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Catholic Reform vs Protestant Reform

Taylor Marshall, a Catholic convert, is one of our favorite bloggers. We've asked him to write a few guest posts for us this month and he kindly agreed. He's a lot smarter than us so be prepared for some high falutin poly syllabic words. And check out his blog as well.

A Protestant reader of Canterbury Tales recently asked why Catholics believe that tolerating heresy is "noble," and also wondered why the Catholic Church condemned the Protestant Reformers who sought to bring about reform. The reader writes:

So heretical teaching within the Catholic Church should be kept unchecked because that would more noble? Or does that only apply to Protestants?
At root, this question seeks to draw out the difference between "Protestant Reform" and "Catholic Reform." This is a good question and worthy of a lengthy response. Here's my meager attempt at it:

Dear Clamence,

We cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. "Christ has one nature") was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. "Christ is two persons"). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham's nominalism and repackaged it). Luther's "solution" was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can "fix" almost anything - but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ's Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ's doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go "lie down with the pigs."

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, "I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs." Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis' vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own "biblical life" against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication...and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become "Saint" Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division - there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: "the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God" (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use "hot-heads" to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble - for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.

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Andrew Wolfe said...


William said...

Never really thought about it that way. And it's true: if you don't know what you're doing when trying to fix something, you can often make it worse.

Like when you don't know how to thicken a sauce, so you add too much flour and the whole thing becomes just as wrong, only in the opposite direction.

bthomas said...

On the whole, not impressed. Luther took the first of many long needed steps necessary to force an unwilling church cultus to face the truth about itself. His words and deeds set in motion that Protestant Reformation that would shape the course and face of Western Civilization. Thank God he did not meekly choose to stand quietly and wait... and wait... and wait.

Anonymous said...

Yes I see the fruits of Luther's "needed steps" in the great countries that are by law the most Lutheran. The Scandinavian countries of course, such great examples of a robust western civilization how it grows in to a shallow unmarked grave.

bthomas said...

If one is to judge the vitality of civilization in Western nations based on their fidelity to a once professed Christian faith, then what is one to make of the fall of France... where a once very much majority Catholicism is now very much reduced and marginalized? What is one to make of the decline of Italy... where the Catholic Church sees its power and influence eroding? What is one to make of the turmoil in Ireland... where Catholic apologetic struggles in the face of long standing crimes institutionally concealed and shamefully condoned.

Riley Kinney said...

As a former Lutheran I now see Luther as a misguided monk whose ideas were co-opted by the princes and landowners. It is interesting that much of what he denied in the Roman Catholic Church he later regretted doing. He even grudgingly admitted that the canon of Holy Scripture could not be maintained and protected without the Catholic Church defending it.

I have traveled extensively in Germany. There is now no "Lutheran" church, just a compromise of later Lutheran thought and Calvinism. The Catholic churches I have visited were vibrant and alive with the traditional (sorry Calvinists)ways of worship and devotion.

bthomas said...

With respect neither singular opinion nor atypical experience trump that disappointing reality that is common to Catholicism in Germany and elsewhere on the European continent.

Jimbo said...

Excellent! Loved this post!

"Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error." This is such a true statement and something to be very wary of. So often right indignation becomes indignation itself and takes on it's own mandate for action.

bthomas: in history we find a great many events that helped to shape Western Civilization. Many of them were evil. (This does not mean that W. Civ was evil in itself, but it's the end/means thing.)

I would be pridefully arrogant to suggest that following God's plan would have created a worse outcome.

Put it this way: how much BETTER might the world be if, throughout the history of the Church and of mankind, God's plan was always followed? Would be be driving cars? Would be Democracies? Etc., etc., etc.... Who knows? GOD alone knows. But no matter - it would have been HIS way and HIS way is always better. No?

Jimbo said...

Please excuse the typos. Sleep deprivation as usual.

Rick said...

Beautiful piece. St. Francis of Assisi may not be a St. Thomas Moore but his influence continues even today. He is respected even by non-Christians. The way he followed the Lord may appear naive but he followed God's lead. Today's "reformers" must read your piece if they are to be effective. Otherwise, they'll end up wounding the people they intended to help and not really serving God Who does things in His time. Kudos on originality and solidness on spirituality.

Lori said...

Lovely ideas in the piece, but the story of St. Francis and the pigs is almost certainly apocryphal. It doesn't come from anyone close to his life or any of his biographers, but if I remember right, from the gossipy monk-chronicler, Matthew Paris, and is really suspect.

Not that Francis initially had all that easy a time at the Roman Curia. And there is a point to the story in that it rightly stresses St. Francis' immense humility and obedience to the Church.

And along these lines, bthomas, do tell us - exactly what was the influence of Luther on Western civilization that was so great that it negates his breaking the unity of the body of Christ? As already pointed out, that break was an influence on civilization, but not a positive one.

tmddstett said...


whatever happened to "Blessed are the meek..."?

Jerome said...


From 500 years distance it is easy to say how fortunate Western Civilization was to have Luther. One must ignore the pain, suffering and destruction wrought in his wake. The Peasant War itself cost over 200,000 lives (Luther observed this war in horror. He had no idea the peasants would actualy follow his advice), and the Thirty Years War decimated Central Europe. Until World War I, the Thirty Years War was one of the bloodiest wars in human history.

I find it strange that you blame the RCC for the French Revolution, not to mention the secularization of Europe. The Protestants were way ahead of the Catholics in this regard. Many of the Enlightenment ideas (such as Freedom of Conscious) came from Luther. And Protestant theologians from the late 19th Century were insturmental in de-myhologizing Christ and Christianity in general. And finally, we cannot ignore the 1930 Anglican Lambreth Conference, which endorsed the use of artificial contraception. Within a few decades the RCC was the only major Christian church to continue the prohibition against it. The dearth of children both in Europe and North America, as well as the over-sexualization of society can be traced ultimately back to Luther.

Wine in the Water said...


I think you overestimate Luther's positive impact and under-estimate his negative impact. You have to remember that Luther came out of an existing reformation movement in the Church. The Catholic Reformation was already a significant movement with characters like Valla and Erasmus looming large.

By the time of Luther's schism, there had already been enough momentum to force a reformational Ecumenical Council - although Lateran V cannot be rightly considered a sweeping reform, it did much to reform the structure of offices in the Church - on an unwilling pope, and the election of a Leo X who was, despite other failings, considerably more reform-minded than his predecessors.

The Protestant Reformation did not spur reformation in the Catholic Church, it derailed it. At a very basic level, the Church was deprived the reformational zeal of the reformers and their followers. More importantly, the momentum of the Catholic reformation became redirected against Protestant errors and thus less directed toward internal reform. It lead to the Catholic Reformation becoming the Counter-Reformation. While much internal reformation still took place, imagine how much more would have been done without that external distraction.

And all this in addition to the secular strife that was facilitated by religious excuses. Protestantism became an excellent tool for throwing off Roman interference, and Catholics and Protestants alike became convenient scape-goats for national problems.

No, Luther's step was not first and was not long. Rather, Luther's step followed after many others and was to the side and away from the true needs of reform and away from a path of reform that was already being tread. It does not require much reading of Luther's works to demolish the popular conception of Luther as some tragically necessary reformer.

bthomas said...

Are we to suppose Western Civilization would have been better off had its development been directed by Rome? Throughout the era in question wars ostensibly predicated upon religious issues raged throughout Europe, even (horrors) in Italy. Much of this stemmed from the developing nation states that would later comprise modern Europe. Interestingly it was in that development that the influence of the papacy was marginalized as monarchy/autocracy was replaced by democracy.

French Revolution? A little care in reading will be helpful. Please give attention to the comment posted by Anonymous. My comment found immediately below that post was in response to Anonymous. If one were to suppose that the post-modern ills of old europe are rooted in the Protestant Reformation, one must suspend ones sense of reality and allow oneself to be misled as when members of a circus audience express surprise and applaud as they are mystified by a slight of hand performance presented by a magician.

bthomas said...

"I think you overestimate... underestimate..." I appreciate Luther for what he accomplished both in his contributions to the Protestant Reformation and the development of what would go on to become the German nation state. Against that backdrop, I am not greatly impressed by the halting steps of the Catholic Reformation.

