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The Reformation: Just a Misunderstanding?

Dennis Pettibone
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  • September 29, 2017
    7:00 PM
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October thirty one fifteen seventeen. Martin Luther posts his ninety five theses. October thirty one. Nineteen ninety nine. Catholics and Lutherans sign a joint declaration on Justification by Faith. The Protestant Reformation one participant in this conference tells us was just a misunderstanding October thirty one twenty sixteen. Lutherans commemorate the opening of Protestantism five hundredth anniversary year Pope Francis the first travels to Sweden to join them. And says Catholics and Lutherans have begun a common journey of reconciliation. A series of images rushed before my mind Martin Luther. Standing in fifteen twenty one before Emperor Charles the fifth and what Will Durant has described as an awesome court of princes nobles prelates and burghers. Boldly declaring. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of sacred scripture or by evident reason. My conscience is captive to the Word of God I cannot and will not recant anything. For to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe then according to the earliest printed version of his speech comes these stirring words. Here I stand I can do no other. So help me God. As a result Luther would declare an outlaw. Only Fredrick of sax Anees protective custody. Or keep him from probably becoming a martyr fifteen years later another scene William Tindall is about to pay for. Valor he made to a Catholic. This particular Catholic had said it would be better to be without God's law than without the pope's. Tyndall have responded. If God spares me here many years I will cause the boy that drive with the plow to know more of scripture. Then you do now having fulfilled that promise by publishing an English translation of the New Testament and a good share of the Old Testament. He is about to face the punishment for this crime by being burned at the stake they tell us his last words were Lord Hope the king in England's eyes open his eyes another nineteen years pass Whew Latimer and Nicholas Ridley have been condemned for denying the doctrine of transubstantiation and they too will be burned at the stake. They kneel and pray together then they are chained to an iron post a bag of gunpowder is hung around their necks and the fire was started. That immerses to Ridley. Be of good cheer master Ridley. Play the man we show this day light a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out what a shame. All of this and more sacrifice is enough to fill several volumes of Fox's bird Book of Martyrs. Over a misunderstanding. At least that's what I heard on N.P.R.. When they interviewed one of the Catholic participants in the discussion leading to the historic signing of the Augsburg to the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification signed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in the world Lutheran Vetter a sion. This was the person who said the Protestant Reformation was just a misunderstanding his explanation was something like this they didn't realize that we believed that our justification was by God's grace and we didn't realize that they believed that it was important for Christians to do good works was the Protestant Reformation just a misunderstanding now that Lutherans and Catholics have issued an impressive joint declaration on Justification by Faith and now that the pope has personally participated in the five hundred anniversary Reformation celebration. Is the Reformation all over. Is Protestantism passe should we all just go home to Rome first I must say that things aren't always quite what they seem and if you made it through this joint document with its many qualifying statements. You would see that there is still a significant difference between the Lutheran and Catholic understanding of Justification by Faith justification by God's grace through faith in Christ. Even that was too much for John Paul the second. Or at least for his spokesman. The phatic and fired off a reaction paper that seemed to rain on the parade staged by representatives of his church which signed the document after a polite paragraph that acknowledged that the August birth document represents a significant progress in mutual understanding and affirm that a high degree of agreement has been reached the Vatican called attention to the remaining differences between the two faiths in their understanding of justification going so far as to negate the declarations affirmation that the Lutheran doctrine of justification no longer falls under the Natha most of the Council of Trent. The Vatican says for the Catholic Church the message of justification has to be organically integrated. Into the Living Church and Sacramento life. Calling specific attention to the Sacrament of Penance. Through which the sinner can be justified and new although admitting that the document shows a high level of agreement the Vatican contradicts the declaration suggestion that the differences separating Catholics and Lutherans in the doctrine concerning justification are simply a question of emphasis or language but what if the churches achieve perfect agreement on Justification by Faith. With this make Protestantism passe to answer this question let's look at some of the questions of various of varying importance which the declaration itself says need further qualification. Three of the items are the relationship between the Word of God and church doctrine. He clears the all authority and the sacraments I would suggest that at least two of these issues boil down to one word authority and that the other one pertains in the final analysis to control by its control of the sacraments the medieval church is able to control the lives and decisions of princes and power up peasants but ultimately the control wouldn't exist unless the church was believed to have authority so even questions regarding the Sacramento system are tied up with the issue of authority Justification by Faith essential as it is I submit did not cause the Protestant Reformation the Protestant Reformation included the proclamation of the doctor of justification by faith. But that I submit was not the cause. A month or two before the famous ninety five theses. Luther had hoped to provoke a debate by issuing ninety seven theses touching on Justification by Faith. The reaction was a gigantic yawn it did not launch the Protestant Reformation. Nobody paid much attention. Furthermore the doctrine had previously been proclaimed by priests who remained in good standing with the Catholic Church until their dying day good Catholics men like Shockley Father Thomas that and BACH No I would suggest that the basic underlying. Issue. In the Protestant Reformation was the question of authority Luther didn't become a Protestant when he issued the ninety seven theses on justification by faith in my opinion he didn't even become a Protestant on October thirty one fifteen seventeen when he nailed or didn't they all scholars have argued about this the ninety five theses on the door of the castle church. He became a Protestant I would suggest. In Leipzig. During the lunch break. Between two debating sessions with your Hon AK before Leipzig I would characterize Luther as a reforming Catholic. And unrefined Erasmus he had written a CAN STILL A Terry letter to Pope Leo the tenth then agreed not to discuss the controversial issues he had raised until a German bishop should reach a decision regarding these matters as long as his opponents likewise refrained but the egotistical sophisticated Dr Johan ethic confident that he could verbal e massacre this country bumpkin the son of a peasant challenge him to a debate and secured permission for Luther to take part even though he was under the ban. However. When Luther showed such superior knowledge of both the Bible and early church history. X. salvaged his position by calling Luther a hustler. Luther quickly denied that he was in the house site deny denouncing the house sites as schematic but during the lunch break Luther had second thoughts. When the debate resumed at two o'clock Lutheran. Luther took the bull by the horns. Announced his agreement with the young house. On certain issues. And thus I suggested to him a Protestant he had gone to lunch or reforming cast week and returned resumed the debate as a bona fide Protestant he had made a definite break with the papacy and although justification was an important issue in this discussion it wasn't the issue that made the break it was the authority of scripture. Eket said the pope was Peter successor in Christ divinely chosen vicar Luther demonstrated from scripture in early church history that this wasn't true. Countered that all true Christians had from the very beginning acknowledge that the Popes of already came from Christ himself but that it had been denied by the heretic John Haas So he said Luther was proclaiming his site ideas it was at this point that Luther denied being a house site and then changed his mind over much. Before launch Luther repudiated hust for being a success is magic after lunch he declared that house had proclaimed some Scriptural truths and then had had been wrongly condemned by the Council of Constance says Philip Schaaf here for the first time he Knight the divine right and origin of the papacy and the infallibility of a general council. His main point was this scripture is the supreme doctrinal forty or so period of Popes and councils neither of which was infallible. Luther's concluding remarks were I am very sorry to learn Dr only dips into the scriptures as does the water spider into the water Nay that he seems to flee from it is the devil from the cross I prefer with all deference to the father's the authority of Scripture which I hair with recommend as the arbiter of our cause of course he didn't win the debate it contradicted himself and that's a no no in debates but Luther had rightly acknowledged he's theological kinship with us as Luther would later tell the Diet of Worms Jon Husted told the council of Constance that he was willing to recant anything unproven by Scripture and sound argument but not otherwise same basic point. Similar statements would be made by Protestant leaders following in Luther's wake for example John Calvin said the only thing I ask is that all controversies should be decided by the word this is the basic principle of Protestantism solo script to a row on our this principle hang all the others including justification by faith when discussing Latimer and his colleagues Ellen White says the Graham grand principle maintained by these reformers the same that had been held by the wall and seized by Wycliffe by John Hirst by Luther Zwingli in those united with them was the infallible authority of the Holy Scriptures as a rule of faith and practice they denied the right of pope's counsels fathers and kings to control their consciences in matters of religion the Bible was their authority and by its teachings they tested all doctrines and all claims this conviction cost Luther that's because we did hospital costs us Tyndall Lattimer and really their lives. And Luther could have paid the same price if you N. been for the intervention of Frederick of Saxony us died because he proclaimed the Bible Supreme. So period church councils and the Popes and Luther risked his life making the same type of killer ation. Luther with Cliff Haas the wall and sees all were battling for the Bible ironically. Their opponents also claim to believe the Bible. But they said the church was its only authorized interpreter the Bible meant whatever the church that it meant and the Catholic Church still teaches this even today several Catholic websites are devoted to opposing the idea of sola scriptura. Almost exactly a year before Augsburg the second almost a year before the second Pope John Paul the second reiterated the idea and feet he said Roddy O. proclaiming that the Bible alone was not a sufficient guide in faith and morals and that we need tradition and teach in the teaching authority of the church the downswing. Our form of the day ism that he calls Biblicist them which tends to make the reading in Exodus as sacred scripture the SO criterion of truth he said Scripture is not the churches so a point of reference the supreme rule of faith derives from the unity which the Spirit has created between sacred tradition sacred scripture and the magisterium of the church and a recent reciprocity which means that none of these three can survive without the others his successor Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Later Benedict the sixteenth also held a similar view did you realize. This isn't the first time that Catholics. And Protestants have papered over their differences on Justification by Faith. Tied in with the question of thirty as we have seen is the question of power we have noted that the Sacramento system was a major one means by which the church in past ages exercise so much power note that the sacraments especially the Sacrament of Penance made up an important part of the Vatican's objection to Oxford to even during Martin Luther's lifetime representatives of Protestantism including Philip my Langton. And Catholics led by Cardinal Caspar O. contra Rini signed a joint declaration on Justification by Faith looking for Lutheran military support against the French and Turkish Empire and enemies Holy Roman Emperor Charles the fifth called a theological conference concurrent with an imperial Reichstag it regen spurred on April twenty seven fifteen forty one. The formula the Protestant and Catholic theologians agreed upon seems to me much more straightforward document