Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reformation History

It's amazing as I read more and more sources on the Reformation how much Caesaro-Papism occured. It was really an Erastian Reformation. It wasn't theologians deliberating in Zurich or Geneva or Wittenburg, it was state-appointed theologians like Calvin and Zwingli who ruled with an iron fist (this might sound exaggerrated but I really don't think it is).

We had to read the other day about how Luther went back on the priesthood of all believers and the freedom of a Christian to a large extent as reformed-style Protestants arrived in Lutheran Wittenburg. The solution: disallow foreign students to enter the university without heavy fees.

We also read a document where Luther, Melancthon, and Carlstadt disagreed so viamently and referred to their speeches of 'angry bickering' that they had to sign this document saying they wouldn't discuss the differences anymore and try to forget it all.

Sola Scriptura sure was a can of worms. In a sense I think the Quakers and Anabaptists just took the principles of the Reformation to their logical end, and the Lutherans and more conservative reformers just fought to arbitrarily stop the reformation based on 'human traditions' that they had denounced (infant baptism, Trinitarian formulas w/ neo-platonic language, etc).


  1. Catholics and Anabaptists share an inability to understand tradition as the reading of the Scripture as the community of the church, placing instead an absolute authority (my own opinion/feeling or the Pope) instead of wrestling with the hard reality of exegesis. Pity. Neither understand tradition, only certain authority.

  2. If only we could all be as enlightened as the Reformed...

  3. Following along with Jared's comment I would ask:

    For the postlapsarian theist, does the quest for religious certainty overrule the quest for religious truth?

    If one answers yes, then by all means, unless he's persuaded by the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, he should simply submit his conscience to the authority of a man or, if he's not so inclined to feign humility, himself. That is the surest way to certainty.

    But if one answers no, then he should never submit his conscience to any man. Instead, he should be guided by his own free conscience as well as the multitude of other free consciences who have wrestled with God's special revelation doing the hard work of exegesis, guided by the Spirit throughout history. That is the means God has ordained by which we might have the blessing of understanding religious truth with certainty.

    Defaulting to the authority of a single man (whether himself or another) may be the easiest way to attain certainty, but it is a false certainty. The more difficult and only true path is to search the Scriptures for oneself in concert with the historic search of the catholic church. The church may hobble a bit dues to her wrestling with God's Word (i.e. she isn't perfected yet), just as each believer does if he's honest with himself, but she is blessed because of it.

  4. "If only we could all be as enlightened as the Reformed..."

    After a series of comments by you about how Reformed don't even meet the minimum requirements to be Christians, how they do not celebrate a valid Eucharist, and that they are dogs, do you see any irony in implying a sense of elitism to the Reformed?

  5. Deep down we all believe our tradition is most true (faithful to God), or else we wouldn't affiliate with it. That's not elitism, that's just reasonable human decision-making. Elitism would be to say that only a select few have access to the truth. Comparing Reformed Catholicism with Roman Catholicism on that definition of elitism, I'd say the Roman teaching of magisterial authority comes very close to being elitist. I say "very close" because, depending on the graciousness of any given member of the magisterium, the truth accessed could in theory be immediately dispensed to the laity so that there is no elitism practically speaking.

    Of course, the issue of elitism was one of Luther's complaints 492 years ago tomorrow:

    "Such questions as the following: 'Why does the pope not empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and for the sake of desperate souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number o souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reasons would be most just, while the latter is most trivial" (95 Theses, #82).

    In other words, why does the pope hold back from the laity the blessing he has received and has power to grant to them?

  6. Why doesn't the Pope empty purgatory? because Christ's Spirit hasn't moved him to. One day, perhaps he will (as other complaints like communion of both kinds went), but until then it is his authority from the Lord which holds the visible Church together, an our place is to submit not to dictate. To be Aaron not Korah.

  7. I suppose in Luther's day, the Spirit moved the Pope through greed or, as Luther called it, "miserable money with which to build a church."

  8. Asking why the pope doesn't empty purgatory is like asking why the Second Coming hasn't happened. Even the apostles expected it to happen within their generation, but we're all still here.

  9. Not quite. Read Luther's Theses. He doesn't ask why generally speaking. He asks why the pope would be willing to empty purgatory for money and not for love?