The Protestant Reformation was a reformation of the Church. It does not follow that the Church means that reformation was to be of the existing RC institution. Had the Protestant Reformation consisted only of tweaking and polishing the existing RCC, the result would have been only more of what had already been.

That developing nation states would take steps to eject illegitimate Roman interference in internal and international affairs was inevitable and entirely appropriate.

William said...

Come on, bthomas, that's like saying when a child shouts "NO!" and refuses to go to bed, it's entirely appropriate because the child believes 100% it's in its best interest to stay up until Santa Claus comes.

But, man, I gotta sign out of this one, it's already way past my intellectual deep end.

bthomas said...

With respect as applied to this discussion the analogy of parent and child fails. There is no basis in Scripture to expect or require that all Christians submit in all things to a questionable autocratic hierarchical administration founded on the Empire model of ancient Rome.

Jimbo said...

Oh good grief bthomas: The way you phrase your description of the Church you may be correct, however, there is, of course, plenty of "basis in scripture" for the establishment of the papacy and Holy Catholic Church by God himself. Mat 16:21, etc. etc.

And this question: "Are we to suppose Western Civilization would have been better off had its development been directed by Rome?"

Answer: We ARE to suppose that a WORLD (including Western Civ. obviously) DIRECTED BY GOD through His Church certainly would have been better off. That is still true.

You presuppose much about God's plan for Western Civ. Absolutely, positively, YES. If the world were all following the will of God through the teachings of His Church we would be much better off. Seems kind of like a dumb question really.

To suppose that we may improve on life through our own ideas, talents and work while rejecting the teaching of the Holy Catholic Church assumes that we know better than God. Dangerous territory.

Luther wasn't the only one to believe that His thoughts "were above God's thoughts". Didn't Lucifer have a that same idea? Yes. I AM saying that God set up the Catholic church for a reason and that he wants us to use our thoughts, talents, etc. within the structures of the Church, not separated from them. God doesn't make mistakes. We do.

Anonymous said...

Western Civilization seemed to have been doing pretty well without a certain Martin Luther. If anything he was the catalyst for its decline.

Enoch said...

An excellent article. However, I, too, haven't ever heard of the story regarding St. Francis and the pigs. It would be useful to have a citation for it.

I agree with Mr. Marshall that.... "God does not use hot-heads to guide His Church into righteousness, and that God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble, for such is the kingdom of Heaven."

The first thing I thought of, when I finished reading this article, is this: how can, or does, this relate to the current crisis in the Church? Well, we Catholics have reacted in a variety of ways. Some react more like Martin Luther, and some react more like St. Francis.

There are those on the left who continually question Church teaching, and protest against it, and there are those on the far right, such as sedevacantists, or semi-sedevacantists, who do not respect the office of the pope. They are not unlike Martin Luther.

As a former Protestant myself, I view Protestantism as a teenage version of Christianity. Teenagers sometimes rebel. They have no respect for their elders; they want to make their own rules, and they believe that their elders have nothing to offer in terms of wisdom and experience of life. The elders, in this case, is the Catholic Faith. The Catholic faith is the grown-up version of Christianity. Protestants, many of whom are well-intentioned, are stuck in a perpetual teenagerhood regarding religion. This is the legacy left for them by Martin Luther. Sadly, some Catholics are also following his lead.

bthomas said...

Appeal to debatable text not withstanding, beyond a extremely modest level of necessary organization there is no basis in Scripture to support the now present structure that is styled the RCC. To a very large degree that is demonstrated virtually without exception in all denominations including that of the Catholics, the top heavy structures now in place are not mission driven but rather inhibit the mission of the Church.

That Western Civilization would have been better off if development had been directed by the RCC assumes that God would have used the RCC as that instrument. This also assumes that God did not use the Protestant Reformation as the instrument of His purpose and will. The failures of the RCC up until the Protestant Reformation and its less than glowing results in the ensuing years offer no inspiration that its complete control would have produced anything but similar or lesser results.

Life does not have to stay the same. Life can be better. Almighty God has give to all the potential of growth and development. That such development must needs be mediated through the agency of the RCC is an assumption not founded in fact. Much advancement has been in the face of strident opposition from the RCC. For anyone to assume that they have greater knowledge/understanding than the RCC is not the same as for someone to suppose they know/understand more than God. The RCC cannot be equated with Go. The RCC is just one denomination among many who call Christ Lord.

