member of the Anglican franchise and now member of the (Roman) Catholic franchise, its always of some interest to read intelligent postings on this issue. My 2 bob's worth is that, along with Michael, I see faith in terms of trust in God rather than adherence to doctrine. It just surprised me to read that, as a Catholic, I'm not supposed to! Perhaps, I'm a bad Catholic? But most Catholics with whom I have discussed the topic of faith have given me the impression that this is their understanding too. Might they be 'wrong' too? Perhaps, just like there is a lot more to our country than our government, there is more to our churches than their governments?
  • Eric Henry Wynter Best
    November 4, 11 - 9:59pm
    A second thought that arises from this discussion is the issue of our relationship with our Scriptures. I find the notion of placing ourselves 'under' Scripture perplexing, because it does not appear that that is what we Christians actually do. Taking the early Christological controversies, for example, it does not appear that the arguments that won the day won on the basis of Scriptural merit. They won on the basis of whose 'story' was most salvific or best fitted the logic of the prevailing soteriology. Athanasius' model offered an assurance that Arius' model couldn't. Nestorius' model was not sufficiently incarnational.
    We could look at other issues as well: were monogamy or abolitionism more Scriptural than polygamy or slavery? And how about more current issues concerning the roles of women? Often these arguments appear to be principle versus text.
  • Eric Henry Wynter Best
    November 4, 11 - 10:16pm
    Another glaring example is the idea of atonement by penal substitution. A survey of the biblical theology on this can only arrive at the conclusion that the idea's Scriptural basis is controversial at best. Yet, for many Evangelicals it form the heart of their gospel. This appears to be based, not so much on its Scriptural warrant as its place in the ecosystem of the Evangelical salvation narrative. Of course, Evangelicals will defend its biblical authority: actually, they must defend its authority.

    My point is that in many of these cases, the story - the logic of the narrative - appears to take precedence over the source text. In other words, we read the text in the light of our story and we read that story back into our text, unconsciously, all the while revering the text.

    The benefit of biblical theologians is they help us to become conscious of our doing this: they make the text 'strange' again. While this is a fine example of letting the text rule, it only usually extends as far as deepening our understanding and appreciation. As far as application is concerned, the Scriptures act as one (significant) voice amongst several, which is why most Christian households don't include several wives and an odd slave.
  • Gerard OBrien
    November 5, 11 - 7:21am
    Hi Michael,

    Thank you very much for this thoughtful, sensitive and irenic piece.

    I wanted to ask you a question regarding 10 - ' I rejoice in a number of Christian friendships with Roman Catholics whom I happy to call brothers in Christ and from whom I have learnt much'.

    Do you think the Roman Catholic version of the gospel saves? If so, I'm interested to hear why you think it does. If not, how can you call your Roman Catholic friends brothers in Christ (assuming they're not denying the Roman Catholic version of the gospel)?

    Thanks again!

  • Michael Jensen
    November 5, 11 - 8:38am
    Hi Gerard - I hope it isn't too irenic!

    I note that it was this point that some others around the blogs also took issue with.

    Quite simply: we aren't saved by believing doctrine, or by believing 'versions of the gospel': we are saved by believing in Christ. It is Christ who saves - often despite our best efforts!

    This doesn't give us licence to ignore grave differences in teaching - rather, we ought to weep.

    I am very much following the Reformers in this. Whatever they may have had to say about the abuses and false teaching and corruption in the medieval church, they certainly weren't claiming that there had been no Christians from the days of the early church until 1517 - were they?
  • Michael Jensen
    November 5, 11 - 8:46am

    re faith - you have just adopted a Protestant understanding. That's not what Rome teaches about faith. Certainly I would be the first to say that Roman Catholic believers represent a wide diversity of viewpoints and frequently disagree with their own church's official teaching on a variety of issues.

    re 'under Scripture' - you are are making an either/or. The Fathers sought conceptual consistency as well as Scriptural faithfulness. Slavery is a complete furphy in my view (and polygamy). The NT does not endorse a system of slavery: it introduces a different kind of community, from which we ought to learn our social theory - and you can't have slavery or female inequality if you take Scripture seriously. It isn't revolutionary politics: it is something else. But it isn't a case of 'principle versus text': it is rather 'principle emerging from text'.
  • Gerard OBrien
    November 5, 11 - 10:36am
    Thanks for the reply, Michael. I agree with you - the Reformers weren't claiming that the Holy Spirit had stopped drawing people to Christ for however-many-centuries (depending on where you want to claim Rome apostatised). I trust God always kept a remnant for himself (and probably a lot more than 7,000!)

    The way I like to express it is that there are people who attend Roman Catholic churches who are brothers and sisters in Christ, but this in spite of official Roman Catholic teaching. Like you just said to Eric - many people in Roman Catholic churches disagree with the official teaching. Instead of calling them Roman Catholics, I'm more inclined to call them Protestants on Roman Catholic pews.

    Maybe it's just that the label 'Roman Catholic' does have such a wide meaning with such a spectrum of belief in the RCC. I've had a fair bit of contact with more traditional Roman Catholics (who try to hold together and adhere to the official teachings). So I normally try to reserve the label for them rather than those who are unknowingly under the anathema of pre-Vatican II Rome but still attend Roman Catholic churches out of custom. Is that kind of like what your 'Roman Catholic brothers in Christ' are like?
  • Eric Henry Wynter Best
    November 5, 11 - 4:01pm
    @ Michael,
    Thanks for your reply, Michael. I'm not really making an "either/or" argument, as if to contend that Arius or Nestorius's positions were more biblical than those whose opinions became the orthodoxy. Indeed, all sides claimed the biblical high ground and vociferously argued their positions from the Scriptures. I'm just saying that (as I understand it) the deal maker / breaker was the perceived merits of their soteriologies.

    I agree with you that the arguments against slavery or for women's ordination are "principle emerging from text", but there were and are plenty of Christians who have argued that the principle exceeds the warrant of the text. And, both with the women' ordination movement and the abolitionist movements were informed by concurrent social and cultural shifts (eg for abolitionism, capitalism and the notion of universal rights). Of course, the church long disapproved of slavery, but the conditions were not there to create a tipping point.
  • Dennis Bozik
    November 7, 11 - 2:31pm

    Yes I have read elsewhere that Luther & Calvin had respect for the "Fathers", but I believe they didn't read ALL the Fathers or didn't have access to all their writings. It seems that Augustine is the pre-eminent "Father" they choose to look back to to backup their theologies. However, the Eastern Orthodox church has had a different slant on theology which never had Augustine as a starting point. Thus we have the differences between Eastern & Western emphasis in the "path to salvation" (eg justification vs sanctification vs deification).

    The issue though is that the accepted Incarnational Theology that existed for 1500 odd years was subsumed by an emphasis on Justification by faith, & reading the scriptures individually in a way as apart from what was handed down by tradition.... Thus scripture became opposed to the church at nearly every turn...

    Everything that wasn't specifically in scripture, ended up jettisoned. None of the Fathers deemed it necessary to oppose traditions that were alraedy in existence in the 200s. eg liturgies, asking the saints for intercession, having a mystical understanding of the Eucharist, etc.

  • Dave Lankshear
    November 7, 11 - 10:13pm
    Hi Michael,
    First: Can you please unpack the comment on love for me?

    "14. Roman Catholics still determine to define faith as ‘assenting to doctrines’ rather than ‘personal trust’, and therefore put the emphasis on love;"
    Why is an emphasis on love bad? Are you saying there is a Roman emphasis on our love saving us; that it is our faith and our love?

    Second: The home page banner photo for this article has a very serious and formal statue of a Reformer. With you writing 20 point theses like these, when can we expect to see a "Statue of St Michael the Jensen", and where will we display it? ;-)
  • Michael Jensen
    November 7, 11 - 11:36pm

    yes, that's pretty much it.
  • Robert James Elliott
    November 9, 11 - 5:20pm
    I welcome this outbreak of honest discussion on what still separates Protestants and Catholics. I appreciate Michael's clarity and charity even when I disagree with him, which is some of the time.

    I would say that, with a number of Catholic friends, Michael is right in distinguishing between what the Catholic Church teaches and what individual Catholics may believe, given the appalling religious education of the last few decades. Many Catholics would be surprised to learn that their hazy understanding of what the Church teaches is at odds with the truth. But I suspect that is true also for most Christians, especially if you ask your casual Presbyterian whether he or she believes in predestination or TULIP.

    I do find the one quite admirable aspect of Catholicism is its Catechism.

    The Catechism is very easy to read and has assisted my own journey. I remain an Anglo-Catholic, still not sure of Rome, but have found the Catechism invaluable in clarifying my own understanding of what THE Church teaches, as opposed to what I thought the Church taught.

  • Robert James Elliott
    November 10, 11 - 8:31am
    Also, on reflection, does anyone ever wonder how different Christianity would be with just Jesus' words and no Paul? It seems so many disagreements between Catholics and Protestants are about matters Paul wrote on, not what Jesus said. Jesus' telling of the final judgment (Matt 25:31-46) is entirely works-based and makes me think James was right to say what he said - a man or woman is not saved by faith alone (James 2:24). Luther hated James so much that he sought to remove James and Hebrews from the New Testament canon.
  • Dennis Bozik
    November 10, 11 - 9:20am
    Hi All,

    I found this on leithhart.com, which discusses Newman's analysis of faith & love:

    "One line of response could pick up on Newman's own description: "Love and fear, and heavenly-mindedness, and obedience, and firmness, and zeal, and humility, are as certainly one with justifying faith, considered as a thing existing, as bones, muscles, and vital organs, are necessary to that outward frame of man which meets the eye, though they do not met it. Love and fear and obedience are not really posterior to justifying faith for even a moment of time, unless bonse or muscles are formed after the countenance and complexion." All of which might well be a helpful analogy, but Newman must also admit that musics and bones and organs are not sight.

    4) Newman anticipates in interesting ways some of the thinking of NT Wright. Newman affirms "justification by faith alone" but says that it doesn't describe the manner by which we are justified, but rather serves as a symbol and emblem of the fact that we are justified apart from any merit or worthiness on our part. Teaching justification by faith tells us that God alone justifies us through Christ. Faith, he says, is an instrument of justification... baptism initiates into a state of acceptance and justification (and, for Newman, is the moment when the Spirit of Christ indwells), but one continues in that state through faith. This appears to be close to Wright's idea that justification is not "entry language" in Paul."

  • Eric Henry Wynter Best
    November 10, 11 - 1:50pm
    @ Dave
    Thinking: is there any such thing as "our love"? Perhaps, where and how we direct it is "ours", but love itself?
  • Dennis Bozik
    November 11, 11 - 8:58pm

    I don't think bypassing Paul would have solved much. John 6 has the famous passage that is used as a battleground over Eucharist theologies.

    The issue seems to be "how does one interpret the scriptures" & "who has the final say". In the post-apostolic era, heretics were having their go at interpreting scripture & the Church had to mount a defense. Since the scriptures don't have a "Table of Contents" that identify themselves & a "legend" or "key" identifying what doctrines are dogma, what guarantees we can identify the scriptures & produce salvific dogma from them ?

    I believe a number of things come into play to do this, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I think Aposotolic Succession was originally there to guard handed down truths, along with the Universality of beliefs (in the 5 Christian Sees), universally accepted liturgies & the decisions of Ecumenical Church Councils. Jesus promised the "Gates of hell" wouldn't triumph against the Church.

    When Church Fathers & Councils are "under the Holy Spirit", checking the scriptures & referring to previously handed down doctrines/dogmas, referring to previous liturgies, they can't stray from the truth.

    The problem with the Reformation is that it has led to gross abandonment of what had been previously handed down, on the premise that most of it was against the scriptures.

  • Dave Lankshear
    November 12, 11 - 10:22am
    Hi Dennis,
    The problem with the Reformation is that it has led to gross abandonment of what had been previously handed down, on the premise that most of it was against the scriptures.

    Which is why I love the Reformation. So much of the tradition of the day was against the scriptures. Or are we going to find verses that excuse 'Indulgences'?
  • Dianne Howard
    November 13, 11 - 12:02pm
    Hi Dennis
    From Matthew 16, the foundation (rock) of the church is Christ – the Son of the living God. At that point Peter’s confession was right. This truth of ‘Christ is the Son of the living God’ is what creates the church and sustains the church.

    It is about keeping in step with the gospel, as Apostle Peter needed to learn through rebuke. (Galatians 2 – ‘their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’.

  • Dianne Howard
    November 13, 11 - 12:04pm
    There is such a thing as a false apostle. Every one’s words and actions are to be weighed against the gospel.

    2 Corinthians 11:

    But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things...............

    ........................ And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.