Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The use and interpretation of Scripture. . .

We must deny to Protestantism any right to use the Bible, much more to interpret it.  Such is the assertion of a certain Cardinal Wiseman -- now almost two centuries ago.  It is a curious statement, indeed.  For if the claims of Rome are consistent with Scripture, then the study of Scripture would seem to be useful to support Rome and, indeed, turn the Protestant to Rome.  It is my conviction that faithful study of the Scriptures will not undermine Lutheran identity and teaching but honor it.  I would expect a Roman Catholic to be just as convinced that the use of the Scriptures would aid the conversation and conversion to Rome.  But that is the problem, now, isn't it?!  Rome and the Scriptures seem to have some daylight between them and some real tension.

Most Protestants believe that Scripture supports their position.  That is not surprising.  The problem with most Protestants is that they believe Scripture supports their position but they do not account for the catholicity and some of their positions are more novelty than what has always been, is now, and will be believed.  The key is not simply proof-texting your doctrine but living in it as the faithful who reject the idea that Christianity is merely an idea -- a theory -- but that truth that forms and informs practice and life. 

That is the claim of Lutheranism -- at the end of the Augsburg Confession we insist that if our confession can be found to depart from Scripture and catholic doctrine and practice, we will change to honor the Scriptures and live consistently with that catholic doctrine and practice.  While some may challenge this assertion or even laugh it off, the truth is that our appeal is exactly that -- to be captive to the Word of God.  In fact, the Reformation is less about such things as Purgatory or infused grace or other things than it is about authority itself.  Luther was certainly not the first nor the last to suggest that Councils have contradicted each other and Popes have disagreed with the Popes who went before them.  But Luther's claim to be captive to the Word was new enough to spark an entire movement.

Authority remains as much the issue for Christianity today and its conflicts as it was for Martin Luther and the Roman Church of His day.  While fewer and fewer people are ready to suggest that Rome's claims stand on their own merits, there are also fewer and fewer people who know those Scriptures well enough to listen with a discerning ear to what is preached and taught.  This is what has led to and continues to lead to the diversity among Christendom and the seeming inability of any group to speak the Word and let it stand upon its own merits.  Just as it was in the 16th century, so now we mark our distinctions on the basis of doctrine and truth -- not about feelings or desires or anything other than the Word of the Lord.

The typical Roman Catholic does not even see the need to reconcile the truths of his faith with Scripture and the typical Protestant does not even notice the distance between what he thinks is the faith of the Scriptures and what is blind innovation designed more to empty the Church of her identity and authority than to honor the hermeneutic of continuity that is the catholic principle.  So Protestantism continues to fracture and to depart from the creedal truth that it sought to protect and Rome remains an enigma -- insisting that Scripture is not at all unique or the only source and norm of Christian truth.  It is not a good thing for any Christian body that claims to be faithful to the Lord and His revelation.


Anonymous said...

Question. When Luther said councils have erred, was he referring to the the first seven ecumenical councils or non ecumenical, regional councils? Do lutherans subscribe to any of the ecumenical councils?

Dr.D said...

Most RCs have little or no concept of Scriptural truth. Let me tell you what passed for "trhth" at an RC "Bible Study" I attended.

The session opened with a group prayer from a small printed card passed to everyone. On one side, there was a picture of a beautiful young lady, standing on a globe and in front of a Cross (apparently not fixed to the Cross, merely standing in front of it and almost covering it.) There was an inscription in some foreign language; it looked like Dutch, and the last part seemed to read "... for all people" but I have no clue about the first part. It was the text on the back of the card that really blew me away.

The back read, "WORLDWIDE CAMPAIGN OF PRAYER FOR A FIFTH MARIAN DOGMA." "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disasters, and war. May the Lady of all Nations, Mary, Co-redemptorix and Mediator, be our Advocate." Amen.

There followed three paragraphs about appearances of Mary in Amsterdam and other items. There was included the bold faced sentence, Ultimately, the Lady of All Nations asked for a fifth Marian dogma of her role as spiritual Mother of All Peoples, including her three titles of Co-redemptorix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, which would grant her greater power of intercession, especially in the end, for world peace.: "Know well great threats are hanging over the Church, are hanging over the world. Now the moment has come for you to speak of Mary as Co-redeptorix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, under the title of the Lady of all Nations ... Once the dogma, the last Marian dogma in history, has been proclaimed, the Lady of All Nations will bring peace, true peace to the world."
There was also a final paragraph that reads: Please write a one line (or more) petition to Pope Francis stating that you "support the papal definition of Our Lady as Co-redemptorix, Mediatrix, Advocate." Please send your petition to: Pope Francis, Vatican City State, 00120

I sent this to a very learned friend, a priest of the RC Anglican Ordinariate, to ask if this is what Rome now teaches. He assured me that this is all "pious opinion," not the actual current teaching of the Roman Church. However, it was presented in my presence as fact, as the truth, and I think it is all balderdash. It is a direct contradiction of the Nicene Creed that defines the Trinity. It seeks to substitute a Holy Quartet (Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Mother). This is outright heresy, and should never be promoted in a "Bible Study" hosted in a Christian Church.

Continuing Anglican Priest

Paul McCain said...

"When Luther said councils have erred, was he referring to the the first seven ecumenical councils or non ecumenical, regional councils? Do lutherans subscribe to any of the ecumenical councils?"

Great questions!

First, Luther had in view chiefly the Medieval councils when he made that statement.

Second, as for the so-called "ecumenical councils" Lutherans embrace the Nicene Creed, and accept the doctrinal conclusions, for instance, of the Council of Chalcedon, but as for all the "church laws" ... these we do not accept and never have.

Thirdly, the "Seven Ecumenical" Councils, depending on how you count them, are not doctrinal norms for us, only that which is contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 is, and so, there are included, the Apostles', the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds.

Saint Louis