History is replete with many multiple examples of how those driven by the diabolical have pretended to the divine. Thinking, even when it contradicts the suppositions of those who claim authority to shape and control thought, is not diabolical. God is not afraid that we think. He made us to think. There is no warrant in Scripture by which anyone may claim authority to monitor, manipulate, manage, limit, hinder, shape or control how people think. That is entirely a matter between the individual and God.

I would hope that God has a purpose for the RCC. It has a potential to be used, but like all other organizations established by men, it has at the same time a potential to be misused. Hopefully the RCC will be the sort of organization that God can use for His glory. That would be my hope for all Christian denominations.

Anonymous said...

Luther did not start a 'reformation' but a revolt. He broke his vows and married to a woman who also broke her religious vows. within a very short period of time, other revolters started their own churches, not agreeing with Luther. Now there are tens of thousands of 'protestants'. Some vote on what is their 'truth' this year. It is subject to change next year. If the Holy Spirit was guiding this movement, why are there tens of thousands with everyone being their own determinant of what is their 'truth'?

The break of the unity of the Body of Christ led to this and eventually it leads to atheism.

Anonymous said...

The 'RCC' (Roman Catholic Church) is NOT a denomination. Those that are denominations are only a part of what is a whole. And , of course, now there are non-denoms, whatever they are. The FULLNESS of faith subsists in the Roman Catholic Church. There is an unbroken line of Popes going back to St. Peter, the rock on whom OUR LORD built his Church. 2000 years ago is when Christ established His Church. All protestant denominations point to a person as their innovator. The Catholic Church has lasted until now, and will last until the end of time, because it is NOT a man-made institution or organization. No other ecclesial community even has saints....oh, I guess everyone is a saint and you can sin all you want and heaven is yours. Why be good then?

bthomas said...

Let me find a nice sharp razor so that we can all split hairs. The RCC is not the whole but a part of the body of Christ, the Church which is properly comprised of those who accept Christ as Savior and Lord. Apart from that, they are none of His.

As far as broken vows are concerned, his/hers or whatever, the brokenness of vows would have to take in the failed Roman church that was itself profoundly broken and institutionally compromised. The Church catholic is not united because of the Roman Catholic Church but in spite of it. The Church catholic exist in a diversity of expression that finds its unity in Christ.

Enoch said...

The Catholic Church has not failed. She still stands. The human element within her, however, is subject to sinfulness, and always has been.

The Catholic Church is the ark of salvation. Our Lord said that he would build His Church upon the rock of Peter. There is only only one Church that was started by God himself, and that is the Catholic Church. There is no other.

Whatever truths that Martin Luther took with him when he left the Church are the only truths which the Protestant sects have. Whatever the Protestant teach or believe that is different from what the Church teaches, is not truth.

This is not to belittle Protestants at all. Most Protestants have been taught nothing about the Church, or have been mislead about the true nature of the Church. But those of us who took the time to investigate the One True Church were pleasantly surprised, and there are many like me.

bthomas said...

The RCC is one of a number of denominational expressions that together comprise the Church catholic in precisely and exactly the same manner as Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostals, etc. together comprise the whole of the Church. And all together stand equally in that grace of God by which he saves those who call upon Him in Christ.

From the New Testament it does not appear that Peter had a lot to do with the development of the primitive Church. In its apostolic development Paul is unexcelled. What happened to any of the apostles including Peter is for the most part speculation. Who followed which apostle in ministry is not seriously attested beyond a self legitimizing mythology that cannot be taken seriously. To postulate that the FULLNESS of faith is only extant in the RCC is illegitimate on its face lacking any possible basis in Scripture.

Only by a convenient eisegesis can one go from petros to petra to Peter as a "pope," etc.
As far as succession is concerned, apostolic, papal or otherwise, the records are as substantial as tissue paper. Beginning with the RCC appeal to an unwarranted supposition for Peter, it would appear that almost every denomination has in its inception the agency of man. That is not a problem for Christian denominations that together comprise the Church catholic. It should not be a problem to accept this by those who are a part of the RCC.

