Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Seeds of the Reformation. . .
For this [spiritual] authority, although given to a man and exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine, given at God’s mouth to Peter and established on a rock for him and his successors in Him whom he confessed. . . .Whoever therefore resists this power thus ordained of God, resists the ordinance of God. . . .Furthermore, we declare, state, and define and pronounce that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.
It is therefore impossible for this not to have become a battle between a German monk and the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. And so it became. Yet just as the words of Boniface VIII had sown the seeds of the Reformation, so the words of another papal bull from Leo X stirred up and caused the dispute to grow from one theological (justification) to one that included issues of national identity and sovereignty, Biblical and conciliar authority, papal power, and a host of other issues. (We Lutherans tend to remember this bull and forget the previous one.) The Reformation was messy and still is. We cannot limit things down to but one issue or one question. There are many intertwined and agreement on one does not necessarily lead to an agreement on others. The central article was and remains justification by grace through faith - without works - but underneath even this remains the issue of subjection to and communion with the Roman pontiff as essential requirement for salvation.
The East is in a similar position with Rome. While the immediate issues that divide Rome from Constantinople might be resolved, the issue of the Roman pontiff himself remains. If the East were willing to grant the Bishop of Rome the courtesy of being first among equals (as it currently holds of individual Orthodox Bishops in their relation to the Patriarch of Constantinople), the East will never agree to subjection. Neither will the heirs of Wittenberg. So the ecumenical endeavor may be encouraged by occupants of the Chair of St. Peter but those very occupants and the office they claim remains one of the great divides in Christendom. Reunion will only come for Rome by reconciliation with the authority and jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff.