With these words, Jaroslav Pelikan addresses the Reformation not as some blip on the radar of church history or some terrible detour to a once straight path but the true expression of catholicity. At this time of year, Lutherans often speak of their glorious heritage of reform and renewal as if our history began on this date in 1517. Luther would strongly object to a characterization of the Reformation movement as sectarian. Luther would bristle at the thought that he stood for some fringe opinion out of the mainstream of Christian thought and faith. Yet today that is exactly the impression some Lutherans want to give. We act as if our history began with a hammer and a nail and a church door and that nothing much happened in the fifteen centuries before that moment in time. Sometimes we are even more parochial and point to much more recent dates as the start of the true history of the Church (say 1839 and a few ships sailing from Saxony).
Existing side by side in pre-Reformation theology were several ways of interpreting the righteousness of God and the act of justification. They ranged from strongly moralistic views that seemed to equate justification with moral renewal to ultra-forensic views, which saw justification as a 'nude imputation' that seemed possible apart from Christ, by an arbitrary decree of God. Between these extremes were many combinations; and though certain views predominated in late nominalism, it is not possible even there to speak of a single doctrine of justification.
Newman was right in saying that doctrine develops but the doctrine that develops is doctrine gone awry. At the time the seeds of the Reformation were being planted, the doctrine of justification was developing -- not just ways of expressing the one truth of the Christ event but actual different theologies that competed and often conflicted. What happened in the Reformation was not the start of something new but the course correction that reclaimed what was old and true and catholic. The evangelical expression of justification was not some aberration but the reclamation of what had been lost or overshadowed by other truths and not a few lies.
All the more tragic, therefore, was the Roman reaction on the front which was most important to the reformers, the message and teaching of the church. This had to be reformed according to the word of God; unless it was, no moral improvement would be able to alter the basic problem. Rome’s reactions were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone—a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers—Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted (justification by faith and works), now became required. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition.
As Pelikan points out in his seminal work Obedient Rebels, it was not the rejection of heretics but the banishment of its own catholic identity that was at work in the Reformation in its response the Counter Reformation. Yet Lutherans run the risk of doing the very same thing when they reject their catholic identity and forget the centuries of church life and thought that went before the tragic necessity of the Great Reformation. If we would be so bold as to challenge Rome to recognize the catholic identity of our confession, we must allow others to challenge us to see beyond the the sixteenth century.
Truly both options could not be allowed to stand -- justification by faith alone or justification by faith plus works. They were conflicting truths that weakened the Church and her witness to the world. But in resolving this conflict, the authority must rest with Scripture and not with the pious opinions of theologians whether ancient or eloquent. This was Luther's point. Let the conflicting ideas be sounded forth in debate and let the voice of God's Word decide. Not council, not pope, not theologian but Scripture must choose which is authentic, which is faithful, and which is true. Luther did not hide his convictions but put them forth and Rome should have been prepared to do the same. Instead we ended up with a breech and a schism and now with competing camps each claiming to be the right one.
Lutherans have become too institutionalized in their Lutheran identity and speak as if Reformation was the greatest moment in history. It was tragic and however necessary it will always be as tragic as it was necessary. Rome has become institutionalized in its Counter Reformation and so has amputated part of its own catholic faith and identity -- even anathematizing it. No matter the careful steps tried to reconcile in the Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification, Lutheranism cannot live with justification by grace through faith as being a minority opinion and Rome cannot erase its own history of rejection. So we delicately dance around what remains -- is justification by grace through faith THE teaching of Scripture or is justification plus works what Jesus came to die for and what St. Paul commends as truth?
And so we celebrate one more Reformation. Lutherans needing to know and celebrate their history before 1517 and Rome needing to know and celebrate the reform rooted in the Gospel and the faithful corrective to what had become a mish mash of conflicting ideas about how we are made right before God. Can we give thanks for the Reformation without looking down our noses at those who gave Luther the boot? Can we proclaim the Reformation truth as not just one permitted opinion but the defining issue and the doctrine on which the whole Church stands or falls? And the catholic faith is this... ought to be the start of the preaching on this day and the start of every conversation to reclaim Protestantism from its abyss of relativity and Rome from its rejection of what Scripture teaches...
In the 16th century the Council of
Trent condemned the teaching that
we are forgiven and justified solely
for the sake of what Christ did on
the cross for us. This doctrine of
Trent was reaffirmed at Vatican II
in the 20th century.
Lutherans teach that "justification
by faith" is the doctrine by which
the church stands or falls. As a
result we teach the Biblical truth.
We have got to forget about Pelikan. In becoming the Orthodox he always was, he shows the Lutheran he never was. If Rome's teaching were a reaction to the Reformation enshrined at Trent, there would have been no Reformation. The fact is, both Rome and the Eastern Church see the idea that "salvation by faith alone is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls" as an innovation with no roots whatever in Scripture or the Fathers. Long before Pelikan and with no help from him, the BOC stressed and showed over and over that our doctrine is not new. But Rome and the East had long held the other view, which is why, in revising the Mass after Trent in 1570, Pope Pius V allowed no rites to survive other than the new one unless they were at least 200 years old and therefore well before the taint of any of the recent innovations in doctrine.
Did Pr Peters say that Rome's teachings were a reaction to the Reformation or did he say that Rome chose one of the various explanations to be the only teaching and this choice was in response to Luther?
If there is a shred of credibility to Lutheran claims, justification by grace through faith minus works must have been part of the catholic past of both East and West as well as the teaching of Scripture. If this was not one of the "options" as Pelikan put it, then Lutherans would be saying that the light of the Gospel was hidden or dark for 1500 years. This is something Luther and the Reformers did not say. I think Pelikan had it right. In reacting to the Reformation, Rome chose one of the existing justification dogmas and chose wrongly (faith plus works) and therefore negated a part of its own past. This is the only sense in which the Reformation would be a "tragic" necessity; if grace and faith were not part of catholic doctrine prior to the Reformation, then there was no tragedy in it and it was long overdue by a God too lazy to raise up a reformer to correct this fatal error.