The durability of the Church catholic is founded in Scripture. That of the RCC is not. If beyond the status of an institutional relic any denomination including the RCC should endure into eternity it will be because God keeps His promises. Within each of these denominations are wonderful men and women who have found in Christ the Savior and Lord. They are saints of the best sort... such as one find in Scripture.

Enoch said...

In Sacred Scripture, Our Lord stated, regarding Peter, that His Church would be built upon him (Simon Peter). These are is Our Lord's own words.

bthomas said...

The Church catholic has not failed. The same cannot be said of the RCC or any other denomination.

No where in the N.T. is church membership typical of salvation. In the N.T. salvation is found in a personal experience of Christ as Savior and Lord. Apart from that experience, apart from that personal commitment of self, there is no salvation. It matters not in the least where one might stand in terms of any denominational institution, RC or otherwise. On no other foundation can any man build except Jesus Christ. Self-serving mythology not withstanding, the only ekklesia started by God is the Church. Its first meetings were in Jerusalem. Every other congregation, either in Antioch, Damascus, Ephesus, Philippi, Rome, etc. is a branch of that original congregation of believers who were at Jerusalem. The RCC is about 300 years after the fact. Institutionally and structurally it owes as much or more to its alliance with a terminal empire as it does to the grace of God. The Apostle Paul used a number of images to express our unity in Christ. The RCC is not one of those images.

In the most primitive of understandings, the Protestant Reformation began with those truths found in Scripture. Nothing else is needed. If a teaching cannot be firmly grounded in the full witness of Scripture, it is at best speculative or else suspicious and at worst spurious.

This is not to belittle the RCC. Many have been taught little if anything about Christ or have been misled about the true nature of Christ and that new life that He offers. Those who take the time to read the New Testament and respond to its message find that joy in the Lord that can never be found elsewhere.

Enoch said...

Our Lord Jesus Christ never wrote anything down; never committed His teachings to paper. He also never told His Apostles to write anything down. He never told them to write down all that he had said, and then give a book of it to people, and then tell them that all they have to do is read the book and accept Him as their Lord and Savior. No.

Instead, He told them to go out to all nations, and to teach all that He had taught them, and to baptize them. His Apostles obeyed Him. And this is what His Church, The Catholic Church, has stiven to do: to baptize, and to teach all that He had taught.

The Apostles did, of course, write down what He had taught, (even though they had not been told to do so) because they saw that there were misconceptions and representations going round, and they wanted to set it straight. It says in Sacred Scripture itself (the Gospels) that the faith is based on scripture and tradition.

Jimbo said...


This thread could go on forever. With respect, - there is just so much wrong with what you have written. Something tells me that Protestants and Catholics will disagree about these issues for quite a long time to come.

But I feel I need to respond to just a few of these points.

You wrote: "...beyond a extremely modest level of necessary organization there is no basis in Scripture to support the now present structure that is styled the RCC." You also called it "top heavy".... From outside the Church looking in, you are in no position to judge that, and neither is it necessary for scripture to tell us how the Church should be organized once Jesus established the Church and put it in the hands of St. Peter, to whom he gave "...the keys to the Gates of Heaven." Sola Scriptura? Really? Where does scripture tell us we are to get our guidance ONLY from scripture? It doesn't. As for anything that you may see to be an "organizational" issue within the Church, I suspect that your issue is not that it is top heavy but with the Magisterium and traditions of the Church. It's easier to criticize the "structure" instead ("Hey look how many Cardinals there are in Rome! Do they know the price of a gallon of milk? No. They are too cut off form the people, they should be in Haiti, blah, blah...something like that...horse hooey. Your problem is with contraception, abortion, gay "marriage", divorce, or some other teaching you don't like - I suspect.)Why would you want to improve on the structure of a Church you don't support? Come on and be honest. If the Church was teaching your brand of Protestantism you'd just be saying, "Hey ain't it grand?!" Right?

Last on this point - the Church IS run by a bunch of people - human-types. They are able to err as we have seen. This in no way lessens the fact that Luther was wrong. There is no sin or inefficiency that the Church can address from outside of itself.

