Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Reformers and their Catholic Beliefs

It’s not so uncommon to run into a fundamentalist Christian who celebrates the reformers for leaving the “Roman” Catholic Church and “reforming” it. What IS uncommon, however, is running into a fundamentalist Christian who knows what these “reformers” actually taught and believed. Obviously, not all that they taught would be surprising, and less surprising is the fact that some of them disagreed with one another. But there are a few things that seem to shock some Protestants when they realize what their predecessors believed. I believe the reason it can be shocking is because Protestantism is an ever-changing thing, with no actual authority to draw a line anywhere on any topic, because every person is essentially free to interpret Scripture however they see fit, or however they feel the Spirit is guiding them, regardless of conflict with others. There is no basis at all for any person within Protestantism, including the so-called “Pillars of the Reformation”, to say what is or is not Truth. This was a fact that Luther realized too late, as he would eventually lament, and then berate those who disagreed with him.

Below are 4 examples of doctrines which are normally viewed as “particularly Catholic” doctrines, yet which the reformers, at least in part, taught and believed. My question to Christians who reject the following doctrines would be: if you hold the reformers in such high esteem as to celebrate their “wisdom” and “insight” in taking the “true” Church into “freedom” and “right understanding of the Word”…in other words, if you celebrate “Reformation Day” without seeing it as a cause of division in Christ’s Body, why do you now renounce what your forefathers believed? On whose authority do you rest your claim that they got it wrong, and you or your pastor suddenly (in the 18th, 19th, 20th, etc…century) got it right?

From the perspective of a guy looking in from the outside, what I see is that this “authority” you exercise is none other than your own self. In the meantime, I will rely on the Authority that Christ gave us, the “pillar and bulwark of Truth” (1Tim 3:15).



-Regenerative Baptism/Infant Baptism

Martin Luther
"This fountain [in Zech 13:1] might well and properly be understood as referring to Baptism, in which the Spirit is given and all sins are washed away." [Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, St. Louis: Concordia, 1973, 20:331]

[regarding Acts 2:37-41] "Who is to be baptized? All nations, that is, all human beings, young and old are to be baptized...Little children should be baptized when they are brought to Baptism by those who have authority over them. How do you prove that infants, too, are to be baptized? Infants, too, are to be baptized because they are included in the words 'all nations'; [and] because Holy Baptism is the only means whereby infants, who, too, must be born again, can ordinarily be regenerated and brought to faith( Mk 10:13; Jn 3:5-6)." [Luther's Small Catechism, rev.ed., St. Louis: Concordia, 1965, 172-73]

[regarding Gal 3:27] "He must put off his old activities, so that from sons of Adam we may be changed into sons of God. This does not happen by a change of clothing or by any laws or works; it happens by the rebirth and renewal that takes place in Baptism, as Paul says, 'As many of you as were baptized have put on Christ'...Paul is speaking about a 'putting on', not by imitation by birth. He does not say: 'Through Baptism you have received a token...that is what the sectarians [Anabaptists] imagine when they make Baptism a mere token, that is, a small and empty sign." [Luther's Works, 26:352-53]

John Calvin
"Doubtless the design of Satan in assaulting infant baptism with all his forces is to keep out of view, and gradually efface, the attestation of divine grace which the promise itself presents to our eyes...Wherefore, if we would not maliciously obscure the kindness of God, let us present to him our infants, to whom he has assigned a place among his friends and family, that is, the members of the Church." [Institutes of the Christian Religion, closing of Chapter 16 which is devoted to defending infant baptism, 1536, trans. Henry Beveridge, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983, 2:554]

[regarding Rom 6:3-4] "Paul proves his assertion that Christ destroys sin in His people from the effect of baptism, by which we are initiated into faith in Him. It is beyond question that we put on Christ in Baptism." [Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, 1540, trans. Ross Parker, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1980, 8:122]


-Mary, Mother of God

Martin Luther
"In this work whereby she was made the Mother of God, so many and such good things were given her that no one can grasp them....Not only was Mary the mother of Him who is born [Bethlehem], but of Him who, before the world, was eternally born of the Father, from a Mother in time and at the same time man and God." (Weimer, The Works of Luther, English translation by Pelikan, Concordia, St. Louis, Vol. 7, page 572)

John Calvin
"It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of His Son, granted her the highest honor....Elizabeth calls Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God." (Calvini Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Braunschweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Vol. 45, page 348 and 335)


Ulrich Zwingli
"It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the son of God." (Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Berlin, 1905, in Evang. Luc., Op. Comp., Vol. 6,I, page 639)


-Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Martin Luther
“It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin… Christ, we believe, came forth from a womb left perfectly intact.” ( Works of Luther, Vol. 11, pages 319-320; Vol. 6, page 510.)

John Calvin
“There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matthew 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards; he simply wished to make clear Joseph’s obedience and to show that Joseph had been well and truly assured that it was God who had sent His angel to Mary. He had therefore never dwelt with her nor had he shared her company… And beside this Our Lord Jesus Christ is called the first-born. This is not because there was a second or a third, but because the gospel writer is paying regard to the precedence. Scripture speaks thus of naming the first-born whether or no there was any question of the second.” (Sermon on Matthew 1:22-25. Published in 1562.)

