There used to be a time when your loyalty to the Protestant cause was judged by how much you hated Catholics. But today, with all the ecumenical dialogue, the Manhattan Declarations, the ECT council, and the postmodern virtue of tolerance, people are much more willing to let bygones be bygones. “Maybe we overreacted” is the thought of many.

To the Catholics, Protestants are no longer anathema (which is pretty bad), but are “separated brethren” (which is not so bad).

Attitudes are changing, we could argue, for the better. But have the issues changed?

Four hundred years ago we had a “situation” in the church. We call it the “Great Reformation.” Catholics understand it as yet another rebellious schism. The first major division in the Christian church happened in 1054 when the Eastern church got fed up with the Pope and thumbed its nose at him (or something like that). The Great Reformation was the second. For Protestants, this was not only a reforming of the church, but a reclaiming of the Gospel, which had been obscured and overshadowed by the institutionalized church of the day.

While there were and are a lot of issues that divide Roman Catholics and Protestants, there are two which overshadow the rest: authority and justification. The issue of authority has been called the “formal” cause of the Reformation, while the issue of justification was the “material” cause. In this brief post I would like to focus on these two issues.

1. Authority: Where do we go for truth?

To the institutionalized church of the day (now known as the Roman Catholic Church), both Scripture (written tradition) and Tradition (unwritten tradition – notice the capital “T”) represented the one ”deposit of faith” that was handed down from the Apostles. The church, as represented by the Pope and the congregation of bishops, protected and guided by the Holy Spirit, could interpret both infallibly. Think of a three-legged stool. These three entities (Scripture, Tradition, and the Church) support the stool of ultimate authority for the church.

To the Protestants, this represented an abuse of authority. While the institutionalized church had authority, it did not have ultimate authority. While tradition (notice the lower case “t”) was very important and to be respected, it did not share equal authority with Scripture; rather, it served Scripture. Everything, including unwritten tradition, the councils, and the Pope, had to be tested by and submit to Scripture. Protestants repositioned both the church and tradition underneath Scripture.

The battle cry of the Reformers here was sola Scriptura; the Scriptures alone were the final authority and the only infallible missive from God.

2. Justification: How is a person made right with God?

Here the issue was not necessarily the nature of justification, but the instrumental cause (from a human standpoint) of justification. The institutionalized church believed that justification was a process brought about by the individual’s cooperation with God through their faith and works. People were not justified, but were being justified, and they could never really know of their own eternal security. For most, the best that they could hope for was that they died and spent a certain amount of time (usually very extended) in a place called Purgatory, having their venial sins (the ones that are not so bad) purged through a painful process of cleansing. Then, once released from Purgatory, they would move on to heaven. As modern Roman Catholics would put it, “Purgatory is the time to wash before dinner.”

The Protestants believed this was a serious distortion of the Gospel message, likened to the Galatian error. This distortion, argued the Protestants, arose in the late middle ages with the rise of the sacramental system (you know, the necessity of Mass, confession, baptism, etc.). Protestants believed that justification was through the faith of the individual alone and that works did not contribute in any way. Otherwise, it was believed, grace is not really grace. To the Reformers, justification was an event, not a process. It was a “forensic” or a legal act in which the believing sinner was declared righteous, having Christ’s righteousness imputed to their account. There was nothing that man could do to add to or take away from their justification. Any attempts to work for one’s justification (including time spent in Purgatory) diminished the value of the cross; in essence, saying Christ’s  work was not enough. As well, Protestants, unlike Catholics, believed that we could have assurance of our ultimate salvation.

The battle cry of the Reformation was sola fide; justification is by faith alone, not by any works man can do.

Again, there were other issues that caused great strife during the Reformation (Mariology, relics, communion of the Saints, etc.), but they all paled in comparison to these two. While the tension and heat that immediately accompany any fight have since cooled, recent events have not changed the centrality of these two issues. Most Protestants and Catholics still believe that these are hills upon which we should die, even if neither side conclusively believes the other is going to hell.

We must keep in mind, however, how much the two sides do agree. When it comes to the person and work of Christ, conservative Protestants and Roman Catholics (along with Eastern Orthodox) all believe that Jesus Christ is the God-man (fully God and fully man) who died on the cross and rose bodily from the grave as the atonement for sin. All believe that salvation is purely by the grace of God and that the faith of the individual is necessary. And, significantly, all believe that Christ is the only way to God.

Was the Reformation necessary? I believe so. The communication and purity of the Gospel was at stake. Amidst all the concessions being made today, we need to keep this in mind: things have not changed that much. We can love each other and appreciate the common heritage we share. We can even learn much from one another. But there is still a serious divide and Protestants dare not compromise the Gospel by sweeping the Reformation under the rug. The Gospel is too important.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    207 replies to "The Great Reformation in a Nutshell"

    • Irene

      Hi Michael,

      Something doesn’t make sense in your “storyline”.
      You said
      –the Orthodox were separated in 1054.
      –about the distortion of the Gospel, “This distortion, argued the Protestants, arose in the late middle ages with the rise of the sacramental system (you know, the necessity of Mass, confession, baptism, etc.).”

      So if the Orthodox had already snubbed the pope, and the sacramental system arose in the late Middle Ages, why did the Protestant Reformers not return to the Eastern Orthodox Church?

      The initial provocation may indeed have been abuses that arose in the late Middle Ages, but the Reformers, in the end, rejected something much, much older. A tragic misjudgment.

    • theoldadam

      As sad as it may be, most Protestants may as well be Catholics for the lack of Christian freedom and the lack of assurance they have in their Protestantism.

      That’s why Luther called them (the radical reformers and the Catholics) “two wolves tied at the tail”.

      Outwardly they hate each other and they look quite different. But they share a basic theology. ‘A lot of God and a little bit of ‘me’. That ‘little bit’ is what causes all the trouble. That ‘little bit’ places the focus and onus on ‘me’.

      There is STILL a huge need for reformation in ALL churches to combat this biggest of problems.

    • Irene

      Lord where there is hatred,
      Let me sow love;
      Where there is injury, pardon;
      Where there is error, truth;

      O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek
      To be understood,as to understand;
      To be loved, as to love.
      For it is in giving that we receive,
      It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
      And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    • C Michael Patton

      Luther did seriously consider the Eastern Church. But you must understand that there was a lot of hostility between the Eastern church and the Western church. The reformers were from the western traditions and did not seek to do anything but reform their tradition. There were too many differences theologically, epistemologically, and sociologically to make such a union possible. However, with the issue of sola scriptura, there are many similarities.

    • Dr. Jay

      John 3:16 Censor that!

    • Dr. Jay

      Patton: “Authority: Where do we go for truth?

      Patton: [For Protestants] you said, “Everything, including unwritten tradition, the councils, and the Pope, had to be tested by and submit to Scripture. Protestants repositioned both the church and tradition underneath Scripture.”

      Pope: The Pope is subservient to Scripture as interpreted by the Magisterium.

      Protestants: In effect set up their own Magisterium through denominational “What we believe”-statements; and for the independents, the local pastor.

      Reformers: The battle cry of the Reformers here was sola Scriptura; the Scriptures alone were the final authority and the only infallible missive from God. However, one dare not disagree with Luther or Calvin, et. al., in their constituency.

      Me?: I am Protestant, but “Houston, we do have a problem.”

    • C Barton

      Also to consider is the organization and oversight in the Church: Jesus mentions his hatred of the way of the Nicolaitans. I surmise that He spoke of those who would subvert the freedom and authority in Christ to a worldly system of oppressive rulership, based on man rather than on God. Would Apostle Paul burn someone alive for printing a Bible? Don’t think so.
      We see this type of rule in the RC first, but also in Protestant sects as well.
      One of the main “problems” of the pure Gospel is it is too simple and humble for many. To the Jews it was a stumblingblock: they found it hard to let go of dependence on the Mosaic system for salvation (which was never the case, anyway). Thus Peter’s dilemma.
      The Greeks trusted in man’s reason and ability to remedy his own ills, and this tradition is still carried on today in secular humanism. Thus R. Dawson’s folly.
      Perhaps part of becoming “as a little child” is to eschew pride and trust in a loving Father. Not easy to do, especially for the know-it-all types.

    • Btw, for the most part the Reformers and the Reformation missed this Text, i.e. 1 Cor. 10: 32! This came later with some Reformed Baptist types, as other “Brethren”!

    • C Barton

      Oops! I meant Richard Dawkins, not Dawson. He stated that evolution (or something) must be true because he refuses to believe in God. Not exactly a tenable argument. 😛

    • If ever there was a time to renew ourselves in the reality of the Reformation, it is surely now! Ecclesia semper reformada … always Reforming! 🙂

    • Margaret S

      Who were the Christians before the reformation?

      • C Michael Patton

        One does not have to be a Protestant to be Christian. They were plenty of Christians.

        I look at it like this: where was my adolescence before I grew up. Same place.

    • Irene


      Ah, so Protestantism is Christianity “matured”! (:
      I think Protestantism as the know-it-all teenage child is more like it! (;

    • R David

      Although I agree with CMP on much of this, I have to agree with Irene as well. The child/mature analogy is not helpful.

      We may have a deeper knowledge now (in some areas), but that does not mean certain steams of the church are more “mature”.

    • R David


      This is not the first time CMP has used that terminology.

      A post in 2011 says this:

      “…think of a seed developing into a tree. Or, even better, a baby developing into an adult. The same basic components (DNA) are in the adult as was in the baby, yet the adult has matured through time. The adult has learned and developed into a more articulate sounding and distinct looking human. The same can be said about doctrine: our understanding, pushed forward through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, has grown. It is not the “one deposit of faith that was once for all handed over to the saints” that has changed, but it is our understanding of it that has matured.”

      And here is one in which he actually charts that terminology:

      Again, I get where he is coming from, but to indicate that the creedal church was immature seems off-base.

    • Indeed where are the Christians after the Reformation, especially today?

      It is always good to look to the biblical revelation itself… Eph. 2: 15… “into one new man”! And chapter 3, verse 13 “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Note verse 14 too btw, with 15 and 16!)

    • Dr. Jay

      I see a lot of talk about maturity; however, where are the definitons? Think about it! Who decides that? If the answer is Jesus, how do we know? What is the standard against which we judge? Creeds. Dogma? The Church? Which church? Which Reformer?

    • Btw, Amen there Greg to your #15! The Invisible/Visible Church is very biblical and most important! And here many of the Reformed Churches stand with the Reformed Divinity!

      The RCC is such a visible and historical failure (as so-called Catholic), especially today in this age of postmodernity! Vatican II has simply never been theologically understood, fully! And sadly the new pope is a theological nightmare! I am not seeking to be mean, but certainly theological.

    • Irene

      Ok, Michael said in #6 (in response to my question in #1), that it just wouldn’t work for the Reformers to join the Eastern Church. I believe him. But even if they didn’t _join_the Orthodox, shouldn’t their new churches have_looked_a lot like the Orthodox? Theologically? If the Reformers were just rejecting false doctrine that cropped up in the late middle Ages, then why did they also theologically reject the Eastern Church? And if they rejected doctrine that was accepted as far back as 1054, then the question comes up –What exactly WAS the Reformation?

      A) adoption of NEW doctrine, theological novelty

      B) a DEVELOPMENT of existing doctrine

      C) a RECOVERY of lost, correct doctrine

      Surely, Protestants wouldn’t say “A”, because they claim to be against it.

      And it is obviously not “B”, because truly developed doctrine can’t conflict with that from which it came, and everyone would agree that Catholic and distinctive Protestant doctrines conflict with eachother.

      “C”? The distinctive doctrines of the Reformers (like authority and justification in CMP’s original post) are not spelled out in the early church. If I were a Protestant, I think I would say the Protestant doctrine of the Reformation was “a development of doctrine, doctrine which was recovered from the early church”. There is a big problem with that, though. If you are going to say the church was in serious doctrinal error for that long, there goes St. Vincent’s canon out the window. If Christian history is no longer a reliable factor in determining correct doctrine, we are left to our own whims in interpretation.

      I think the Reformation was not “developing doctrine which had been long ago lost”, because the Holy Spirit protects the Church of Christ from teaching doctrinal error. I think the distinctive doctrine of the Reformation was actually new doctrine, choice “A” above.

    • Amen there Greg! Our “righteousness” is not from ourselves one bit! It is a “forensic” act of God In Christ! His formal argumentation.

    • Irene

      (no edit option…)

      I should have rephrased one thing-
      “The distinctive doctrines of the Reformers (like authority and justification in CMP’s original post) are not spelled out in the early church, AS PROTESTANTS SPELL THEM OUT.”

    • robin

      I wonder how much Luther’s OCD had to do with the reformation. He is known to have this problem, like me, and I know that the only way to rid myself of the nagging doubts and thoughts is to have a definitive, tangible thing outside of my own mind to hold on to. This may be where forensic justification originated? Or at least the impetus for this idea?

      Regardless of this, I think the Reformation was justified simply by seeing how vile the Church was in those days, how they wed themselves to money and power, how they obstructed the Scriptures from the public!

    • theoldadam

      Here’s the Church Fathers…BEFORE Luther:

      They were right. The Medici Popes were wrong. Very wrong.

      All that Luther tried to do was to get that train back onto the tracks. They hated him for it and tried to kill him.

    • Irene


      There is nothing about being saved by faith, and by grace, that conflicts with Catholic doctrine. See CMP’s second to last paragraph in his article above.

      I understand the idea that the Reformers wanted to get that train “back on the tracks”. My question is: Which tracks?

    • Irene

      “New” tracks? “Old” tracks? “Layed by whom” tracks?
      “Wide” tracks? “Narrow” tracks? “Need a sign!” tracks!

    • @Irene: I would recommend reading the book, part of the Classic Christian Readers series: The Justification Reader, by Thomas Oden, (Eerdmans, 2002). Here is a very biblical, theological, ancient and evangelical statement!

      *This could rock your world perhaps? 🙂

    • Irene

      @Fr. Robert

      Ok. But can’t someone just tell me in their own words? CMP explained in his article that the Reformers turned away from the Catholic Church for certain reasons that still exist. I would like to know, though, precisely what they turned “to”. And please don’t say “Scripture.” That’s like saying “toward truth” and is a non-answer. Everyone turns toward what they think is truth. Which interpretation of Scripture/doctrine did they turn to? Old doctrine? (From when?) New doctrine? Recycled doctrine? Or What? A, B, or C?

    • theoldadam


      We define the word “grace” very differently.

      For you guys Jesus is a cosmic helper. For us, He does it ALL.

    • @Irene: The profound relationship between Martin Luther and his superior in the Augustinian Order, John Staupitz, simply must be noted! It was Luther who said, Staupitz was not merely a forerunner but the father of the Protestant Reformation! This is of course one of Luther’s overstatements, but makes the great point, that without John Staupitz there would not have been a Martin Luther the Reformer!

      If you can lay your hands on the book: Luther and Staupitz, An Essay in the Intellectual Origins of the Protestant Reformation, by David Steinmetz. This would be very helpful! This book changed MY understanding of Luther for sure! (Duke, 1980)

      The whole Reformation came off of Catholic ground! And a bio on Luther, still very much worth reading is Walther von Loewenich’s book: Martin Luther, The Man and His Work. In the end, to really understand the Reformation, one must simply understand (to degree) the great one time monk and Doctor of Sacred Scripture, Martin Luther! Simply Luther was Captive to the Word! (See too A. Skevington Wood’s book of this name: Captive To The Word, Martin Luther: Doctor of Sacred Scripture). And here Staupitz simply must be seen too!

    • And this really is the essence of the Reformation, always Reforming by the Word of God, itself (alone)…here is “spirit and truth’! And here is the Reformed Divinity! It really is quite that simple! And it is here still that the RCC won’t fully “Reform”! And cannot in reality, because of the Papacy itself!

    • T


      I’m not Catholic, but if you are going to make the argument you make in #34, let’s at least be fair and mention that Scripture gives us a statement of “by faith alone” but also a “not by faith alone” in James, which, not surprisingly, Luther thought should be removed from the Canon.

      I say this because when you make statements like this: “[The reformers] were embracing scripture which by definition brings with it the rejection of all that cannot be found to harmonize thereunto. That’s what led Luther to his conclusions int he first place and it’s the very reason why I am not now nor could I ever be a Roman Catholic. Grotesque exegetical witchcraft is required to find in the scriptures what Rome would have us find there.”

      Let’s be a bit, no, a lot more fair here, at least on the “by faith alone” issue. Again, I am not RC, but when we act like their take on justification requires “grotesque exegetical witchcraft” when multiple passages in the gospels, in I John, in James, and even in Paul make their reading very plausible, we’re not helping anyone, and we undermine our claims of loyalty to scripture.

    • We could argue the lines of Justification & Sanctification, and should, and in the end I myself believe the Reformed Divinity has the best biblical positions and definitions! But, the real issue between Roman Catholics and Biblical Protestantism, is the “Papacy”, the doctrine and teaching of the office of the Pope! Myself as one raised and even early educated Irish Roman Catholic, and in Ireland, not in the US. To my mind anyway, this is the real lasting difference! The Papacy is not really interested in Reforming the Papal Office itself, and it needs more than just some moralism, as this new pope “Francis”, but deep and sweeping biblical & theological Reform! Vatican II started on this task, the RCC in the so-called modern world, but again it was just not theologically correct or really able to do so, as Vatican II was actually a so-called pastoral reform, and not really theological, in the sense to biblically reform itself. Sadly, as the pastoral section of the Gaudium et spes, with the Lumen gentium, it went rather to the more liberal extremes, and certainly away from Christ as the ONLY Way, Truth and Life! (John 14: 6) To my mind, the great ill of the RCC is placing the Papacy itself in the place of Christ, Himself! Certainly St. Peter and St. Paul never did this! Nor have the EO, or the Orthodox Church.

    • I should say however, that the EO HAVE placed the Church generally as in some place of Apostolic perfection and absolute authority, but not ONE Man Himself, as the Papacy. But I cannot go with the EO either!

    • Indeed the Holy Spirit is the true and only “vicar” of Christ on earth, and “the church of the living God, [is] the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3: 15)

    • theoldadam

      We who are reformed Christians (small ‘r’) default to Christ…not to the church.

      Christians will have works as well as faith…but our works in NO way help to save us. But are a result of our being saved.

      And there are NO “Christian works”, per se, because the Muslim, Hindu, pagan, heathen, can do all those same works. (apart from proclaiming Christ)

    • Amen there TOA! Here Luther & Calvin would agree! And Greg is right, whatever the Gospel has become “today”, at least from the Papacy, it is NOT the full Gospel of Christ! Indeed GOD In Christ in His mercy has no doubt saved many in so-called Catholicism, but NOT with the help of the modern Papacy (Office), itself!

      My thoughts at least!

    • Irene

      Fr. Robert said,
      –“But, the real issue between Roman Catholics and Biblical Protestantism, is the “Papacy”, the doctrine and teaching of the office of the Pope!”–

      If this were true, the Protestant church would just be recoveing in Europe what the Orthodox had held to in the East. And even if the Protestants couldn’t join the Orthodox for policitical and cultural reasons, etc, the Protestant church should have still been very similar to the Eastern Church theologically. But of course, it’s not. As Fr. Robert also said,
      –“But I cannot go with the EO either!”–
      CMP, too, said there were theological differences between the Protestant and Orthodox, and this demonstrates my point that the Reformers didn’t just reject the papacy and some recently sprung up abuses. They rejected something much older and deeper.

      I’ll focus on authority, to make comments easier and since it is one of the two main points raised in CMP’s original post.
      So–authority in the Church. Where did Luther (or Calvin) get his doctrine from? He obviously didn’t recover what the Eastern Church had held to 500 years before. Was Luther’s church authority doctrine new? (If it was, just say so!) Or if it wasn’t new, when in history did the Church teach the same things Luther taught? (Point it out!)

      Comment #24: A, B, or C ?

    • Wow! I have really learned to hate the function of this site, I just lost the depth of a fairly long blog reply! Perhaps this IS providence? For I am gonna take a break here, and do some rounds. I will try to get back, but THIS loosing blog replies does get old!

    • theoldadam

      I’m with you, Fr. Robert. I too, will take a break. (after this)


      Luther put authority where it rightfully belongs…the Word, alone.

      The Word that is Christ, alone. Christ in preaching and teaching (that creates faith).

      Christ in the Bible.

      NOT the church.

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      For a while when I was having that problem of losing posts here, I made sure to copy and paste my answer someplace else so I would be sure to be able to retrieve it if it went into oblivion. That was the only way I found to deal with the site glitches that sometimes seem to take over here. I know this has been mentioned by others here too.

      Just thought I would pass that along in case for some reason you haven’t thought of doing that.

    • Irene

      For theoldadam, when he is able, or whoever else may have an answer:

      About your last comment just above:
      Did Christianity ever hold that doctrine before, or not? If so, when?

    • jsgsduin

      Luther put authority where it rightfully belongs… individual interpretation.

      Human first!!!

    • @cherylu: Thanks, usually though I write sometimes often, I am sort of on the fly, up and down. Funny, this morning I actually sit down to really give Irene a more in-depth answer and boom, it went to nothing, and I was almost done too.

      @Irene: You really need to read Thomas Oden’s book: The Justification Reader, chapter one is: The Ancient Fathers on Evangelical Justification! The book is not dense, and only 162 pages. Well worth the read! Neither Luther nor Calvin, as the other top-tier Reformers, added anything that was not already in Holy Scripture! But what both Roman and the EO, had in reality added themselves, especially from paganism, is quite another question! And note that Peter Martyr Vermigli, who was an Augustinian monk, went to the University of Padua where he received the D.D., and then later became Reformed and an ecumenical Reformer. His fame spread through the whole of Europe! He was himself a Patristic scholar. He later taught in England. He is one you should read, if you really want to hear a quite in-depth Reformer, once Catholic, who surely became one of the greatest European Reformed theological scholars in his time! Note his close friendship with Martin Bucer also. He wrote on the Eucharist, as well as the Mystical Body of Christ. As too Christ and the Sacraments. A must read historically for the Reformation and the Reformed!

    • Btw, it is not that the historical Church is not important in the Reformation, it is and was for Luther, Calvin and all the best Reformers very important. But, it is always itself in submission to the Holy & Sacred Scripture of God! As again, in 1 Tim. 3: 15, it is a pillar & support of the truth…”And confessedly great is the Mystery of Godliness…verse 16, etc. “HE Who was manifested in flesh..” (Again the Incarnation Itself!) So we are really pressed back toward GOD Himself In Christ, rather than some idea of a visible Church and a highly sacramental church, by and in itself! Again, this was the quest and really genius of a Luther, who himself saw both Word & Sacrament together, as with and in the Church, as the Mystical Body of Christ!

    • Irene

      But, I’m not asking whether or not Luther (or Calvin) cared about church history. And I’m not asking whether or not they added anything to Scripture. What I am asking is: Had what the Reformers taught about authority in the church been taught before, or not, and if so, when?

    • @Irene: And I am saying, we simply cannot answer this without some form and looking at Christian history itself! The Reformation happened on Catholic ground! And so we simply cannot grasp the Reformation without history. This was my point about Luther and Staupitz. For both Luther and even Staupitz, the highest theology “is not the cacophony of the scholastic doctors, but the awesome silences of negative theology.” (Luther, WA.) And both Luther and Staupitz were of course Augustinian monastics, especially in the early days for Luther’s personal reform. Augustine was always a main ingredient in medieval theology. The Bible and the Fathers, Augustine, Aristotle, were the main elements. And btw, it is not surprising that early Augustinians joined with Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans in opposing the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary defended by Scotus and the Franciscans. Yes, Aquinas believed that Mary, though she did not sin directly, was born in principle with an adamic sin nature. It’s history for the study Thomas Aquinas.

    • “Luther came to hold that formal authority in the church – authority inhering in a person, office or institution by virtue of its position within the Christian community – could only acquire legitimacy from its substantive faithfulness to the apostolic gospel, which all church authority is appointed to serve.” (The Dictionary of Historical Theology, Trevor Hart, General Editor), page 333.

    • theoldadam

      Try this one, Irene:

      It explains why we believe the way we (Lutherans ) believe…about the authority being in the Word, alone.

    • As for both Luther and Calvin, and many of the other top-tier Reformers ecclesiastical authority could only be shown in “spirit and truth”, it simply must be faithful to the Gospel itself! True Christian theology must ever insist that Jesus person and work interpret each other in an indissoluble unity. Again Melanchthon said it best: “To know Christ is to know His benefits.” And Christology without the work and offices of Christ, can leave the believer in anxiety and doubt. Sadly often the Roman Catholic Gospel can leave some here, for there is no assurance of salvation, at least in principle.

      *There have no doubt been some great Roman Catholic saints and people, but in only in spite of the incomplete aspect to the Roman Gospel. And I say this, as one both born and raised Irish Roman Catholic. So this is not just some ad hoc attack, but my own personal experience! I had a great aunt however (RIP), who surely loved Christ (she was a Carmelite nun, and mother-superior), but she always pulled back from any idea of assurance in her salvation! She was taught this by the Catholic Church. And I feel anyway, both theologically and personally, that this was a loss for her! (Yes, we wrote letters in personal snail mail for years!)

    • Btw, as those that can easily see, I am an old reader and bookman, and I always read! (See 2 Tim. 4: 13)…indeed old Saul/Paul was a reader! (1 Tim. 4: 13, etc.)

      I would love to recommend this book, by the great Reformational historian, Heiko Oberman (Reformed and not a Lutheran btw, passed in 2001, RIP.), but his book: Luther, Man between God and the Devil, (Yale University Press, 1989, 380 pages). This book has become a classic for the real Luther! “If the world is to gain from Luther it must turn to the real Luther – furious, violent, foul-mouthed, passionately concerned. Him it will find in Oberman’s book, a labour of love.” (G.R. Elton, Journal of Ecclesiastical History)

      As some might guess, I have the hardback, First Edition, but I have several paperbacks that I have given away to the serious student! As Eric Christiansen (from Spectator) wrote: “Oberman makes such good sense of the man that all other attempts to explain him . . . seem trivial by comparison. This book deserves its fame.”

    • Btw Irene, I hope you can see that your question is not only unfair, but really just not historical! Indeed how can we do any theology without history? Looking at the Augustinian history and experience of both Luther and Staupitz, the latter who of course always remained a Catholic, we can see that authority for both was always historical!

    • Irene

      Oldadam and Greg,

      I know very well the basic content of Protestant doctrine on authority in the church and Scripture alone. No need to try to tell me over and over, or in bold, as if I have never heard it before. I know the solas, and in fact, I used to believe in them for quite a long while, and still have the memorized explanation of the small catechism is the back of my mind somewhere. I did listen to about half of that audio, TOA, but it was not addressing my question.
      My question is not about the content of the doctrine. It is about the historical origins of the doctrine (Were they with Luther or somewhere else? Where?)
      Protestants are very accustomed to defending the validity of Sola Scriptura, to explaining why they think it is true. But I can see from the timidity in answering my simple question, that they cannot, or do not want to, put it in a historical timeline. In other words, what is the history of Luther’s doctrine concerning church authority? I am blasted with grace ALLLLOOONE, and Jesus is only a helper to you, etc. Fr. Robert has inched closer to answering with these:
      “For both Luther and even Staupitz, the highest theology “is not the cacophony of the scholastic doctors, but the awesome silences of negative theology.” (Luther, WA.)”
      “The Reformation happened on Catholic ground!”

      Fr. Robert, I do think it is a fair question, though, that deserves more than a vague answer. People like me, when trying to give our humble explanations of Catholic doctrine, are made to answer questions like this all the time! (Mariology threads!)

      So, I’ll try again. Did Christianity ever hold the Reformers’ doctrines about authority in the church before Luther taught them? Was his doctrine a novelty, a recovery (from when?), or a development (from what?)?

      Comment #25: A, B, or C ?

    • @Irene: And the answer is yes, as with Augustine, and even before with Tertullian! One has written about the intricate apologetics of Tertullian: “Roman restraint (as St. Paul, the Roman citizen somewhat), legal clarity and military discipline were transmuted into an intellectual and moral force in the ardent, aspiring mind and heart of Tertullian.” (H. von Campenhausen, The fathers of the Latin church, 1964). But then Tertullian could also say: ‘What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? But for Tertullian, both puzzle and paradox make good sense, and that Tertullian’s explicit claim to follow the discipline of reason (disciplina rationis) and his demand ‘here again I must have reasons’ are amply justified. The first may be called ‘the puzzle’ and the second ‘the paradox’. Tertullian has countless paradoxes but this one is celebrated. Note, as I have said before Tertullian had a profound place for the great Antitheses in God… ‘the two attributes of goodness and justice together make up the proper fullness of the divine being as omnipotent’ (Marc. 2.29.1) Indeed always paradox for Tertullian!

      Of course later he could move to Montanism, or the New Prophecy as he called it… charismatic, ascetic, enthusiastic, innovative, spiritualist, ecstatic and rigorous! Indeed Tertullian was catholic, spiritual-charismatic, and even somewhat reformed (for his time). Certainly one of a kind, i.e. Tertullian!

      So for both Tertullian, as later Augustine, authority is always spiritual, and truth, in the great Doctrine of God! And certainly both Luther and Calvin, as the best of the Reformers are closer here, also.

    • Btw, Irene, are you a Roman Catholic “convert”? Or a cradle R. Catholic that left for awhile, and got into some aspects of Protestantism, and then returned to Catholicism?

      “I know the solas, and in fact, I used to believe in them for quite a long while, and still have the memorized explanation of the small catechism is the back of my mind somewhere.”

      Just wondered? 🙂

    • @Irene: I like to think that I seek to do theology biblically & historically, for true theology must always be historical, as is the Church itself! Catholic, Reformed but always historical! Btw, Greg hit the mark with a/the Church that is always both Invisible (Christ on the Throne in the Glory!) and the Visible Church in time and history…Incarnational!

      Actually, we Trinitarian Creedal Christians (The Ecumenical Councils, etc.) East, West are really closer than not! But of course issues of the details of soteriology, and authority are righteous questions! 🙂

    • theoldadam


      If you study the Bible, you’ll see that the doctrines we are speaking of go all the way back to the early church. Before Rome. Before Luther.

      The Word (Jesus and Him in preaching and teaching and in the Bible and in the sacraments) creates and sustains faith. All by itself.

    • Amen TOA, as I wrote on another blog, the Bible, and especially the OT was the Bible of the Early and Apostolic Church! Indeed from here Saul/Paul brought forth the Jewish Covenant for the Gentile Nation’s…Rom. 15: 8-9, etc. The Old & New Covenant are really bound together! And here most certainly Luther and Calvin preached both Law & Gospel! In 2 Cor. 3: 7-11, we can see the “Glory” of the two Ministries…”If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! (verses 7-8) Paul seems to be affirming two great, if paradoxical, truths! Simply Paul has a very high view and regard for Covenant, in it are to be found the promises that God HAS faithfully fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of God! (2 Cor. 1: 18-21). And the OT is the precursor!

    • “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New Testament” (St. Augustine)

    • Amen Greg, sweet statement theological! 🙂

    • I remember that book: The Christ of the Covenants! Grand, and Grand is the Truth therein! I can dance, at least in my spirit, and oh yes A/Hallelujah! (Praise imperative + yah, Jehovah…praise to God the eternal One!)

    • Btw, originally I think that was a Baker book? Years back, Baker was an American Reformed publisher.

    • ‘His definition of a biblical covenant being “a bond in blood, sovereignly administered”.’ Indeed our Salvation History is seen always ‘In Christ’, in both Covenant/covenants. The value of the Blood of the Covenant, is always the Person of the Covenant! In both Testaments or Covenants that value is God In Christ, looking forward and looking back!

    • Amen my “Reformed” brother In Christ! Give me that old time Reformed Divinity! 😉

      I have several thousand books, some here, some in greater London. My oldest son is the keeper over there. Dusty I imagine? Sometimes I have him ship me a few favorites. I wonder sometimes what will become of them? God alone knows!

    • Paul Bruggink

      @Greg (#75) – Baker’s Dictionary of Theology is available for as little as $0.57 plus $3.99 for shipping on Amazon and on AbeBooks.

    • Irene

      Well, I still don’t see anything that answers the question I posed:
      What is the history of the doctrines characteristic of the Reformation? So would that history make the Reformation a invention/discovery of new doctrine? Or perhaps a development of doctrine that existed at the time? Or maybe the adoption of an old doctrine that had once been held but then had been discarded?

      To narrow the discussion, I suggested the doctrines of the Reformers dealing with authority in the church, since that was one the two main issues CMP talked about in the original post. To be even more specific, how about these, which I think are the two most important ones dealing with authority in the church.
      –sola scriptura (no Magisterium)
      –no apostolic succession (the people preaching the correct message being the real successors of the apostles -sorry, not sure what that’s exactly called)

      Fr. Robert mentioned Tertullian and Augustine. So do you mean that during the times of Tertullian, and later Augustine, that Christianity taught what the Reformers did? Surely not. Do you mean that if you look at their writings, you can see hints of Reformational theology, or at least imagine their teachings compatible with Reformational theology? ( I don’t think that their teachings are, but that is another story, and at least someone is finally making a historical assertion here.) If so, then I guess that would make the Reformation a retrieval and development of those long lost teachings.

      Theoldadam said
      “If you study the Bible, you’ll see that the doctrines we are speaking of go all the way back to the early church. Before Rome. Before Luther.”
      Do you mean the Reformers’ doctrines of church authority were present in the early church? Did Christianity hold those doctrines until something went wrong in the late middle ages? Or were they lost for hundreds and hundreds of years?

    • Irene

      Fr. Robert,
      I am a convert. Raised Lutheran-LCMS, and well into adulthood.
      So communion-wise, we are opposite. (:

    • @Irene: #81 Yes, indeed interesting.. I am always somewhat Lutheran friendly! But I truly LOVE the man Dr. Martin Luther, always the Reformer! He was simply one of a kind! Though as we both know there are certainly liberal Lutherans also, at least these days. I have had a few Catholic friends who have gone to Lutheranism. And I have even known a few Lutherans who have gone to Catholicism. And in the history of the Methodists (English at least), there has been a somewhat close connection between them and the Lutherans. One can remember the German Franz Hilderbrandt, one time assistant to Pastor Niemoller in Berlin. From 1939 to 1946 he was pastor of the German Lutheran refugee congregation in Cambridge. But later Dr. Hilderandt became a Methodist minister in the Cambridge circuit. But I degress.

      I am (at least I feel) close to much of Luther’s reformed ideas, certainly his doctrine of the “theologia crucis”. And too somewhat close to his Eucharist thoughts, though the so-called “real” presence is also always spiritual as well, one does not press one against another, when both are involved. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4: 24)

    • Irene: Truly the doctrine of “authority” is always a “spiritual” doctrine and reality, “Tradition verses Commandment”! As we can see even when our Lord argues and debates with the Jewish leadership! (Matt. 15:1-14)

      “And He answered and send to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt. 15: 3) And so God’s Commandment always trumps man’s tradition! The Authority is always with/in God, and His Word!

      And the historical Church, has Apostolic Tradition, but this is based upon the Apostolic teaching, which is itself based upon the Word of God, and God’s revelation, itself! So again, our “authority” is in God Himself, as Jesus Himself said, is where we find “spirit and truth”! (John 4: 24)

    • It is here btw, that the Reformation and the Reformers stood, as we can see with these words of Jesus! This was the spirit of the Jewish prophets…”And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24: 25-27)

    • @Greg: Indeed many of the Church Fathers (Greeks and once pagan) don’t have a clue to the biblical authority and doctrine of God, here we can see Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Gregory of Nyssa, as to the “apocatastasis”/universalism.

    • The doctrine of the Reformation is always simply the authority and doctrine of God, as revealed in Holy Scripture! – Sola Scriptura…the great sola’s!

    • Again, I would maintain that both Tertullian and Augustine, were simply closer to the so-called Reformed position of biblical authority, sola Scriptura, etc. Certainly the early Greek Fathers certainly missed it badly here, the doctrine and authority of God. Note too, this is clearly antinomian, in the great loss of the moral law of God!

    • Btw, this verse speaks for itself! “Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God.” (Mk. 12: 24)

    • One thing is certain, the Holy Scripture has a very Christological centre! (Lk. 24: 27) The Salvation History of the OT foreordained the whole life of Christ, His birth, ministry, death & resurrection. And the whole ministry and work of Christ was Jewish and Covenantal! (Rom. 15: 8)…and this moves into the Gentile world and Nations! (Verses 9-10 etc. noting, verse 12/Isa. 11: 10).

    • Btw, the Greek word “Dunamis” in Mk. 12: 24, I think suggests more of the “mighty works” of God. When one reads and knows Holy Scripture, he will see the great power, might and simply the total ability of the Sovereign God! And to my mind at least, this kicks out the whole libertarian ideas in any doctrine/teaching of God.

    • Yes, indeed God’s promises for National or literal Israel do matter for God’s faithfulness and promise to both Israel, and all the Covenant promises (Gentiles included), have come from Israel: “who are Israelites , to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory, and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 9: 4-5 / Eph. 2: 12)

    • Indeed Greg: But we are right in the midst of the Gentile Apostasy especially in the West, surely with Modern Israel in its own land (since 1948), though for the most part in unbelief toward Jesus as the Messiah. And yet, there are more so-called “Messianic Jews” (Jewish believers In Christ now living in Israel). The Jews and the Holy Land, are the centre of the Eschatological end. “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23: 39 / Ps. 118: 26 / Zech. 14)

    • James-the-lesser

      The practice of selling indulgences alone justifies the Reformation. What presumptive arrogance could possibly possess any honest person, priest or otherwise, that they have the right to determine a person’s (pauper or otherwise) destiny? Luther—particularly, the political Luther was not perfect; so we must not defend him on that issue—however, on theological issues such as sola scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fidei, yes.

    • Irene

      and James,

      What presumptive arrogance could possibly possess any honest person, priest or otherwise, that they have a right to scratch 1500+ years of Christian teaching on authority in the Church, and teach a new doctrine?

      If it was just about selling indulgences, perhaps the Reformation would not have even had to happen. If it was about the papacy, the Protestant church would look nearly identical to the Eastern Church. But, it was about many older and deeper things, and the Protestant Church professed never-before-taught doctrine. (Never mind the Protestant church of today, which has departed even from the Reformers!)

    • James-the-lesser

      Who has scratched 1500+ years of Christian teaching on authority in the Church and taught a new doctrine? May I suggest a good thorough reading of the Przywara-Barth-Balthasar dialogue and perhaps you will discover that the fine line of difference in theology is very fine indeed. A proper understanding of Eastern Orthodoxy will reveal that they are not nearly as cluttered with dogmatism as the Roman Catholic Church is and therefore more akin to Reformation Protestantism. However, I still stand by my original question and ask rhetorically, “What presumptive arrogance could possibly possess any honest person, priest or otherwise, that they have the right to determine a person’s (pauper or otherwise) destiny?” Perhaps, I should have made it clear that Protestantism lacks an infallible magisterium, but we must stop somewhere and I am simply not comfortable in putting all of my eggs in Rome’s basket. Furthermore, which of the Eastern branch could one assert with absolute certainty teaches in each and every detail the Apostolic doctrine? They, too, have their differences. Personally, I see an eventual theological convergence which will stand the test of Apostolic orthodoxy, but not without a little less self-righteousness and cocksure certainty on the behalf of both sides of the controversy. 🙂 Smile. Jesus love you.

    • Irene

      Yes, I’m sure that Przywara-Barth-Balthasar dialogue would straighten me right out. 🙂

    • Irene

      Lol. For once Greg, I agree with you. (:

    • Irene

      And I suppose we’ve just demonstrated the point of CMP’s original post…
      Whether it’s a “serious divide”, as CMP called it in his article, or a “fine line”, as James-the-lesser called it a few comments ago, it’s still a line strong enough to have caused the “Reformation”.

      I just heard about a new little book last night, “7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness.” Forget the author already, an Evangelical, though. Two of the men were John Paul the Great, and Chuck Colson.

    • Irene

      Geez. No wonder they excommunicated Luther…

    • Irene

      Wait. Do you mean “nothing’s changed in 2000 years” in answer to the question I’ve been asking?

    • Irene

      Oh, never mind. I see you edited it to say “nothing’s been contradicted in 2000 years?” I thought I actually had someone giving me a plain answer to my question.

    • @Irene: The only “plain” answer is in the Holy Scripture, but we must see and find it! 😉 Then, the issue gets exegetical, and is no longer plain, or simple! Oh the doctrine of “Theology”, i.e. the study of GOD, is always profound! Perhaps the word is better noted in “certain”, we are found certain, with God’s sure & certain Word! 😉 It is a riddle sometimes isn’t it! 🙂

      But I agree with Greg, Roman Catholicism (theologically) makes it even more hard to understand!

    • Btw, Martin Luther is now much more appreciated by many Roman Catholic “theolog’s”! Thank God for that factual reality! However, this new pope “Francis”, is really a theological “mess” to my mind! And I think I do know “something” historical and theological about “Catholicism”. I will always appreciate my Catholic BA in Philosophy, but that was well over 30 years ago now!

    • Irene

      @Fr Robert,
      Well, I’m not particularly asking what the Scriptures teach, or which interpretation is correct. I would just like an answer as to whether Luther’s interpretation had ever before been Christianity’s interpretation.

      But, yes, I love to contemplate the Word and all that it means for us. I have to say, though, that I have never seen the beauty and the eternity in the mysteries of God as I have in the Catholic Church. (:

      Btw, what is it you see wrong with Pope Francis’s theology? I don’t know him well as far as his personal theological perspective.

    • @Irene: I have just lost two try’s at answering your questions! I really HATE the function of this blog! (I am NOT a computer guy, and thank God!) I will keep trying I guess? Patience is being tested I suppose here? 😉

    • Irene

      Oh, I don’t think Catholicism makes God/His Revelation harder to understand. In my own experience, it unifies Scripture, history, reason, personal experience, and the longings of the human heart more than anything else, into one coherent whole.

    • @Irene: Basically Luther’s biblical and theological approach was that of his education, as both a monastic and as one in the Augustinian Order. His great mentor, was his superior in the Augustinian Order, John Staupitz! If we miss this, we will never get Luther! It was in fact Staupitz who actually forced the unwilling Luther (at first) to earn his theological doctorate! So, the answer to your question here, is found within this historical place itself, i.e. again Augustinianism! And of course it began with the Catholic place and version! But with the hand and great influence of Staupitz!

      I will write this in.. and send it, in pieces! So as not to loose it! 😉

    • I too appreciate the reality of contemplative prayer! But as I have learned, it simply must be biblically modeled, and most certainly, (as Luther learned from Staupitz), most close to the Christological centre, i.e. ‘In Christ’! And here of course it is “GOD In Christ”, and Christ is both the “Logos” and the “Rhema”! So we really MUST have our hearts & minds filled, or at least seeking the place of God’s Revelation In Christ! Btw, it was here, that Luther finally saw that Catholicism, (the Papacy) had moved well away from this teaching and reality! i.e. Making the Holy Scripture ALONE the authority! And sadly, this is still the issue! And thus, the Reformational principle still stands! (And “this” keeps me here personally too!)

    • As to Pope Francis, well he is really a “humanist”, rather than a “Biblicist”, and most certainly is not even close to the Catholic form of Augustinianism! Check-out some of his statements of late, in this theological “genre”… ‘Regenerate Atheists’? He is the worst of the Jesuit’s to my mind, theologically. There have been some very good theological Jesuit’s, as old Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ, who is still with us! (Mid/late 70’s?) And even Ratzinger/Benedict is much closer to Augustine!

      Sadly, I am writing very quickly!

    • It has been my mind and experience that most Roman Catholics hold the position of the Papacy and Infallibility, by faith, and not really much by real theological & biblical authority. And I have debated my share here also! The bottom line is always so-called “Peter” and the Keys. But as we can see in the NT Letters and the Book of Acts, this is simply never an issue!

      In the end, historically, we know very little about Saint Peter! Save what he has written in his NT Letters. But yes, Eusebius’s History of the Church is worth reading, but again there is no exact historical certainty here.

    • And btw, Gal. 2: 11-14, has always been theologically problematic for Roman Catholicism! If anyone appeared to be “the” Apostolic Authority, it was somewhat St. Paul. Note even in 2 Peter, 3: 15-16, his “letters” are considered scripture. But of course The Twelve are all gone now (from this life), and even one of those was never a so-called “Christian” (Judas Iscariot). In the strict sense, there are no Apostles since!

    • James-the-lesser

      Dear Irene: Luther is not the real issue. Theology is. That includes Papal supremacy, not just as a spokesman but as the ipso facto voice of God on all matters of theological truth. Technically, the magisterium is only an advisory committee. Not only is this blasphemy it defies logic by placing supreme authority in an individual; whereas, scripture declares that the Holy Spirit shall lead and guide you (pl.), not him or her (must be politically correct, you know). John 16:15 Now, as a little test, try and defend indulgences scripturally. You can’t. So, the argument breaks down as far as Roman Catholicism is concerned. As far as Eastern Orthodoxy is concerned, which branch shall we accept. The Ethiopian Coptics with their strange canon, or the Mar Thomas with their twist on thelogy?

      Concerning the Eucharist: Many Orthodox Christians do view the Roman Catholic Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Christ; others today would not subscribe to this. The answer is linked to whether one believes that Roman Catholicism is “with grace” or “devoid of grace.”

      Concerning the “grace of the priesthood”: The answer to this is also intimately linked on whether the Orthodox view Roman Catholicism as a body that is “with grace” or “devoid of grace.” Some Orthodox would say that Roman Catholic priests do possess grace; others would say that they do not. And I have encountered still others who would say that, upon conversion to Orthodoxy, the Holy Spirit “heals all that is infirm,” a phrase found in the prayers of ordination and other sacramental prayers of the Orthodox Church. A thorough examination of this question would also require a preliminary discussion on the meaning of “grace,” as the Orthodox definition of grace is quite distinct from “grace” as defined in Roman Catholic circles.

    • James-the-lesser

      Dear Irene: To continue . . .
      Concerning sacramental absolution: Your question here is highly theoretical, inasmuch as one might ask why an Orthodox person would approach a Roman Catholic priest for confession and absolution in the first place. Again, a thorough discussion of this would necessarily involve a survey of the different understanding of Confession held by Roman Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. For example, does one confess to the priest, who personally has the “power” to offer absolution and forgiveness, or does one confess to Christ in the presence of the priest, with the priest proclaiming God’s forgiveness at the conclusion.

      Inquiring minds need an answer that doesn’t just blast the Reformation. There must be a substantive rebuttal.

    • Btw, but just a point, but modernity & postmodernity has really effected all of the historical church, and surely this includes Roman Catholicism! Whatever the eschatological end will be? Surely Satan is alive and well on planet earth, and both the Antichrist and the False Prophet will be seen in much of the visible so-called church, and yes this includes much of Protestantism, so-called! Today this teaching is being assailed by the modern church itself, but the drum-beat is getting louder! (Note 2 Thess. 2) The question is always, “Has God said?”…and always the answer is Yes!

    • James-the-lesser

      Futhermore, Irene:

      Should we Protestants consider the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox as a true church of Jesus Christ? Both appeal to a historical Apostolic succession that supposedly can be traced to the original 12. However, the Apostolic succession of does not guarantee the purity of the teaching of the Church. The priests and scribes of Jesus’ day were also the successors of Moses, Aaron and the prophets. They prided themselves as children of Abraham and as teachers of the Law. Yet they were called children of the Devil because somewhere along the line they had distorted the message of the Scriptures.

      The true disciples are those who believe and obey the Word of God. Jesus said: ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.’ The assemblies of these faithful people are the true churches of Christ. The acid test of any church is the submission to the Word of God. (Adapted from JFC website)

    • Irene

      I understand the Catholic Church is full of targets, but this is just too much for me to give you decent answers (if that is what you really want), in the comment thread of someone else’s blog post about the Reformation. Please just pick one question on topic, and I’ll be glad to respond.

      Fr Robert and Greg,
      I have more to write in response to you, but I have to get some other things done first, so it will probably be tonight before I can concentrate.

    • James-the-lesser


      Both Przywara and Von Balthasar took Barth seriously, as did the two previous Popes. Again, dismissing someone as irrelevant is hardly the way to deal with a serious issue. 🙂

    • Irene

      I didn’t mean he was irrelevant. I just meant that getting me to change my mind would certainly take more than that. It just seemed you were oversimplifying, that’s all.

      Here are a few quick answers.

      Should we Protestants consider the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox as a true church of Jesus Christ?
      –They are both the true Church. (as opposed to ecclesiastical communities).

      However, the Apostolic succession of does not guarantee the purity of the teaching of the Church.
      –Not necessarily, but being in union with the bishop in the seat of Peter does.

      The priests and scribes of Jesus’ day were also the successors of Moses, Aaron and the prophets. They prided themselves as children of Abraham and as teachers of the Law.
      — And Jesus said not to do what they do but to do what they say, because they sit in the seat of Moses.

      The true disciples are those who believe and obey the Word of God.

      Jesus said: ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.’
      –Yes. The trick is to know what that word is.

    • cherylu

      Hi Irene,

      Hope you don’t mind if I jump in here and ask you a question.

      Someone made this statement to you: However, the Apostolic succession of does not guarantee the purity of the teaching of the Church.

      To which you answered: Not necessarily, but being in union with the bishop in the seat of Peter does.

      How do you understand that to work? Are you saying that being in agreement/onion with the Pope on everything that he says/teaches is the guarantee of correct teaching? Or are you only speaking of the times when the Pope makes official doctrinal pronouncements? I suspect you mean the latter, but what you said kind of makes me wonder.

    • Irene

      Hi Cherylu! (:
      I meant the latter. The bishops of the world in union with the pope. Just having bishops descended from the apostles may or may not do it. (Anglican church no, Orthodox yes, China ?). Honestly, I don’t exactly know the criteria for those cases.
      Pete again are you here?

    • Btw, Eric Przywara, S.J. (German Catholic theologian, died 1972). He was influenced by Augustine, Aquinas and Newman. But was also quite into phenomenology, and here Edmund Husserl for the most part. His use of “analogy” in natural theology was criticized by Barth.

      Indeed Barth and Von B. were friends, and Von. B. wrote a theological bio on Barth: The Theology of Karl Barth (German edition 1951). The English edition came out in 1992, Ignatius Press, which I have myself. It is well worth the read! I don’t agree with Barth’s theology overall, but I count him as something of a modern Church Father, myself. And one of the major achievements in my theological life was the reading of his CD, Church Dogmatics (all 14 volumes!). Barth does make one think! But in reality, his theology leads one close, if not to Universalism! However, in spite of his theological errors, myself I expect to see him in the glory! As too Von B! I have not read enough of Przywara to give an opinion. But I have read some of Barth’s criticisms of him.

    • Btw, Barth is one thing, but “Barthianism” is quite another! And here is the real “Anathema” to me! Barth did not teach “Barthianism”, to my mind.

      Note, pronounced “Bart”!

    • cherylu


      You have left me going, “huh?” I don’t have a clue what you mean?? 🙂 What is an onion with the pope?

      And which doctrine are you talking about?

      And what is an agricultural anathema?

      Sorry, but I am afraid you have lost me 100% here!

    • Btw, I think that Irene has proved my point about the nature of the Papacy being the real issue of division between the Reformational and Reformed! For there is simply NOTHING biblical about the preservation of some Petrine office of infallibility in the church of Roman! And here Luther, as the rest of the Reformers were simply right about the errors of the Papacy! Sadly, the real Anathema posits with the Papacy! And I don’t say this with glee either! For I actually love and have many Catholic friends, and even still some extended Irish family there. But truth is truth, and error, error!

    • cherylu


      I didn’t read this entire article, but what I did read of it expresses what I was getting at in my question to Irene:

    • @Greg: For me Barth preached a proper doctrine of Christ and the Incarnation, and too the doctrine of the Trinity of God! Even his doctrine of “nein” (no) to Natural Theology is appealing, though surely after this his “gospel” goes somewhat off, I would agree! But as a “church father” type, he is historically superb! (To my mind) 🙂

    • PS…Greg, I have a book by Karl Barth: Called Learning Jesus Christ Through The Heidelberg Catechism, (Eerdmans, 1968). Really a reprint of the John Knox Press edition, 1964. Of course the original was German, 1948. Indeed on Christology Barth was orthodox!

    • @Greg: Charlotte von Kirschbaum was her own Christian, and actually helped Barth on his CD! Pressing our ideas on a 20th century early and mid almost German like Victorian life style, just is not fair! “abominable life”, you will have to give chapter and verse on that one!

      And surely God will “sort” us all out! Ouch!

    • cherylu

      Okay Greg, gotcha! Agricultural anathema–ha!

    • Btw, let me recommend Eberhard Busch’s fine book: Karl Barth, His life from letters and autobiographical texts. He has many references to Charlotte von Kirschbaum in his Index. My copy is an English First Edition.

      And I have too Busch’s book: The Great Passion, An Introduction to Karl Barth’s Theology, (2004, Eerdmans).

    • Btw, perhaps John Webster’s (a Brit too btw) book: Karl Barth, Second Edition (2000/2004, Continuum), is the most easy read towards Barth’s theology. And yes, I have it too, and have read it! 🙂

    • @Greg: I am not a Barth fan per se, but I must admit having read his 14 volumes of the CD, he is no light-weight theologian for sure! And again, as a Calvinist myself I surely don’t follow Barth’s theology, but his knowledge of historical and certainly dialectical theology is profound, whether we agree with it or not.

      Now concerning Barth and Von Kirschbaum, again I don’t know where your getting your information? And I know there are feminists writing here, that only want to blow this well out of proportion and the historical aspect. I am a Irish Brit, and I grew-up in a sort of upper middle class home myself, house-maids (one was rather young too), cook, etc. And my father was a scientist, and had a few female scientist friends around also. But, this was the way it was in the 50’s and early 60’s, at least when I was around. And there was simply no foolishness going on! I am not saying that there was no tension in the Barth family about some of this, two females, one the wife, and the other close to Barth professionally, both perhaps vying for his time and attention? But I have seen nothing concrete about any physical affair!

      Finally, I am sorry to hear that you don’t find Barth worth reading as I have, and he is also considered a Reformed theologian. Again note his no to the natural theology! And it does appear, you might have crossed some line here? I mean I am not sure why you are so negative? There are much worse theolog’s out there than Barth these days, surely!

      Anyway, peace mate! 🙂

    • @Greg: YOU are offending my intellect and historical ability! There can be no doubt I have read much more about Barth, and certainly Barth too, than you are even aware! So I have already “dug” into this issue.

      And as to my own father, mother (RIP) and family, we had a great life together! So climb down mate, and get a grip on yourself! I don’t know what has compelled you to write such? And btw, we Irish Brits are not all led by our sexual desire, though we are normal, but we do have some control and class!

      And indeed let go of this, you are only showing your own weakness here!

      Sincerely mate, ‘In Christ’,
      Fr. Robert

    • James-the-lesser

      135. Fr. Robert (Anglican) says:
      June 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm

      Right on.

    • James-the-lesser

      Greg. . . . Barth, like all of us, went through a theological metamorphous, just before his death he wrote to Bultmann and confessed:
      “At the risk of more headshaking and displeasure I will at any rate venture to whisper one thing to you, namely, that I have become increasingly a Zinzendorfian to the extent that in the New Testament only the one central figure as such has begun to occupy me – or each and everything else only in the light and under the sign of this central figure.”*

      Seems like he passes the “Born Again” test to me; unless you are willing to pronounce anathema on John Wesley and a host of others.

      *(Source) Karl Barth, letter to Rudolf Bultmann, December 24, 1952

    • James-the-lesser

      Fr. Robert (Anglican):

      No question about it, Barth did shake up the theological community in a positive way, I would say. His analogia fidei has some weaknesses which I think needs some adjustments semantically. We must keep in mind, too, that he was notoriously stubborn so that could answer for some of his reluctance to admit to an entis anologia. Eventually, though, in essense that is precisely what his Christological principle did. The danger here was that some feel he advocated a christological monism, which I do not think is a fair assessment.

    • @James-t-l: Indeed with any pressing of the philosophical category of the overt being of one principle or idea, we loose the doctrine of Evil! This, among others, is one of the grave problems of Barth’s theology! Where is a real doctrine of Theodicy in Barth? Especially at the historical Cross and Death of Christ! Grave theological problems here!

    • I like Barth myself, both just who he appeared to be, and of course his profound theological thinking! Though of course one must be critical of Barth. But, a real “Zinzendorfian” (Count Zinzendorf) position in Barth? I have not seen it myself. Of course Zinzendorf was a classic evangelical Lutheran type. But I hope this was true in Barth at the end of his life!

    • Btw, here are some of the historical facts and ideas about Barth and Kirschbaum.

      1.) Karl Barth’s marriage to Nelly Barth was pre-arranged by his mother; he was not allowed to marry the woman he loved earlier in life, and he carried a picture of this woman around with him throughout his life, sometimes crying over it (he also visited her grave often)
      2.) Kirschbaum’s living with Barth and his wife was not overlooked, as it caused heavy consternation and outrage within his circle of contemporaries (and his mother disapproved… she seemed to be a little too involved in his life and affairs)
      3.) Kirschbaum’s contributions to Barth’s work over 35 years was considered vital to his final results, and though there is no agreement as to whether or not their relationship was sexual, it IS described by many who knew them as “an intellectual relationship” (something he did not receive from his wife Nelly)
      4.) Whatever the relationship with Kirschbaum, both Karl and Nelly visited her in the nursing home each Sunday, where she spent many years after an illness laid her low; upon her death, Nelly had her buried next to Barth (she would also be buried next to Barth herself upon her own death some years later).

      Again for me anyway, this whole issue has been well overcooked! Again this was in the early to mid 20th century, and was more of a European situation & ethic. That Nelly, Barth’s wife had Kirschbaum buried next to Barth, and later herself says it all I believe!

    • PS..Here are a few more:

      –It was her confirmation pastor George Merz, who introduced her to Karl Barth. Merz edited a journal with Barth and served as Barth’s son’s godfather. He brought Charlotte along to here a lecture. At this point she was in poor health, suffering from a poor diet and the hard, long hours of work as a Red Cross nurse.

      –She suffered for over ten years with a brain disease and when she became incapacitated Church Dogmatics came to an end.

      –a discreet veil was drawn over her by Barth’s circle because of the “scandal”
      of their relationship.

      –she was treated as a family member and paid a monthly allowance (not a salary)
      for her needs.

      –this odd relationship caused many rumors on the outside and estranged Barth’s own children, some calling her Auntie but others felt they had to side with Nelly and be estranged from their dad.

      In the end, we are all going to have our own personal opinions here, but I myself don’t see this as a so-called “affair”. Perhaps a more intellectual one, and a male-female friendship, among two certain Christians. Nelly and Barth’s marriage and relationship? Nelly stood the test!

    • Irene

      So the picture that Barth carried around was not of Kirschbaum, right?

      I don’t know this history, but from what you say, yes, that Nelly sounds like a strong lady! Perhaps (considering the living arrangements and the crying over the picture, etc.) he was the one with the brain power, but Nelly was the one with the self-mastery, the will power!

    • Correct, not Charlotte! But yes, two great Christian souls, both sinners, but both doing what God had given them to do, with great human imperfection! (Of course I am speaking of Barth and Nelly)

    • James-the-lesser

      Let’s leave poor 165. Greg (Tiribulus) alone, since he has reverted to his juvenile potty talk. 🙁

    • Btw, this is not the first time that two women loved the same man! No doubt Charlotte loved Barth and her work together with him, but a physical love relationship? I think not! Aye, we could make a real movie here, eh? 😉

    • James-the-lesser

      As long as they don’t cast the character to resemble that good looking rascal Barth! 🙂 But then what’s looks got to do with it?

    • Amen! Greg is not “thinking” just responding badly. He just hates Barth!… (quite obvious). And this is most certainly very sad! But, remember our Christian Brotherhood! 🙂

    • Btw, there are many other theologies and people much worse than Barth, here I think myself of Open Theism, etc. Oh the mess of the scientia media (middle knowledge), and the Catholic Luis de Molina. This has become the new fad with some evangelicals!

    • Irene

      and Fr Robert,
      Don’t forget your friend Pope Francis!
      (I’m kidding of course. I have read some about that athiest bit, and I think much has been misrepresented by those who reported on it. Kind of like Pope Emeritus Benedict’s comment on condom use in Africa. In any case, I bet he will “prove himself” more to you as time goes on.)

    • @Irene: Indeed only time will tell about “Francis”? But he is certainly NOT my favorite Jesuit, already! I read Catholic stuff still all the time. Being raised Irish Roman Catholic is always part of my history! 🙂

    • Btw, our brother Greg, has thrown me away, because I like to read Barth, and don’t buy the simple “fundie” view of Barth and his personal life! Funny, one does run into it all on the blogs! 😉

    • @Greg: YOU need to go back and read what YOU have written to me on this open blog! Just awful stuff, about my Irish father & mother…in some aspect of your dialogue style I suppose? “Fiasco” doesn’t fully cover it! And now you call me a “lair”, wow mate, again get a grip! I will forgive you, but own up to this error, please!

    • @Greg: Your “hypothetical line” is “tortuous” mate! This was your error with me! And “personalization”, not hardly. Continue? continue what, you and I just don’t disagree as to both Barth’s theology, and his person! What else can be said? And note, I am not a full-on Barth guy, but I do appreciate his great depth, and historical ability in theology!

    • Btw, just an honest question, but just how much of Barth’s CD have you read.. Any?

    • cherylu

      Guys, both of you, I’d say this thread is in serious threat of being closed down by the moderators if they read it. And maybe worse.

    • Take it where and for what reason? WE already are at an impasse! I am not at all anti-Barth, theologically, or personally. And he is just the opposite! Not really much else to say. And note I am a Calvinist, and not a Barthan per se.

    • Btw, do they ever really “moderate” this blog? 😉 Sadly the nature of the blog is very imperfect!

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      There is something I really don’t understand here. You have said that there are some real problems with Barth’s theology. You said, This, among others, is one of the grave problems of Barth’s theology! Where is a real doctrine of Theodicy in Barth? Especially at the historical Cross and Death of Christ! Grave theological problems here!

      So then, what do you mean when you say you are not “anti Barth theologically?”

      It sounds like you are saying that you are not against grave theological problems??!?

    • @cherylu: These issues and areas of theological disagreement with Barth, are very philosophical & theological, and thus “grave” in that place of critical doctrine & theology. But honestly few people on the blogs would see this but other true “theolog” types, who have read Barth deeply somewhat.

      As I have written, on general Christology and Trinitarian theology Barth is fine.

    • I most surely expect to see Barth in the “glory” of God and heaven ‘In Christ’! Even with his most theological errors! Thankfully our salvation is simply but profoundly “Christ Jesus” Himself, HE is our “righteousness”, alone! Sadly, many Calvinist types miss this! And I feel I am a neo-Calvinist!

    • I should say Hyper-Calvinist types!

    • James-the-lesser

      Cherylu says:

      Cherylu, I assume that you think that Barth did not believe in the efficacy of a historical Cross, etc., as opposed to natural or real history. Barth was far too interested in the meat of theology to get tied down with the apologetics of arguing whether or not Christ died in 33 A.D. or 36, or whatever. For him it was good enough to accept the fact that he was born, lived, died and was resurrected according to the biblical narrative. To say or imply that he did not believe in the efficacy of the Cross is a gross misjudgment or misstatement, I am not sure which it is on your part. As I mentioned previously (above), Barth went through a theological metamorphosis before settling on his apologia fidei and christological principle—the latter of which von Balthazar for one felt that the christological principle was very near, indeed, to his apologia entis. Eberhard Jungel attempted to rectify the two with his analogy of advent—which in evangelicalspeak, means Christ in us, the hope of glory. The advantage of Jungel is that he had these two theological giants from which to build his analogy of advent on. However, Barth’s analogia fidei was too Kierkegaardian and Kantian for Jungel since he, as did von Balthazar was looking for more concrete language which Barth’s lacked. Barth’s position was, in spite of Barth’s protestations, too metaphysical for Jungel. At best, however, Jungel was still left with a metaphorical or parabolic language in which to express himself with the hope of anchoring his faith in a more firm foundation. The problem, Cherylu, is anthropomorphic in nature, as is all language; as Wittgenstein once remarked when we are faced with the inexpressible, we must remain silent. Which reminds me of the old hymn (which unfortunately many in the younger generation are not familiar) by Isaac Watts entitled, “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.” Barth’s problem was not that he did not believe. His problem was that he failed to remain silent.

    • cherylu


      Since you start your comment with “Cherylu says:” I am assuming you are replying to a specific quote of mine? If so, which one as you do not supply it?

    • James-the-lesser

      Cherylu. What I had in mind was the “grave problems statement” in 185. However, after reading your blog more closely I see that you are quoting our dear friend, Fr. Robert. So, although, I did not address the theodicy problem directly, I do feel that Barth’s theology of the Cross covers that more thoroughly by implication, and I might say to Fr. Robert’s glee (perhaps) in a more Calvinistic way. 🙁

    • cherylu


      Thanks for clarifying that. I really could not figure out where you came up with the assumptions that you did. It is a bit disconcerting to have people make assumptions and accuse one of “a gross misjudgment or misstatement” when one hasn’t said a thing about the subject.

    • @James: Perhaps I overstated somewhat as “grave”, but I was of course speaking theologically. I like old Barth, but I am always critical of him, biblically-theologically! His Augustinian doctrine is surely often weak, putting aside his “nein” on natural theology. My constant problem with Barth is his use of philosophy, and here of course is Kant, Hegal, etc.

      Btw, serious Barth students should read his book: Anselm: Fides Quarens Intellectum!

      “There is no way from us to God – not even a ‘via negativa’ – not even a ‘via dialectica’ nor ‘paradoxa’. The god who stood at the end of some human way . . . would not be God.’ This assertation [assertion], which would seem to discourage all theology, is by Karl Barth, the most prominent, prolific, and (it seems to me) persuasive of the twentieth-century theologians….. As a critical theologian, Barth ranks with Kierkegaard; as a constructive one, with Aquinas and Calvin.” (John Updike)

    • James-the-lesser

      Cherylu, read the statement over again. Your writing needs editing (no grave error here, that’s for sure). In any event please don’t take these things personally. I am sure Heaven doesn’t hang on every word that someone writes mistakenly about you. Notice Fr. Robert’s response. So, I made no assumption. I misread a poorly edited blog. 🙂

    • James-the-lesser

      194. Fr. Robert: Yeah, I am with you on this one. I think Jungel makes a fine attempt to cover the bases that need covering in Barth along these line. Take care. 🙂

    • Btw, again, Barth’s lack of dealing with “evil” is almost like some of the EO, “Orthodoxy”. Indeed, we must thank Leibniz for the concept of “theodicy” – that part of theology concerned with defending the goodness and omnipotence of God in the face of suffering and “evil” of the world. And of course the Reformation and Reformed best dealt with this, in the Pauline “theologia crucis”, and here too, is the great doctrine of the Sovereignty of God!

    • James-the-lesser

      197. Fr. Robert:

      I’ve got to be honest with you. It has been so long since I connected with Leibniz that I will have to refresh what little memory I have of him. Interestingly enough, the Bible speaks of 2 great mysteries among others: the mystery of Godliness and the mystery of iniquity. This brings me to the whole idea of mystery. Is mystery just another way of saying “without words” in some instances? We can certainly experience Godliness and iniquity; albeit, however, God in His total essence is certainly a mystery that only He is capable of comprehending. I think it would be interesting to see a blog on the use of language in theology, both in its adequacy and inadequacy. It is terribly frustrating isn’t it to be confined and restricted to words to express experience isn’t it?

    • ‘Thy undistinguishing regard, Was cast on Adam’s fallen race; For all Thou hast in Christ prepared Sufficient, sovereign, saving grace.’ (Charles Wesley, hymn)

      Rom. 3: 25, God’s ‘mercy-seat’ = Christ! Full expiation of and from sin. The collective position of grace. Sin has been defeated, but not taken from the boundary of this life and world!

