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 Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    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!

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