Ulrich Zwingli
“I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” ( Zwingli Opera, Vol. 1, page 424.)


Heinrich Bullinger
“And we also believe and teach that the eternal Son of the eternal God became the Son of Man…born of the ever virgin Mary…” (Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter XI, Section 4, 1562.)

I won’t guarantee the accuracy of my Latin-English translation, but here is the full quote in the original Latin:

4. Eundem quoque æterni Dei æternum Filium credimus et docemus hominis factum esse filium, ex semine Abrahæ atque Davidis, non ex viri coitu, quod Ebion dixit, sed conceptum purissime ex Spiritu Sancto, et natum ex Maria semper virgine: sicut diligenter nobis historia explicat evangelica (Matt. i. ). Et Paulus ait: Nullibi angelos adsumit, sed semen Abrahæ (Heb. ii. 16). Joannes item Apostolus, qui non credit, Jesum Christum in carne venisse, ex Deo non est (1 Joh. iv. 3). Caro ergo Christi nec phantastica fuit, nec cœlitus adlata, sicuti Valentinus et Marcion somniabant. - (Italics in original, bolding added, excerpt from Dave Armstrong’s Socrates58 blog.)

John Wesley (founder of Methodist church)
“I believe that he was made man, joining the human nature with the divine in one person; being conceived by the singular operation of the Holy Ghost, and born of the blessed Virgin Mary, who, as well after as before she brought him forth, continued a pure and unspotted virgin.” (John Wesley, “A Letter to a Roman Catholic”, July 18, 1749, Dublin.)


-Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist

Martin Luther
"Who, but the devil, has granted such license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposes upon us by these fanatical men.” (Luther’s Collected Works, Wittenburg Edition, no. 7 p, 391) (emphasis in source)

"Of all the fathers, as many as you can name, not one has ever spoken about the sacrament as these fanatics do. None of them uses such an expression as, 'It is simply bread and wine,' or 'Christ's body and blood are not present.' Yet this subject is so frequently discussed by them, it is impossible that they should not at some time have let slip such and expression as, 'It is simply bread,' or 'Not that the body of Christ is physically present,' or the like, since they are greatly concerned not to mislead the people; actually, they simply proceed to speak as if no one doubted that Christ's body and blood are present. Certainly among so many fathers and so many writings a negative argument should have turned up at least once, as happens in other articles; but actually they all stand uniformly and consistently on the affirmative side" (Luther's Works, St. Louis, MI: Concordia Publishing, 1961, Volume 37, 54)

4 comments:

  1. "From the perspective of a guy looking in from the outside, what I see is that this “authority” you exercise is none other than your own self. In the meantime, I will rely on the Authority that Christ gave us, the “pillar and bulwark of Truth” (1Tim 3:15). "

    I must say that I am disappointed. I'm sorry, but all I see is an attack on Protestants. I am a Protestant, and many of the Protestants that I know do have knowledge of the what the earliest reformers believed. And knowing that, we are still Protestant. Imagine that. My relationship with Christ is the most amazing thing in my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

    Why must you perpetrate the ol' Catholic vs Protestant debate? It only leads to both sides becoming offended and believing that they are right.

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    1. I am sorry that my comment comes off as an attack. It isn't intended that way, I assure you. I do often hone in on our common beliefs, but I believe it is also necessary to shine a light on our differences and get these out in the open and discuss them. The reason I believe it's important to do that is that Christ founded ONE Church, and it was His intention that we remain that way, united as ONE. Yet we have not. There have been divisions, and there continue to be divisions, and there will continue to be more still.

      I believe that we should be working to re-unite. But to do that, we are necessarily going to have to have the hard discussions.

      I was not making a point that if Protestants knew what the reformers believed, they would suddenly stop being Protestant. [Now in regards to the Early Church Fathers from the first few centuries...I bet there would be more consideration in that case.] My point is exactly what I stated in that opening paragraph: that without any true authority, the "self" becomes the authority in Protestantism, and there is no basis upon which to claim something is true or not true, because every person is essentially free to interpret Scripture however they see fit, or however they feel the Spirit is guiding them, regardless of conflict with others. It becomes *my* fallible interpretation vs. *your* fallible interpretation...and neither of us can say the other is wrong. And when that happens, Truth loses its meaning because Truth becomes whatever you or I say it is, even when we disagree.

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  2. Anonymous, I'll make my next blog entry one about Christ's Church and it's one-ness. I hope that will give you a better idea of why I do what I do. Perhaps you can help me with that one to make it more positive and less as an attack. My goal is to draw people in, not to push away, and I admit that I struggle in wording things in a manner that accomplishes this. Your participation and assistance would not only be welcome, but a blessing to me.
    I'll post the link to it here when it's completed...might be a few days.

    In Christ,
    Dave

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    1. As promised: http://daves-ahumbleservant.blogspot.com/2014/05/one-church-working-toward-unity-in-body.html

      Please feel free to comment and make suggestions, and thank you for visiting the blog.

      In Christ,
      Dave

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