      ‘The true treasure of the church is the Holy Gospel and the glory and grace of God.’ – Luther

      And the mystical union of Christ with the believer is moral, and faith based, rather than in mystical terminology alone -the regenerating moral exchange of a substitutionary atonement, within Christ and faith.

    • Btw, to regress just a bit, this book by Charlotte von Krschbaum, on Women/Woman is a must read! Not that I follow all of it myself, but it puts the whole Barth/Krschbaum so-called affair in a better light! Here is just the Intro somewhat.

    • James-the-lesser

      Response to Fr. Robert:

      Leibniz? Oh, mighty Leibniz. My memory has been refreshed! In essence, it seems he as well as others appear to suggest some type of subordinated moralistic and limited dualism which in my opinion would have to operate under the attributes of a Godly triad of his love coupled with his omnipotence and omniscience. Love must be factored in; otherwise, there is no guarantee of love ever trumping evil. However, for the success of the best of all possible worlds to be the best of all possible worlds there must be choice, which implies freedom. So, in a sense ‘freedom’ is a necessary ingredient to assure any meaning at all to ‘choice.’ And, without ‘choice’ there can be no justice.

    • Yes indeed “freedom”, but this is very problematic for man, as he is an outright sinful being! To my mind, man has only by God’s common grace, a responsible will (not a free will), and this can only damn him, but never really save him! (Matt. 22: 14) Indeed GOD’s “justice” is not mirrored or seen in us; only the Federal Vision of God! (Rom. 9)

    • On the run today! Maybe later?

    • Lora

      I have only read the 1934 debate between Barth and Emil Brunner titled Nature and Grace.

      Brunner’s statements reflected clear reasoning and his attitude reflected respect for Barth. However, Barth’s statements reflected circular reasoning and his attitude reflected paranoia- continually accusing Brunner of personal attacks.

      I wrote an essay on their debate- here is my concluding paragraph:

      In his reaction to the philosophical theology of the Enlightenment, Barth rejected the Reformer’s view of general revelation as well as Calvin’s understanding of human dignity and common grace. Whereas Barth is justified in charging Brunner with misunderstanding and misrepresenting the role of reason in Roman Catholic doctrine, Brunner is justified in charging Barth for misunderstanding the Reformers’ view of natural theology.

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      That link didn’t do a lot to change my opinion on the subject. I didn’t read the whole thing, but did read quite a bit.

      It won’t let me copy and paste, but note that on page 8 in the introduction it says as close as I can remember it, “This seems to have marked the beginning of her romantic involvement with him, and of her commitment to do all she could to advance his work.”

      That is really reassuring, “Her romantic involvement with him.”

      There is another thread on the subject at Greg’s (Tiribulus) blog here:

    • Lora

      Three more brief paragraphs:

      Brunner mentions Luther’s appeal to “clear reason” when he refused to recant at the Diet of Worms, pointing out that the problem between Reason and Revelation “requires thoroughgoing theological treatment.” (Brunner, 17-18) Geisler seems to meet this requirement in his description of the interrelationship between revelation and reason, by stating, “One should reason about and for revelation, otherwise he has an unreasonable faith. Likewise, reason has no guide without a revelation and flounders in error.” (Geisler, 270)

      According to the recent author R.C. Sproul, reconstructing the “classical synthesis by which natural theology bridges the special revelation of Scripture and the general revelation of nature” means “the thinking person could embrace nature without embracing naturalism.” (Sproul 2000, 203) Apparently, Sproul supports Brunner’s position of finding a true natural theology. Paul borrowed numerous ideas from Greek philosophy, including the theme of natural theology, as described in the first two chapters of Romans. Similar to Brunner, Sproul’s view of general revelation and of nature is consistent with Scripture, especially the first two chapters of Romans.

      Overall, this reviewer can support Barth’s disagreement with Enlightenment philosophy and his rejection of its influence within theology of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most Christians would agree with Barth’s strong stand for the truth of Scripture. However, his rejection of natural theology implies rejecting the first two chapters of Romans, which after all, belongs to the Word of God.

      Geisler, Norman L. and Paul D. Feinberg. Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids, Michigan:Baker Books, 1980.

      Sproul, R. C. The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped
      Our World. Wheaton, IL:Crossway Books, 2000.

      Brunner, Emil and Karl Barth. Natural Theology.
      Peter Fraenkel, Translator
      Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002

    • Lora

      Robert (Fr) Anglican

      I just checked out the link you provided…thank you for recommending this book- I just ordered it 🙂

    • James-the-lesser

      206. Lora: Right on with your comment: ” However, [Barth’s] rejection of natural theology implies rejecting the first two chapters of Romans, which after all, belongs to the Word of God.”
      This, in my opinion, was his great weakness. He muddled it up with his attempt to replace the concept of analogia entis with his christological principle which to many smacked too much of monism to qualify as a reasonable answer. The duality of Creator and creature; however, remains a serious theological as well as metaphysical problem. The Barthian problem seems to be grounded in his understanding of ex nihilo creation, and his desire to keep God in a sovereign aloofness while at the same assuring a meaningful involvement in creation without a restrictive role therein. There is more that needs to be said on this, particularly on the concept of freedom of choice. But, I shall await further comments if there are any. 🙂

    • Lora

      I understand about 85% of what you are saying…LOL

      In their 1934 debate, Brunner also alluded to problems posed by Barth’s rejection of natural theology concerning the issue of ethics and human rights.
      So, yes – freedom of choice (and human responsibility) is definitely an issue.

      When I wrote my master’s theisis on Natural Law and Calvinist political theory in 2002, I wish I would have known about this 1934 debate as I inadvertantly addressed so many of the issues debated by Barth and Brunner.

      Sometimes theologians such as Barth seem to have mental health issues that interfere with their reasoning processes…..IMHO of course…LOL

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      I finished reading what was available of the intro to the von Kirschbaum book that you linked to above, footnotes and all.

      Can you please tell me what about that intro put her relationship with Barth in a better light? It never said that their relationship was sexual, but good grief, does any man and any woman that are not husband and wife have any right whatsoever to live in the kind of relationship that is portrayed in that intro? Can you give me even the tiniest bit of Biblical support for such behavior?

      I truly don’t understand how in the world you can defend them in this.

    • Lora / Cherylu:

      Yes, I too have read the debate between Bath & Brunner myself, I see Barth at least standing on the right side of the issue. But of course its not all that easy, I see Barth seeking to stand against anything that would connect natural man, himself, to any ability before God, I think this was always the issue for Barth! Btw, I to like to read Brunner too, his book: The Mediator, is classic! And btw too, Brunner is a “single” Predestinarian also. So here he is closer to many of the Reformed, on this subject, and of course Barth is not, i.e. classic Reformed on predestination, at all, (single or so-called double predestinarian). In fact Barth’s doctrine of Election really tends toward Universalism! It is a piece of brilliant thinking, but based more on the pure philosophical, than God’s profound revelation! God is NOT a philosophy or philosopher, He surely uses logic but He always transcends it!

      See btw, Stephen Brabill’s book: Rediscovering The Natural Law In Reformed Theological Ethics, (Eerdmans 2006). A must read for today to my mind! He binds natural revelation, theology, and moral law together, as did the Reformers of the magisterial Reformation inherited the natural-law tradition as a noncontroversial legacy of the Reformed tradition. Though of course people like Barth, G.C. Berouwer, Herman Dooyeweerd, and Van Til, did not. Certainty in Reformed Christianity, especially in modern times, so-called, this is an issue of great debate!

    • @cherylu: I am not “defending” Barth and or Kirschbaum, per se. I am just one that does not see this as an outright sexual love affair! If it were, then there would have been plenty of folks who would have called then both out on this, and that is just not the case. Again the ethics in that day were generally much higher than ours today! And when we look at Barth’s own psychology, it was again much more of a Swiss and European Victorian type. We simply cannot press 21st style moral ethics on this! WE have in fact in our time become the greatest hypocrites! Great pious pretenders! Sexual, and otherwise!

    • PS.. Note, I have put up a piece on my own blog (“irishanglican”) from private letters from both Barth and Kirschbaum.

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      From what I understsnd,their relatuionship was considered quite quite the scandal by many. And it tore their families apart. It doesn’t sound to me like it was all so culturally accepted.

      But that is rather beside the point to me. They both claimed to be Christians. Again I ask,where is the Scriptural support for a married man and another woman to live like this? I can see absolutely none whatsoever.

    • cherylu

      Ugh, posted that from my tablet and the edit feature does not work here. What a typo mess.

    • @cherylu: I have Eberhard Busch’s blog site and e-mail (though I would not give the latter on and open blog). You are welcome to chat with him. He is still alive (76). He was of course Barth’s friend and secretary after Kirschbaum’s illness, and later death. As I have shared he has written several Barth Books, and pieces.

      To my mind, both you and Greg are hanging on a bit of “fundamentalism”, rather than accepting the historical here! Note this quite past tense! Btw, how much of Barth have you read? And the said book about “Woman” by Von Kirschbaum?

      *Note as an Anglican priest & presbyter, I hear about sexual sin and problems almost everyday from Christian people! The worst of it, is when I hear people who are hung-up about the sexual problems of others! You might try reading a little Luther on the sexual, he had a most healthy approach! 😉

    • PS…Sorry, sometimes I get sharp on this subject! It gets almost ad nauseam for me! And I am not talking about the serious problems here, but what I consider as just the over scrupulous.

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      I don’t know if the relationship was sexual or not. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.

      But is this what it means to love your wife as yourself? Is this what it means to leave your father and mother and cleave only unto your wife?

      From the sounds of things, he did a whole lot of cleaving unto Kirschbaum in the amount of time they spent together, in all of the time they were away from the family home together even living in the same residence and in the way they relied so very heavily on each other and spoke of each other. Those things I just mentioned were all talked about in the link you posted above.

      It did say that he came to value his wife’s companionship more later in life and that she influenced him in other ways.

      Friendships are one thing. Secretaries are one thing. This thing seems something else altogether.

      And still you haven’t given one bit of Biblical support for this. Just cultural and historic arguments.

      What is it that is the controlling factor for a Christian in any point in time–the culture or the Scripture?

      Call me a fundamentalist if you like. If that means going by Biblical standards over cultural ones, that name doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

      Christians after all are to be salt and light. They are not to blend into the culture and be a part of whatever godless moves the culture might be making.

      On the other hand, if you can give me some Biblical support for this whole thing, I will gladly reconsider it.

    • @cherylu: YOUR preaching to the choir here! I know the Bible just a bit, but WE ARE talking about a historical person/persons here! Sure it goes without saying that there was moral failure here, and not just Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirchbaum, but also Nelly Barth, as Barth’s mother! But outright adultery? I just don’t see any proof, thus the culture issues!

    • cherylu

      Well thanks for admitting there was moral failure there! So do we just give them a complete pass on that because it was cultural? I don’t think that should be the case.

      It has to be recognized as such.

    • cherylu

      Now I guess it remains to be asked, how much if any, did living in many years of a relationship of moral failure affect the truthfulness or the quality of the material produced as a direct result of that relationship?

      If the tree is bad, in this case the type of relationship, can we think that the fruit is going to be great? Or may it be that the spiritual fruit brought forth in their work together is tainted too? That is a question that I would be asking in this situation. We are after all spiritual beings. And if we are living in sin is it not the case that that sin is likely going to affect the product of it?