If your boat is sinking, you don't need to jump in the water to bail it out.

You wrote: "That Western Civilization would have been better off if development had been directed by the RCC assumes that God would have used the RCC as that instrument. This also assumes that God did not use the Protestant Reformation as the instrument of His purpose and will."

Oh contraire my friend - You misunderstand again. Or perhaps you just don't want to see this simple point. I will simplify further:

1. Jesus himself established the Church. (There is plenty of scriptural evidence and your incorrect arguments that ignore early Church history I will set aside for the moment.)

2. He did so that we would ALL be members of His Mystical Body, and experience a personal relationship with Him through the sacrifice of the Mass and in the fullness of truth. Scripture does NOT support the idea that Jesus was suggesting his Church would be "ONE OPTION". Rather, throughout scripture, Jesus is clear about what he wants us to do. (and not do). This includes his establishment of the Church, the authority of the Apostles to forgive sins and so on. In other words there is zero evidence that Jesus established his Church so that we would - maybe - follow it...like...if we felt like it.

3. My argument is that the Catholic Church IS God's instrument. It is His Church and he wants us ALL to follow her teachings and follow Him through her. You keep talking about "DEVELOPMENT" I am talking about doing what God wants. My argument is not about technology or about wars being fought or not fought or about feast of famine in the travails of mankind. I am talking about Western Civilization FOLLOWING THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST'S CHURCH. Period. The world would absolutely have been better off if the Reformation would have never happened. Western Civ following God's one Holy Roman Catholic Church certainly would have been a better "development".

Jimbo said...

(Sorry to break this up and go so long. This is my last post on this whether you respond or not.)


YOU are the one who assumes that the Church would not, and could not have experienced positive reforms without the "help" of Luther, et. al. This means that YOU are assuming that you know better than God. How do you know what God's plan was/is?

I sure don't know, so I (try to) follow Church guidance. Without it I would be guessing and making up my own rules as I go along like so many. But I do know what is NOT His will: anything that goes against the teaching of His Church. Even if something good comes from it, such a rejection, is not His plan. No evil means justifies a good end. That's how I know that it was not God's will that Luther reject the Church.


You wrote:
"Only by a convenient eisegesis can one go from petros to petra to Peter as a "pope," etc."

You seem smart enough to know that this is just plain silly. Not only is this not an eisgesis (sic) as you described it (you are talking about language there), the exegesis of it is actually common sense.

Come on. If your name was Simon and God suddenly stopped and made an announcement saying, you had special spiritual insight reveled to you by the Holy Spirit ("...No man has revealed this to you..." then He changed your name to Bolder and then said, "Upon this boulder I build my Church" it would be a point worth noting, no? Even if that was the ONLY thing he said about establishing Peter and the authority of the Church, it would be enough. (And of course, there is much more.)

We will disagree still I am sure. Either way. May God bless you!

bthomas said...

Our Lord Jesus used the rabbinic method common to the first century era. To argue that Jesus nowhere ordered anyone to reduce his teachings to written form is specious. As to the writing of all that would comprise the O.T. and N.T., the Apostle Peter stated, "Above all understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1:21). John clearly stated his reason for writing, "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31). In composition and purpose the N.T. is clearly identified as part of that flow of divine self-revelation that was made ultimate in Christ (Heb. 1:1ff).

It requires some creative stretching of the imagination to think that Matthew 28:18-20 was the uniquely given responsibility of only the apostles. If that were the case, by the same sort of reasoning one would have to suppose that the demanding ethic of the Sermon on the Mount applied only to those in attendance. The eleven were told as they were going to be teaching and baptizing. Thank God those present that day obeyed. And thank God the Church catholic, both Roman and Protestant has continued to obey.

The writing of the N.T. likely was the consequence of the very practical need to be able to preserve a faithful record as eye witnesses of the life and ministry of Christ began to die. The earliest writing would possibly have been those of Paul with the Gospels coming in stages. The Revelation would almost certainly have been the last of the N.T. written. There is no indication in the N.T. that the primary motivation in writing was to address error, etc. As indicated in what John, Paul and Peter wrote, these writings which now comprise the N.T. were written for the purpose of reaching, teaching, winning and developing men, women, boys and girls for Christ. In terms of authority, at no point can any tradition of man be equated with Scripture. At every point any tradition of man must always be held subordinate to the authority of Scripture.

bthomas said...