Pelikan's argument buys into the fantasy that that Roman Catholicism really began with Trent. One hears that often enough, from Lutherans and Catholics alike actually, and it works well with the idea that therefore Lutherans are simply the catholic church carrying on properly while Rome went off the rails at Trent. Thus however do some Lutherans end up in Constantinople or Rome, and some Romans end up thinking thev Reformation split is healed now that Trent is effectively though not formally repealed.
The Reformation happened first. And that is because Roman Catholicism did not formalise at Trent but had been there for centuries. The Gospel was not hidden away, even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, but in the church, what should have been the most obvious thing had become the most obscure.
Justification by faith is not one of the options, it is the Gospel itself, and to characterise it as one of the options about justification is false to that. It is the only option, or more correctly, there are no options, none that are consistent with the Gospel though others have been offered. Rome had turned its back on this long ago, and that is why there was a Reformation.
The dispute is over what IS justification by faith. Rome hold it teaches exactly that, and do not see the insinuation of works into what they call justification at all. Both they and we hold that what we respectively preach is the Gospel of the ages, against the various errors that arose against it.
The Roman Catholic Church in its
1994 Catholic Catechism says:
"Justification includes remission
of sins, sanctification, and the
renewal of the inner man." (2019)
"Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can
merit for ourselves and for others
all the graces needed to attain
eternal life." (2027)
THIS IS SYNERGISM, when we say man
can merit what Christ has done.
Quote: "Pelikan's argument buys into the fantasy that that Roman Catholicism really began with Trent. One hears that often enough, from Lutherans and Catholics alike actually, and it works well with the idea that therefore Lutherans are simply the catholic church carrying on properly while Rome went off the rails at Trent. Thus however do some Lutherans end up in Constantinople or Rome, and some Romans end up thinking the Reformation split is healed now that Trent is effectively though not formally repealed."
That is not what Pelikan said. He said that Rome institutionalized one of the several views of justification that existed in the Church prior to the Reformation and in doing so cut itself off from the one Biblical perspective on justification that had been there, obscured, since the apostles.
How on earth this might contribute to Lutherans leaving for Rome or Constantinople is a stretch.
Lutherans claim that they are the confessors of the catholic faith and Rome had erred is institutionalized in the confessions themselves. This is not an opinion among some but the very perspective of the Reformers.
Pelikan did not say that it was valid to see justification by grace through faith without works as just one of the options but that this truth was always there until it became anathema at Trent.
Roman Catholicism did not begin at Trent but Trent defined and narrowed Roman Catholicism at Trent in a way that previous councils and popes did not.
Quote: "what should have been the most obvious thing had become the most obscure" IS just what Pelikan was saying.
Anon, all of what became the Book of Concord in 1580 was written BEFORE Trent (1545-1563) except the Epitome and Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord (1577), and that is because Rome had held for centuries that while various theological opinions existed only the one proclaimed at Trent is true to the Gospel.
Rome was in no way turning its back on part of its past, but was framing in view of the Reformers' errors the constant teaching of the church itself. It is just plain false to maintain that not until Trent did Rome define its position or elevate one of several positions it deemed acceptable above the others.
We do not represent an aspect of Roman Catholicism that Trent excluded. The entire force of the writings in the Book of Concord is to demonstrate that what we are saying is in fact not new but something that the Roman church had long since clouded over -- long before Trent.
It is precisely when some Lutherans carry on as if we are in fact Catholics but Trent locked us out, and some Catholics (like pretty much everybody going into Vatican II) carry on as if Trent were a reaction to events long past to which reaction is no longer needed, that the Tiber swimming begins. Which always ends up being a one-way swim, particularly when we adapt the post Trent era Vatican II liturgy as our own.
We are catholic. We are not Catholics. The Roman church has no relevance to the catholic church institutionally, though by the power of the promise of Christ the catholic faith can, though with great difficulty, be found within the Roman church.
The word verification is obnorea. Sounds like an STD.
Quote: "We do not represent an aspect of Roman Catholicism that Trent excluded. The entire force of the writings in the Book of Concord is to demonstrate that what we are saying is in fact not new but something that the Roman church had long since clouded over -- long before Trent."
Aint that what the good pastor was saying in his post????
Ask the Pastor. (So to speak)
This Pastor heard Pelikan deny the claim that justification by grace through faith was new or not catholic. This Pastor heard Pelikan say that in anathematizing (is that word?) justification by grace through faith Rome was excommunicating its own catholic heritage and identity. This Pastor heard Pelikan say that in condemning justification by grace through faith and insisting upon justification by faith plus works, the Catholic Church was effectively Roman and, following Trent, amputating its own catholic heritage and effectively excising the Pauline corpus on justification from Scripture. This Pastor heard Pelikan say that the Confessions of the Lutherans insisted that the catholic faith was justification by grace through faith without works (prior to Trent) and insisting that they were not the innovators or the ones on a detour but the confessors of the one holy catholic and apostolic faith. This Pastor heard Pelikan say that Trent defined Roman Catholicism in a way that other councils did not and, with respect to justification, was reactionary against the Lutherans in a way that cut off the nose to spite the face.
However, I fail to see how Lutherans heeding Pelikan would encourage someone to jump ship and swim to another shore. If anything, it would discourage such a jaunt since it would mean attempting to recapture one aspect of catholic tradition (mass, maybe, ceremonial, authority, three-fold ministry) by sacrificing another more imperative (justification by grace through faith without works).
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