      I think it is a question that needs to be answered.

    • This was generally an early to mid 20th century happening and history, what I can we learn from it now? That is the great question, but also central is both the man and ministry of Karl Barth, as too Charlotte von Kirschbaum’s person and work! The work of both is hardly known with most evangelical Christians today! I have found Barth as accepted as a great theologian by many, but still hardly read by most! Btw, I would surely challenge you as a Christian woman to read Von Kirschbaum’s book on “Woman”!

      And I recognize Christ the Savior of all sinners, Barth’s, Charlotte’s, and ours!

    • Btw, Cherylu, your #221 can only be answered in a REAL reading and study of the work and man Karl Barth! And walk softly in your own mistakes and sins! For we all surely have them!

    • cherylu

      Yep, we all surely have our own sins. The difference is that in whatever way Barth’s affected his work, they are still affecting a large share of the Christian church today. That is where I see the problem.

      And you are right, it IS both their person and work. And it is the “person” part that I am asking questions about at the moment.

      And I think that anyone that is reading and studying Barth needs to be asking questions about too and not acting like this is something that just doesn’t matter because it was cultural or whatever other reason may be given.

      And you know, we are told to be discerning, we are told to be aware of false teachers and prophets, we are told to test the spirits, etc. To not do so is not only disobedient, it is also foolish and dangerous to our spiritual health. Or the health of the greater church depending on the extent of influence involved.

    • @cherylu: Just a point, I might also listen more to you, if and when you can show that you know something of the man & writings of Karl Barth!

    • O how I distain “fundamentalism” and its great hypocrisy! I saw forms of this in Catholic “traditionalism” as raised Irish Roman Catholic. And I see it too in hyper-Calvinism! And too in much of modern Arminianism! Ugh! I will take more of some of todays “Barthian” people (note not really so much Barthianism).

    • Where’s James-the-lesser? 😉

    • cherylu

      Fr Robert,

      For goodness sake, you gave us all that link above evidently expecting us to read it so it would give us a better light on the whole thing.

      Well, the light I got from what you gave me is what I have been specifically speaking of here.

      Do I really have to go out and spend a fortune on a fourteen volume set and spend however long it takes mowing through it to know a problem when I see it? I am not blind you know. And it isn’t like this is the only place I have read about this situation. And even more to the point, you have admitted yourself that there was moral failure.

      So are we all now to just sweep it under the rug and forget all about it and it’s possible implications for what was taught? Is that really what you expect us to do?

      Do you think that James 3:1 has any application here? “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Sure seems to me it does. Doesn’t sound like a free pass situation to me.

      And by the way, thanks for letting us know about your feelings of disdain. I appreciate that! 🙂

    • But what happens when as Jesus says: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness.” (Matt. 6: 22-23)

      The question is always, ‘who and what is “in me”, if Christ, then we will have life and light! Actually, the work and ministry of Karl Barth is both “life” and “light”, to good degree! Read Him! 🙂

    • cherylu

      So, if we are in Christ everything we do is automatically light and life even when we are sinning? How can a ministry that had at it’s very basis moral failure for it to take place be classified as light?

    • cherylu

      I think I am bowing out of this conversation before I say something I wish I hadn’t.

    • James-the-lesser

      230. Cherylu:

      Oh, my dear Cherylu, please don’t read the Psalms because most of them were written by an imperfect guy, or Solomon’s collection of proverbs. Or the books of 1 & 2 Peter, or Paul’s works since he admits his imperfections.

      Furthermore, wifely jealousy is understandable, but apparetly she was convinced otherwise since she visited the poor lady in the hospital and went to her funeral (if I am not forsaken). So, what’s the beef? Avoiding the appearance of evil? That’s about the best that can be “proven.” Besides, if an evil man says 2 plus equal 4, why should I disbelieve him just because he is evil?-which, Barth was not in my humble opinion.

      And, oh, by the way. You’re off the hook on taking my opinion on this one since I have an evil thought or two in my day. 🙂

    • All ministry comes from human and sinful vessels… the so-called church fathers, Luther, Calvin, the Wesley brothers, and thus anthropology is thus irreversibly grounded in Christology. This is the hallmark of Barth’s theology! But ya got to put on your thinking cap! And Fundamentalism doesn’t have a thinking cap!

    • @James-the-lesser: You showed-up and righted the ship, mate! The “bow” is clear! Thanks! 😉

    • James-the-lesser

      223. Fr. Robert:

      Hear ye, hear ye. You got that right, mate. 🙂

    • cherylu

      Guys, this is my very personal take on this.

      Of course God works through imperfect people, there are is no other kind.

      However, this man and this woman were living in apparently unrepentant sin/moral failure for 35 years. Does this say anything about their discernment and their committment to living according to the Lord’s will? Does it say anything about their discernment as to what is right and wrong, what is important and what is not? If they have no more discernment then that about such things, why should I be sure they had a whole lot of discernment in what they were writing in their “Dogmatics?” I don’t.

      If I personally had a pastor or other spiritual leader that I knew was living such a life style, there would be no way I could feel safe in entrusting myself to that leadership. As a matter of fact, I would run from that ministry very quickly. Is it really all that different when it comes to someone that sets out to teach the church through huge volumes of written work? Poor Christian character does steal credibility from a teacher or pastor. I just don’t see myself how the two can be completely divorced from each other.

    • @Cherylu: Spoken like a good “fundamentalist”, as your mate Greg. Things are just, moral, simple and thus black and white, good verses evil, and thus biblical Fundamentalism. But what about the American Civil War, North verses South, both worshiping the same Christian God. Note we Brits we able to not have a civil war over slavery, but we did have one over the so-called King. Of course the American Civil War was fought over more than just slavery. We should note that Transcendentalism, as Unitarianism, came from the American East. The American South, even somewhat today, was the Bible-belt!

      Btw, Karl Barth was no “fundamentalist”, or mere piety seeking perfection. He sought the Gospel of the Grace of God In Christ! As Luther, as Calvin.. as all the top-tier Reformers!

      In the end, Judeo-Christianity is not about just moral ethics, but most assuredly the redemption of sinners! But, indeed no antinomianism, the loss of the moral law. But surely we never keep it in outright perfect obedience, but under the Grace of God!

    • cherylu

      I’m sorry, Fr Robert, but you seem to be totally missing the point.

      Certainly God works through bad situations and imperfect people. Again I am not denying that.

      But neither am I denying that teachers are held to a stricter standard according to His Word.

      And just because He can work through imperfect situations it doesn’t always mean that when we see an imperfect situation that He is using that situation to bring forth great truth to his church.

      But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. II Timothy 2:19-22

    • @cherylu: No, I am not missing your point at all, but you are seeking to judge and micro-manage the life and ministry of a man and his personal secretary who died over 45 years ago (38 to be exact for Charlotte), and who in their lives together produced together one of the greatest Theological pieces of work (the Christian Dogmatics) the Church has seen in the 20th century! The list of people and students the CD has effected is beyond what we could list here certainly! If they were brought here, you would I hope be quite dumbfounded! But that is another question and reality. And I, as I have said over and over, am not really a complete Barth fan theologically, but his genius is/was most certain, and I count him as a 20th century church father! Thanks be to God we have his written ministry! But, again this great “fundamentalist” mentality and judgment you and others are using surely comes up short!

    • Btw, here’s a great quote, and closer to the ministry of Barth’s doctrine of God’s great Transcendence!

      “We should diligently remind young people to differentiate God from all other things, that from the start they may realize that God is an omnipotent, eternal being, the fullness of wisdom, righteousness, goodness, truth, and purity, and that all other things–heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, and men–are created things, are not omnipotent and are not to be invoked. … God is not a physical being, as heaven and earth and other elements are; on the contrary, he is a spiritual being, omnipotent and eternal, unmeasureable in wisdom, goodness, and righteousness, one who is true, pure, independent, and merciful. This is God, the eternal Father, and the Son, the Father’s image, and the Holy Spirit, which three persons created heaven and earth, and all other creatures. And God graciously revealed himself through the proclamation of the law and gospel, and with definitive miracles. Thus God has attested who is the true God, how he wishes to be acknowledged and honored, and that according to his gospel he will gather to himself among men an eternal Church, and bless it according to his promises.” (Melanchthon: Of God, Loci Communes (1555))

    • cherylu

      I hardly call having concern for a 35 year flagrant, in your face, upset your family, bring charges of scandal down on your heads situation, “attempting to micromanage.” That is a very bizarre accusation to say the least.

      Have you by any chance thought about the implications of I John 3 in this situation? I am speaking specifically of the first ten verses. Here are a part of them:

      …..we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. I John 3:2-4

      No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
      verse 6

      No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. verses 9-10

      Pretty hefty words aren’t they? And ones we all need to take a look at and measure ourselves by. And obviously John doesn’t mean we will absolutely stop sinning either. The first chapter makes that clear.

      However, does not a 35 year long deliberate and unrepentant moral failure come under the heading of “making a practice of sinning?” It would certainly seem so to me.

      What implication does that leave a person with in this situation?

      And I am now preparing myself for the verbal onslaught that bringing that whole Scripture into the picture is likely to bring forth.

    • And btw, even at my age I have to make theological and spiritual, moral adjustments. This is simply the way of the real Christian life! Indeed my “neo-Calvinism” is subject here too! Both Hyper-Calvinism, and certainly liberal & modern fundamentalist Arminianism are close to “Anathema” to my mind, and boy howdy how this “issue” has reminded me here!

    • There is not much else I can say, that can dent this ‘fundamentalist – self righteousness’! Once again, we are at spiritual and hermeneutical odds! But may God forgive this spirit, and give a personal conviction and renewed spiritual repentance. Btw, again, God alone is the “minister” of His own chastening (Heb. 12: 5-11). May we all walk very softly here!

    • cherylu

      You are right, there is not much more for me to say either. We are obviously living in two totally different worlds even if we both name the name of Christ.

    • Yes Amen! We get to lay it out, all of it, at the Bema-Seat of Christ! 😉

    • James-the-lesser

      245. Fr. Robert

      Question: What is the purpose of the Berma-Seat Judgment, in your opinion?

    • James-the-lesser

      245. Fr. Robert regarding my comment on 246. Obviously, there is a typo here. Berma is not Bema. Of course, the word bema means judgement. So, what is the purpose of this judgment?

    • @James: The Bema-Seat appears to be a place of the believers judgment, not for salvation per se, but to show forth what is “in us”, as Christians. But a serious place and “judgment” ‘In Christ’! (2 Cor. 5: 10)…As too 1 Cor. 3: 15. But, it is no purgatory, but perhaps something of a “purgation” before ourselves In Christ!

    • James-the-lesser

      248. Fr. Robert

      So, the Bema-seat is in other words to judge Christians on the strength of their Christlikeness-or an after death sanctification process? If so, are the prior to death events of un-Christlikeness, or sinful actions taken into consideration at the Bema-Seat, in your opinion? If so, does this imply choice. And, if choice, was that a free choice, or a predetermined choice? What I am getting at is the play of the human will in all of this, and therefore personal responsibility. It seems to me that a judgment implies responsibility; and if responsibility a free choice. And, if a free choice, why only for the elect ipso facto?

    • @James: To my mind, the Bema-Seat shows in the end, what we are, who we are, and thus what we have become, rather than what we have accomplished. The work must be Christ’s! (Phil. 2: 12-13)…and this is inclusive of both Justification and Sanctification! Or as St. Paul simply says, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (or glorification).” (Col. 1: 27)

    • Thus to use Barth, the true believer manifests his “election” In Christ!

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