Solomon had it right, of the making of books or the writing of thread, there is no end. And in this sort of back and forth debate there is little potential for good and far to much potential for ill. For the most part where we disagree does not touch upon anything fundamental to salvation. I cannot say that I ever give even momentary thought to the machinations RC structure and practice or any supposed inequities or inadequacies of its orders, etc.

Americans soldiers once fought beside men from England, Australia, etc. to liberate Europe and the Pacific from fascist oppression. The armies of the United States were organized and deployed uniquely as were the British and Australians, etc. At times there were less than desirable levels of support and cooperation. But they well understood that their task was to work together to win the war. The analogy holds for the Church catholic. Those denominations that together comprise the Church catholic may never see the day when all will agree on every minor detail of order or practice. It is not even necessary that we agree in every minor detail. But by the grace of God may we work toward and live to see that day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord.

With respect I now bid all adieu. May God bless our every effort to reach lost men and women for Christ. May God bless those who faithfully serve him regardless of the denomination they name. May God bless each person who has thoughtfully contributed to this thread. And may God bless you!

Anonymous said...

You proved nothing. Martin Luther was not a good man, read a history of him, and truth is--Christ Himself established the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC church which the gates of hell will not prevail against.
Luther can only claim the disruption, and confusion which continues today.

bthomas said...

Dear Anon...

With respect, on a closed door one may knock forever. May you find assurance in that faith which you hold dear. And may God bless you.

Gabriel M.L. Torre said...

I was watching an interview of the Bishop of Westminster (Archbishop Nichols) at BBC, a few nights back - he was asked something like "shouldn't the Catholic Church adopt to the times towards its stance on homosexuality, priestly celibacy, contraception, etc... to preserve its membership?"

To which Archbishop Nichols replied something like, "we cannot put success - in terms of numbers - over fidelity. The Church had endured so much more, with martyrdom, schisms and all, threatening its ranks but it remained faithful... numbers is a lesser concern than FAITHFULNESS..."

We shouldn't be arguing numbers or material or technological success - we should be focused on faithfulness...

Gabriel M.L. Torre said...

I believe the exact words of Archbishop Nichols was "Fidelity over success..."

poetcomic1 said...

Luther was a sewer of violent passions and megalomania. Am I the only one who can see this?

Left-Footer said...

Thank you, everyone. I've learned a lot from this.

Wine in the Water said...


"In the N.T. salvation is found in a personal experience of Christ as Savior and Lord. Apart from that experience, apart from that personal commitment of self, there is no salvation. It matters not in the least where one might stand in terms of any denominational institution, RC or otherwise."

I don't think you would find any disagreement from Catholicism on the beginning of that statement. The problem is the last part. The simple reality is that you can't separate that "personal experience of Christ" from the community to which we belong. The various Protestant denominations, the Roman Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches .. they are not separated by geography, but by what they believe. Communities hold beliefs, hold a vision of Truth. Jesus tells us that He is "the Way, the Truth and the Life." What you believe about Jesus and his teachings has a profound impact on your relationship with Him.

If I am a Calvinist who believes in Supralapsarianism, my relationship is much different from a Catholic, or EO, or Arminian. The same can be said of belief in Purgatory, security of salvation, the Real Presence, etc. These things impact our relationship with Jesus, form it and characterize it. If we really love Jesus, then we desire to know Him most fully and most truly, we cannot tolerate to be mistaken about Him, to hold misconceptions, our love will not allow it.

Therefore, where we stand "institutionally" makes tremendous difference. It forms so many aspects of our relationship with Jesus, it becomes an essential.

scotju said...

The so-called reformer was a mentally ill malcontent. I'm a former Lutheran, and after I left the the Wisconsin Synod, I did a lot of reading about ol'Marty's life. I discovered that Luther had an obsession with the devil, a simular obsession with feces, using the vulgar term for them all the time, had manic-depressive episodes, and was extremely narcissic. Yet, this is the "great leader" of the reformation! No wonder he couldn't cooperate with others.

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