than Augsburg to although it would later be rejected by both Martin Luther who called it a patched up thing and by throw Karata of the future of Pope Paul the fourth who would determine the final direction of the counter-Reformation participants of the conference couldn't know that and felt that they had resolved this question to the satisfaction of both sides contouring he was exist at it the compromise said were justified by faith and grace through Christ merits but that a justified person must produce works of charity. Nevertheless the talks broke down the agreement on Justification by Faith was followed by a deadlock over transubstantiation here we see a parallel situation to Augsburg to an alleged agreement on Justification is essentially negated by disagreements over the sacraments which as I have suggested flows into the issue of power and authority of the church. Had reckons birth the essential question was canned Upper East by saying the words hocus corpus meum. Actually create the body of the Creator. A power not just physical power over the creator but power to dispense what Catholic theologians had referred to as the medicine of immortality the means of dispensing God's grace today the Sacramento dead like has a similar implication the power of the priest through the penitential system to provide the grace for the sinners justification. Protestantism hasn't bought into this concept not even the Lutheran delegates so either you're eager for friendly relations with the mother church. The Vatican is right the gulf that separates Lutherans and Catholics he even on the Dr of justification is not just a misunderstanding I would suggest that it's a yarning can as and when one considers the implications of the Sacramento system and yet I would submit that on the basis of sola scriptura. Mainstream Protestantism has sold out I see here some of my former church history students. When I taught his church history. We discussed the major intellectual movement that helped form the body of tradition which Pope John Paul the second like the Council of Trent before him put on a par with the Scripture it was the attempt of early Christian thinkers to make their theology intellectually respecting Bo by adopting adapting it to the philosophical groupthink of the time. A modified form of Platonism. This incorporation of Platonism into Christianity was a good thing Catholic theologians tell us later when the Aristotelian Islam was in vogue Thomas Aquinas would synthesize the two recasting the Augustinian Neoplatonism into a wrist and mode. In contrast to what so many Catholic thinkers have said about the role of philosophy and the formation of theology Martin Luther belief a loss of he had a negative impact on Christian thought John Paul the second was just isn't through Z. as Dick about Protestant philosophies importance to theology as Martin Luther was antagonistic to it. John Paul the second said the study of philosophy is fundamental and indispensable to the structure of the illogical studies and to the formation of candidates for the priesthood one of the forms of late and day ism he denounced is the disdain for classical philosophy from which the terms of both the understanding and the actual formulation of dogma have been drawn Similarly in two thousand and six Pope Benedict the six spoke out against De Helena zation the separation of Christian theology from Greek philosophy just as Catholicism modified it scriptural theology in the light of classical philosophy. Much of Protestantism has exchanged sola scriptura for scripture interpreted in the light of current intellectual groupthink. Here in the twenty first century. We find the Bible once again the center of controversy this time within Protestantism itself as before people on both sides claim to believe the Bible. But one side except just as it reads while the other list a higher authority to which through which to interpret it. Today many people who claim to believe the Bible. Filter it through rationalism and higher criticism and their understanding of Sciences. By the way. Those of you who are my students will recognize I'm on your cot and Bultmann who are two people who had major impact in. Moving. Protestantism away from sola scriptura. Instead of sola scriptura much of Protestantism today sees it as scripture plus science or scripture plus philosophy or scripture plus rationalism. They tell us that much of the information in the Bible isn't really true. It doesn't fit in with the current philosophical groupthink or the current scientific speculation maybe the Reformation really is over for mainstream Protestants. Not because the Catholics have cleared up the misunderstanding. Over justification by faith but because much of proudest as ism has long ago abandoned sola scriptura. This is not just my assessment. The Pew Research Center reports that only forty six percent of Protestants and only thirty seven percent of white mainline Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura even Pope Benedict the sixteenth. Has commented on this. He said nowadays even the greater part of the of angelical theologians recognize that Sola Scriptura that is the restriction of the word to the book cannot be maintained. He said this is in part the result of ecumenical dialogue but to a greater degree has been determined by the progress of the historical critical interpretation of the Bible our understanding of the Final Crisis. Revolves around the issue of authority. The undiluted authority of scripture. Or the authority of someone to interpret reinterpret scripture or that authority is the church higher criticism. Or the devil masquerading as Jesus Christ if one has already modified his biblical understanding in the light of human wisdom what is the barrier. To you having it to one who claims divine wisdom in Eden. The serpent promised our ancestors we would be as gods. What could feel fill that aspiration for humanity to exercise divine wisdom or then sitting in judgment on the Word of God whether through church authority or through rationalism couldn't. The affine ourselves be following in the footsteps of one who said in his heart I will exalt my throne above the stars of God I will ascend above the clouds the heights of the clouds I will be like the most high. A preview to acknowledgment of the Evil One himself as divine this is not an endorsement of anti intellectual ism. You guys who took my classes well know. That from experience. That I believe what Ellen White said that God can best be served by an intellectual well informed Christian. Rather than calling for anti intellectual ism. This is a cause as Martin Luther would say to let God be God this media was brought to you by audio verse a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse if you would like to listen to more sermon leave a Visit W W W audio verse or.

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